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Part 9: Site for New Zealand Temple Selected and Acquired

Read previous parts at:,2626,New%20Zealand,00.html

The following account of the selection and acquisition of the site on which
the Hamilton New Zealand Temple now stands is not sequential in this series
but is included because of it's obvious connection to New Zealand and for
its teachings that the Lord makes his work possible and that latter-day
prophets are indeed his servants. This account comes from the book titled
"Temples of the Most High," written by N. B. Lundwall. (Bookcraft,
Collector's Edition, 1993) This account includes quotes of an interview
with Wendall B. Mendenhall, who was instrumental in the selection of the
site and building of the temple. ("Temples of the Most High" is included in
Deseret Book's electronic reference library, "GospeLink 2001." A purchase
link to "GospeLink 2001" is included at the end of this message.)


  The story of a temple to be erected by the Church of Jesus Christ of
  Latter-day Saints in the far off South Pacific islands began when
  President David O. McKay assigned President Wendell B. Mendenhall of the
  San Joaquin Stake to a special mission, that of investigating possible
  temple sites in the lands of the South Seas. President Mendenhall
  accepted this confidential appointment. He investigated available lands
  in Auckland, New Zealand, where mission headquarters are located. But
  the satisfaction of obtaining the proper place for the temple was not
  experienced as yet.

  "Then one day I felt I should go to Hamilton to visit the college,"
  (eighty miles southeast of Auckland), President Mendenhall related to
  the writer. "While in the car on the way, the whole thing came to me in
  an instant. The temple should be there by the college. The Church
  facilities for construction were already there, and that was the center
  of the population of the mission. Then, in my mind, I could see the area
  even before I arrived, and I could envision the hill where the temple
  should stand. As soon as I arrived at the college and drove over the top
  of the hill, my whole vision was confirmed. In my heart I felt that the
  Lord had especially made this hill for his temple, everything, about it
  was so majestic and beautiful."

  Without discussing the matter of a temple site with anyone, President
  Mendenhall investigated the possibility of purchasing this land for an
  addition to the Church property but received a negative response. This
  was the only strip of property separating the college grounds from the
  extensive Church farm lands; if the property could be acquired, it would
  join the land together into one choice whole.

  Two weeks later, President McKay arrived late one evening. Being travel
  weary, he retired at once, and it was not until early the next morning
  that President Mendenhall greeted him while in the company of three
  other brethren. Consequently, there could be no mention of a site for
  the temple. President McKay, President Mendenhall, and the other three
  brethren drove out to look over the college construction and the farm

  "As we drove up the road, there was that noble hill," continued
  President Mendenhall. "We directed our travel around the back of it to
  the farm lands. After we stepped from the car and were looking around,
  President McKay called me to one side. By the way he was looking at the
  hill, I could tell immediately what was on his mind. I had not said a
  word to him. He asked,

  "What do you think?" I knew what his question implied, and I 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

  The Lord had again revealed his will unto his servant, a prophet of God.

  ". . . Then a week later President McKay came to this beautiful spot,"
  President Mendenhall related, "and I bear witness to you, . . . that I
  saw the prophet of this Church in the spirit of vision, and when he
  walked away from that hill, he knew the house of the Lord was to be
  erected upon that particular spot."

  President Mendenhall had found that the Murray family, the property
  owners - three brothers, their mother and a sister - were not willing to
  sell. But the day President McKay returned to the hill, the three
  brothers watched as he walked around it. Then as the brethren went to
  get in the car to leave the hill, one of the three approached President
  Mendenhall and said they did not want to sell the property, but
  suggested they discuss the matter after President McKay had finished his
  tour. As the car drove away, President McKay said in a tone of
  reassuring confidence, "They will sell it; they will sell it."

  Accordingly, the day President McKay left, President Mendenhall and
  Elder George Biesinger, supervisor of Church construction in New
  Zealand, went to see the Murray brothers. That morning they sat upon the
  hill itself as they discussed the property, and by eleven o'clock the
  owners had agreed to see an attorney about the sale. There were two of
  the brothers present at the morning meeting, so they called the other
  brother, who was fishing, the sister from another community, and their
  mother, and all went into town. At three o'clock that afternoon the
  Murray family had definitely decided to sell the property.

  "Elder Biesinger and I previously had gone over the property very
  thoroughly and had put a valuation on it by breaking it down into
  various lots and acres," President Mendenhall reported. "When we met
  with the attorney, we found the sellers had over-priced the property
  considerably. After debating the matter for about an hour, the attorney
  said, `Would you be willing to consider this purchase if I break the
  property down my way and arrive at its valuation?' We told him we

  After working a while, he passed his figures to President Mendenhall and
  Elder Biesinger. As they looked at it, the figures were difficult to
  believe - the proposal was, to the penny, the evaluation they had

  By late afternoon the Church had a signed agreement from the owners to
  sell. A family of five all decided in a few hours against their negative
  decision of the week before. "And today," President Mendenhall explains,
  "they can't understand why they ever sold the land."
  But this was not the only marvel in the acquisition of the land. The
  purchase naturally had to be approved by the New Zealand Land
  Aggregation Court. The day the local court turned it down, Mr. Corbett,
  the National Minister of Lands, went with President Mendenhall to look
  over the property. He did not know of the local denial. As he drove past
  the Church construction, he was impressed by the college and by the
  Church belief of developing the Maori people to the highest standard.
  Genuinely pleased, he turned to President Mendenhall and asked him to
  take this dictation: "Received personal assurance this day from the
  Minister of Lands and Maori Affairs that the New Zealand Government will
  not oppose the acquisition of this property."

  The Spirit of the Lord had moved: The property was now owned by the
  Church; the temple would arise from the spot pronounced by a latter-day
  prophet as the place where the house of the Lord should be built.
  (From "Temples of the Most High," Bookcraft, 1993)

NEXT WEEK: Part 10: Prominent Figures Related to Church History in New

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"Temples of the Most High" (Bookcraft, 1993) from which the account in this
message comes, is included in Deseret Book's electronic reference library,
"GospeLink 2001." You can buy "GospeLink 2001" online 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." Purchase link given above.

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