“The story of a temple to be erected by The Church in the South Pacific islands began when President David O. McKay assigned President Wendell B. Mendenhall to a special mission, that of investigating possible temple sites in the lands of the South Seas.” (Lundwall, N.B., Temples of the Most High, p. 213.)
“President Mendenhall accepted this confidential appointment. He investigated available lands in Auckland, New Zealand, where mission headquarters are located. But the satisfaction of obtaining the proper place for the temple was not experienced as yet…’Then one day I felt I should got to Hamilton to visit the college (eighty miles southeast of Auckland).
“While in the car on the way, the whole thing came to me in an instant. The temple should be there by the college…Then, in my mind, I could see the area even before I arrived, and I could envision the hill where the temple should stand. As soon as I arrived at the college and drove over the top of the hill, my whole vision was confirmed. In my heart I felt that the Lord had especially made this hill for his temple, everything about it was so majestic and beautiful.”
“Two weeks later, President McKay arrived late one evening. Being travel weary, he retired at once, and it was not until early the next morning that President Mendenhall greeted him while in the company of three other brethren. Consequently there could be no mention of a site for the temple. President McKay, President Mendenhall, and the three other brethren drove out to look over the college construction and the farm lands.”
“As we drove up the road there was that noble hill. We continued our travel around the back of it to the farm lands. After we stepped from the car and were looking around, President McKay called me to one side. By the way he was looking at the hill, I could tell immediately what was on his mind. I had not said a word to him. He asked, ‘What do you think?’ I knew what his question implied, and I simply asked in return, ‘What do you think, President McKay?’ And then in an almost prophetic tone he pronounced ‘This is the place to build the temple.’” (Ibid, pp. 214-15)
On April 20, 1958, President David O. McKay dedicated the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. He opened the dedicatory prayer with these prophetic words: “O God, our Eternal Father, on this significant and hallowed occasion, we unite our hearts and lift our voices in gratitude, praise and honor to Thy Holy name. We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands, thou didst guide descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper, to develop and to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among mankind.” (Published in LDS Church News, May 10, 1958)
President McKay prayed: “Guide…the Prime Minister and members of the General Assembly. Enlightened by Thy spirit, may they maintain and uphold the glorious principles of human liberty. Enable them to see Mormonism in the true light of the Restored Gospel. Show unto them that the members of Thy Church are loyal citizens, that they love liberty, and will join with rulers in upholding the rights of the people, and the constitutional laws of this country. Holy Father, give unto the members of the Church and their children an increased disposition always to do everything in their power to maintain constitutional rights and freedom throughout the land.”
“We pray Thee, Heavenly Father, to accept this building in all its parts, from the foundation to turret; the Assembly Rooms, the Sealing Rooms, the Altars, and all the multitudinous appliances and appurtenances found in and belonging to this Temple and its annexes.”
“We dedicate the ground upon which the Temple stands, and by which it is surrounded; the walks, ornamental beds, the trees, plants, flowers and shrubbery that grow in the soil; may they bloom and blossom and become exceedingly beautiful and fragrant, and may Thy spirit dwell in the midst thereof that the plot of ground may be a place of rest and peace for holy meditation and inspired thought.”
“Preserve these buildings, we beseech Thee, from destruction by flood or fire; from the rage of elements, the shafts of the vivid lightning, the overwhelming blasts of the hurricane, and the upheavals of earthquake, O Lord, protect them.” (Ibid)
I could not help but think of a number of scriptures as we walked about the beautiful grounds here at the temple: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29: 2)
“And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is they house, a place of thy holiness.” (D&C 109: 13)
“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 28-31)
I looked at this area where you can sit down and face the House of the Lord and I thought of the Psalm: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19: 14)
I loved this reflection of the temple in the glass of the Visitors Center. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
This dear woman came more than a hundred miles to get to the door of the temple. Then she just sat down and wept. I could see the heaviness in her whole being. I talked to her later and asked her if she was okay. She said she had not been active in the Church for many, many years and now she had a child who was really struggling and her Nanny told her (thank goodness for Nanny’s) that if she would go to the temple and pray and pray and pray, the Lord would give her answers.
“And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, O Lord God of our fathers, art thou God in heaven? And rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
“And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for they name, saying, If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.” (2 Chronicles 20: 5-9)
Brigham Young remarked as the St. George Temple was being completed: “Now we have a Temple which will all be finished within a few days…We enjoy privileges that are enjoyed by no one else on the face of the earth. Suppose we were awake to this thing, namely, the salvation of the human family, this house would be crowded, as we hope it will be, from Monday morning until Saturday night…What do you suppose the fathers would say if they could speak from the dead? Would they not say, ‘We have lain here thousands of years, here in this prison house, waiting for this dispensation to come?’…When I think upon this subject, I want the tongues of seven thunders to wake up the people. Can the fathers be saved without us? No. Can we be saved without them? No.” (Porter, Larry C. and Black, Susan Easton. Lion of the Lord: Essays on the Life and Service of Brigham Young, p. 240.)
The lights came on automatically as the evening began to fall. In the short time we were able to visit the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, I fell in love with this sacred and holy place. I was lifted by walking the grounds of the temple; moved by the people we met, strengthened by the scriptures that passed through my mind.
The sunset was breathtaking. I felt a perfect stillness in my heart. The words of the Lord came to my mind that I memorized as a teen: “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (D&C 19: 23)
As I took one last shot of the temple on the hill in Hamilton I thought again of President Mendenhall being led to this very spot and thinking: “In my heart I felt that the Lord had especially made this hill for his temple, everything about it was so majestic and beautiful.” I could not agree more.