BARRIGADA, Guam — Like the Church’s humble beginnings on the island of Guam nearly 80 years ago, a celebration of gratitude on Friday, May 20, started with a few enthusiastic attendees that swelled to a capacity crowd of a few hundred people in the stake center in Barrigada.
Children were climbing and sitting in the trees around the chapel, laughing and eating with each other. Inside, their parents and others from the community shared in their joy and added in a few tears as they spoke of their appreciation for a new temple.
Rosemarie Cruz and her husband, Jim Cruz, moved to Guam 50 years ago. Now, at age 89, Rosemarie Cruz was one of the happiest people on the island as she expressed her thankfulness for a temple.
“I always thought it would come,” she said, speaking of a temple. “A temple is a symbol of God’s love. God is love. Love is the answer to everything.”
Rosemarie Cruz almost didn’t get to this moment in life, though. When she was a newlywed, she was looking for God and “wanted to have a good life,” she said.
She had neighbors in California, at the time, who she said had the good life she wanted. She knew they were members of the Church.
“I always wanted my neighbor to invite me,” she said. “But she didn’t.”
When she and her husband moved to Guam, the Church was comparatively small to what she had seen in California. But when she found it here, she didn’t let it go.
“Again, I saw how they lived,” she said of some new neighbors. “We didn’t have missionaries teach us, just neighbors with good examples.”
She and her daughters who were old enough to be baptized joined the Church together. Her husband took a little longer, but once they were all baptized, they never looked back.
When the couple decided to save money to be sealed in the temple, Rosemarie Cruz was drawn to Utah and the Salt Lake Temple.
“There was just something about it,” she said. “It had to be the one for us.”
They made the trip, were sealed, and continued to live the gospel for over five decades with their family.
“Our oldest daughter was the first sister missionary to serve from Guam,” Rosemarie Cruz said with a proud tear in her eye.
Looking around the packed cultural hall at the many people who were now a part of this journey with her, Rosemarie Cruz expressed one hope for this younger generation of Saints.
“I hope they still study the Bible, study the Book of Mormon and just keep going forward,” she said.
Read more: Elder Bednar dedicates first temple in Guam, asking members to ‘connect Jesus Christ with the temple’
Filling a hole in the heart
Among those joining the celebration in the stake center were many who had been a part of the Church’s growth, but who no longer live on the island. Former missionaries (young and senior couples), former Church employees, former servicemen and women from the U.S. military who had been here on assignment, and others came back for the occasion.
Among those who returned for the dedication were the Creamers. LaMar Creamer worked for the Church and accepted a role in Guam in 2004 that he anticipated would lead him and his family to be here for up to a decade. After only a few short years, health problems forced him and his family to return to the mainland.
“It ripped a hole in my heart,” LaMar Creamer said. “The island people had filled a hole I didn’t know was in my heart, and leaving just ripped that hole open.
“It was here that I really learned what service is,” he said.
At one point, Saints in Pohnpei (one of the four Federated States of Micronesia) wanted to participate in temple work even though they knew they wouldn’t be able to attend the temple themselves. Instead, they gathered names from their family histories and organized the names to have temple ordinances performed for them.
“Sister Creamer and I took those names and did all the ordinances we could,” he said.
And when the temple was announced for the country they hadn’t wanted to leave?
“We couldn’t help but cry,” he said. “It will be a great blessing for Guam and for the people of these islands.”
A new experience brings a new verse of song
LaMar Creamer’s wife, Tami Creamer, had a unique experience of her own on the way to Guam for the dedication.
Tami Creamer and her friend Derena Bell wrote the music and lyrics of the song “I Know that My Savior Loves Me” back in 2002.
On the airplane, Tami Creamer had new words come to her mind for an additional verse of that song. These words were about temples and the significance of what happens inside them.
Here in this beautiful House of the Lord,
We help bring loved ones to Jesus.
Binding our families through God’s holy pow’r,
Eternally strengthened, we’ll be.
The temple is witness of God’s love for me,
A blessing from heav’n above.
A place full of peace, where heav’n and earth meet,
Forever our families will be.
A group of Primary children learned and sang the song as part of the celebration on Friday night. For Tami Creamer it was a fitting addition to the song and her family’s attachment to Guam.
“You can leave Guam,” she said. “But you can’t let this place go.”
Benefit the community and the island
The Chamorro people who are native to the island of Guam believe strongly in the connection between people and their ancestors and the land of their ancestors.
Kawika Davis, a young adult on Guam, said the one word that describes what he feels right now is excitement.
Yes, that excitement comes partially because of the proximity of a temple where he can now worship and serve. But he feels it’s more than that.
“This temple will benefit both the community and the island,” he said. “We believe there is a spiritual connection to the land and our ancestors here. The temple strengthens that connection.”
As a former Young Men president in his ward and stake, Davis helped youth organize and carry out fundraisers that enabled them to attend the temple in the Philippines to do baptisms for the dead.
“It brings a lot of joy and excitement knowing we can go to the temple in 15 minutes instead of planning and saving for a three-hour flight,” he said.
Music, food and fellowshipping
Those children climbing trees around the chapel weren’t trying to avoid their parents or skip out on the celebration going on inside the building. There just simply wasn’t room for everyone.
The hallways, the classrooms, the cultural hall, the stage — they were all full of people.
Each had brought something to contribute to the potluck meal that ranged from pizza to egg rolls to fried chicken. Desserts by the dozen filled tables in another corner of the cultural hall, as well.
Groups jumped to the stage to sing songs of gratitude or to dance in praise and joy for the new blessing of a temple just down the street. Ukuleles, guitars, drums and piano all filled the air with notes of thanksgiving and happiness.
At the end of the evening, the celebration closed with a prayer thanking Heavenly Father for the blessings the people here already see from the building of a temple. The joy emanating from every door and window of the chapel turned to humble reverence for God’s love and mercy in providing a temple in such a remote location of the world.
The youth from the temple district will hear from Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders Saturday afternoon as part of a special youth devotional.
The dedication of the Yigo Guam Temple will take place on Sunday in three sessions held throughout the day.