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Tongan queen visits Church headquarters

As the Church grows in Tonga, it continues to play a greater spiritual role in the lives of Latter-day Saints in that island kingdom, said Tongan Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho.

Queen Mata'aho arrived in Salt Lake City Dec. 2 for a six-day visit as a guest of the Church. She was greeted at the airport by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve and escorted by Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy, a longtime friend of the royal family since his mission in Tonga.The queen visited with President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson on Dec. 3, and toured many Church facilities. She delivered an address on the role of women in Tonga at the BYU Kennedy Center for International Studies on Dec. 4.

Her itinerary also included a tour of the BYU campus, and visits to the Missionary Training Center, Promised Valley Playhouse, and the Primary Children's Medical Center.

On Dec. 5, she was scheduled to participate at a Tongan community fireside for members of the Wesleyan Methodist, Catholic, LDS, and other faiths, and to visit the Tongan United Methodist Church Youth Center. The queen is a member of the Tongan United Methodist Church.

She and her husband, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, were invited to visit Church headquarters by Elder Nelson, who extended the invitation when he visited the royal palace in Tonga during the Church's centennial celebration in August.

Although the royal couple came to the United States following a world tour, King Tupou IV was unable to visit Utah due to business matters in Chicago, Ill. The couple was greeted in Chicago by Pres. Joseph T. Hicken, president of the Wilmette Illinois Stake.

While in Salt Lake City, Queen Mata'aho visited Temple Square, the Museum of Church History and Art, and the Family History Center. Because of her interest in needlework, she also visited the Mormon Handicraft store.

The queen, who speaks fluent English, held a brief news conference in a Salt Lake hotel on Dec. 3. At the news conference, she emphasized the family orientation of Tongans throughout the world.

"If you believe in the Lord, no matter what your color, or denomination - when you believe in one true God, people should be one big family.

"And if the world is like that, it would be a better place to live. That is what we believe in Tonga. We are like a big family; we believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ."

She said she was grateful for the LDS Church because as it grows in Tonga, it has assumed a larger role in caring for the people's spiritual needs. "The Church has always been there. I grew up with it. I have seen it change tremendously."

Queen Mata'aho advised Tongans living away from their homeland to respect the laws of the lands where they lived, but not to forget their traditions.

"You should respect the law of the people in the country where you live," she counseled. "When people come to Tonga, we expect them to respect our laws and our customs. And I think that is what the Tongans should do here.

But, she added, "It is always good to know your own customs. And Tongan customs, if you know them, wherever you are, that is your root - something for you to hold on to all your life. You don't get lost because you have something to hold on to."

She said that for the world to improve, people should accept the Lord.

"Religion is important," she said. "If you don't have religion in life, you have nothing."

The queen is the founding president of the Red Cross in Tonga, an organization that heads all charity organizations in the island kingdom.

Many of her personal efforts are directed toward the physically and mentally disabled. She explained that she started a center where handicapped children could come and be educated.

"This gives their mothers time to take care of the other children in their families. It has helped a lot."

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