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Hong Kong Temple begins to rise -- Rendering shows temple as part of a five-story edifice

The architect's rendering of the Hong Kong Temple, an elegant edifice topped by a gold-colored dome and statue of the Angel Moroni, has been released by the First Presidency.

High stylized windows and ornamented walls characterize the Hong Kong colonial architecture of the multiple-use building. The building will rise five stories above the plaza.Included within the structure will be the temple in the top three stories. The baptismal font, supported by 12 statues of oxen, will be below the plaza level. Parking will be provided in the two lower levels.

A meetinghouse, mission offices, apartments for the temple president and the mission president, and a small outlet of Beehive Clothing will be housed in other areas of the building.

The site is in Kowloon Tong on the Kowloon Peninsula, a suburb of Hong Kong where a meetinghouse and mission offices and quarters were previously located. It is about a five minutes' walk from the nearest mass transit station.

The exterior of the building is clad in a light-colored granite, and the main plaza level is described as a very pleasant rose-colored granite. The entrance to the temple will be through the mostly open plaza beneath the building. A separate entrance for the mission offices and meetinghouse will be on another side of the building.

The Hong Kong Temple was announced in general conference in October 1992 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency. Ground was broken for the temple about a year ago on Jan. 22, 1994, by Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy and president of the Asia Area.

Construction on the project since then has brought the building to two floors above the ground, with the lower levels being mostly completed.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Elder Carmack observed that the start of a temple marked the "third great historic event for China and Hong Kong." He said the first great event was the dedication of China, of which Hong Kong was then a part, for the preaching of the gospel by then-Elder David O. McKay of the Council of the Twelve on Jan. 9, 1921. Elder McKay offered the dedicatory prayer within the walls of the "Forbidden City," the former home of emperors and nobility.

The second great event was when Elder Matthew Cowley of the Council of the Twelve led a group of Church members on July 14, 1949, to what is known as the Peak, the highest point overlooking the city of Hong Kong. There Elder Cowley and Henry Aki, a native of China, offered prayers opening missionary work.

"What we do here is spiritually significant and historic as we break ground and start the Hong Kong Temple," Elder Carmack said. "This day will loom large for Hong Kong and all of Asia."

The temple will serve the 18,400 members of the Church in the Hong Kong Mission and five stakes: Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong Kowloon, Hong Kong Kowloon North, Hong Kong Kowloon West and Hong Kong New Territories.

The prospect of having a temple in Hong Kong has come after many years of missionary work. The first missionaries to Hong Kong were Hosea Stout, James Lewis and Chapman Duncan, who arrived in Hong Kong April 27, 1853. The four stayed only four months, however, finding it difficult to learn the language and teach the people.

A century later, a mission was opened in Hong Kong in 1949 with Hilton A. Robertson as president of the new China Mission. The first two missionaries in this mission were H. Grant Heaton and William K. Paalani. They arrived Feb. 25, 1950. Three converts were baptized Dec. 31, 1950, and soon an average of 30 people attended weekly meetings. Work in Hong Kong was interrupted by the Korean War and did not reopen until 1955, when H. Grant Heaton returned as president of the new Southern Far East Mission. By November of that year, two branches had been created.

Four years later, there were 91 full-time foreign and 12 full-time local missionaries serving, with eight branches and a membership of about 1,700.

Membership grew to 3,000 over the next five years, but continuing emigration took a heavy toll on both membership and leadership. A district was established in 1965. That same year, the Book of Mormon was printed in Chinese, and membership began to increase. The first meetinghouse was completed in 1966. In 1971, the Hong Kong Mission was realigned to serve just the Hong Kong area. The first stake was organized April 25, 1976, with a membership of 3,410. By 1986, membership had grown to 12,200 members in four stakes.

The Kowloon West stake was created in March 1994. At the time, Elder Carmack commented, "These days of uncertainties and concerns in Hong Kong are also the most exciting days in the history of the Church in Hong Kong. We should all thank the Lord that we are permitted to be here to witness the history unfold."