Tonga's LDS note king's birthday

It was a birthday gift of service from the Latter-day Saints here to their king.

Members gathered together June 13, each giving 80 minutes of service in celebration of King Taufa`ahau Tupou IV's 80th birthday.They planted flowers, supplied by the Church, and cleaned the palace grounds. They also cleaned the Alonga (a home for the disabled), village cemeteries, roadsides, the police station, nobles' homes, the village clinic and the government primary school.

In all, the members from six stakes gave more than 4,500 hours of service. Of the 106,000 people living on the western South Pacific island, 40,000 are members of the Church.

"The morning was a little cold," said member Rima Sika, "but it seemed like no one felt it because they were filled with the spirit of service and love."

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Barbara, and Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and his wife, Marie, were granted an audience with the king June 19, presenting His Majesty with pictures of numerous service projects.

They also gave the king a framed copy of the Proclamation on the Family, a statue of "The Sea Gull" and a birthday greeting from the First Presidency.

"The king was very cordial," said Elder Perry. "We had only planned on staying with him for a few minutes and he wanted us to stay for about 45 minutes."

Elder Perry said the king expressed a deep appreciation for the Church and its emphasis on the family. He also noted that the king, who exercises regularly and has lost more than 154 pounds since his weight peaked at 463 pounds in 1976, is a good example of physical fitness for the members in his country. "He is 80 years old and he is on the treadmill every day," said Elder Perry.

The Tongan members, explained Elder Perry, were excited to have an opportunity to do something for their king - who is a "greatly revered and benevolent" leader.

"The greatest benefit of their service was the opportunity of working together," he said.

One member noted that giving the service did not seem like hard work but more like a game. Another commented that "what I enjoyed the most was to look back and admire my finished work."

"Yes," said Sister Sika, "the members worked side by side, enjoying every minute. Their faith and obedience shone from their faces."

During his trip to Tonga, Elder Perry also visited the Church college and participated in a regional conference.

"You just have to know of the love the members of the Church in Tonga have for the Church," he said.

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