LAIE, Hawaii — Long ago, defeated warriors or fugitives in ancient Hawaii sought sanctuary in the area that is now Laie. Locals say the walls of that Puuhonua, or city of refuge, marked by white flags, beckoned to all who desired protection and cleansing.
And, they add, a renovated temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, standing on the land of the ancient Puuhonua, is a symbol that this is still a city of refuge.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson rededicated the Laie Hawaii Temple — the church's fifth temple worldwide and the first outside of Utah — in three sessions on Sunday.
The 42,100-square-foot temple "shines as a beacon to all who will follow its light," said President Monson, speaking to youth at a cultural celebration Saturday evening. "We thank our Heavenly Father for the blessings this temple and all temples bring into our lives."
Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy, director of the LDS Church's Temple Department, said the Laie Hawaii Temple has great historical significance as a pioneer temple of the LDS Church, serving early members in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Polynesia.
The temple was originally dedicated Nov. 12, 1919, by President Heber J. Grant and rededicated by President Spencer W. Kimball on June 13, 1978.
Elder Walker said the Laie temple is the 12th temple dedicated or rededicated by President Monson since he became church president in February of 2008. In addition, he said, President Monson has announced 20 new temples to be built since he became president. "These really are days never to be forgotten," he said. "It is a wonderful time."
Elder Scott Whiting, an area Seventy and coordinator of the local temple committee, said during the renovation the temple has been structurally hardened and will stand well into the future. "The original beauty and structure of the temple have remained intact during the renovation process," he said. In addition, he added, the state flower, the hibiscus, and leaves and nuts from the kukui tree add local significance to the temple's décor.
"It stands as a physical manifestation of all the faith, dedication and devotion over the years," he said.
The faith and dedication of early church members was celebrated during the Laie Hawaii Temple youth cultural celebration Saturday evening.
Before the celebration, more than 2,000 youth stood shoulder to shoulder in the Cannon Activity Center of the BYU-Hawaii Campus to hear President Monson address them.
"Today will be a night you will never forget," he said.
President Monson greeted the youth with characteristic warmth, taking time before and after the event to shake hands with and speak to some in the capacity audience. He wore his lei for only a few minutes before presenting it to Sierra Blimes of Laie. Later he walked into the crowd to personally greet a young woman sitting in a wheelchair, Briana Garrido, 15, of Wahiawa, Hawaii.
"It was the most amazing thing," she said. "I have never been so thankful."
Garrido said participating in the event gave her the opportunity to be with hundreds of other Latter-day Saint teens. "I am really sad that it ended," she said.
The event, titled "The Gathering Place," marked the completion of the renovated temple and celebrated Laie as a "gathering place" for early LDS church members and others.
President Monson also visited the Polynesian Cultural Center while in Hawaii. Performers at the cultural center lined the entrance to greet their prophet.
The performers shared their rich Polynesian culture through music and dance. That heritage is one of the things that defines Laie, known for its cultural diversity, a new temple, and its history of sanctuary.
"Today we consider the modern-day city of Laie to be a refuge because of the temple," said Delsa Moe, cultural presentations director at the Polynesian Cultural Center.