Aborigines gather for temple work, meetings

More than 40 Australian aboriginal Latter-day Saints attended a weeklong gathering here Jan. 7-14, during which most attended daily sessions at the Sydney Australia Temple. Other activities included cultural events, a testimony meeting, workshops on Church related topics and a dance.

Organized by Christine King of the Darwin 1st Ward in Australia's Northern Territory, the event involved six aboriginal families from different parts of the country: Melbourne, Mt. Isa and Darwin, and from the island of Tasmania.Sister King, mother of four and a returned missionary, has been a member of the Church 20 years. She said the purpose of the gathering was for the aboriginal members of the Church in Australia to get to know one another and share their experiences, both as Aborigines and as Church members. During the week of daily temple sessions, the group completed ordinances for the whole of the Larrakee Tribe in the Northern Territory.

"The aboriginal people have always been a deeply spiritual people," said Donna Ballangarry of the Liverpool 1st Ward, Sydney Australia Parramatta Stake, "and the Church provides an opportunity for us to express that spirituality. Our dreamtime legend says that the aboriginal people came to Australia from the waters the same way Lehi sailed to the promised land, and that's one reason why we find it so easy to accept the Book of Mormon."

She said that family history is another feature of the Church Aborigines accept readily. "Genealogy has always been an important part of aboriginal culture, and from a very early age aboriginal children start learning their family history." Sister Ballangarry, who belongs to the Wiradjuri Tribe in central New South Wales, said she knows most of her family history by heart as do most other aboriginal Latter-day Saints.

At a special fireside in the Parramatta meetinghouse chapel, Elder Lowell D. Wood of the Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area Presidency, reassured the aboriginal Latter-day Saints that they are from the house of Israel.

Sister Ballangarry said there were many other parallels between aboriginal culture and the Church. For example, the aboriginals believe strongly in an afterlife, that the spirit lives on after the mortal body has deceased.

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