When they received the call to serve as the new Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center Director, Elder Steven King, and his wife, Sister Michelle King, from Bountiful, Utah, both agreed it was unexpected but inspired.
Sister King had been on the Primary General Board for a little more than a year. Elder King said he had recently been set apart as a patriarch and was enjoying his work in the Missionary Department, particularly in helping with the new Book of Mormon videos last October.
With both of these new, relatively long-term to lifetime callings, the Kings said they were not expecting releases any time soon. But driving down Lanihuli Street and reminiscing about Elder King’s parents who also served as missionaries at the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center 27 years prior, the Kings said they felt an instant connection and excitement about the new call.
Like father, like son
Elder King said, “As soon as Elder Gifford Nielsen mentioned to us that [the Church] wanted us to serve here, the first thought I had was of my parents.”
Elder and Sister King said when his parents passed away, they kept the aloha shirt and muʻumuʻu his parents wore on their mission, and although styles have changed, the Kings now wear similar attire.
“I think there may be a little bit of pushing from the other side saying, ‘Okay, now you’ve got to carry on the work that we started there,’” said Elder King.
Converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder King said his parents met the missionaries shortly after returning home from World War II and accepted the message, despite opposition from their families.
When the time came for them to retire and they decided to serve a mission, Elder King said his dad was not too excited about being called to Hawaii because of the influence of World War II propaganda, especially knowing it was so close to Pearl Harbor.
“When they came home, his heart was probably three times as big as it was before he left, and he had a great heart,” said Elder King of his father. “He ended up loving the people here— all nationalities, all races, all creeds, everything. He came home, and it had changed him dramatically.”
Elder King explained his hopes regarding his contribution as the new Visitors’ Center director focuses mainly on introducing others to Jesus Christ.
“I feel fairly strongly about a couple of things. One is that this is such a gathering place,” said Elder King. “All nations, especially those in the Pacific area, come to Laie." He said a lot of people come to Hawaii for vacation, but "some come because they want to make a trip to the temple here. It’s an interesting thing, I think, for us to be able to introduce to them to Jesus Christ.”
From southern hospitality to Aloha Spirit
Elder and Sister King recounted meeting a woman in Honolulu during their first week on the island. She spoke about the different energies of the island, and how Laie is a place of peace to her.
“I thought that was a real credit to this community,” said Sister King of the experience. “There is a palpable feeling here, and I do feel that.”
The Kings served as a mission president and companion of the Georgia Atlanta North Mission from 2008 to 2011, and both said they feel a love for the missionaries and people of Laie just as they did in Georgia.
“It’s interesting how you can meet someone for the first time and feel this instant connection and love for them, which we do feel for the missionaries we work with,” said Sister King.
“We’d always say southern hospitality is real, whether you’re a member of the Church or not. Whatever ethnicity or background, people there are just good,” added Sister King. “I felt that in Georgia, and I feel that here with the Aloha Spirit.”
Elder King said in addition to fulfilling their missionary purpose of introducing others to Christ, their other central purpose is helping the sister missionaries.
“[Elder King] connects to us, and there’s a special love. He’s very empathetic,” said Sister Jaidyn Proudfit, a sister missionary from Arizona who arrived in Laie around the same time the Kings did.
“I feel like I can really turn to him, which is perfect because I feel like those who are called in that position need to have those qualities as a father-like figure to all the missionaries here.”
Both Elder and Sister King said past experiences in their callings and careers prepared them for this new calling.
Sister King, who worked in broadcast journalism as a Utah news anchor for a number of years, said she loves reading biographies, interviewing, and talking with people to see “what makes them tick.”
Sister Levi Visaya, a sister missionary from Canada who has been serving for about 14 months, said, “[Sister King] is very articulate, well-spoken, and thinks carefully about how to word things, so that it will touch your heart. She’s a very, very accomplished lady. Even with all of her accomplishments, you can feel how humble she is.”
Elder King listed several roles he has held in his career, including most recently working in the Missionary Department in the area of in-field finding, geared towards generating ways for members and missionaries to find additional people to teach.
“I’m a firm believer that we don’t do anything in this Church without a missionary purpose behind it,” explained Elder King. “This is God’s work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of all man, not just those who get online, not just those who answer the door when the missionaries come, but for everyone.”
Elder King said he worked on the “I’m a Mormon” campaign as well as seasonal initiatives such as “He is the Gift” and “Because He Lives.” Most recently, however, Elder King said he enjoyed his role as one of the executive producers for the new Book of Mormon videos.
He explained how he and other executive producers counseled about budgets, casting, scripts, props, and other key production components. He said his specific duty was to increase awareness of the videos.
“It’s been a remarkable experience and has just [solidified] my testimony, as we’ve gone through all of this, of the Book of Mormon,” said Elder King. “I know it’s absolutely the word of God, and it’s intended for us.”
Despite being surprised by the call, Sister King said she felt prepared by their mission in Georgia and is excited to be serving here.
“It’s a great opportunity. How many places can you go and stand in a block’s worth of territory and meet people from all over the world, who are willing to talk to you? I mean, it just doesn’t happen,” said Sister King.
In addition to his call as Visitors’ Center director, Elder King now has an added responsibility for all of the missionaries in the five-stake Laie area, Polynesian Cultural Center, and BYU–Hawaii senior missionaries, explained Sister King.
“I’d say the big message from us is that we love being here,” said Elder King. “We really love the people. We love the work, but most importantly, we love the Lord. If He asks us to do something that’s out of our comfort zone, we are way okay with that because we know He qualifies those whom He calls.”