Thursday, September 19, 2019

Dedication of Indonesia for Preaching of the Gospel

Puncak (meaning hill, mountain, peak or summit in Indonesian) is a tea growing, mountainous area south of the cities of Jakarta and Bogor that was best known in the past as a cool retreat for Dutch colonialists and is best known today as a fun weekend escape for Jarkartans—complete with a Safari-like zoo and other attractions. For Mormons it is also known as the place where on October 26, 1969, Elder Ezra Taft Benson dedicated the land of Indonesia for the preaching of the gospel.
The participants in the dedication left Jakarta at 6:00 AM for the drive south. As they went to leave, Elder Benson asked Sister Hardy if she would sing a solo prior to his dedicatory prayer. In a letter to her family she described what followed: “I don’t have to tell you how frightened I was. Not only hadn’t I chosen and practiced a song but also it would have to be accapella. During the drive out I thumbed through my little hymnbook like crazy. Finally I turned to ‘As the Dews from Heav’n Distilling and the words seemed perfect for the occasion.”

Back row: (l to r) Carlos Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, Ernest Tungka, Marvin Harding or Wilford Kirton, Sutrisno, Dennis Butler, driver?

Middle row: Ludy VanderHoeven, Brent Hardy, Eileen Hardy, Flora Benson, Ezra Taft Benson, , Dorothy Wendel, Raymond Wendel, LaVon Smith, Karen Cornelius, Don Cornelius, Pete Grimm.

Front row: Debbie VanderHoeven, her friend, VanderHoeven, Barbara Wendel, Jeffery Butler and VanderHoeven.

Church reps: Marvin Harding (Manager of Construction Services LDS Church) and Wilford Kirton (General Counsel of the LDS Church)

Once at the Canadian bungalow they headed up into the hills. The final path was a single dirt track lined with banana plants and other tropical vegetation. The dedication site looked down on agricultural villages and fields and up to higher forested mountains. It had rained the night before and so “the ground was wet and shiny.” Gathered together that day from Salt Lake City were Elder and Sister Benson, Elder and Sister McConkie, Wilford Kirton and Marvin Harding (Manager of Construction Services LDS Church). Joining them were President and Sister Smith and President and Sister Hardy. Accompanying these church leaders was Pete Grimm from Manila. Also attending the dedication were the local latter-day Saints: Dennis Butler (his wife Vernene stayed home to take care of a sick son) and his son Jeffery, Ludy VanderHoeven (his wife Toontje stayed home to take care of a new born son), Raymond and Dorothy Wendel and their daughter Barbara, and Don and Karen Cornelius. The lone Indonesian Mormon was recently baptized Sutrisno. Rounding out the congregation was Ernest Tangku, an Indonesian naval officer and brother-in-law of Jan Walandouw (it is not known why Walandouw did not attend). Tangku was a good friend of the church and would later be baptized along with his wife. Ernie, as he was called, was the only man to wear a suit coat, all of the temperate climate visitors who were not so accustomed to the tropical heat opted to just wear white shirts without a suit coat. One of the Indonesian drivers also attended the meeting.
The meeting started at 8:30 as grey clouds loomed above looking like they would burst open at any moment. Instead they parted and “the sun poured down” on the gathering. Elder Benson presided at the meeting and Elder McConkie conducted. Karen Cornelius led them in singing “An Angel From On High” which tells of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the latter-day restoration of the gospel. Branch President Butler then gave the invocation. They then sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” which Elder McConkie explained proclaimed the divinity of Christ, which he said, was in keeping with the central message of the gospel.
Elder McConkie then offered the first remarks. He explained that when a land was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel, it really meant that they were “dedicating the resources of the Church and the talents and abilities of the members of the Church to spread the gospel in that nation.” He quoted from Doctrine and Covenant 1:4-5 noting that “the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples…And they shall go forth and none shall stay them.” He then explained that there “will be problems to solve and difficulties will arise, but through it all the work will advance and progress and grow and increase” in Indonesia and elsewhere “until finally the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the seas.”
President Hardy then spoke. He referred to the Old Testament prophecy of Daniel about a stone being cut without hands out of a mountain and rolling forth and filing the earth. He explained that what was transpiring that day was part of that great rolling forth. It will not be easy, he said, “but it will succeed.” He continued: “As we rode up this morning I looked at the many hundreds and thousands of people that we passed by. They were going about their daily work, selling bananas and pineapples, taking tickets on buses, driving their ox carts, their little horse carts, washing their clothes, unaware of what was taking place in their great country on the twenty-sixth of October 1969. They have had many great things happen in their country, many heart-breaking things, many momentous things, many historical things. But the event that you and I, the few of us here today, the event that we are participating in today, is the greatest thing that has happened to Indonesia, and yet so few, this few here, know about it. But that won’t always be the case. The message, the responsibility, is now to see that every man and woman and child knows why we’re here. That we’re here because the Lord has commanded us to be here.”
President Smith, who would begin to preside over Indonesia with the creation of the Southeast Asia Mission on November 1st, then spoke. A new-comer to the region, he began by stating: “My mind is at ease and my soul is peaceful. I’m grateful to the Lord that I have his assurance that what is being done here today is his will. I’ve had a great deal of anxiety about coming [to] this part of the world, and all of my fears have been alleviated since coming here.” He then confessed that he was sort of a rebellious spirit who liked to take shortcuts and that he wondered why Elder Benson would want to travel two hours out of town for the dedication when it could easily have been done at a park in Jakarta. Being at that mountainous spot, with its view down on fields of rice and corn, he now could see why. Like the others before him, Smith testified that what was happening that day was the will and work of the Lord.
Sister Hardy then sang “As the Dew from Heaven Distilling” which was penned by early Mormon missionary and apostle Parley P. Pratt.
As the dew from heaven distilling
Gently on the grass descends
And revives it, thus fulfilling
What thy providence intends,
Let thy doctrine, Lord, so gracious,
Thus descending from above,
Blest by thee, prove efficacious
To fulfill thy work of love.
Lord, behold this congregation;
Precious promises fulfill;
From thy holy habitation
Let the dews of life distill.
Let our cry come up before thee;
Thy sweet Spirit shed around,
So the people shall adore thee
And confess the joyful sound.
Ezra Taft Benson was the concluding speaker. He related how this was the fourth time he had been asked by President McKay to dedicate a land for the preaching of the gospel: Finland in 1946, Italy in 1965 and Singapore just a few months earlier. He then stated: “I think that never before have I felt so completely sure that we’re opening the door to a very fruitful field. I have already come to love these people as I’ve watched them, as I’ve talked with them, as I’ve learned a little more about them. And I have every confidence that the Lord will bless us and those who come here, and that there will be a rich harvest come from this great country.  The Church will prosper, branches will be raised up, districts will be organized, and I’m sure some day a great mission of the Church will center in these islands alone. These are good people and I’m sure the Lord loves them and He wants them to have the truth.”
He then quoted another hymn of Parley P. Pratt: “The Morning Breaks; the Shadows Flee” which also speaks of the restoration of the gospel with phrases like “the dawning of a brighter day” and “the glory bursting from afar, Wide o’er the nations soon will shine.” He then quoted from Doctrine and Covenants Section 1 verse 1 which states: “Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.” Benson then expressed how since arriving in Indonesia he had thought about that scripture “time and time again.” He then explained: “There’s no nation in the world that has more islands than this nation, and I am sure that they are going to listen together because, as the revelation continues, “For the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape.’” Thus the gospel of Jesus Christ “must go to the wonderful people of these islands” and “I expect with great confidence and assurance that the work will grow and prosper here in these islands among this good people, that the Lord will raise up good friends for the Church. He’s already demonstrated that in a most remarkable manner. He’ll raise up further friends for the Church among high officials of government, men of influence, as well as among the humble and sweet characters of these islands. So I have no fear but what the Gospel will prosper and the work of the Lord will grow and increase in this wonderful nation.”
Benson expressed “gratitude to the Lord” on behalf of all in attendance “for the manner in which the way has been made open that we could come here today.”  He then suggested that it might be fitting if Latter-day Saints, like they have done in other counties, would come to the site of the dedication once a year “and have a little service and thank the Lord again for opening the door to this great nation of 130 million people” (Such a return visit has yet to happen). He then proceeded to offer the dedicatory prayer.
In the prayer Elder Benson expressed gratitude for the beautiful setting, for the restoration for the gospel, for the growth of the Church throughout the world, and for the blessings that come through the organization of the Church. Then, citing his authority from President David O. MacKay, the First Presidency and the Council of the twelve Apostles, he dedicated the land including its “physical properties” and “the good people who live here” for “Thy great work’ and for “the accomplishment of Thy purposes for the spread of Thy great Gospel.”
He then invoked a blessing on the people of Indonesia petitioning that “the scales of darkness drop from their eyes that they may have vision and the spirit of discernment and may be able to see clearly, when the Gospel is presented to them, the step that they should take.” He expressed gratitude for the kindness of the leaders and prayed that they would be rewarded for the help they rendered. As a well-known opponent of communism, Benson then prayed:
“This Great nation has come through a very critical and crucial period, Father. They are lovers of freedom. And thou knowest, Holy Father, that the gospel can only prosper in an atmosphere of freedom. Thou knowest the insidious influences that are at work here in the earth. Counterfeits to the Gospel that would destroy Thy work. Thou knowest, Holy Father, that the fight we have now is but a continuation of the War in Heaven. Will Thou, Holy Father, hedge up the way of the adversary in this great country, that the great godless communist conspiracy may have no influence here, that people may not have to further shed blood in order to oppose this great evil.”
He then prayed that through the love of the Holy Ghost, the people would receive a witness of the “mission of Thy Beloved Son and the ministry of the Prophet Joseph.” He also prayed that they would understand the nature of God’s divine personality and receive a testimony that God is their father and that His son Jesus Christ is their Savior and Redeemer.
Benson’s experience as the U.S. Secretary of the Agriculture then seems to influence the tone of his prayer when he prays that “their land may be productive” and that the “movement of pests and disease among their crops” be impeded. He also prayed that there would be an increase in scientific knowledge, in the establishment of industries and in their standard of living.
As he concluded his dedicatory prayer, Elder Benson prayed for those who would receive the gospel that they would have a desire to pay their tithing, to maintain the standards of the Church and to live the gospel fully. He also prayed for the mission presidents and the missionaries who would serve in Indonesia and that the work would prosper with “thousands upon thousands, yea hundreds of thousands” being brought to a “knowledge of the truth.”
The dedicatory service then concluded with a song, “We thank Thee O God for a Prophet,” followed by a closing prayer by Pete Grimm. As the meeting ended the clouds rolled in with rain beginning to fall as the last cars were loaded.[1]

Navy Colonel Ernest Tungka[2] was one of only three Indonesians present at the dedicatory service and the only man wearing a suit coat. At the time he was regularly attending LDS Church services, but was not yet a member of the Mormon Church. Ten months after the dedication he wrote how he came to be a Mormon. The dedication service played an important part of the process. He wrote:
“One Sunday morning my cousin Jan Walandouw, invited me to attend church with him. This was the first time I had attended any kind of a church service for many months. I felt I had lost all faith in my own church. It just didn’t have what I wanted or what I needed. So with a desire to find something new, I went to church with my cousin and his family.”
“The church we attended was named [T]he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After the first meeting, I truly felt attracted to this new church. A real joy and happiness existed among the small group here in Djakarta. There was something different about these people, something that I wanted.”
“I [became] very interested in the life of Joseph Smith. It amazed me to think that a young boy of 14 years of age had received a visit from God because of his desire to know the truth. I was really impressed when I heard of the trials and tribulations of the Prophet Joseph Smith and that he never denied his testimony, even unto death.”
“Every Sunday as I returned home from church, I had the most wonderful feeling inside. It seemed like the Holy Ghost was telling me that this is something different and wonderful.”
“When I learned about the Word of Wisdom, it was very easy for me to give up my bad habits. My friends were all surprised and they asked me, ‘How can you just suddenly stop drinking and stop smoking?’ I told them it was very easy when you wake up to the fact that these things destroy your health and that God has forbidden us to use them.”
“I was really touched by the Spirit of the Lord when Elder Benson, an Apostle of the Lord, came to Indonesia. It was on that mountain top that I really gained a testimony that the Church was true. I had no doubt in my mind that this was Christ’s church.”
“Week by week, month by month, my testimony grew stronger and stronger. Finally I knew that I couldn’t hold back any longer. I knew that my time had come, so I asked to be baptized. On the 16th of August 1970, I became a member of the church. I bear you my testimony of these things.”  Col. Ernest Tungka[3]
________end side bar

From Puncak they all returned to the Jakarta home of the Butlers for a Sacrament meeting which 39 people attended. How long the meeting lasted is uncertain, but it most likely was longer than normal given the list of speakers: Brothers Butler, Wendel, Harding, Kirton, Grimm, McConkie, Smith, Hardy and Benson (in that order). Prayers were offed by Brothers VanderHoeven and Sutrisno. Sister Hardy provided another impromptu solo of “I Need Thee Every Hour” and Rurie Tungka, the wife of Ernie Tungka, led the congregation in singing a rest hymn of “I Need the Every Hour.”
In his journal entry for that day, President Hardy wrote: “After my first visit in January this year I was not too optimistic about the prospects here, but now look forward to significant success here. However it will most likely come after periods of turmoil. The present government had noble intent. But it is difficult to make changes in the fundamental fabric of society. And who knows what power will do to the men who have just come to power.”
That evening the Salt Lake guests and mission presidents flew on to Singapore to begin setting up mission headquarters there. After a day of looking at property for a mission home and a church, President Hardy informed Sister Hardy that Elder Benson had requested a report of the dedication. President Hardy assumed he wanted it before he flew out the next morning so while Hardy wrote the report, Sister Hardy listened to a tape of the dedicatory service while writing it up in shorthand. Once written down she then stayed up until 5:30 AM getting everything typed and ready for Elder Benson. [4]
Two days later, on Tuesday October 28th, Elder Benson formally created the Southeast Asia Mission out of the Southern Far East Mission at a special branch and mission conference in Singapore.[5]  

[1] Brent Hardy Journal of the Southern Far East Mission History 1968-1971.
[2] In a listing of famous people form North Sulawesi, Ernest Tungka is identified as being the founder of Indonesia’s navy and the Assistant Governor of the Navy War College.
[3] Tungka, Ernest. “A Man’s Own Story,” Echo Asia. August 1970, p. 7.
[4] Brent Hardy October 26, 1969 journal entry
[5] Franklin Willard December 13, 1969 journal entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment