CultureGrams Worldwide Saints

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


The year 1958 was a time of significant change for the Church in New
Zealand. The temple and Church College were put into operation and the
country's first stake, the Auckland Stake, was created in May. Since the
presidency of Gordon C. Young, district organizations had been readied for
the time when stakes would be created in New Zealand. President Ariel S.
Ballif spent much of his time as mission president training leaders all
over the country for the mantle of leadership that soon would be theirs.

On May 18, 1958, less than one month after the dedication of the temple,
President Marion G. Romney presided over the creation of the Auckland Stake
from the Auckland and Waikato Districts. The new stake was the first stake
organized outside North America and Hawaii. George R. Biesinger, who was
instrumental in the building of the temple and school, was called to serve
as Stake President with William Roberts and Stanford W. Bird as counselors.

Two years later, the Auckland Stake was divided. Brother William Roberts
was called to serve as the president of the Auckland Stake, becoming the
first New Zealander to serve as such in his homeland.

(In 1998, members from the 13 stakes covering the same area as the original
Auckland Stake were invited to a fireside to commemorate the anniversary of
the stake's creation. A member who attended the 1958 meeting when the stake
was created said of the commemorative fireside: "It was a wonderful
opportunity to renew friendships and to appreciate the service of those who
worked to prepare the way for the stake.")

Church leadership in New Zealand became more localized after the creation
of stakes. With stakes came quarterly and then semiannual conferences, and
the end of the countrywide church conferences known as "Hui Taus."


Besides the creation of the country's first stake, 1958 saw the creation of
the country's second mission. For more than 60 years the country had been
served by a single mission with much of the Church leadership
responsibility falling on the mission president. The creation of a stake
and the splitting of the mission signified a point of development and
maturity of the Church in New Zealand.

Robert L. Simpson replaced President Ballif in Auckland as president in the
North (Auckland) Mission.  President Simpson later would serve as a
counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and as a member of the First Quorum of
the Seventy. He was the third New Zealand mission president to serve as a
general authority.

Alexander P. Anderson became the first president of the South (Wellington)
Mission. The new mission was headquartered in Wellington, the capital of
New Zealand.

Since that time the Church has sent greater and greater numbers of
missionaries to New Zealand.


In 1968, seminary and institute leaders in Salt Lake City decided to
implement the seminary program in New Zealand. Under the direction of Rhett
S. James, a Church Education System employee who had served a mission in
New Zealand, a corps of local teachers was trained. By February 1970, the
first seminary classes were being taught in New Zealand. During 1971, four
full-time and three part-time teachers were employed, and by the end of
that year, 1,187 students were enrolled. In 1972, New Zealander Rex
Kennerley replaced Brother James. The following year, the first four-year
seminary graduation in New Zealand was held. By the end of 1974, 2,300
students were enrolled in seminary and institute courses. The benefits of
the program were apparent in the increased activity among the young people
and a rising percentage of temple marriages.


In the years following these events, the Church in New Zealand continued to
grow and progress.

Due to the worldwide growth of the Church, the practice of holding area
conferences in different areas of the world was instigated. In 1976, the
first area conference of the Church was held in New Zealand. The conference
was the first church-wide gathering of the members of the Church in New
Zealand since the discontinuance of the "Hui Taus" in the late 1950s.

Many called the first area conference "the great Hui Tau." More than 16,000
people crowded into the stadium at the Church College of New Zealand to
participate in an evening of cultural entertainment and more than 12,000
members attended the regular sessions of the conference.  Visiting
authorities, including President Spencer W. Kimball, spoke to those
assembled. The meetings had a binding and strengthening effect for months
and years to come.

NEXT WEEK: Part 8: Faith Brings President Kimball to Area Conference

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An article titled "Roots of Faith," written by R. Lanier Britsch and found
in the September 1989 Ensign, was used as a resource in compiling this
message. The article is available to read and print online at in the Gospel Library section.

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 included in
Deseret Book's electronic reference library, "GospeLink 2001." You can buy
"GospeLink 2001" online at

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