(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
July 1984 started like every other month, but drastically changed on the 6th. I was a little slow getting to work that morning because I had a bad night and was in the shower when President Gordon B. Hinckley called. I dressed quickly and rushed to his office where he called me to be the president of the New Zealand Temple. I accepted the call and then went to my office in the Church Office Building to recover. After a few short minutes, I went home, talked with Marva, then went to the airport and flew to Lubbock, Texas for a welfare assignment.
On the 14-16 of August, the First Presidency held a seminar for the new temple presidents. It started at 8:00 a.m. in the auditorium, and all General Authorities were invited. President Hinckley, Elder Howard W. Hunter, and Elder Grant Bangerter were the speakers. We were in meetings the rest of that first day on the 22nd floor and over in the Salt Lake Temple. It was a very spiritual day, and it was wonderful to hear the General Authorities speak and teach us. There were 13 new temple presidents altogether. I remember hearing President Hinckley saying, "I feel a little sorry for you brethren who are going to leave your loved ones and families and go away to the different temples. The only one I don't feel sorry for is the one who is going to New Zealand. His is a very special assignment." I did find out that most everybody would have liked to have the assignment at the New Zealand Temple.
Elder Thomas S. Monson gave a first-class ban quet in honor of Marva and me that evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Lion House. . . .
The next morning the temple seminar continued at the Jordan River Temple. We all participated in an endowment session. We then changed into suits and spent the full day in meetings. They really taught us a lot of things we needed to know. President Hinckley, President Hunter, and eight other General Authorities joined with us for a two-hour testimony meeting in the temple. President Hinckley called on twelve of us, including me, to speak in that meeting. We concluded the three days of training with a nice banquet in the evening. This was the finest seminar I had ever been to. On Friday, 17 August 1984, I went to work most of the day. President Hinckley set us apart for our various assignments and gave to me the sealing power.
On the 31st we went to the Salt Lake Temple in the morning. I sat in on a marriage conducted by Elder L. Tom Perry and one by Elder Marion D. Hanks so I could learn more about performing marriages and sealings.
A most unusual thing happened on 15 December. At 3:00 a.m. the bus arrived from Wellington with a large group. While the temple was filled with 250 people, we discovered that the water system ran dry and there was absolutely no water in the temple. The fire department had left a large hose running and had emptied our four large tanks at the temple. This was unbelievable to have all these people in the temple and have no drinking fountains, no toilets, or anything else working that needed water. However, the fire department got busy and helped solve our problem by mid-afternoon.
Christmas morning I went to visit my old friend, James Elkington, who was then 86 years old. He was one of the greatest men in New Zealand and had been one of the first patriarchs there. Among the Maoris, he was known as a paramount chief, which is about as high as they come. I had known Jim for years. As a young man in 1921, he had been President McKay's personal body guard when President McKay first visited New Zealand and attended a Hui Tau (annual conference). Jim was his personal bodyguard again when President McKay returned to New Zealand to dedicate the temple in 1958. Everywhere President McKay went, this big, giant Maori was by his side. I spoke at Jim's funeral only a year later.
During February the temple was closed for three weeks. During that time many repairs were done, along with painting. This was a difficult time for me. I was restless and anxious to get the work done. D___ B____, our head engineer, was very slow in getting anything done. I was probably much too hard on our employees who were not getting the work done in a timely way. I was disappointed in the work that had been done when I inspected it on the 25th. I felt we could have done it all in ten days or two weeks, instead of being closed for three weeks. I corrected that for the next year.
Arthur Bedford, the former Temple View Stake president, was hired to be our new chief temple engineer. I found out we could pay him as much as he was earning, so we hired him and then gave him a good raise. I think that was one of the finest moves I made during the time I was president. To change the recorder and then to change the engineer were the two best physical changes we made. Brother Bedford could get more done in a week than we had previ ously been able to do in a month.
In early 1986, when I was president of the New Zealand Temple, we heard that we were going to receive three new Maria Theressa chandeliers for the celestial room. I was told that the Church had purchased them and that they would be shipped to us later in the year.
These chandeliers were made in Czechoslovakia and then shipped to Hamburg, Germany. They were then loaded on a ship and arrived in Auckland in October. We did not get them through customs until sometime during the Christmas holidays. Because of a pageant we were preparing and other heavy responsibilities we were not able to begin to assemble the chandeliers until February of 1987.
On Monday, February 2, while the temple was closed, seven of us spent all day assembling the first chandelier. It was hanging in the center of the celestial room that evening. We estimated its weight at five hundred pounds. Each chandelier had twenty-four arms radiating from the center, with forty-eight crystal bowls and light globes. Each chandelier has cut crystals of twenty-five different shapes totaling 2,755 in number.
Sometime during the night I woke up and thought about that chandelier and had a very uneasy feeling come over me. I thought to myself, "something is wrong." I just couldn't figure out what it was. Early the next morning I contacted our temple engineer. He expressed that he too had an uneasy feeling. We went into the temple and looked at the chandelier and immediately we were able to see that the ceiling was sagging a little from the additional weight it was bearing.
I called President Garry who is an architect and he contacted a structural engineer who we brought into the temple when we closed in the evening. He went into the ceiling and discovered that there had been a rather poor welding job done at the time the temple was built. This one chandelier could probably hang and be okay. However, any other additional weight or disturbance would likely cause the entire ceiling to come down.
Before we could assemble and hang the additional chandeliers we had to correct the weakness in this part of the temple. The structural engineer designed some large plates to correct the problem.
On Monday, February 16, eight people working about seven hours, were assembled and hung. Since the chandeliers were installed, almost everyone attending the temple has been delighted with the luxurious and lovely addition to this sacred room.
There is no doubt in my mind but what we were impressed by the Spirit of the Lord to the fact that there was a problem and to not hang the other chandeliers until corrections were made, thereby saving the problem that would have been created if the ceiling had come down.
We were not worrying much about records, but it just seemed like week after week we were reaching numbers that had never been reached before in the temple. It was hard to tell exactly why, except the people seemed to be fired up and enthusiastic about attending the temple. I am amazed as I look back now at how many of these people I knew personally. What a great time we had just meeting them every week as they faithfully attended the temple.
On the 19th of April, Elder Bruce R. McConkie passed away. This was only two weeks after he had given a great address in the general conference of the Church. Bruce and his family lived on Lambourne Avenue just a couple of houses away from us. Our children all grew up together. His boys learned how to cut our hedge, and both his boys and our boys played basketball together. Bruce and I were great friends. He was always approachable and a pleasant, interesting, happy man.
On 20 April 1985, we celebrated the 27th year of temple work in New Zealand. During the first 27 years of the temple, 18,482 individuals received their own endowments, with well over I million endowments performed vicariously for the dead.
Sister Ora Aspinal had her 90th birthday on 22 October 1986, and her daughter brought her to the temple. When her daughter escorted her to the elevator by the large assembly room where her four sons were standing, Sister Aspinal let out a large "war whoop" that you could hear all over the temple. Three of her sons regularly attended the temple, but one had not been to the temple for many years, and she was thrilled to see these four, fine sons in the temple. Sister Aspinal was a great soul who blessed my life on my first mission. She is a true, 100%, Maori-happy and relaxed! I spent New Year's Day 1940 in her home. I noted in my journal that "now she thinks she is president of the temple, and I do not argue with her."
On 14 February, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Elder Dean L. Larsen, and Elder Philip Sonntag, with their wives, arrived in Auckland to hold a regional conference. We went up on Saturday, and I attended a four hour priesthood meeting. Sunday morning there was a general session at 10:00 a.m. and one at 2:00 p.m. with lunch in between. Elder Maxwell was wonderful and easy to understand. At the conclusion of the conference, he gave an Apostolic blessing to all the people who attended both of the sessions. Marva and I were greatly impressed with Sister Maxwell. She was a pretty, lovely person. The two sessions had 6,400 people in attendance, and it was hard to believe it was the same Auckland I had served in years ago.
On 18 March 1986, while serving as president of the New Zealand Temple, I dreamed a very unusual dream.
In my dream, I was at a stake conference, sitting in the rear of a building. As the meeting broke up and only a few people were left standing in the comer of the chapel overflow, a man quickly approached me. It was President Matthew Cowley, my old mission president, exactly as I knew him years ago. He wore a beautiful, double breasted, jet black suit which seemed to sparkle.
He took hold of me, turned me away from the people, and began talking to me. Without a special greeting or small talk of any kind, he informed me that my life would be changing dramatically within a short time and told me who I would be working with. He gave me a real vote of confidence; and although he didn't smile or laugh, he made me feel at ease. Then he left as quickly as he came.
I turned back to see the people still standing around. I knew everybody but especially recognized Sister Amelia McConkie. I was going to say something to her but didn't.
I had not dreamed of Matthew Cowley for many, many years. After the dream, I could no longer sleep, but lay there for a long time thinking about it—and thought about it all day, despite how busy it was in the temple, with three General Authorities and fourteen mission presidents in attendance; and Marva and I were planning to fly home that evening with the General Authorities for a short visit. I tried to figure out the meaning of the dream. Had I finished my work here on Earth to receive a new assignment? Was I going to be released as temple president and do something else? I shall not soon forget the dream.
The 25th of March was a cool, rainy day, but as usual it was nice in the temple. I wrote a few letters, and then the telephone rang. President Thomas S. Monson was calling me. He talked for a few moments and then, representing President Ezra Taft Benson, issued a call to me to be a General Authority and to serve as a Member of the Seventy. He also talked to Marva and told us to get tickets and come home for conference. After the call, Marva and I just sat a few minutes to think about what the important and sacred calling really meant. We were not at liberty to tell anyone, but the two of us realized rather quickly what was happening in our future.
On Sunday, 29 March, President Monson once again called me. President Hinckley was trying to locate Douglas Martin who was out of the city. I had an idea of why they wanted to speak to Doug. Fortunately, I was able to get him on the phone and connected through to President Hinckley. Doug also received a call to the Seventy. What we did not know was that President John Lasater had also been called. However, none of us were supposed to talk to each other about these new callings.
The last day of March we were in the temple. In the chapel meeting, I spoke to the workers, and then we attended the first endowment session. We packed for our trip home, and President and Sister Stan Philip drove us to the airport in Auckland. He was all smiles. He was positive he knew why we were going home. Temple presidents generally did not go home to conference.
Early the next morning, Marva and I boarded the plane and were seated in first class. The only other people in first class were Doug and Wati Martin and President and Sister Lasater. No one could say anything, but each of us knew what the others were going to Salt Lake for. We were all smiling, but finally got to talking a little bit. By the time we arrived in Salt Lake, we pretty well knew why we were going to gen eral conference. Marva and I were picked up by most of our family (who were now expecting a big change in our lives).
On 4 April 1987, I was sustained along with seven other men as a General Authority of the Church and a Member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Early on Sunday morning before the regular ses sion, I attended a 7:00 a.m. meeting in the temple. Elders Packer, Faust, and Oaks spoke to the temple presidents who were assembled. When the meeting was finished, we all went to the Tabernacle for the Sunday morning session of general conference.
After conference was over, the eight of us who were called to be General Authorities went to the west boardroom in the Administration Building where we were ordained and set apart to serve in the First Quo rum of the Seventy. President Hinckley presided, representing President Benson who was unable to be there. He asked President Monson to set me apart. This was a very important day, and several of our children were able to be there. This was a general conference never to be forgotten.
On Tuesday the 7th, we met with the leadership of the Quorum of the Twelve. Elders Faust, Maxwell, Ballard and others gave us instructions. The next two days we continued with more meetings, advice, and instructions.
May 1987 was a little different in many ways. We were still on the job serving as the temple president and matron, but there were conferences to attend and many other special meetings. Some of them were fire sides and socials to honor us as we prepared to leave New Zealand for what we thought would be the last time.
On the 6th of May, Elder Grant Bangerter called me to let me know that Milton W. Russon had been called to be the new temple president. Brother Russon was a splendid man, a former stake president, a former regional representative, and a former mission president. I knew him well and felt that he would do fine.
I was the president of the New Zealand temple when I received a phone call from the First Presidency asking me to buy a ticket for my wife and me to fly home for Conference and be sustained to be a member of the Quorum of the Seventy.
After we returned and finished the last three months of our temple mission, a new president was on his way to take my place. I called home to ask who was coming to release us. Always in the history of the Church, a General Authority has been sent to release the old temple president, put in the new presidency, set them apart, and give them the right to preside over that great temple in the Southern Hemisphere.
The General Authority in the Temple Department said, “I don‘t know, I don‘t think anybody is coming.” I reminded him that the new temple president was on his way and that there was a big meeting coming up the next Sunday, that somebody ought to get there. I suggested that there were a couple of General Authorities who were serving in Australia. I told him to please find out who was coming so that an agenda could be prepared for the transition.
In a little while, the same General Authority called back. President Hinckley had said nobody was going to be sent, that there was already a General Authority there. President Hinckley continued, “You tell Glen that he‘s a General Authority. He can release himself and put in the new presidency.” That‘s like asking a bishop to release himself and put in the new bishop! Never been done in the history of the Church! “Are you sure?” I asked. He repeated that President Hinckley just said, “Do it!”
It dawned on me that I wasn‘t just an old high priest. I had been called to a great position, one that had the authority to release the temple president. You should have heard me when I told the large assembly about the great and wonderful things the old president and counselors had accomplished during the last three years!
The [new temple] president had already been set apart in Salt Lake by President Hinckley, but at his request I had selected two good counselors for him, as well as the matrons and assistant matrons. I then set all of them apart to serve in that fine temple.
[Has some repetition:] I had phoned Salt Lake two or three times to see which of the General Authorities would come to New Zealand to take care of the change in leadership. I was finally told by Elder Bangerter that he had visited with President Hinckley, and President Hinckley said, "Tell Glen he is a General Authority. He can preside over the meeting and make the change." So that is exactly what I did. I conducted the meeting and released myself, Sydney Crawford, and Stan Philip from the presidency. I went into some humorous and marvelous detail of the great work that President Crawford, President Philip, I, and our wives had done. It is not often we get to release ourselves, so I did it with a smile. We then had President and Sister Russon speak, as well as Marva who did her usual excellent best. I concluded with some remarks. After having sustained the Russons, Rogers, and Hayes and concluding the meeting, I set the two brethren apart as counselors to President Russon. I asked Pres. Russon to set apart the two wives as assistants to the matron. President Russon and his wife had been set apart in Salt Lake by the First Presidency.
After the meeting was over, there was a reception line where all the people who worked in the temple had a chance to meet the Russons and congratulate the new presidency and their wives.
There was a good feeling and much happiness as that part of our lives' work came to an end. I wrote in my journal that "we have been treated like a king and queen" by the people of New Zealand who honored us greatly. Serving as the temple president and matron in the New Zealand Temple had been a special, wonderful blessing for us. We had never been closer to the Lord or had any experiences more wonderful than what we had in that beautiful temple in the land we loved so much.
I learned, while in the temple, that life can be like heaven. The missionaries and regular workers in the temple are lifted up out of the world and it reflects in everything they think and do. I learned more patience than ever before in the temple. Things don't necessarily have to move in a fast way. I learned that I didn't always need to rush. I learned that spirituality is a gift that comes to those who deserve it most and is probably never exceeded anywhere other than in a busy, active, spiritual temple.