ESPOO, Finland — In an ice hockey arena filled to its near-capacity of 7,000 people, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke from his heart and, in the process, endeared the saints in northern Europe in comments made during a member meeting Oct. 21, on the day before the dedication of the Helsinki Finland Temple.
"My beloved brothers and sisters, what a pleasure it is to look into your faces. What a marvelous occasion this is when we dedicate a house of the Lord. I am so grateful for the opportunity of being with you."
President Hinckley spoke of a history book given to him several years earlier by James M. and Beverly Benson Parker that chronicled the growth of the Church in Finland. Titled Muistamme, the book was published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the work in Finland from 1947 to 1997. President Ezra Taft Benson dedicated Finland in 1946.
"The book deals with the administration of all the mission presidents who served during those 50 years. I knew many of these."
President Hinckley spoke of Henry Matis, who came to Finland in 1947 and presided for 7 1/2 years.
"Today, we have with us 19 men who have presided over this mission. What a marvelous work they have done. As all of you who have served here know, this is a very difficult mission. To begin with, the language is so hard to learn. It is the most difficult of any tongue taught in the Missionary Training Center.
"Any converts are few and far between. After 59 years, we have only 5,000 members of Finland's 5 million people. Let us hope that the great interest that the temple has created will result in more baptisms."
One sees a very interesting thing here, continued President Hinckley. "There is an intense bonding between the people of America and the Finnish saints. I have participated in the dedication or rededication of 94 of the 124 temples (the dedication the next day brought the number to 95), but I have never seen such enthusiasm as I have seen with the members about the Helsinki Finland Temple."
President Hinckley acknowledged the work of two members of the Church who were appointed ambassadors from the United States to Finland, Keith Nyborg, who was in attendance, and Mark Evans Austad, who died in 1988, and then said, "Finland is a most interesting and progressive country."
Recounting information provided by the Parkers, he said:
Finland has been ranked as having the most competitive economy and the best business climate in the world.
Finland has been recognized as having the least corrupt and the most democratic government in the world.
Finland is one of the most technically advanced countries.
Finns are known for their honesty. Finland is the only country to pay back all of its war debts to the United States.
Finland is famous, among other things, for Nokia phones, Fiskar scissors, and Marimekko textiles. Eero Saarinen, the famous Finnish architect, designed the terminal building at Dulles National Airport near Washington D.C. and the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo.
Finland's public school system is ranked the best in the world. Most Finns can speak at least three languages and almost everyone in Finland speaks English.
Breaking from his address, President Hinckley then turned to his translator, Risto Leppanen, and, to the delight of the congregation, said: "So why have we got you here?"
"Now seriously," he said, resuming his thoughts, "the work in Finland has reached maturity. With the construction and dedication of the temple you have everything that the Latter-day Saints have anywhere in the world. I urge you, as strongly as I can, that everyone secure a temple recommend. If you have a temple recommend it indicates that you are all right in every other way.
"I picked up this little Finnish flag," he said while unfurling the flag. "I like it. It's so simple. It has the Christian cross, saying that this is a Christian land. It is, as I say, so simple with that cross on a white background. Treasure it, respect it, love it, and make it a glorious thing among the nations of the earth."
Also speaking at the member meeting was Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve. He encouraged greater study of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and said, "We know how to be happy, how to face the challenges. So many don't know how to live. But as you study the teachings of Jesus Christ taught in the Church, you will know how to overcome every challenge and live in happiness."
Turning his attention to the young men, Elder Scott said, "What I know, you young men can't quite possibly know....
"If you haven't made up your mind to serve (a mission), please trust me. I've been down the path farther than you have. You will never regret being a missionary. But if you neglect this responsibility, you will likely regret it the rest of your life."
Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and president of the Europe Central Area spoke of Finland's place in advancing the gospel into Eastern lands. From Finland the first missionaries were sent to Russia. "It will now host the temple. Here sacred history has been created," he said.
"The temple unifies multiple cultures.... The temple will bring a flood of new light to Finland," he said, speaking of the power for good of the temple.
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