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Author and associate professor Eric-Jon Marlowe shares insights about his new book, commemorating a century of the Laie Hawaii Temple

Eric Marlowe from the shoulders up smiling at the camera

Deseret Book published “The Laie Hawaii Temple: A Century of Aloha,” and it is written by Eric-Jon Keawe Marlowe, an associate professor of Religion at BYU–Hawaii. The book is on sale at the BYUH Bookstore.

Marlowe said he spent three years researching, writing, and editing the history of the Laie Temple’s first century. On the book’s back cover, an introduction reads, “Built amid sugarcane fields on the island of Oahu and dedicated in 1919, the Laie Hawaii Temple was at the forefront of a Church-wide shift away from gathering to the Intermountain West.

"This temple was among the first brought to the people, and for decades it stood as the closest temple geographically to half the planet.”

The book is a historical narrative that takes the reader to the arrival of the Church in Hawaii in 1850 during the Kamehameha Dynasty and on to the decision to build a temple in 1915.

According to Marlowe, “The book ... describes in detail the temple’s construction to dedication, and thereafter, takes the reader on a decade-by-decade odyssey of the temple’s history up to the present day.”

Born in Hawaii, Marlowe said his research in Pacific Church history has taken him across Polynesia and into Micronesia. He is also a board member and former president of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society. Marlowe has been teaching at BYUH for nine years.

Considering the book a stroke of good luck rather than inspiration, Marlowe said, the Hawaii Area Church Historian reached out to him to write the story. “I jumped at the opportunity—no inspiration needed. To this day, I consider the chance I’ve had to write the official temple history one of the great opportunities of my career. If you love researching Pacific Church History like I do, then it’s hard to imagine a better topic than the Pacific’s first temple.”

Upon fulfilling existing obligations, Marlowe began researching for his book from December 2016 to January 2017. In late September 2018, he turned in a completed manuscript to his publishers.

According to Marlowe, “I researched [and] synthesized thousands of documents and wrote the book. Yet it needs be clear that this project was supported by many people—the list of acknowledgments in the book is extensive. A team lead by Clinton D. Christensen in the Church History Library [CHL] in Salt Lake City made an extensive review of documents in their archives, conducted numerous interviews, and provided many hours of support to this book.

“Missionaries Dale and Linda Robertson spent countless hours scouring sources at the BYUH Library Archives. Professor Alohalani Housman helped with the Hawaiian diacritics, student intern Camron Stockford assisted in the research, and the list goes on and on.”

When writing history, Marlowe cautioned, “Keep in mind you are writing about real people. Honor them whenever possible. History is often a tapestry of individual lives, not the feats of a few individuals.

“This elongated narrative can be bumpy and suffer setbacks, yet miraculously, individuals and groups persevere, thus allowing the Lord to work wonders. In this real, and sometimes raw and unadorned extended narrative, I see the foundation laid upon which future generations stand. This kind of history moves me.”

A former student of Marlowe’s Church history in the Pacific class, Jensen Dye, a junior from Utah majoring in Hawaiian studies, said, “It’s important that the history of the temple is recorded. They reflect not only the spirit and the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also reflect the faithfulness of the members of the Church who reside in those areas.

“In particular with the Laie Hawaii Temple, it is one of the only times I have seen tour groups from other countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Samoa, and other countries visit besides Salt Lake back at home.”

Pioneering temple

In an excerpt from the book, Marlowe wrote, “For a century the Laie Hawaii Temple has endured the unevenness of history. Built at a time of local prosperity, it persevered for years in poverty. The temple directly experienced periods of fear and uncertainty during world war, yet it has also enjoyed rich freedom. It stood alone for decades as the nearest temple to a majority of the world’s population, and though its boundaries now cover only a fraction of what it once did, the temple continues to draw people from across the globe.

“Yet, it is this temple’s interwoven human story of faith and sacrifice that can invoke in us a deeper appreciation for temple worship and bolster our own faith and inspire us. And this is the ultimate hope in telling the story of the Laie Hawaii Temple.”

Marlowe shared facts about the temple, but more can be found in his book. The Laie Hawaii Temple is the fifth latter-day temple to reach one hundred years of operation, and comparable to its pioneer predecessors, it was largely built by local members who consecrated their skill, time, and means to its construction.

Yet, the Laie Hawaii Temple is a pioneer in its own right: It was the first temple dedicated in an effort to bring temples to people beyond the main body of the Church in Utah, and it was the first temple to reach and accommodate significant numbers of diverse cultures and languages.

Over the past century, likely more people have been introduced to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on the Laie Hawaii Temple grounds than at any other Church site except Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

In the next 100 years of both the temple and the Laie community as a whole, Marlowe said, “The first paragraph of the next hundred years will be written by us. What will we do with the blessing of a temple in our midst? I hope the opening paragraph to the book about the temple’s next hundred years includes our renewed commitment to frequent and sustained work within its walls.

“The ultimate purpose and power of the Laie Hawaii Temple is not found in its history, its outward beauty, or on its grounds, but rather can be discovered only by those who worthily spend time within its walls.”

According to Marlowe, in temples the story of life is simplified for the understanding of men. “Arguably nowhere is the Plan of Salvation—God’s design to help us grow, learn, and experience joy—taught in a more chronologically comprehensive manner than in the temple. In the temple, the plan is nearly complete in its linear portrayal of who we are, the purpose of this life, our endless nature, the centrality of family, and our eternal potential.”