CultureGrams Worldwide Saints

Part 10: 1977-1993: Area Conferences, Temple Events, General Authorities


In 1979, three years after the first area conference of the Church was held
in New Zealand, area conferences were again held in Auckland and in
Wellington. Recovering from surgery, President Spencer W. Kimball was not
able to attend these conferences held November 24, 25, and 27, 1979. An
estimated 11,600 saints attended these conferences.

Participating in the conferences were President Ezra Taft Benson, Elder
Howard W. Hunter, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve;
Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Quorum of the Seventy; Bishop H. Burke
Peterson, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; Barbara B. Smith,
general president of the Relief Society; Elaine A. Cannon, general
president of the Young Women; David M. Kennedy, special representative of
the First Presidency; and D. Arthur Haycock, personal secretary to
President Kimball.

Additional area and regional conferences of the Church have been held in
New Zealand since the first area conference held in 1976. One such regional
conference was held in November of 1989 at which President Gordon B.
Hinckley presided.


In 1977, when the New Zealand Temple was the only temple in the South
Pacific, there were 52,000 endowments performed during the year. Eleven
years later, in 1988, with four additional South Pacific temples in
operation (Apia Samoa, Nuku' Alofa Tonga, Papeete Tahiti, and Sydney
Australia), the number of endowments performed in the New Zealand Temple
totaled more than 80,000. While flexible temple session times, stake temple
trips, and short-term temple missions played a part in this increase in
temple work, the deep gratitude New Zealand Church members have for the
temple as a source of strength is widely acknowledged.

At the time the temple was built, a visitors' center was constructed at the
base of the hill on which the temple stands. It has been a busy place since
its opening. Hundreds of missionaries have introduced thousands of people
to the Church at this beautiful visitors' center. The large middle room of
the center contains a sculpture of the Christus that is visible through the
large front windows, and is especially attractive in the evening.

Beginning in the early 1970s, a pageant titled "Hear Him" was presented on
the east slope of the temple hill, and like other Church pageants, was very
popular. The pageant generally was held every other year and drew as many
as eight thousand visitors per performance. The pageant was popular among
members and was a successful missionary tool. The pageant was discontinued
in the early 1990s.

During the Christmas season of 1985, small lights were used to decorate the
grounds of the New Zealand Temple for the first time. Although there were
just a few lights that season, more than three thousand people visited the
temple grounds to see the lights. The number of lights and visitors has
grown consistently over the years. (During the Christmas season in 2000, it
was reported that approximately 132,000 people saw the Christmas lights at
the New Zealand Temple!)


At General Conference in April of 1987, three men with connections to the
Church in New Zealand were called to serve in the Seventy: Glen L. Rudd,
John R. Lasater, and Douglas J. Martin.

Elder Rudd had served as a missionary in New Zealand under President Cowley
and later as president of the Wellington Mission. He was serving as
president of the New Zealand Temple at the time of his call.

Elder Lasater was serving as president of the Auckland mission when called
to the Seventy.

Elder Martin is the first native New Zealander to serve as a general
authority. Elder Martin had served as a bishop, stake president, and
regional representative prior to his service as a General Authority. His
call was an important milestone symbolizing the maturity of the Church in
New Zealand.

In December 1990, Rulon G. Craven, who had served as a young missionary in
New Zealand immediately after World War II and later as president of the
Auckland Mission, was also called to the Seventy.

In June 1988, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir toured the South Pacific
including New Zealand. The choir began its visit with a moving rendition of
the New Zealand national anthem, "God Defend New Zealand," which was sung
partly in English and partly in Maori. While in New Zealand, the choir
performed in Hamilton, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

At the end of 1988, there were 61,000 members of the Church in New Zealand
in the care of 16 stakes. There were 102 Church meetinghouses in use in
addition to the Church College of New Zealand buildings and the beautiful
New Zealand Temple. In 1988, more than four hundred missionaries were
serving in the country's two missions and more than 1,500 converts joined
the Church.

A September 1989 Ensign article, written by R. Lanier Britsch and titled
"Roots of Faith," concludes as follows: "New Zealand, once weeks away from
Church headquarters, is now only hours distant by jet, or a fraction of a
second away by telephone. More important than temporal closeness, however,
is the closeness of the spirit. The best indictor of the maturing of New
Zealand in the Church is the ever growing number of Latter-day Saints
enjoying full participation in gospel blessings."

CultureGrams, a division of MSTAR.NET, sponsors GEMS Worldwide Saints
messages. Material related to this and upcoming Worldwide Saints series can
be sent to CultureGrams publishes concise,
reliable cultural reports on more than 175 countries. For more information
on CultureGrams, visit

A great source for information on the worldwide growth and history of the
Church is the "Church Almanac," published by the Deseret News. The almanac
includes biographical information and listings of General Authorities,
histories and statistics for every state and country where the Church has a
presence, a thorough section on temples, and more! To buy your copy, go to:,3584,,00.html

Two "Ensign" articles were of particular use in compiling this message.
"Roots of Faith" by R. Lanier Britsch and "New Zealand" by Tina Dil are
both found in the September 1989 issue and can be accessed free on gospel
library portion of the Church's Web site at:

GEMS is grateful to R. Lanier Britsch for his support of this series.
Brother Britsch's book "Unto the Islands of the Sea, A History of the
Latter-day Saints in the Pacific" (Deseret Book, 1986) is available on
"GospeLink 2001." You can buy "GospeLink 2001" online at

Returned missionary? Foreign-language speaker? Interested in the worldwide
Church? Do you know someone who is?

If so, you may want to consider a subscription to the "Liahona," the
official international magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day

Available in 44 languages (including English), the "Liahona" is sent to
subscribers living anywhere in the world. Each issue contains original
articles from members around the globe, as well as articles selected from
the "Ensign," "New Era," "Friend," and "Church News." The "Liahona" is
identical in every language except for a 16-page customized insert
describing local Church news and events. It is the ideal gift for returned
missionaries, helping them maintain their language skills and keeping them
up-to-date on Church developments in their country of service.

Frequency and prices vary by language. For subscriptions in the United
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MasterCard, American Express) may be taken by phone. To subscribe outside
the United States and Canada, contact your local distribution center.

You may visit to read current editions of the "Liahona" in some
languages, to read the past 25 years of the English "Liahona," and to read
and/or listen to General Conference in many languages.

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