HAMILTON, New Zealand Some people want to get away from the trenches and into their dream home.
Elder Douglas J. Martin, 76, the first New Zealander called to the First Quorum of the Seventy where he served from 1987-1992, and his wife, Amelia Wati Crawford, worked all their lives for a home in Tauranga's Mount Mauganui, a beautiful and scenic location known in a nation of beauty for its view.
The Martins were about to move into their home when he was called as General Authority. They postponed their plans while he served in area presidencies and presided over areas for five years. After his release, he was called as president of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, which again delayed their move for three years.
Then, eight years after they had originally planned, they moved into their holiday home. Of course, he frequently returned to the temple where he served as a sealer since it was dedicated, a calling he has held now continuously for 45 years.
But after two years on the Mount, as it is called, the Martins had enough of holiday. They sold their dream house and returned to Hamilton to real life. He was soon called as high priests group leader in the Chartwell Ward, Hamilton New Zealand Stake. He served later as counselor in the Missionary Training Center, and is now gospel doctrine teacher in Sunday School.
They found that continual service, not a holiday house, was their true home and they are happy again in the trenches.
Reflecting on the Church in New Zealand during an interview at Temple View recently, he observed that many of the members in New Zealand feel the same way. "There are saints here as faithful as they can be found anywhere in the world," he said.
The members' understanding of priesthood principles is very sound, he continued. For example, "the ability to sustain leaders in callings without challenge just doesn't happen [by itself]. There are many capable leaders many returned missionaries who bring a sound doctrinal knowledge. These leaders, and their spouses, are the modern strength of the Church, whether at home or abroad."
He noted that some 400,000 New Zealanders have immigrated to Australia to find work, among them a number of Church members, which "drained off quite a substantial body of strength from the Church locally." These members have provided important leadership abroad.
He shared an example of another aspect of the Church's progress. When Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, now of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited Hamilton in the 1980s and told Church leaders that when they had 100 students at the university there, they could have an institute.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'I'll never live to see the day.' But we now have an institute building and I understand there are 250 students enrolled." Plus, he continued, a second institute building stands at another local place of higher learning, the Waikato Institute of Technology, where 250 more students are enrolled.
With such members increasing in number, "the Church can only be a good example of a consistent stand for social and moral values, and New Zealand has struggled as much as any nation with declining moral standards," he said.
Since having more time available, Elder Martin has enjoyed doing family history research. He was born in Napier, New Zealand, in 1927, and adopted at age 3. He has pursued his blood line and gained satisfaction in doing temple work for his kindred dead and associating with living relatives he found.
"I have been blessed with two families," he said.
During his growing up years, he carried newspapers to earn money during the Depression. He remembers at age 5 seeing the great New Zealand Earthquake of 1931, when his mother held him as the meat processing center, where his father was working, collapsed. His father survived, but times were again difficult until his father found another job.
He said that his spiritual roots go through the Maoris who taught him the fundamentals of the gospel, fundamentals that have stood him in good stead over the years. He attended his first Church meeting with his future wife, Wati. He was the only non-Maori in attendance, "but I was overwhelmed by their friendliness to me," he recalled.
He was baptized in 1951 at age 24 in a creek at Korongata, a Maori center near Hastings. Bandages over a broken collar bone were removed for the service and replaced afterwards. Later, he and Wati both served as local missionaries before they were married in the Hawaii Temple in 1954. Since then, he has served as bishop, stake president's counselor, stake president, regional representative, patriarch, General Authority and temple president.
"I am grateful to have had a chance in life to mingle with the Brethren, and I have even more faith and trust in them as they lead this Church," he said.
He is also grateful to be serving as Sunday School teacher, in the trenches, at home.
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