It is Thanksgiving Day 2016. Today my thoughts turn back in gratitude to a Thanksgiving nearly 100 years ago on November 27, 1919. On that Thanksgiving Day, President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Hawaiian Temple, thus linking forever our lovely temple here in Laie with the Thanksgiving holiday.
On that Thanksgiving Day, 310 people gathered in the temple at 2:30 p.m. to hear President Grant offer thanks to God. He expressed appreciation for George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, and Jonathan H. Napela, among many others, who had labored diligently to establish the Church in Hawaii. He thanked God that “tens of thousands of the descendants of Lehi, in this favored land, have come to a knowledge of the gospel, many of whom have endured faithfully to the end of their lives” and he beseeched “Thee, O Father, that Thou wilt open the way before the members of the Church in these lands, as well as of the natives of New Zealand, and of all the Pacific islands . . . that they may come into this holy house and become saviors unto their ancestors.”
This prayer has been abundantly answered. The Hawaiian Temple has provided a sacred gathering place for the Lord’s people in the Pacific. It is God’s garner. In it the Lord of the harvest has bound sheaves from the isles of the sea and afforded them a place of refuge from the storm. It may be said of this latter-day Polynesian harvest what Ammon said of the children of Lehi converted during his mission:
Behold, thousands of them do rejoice. . . . behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted. Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day . . . but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them. . . . behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his. . . . Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name. (Alma 26:4-8)
At this season of the year, we often sing our praise and thanks to the Lord of the harvest in the hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People.” The end of the first verse invites us to “Come to God’s own temple, come; Raise the song of harvest home.” We come to the temple to assist in the great harvest of souls. For temples are the garners of the Lord of the harvest.
And we, his children, are the grain that must be bound into sheaves! The last line of the second verse reminds us: “Lord of harvest, grant that we Wholesome grain and pure may be.”
On Sunday morning, November 30, 1919, a unique final service was held in the temple. It was for children. About 235 children, mostly Hawaiians, attended. No dedicatory prayer was offered, but President Grant led the children in singing “Who’s on the Lord’s Side, Who?” Then he asked them to raise their hand if they were on the Lord’s side. All did so.
So have many of us. May we be true to our covenants to stay on the Lord’s side. Thus shall we become “wholesome grain and pure,” fit to be bound into eternal family sheaves. Let us come to our Thanksgiving temple often, there to assist the Lord of the harvest bind his grain into eternal sheaves.