President Gordon B. Hinckley - referred to by many members here as a pioneer in establishing the Church in Asia - dedicated the Hong Kong Temple Sunday, May 26.
President Hinckley, who has participated in either the dedication or rededication of all but five of the Church's 48 operating temples, presided over the seven sessions held in conjunction with the dedication. Four sessions were on Sunday, another three on Monday, May 27. The ceremonial sealing of the temple cornerstone was conducted before the first dedicatory session on Sunday morning.Participating with President Hinckley in the dedicatory events were his first counselor, President Thomas S. Monson; Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Elders Kwok Yuen Tai, John H. Groberg and Rulon G. Craven of the Seventy, who also serve as the presidency of the Asia Area. President Hinckley and President Monson took turns conducting the dedicatory sessions and alternated giving the dedicatory prayer.
Wives of the General Authorities also attended: Marjorie P. Hinckley, Frances S. Monson, Colleen Maxwell, Elisa Wirthlin, Hui Hua Tai, Jean Groberg and Donna Craven.
Hong Kong Temple Pres. Kat Hing Ng and his wife, Lai Har Pang, were among the long-time friends who greeted President Hinckley during the time of dedication.
Throughout his visit in Hong Kong, President Hinckley frequently reflected on his long association with this part of the world. He first came here 36 years ago, in 1960. "This temple represents one of the great dreams of my life," he said, at a meeting with missionaries the day before the dedication of the temple.
On many occasions, President Hinckley commented about "the wonderful opportunity" he has had over the years to work "among these marvelous Chinese people - the sons and daughters of God." He reflected on the fact that when he first came to Hong Kong and the other parts of Asia, the Church did not own one piece of property, except for a small branch meetinghouse in Japan. In the dedicatory prayer he offered at the first session Sunday morning he noted that the Church in this area "now comes to full maturity with the dedication of this sacred temple." There are now some 20,000 members of the Church in five stakes in Hong Kong.
"This is a very emotional time for me," President Hinckley said as he prepared to dedicate the temple.
When asked about his thoughts on saying goodbye to the members in Hong Kong after the dedicatory sessions concluded, President Hinckley declared, "I didn't say
Goodbye.' I said zai jian - Cantonese forFarewell, dear friends.' That is what it was - farewell. It was an emotional experience we had at the dedication of that temple, in looking into the faces of many thousands of our Chinese friends, as well as those who had come from such distant places as Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan at great expense to participate in the dedicatory services of the temple.
"It was wonderful to see old friends that I've known since I first came here in 1960. These wonderful people have been true and faithful all these years when there have been difficulties, troubles, disappointments, but during which time the Church has consistently and steadily moved forward. They have grown and developed as they have remained true to the Church and accepted responsibility for its operation here in their homeland."
President Monson told the Church News: "We were absolutely thrilled with the beauty of the Hong Kong Temple. I believe the colors and furnishing have been so carefully coordinated to reflect the atmosphere of this temple that it astounded all of us. The workmanship of the temple is superb. It would be very difficult to examine that beautiful temple and find any area where the work could have been improved.
"The spirit of the Saints there in the temple was a marvel to behold. They love the temple, and have waited a long time for it. They are very anxious for it to open. With all the great numbers of Chinese people who have gone on in the years past - this being one of the ancient civilizations - surely there is no dearth of names for whom the current Chinese members can officiate.
"The dedicatory sessions were beautiful to behold. It was magnificent to hear President Hinckley reminiscing on his service to the Church in Hong Kong. Indeed, all that has been accomplished here today, for the most part, has been during his time as a representative of the Church with responsibilities for Asia. It was a great joy for him and Sister Hinckley, as well as for many friends, to be in the Hong Kong Temple and reminisce on how the Lord has blessed them from the early beginnings until what we have today in Hong Kong. Sister Monson and I felt very privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of this great outpouring of love."
Elder Tai, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, said that the temple has created a better unity among members here, and has helped "them to see a new horizon."
"The Church has advanced to a new era," he said. "The temple will bring great blessings to many more people in Hong Kong, inside the Church and outside the Church.
"This has been a very special occasion; we've witnessed the dedication of a holy edifice," Elder Tai added. "It has been a time of celebration, a time of thanksgiving, a time of happiness, a time to rededicate ourselves. It's a spiritual boost."
More than 5,000 members attended the dedication, including some 200 who traveled from Singapore, more than 300 from Taiwan, about 100 from Thailand and several expatriate members from China.
Former Asia Area president, Elder Douglas H. Smith, and his wife, Barbara, and Elder Royden G. Derrick were among those who returned for the temple dedication. Also attending were about 300 returned missionaries and several mission presidents.
Many members who immigrated to other countries returned for the temple dedication. "Their hearts are still here," Elder Tai said. "Some of them have children who are back here serving missions. The people still love Hong Kong.
"We saw in the temple some of the old pioneers of the Church in Hong Kong. Some were in wheelchairs. It was a great joy to see this - finally the dream came true. They have been longing and waiting for the coming of the temple."
Among those "pioneering" members of the Church in Hong Kong attending the dedication were individuals such as "Mama Lee," as she is called by most Latter-day Saints and missionaries in Hong Kong, and Tsang Po Fun, who joined the Church about 40 years ago. Both have been faithful over those years. Lo Chung Yu, who, in "the old days" served in a district presidency, offered the closing prayer at one of the sessions.
Several members commented on the fact that all they need now to attend the temple "is a recommend and a MTR
Mass Transit RailwayT ticket." Where it once cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for members to attend the temple, it now costs very little. The temple, located at No. 2 Cornwall Street, Kowloon Tong, is about a five-minute walk from a main subway station, so the edifice is easily accessible from anywhere in Hong Kong. It is also near a main junction of the Kowloon-Canton Railway.
Cecil and Liana Lee were among those attending the dedication on a rainy May 26. "It was just like a long wish that has come true," Brother Lee said. "I had a very special experience during the session. I was especially touched by the talk given by our prophet and by the dedicatory prayer. The temple is really a big blessing for us. I'll never forget this day."
Sister Lee, a convert of 14 years, translated from Cantonese into English the testimony of Sister Ng during the dedication. She also attended a session with her husband and their children. "I had a very warm feeling in my heart," she said. "I felt that every word of the dedicatory prayer went deep into my soul. I was touched very much. Tears came out of my eyes. I'm so grateful for this temple. We were married in the Tokyo Japan Temple, the only temple that was nearby. It takes quite a bit to go to Tokyo."
The new temple opened for regular sessions May 28.