For a number of years the Church leadership had considered the possibility of a Temple being erected in the Southern Hemisphere in the South Pacific. Very little was said, but it was close to the mind of Elder Matthew Cowley, and particularly to President David O. McKay. Without President McKay's leadership the Temple would have been delayed for some years.
George R. Biesinger, and his family, had been in New Zealand since 1950 building chapels. Then he was given the assignment of building the new Church School to be located about five miles out of the city of Hamilton.
As the Church School neared completion, President McKay sent Wendell B. Mendenhall to New Zealand to make some arrangements for President McKay's visit in 1955. President Mendenhall served as president of the San Joaquin Stake and had been given a special assignment by President McKay to lead out in the building program of the Church. In fact, he was called as the Chairman of the building Department of the entire Church.
The possibility of the Temple was not openly discussed, but in January 1955 President McKay, accompanied by Sister McKay and President Franklin J. Murdock, arrived in New Zealand. They were met by President and Sister Mendenhall. President Mendenhall had been given instructions to find a site for the Temple. He had spent some time studying several different locations.
When President McKay saw the great work being done at the school, and when he saw the hill to the south of the school, President Mendenhall testified that President McKay immediately was inspired. They drove around the hill. President McKay asked some questions and then said, "This is the place to build a Temple." From that moment on, things began to move in the direction of a Temple for the South Pacific.
Originally, the New Zealand Temple was to serve all of the South Pacific Islands, plus Australia and, or course, New Zealand. At that time there were approximately 40,000 Latter-day Saints living in the Temple area.
George R. Biesinger was in charge of all construction which included several chapels, the school, and the Temple.
E. Albert Rosenvall arrived in New Zealand the previous June to work on construction. He was chosen by George Biesinger to be the general supervisor over the Temple.
In September of 1955 the Church Architect, Edward O. Anderson, sent the approved blue prints from Salt Lake. On January 4, 1956 Brother Rosenvall and a crew of men began making the forms to pour concrete for the foundation of the Temple.
Milton W. Russon (1 June 1987 - 1 September 1990)
John Sonnenberg (October 1990 - 31 August 1992)
Douglas J. Martin (1 September 1992 - 31 August 1995)
Kenneth J. Domney (1 September 1995 - 31 August 1998)
Rulon G. Craven (November 1998 - present)
"Somebody said that he hoped there would soon be a
temple in New Zealand. I want to tell you that when you
are ready for it, when you can keep it busy, I have no
doubt in my heart but what you will get a temple. You
must be ready for it however."
Elder David O. McKay
Hui Tau, April 1921
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