4 September 2005
Dedication day. We are going to the second session, at 11:30 am.
Perhaps because last night was Saturday (the night before Sunday), the bar next door appeared to be closed, and there was no revival under the adjacent tent. As a result, it was a quiet night (no earplugs required).
We awoke during the night to a couple of downpours of rain, one early in the morning at around 6:30 am. Also in the morning, pop religious music began coming from the revival tent.
Caroline and I arose and went out on the balcony to read the Book of Mormon. As we watched, brightly-colored buses, taxis, and private cars began arriving, with Samoans in Sunday best getting out, greeting each other, and moving toward the tent. What sounded like recordings gave way to live singers and a live band, with the crowd clapping, singing, and joining in, and with the pastor providing commentary to the music and the sustained applause.
The impact of Christian missionaries is far and wide on this island. We are told businesses are closed today and most families are attending religious services.
We all showered and dressed in our Sunday best and skipped breakfast in the spirit of fasting. Then we met with the rest of the group in the open lounge area near Mom and Dad’s room. Uncle Bob read the last two verses of D&C 109. Then we knelt in prayer. Dad offered it. He talked about the lifelong dream that was coming true today. Sini wore a white shirt borrowed from Uncle Bob (his luggage still hasn’t arrived), and a traditional formal hunter green lava lava.
Wonderful Delilah drove us to the temple in the hotel van. It’s her day off. We waited in line with the rest of the saints. There had been a couple of downpours this morning. But as soon as they come, they go. It’s like the disposition of the Polynesian people: so quickly sunny. In line, we spoke with Dr Paul Cox, BYU botanist. He told us of Mike Wallace filming BYU students in connection with his interview with President Hinckley. How he (Cox) chose students at random. How they did the University and the Church proud in responding to questions. How he told the public affairs man for the Church that the students were his responsibility, and that he wasn’t going to let Mike Wallace embarrass any of them and that if he began asking questions that he (Cox) found inappropriate, he was going to pull the plug. Such a question came up, and Cox told the public affairs man that he was going to pull the plug. Just then, the cameraman reported being out of film.
We were asked to join a separate line for those with white (celestial room) tickets. We saw Phil and Allie Pili and shook their hands.
When they opened the temple doors, I told a woman pushing her daughter in a wheelchair to go ahead of us. She replied, “No, white tickets first. We have blue tickets.” I wanted to give her my white ticket.
Our names were printed on pieces of paper on the seats in the celestial room. A sweet sister played the organ as we were seated. They had to add a few chairs to accommodate everyone.
When President Hinckley and President Monson entered the room, everyone stood.
President Hinckley conducted the session, welcoming everyone and announcing the opening number. He noted that, because of the satellite broadcast, everyone could be accommodated in two sessions, while in 1983, they conducted 6 dedicatory sessions – without a satellite broadcast.
The choir entered from the side, perhaps 20-strong. The leader was a handsome Samoan with almost Hispanic features, salt and pepper hair, beautiful burgundy lava lava, and a wonderful pastel floral tie. The choir sang “How Great Thou Art” in English.
The opening prayer was in Samoan.
President Hinckley then made introductions, including the temple presidency, Paul Cox, and Brother Naylor (the construction manager). He also introduced Mom and Dad.
The 1st and 2nd counselors spoke in English. The 1st counselor noted that it may be the last time President Hinckley would be in Samoa, that it was not their culture, strong as it was, that would save them but the ordinances of this new temple, and said that missionaries need two strong weapons when they go forth: humility, and obedience. Together they will form a strong shield. The 2nd counselor spoke humbly about accepting his calling.
When it was President Monson’s turn to speak, he asked his son, Art, a prior Samoan missionary, to share his testimony in Samoan.
President Monson spoke, through an interpreter, about his first visit to Samoa, about visiting a school, and about directing the principal to conduct the closing exercises. He had the impression to greet each child one by one. During the closing song, he had the impression again. He told the sister. She reported that she had told the children that if they had faith, an apostle of the Lord would someday visit them, and that if they really had faith, he would ask to greet them one by one. President Monson said he was glad he had followed the impression and noted that some of those children may have been attending the dedicatory services.
The choir then sang “Dedication” in English.
Elder Condie spoke through an interpreter about temple as place of sealing, and place of healing, that a fountain of living waters (like that prophesied to spring from the temple in Jerusalem, and like the one symbolized by the water flowing in the front of the Apia Temple) can cure the Dead Sea, a dying marriage, hurt relationships, and troubled families.
President Hinckley asked Brother Cox and Dad to bear their testimonies. Brother Cox did so entirely in Samoan. He told us later he had talked about the importance of keeping covenants and the saving ordinances of the temple.
Dad talked about the reason for our trip, about Mom’s dad (“Misi Panapa”) serving a mission in Samoa 80 years before, about Mindy’s recent loss, about how this trip had been a dream come true and had provided healing for our family which, as Elder Condie had said, is what the House of the Lord is all about.
President Hinckley asked who in the room did not speak English. He jokingly told his interpreter that “I guess we don’t need you.” He then spoke lovingly about his dear Marjorie, her passing, and eternal marriage, and that the sealing covenant is most wonderful part of the Gospel, that he looks forward to embracing her when he passes through the veil. It was a reassuring sermon. (I thought of Mindy -- and Sini, who lost his wife several years ago -- and how a prophet of God likely tailored his remarks on the spot for one family – Mindy’s – after Dad’s remarks, but how the sealing covenants had application to every family who attended or watched by satellite). President Hinckley got emotional as he noted that it may be his last time in Samoa, but that he would leave, with “Goodbye, My Friend” (the title of which he said in Samoan) ringing in his heart.
President Hinckley then gave the dedicatory prayer in English without the interpreter.
Pres. Monson gave instructions regarding the history and the way to perform the Hosanna Shout.
He then led the Hosanna Shout.
President Hinckley noted that the choir would sing the “Hosanna Anthem”, composed by Evan Stephens for the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, and that the congregation would join the choir at the appropriate time to sing “The Spirit of God”. He noted that that hymn was first sung at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and that, by singing the “Hosanna Anthem” and “The Spirit of God”, we would be joining together the dedications of the Kirtland, Salt Lake, and Apia Samoa temples.
The choir of 20 was joined by a heavenly choir. They sang in Samoan with power. When it was our turn to sing, there were more voices than mortals present. I tried to sing, but sobbed instead. It was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.
A Samoan brother gave the closing prayer in Samoan.
The saints assembled outside to bid President Hinckley farewell. They lined the driveway as President Monson and President Hinckley emerged from the entrance of the temple in dark suits. The saints began singing “Goodbye, My Friend” and waving white handkerchiefs. It was a tender moment.
I looked at them and thought how many of them would only see the prophet today, had only seen him for 1 ½ hours, and would likely never see him or another prophet again in their lifetime, and how we in Utah have the opportunity see the prophets and apostles almost weekly. How blessed we are.
After the dedication, one of the founders of the Robert Louis Stevenson museum/home (“Vailima Villa”) invited us to a private tour tomorrow, and a garden party in the evening. We greet Jayne Anne Payne and her daughter and family. I found the choir director and thanked him, and thanked other choir members I recognized for their powerful singing.
Delilah drove us to Aggie Grey’s Hotel for lunch. Dad asked us to go around the circle to tell us what impressed us about the dedication. Sini bore a strong and powerful testimony to all of us, “my family” (and many at other tables could/did hear) of the truthfulness of the Gospel, the reality of the Savior, and of the only true Church and of his gratitude for being included in this trip.
Delilah drove us back to the hotel. I read the Book of Mormon and we rested. I set up “The Other Side of Heaven” DVD for the kids to watch on my laptop.
Had a good talk with Mom and Dad, Mindy, and Molly.
We had dinner at the hotel (I had a chef salad, Cindy had curry, and Caroline had a club sandwich). Then to bed.