CultureGrams Worldwide Saints

Part 6: 1948-1958 Gordon C. Young, New Zealand Temple and CCNZ Built and Dedicated.


President Gordon C. Young was called to serve as mission president at a
difficult time. After the war and the return of missionaries to New
Zealand, Young's predecessor, A. Reed Halversen, had spent most of his
energy reestablishing the mission. President Young, who had served as a
missionary in New Zealand in the 1920s, spent much of his time as president
reorganizing the Church in New Zealand. Many local Church leaders had held
callings for more than 20 years. Additionally, changes in population
merited reconsideration of boundaries. In addition to these needs,
President Young emphasized the importance of personal worthiness,
excommunicating those who would not repent.  Many of these actions made
President Young unpopular, but his efforts laid the foundation for what the
Lord had in store for New Zealand.


Since the Maori Agricultural College (MAC) closed there had been talk of
building a new school. President Cowley, who had been a member of the MAC
board, supported the idea, and when called as an apostle, he encouraged
approval of the idea. Directed by President George Albert Smith to do so,
President Young began looking for land for a new college in 1949. Through
negotiations with the government and private business owners, President
Young bought 215 acres of choice land for 4,800 pounds, and construction
began in 1951. Work began in earnest when the volunteer labor program was
adopted in April 1952. Under the direction of the new mission president,
Sydney J. Ottley; the construction supervisor, George Biesinger; and
soon-to-be Church building committee chairman, Wendell B. Mendenhall; the
buildings became a reality. Volunteers learned to be carpenters, brick
masons, cabinetmakers, electricians, concrete workers, and so forth.  By
April 1954, the new school, which was to be called the Church College of
New Zealand (CCNZ), was complete enough that the annual conference of the
Church in New Zealand was held on the under-construction campus.


In January 1955, President McKay visited all the island missions. He
journeyed through the missions to encourage the saints, strengthen the
missionary work, and select a site for the temple. He was impressed with
the workers of the CCNZ and decided to enlarge the school. Brother
Mendenhall showed President McKay the land near the school and drove him to
the site where the temple now stands.

Brother Mendenhall wrote, "We directed our course around the back of [the
hill] to the farmlands. After we stepped from the car, and we were looking
around, President Mckay called me over to one side. By the way he was
looking at the hill, I could tell immediately what was on his mind. . . .
He asked: 'What do you think?' I knew what the question implied and 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.'" The temple plot connected the CCNZ land and another 729-acre
plot. In order to make the college and the temple a harmonious whole,
Church architect Edward O. Anderson suggested that the same materials be
used on the temple as had been used for the college. On February 17, 1955,
only a few days after he returned from touring the Pacific, President McKay
announced the plan to build the New Zealand Temple.


The temple near Hamilton, New Zealand, was dedicated April 20, 1958. The
adjacent Church College of New Zealand was dedicated April 26, 1958.
Thousands of saints from throughout the South Pacific assembled for three
days of services.

For the dedication, President and Sister McKay were accompanied to New
Zealand by Elders Delbert L. Stapely and Marion G. Romney of the Council of
the Twelve; Gordon B. Hinkley, assistant to the Twelve; their wives; and

President and Sister Mckay were greeted with the ceremonial challenge by a
Maori warrior. Maori, Samoans, and Tongans provided songs, dances, and
ceremonies in the natural amphitheatre at the college. At the actual
dedication ceremonies, choirs from various island groups and other choirs
from New Zealand performed.

In his dedicatory prayer, President McKay thanked the Lord for the services
rendered by the builders and prayed for his acceptance and protection of
the building and its occupants. Part of his prayer reads as follows:

"Oh God, the Eternal Father, on this significant and hallowed occasion, we
unite our voices in gratitude, praise and honor to Thy Holy Name. We
express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide
descendents of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper to develop and
to become associated in history with leading and influential nations among
mankind. . . .

"Preserve these buildings we beseech Thee, from destruction by flood or
fire; from the rage of the elements, and shafts of the vivid lightning, the
overwhelming blasts of the hurricane, and the upheavals of the earthquake,
O Lord protect them. We invoke Thy blessing particularly upon the men and
women who have so willingly and generously contributed their means, time
and effort to the completion of this imposing and impressive structure.
Especially we mention all those who have accepted calls as labor
missionaries and literally consecrated their all upon the altar of service.
May each contributor be comforted in spirit and prospered manyfold. May
they be assured that they have the gratitude of thousands, perhaps
millions, on the Other Side for whom the prison doors may now be opened and
deliverance proclaimed to those who will accept the truth and be set free.
. . . May all who seek this Holy Temple come with clean hands and pure
hearts that Thy Holy Spirit may ever be present to comfort, to inspire, and
to bless. . . .

"Now, dear Lord, Our Eternal Father, through love for Thee and their fellow
men, faithful members of Thy Church, and others who believe in Thee, by
tithes and other generous contributions, have made possible the erection
and completion of this, Thy Holy House, in which will be performed the
saving ordinances and ceremonies essential to the happiness, salvation, and
exaltation of Thy children living in mortality and in the spirit world.
Accept of our offering, hallow it by Thy presence, protect it by Thy power.
With this prayer, we dedicate our lives to the establishment of the Kingdom
of God on earth for the peace of the world and to Thy glory forever."

NEXT WEEK: Part 7: 1958-1976: Auckland Stake Created, Mission Divided, Area
Conference Held

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

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:

Copyright 2001, Millennial Star Network. Distributed on the Internet
via the LDSWorld-Gems mailing list. Messages may be forwarded to
individuals if this trailer is included but may *not* be reposted
publicly or reprinted in any other form without explicit permission.
LDSWorld-Gems Web page:
To subscribe to Gems, send a message to ""
with "subscribe ldsworld-gems" (without quotes) in the message body;
or to leave the list, write "unsubscribe ldsworld-gems"

Back to the main page.