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Trent Toone, Deseret News
A view of the Laie Hawaii Temple grounds.

LAIE, HAWAII

The sacred words of a temple's dedicatory prayer have become the vision and purpose of LDS missionaries serving at one of the world's most picturesque locations.

The goal of those serving at the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors' Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to invite all guests to feel the unique spirit of the scenic temple grounds, according to President Heber J. Grant's dedicatory prayer given on Nov. 27, 1919.

“May all who come upon the grounds which surround this temple in the years to come ... feel the sweet and peaceful influence of this blessed and hallowed spot,” President Grant prayed.

Each day an average of 500 people from around the world, particularly from those countries along the Pacific Rim, arrive at the temple grounds and wander among the water fountains, reflection pools and colorful hibiscus flowers where they feel that special spirit, according to Elder Jeffrey Swinton and his wife, Sister Heidi Swinton, directors of the Visitors' Center. At least half of those daily guests are not members of the Church, Elder Swinton said.

“We believe that all who touch foot on these temple grounds will feel something that at some point in their lives may blossom,” said Elder Swinton, who previously presided over the England London South mission with Sister Swinton. “Perhaps the next time they see a missionary in their home town they will feel again what they felt here and be motivated to want to learn more.”

The Laie Temple Visitors' Center has recently experienced an increase of more than 100 visitors a day, specifically in the early evening. A free 35-minute tram tour around the Polynesian Cultural Center and the campus of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, with a stop at the temple grounds was already being offered, but there weren't enough seats to accommodate the demand and people were left behind, Elder Swinton said.

The Visitors' Center arranged for a few extra buses to run between 6-7 p.m., which has been successful. The missionaries also received permission to pass out small cards at the PCC with an illustration featuring the temple grounds, BYU-Hawaii and the PCC, with information regarding the tram/bus rides and schedules, the Swintons said.

Each incoming crowd is greeted by sister missionaries capable of speaking various languages — Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, English and more. If a visitor asks for more information about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the sisters can send their contact information instantaneously by text message to missionaries in the person's home town, the Swintons said.

It's fascinating to see a group of visitors enter the Visitors' Center and march up to the “Christus” statue for a photo, Elder Swinton said.

“[Some] don't know who Christ is, but they come and take a picture with Him,” Elder Swinton said. “At some point they will look at that photo and feel something.”

When not greeting visitors, the sisters put on headsets in a small call center where they communicate with people they've met on the temple grounds, answer or send referrals, or respond to questions submitted by people online at Mormon.org or other Church websites.

“There have been times when I have walked in and found two sisters kneeling on the floor, praying with people on the phone. It's as if they were teaching them face-to-face,” Elder Swinton said. “They are teaching all the time. It's a busy place.”

One sister missionary recently received the good news that two people she met at the Visitors' Center and referred to local missionaries were baptized. It occasionally happens, but the sister missionaries realize their primary role will be to find and send referrals. To add special meaning this important role, the Swintons have given each sister a special journal and invited them to record the names of each referral, along with other significant information.

“We realize the importance of names,” Elder Swinton said. “I am of the simple belief that perhaps even in the hereafter people will connect with those that connected them. The sisters, having written the data in their journals, it will be somewhere in their minds. It's sort of their book of life, a sacred way of remembering how many people they have positively impacted.”

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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