It has been four Sundays since we have been able to attend a regular LDS Church service, so our main plan for today was to find a Hong Kong ward to attend. Thanks to LDS.org we found a few options and addresses. Joining us were Semester at Sea LDS students Emily and Andrea (who join us each Sunday evening on broad for a short, small service). All of the listed English services were in the afternoon so we decided to go to a 1:00 service in Kowloon. I had attended this same chapel a decade ago and figured it might still be a ward primarily for Filipina and Indonesian workers (it still is). In the meantime we decided we would ride the subway north to see the LDS Hong Kong temple and then take another subway to the chapel. When the multi-story, multi-purpose temple was built it included space in the lower floors to be used as a regular meeting place for wards (the Manhattan temple later followed the same pattern). I did not realize until today that a few years ago that chapel space was incorporated into the temple (for locker rooms etc) and that a big LDS chapel was built across the street--which is why I was confused by the addresses listed on lds.org. We left our ship at 10:00 and walked into that chapel at 10:50 to take a look before going to see the temple. To my surprise a Cantonese sacrament meeting was just starting (the last meeting of the three hour block of meetings) and a kind and observant usher welcomed us in and told us that we were welcome to stay and that they had headphones and a translator (a local who served his mission in California) to assist us. Before we knew it we were sitting in two side rows near the front complete with head phones for translation and English language hymn books. We enjoyed good talks on the importance of temples and the worth of prayer in helping to overcome challenges. It was also great to sing. Afterwards we were greeted by many members. One of the elders who welcomed us was from Mapleton, Utah. We then walked across the street to see the temple and to enjoy its small, but lovely garden. While there the Temple President and Matron arrived (they and the mission president have apartments in the building) and came up to greet us. We learned from them that not only does Hong Kong have a sacrament meeting on each day of the week--to accommodate all of the foreign workers (mainly from the Philippines who only have one day off during the week and it is not always a weekend day), but it also has temple sessions on some Sundays for those who only have Sunday off. We all loved this end to our stay in China. The seven of us then had lunch together. We then wound our way back to the ship via Hong Kong's busy streets and a visit to the local temple of Tin Hau-- the local goddess of seafarers. We set sail at 20:00 just as the nightly light display began. It was quite a sight to see so many buildings on both sides of the harbor flash with such a wide assortment of colors and designs.
The Hong Kong temple was announced, planned and constructed all within time between the announcement (1984) that Britain would relinquish control of Hong Kong and the actual return (1997) of Hong Kong to Chinese control (with an agreement that Hong Kong retain its democracy and economic system for 50 years). One day in my world geography class we were discussing British acquisition of Hong Kong as a spoil of the Opium War and its return to PRC control. It was right at the time that LDS President Hinckley had announced (about 1993) that a temple would be built in Hong Kong. One student raised her hand and questioned: “Do you think President Hinckley announced the temple now while Britain was still in control?” Bingo! It was an eye opening realization to her that a prophet of God read the newspaper and knew what was going on in the world and sought heavenly confirmation to build a temple in a transitional land before its return to a religiously restrictive government. The temple was dedicated a year before the return.