Ruth Wong (front left) with her small tour group. Photo / Supplied
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and accompanying leaders were invited to attend the Open House of the Hamilton NZ ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ Temple on August 25, 2022.
Around 50 Kahungunu members met in Temple View to embark on this wonderful VIP Tour of the Hamilton NZ Temple.
The one day trip began with an early gathering in Hastings before embarking on our trip to Waikato to make it in time for the scheduled tours.
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Taumata had been invited by Dr. Ash Puriri as part of the Official Temple Opening Committee to attend this special day with Ngapuhi iwi.
Ash had coordinated this iwi approach to invite iwi leaders to not only attend the open house, but also learn of the history and efforts of many men and women from around the country, who had dedicated their time and talent to the building of this beautiful temple back in the 1950s.
Many of these people came from Kahungunu and Ngapuhi. This huge network of volunteers were called ‘Labour Missionaries’.
In those days, the Labor Missionaries relied on kai and supplies from around the country to support them and their families. Ngāti Kahungunu members of the church would take truckloads of fruit and vegetables to support the ‘Labour Missionaries’.
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi was always well known for its great manaaki or support to feed the people.
The day started with a meet and greet at the Foster Road, Temple View chapel where a light breakfast had been prepared.
A large group photo was taken and everyone was escorted up to the Temple carpark where tour guides greeted us prior to entering the temple. Groups of 10 – 20 people were invited to commence the tours every 10 minutes to keep the momentum going.
At any one time, 10 groups were inside the temple, moving from room to room as tour guides expressed the special blessings received in the ‘House of the Lord’. On entrance, everyone was given shoe coverings to ensure the beautiful temple flooring was kept clean.
Prior to this Temple being built, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from New Zealand would save up and travel to the Hawaiian temple to receive their higher blessings.
The Hamilton temple which was originally built in the early 1950s, opened in 1958 and that was the last time an open house took place there.
In 2018 the temple closed for refurbishments and since then many members of the church have traveled to neighboring temples to continue their faithful service and remind them of their covenants they have made with their God.
Members have continued to have frequent visits to the Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, Tahiti and Samoa temples.
Two more temples are being built in Auckland and Wellington. It is hoped that they will be completed within the next five years. The Hamilton Temple will be dedicated by Church leaders in October before it opens to temple patrons.
On the way home, participants shared their beautiful experiences and observations. Here’s what they said.
“It was different to what I had expected, I thought it would be a big Cathedral inside, but it was nice to see the different rooms.”
“It was beautiful to see the font and learn of the meaning of the Oxen and the gathering of the twelve Tribes of Israel.”
“I felt special in the Temple, especially in the Celestial Room. I could feel my ancestors.”
“I took my husband’s picture into the temple. He was with me all the way.”
“It was good having the little slippers on to keep the temple clean. It’s a reminder of how we should be clean in our thoughts.”
“Are we going to go to the Wellington and Auckland Open Houses?”
“I loved being in the temple and having the sacred blessings of the temple explained. I would like to go back.”
“Now I know why whakapapa is so important to the Mormons, because they believe that families can be sealed together forever, and that’s beautiful.”
Ngāti Kahungunu whānau were blessed to have had this opportunity to take our iwi through to this special occasion. At the end of the tours both iwi met at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Event Center where we were entertained by a choir of young single adults from Auckland and Hastings, led by Hastings born musician, Shaqaila Uelese.