Temple moment: Birthday gift

Even outside the temple, Tonga Poteki Malohifo'ou speaks softly. The 80-year-old sealer in the Salt Lake Temple has developed a perennially reverent demeanor, as though carrying with him the temple's influence.

He's an early Tongan convert, baptized through the testimony of his wife, Ana. Back in 1937, when he proposed to her, she replied: "I like you but I don't love you because we are not of the same faith. You would forsake instantly the church you belong to if a threat were made on your life. As for me, nothing could make me deny my church. If someone were to command me to leave it, I would say, `Never! Better that I should die first!' "Her faith led him to investigate the Church. He was baptized that same year. The couple was sealed in the New Zealand Temple in 1966, and they came to live in the United States in 1975.

From then on, he has been a faithful temple worker. Several times each week he would be found serving in the Salt Lake Temple.

In 1979, he was called as a sealer by President Spencer W. Kimball. He explained to President Kimball that he could hardly speak English.

President Kimball replied, "When you have the Spirit, you will speak well."

Brother Malohifo'ou accepted the calling and worked hard to improve his English. Soon he was doing sealings for English, Tongan, Samoan, and Tahitian patrons. And his new calling only added to his diligence in doing work for the dead. Rather than focus exclusively on performing sealings, he continued his proxy work for others.

"I am a servant of the Lord," he said. "What I am doing doesn't matter."

When his recent 80th birthday drew near, his extensive family gathered around and asked how they could honor him for that event. They imagined a celebration in the finest tradition of the Polynesians, replete with appropriate gifts for their faithful patriarch.

Instead, he said, "I told them to come to the temple and be baptized for the dead, and to do initiatories, endowments and sealings for the dead. That is my will."

The family did hold a small party, but more important to him, members of his family also went to the temple as he requested.

He smiled. "I appreciated that most of all," he said. - John L. Hart

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