President Hinckley Visits Asian Saints, Dedicates Hong Kong Temple
August 1996

“President Hinckley Visits Asian Saints, Dedicates Hong Kong Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1996, 74–77

President Hinckley Visits Asian Saints, Dedicates Hong Kong Temple

In a busy 18-day visit to seven countries and one territory in Asia, President Gordon B. Hinckley toured 13 cities, met with a number of government officials, answered numerous questions from reporters, delivered 21 addresses to more than 75,000 people, and dedicated the Hong Kong Temple. Throughout the entire trip, President Hinckley was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Elisa. Other General Authorities joined the Church President and his group during various stages throughout the 18 days.

On 17 May, President Hinckley arrived in Tokyo, the first stop on his Asian travels, marking the first time that a Church President has been in Asia since President Kimball dedicated the Tokyo Temple in 1980.

While in Japan, President Hinckley presided over and addressed several meetings: a fireside and gathering of missionaries in Tokyo, a press briefing in Tokyo, a regional conference in Osaka, a fireside and missionary meeting in Fukuoka, and a fireside with members and missionaries in Naha, Okinawa.

“This is [the] 45th or 46th time I’ve been to Japan,” he noted on one occasion. “I’ve seen the miracle of many things since I started coming here.”

At the 18 May fireside in Tokyo, the Church leader mentioned Elder Heber J. Grant, the eighth President of the Church, who came to Japan as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1901. “He and three other missionaries … went to a quiet and secluded place and dedicated Japan for the preaching of the gospel,” President Hinckley said, noting that Elder Grant went home very discouraged because of the lack of success. Twenty-three years later, President Grant closed the mission in Japan, President Hinckley noted.

Today, Japan has a temple and is home to more than 100,000 members of the Church in 25 stakes and nine missions. “If President Grant were here now, he would weep with gratitude, and I feel that way as I look into your faces,” President Hinckley said, addressing the standing-room-only audience. “I see such strength I never dreamed of in this land.”

A special occasion for President Hinckley in Japan was an “old friends” reception where he renewed acquaintances with members he had worked with during the 11 years he supervised the work of the Church in the area as a General Authority. Approximately 90 members attended the gathering, where hugs, handshakes, and tears were shared. “I had difficulty holding back the tears in seeing these men and women of faith who have remained true to the work of the Lord,” President Hinckley observed after the meeting.

While in Tokyo, President Hinckley also paid a courtesy call on Walter Mondale, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, and spent nearly two hours with reporters from seven of Japan’s leading newspapers and magazines. He also met with many local leaders in the areas he visited.

After leaving Japan, President Hinckley stopped in Korea, arriving in Pusan on 21 May. While in Pusan, he met with full-time missionaries at a missionary conference, spoke at a fireside that evening for members, and visited the United Nations Memorial cemetery.

The next day, 22 May, he arrived in Seoul for additional meetings with missionaries and members. While in Seoul, he also visited the Seoul Korea Temple and met with 13 reporters from prominent national newspapers.

“I first began to come to Korea 36 years ago,” President Hinckley told members who attended a fireside in Seoul. “In 1960 it was a different country. There was great poverty among the people. There was great suffering among the people.

“Now there is prosperity. There is peace. But I don’t know that there is more faith than there was back then. I have many wonderful, faithful, holy experiences in this land. …

“You are a chosen generation,” he continued. “How thankful you ought to be. … The men in this hall tonight hold the priesthood of God. That is a royal priesthood! That is the power and the authority and the right to speak in the name of God.”

After his visit to Korea, President Hinckley traveled to Taipei, Taiwan, again to meet with full-time missionaries and members. Then he proceeded to Hong Kong, where he dedicated the Hong Kong Temple and met with missionaries.

President Hinckley first visited Hong Kong 36 years ago, in 1960, when he began supervising Church work in the Asian area. “This temple represents one of the great dreams of my life,” the Church leader told missionaries in a meeting the day before the 26 May dedication.

Rain fell most of the day Sunday during the first four of seven dedicatory sessions (three were held on Monday, 27 May), although it stopped briefly during the 8:00 A.M. ceremony to seal in place a cornerstone, which marked the spot where a box had been placed containing copies of historical papers, photographs, and other items of significance to the members in Hong Kong.

During the dedicatory sessions, local choirs from the five stakes in Hong Kong performed; and President Hinckley, who has participated in either the dedication or rededication of all but five of the Church’s 48 operating temples, offered the dedicatory prayer in the first session. In the following sessions, he alternated offering the prayer and conducting the meetings with President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency. Also in attendance were Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elders Kwok Yuen Tai, John H. Groberg, and Rulon G. Craven of the Seventy, who also serve as the presidency of the Asia Area.

Wives of the General Authorities also attended: Marjorie P. Hinckley, Frances Monson, Colleen Maxwell, Elisa Wirthlin, Hui Hua Tai, Jean Groberg, and Donna Craven.

Prior to offering the prayer in the first session, President Hinckley said that the Church “now comes to full maturity with the dedication of this sacred temple.” During the prayer he spoke with gratitude for the first missionaries who served in the area almost 150 years ago, and he prayed that the people of Hong Kong could continue to have freedom to worship.

More than 5,000 people attended the seven dedicatory sessions, including hundreds from Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and other areas.

On 27 May, after the last dedicatory session, President Hinckley became the first President of the Church to visit mainland China when he spent a night in Shenzhen, China, just over the Hong Kong-China border. In a visit arranged through the Church’s Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, President Hinckley and others, including President Monson and Elders Maxwell, Wirthlin, and Tai, visited a “sister” cultural center, the Chinese Folk Villages; Splendid China, a miniature re-creation of various regions of China’s villages; and Windows of the World, a re-creation in miniature of some of the world’s major attractions. More than 500 costumed dancers and performers lined walkways to greet President Hinckley and others in his group during their brief stay.

After the night in China, President Hinckley traveled to Cambodia, where on 28 May he stood on a hillside facing the Mekong River in Phnom Penh and offered a prayer dedicating the country for missionary work. Accompanying President and Sister Hinckley and Elder and Sister Wirthlin during their brief time in Cambodia were Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy, second counselor in the Asia Area, and his wife, Jean. Twelve full-time missionaries who serve in Cambodia also were with the Church leader, and more than 400 members and investigators gathered for a meeting in a hotel convention hall in Phnom Penh.

On Wednesday, 29 May, President Hinckley was in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. While there he stood on the roof of the Caravelle Hotel, where in 1966 he had offered a prayer dedicating what was then South Vietnam for missionary work. President Hinckley also visited with about 25 local members at a local Church leader’s home. That afternoon he flew to Hanoi and visited with the 19 members of the Hanoi Branch, couples doing humanitarian work for the Church, and expatriate couples who live there. While in Hanoi, President Hinckley offered what he termed an “addendum” to his previous dedicatory prayer, referencing the entire country of Vietnam.

Later that evening, President Hinckley arrived in the Philippines, where he met with members and missionaries in Manila and Cebu.

Early on Thursday, President Hinckley met with a reporter from a national newspaper and did a television interview for 150 cable stations throughout the Philippines. He then visited the American War Memorial Cemetery in Manila, where 35 years ago on 28 April 1961 he had offered a prayer for the Philippine Islands, opening the area for missionary work.

In a later meeting with missionaries serving in the area, President Hinckley called the cemetery “hallowed.”

“There are engraved the names of Americans and Filipinos who gave their lives for the freedom of this land,” he said. “We hope the Spirit of the Lord will brood over this land and touch the hearts of the people.”

While in Manila, President Hinckley addressed approximately 35,000 members who crowded into a local sports arena. Faithful members began lining up for the 7:00 P.M. meeting early that morning, and hundreds who were originally turned away were allowed in.

The Church leader counseled those in attendance, especially the youth, to be clean and virtuous. “We believe in being honest,” he said. “We believe in rising above the morals of the world. You cannot be immoral. You cannot use filthy language. You cannot profane the name of God. We believe in being true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and if there is anything lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

President Hinckley also left his blessing on those in attendance, saying, “I bless you if you will walk in faith and live the gospel, you will have food on your table, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and the blessings of heaven.”

The next day, while addressing missionaries in the Philippines Quezon City and Philippines Manila Missions, he talked about the meeting. “I suppose it was the greatest assembly of Latter-day Saints under one roof at one time,” he said. “Yesterday was a great day in my life.”

President Hinckley counseled the missionaries to stay away from temptation and told them that he regarded them as “companions in this work.”

“Go forward, my companions,” he said, “not with a spirit of fear but with a spirit of love, with power in the priesthood, with the power of your testimonies, with the love of the people of this land. Therefore, be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

On a sultry afternoon on Friday, 31 May, President Hinckley met with more than 9,000 members of the Church in Cebu. The meeting was held early in the day so that many members who had traveled by boat to attend would be able to meet their boat connections in order to return home expeditiously.

When President Hinckley, en route home from the Philippines, learned that the plane would refuel at Saipan, he asked Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy and President of the Philippines/Micronesia Area to call ahead to indicate that he would be delighted to meet with the missionaries and members residing there. While the plane refueled, President Hinckley met with 10 missionaries and about 60 local members and enjoyed a brief but “wonderful experience.”

The Hong Kong Temple was dedicated 26–27 May by President Gordon B. Hinckley. (Photo by Fay Andrus.)

President Gordon B. Hinckley helps two children during cornerstone ceremony of Hong Kong Temple while President Thomas S. Monson and Sister Frances Monson look on. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)

[photo]President Hinckley answers questions during a press conference in Seoul, Korea, with translation assistance from Area Authority Ko Won Yong. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)

President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, arrive at the Chinese Folk Villages in Shenzhen, China. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)

In Japan, President and Sister Hinckley pose with members at an “old friends” reception, where he was reacquainted with people he’d worked with during 11 years of supervising Church work in the area. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)

President Hinckley stands on roof of hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, where 30 years earlier he dedicated the land for missionary work. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)

President and Sister Hinckley greet enthusiastic members in Manila. Approximately 35,000 people attended the meeting; some waited in line more than 12 hours to get good seats. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)

In a large sports arena in Manila, members wait in anticipation to hear Church leaders speak. (Photo by Gerry Avant, courtesy of Church News.)