The dedication of two new Australian temples in Adelaide and Melbourne and the planned construction of two more in Perth and Brisbane are fulfillment of the heartfelt wishes of many Australian Latter-day Saints, said Elder Bruce C. Hafen.
"Formerly, many of our members had to overcome Australia's famed 'tyranny of distance' to attend the Sydney temple," said Elder Hafen of the Seventy and president of the Australia/New Zealand Area. "Where previously a temple visit was just an occasional encounter, now the Saints throughout Australia will have an opportunity for a lifetime of temple experiences."
Elder Hafen's remarks echo the thoughts of the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, at the groundbreaking of the Sydney Temple in 1982. "There could scarcely be a more memorable day in the entire history of this great nation," said Elder McConkie. "[The temple] will do more for the salvation and exaltation of the [Australian] people than any other single thing we could [do.]"
Elder McConkie continued: "There is no reason in the world why we can't have temples in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth" as soon as warranted by the numbers and the faithfulness of the Australian Saints.
For many of those gathered there on that August day, Elder McConkie's remarks may have seemed like a wish, certainly something they would not see in their lifetimes. Yet, just 18 years later, the first two of four new Australian temples have now been dedicated as spiritual sanctuaries and Houses of the Lord. In addition to the temples now located in Adelaide and Melbourne, temples are under construction or going through the planning phase in Perth and Brisbane.
The new temples are a visible evidence of the dynamic growth of the Church in Australia which has jumped from 3,000 members in 1955 to 100,000 today. As the fastest growing Christian faith in the country during the last national census, the Church here now has more members as a percentage of the total population than traditional Latter-day Saint strongholds such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the nations of Europe.
"I'm very happy to see that kind of growth here," said President Gordon B. Hinckley after dedicating the Melbourne Australia Temple June 16. "It is a very salutary thing. It indicates many things, the receptivity of the Australian people . . . but the fact that we now have that ratio of membership is very important and very encouraging. These are good and wonderful people."
In comments to Australian Latter-day Saint leaders, President Hinckley described the feelings he had experienced when he visited Australia during his last trip in 1997. "Two years ago we traveled through this great land and came to feel the large distances which Church members have to travel to visit the House of the Lord," he said. "I know it is a long way from Adelaide and Perth to Sydney. Within a year, there will be five temples where there was just one. What a great season in the life of the Church in Australia."
ADELAIDE, Australia When Rhelma Badger attended a mutual activity with her daughter, Kerrie, while the Adelaide temple was still under construction, she didn't realize that the visit would result in a radical change to her life.
Sister Badger, a member of another Christian faith at the time, had been invited by her daughter to look through the unfinished temple. Kerrie, who had joined the Church just a few months before, was anxious to help her mother understand first-hand the excitement that she and other young Latter-day Saints were experiencing knowing that a House of the Lord was rising in their midst.
Sister Badger is married to an LDS man, but she declined many invitations to be baptized because of her parents' negative feelings toward the Church and some confusion about LDS doctrine.
Although Sister Badger saw little more than scaffolding and bare concrete during her visit to the temple site with her daughter, she reports that she felt something very different, something that she had never experienced before. "I felt so warm as we went into the baptismal area and then the sealing room," she said. "I went home and asked God to tell me what to do and for help to be able to tell my parents that I wanted to join Graham's church."
A little while later, without any prompting from Sister Badger, her father phoned her and said that it was about time she joined the Church to be with her husband and daughter. Taken by surprise at her parents' change of heart, Sister Badger was baptized shortly afterwards.
The spirit felt by Rhelma Badger in the House of the Lord on the day of the Adelaide Australia Temple's dedication was reflected in the hearts of each of the 2,280 members who attended the four dedicatory sessions on Thursday, June 15. The day of celebration was the culmination of a year-long preparatory period which included the groundbreaking on May 29, 1999, and an open house for community leaders and members of the general public June 2 10.
For the members of the Church in the city of Adelaide, the building of the temple was a very public experience. Community interest ran high after numerous stories appeared in both the press and electronic media describing the temple construction. Then, in the two weeks before the open house, an extensive radio and newspaper advertising campaign invited the public to tour the completed structure.
The result was that 49,303 South Australians visited the building.
Given that most members of the general public who visited the temple did so as a result of an invitation from a Church member, this was a remarkable feat in a location with a relatively small temple district of only 12,000 Church members. The temple district includes three Adelaide-based stakes and three districts located in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Along with the general public, 331 community leaders and 464 neighbors and contractors accepted the invitation to visit the building in special spoken tours conducted by members of the Australia/New Zealand Area Presidency Elder Bruce C. Hafen and Elder Kenneth Johnson, both of the Seventy, and Elder Victor D. Cave, an Area Authority Seventy.
Elder Holland believes that those who are not of the Latter-day Saint faith will also feel the spirit, power and influence of a dedicated temple in their community. "They'll be very impressed and very gratified, very rewarded for the dedication and completion, the arrival of this new temple in their midst. It certainly is a beautiful city, a very receptive city to such religious matters. With nearly 50,000 people visiting the open house, it seems to me to reflect the nature of the citizenry here."
The feelings of Elder Holland were reflected by many people of other faiths during the eight-day open house for community leaders and the general public.
For Robert Wilmott, temple coordinator and newly called temple president, it was a humbling experience to be called to serve in the House of the Lord. "Through my mother's line I am a fifth generation Church member," he said. "I feel I can now honor those who prepared the way for me to be a member of the Church by serving my fellowmen and our Father in Heaven in the temple."
MELBOURNE, Australia A majority of the early European pioneers of the Australian states now known as Tasmania and Victoria were initially brought to the area in the early to mid 1800s as British convicts (in the case of Tasmania), or as free settlers enticed by the rich grazing land (in the case of Victoria).
In the 1850s, the southeast region of Australia was in the grip of gold fever. Immigrants, from Europe, Asia and the Americas, poured into the rapidly expanding cities and towns of Victoria searching for their fortune. Thus, penal settlements and the search for gold and greener pastures can be viewed as building blocks in the social development of the region.
"Just like the early convicts who came out from Britain to Port Arthur and other penal settlements, many of our ancestors are also in chains spiritual chains. An essential part in their progression is the temple work which we will do for them here in this beautiful new House of the Lord," said the Melbourne Australia Temple President Keith O'Grady at the dedication of the Melbourne Australia Temple on June 16.
The proceedings, presided over by President Hinckley and attended by close to 5,000 local Latter-day Saints, have ushered in a new era for the development of the Church in Tasmania and Victoria. The ground was broken for the Melbourne Australia Temple on March 20, 1999.
"For 16 years we have travelled the 1,500 miles round trip to the Sydney temple and before that many members of the Church here had to sacrifice sometimes their house, car and other possessions so they could afford to make the journey to the New Zealand Temple," added Pakenham stake president, Murray Lobley. "We are now no longer enslaved by the tyranny of distance we have been truly blessed to have a temple built in Melbourne."
Whereas gold prospectors have in times past flooded into Victoria in search of wealth and happiness, now members of the Church from Victoria and Tasmania will come to the temple in pursuit of heaven's wealth and eternal happiness. There are approximately 20,000 members of the Church in the temple district in six Victorian stakes, two Tasmanian stakes and one Victorian district.
More than 28,000 members of the public, including approximately 250 local business, community, political and inter-faith leaders, and 150 neighbors and temple building contractors toured the temple prior to the dedication in a week-long open house. Many of these visitors shared their experiences and impressions with missionaries and other members of the Church.
The governor of Victoria, His Excellency the Honourable Sir James Gobbo AC, remarked to Elder Hafen that he was deeply impressed by the beauty and spirit of the temple.
Ross Smith, Victorian Member of Parliament for the local electorate, was so taken with the temple that he wrote in a letter of appreciation to local leaders: "No one could fail to be impressed by the superb building and its outstanding facilities a tribute to the strength of the Church and the effectiveness of its work in the community. You have every reason to be proud of your Church's achievements."
There are four main football codes played in Australia: soccer, rugby league, rugby union and Australian Rules. Kevin Sheedy, the most successful Australian Rules Football coach in Australia (his team, Essendon, has won its last 15 games), is used to large crowds of more than 100,000 screaming fans at football games. After he toured the temple he commented that the building and grounds were "extremely peaceful."
Qing Ning Zhu and Lisha An managed to squeeze a tour of the temple into a very busy and important day in their lives. After being baptized into the Church on Saturday, June 10, they headed straight to the temple to join more than 8,000 others making the most of the last day of the open house.
Originally from mainland China, Sister Zhu has lived in Melbourne for 10 years with her husband and 13-year-old son. As a result of the associations she has made through her involvement with a Chinese organization which she founded in Melbourne, she has been able to introduce dozens of fellow Australian Chinese to the missionaries.
"I am so happy to be one of the most recently baptized members of the Church and to be here at the newly built Melbourne temple. As a Latter-day Saint I realize that it is important for me to pass on the truth to people around me so their lives can be happier as well," Sister Zhu beamed after touring the temple.
Many individuals and families asked ushers and missionaries about the Church's family history programs and facilities. "The number of friends we are making in the community because of the temple is just overwhelming," concluded President Lobley. "The lives of tens of thousands within the Church and without will continue to be touched by the temple here in Melbourne and beyond."