Long ago travelers sought permission from landowners before leaving their boats and standing on Fijian soil. They received a ceremonial welcome before feasting with the locals.
This tradition continued Feb. 19 when President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, arrived in Fiji. Traveling to the Nausori Fiji Stake Center he was welcomed first in the parking lot — as travelers of old were welcomed on the sea —and then in an official ceremony inside the stake center — as travelers in the past were welcomed once they reached Fijian land.
During an official ceremony President Eyring received a whale's tooth, a valued gift in ceremonial presentations, and mats.
“I feel so honored today,” said President Eyring to those performing the traditional welcome ceremony. “And I know who you are honoring. You are honoring the prophet of God who assigned me to be here.”
He told the group of local Latter-day Saints and dancers that he would report to President Thomas S. Monson all the wonderful things he experienced in Fiji.
“I have felt the love of God coming from you to me,” he said.
He also told the local Latter-day Saints that the Lord is pleased with their faithfulness. “There is a temple of God here because of your faith.”
He left a special blessing with the Church members in Fiji. “I leave you my blessing — a blessing of peace, a blessing of love, a blessing of prosperity enough to care for your families and do the things God would have you do for others.”
President Eyring said this was not his first visit to Fiji. He received the welcome ceremony once before and has never forgotten the spirit of God that resides in the Pacific island nation, he said.
“You are wonderful people and children of God. He has remembered you.”
President Alipate Tagidugu of the Nausori Fiji Stake played an important role in the traditional welcome ceremony and said he felt honored to be near President Eyring. “I am blessed,” he said, noting that this was his last welcome ceremony for a Church leader before being released as a stake president.
The chiefs of Fiji have performed the traditional ceremony numerous times in the rich history of this Pacific island nation, he said.
Now the ceremony was performed for President Eyring “because he represents the prophet and the Lord,” said President Tagidugu.
President Erying traveled to Fiji to rededicate the Suva Fiji Temple on Feb. 21. Traveling with President Eyring were Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Kent F. Richards, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Temple Department; and members of the Church's Pacific Area Presidency — Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Elder O. Vincent Haleck, and Elder S. Gifford Nielsen all General Authority Seventies.
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