“Temples Dedicated in Samoa, Tonga: Joy Replaces Anticipation As Island Saints See Dedication of Temples in Samoa, Tonga,” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 75–77
The colorful spontaneity of island celebrations mingled with the sustained, quiet joy of the Saints who greeted President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and other General Authorities arriving in Samoa and Tonga for temple dedication ceremonies.
Island members knew President Hinckley’s visit meant fulfillment of a dream—dedication of temples to the Lord in their South Pacific nations. The appreciation of that reality eclipsed, for them, the fact that thousands of nonmembers, along with leaders of Samoa’s two governments and the king of Tonga, had taken part in prededication celebrations.
The spirit of peace and reverence felt at the two temples during their open houses served as a prelude for what was to come. Malietoa Tanumafili, the head of state in Western Samoa, had cut the ribbon to begin the two-week open house for the temple in Samoa. Though not a member of the Church, he cited LDS scriptures in talking about temples and their purposes. He added his own views on the importance of the temple to Western Samoa and on the many ways in which the Church and its members have helped his nation become a better place. Senator Pomare Galeai of the Congress of American Samoa also spoke at the open house, representing Governor Peter Tali Colman.
In Tonga, President Hinckley, accompanied by other General Authorities, enjoyed an audience with a long-time friend, His Majesty Taufa‘Ahau Tupou IV, king of the island nation. President Hinckley and the other General Authority visitors were also the guests of Tongan members at a traditional feast.
With the dedication of the Samoa Temple, Samoan members freely acknowledged the fulfillment of a dream, particularly those with large families and aged members who are unable to travel to other temples. One couple could only repeat, “It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful.”
“May it in very deed be thy holy house, and wilt thou and thy Son be pleased to visit it and sanctify it by thy presence,” President Hinckley asked as he offered the dedicatory prayer on the Samoa Temple.
In that prayer, he referred to the growth of the Church in the islands, and added: “Houses of worship, scores of them, and schools of learning have been built upon these islands, for the blessing of thy sons and daughters who live here. And now, crowning all of this, we have built this, thy sacred house.
“Father, it is beautiful to us. May it be beautiful and acceptable to thee.”
He referred also to the purpose of the edifice, saying: “Wilt thou open the way for thy people to seek out the records of their forebears that they may serve as saviors on Mount Zion in opening the prison doors of those whose progress has been stopped beyond the veil, that these may now become the beneficiaries of the sacred ordinances of thy holy house, and go forward on the way of eternal life and exaltation in thy presence.”
More than 6,400 people attended the seven dedicatory services for the temple. The first of these was held in the temple itself on the morning of Friday, August 5, and the remaining six were held in a nearby stake center—two more on Friday, three on Saturday, and one on Sunday morning. Choirs of local members provided music for each of the services.
Some members wept as President Hinckley spoke of an unseen audience looking with approval on the events of those three days. He mentioned past prophets, particularly President David O. McKay, who had close ties to the islands.
Tongan members had shown their great reverence for their temple from its beginnings. Some worked months on the project without remuneration simply for the satisfaction of seeing the building rise. When the gold-leafed Angel Moroni statue that was to top its spire arrived, workmen carefully wrapped it in cloth and handled it with gloves in order not to tarnish or mar it. After the statue was in place, members gathered on the grass around the temple at night to gaze at it, shining in the temple lights.
During dedicatory services at the temple on August 9, President Hinckley prayed for blessings upon the temple and those who serve there.
“We thank thee for all of thy faithful saints in the beautiful islands,” he prayed, “and invoke thy blessings upon them that they may be blessed with love and peace in their homes, that their lands shall be productive, that they shall be prospered in their righteous undertakings, that they shall be protected from the storms of nature and from the conflicts of men if they will walk in obedience to thy commandments.
“We ask that thou wilt accept this temple as the gift of thy people presented unto thee with love for the accomplishment of thy holy purposes with reference to thy children. It is thy house. It is the house of thy Son.”
He asked for blessings upon those who might attend the temple, and upon President Kimball, and then said, “We invoke thy blessings upon the king and queen of Tonga, and upon the government of this kingdom of Tonga and those who serve therein that they may look with favor upon thy people always and assist them in the accomplishment of the purposes thou hast set before them to teach the gospel to all of thy children and to build thy Church for the blessing of thy sons and daughters.”
Again, the first of seven dedicatory services was held in the temple; the other six were held in the Church’s Liahona High School gymnasium nearby. Many members sold their farm produce and animals or belongings to travel from other islands to the temple site for the dedication, and services were crowded. More than three thousand people attended the final service, for example, overflowing from the gymnasium into other parts of the building.
Other General Authorities who attended the Samoa and Tonga temple dedications included Elders Howard W. Hunter, Marvin J. Ashton, and L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve; Elders W. Grant Bangerter and John H. Groberg of the First Quorum of the Seventy; and Bishop H. Burke Peterson, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.
Because of other Church business, President Hinckley had to return to the United States August 10, after presiding at the first two dedicatory services in Tonga. The three visiting members of the Council of the Twelve conducted services in both Samoa and Tonga under direction of the First Presidency.
At the final service in Tonga, Elder Howard W. Hunter pronounced a blessing on the youth, the mothers and fathers, and the older members whose lives might be touched by the temple, admonishing them to use it faithfully. After the end of that service, ordinance work began almost immediately for those who had traveled from other islands to receive their temple endowments.