Lai'e - A Sacred Privilege and Responsibility

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

July 8, 2004
Theresa Bigbie
Retired Associate Dean of the Division of Continuing Education

Introduction to Laie

I stand before you this morning humbled by the opportunity to speak on a subject that is most dear to my heart. It is a love affair that has evolved more deeply over more than a decade. The seeds were first planted as a child visiting my great grandparents and other relatives on the very property on which we now live today. It was nurtured as a student while attending the Church College of Hawaii from 1956 - 1958, living in the old Lanihuli mission home on the hill, and meeting in military quonset huts and other facilities temporarily set up for classrooms. After my marriage to Bruce Meyers, an alumnus from CCH, the seeds sprouted while raising a family on the island of Molokai, and making the annual 4-day excursion to the Laie Hawaii Temple each November, the same pattern set by our parents, Melvin and Martha Kalama. It blossomed serving as associate dean in the Division of Continuing Education here at BYUH since 1987. And finally, my love for this community reached a new level of awareness, I suppose, beginning in 1991. I witnessed first hand the deep struggles of a community being awakened to its responsibilities during troubled times. Having a front row seat as the Laie Community Association president for more than ten years, I would turn to the prophecies for insight, guidance, and comfort as to its future.

Our Heritage

Living here Sister Baker and I have been blessed with the wonderful legacy left by our ancestors who helped to raise their families under the shadows of this temple. Our great-great grandfather Judge Lyons Baldwin Nainoa and Namahana are both buried on the La'ie Hawaii Temple grounds. This Lyons Baldwin Nainoa is the link to many notable families in La'ie.

Our great-grandparents, Keau Makahanohano and Victoria Maunahina (whom I am named after) were laid to rest in the La'ie Cemetery. Even at a very young age, I could feel their deep faith, love for the Lord, the gospel, and its leaders, as they prayed fervently in Hawaiian. I was being taught the language of faith. Their only daughter, Emma Makaopiopio, was raised in Laie and then moved with her husband, Samuel Kalama, to the island of Molokai as one of the first homesteaders in Hoolehua along with Uncle Bill Wallace's ohana.

But from these and other roots, it goes back even further to Iosepa to a woman named Makaopiopio. As a widow of just a few months, she left Hawaii in December of 1878 to join the Hawaiian saints who moved to Utah. When she went to the temple for the first time in SLC, the record shows that Joseph F. Smith was leader of the company with Eliza R. Snow as one of the followers. And today through her faithfulness, and that of her husband, Puhi Kaohimaunu, come eight generations of faithful members of the Church, each having been touched by the gospel and nurtured in the beautiful village of Laie. Indeed, we have been blessed through this heritage.

Laie: A Sacred Privilege and Responsibility

That Laie is a sacred site has been acknowledged by President Hinckley on several occasions. All of us who were present at the PCC celebration activities sensed the deep love President Hinckley has for Laie.

On September 26, 1990 in a letter given to the Laie Community Association board of directors on which he was then serving, President Shumway made this statement, and I quote:

[SLIDE OF STATEMENT #1]

"Laie is not just any community on this island or on this planet. It is sacred ground, as sacred as Mount Sinai when Moses stood in the presence of God; it is a place of prophecy, and a place of God. It is sacred not because of any ancient Hawaiian significance, but because prophets of God set it apart as a gathering place for righteous Saints and established in our midst the fullness of the Gospel and a House of the Lord.

President David O. McKay said that we must all have a burning testimony, an assurance (not a mere belief, but an assurance) that 'God has His hand' over Laie." 1

[END OF STATEMENT]

On February 12, 1955, in his prayer at the ground breaking, President McKay invoked the blessings of God and His divine guidance upon Laie saying:

[SLIDE OF STATEMENT #2]

"May it [Laie] from this moment forward be what Thou would have it become, be what the early fathers blessed this land to become. May their vision then, and the vision of these choice men and women who stand so valiantly now by that prophecy, be realized; and to that end we again consecrate this land.

"We dedicate our actions in this service unto thee and unto thy glory and to the salvation of the children of men, that this college, and the temple, and the town of Laie may become a missionary factor, influencing not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people who will come seeking to know what this town and its significance are." 2 [END OF STATEMENT]

The prophet also said to make the community "an attractive village, the best in the Hawaiian islands."....

[SLIDE OF STATEMENT #3]

"Now just a word to you citizens of Laie....keep your streets clean and make it an attractive village, the best in the Hawaiian Islands. Why shouldn't it be, in the shadow of the House of God, standing out in beautiful white in the daytime and as an illuminated building at night.

But above all, may the beauty of your town with no hatred, no back biting, no fault finding, that you may live in love and peace so the people who enter this village will feel that there is something different here from any other town they have ever visited." 3 [END OF STATEMENT]

Continuing on with President Shumway's letter to the LCA Board....

"The thing we must remember is that this is not our land, but God's land. It's not our community but Heavenly Father's community, and He has hallowed it and allowed us to be here! We are not Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, Chinese, haoles, etc., but children of God. We have no ultimate ownership rights, but we are stewards, representing God's servants who are stewards over the whole Church. As Heber J. Grant has said, "Through you (through us) shall these prophecies by fulfilled.

The fulfilled prophecies about Laie are stunning, even mind boggling, especially when you realize what a barren landscape it was when it was first purchased. Just look at the old pictures. Talk about a wasteland! Talk about struggle! No one here can imagine! But the righteous Saints stayed on----worked, lived, and died----in the faith, faith in God, His Church, and His leaders. When it was so dry, and the Saints were discouraged, President Joseph F. Smith prophesied, "This place will become very fertile, water shall flow out of the ground, trees and flowers will grow."

No doubt there were skeptics. The prophecy that a temple of God would stand here, that a university would be built to bless the lives of our children, and our children's children, --- and the 1955 prophecy by David O. McKay, when Laie was still just a small village, that someday not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people would come seeking to know what this town and its significance is---these have come [and continue to come] to pass in spectacular ways.

In 1955 the fulfillment of that prophecy was just a few short years away from the time that the idea of a Polynesian Cultural Center would be conceived. One Hawaiian colleague of mine", continued President Shumway, "told me he was present at the ground breaking. (Now remember the Prophet David O. McKay was the one who envisioned and mandated the university to be here in Laie. Two different fact finding committees for the Church recommended to the Brethren a different location in Honolulu or Kaneohe, but President McKay said, "No, Laie is the place") --- Anyway, this friend of mine said, the statement that millions would come to Laie just blew his mind---no one then in his wildest imagination could have conceived it. But now everyone takes it for granted. Every year now, more than a million visitors come to Laie."

Then, President Shumway gave this counsel:

[SLIDE OF STATEMENT #4]

"The key of all the prophetic statements is this:

(1) We must be worthy.

(2) We are stewards, not owners, of an inheritance from the Lord.

(3) We must have lokahi, oneness.

(4) We are one race, the race of God, children in the family of God.

(5) Someday soon we will all have to account face to face to Jesus Christ for our works,

our words, and the intents of our hearts with regard to our stewardship."4

[END OF STATEMENT]

A former resident of Laie, Carl Fonoimoana, made the following observation last October:

[SLIDE OF STATEMENT #5]

"As we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Polynesian Cultural Center, it has caused us to look back at the early beginnings of this community, the prophecies, visions, expressions, efforts and hard work of many people. It has brought about the ever-present connection and analysis of the companions of the PCC---the BYU-Hawaii, and the temple, all of which are replete with their own prophecies, histories and heroes. It seems that there remains one final development in order to fulfill the prophecy of David O. McKay regarding the bringing of the millions of visitors to Laie, and that is the development of Laie as an attraction to the visiting public."5 [END OF STATEMENT]

In 1994 President Howard W. Hunter petitioned the Lord with the following words:

"We ask a blessing upon the elements, upon the land, upon the sea and upon all the temporal efforts of thy servants here. Bless thy servants with wisdom in planning enterprises, in designing facilities, in negotiating contracts and agreements and in all they do in support of thy work. And, if it be thy will, bless the elements and all the forces in the environment, both human and inanimate, for the accomplishment of thy purposes. And in all these temporal efforts, bless us to know and seek thy purposes."6

For Laie, Hawaii Reserves Inc. under Jack Hoag, chairman of the board, and Eric Beaver, CEO and President with its very capable management team and staff, has, and continues to represent as have others what President Hunter envisioned as it relates to community development. The collection system is in the process of being installed throughout the community at less cost than projected, with the entire wastewater treatment plant being turned over to the City. In the near future the Hale Laa Boulevard---the most striking boulevard in the community, leading to the most significant building in all of Hawaii, will be completed. BYUH will finish its stunning new entrance to campus. The new housing area in Malaekahana will soon become available to Laie residents. These and other developments at BYUH, PCC, the temple and the community are currently on the drawing board.

Quoting Brother Fonoimoana again....

"The prophecy uttered by President McKay was really aimed at Laie being the place that will attract the millions of visitors, though it is usually assumed that the PCC has been the instrument of fulfillment. That correlation can logically be made, though the object of President McKay's prophecy relating to the community of Laie can also be rightfully made and should be.

[SLIDE OF STATEMENT #6]

"The community is as much a representation of what the church stands for as the PCC, Brigham Young University Hawaii and the Temple. When the visitors visit these three arms of the church, they see facilities, structures and presentations that are first-rate and second to none. The standard of the church has always been to present the Lord's church and its undertakings in a positive light and one that will bring honor to the Lord and his church.

The community of Laie, its streets, sidewalks, landscape, homes, lighting, parks and general appearance, should also reflect the church and the people of the church that live there. The visitors should feel as inspired from seeing the community of Laie as they are when they see the PCC, BYUH and the temple.

When that is done, then we will be seeing a greater influence for good emanating from Laie than has been experienced in the past. The development of the Laie community to be an attraction, at the level of the other three attractions, is really the final step in fulfilling the prophecy of President McKay."

[END OF STATEMENT]

Though this phase may be the most difficult of all the rest, it can and should be done, and with the correct vision and hard work, (the same elements that were involved in completing the other three) it will be done.

Continuing with Brother Fonoimoana's observation....

The vision and prophecy of President McKay should not only be recorded and rehearsed, but should be extolled and taught in the community as scripture. Every home should know it. Parents should teach it to their children. It should be printed and put on the walls of our homes so that it is clear in our understanding the great potential of our community and the equally great responsibility that rests on ourselves to make our community the attraction that it needs to be. We must see that if we want to show the visiting public that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has something to offer them, that can make their lives better, we must show that our lives are better and happier. The visitors see it when they visit the PCC, or when they visit our campus or go to the Visitor's Center at the temple. The same wonderful spirit that they feel when they experience these three entities must carry over when they ride through our community and see how we live.

The PCC is probably the best emissary and missionary tool that the church has. BYUH is the most influential force for good in the Pacific Asian Rim and peace internationally; the temple will still be the House of the Lord that will take individuals and families to Eternal Life. But the community must be the gospel and cultural center of who we are today. When President McKay asked the community to paint their homes, clean their yards and to make their homes attractive, it was because he knew what was in the future for Laie. He wanted us to put our best foot forward so that we could "let our light so shine that they might see our good works and glorify our Father who art in heaven." This part of the vision must be understood and accepted by every family in Laie. It is our turn and our responsibility.

For most of the vision of President McKay, we have relied on the church to fulfill the vision. Though many Laie families contributed time and labor to build much of the PCC, it has still been left primarily in the hands of the church to carry it through, as was the case with the university and the temple. This portion of the vision, President McKay asked us, the community members of Laie, to do. It is a work of families, fathers and mothers, children and grandchildren. It is a work that will bless the lives of every family and lift up our community as a symbol of our faith and testimony to our God. It places the burden on our shoulders and will be a tithing to our God and His church for the many blessings that He has bestowed upon our saints in these islands.

For too long, we have depended on the church to solve our problems and provide our needs in the community. We must now do our part and more for ourselves. How grateful we should be, remembering the mercies and blessings that God and His Son have done for our families and ancestors, being blessed early with the gospel, blessed early with the priesthood, blessed early with missionaries, chapels, temples, and their attendant blessings. Let us then go forward and fulfill the request of a prophet of God."7

So, what can we, as BYU-Hawaii ohana, do to fulfill the request of a prophet of God? I have considered you, our BYU-Hawaii ohana (students, staff, faculty, and administration) whether you live within the community boundaries, or not, as sharing in the promises and responsibilities of these prophecies at the time it was given to the people of Laie. You can be a light to the rest of the community, a light that cannot be hid. It is not put under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and giveth light to all. The ripple effect of what you do will bless our community, and build the Kingdom.

Those of you who live in the surrounding communities have a great influence on what happens in Laie. There was a time in the history of this village when surrounding communities opposed and were unsupportive of the issues brought up by the Church entities. We were looked upon with suspicion and mistrust. In fact, we were seen as a community of people all "holding hands in a circle facing inward." Thanks to sensitive leaders of Church entities, the Laie Community Association, Malama Ohana and the Queen Emma Foundation, and other organizations, who facilitated the unity and lokahi of all Koolauloa leaders. Today, many of these same leaders are as supportive of our activities as we are of theirs, meeting often to resolve the challenges we all face in Koolauloa and the North Shore. Your meaningful participation in your communities contributing to a better quality of life has direct impact on what happens to the future of Laie. We ask that you be an active participant to the degree that you can.

Living in Laie has always has been accompanied by great blessings, and according to Apostle Matthew Cowley, great risks! The risks are that wherever the temple is, the adversary will work more vigorously and more cunningly to thwart, blind, and corrupt the Saints.

But, Laie is a community that has the capacity not only to draw upon all of the resources within its boundaries to achieve great things, but to do it with determined faith, and the guidance of Providence.

It always has.

Earlier in the year the BYUH Jubilee Celebration Beautification Committee, with the approval of the Laie Community Association, drove through every street in the community to identify the types of assistance needed in the community to beautify it. As one of those items, it was noted that there was a minimum of 154 junk cars spread throughout the community. At the recommendation of the City, contact was made with Hawaii Metal Recycling of Honolulu. As a result, about 70 of those vehicles were removed from private properties and moved to the Cackle Fresh Farm as a staging area, thanks to HRI and a local towing company, Amazing Towing. This past Saturday, Hawaii Metal Recycling sent 5 trucks, making 3 trips each during the day, to remove the cars from that staging area. The community people who caught the vision of this and requested the removal of these vehicles from their properties were relieved and very happy for this assistance. Today those almost 70 cars no longer hinder the beauty of this community.

In conjunction with the removal of cars, the Laie Community Association sponsored a scrap metal recycling project that ranged from appliances, to engines blocks, wires, car parts, cables, posts, beams, etc. as a fundraiser for making improvements on the Laie Park. This included full time workers, many volunteers, heavy equipment, operators, trucks, and drivers from Church entities, from the community, and also from BYUHSA, contributing many hours of community service. The 30-40 BYUH students who were there, organized by Narin Phon, vice-president of service for BYUHSA, were not only stationed at the main tent greeting people as they arrived, but also assisted in the removal of scrap metal from trucks, as well as assisted in picking up scrap metal throughout the community, which included the cleaning up of the parking lot at the end of the day. By 4:00 pm the Company had weighed at their Campbell Industrial Park facility more than 100 tons, that's 200,000 pounds of scrap metal and cars that came mostly from Laie. And this does not include several outstanding bins and junk vehicles yet to be weighed in, during the next few weeks. At closure we should clearly exceed our goal..

Hawaii Metal Recycling was delighted with the community support and the amount of scrap metal collected, and they have agreed to return in October to remove the rest of those vehicles yet in the community. None of these people from the company are members of the Church, yet they were touched by the marvelous turnout and the unity they saw among the volunteers. Laie had not only exceeded the record in one day, but surpassed the two communities who had recently conducted similar activities in Waianae and Haleiwa. One can only imagine what can happen when private business, communities and government, can join together to achieve the Mayor's vision of promoting clean up and recycling projects on Oahu. The vision for us was given by a prophet of God.

The project's most valuable contributors were our people---people like you and me, who represented Church entities and the community. They made a difference that day! There are too many to name. They know who they are. The satisfaction of work well-done is their reward.

Let me share a couple of experiences with you.

As the project began to develop, it became clear that a scrap metal recycling project, in and of itself, was a challenge, but to include the removal of junk vehicles from the community as well, was an enormous task---one clearly beyond our experience as a committee, or as a community association. We recognized that Heavenly Father's help was needed.

And because the project included not one site but two sites, the problem became daunting. We now needed two sets of heavy equipment....in particular a front loader with a 4-in-1 bucket. We needed one at the BYUH parking lot, and one at the Cackle Fresh site. The company was adamant. Without the right heavy equipment, they would not come. The only heavy equipment of this description near enough was located at the Laie Corporation Yard, close to the Cackle Fresh site. Working through layers of City bureaucracy, the process was painfully slow. After numerous calls to the City, using every influence at hand including our City Council member, Donavan Dela Cruz, the answer was, "No, the City could not participate because of liability and other legal issues. We received the call on Thursday. The activity was on Saturday. Time was short. The back up option was to contact the Heavy Equipment Training Facility in Kahuku, which would be very costly. We than called Babes Keanu, owner of a trucking company in Hauula, who felt he could help with equipment he had. That seemed plausible, but still it was not enough. Finally, a call was made to Jeff Tyau, HRI's engineer, to intervene by working with the company's operations manager to assure him that with some adjustments, the equipment in Laie, plus the equipment they would bring, would be adequate to do the job. Finally, the next day, we received a call that everything had been worked out, and they were ready to come the next day. Our prayers were answered.

The other challenge we had was how to drain 70 cars in the time we had, of the oil, gas, and anti-freeze including the removal of all batteries. Crews of 10-20 community people, including Bishop Kahawaii's family, scouts, wards members, and Pane Meatoga (LCA president) volunteered to drain these vehicles of its fluids, which resulted in nearly ten 35-55 gallon drums of fluids. For two nights and one full day, this group did grueling work. As Alan Oleole and Max Purcell can attest to, the work was not easy. And it had to be completed by Saturday. The earliest they could start was on Thursday afternoon. As I watched them work, I saw how deliberate and focused they were. There was little talking. Just action. Knowing the shortness of time, Bishop Kahawaii's wife, BJ, assured me that the work was progressing well. The system they had seemed to be working. She related what a beautiful spot it was to work in, with the full moon shining brightly each night with the cool breezes blowing. By 3:00 p.m. on Saturday the draining was completed, in time for the trucks to remove the cars. As you can imagine, any number of things could have gone wrong!

They knew it, and we knew it----that Heavenly Father had His hand over them. It was a labor of love and of sacrifice.

As said earlier, Laie is a community that has the capacity to not only draw upon all of the resources of the community, but to draw down the powers of heaven, to achieve small and great things. It always has. The conclusion we drew from this experience was simply--- it was meant to be. The significance and importance of this community is too great---too valuable to the work of the Kingdom.

Each home that is painted, each tree that is planted, each yard that is mowed and landscaped, each piece scrap metal or other refuse that is disposed of, including cars---every effort to beautify Laie and make it an attraction--- helps to build the Kingdom

As individuals representing this great institution, you are key to success of this process. We can be an example of order, cleanliness, and beautification of each of our homes and properties on which we live. May we be that light which casts its beams widely, drawing in all within its path.

Remember, as a people, we are the message of the Kingdom. May we each ponder the sacred privilege we have to live and work here, and the attendant responsibility we have to represent Heavenly Father's work by the way we present ourselves. That by so doing, we may glorify our Father in Heaven, and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, I pray in His Name. Amen..

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References:

1. Eric Shumway, Letter to LCA Board, September 26, 1990

2. David O. McKay, Dedicatory Prayer, Groundbreaking for CCH, February 12, 1955.

3. David O. McKay, Groundbreaking for CCH, February 12, 1955.

4. Same as 1.

5. Carl Fonoimoana, Letter to Theresa Bigbie, October 2004.

6. President Howard W. Hunter, Rededication of Hawaii, November 20, 1994

7. Same as 5.

Power Point Slides:

1. "Laie is not just any community.....", Eric Shumway

2. "May it [Laie] from moment forward....", David O. McKay

3. "Now just a word to you citizens of Laie....", David O. McKay

4. "The key to all the prophetic statements is this....", Eric Shumway

5. "As we commemorated the 45th anniversary.....", Carl Fonoimoana

6. "The community is as much a representation....", Carl Fonoimoana