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The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), located on the North Shore on the island of Oahu in Laie, Hawaii, welcomed the king and queen of Tonga to honor the country’s heritage and participate in the grand reopening of the Tongan Village.

His Majesty King Tupou VI, King of Tonga, and Her Majesty, Queen Nanasipau’u, were joined by dignitaries and guests, as well as hundreds of Brigham Young University–Hawaii students and Tongan community members at the June 11, 2016, ceremony.

The PCC is a major tourist attraction in Hawaii that celebrates the Aloha spirit in a beautiful North Shore setting and consequently has become world-renowned as a place of enchantment, entertainment and education.

In addition to being one of Hawaii’s most popular tourist attractions, the PCC provides students attending BYU–Hawaii with opportunities to work at a number of the attraction’s venues to help pay for their education.

Speaking to the crowd in English, King Tupou VI, thanked the PCC for inviting him. “It’s a great idea that our young people can get to help spread their own culture here, as well as the center helping them to contribute toward their further discipline and education.”

“It’s also useful to observe that the PCC is a place to mature in character, where students can develop and gain strength in their own individual traits in a safe and guided environment. Character is what makes us what we are in the long run. It is what we become for the rest of our lives.”

The king said visiting the PCC and enjoying the activities has become a family tradition started by his late parents.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Ruth, attended the Friday evening program with the Tongan royalty and gave some introductory remarks. Elder Renlund told the king and queen he was connected to Tonga through his mother-in-law, whose mother was born in Nuku’alofa, capital of the “Friendly Islands,” and he joked how early in their relationship he had to learn to say the Tongan greeting, Mālō e lelei, correctly. He also spoke on the importance of family ties.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck of the Seventy, who is originally from American Samoa, noted that the PCC’s evening show, which the royal party enjoyed the day before, was “more than songs and dances. They reflect our very being, or who we are, the people of Polynesia, the people of the isles of the sea.”

Under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Haleck dedicated the latest renovation of the PCC’s Tongan Village.

He blessed the village that visitors would “come to appreciate those people who are here representing and reflecting the culture of Tonga.”

He further prayed, “That our children, as they come here to see the history and the architecture in this wonderful place that they will come to know a sense of identity of who they are — not only as people of the Pacific, particularly Tonga, that they’ll understand their great identity as children of our Heavenly Father.”

Tonga has the largest number of Mormons per capita of any nation in the world.

Go to the Pacific Mormon Newsroom website for additional information.