Mike Foley is Meridian’s Hawaii correspondent. He is also the photographer.
LAIE, Hawaii — The Laie Hawaii Temple open house tours for the public came to a close on November 13 after three-and-a-half weeks and more than 43,000 visitors — including media, tourists, dignitaries, a 95-year-old woman from the island of Hawaii who was at the original temple opening in 1919, even a large group of leather-clad bikers and Hawaii State Gov. Linda Lingle.
Elder Scott D. Whiting, a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy and Area Authority for Hawaii — accompanied by BYU–Hawaii President Steven C. Wheelwright and his wife, Margaret — led Gov. Lingle, her executive secretary and the secretary’s family on an open house on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2010, about 4 p.m.
“We were honored to have her come,” said Elder Whiting, who explained the governor was not available during the VIP tour phase of the open house. “It’s a blessing to have her here, as it is to have everyone here.”
He said Gov. Lingle was “very interested in the quality of construction, the use of local sub-contractors and was thrilled to hear of their involvement. She was impressed with the beauty of the interior and the explanation of why temples are so holy and sacred to us.”
“It was a great privilege, not being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to be able to actually see such a sacred temple that’s held in the place that it is by the people of the religion; and for our community to have this opportunity is very, very meaningful,” the governor said soon after finishing the open house tour.
“I think I was especially touched by the sealing room where marriage is held in a very sacred kind of a way, and not just in this life but in the next as well.”
“I really feel privileged to have had a chance to come and view this temple. The restoration is magnificent. The workmanship is world class. I’m really appreciative,” said Gov. Lingle, who will complete her second term in office in December. Earlier in the day she participated in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
President Wheelwright said having the governor tour the temple “was a very special occasion. We’re grateful that she brought some of her staff and that they could all enjoy it.” His wife added that the governor talked about “the beauty and the serenity” of the temple. “She knew the special nature of the building and how much we love it,” Sister Wheelwright said.
“Aunty Abby” recalls 1919 visit
Another open house visitor shared a historical perspective on the event:
Abigail K. Kailimai, 95, from Honomu on the Big Island, came to the Laie Hawaii Temple not only to see the many changes in the beautiful building, but also to celebrate that she’s been intermittently coming here for 91 years — dating back to when Latter-day Saint President Heber J. Grant originally dedicated the brand-new temple on Thanksgiving Day 1919.
Aunty Abby, who is very articulate, still remembers the occasion: “I was just four years old at the time, and my parents and a group from Hilo came for the dedication. We were all dressed up to go and mom made a new white dress. Of course, we children were happy because we were going to be riding the boat,” she said of the overnight steamship that was the main mode of interisland transportation in those days.
Riding the train from Honolulu around Kaena Point on the northwestern tip of Oahu and on to Laie also made an impression on the little girl: “There were Chinese men coming on the train with their baskets of fruit. They were saying pineki, alani — they were selling peanuts and oranges... We came all the way with the other families and we were having fun.”
“I don’t think I was in the room for the dedication, but I remember being with lots of children and some adults watching over us while our parents were in the dedication,” she added.
As a young woman, Sister Kailimai attended a business college in Honolulu and then worked primarily as a secretary on the Big Island. She also got married, had five children, and in 1947 she and her family were sealed in the Laie Hawaii Temple.
Over the ensuing years as Big Island groups came to the temple in Laie, usually for a week or more, Sister Kailimai recalled they would stay at
Aunty Abby returned to the Laie Hawaii Temple many times over the years, but she stopped coming regularly when the Church dedicated the Kona Hawaii Temple in 2000. In fact, she conducted the Hilo Stake choir in that temple’s dedication program when she was 85.
Focusing on her most recent temple trip to Laie, Sister Kailimai said, “The temple is beautiful. I love the rugs. It took time to do all that clipping,” she said of the sculpted carpets that are part of the newest renovations. “Today when I was in the sealing room, I just couldn’t help thinking when my children were being sealed to me and my husband. I think that was the happiest day of my life.”
Sister Kailimai said she would remain on Oahu through Sunday, November 21, when the Laie Hawaii Temple will be rededicated in three sessions. The preceding day over 2,000 youth from all the stakes on Oahu and Kauai will put on two performances of The Gathering Place, a cultural celebration composed in honor of their “new” temple.