With the publication of his recent book, “Stories of The Temple In La’ie, Hawaii,” Church Historian Clint Christensen said he wanted to show how a temple could impact people over the course of a century. Acting as a compiler, Christensen worked to commemorate a hundred years of faith as he searched through different stories of saints to include in the book.
Christensen and his associates said it was important to show a more personal side of history in “Stories Of The Temple In La’ie.” According to Christensen, “This is the first centennial book is filled with just stories of the saints and their experiences of the temple.
“Past centennial histories for the four Utah temples are mostly construction histories. I wanted to show how the temple impacts the saints and share it in their own words.”
Christensen, who works for the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, Utah, first spoke about the need for more commemorative temple history at a seminar in 2014, according to the book’s acknowledgments. According to Christensen, “This book came about from the desire to have stories to strengthen and support Eric Marlowe’s history of the temple.” Marlowe is a BYU-Hawaii Religion professor.
After being involved with Marlowe’s project to write a history of the Laie Temple, Christensen was interested in writing a companion piece. Marlowe’s book about the exact history of the temple is scheduled to be published in November 2019.
As a historian, Christensen said, “I have the opportunity to travel throughout the world to help gather the history of the Church in many nations. I’m amazed at the Lord’s kingdom as it rolls forth. My life has been changed as I’ve met and recorded the story of a Nigerian widow, countless pioneers, and Church leaders.
“When compiling this book, I tried to follow the law of witnesses. The more people who can testify of a specific historical event, the more perspective we can have to understand what happened.”
Also working on the project was BYUH Professor Phillip McArthur, who also serves as the editor-in-chief of the Jonathan Napela Center publications. The Napela Center is responsible for publishing the books “Gathering To Laie” and a revised edition of “Moramona.”
McArthur said, “This being the centennial year of the temple, we, [the Napela Center,] determined it would be wise to do the book by Clint Christensen. This book is more of a personal account and a collection of oral histories of people’s accounts of coming to the temple and being involved in the temple. This is an oral history, so [Christensen] went in and interviewed hundreds of people and from those interviews, he selected some who fit into certain themes he wanted in the foreground.
“This is a history, which is the voices of the people rather than the academic history. While the book doesn’t have the [look] and sophistication of an academic piece of work, there’s a certain kind of viewpoint that is more bottom-up. Clint is not making a whole lot of commentary. Instead, he’s letting the accounts speak for themselves.
“It’s going to reach different kinds of audiences,” McArthur said. “It’s going to be a different kind of read. The readers will probably be a similar audience as those who read Professor Marlowe’s book.
There will be certain individuals who will want a more academic history, which consults a variety of resources, and then there will be audiences who prefer voices of real people.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for letting the voices of the local people speak in this book. There’s no academic manipulating those voices. But both books are equally valuable. They just serve different purposes. There will be a range of people who buy this and want a more rigorous history told by saints who lived through the temple in its first century.”
McArthur stressed the importance of how the book could strengthen the network the temple has created throughout the Pacific Islands. “Most people who have a connection with the temple know each other. Most people who are close to this place will know several of the people listed in the book.”
In regards to Christensen’s book, recently retired BYUH English as an International Language professor, Dr. Mark James, said, “Milestone moments are good occasions to stop and look back upon the path we have been traveling. They are also good times for people to get together and celebrate their achievements, challenges, successes, and so forth. Such occasions include birthdays, which is exactly what we are celebrating now, the birth of the temple 100 years ago.”
The book, “Stories of The Temple In La’ie, Hawaii” includes a foreword by the late T. David Hannemann. Known to the community as “Uncle David,” Hannemann served as Laie Hawaii Temple president from 1995 to 1998. In the foreword, he wrote, “This is the first book of its kind to tell stories of the people as part of a centennial temple history. I compare this to the Book of Mormon, which is full of stories, likewise with this temple.”
“Stories of The Temple In La’ie, Hawaii” is available for purchase in the BYUH Bookstore.