Mormon Pacific Historical Society holds annual conference focusing on the temple
Written by
Cody Bruce Barney
The first phto shows Laie Temple President James Hallstrom registering for the conference
Image By
Mike Foley

The Mormon Pacific Historical Society held their annual Conference on Nov. 16 in the Heber J. Grant Building. It was attended by scholars, senior missionaries, and community members. The focus was on the Laie Hawaii Temple in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the temple in 1919.

There were also seminars on other temples, such as the Tokyo Temple. The event included an opening plenary, lunch, and seminars.

In a seminar, Grant Underwood, a BYU professor and former professor at BYU–Hawaii, told a story from Joseph F. Smith’s mission. “In the evening we seen a site that was worth all other sites than I had ever seen. It was composed of three native girls engaged in a Hawaiian dance; it is more than I can describe.” He said people could debate about what kind of hula they were dancing.

He also talked about how it used to be church policy to not build temples abroad so the saints would gather at the Salt Lake Valley, but the policy changed. Due to prior policy, Hawaiian saints moved to Iosepa, Utah. When the temple was built in Laie, they hurried and packed up to move back to their island home. Underwood quipped, “I can’t imagine why they’d want to hurry out of there.”

Underwood said historians love seeing how thinking develops over time until it “ultimately culminates in an idea.” Underwood said he saw this with the evolution into the policy saying temples would be built outside the Mountain West. “May we relish and delight in the temple here and in temples generally.”


The People

Sister Choon James, who was at the 1978 rededication and helped scrub the oxen statues in preparation, said she walked in late to the rededication. When she got inside, she saw the prophet and apostles and thought they “may not be particularly good looking,” but the Spirit radiates strongly from them.

As a historian from the Church History Department, Clint Christensen wrote two books about the Laie Hawaii Temple Centennial. He said, “Historians are like prophets in reverse.” He presented at a seminar with Elder Gary Davis.

Elder Gary Davis explained the process and said he could see the hand of the Lord in the gathering of these stories daily and weekly. Christensen told stories they learned from Saints throughout Hawaii. Some of the stories Christensen told came from Minette Ngalu, Sarah Kaleo, the Alvarezes, Terry Miyamoto, and Brother Bradford.

Ngalu, from Maui, shared with Christensen an experience about when she did baptisms for the dead. When she entered the temple, it was extremely noisy and crowded, and she said she is sensitive to loud noises. When she came out of the water, all of the people were gone. Christensen said, “[This] was her witness of the absolute knowledge of those on the other side celebrating their ordinances.”

Christensen told the story of Sarah Kaleo. Kaleo wanted to go to the temple in the 1980s but could not because of an old church policy. This church policy, which was revoked by a revelation Christensen says was “one of the greatest of the 20th century,” said married sisters could only go to the temple dependent on the Church status of their husbands.

Kaleo’s husband was not a member of the Church, and she prayed multiple times to the Lord hoping He would change the policy. In 1986, her prayer was answered when the policy was rescinded. She was ecstatic and went to the temple as soon as she could.

Terry Miyamoto shared with Christensen a story about her husband, Earl. Earl tried to go to the temple once a month and temple workers would have to carry him up the stairs whenever he was attending. The temple did not have an elevator at that time. Terry said she cries every time she sees the elevator in the temple because it reminds her of the sacrifice her husband made.

Christensen then shared a story he learned from Brother Bradford. It is a story about the famous Hamana Kalili during the famous April Fools Tidal Wave. During the catastrophe, Kalili told Bradford to go to higher ground. He then witnessed Kalili face the water and raise his arm to the square. The tidal wave missed Kalili’s home. Sister Kalili said, “When the house was dedicated by the priesthood, they promised that the elements would not hurt our home.” Christensen said it was a temple story because if Kalili followed his covenants he made in the temple then the Lord would protect their home like a temple.


The Visitors’ Center

During another seminar, Sister Barbara Morgan Gardner, an associate professor of church history and doctrine at BYU who served a mission in the Los Angeles California Temple Visitors’ Center, gave a presentation on the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center.

Gardner interviewed Auntie Gladys Kalama who said Shirley Temple and former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to the Visitors’ Center. “My cousin and I were supposed to present leis to him, but when the limousine came, she started to cry and refused to give him the lei. They carried me over the bumper, and he kissed me on the cheek and for two weeks I would not wash my cheek.”

According to Aunty Gladys Kalama, people called the Laie Hawaii Temple the “Taj Mahal of the Pacific.” Soldiers stationed in Laie, during World War II, enjoyed relaxing at “the peaceful environment of the temple grounds.” Gardner thought this peace would be a beautiful thing at such a tumultuous time.

Gardner repeated what President Haycock said, “The grounds of the temple should, in a quiet and simple way, be breathtaking. People should be able to say, ‘I know what heaven is like because I’ve been in God’s living room.’”


Japan’s pioneers and the Tokyo Temple

Conan Grames, a lawyer from Draper, Utah who studied at Harvard and met Cowan there, worked hard to help the Church get the Tokyo Japan Temple built. Grames said the Church’s history with Japan goes deeper into the 19th century. He explained how the Iwakura Delegation, a group of Japanese diplomats negotiating contracts in 1871, ran into a blizzard on their way to Washington, D.C. on the railroad.

This blizzard forced them to stay in Salt Lake City for 19 days. They loved their stay in Salt Lake City, learning about America. They wondered when the Latter-day Saints would send missionaries to Japan.

Grames talked about the faith of the Japanese people. He said members in the 1960s tried selling mimiko bracelets and made a recording to sell so they could make enough money to take a trip to Hawaii to go to the Laie Hawaii Temple. Members quit their jobs or sold their homes. Grames said this was called the Zion’s Camp of the Japanese people.

Grames told a story of the legal battle to build the Tokyo Japan Temple. When the temple was being built, the neighbors did not want it. They fought hard and even took the Church to court citing a Tokyo law which said the neighbors would have to be compensated for the amount of sunshine they would lose having the temple block their homes.

The Church lawyers worked hard with local lawyers to close the case and ultimately found sunshine to cost $129,000 per hour of shadow lost in 1 day. They would end up settling the case with the temple neighbors using this figure. Grames succeeded triumphantly with lawyer Mikako Fukiji. There is a lot of work which goes into building a temple which we do not see on the construction lot.

Date Published
November 27, 2019
Last Edited
November 27, 2019