AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Church leaders stood on a hillside between the Auckland Missionary Training Center and the stake center on Redoubt Road here Tuesday. Amid the cool breeze of the Southern Hemisphere's autumn day, President Russell M. Nelson took in the expansive view and spoke about the country’s second temple, announced seven months earlier.
Hours later, in front of a crowd of 12,000 Latter-day Saints gathered in Spark Arena for the May 21 evening devotional, President Nelson delighted the congregation.
“Today, I'm pleased to announce that the new temple will be built in Auckland on Redoubt Road. We visited that prominent hill earlier today.”
Located on Goodwood Heights in Manukau City, the temple’s “light and beauty will be highly visible,” he said. “Thank you for your faith that has brought this temple.”
President Nelson first visited New Zealand in 1976 — accompanying President Spencer W. Kimball as his physician on a Pacific tour. Almost two decades later, he offered a prayer on the land and people of New Zealand on Nov. 6, 1993.
“We’ve been here many times,” he said. “We’ve learned to love the people, your leaders and your special consideration of all of God’s children.”
In 1854, the first missionaries arrived in New Zealand — a country that today has three missions, 30 stakes, 113,500 members and soon-to-be two temples. The missionaries found the Maori people eager to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. A translation of the Book of Mormon was published in Maori in 1889, and a meetinghouse was dedicated in the country 20 years later.
New Zealand is the fourth stop on President Nelson’s nine-day, seven-nation Pacific Ministry Tour, which started May 16. In Kona, Hawaii, he shared 10 personal messages for Latter-day Saints. In Apia, Samoa, President Nelson urged Latter-day Saints to be strong in the face of persecution and “attacks of the adversary.” In Sydney, Australia, President Nelson told Church members “if you want to be happy, choose the way of the Lord.” He also met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Parliament Buildings in Wellington.
Begin with the end in mind
Speaking to youth before the evening devotional, President Nelson referenced the country’s rich heritage and bright future.
Soraya Wirepa, 16, asked for advice on gaining her own testimony. “Begin with the end in mind,” President Nelson told her. "What would you like said about you at your funeral? … I can’t imagine better motivation than to know you are making progress every day.”
Personal revelation can guide the actions of the faithful, President Nelson taught.
“The Lord is just as anxious to reveal to you the things you should know as He is to reveal to His prophet,” President Nelson told Dallyn Jafiti, 15.
God’s plan is a joyful plan, President Nelson told Emma Ormsby, 17.
President Nelson said the youth will be blessed by the new temple, as well as the historic Hamilton New Zealand Temple, which closed for renovations in July 2018.
The Hamilton temple renovation project will bring the temple in compliance with modern seismic standards, replace aged systems, provide new patron housing, refresh the interiors, and enhance and beautify the exterior grounds and landscaping, said President Nelson.
The project “is well underway and on schedule.”
“This temple was well-built,” said President Nelson, noting the renovation will be completed in 2021, followed by a rededication. “The Temple View community will continue to grow and experience the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Prior to the devotional, President Nelson met with local leaders — including Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who spoke briefly at a reception.
"President Nelson, I have to say that your Church is a very important faith organization in New Zealand. The Church performs a very important role in the values that you teach and in the community service that you give us."
Referencing the March 15 mosque shooting in Christchurch, Goff said: "Your Church was one of the first churches to come out to condemn the act, to express your solidarity with people of the Muslim faith. Your missionaries in Christchurch helped at the community center. Your ladies in Dunedin helped set up a women's support center."
Earlier in the day in a meeting with national and local Muslim leaders, President Nelson announced a $100,000 donation to the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch. The mosques were damaged two months ago in a deadly attack that left 51 dead and as many injured.
The death and injury of innocent worshippers, gunned down March 15, “is incomprehensible,” President Nelson said.
“So what can we do? We can pray, we can love, we can minister, we can give a donation. They appreciate it all. They appreciate the fact that we care.”
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the world over were heartbroken when we heard of the deadly attacks on innocent worshippers” he said, adding “our prayers, love and support are with you and all others affected by these senseless tragedies.”
President Nelson also pledged the service of local Latter-day Saints.
“Looking ahead, should you require volunteers to assist in the repair and renovation work that will be funded by these donations, we would be honored to lend a helping hand.”
‘Take a look at who you are’
In a Tuesday morning event broadcast to missionaries throughout the Pacific Area, President and Sister Nelson and Elder and Sister Gong met with 2,600 missionaries serving in New Zealand or preparing for missionary service in the New Zealand Missionary Training Center.
“Take a look at who you really are,” President Nelson encouraged the missionaries. “Every day one can become a little bit more like Jesus wants us to become. It’s a lifetime project. Practice it every day.”
Elder Gong reminded the missionaries of the prophecy the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 122:1 that states, “The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name.”
“Did you ever think that when you share your testimony, told by who you are and by what you say, and by kindness, that you are fulfilling that prophecy? That you uniquely can fulfill that prophecy where you are serving? … You have the opportunity, the blessing and even responsibility to do so."
President Nelson focused his evening devotional remarks on teaching children. He asked parents to teach their children what it means to be a child of God and that they can pray to Him. He also asked that they help children understand the sacred nature of their bodies and to teach them about Jesus Christ and to love the Book of Mormon. Additionally, he entreated parents to help children avoid addiction, to get an education and to be good citizens.
The result will be “a generation of sin-resistant souls,” who know who they are and what God wants them to become, he said.
Sister Gong told the congregation that living the gospel will bring them “joy and peace.”
“What a blessing that we can feel the love of God for us and those around us,” said Elder Gong.
Sister Nelson spoke of personal revelation and shared how she came to know she should date and eventually marry then-Elder Russell M. Nelson.