KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — At any new temple throughout the world, those attending a dedication come from all walks of life. They are young or old, they are from myriad ethnic backgrounds, they come from far away or down the street. And they all say how "humbled," "blessed," "grateful" they are to attend a temple dedication.
But at each temple, there are those whose gratitude is deeper, more poignant than most. This was the case with three women at the dedication of the Kona Hawaii Temple Jan. 23-24, 2000, by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Singing in the cornerstone choir Jan. 23 were Kuulei Bell and Lucy Kaona of the Kalaupapa Branch on the island of Molokai. Both women are known for their voices; Sister Kaona is a rich alto, Sister Bell a lovely soprano.
And both have lived most of their lives at the Kalaupapa settlement once set aide for patients of Hansen's Disease, known as leprosy. The two women contracted the disease in their childhood and were sent to Molokai, where patients were then quarantined from the public. (Please see Feb. 8, 1997, Church News.) But times have changed now. The disease is controlled by medication, and patients on medication are not contagious. In addition, as Sister Kaona related, "Now people are getting more opened-minded and letting us, the patients, mingle around."
"People are more accepting of us when at one time they weren't," Sister Bell added. "To sing at the cornerstone is really something. This is something special for Lucy and me. We're getting old and this is a new temple and all the Hawaiians are over here so we wanted to be part of this. There's a lot of Molokai people who came and we're just the two from Kalaupapa so we thought we needed to come and represent our branch."
Continuing, Sister Bell related: "Lucy comes from Kona. She was raised here (until being sent to Kalaupapa). My parents come from Kohala (also on the island of Hawaii), so we're a part of this wonderful tradition."
And, as Sister Kaona added, "We wanted to come to the temple. I know I do."
Another woman whose heart and eyes brimmed with gratitude here was Abigail Kailimai of the Honomu Branch of the Hilo Hawaii Stake. In 1919, when she was 4 years old, she was taken by her parents to the dedication of the Laie Hawaii Temple on the island of Oahu. Eighty-one years later, she stood in the celestial room of the new Kona Hawaii Temple leading the choir for the first dedicatory session.
"The Lord has been so good to me," she related. "I never thought I'd get to lead the temple choir. My mother died when she was 67. I never thought I'd reach 85."
Sister Kailimai has been part of Church choirs since she was 12 years old leading the music in Primary. Since then, she's been in many stake choirs, including one for a rededication of the Laie temple. She has been director of the Hilo stake choir for several years now.
After the first dedicatory session, her grandchildren asked her what she wanted to do next.
"Work in the temple," she replied.