`A jewel in the hands of the Lord'

The Church's Polynesian Cultural Center surpassed another milestone Sept. 27 when the 25-millionth visitor entered its front gates and received a "royal" welcome.

Gary and Corrine Harland of Corvallis, Ore., stepped onto the center's grounds in the early afternoon and were astounded to be greeted by Polynesian Cultural Center Pres. Lester W.B. Moore and dozens of entertainers and employees dressed in native cultural attire. Dignitaries from the business, tourism and government sectors also welcomed the lucky couple.That was just the beginning of a festive day for the Harlands, who at first thought the greeting was a joke. Within moments, however, they knew the honor was sincere as Pres. Moore offered personal greetings and brief remarks.

For Pres. Moore, who has served as president of the Polynesian Cultural Center since 1991, that moment marked the 34-year "miracle" of the center, which opened its doors Oct. 12, 1963. What began as an extension of the educational mission of Brigham Young University-Hawaii has become a "jewel in the hands of the Lord," Pres. Moore declared during a telephone interview with the Church News. (Please see accompanying article on the history of the Polynesian Cultural Center.)

Miracle after miracle, Pres. Moore said, occurs at the center, which "has literally been watched over by the prophets and has been protected by the Lord."

The arrival of the 25-millionth visitor is one such miracle, he continued. He explained that when the Church College of Hawaii (now Brigham Young University-Hawaii) was dedicated by President David O. McKay in 1955, the prophet declared: "The town of Laie may become a missionary factor influencing not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people who will come seeking to know what this town and its significance are."

Pres. Moore added, "Here we are 34 years later and a million people a year are coming through these doors. That's fulfillment of prophecy."

For Gary and Corrine Harland, being the 25 millionth to enter the center was an unexpected fulfillment. This was Mrs. Harland's sixth trip to Hawaii and her third visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center in 10 years. The trip was her husband's first to the islands.

They were a "royal couple" for a day, as proclamations were read to them by governmental representatives, including an official from the office of Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano. Afterward, a personal tour guide embarked with them in a specially decorated canoe for cultural demonstrations at each of the seven island villages and for VIP seating at the IMAX Theater and at night shows.

The grand prize for being the 25-millionth visitor was a free trip for two anywhere Asiana Airlines flys.

Describing the day, Mrs. Harland said: "The entire day at the Polynesian Cultural Center was one of the most memorable experiences we've ever had. Our tour guide was wonderful and we were treated like royalty everywhere we went. At each of the seven island cultural villages, they performed a special ceremony on our behalf and presented us with gifts. Everyone at the center made us feel so special," she added. "I always enjoy coming here because the students put on such a wonderful show and the place is so beautiful and well-kept."

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