The Laie Hawaii Temple open house tours for the public came to a close on November 13 after three-and-a-half weeks and more than 43,000 visitors — including media, lots of people from Koolauloa, tourists, dignitaries, a 95-year-old woman from the Big Island who was at the original temple opening in 1919, even a large group of leather-clad bikers and Hawaii State Gov. Linda Lingle.
Elder Scott D. Whiting, a Kailua resident and Latter-day Saint Area Authority for Hawaii — accompanied by BYU–Hawaii President Steven C. Wheelwright and his wife, Margaret Wheelwright — led Gov. Lingle, her executive secretary and the secretary’s family on an open house on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2010, about 4 p.m.
“We were honored to have her come,” said Elder Whiting, who explained the governor was not available during the VIP tour phase of the open house. “It’s a blessing to have her here, as it is to have everyone here.”
He said Gov. Lingle was “very interested in the quality of construction, the use of local sub-contractors and was thrilled to hear of their involvement. She was impressed with the beauty of the interior and the explanation of why temples are so holy and sacred to us.”
“It was a great privilege, not being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to be able to actually see such a sacred temple that’s held in the place that it is by the people of the religion; and for our community to have this opportunity is very, very meaningful,” the governor said soon after finishing the open house tour.
“I think I was especially touched by the sealing room where marriage is held in a very sacred kind of a way, and not just in this life but in the next as well.”
“I really feel privileged to have had a chance to come and view this temple. The restoration is magnificent. The workmanship is world class. I’m really appreciative,” said Gov. Lingle, who will complete her second term in office in December. Earlier in the day she participated in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
President Wheelwright said having the governor tour the temple “was a very special occasion. We’re grateful that she brought some of her staff and that they could all enjoy it. It was a very special time, and this is a very unique place with a unique feeling.”
Margaret Wheelwright added that the governor talked about “the beauty and the serenity” of the temple. “She knew the special nature of the building and how much we love it,” she said.
“It was beautiful. It was like once in a lifetime to come here. Thank you for opening this to the public,” said Lisa Fernandez, the governor’s executive secretary for the past six years, whose family also went on the open house tour. Kahuku resident Joe Napeahi, who has worked on her security detail for the past two terms, was another member of the governor’s staff who came with her to Laie.
Before the governor left the Laie temple grounds, Elder Whiting explained that over 2,000 Latter-day Saint youth — including hundreds from throughout Koolauloa — have been practicing for months to put on The Gathering Place, a 90-minute cultural celebration, as part of the temple rededication process. He invited the governor to attend if her schedule permits.
The cultural celebration will be performed on Saturday, November 20, at 2 and 6 p.m. in the BYUH Cannon Activities Center, but seating is limited and admission is by ticket only. However, the 6 p.m. performance will be broadcast to Latter-day Saint buildings throughout Hawaii with satellite dishes, and those free broadcasts open to the public.
Elder Whiting, who has overseen the months of planning and execution behind the open house, thanked all the volunteers who helped the thousands of people tour inside the temple. “There are men and women who have been here every day,” he said. “We’re really appreciative of the volunteer effort, and we’re so grateful for all who have come. We’ve had a large number of referrals for the missionaries, as well as wonderfully complimentary comments; so we’re very pleased, and we’re excited for the dedication.”