News Release

Devotional Celebrating the Dedication of the Okinawa Temple

“Two Towers” support the unique Okinawan church community.

On Friday, November 10, 2023, two days before the dedication of the Japan Okinawa Temple, a devotional, welcoming Elder and Sister Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held at the Okinawa Ward (Okinawa Military District), adjacent to the Okinawa Temple. The event was also broadcast to all units in the Okinawa Temple District and viewed by members from around the region.

The Okinawa Ward welcomed Elder Stevenson, along with Elder and Sister Takashi Wada, president of the Asia North Area; the Futenma Ward welcomed Elder and Sister John A. McCune, first counselor of the Area Presidency; the Naha Ward welcomed Elder and Sister J. Kimo Esplin, second counselor; and the Itoman Ward welcomed Elder and Sister Hiroyuki Domon, Area Seventy, each watching the event remotely, with the members from each unit.

English and Japanese-speaking members attended in every building side-by-side, and all were excited to welcome an apostle to Okinawa. Original members of the first Okinawa Stake Presidency sat on the front row of the Matsumoto Chapel, where they were greeted personally by Elder and Sister Stevenson as they arrived that evening.

President Mark R. Francis, Okinawa Military District, conducted the meeting, with President Hajime Miyara of the Okinawa Japan Stake also on the stand. The devotional program began with an elegant Ryukyu dance, performed by Sister Yuka Taketomi. Youth from the Okinawa Stake and the Military District shared their testimonies, followed by a hymn sung by the Young Single Adult and Missionary Joint Choir. Primary children from both the stake and the district sang, "I Love to See the Temple," first in Japanese and then in English, providing a beautiful symbol of the two Church congregations on the island. “Both are the future of the church,” Elder Stevenson later said, “The sight of Americans and Japanese people singing together symbolizes the future of Okinawa, which will support one temple together.”

Elder Wada introduced the pioneers and leaders who have been instrumental in building the history of the church in Okinawa. Among them was Brother Willis L. Wright (93), one of the first missionaries to land in Okinawa in 1956. Brother Wright served as the first branch president in Okinawa when he was serving as a full-time missionary. He has continued learning Japanese for more than 67 years, and says, “I testify that if we receive grace by the Holy Ghost, if we live faithfully, that gift will not be lost at all. That is why I am still able to speak a little bit of Japanese.”

The power of the two towers that support the suspension bridge

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Elder Stevenson was the concluding speaker. He showed photos depicting the construction process of Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge, which he says is his favorite bridge. He talked about the two towers that support the suspension bridge. The project began with the construction of two huge towers. Wires were stretched between them, and a two-tiered deck was hung. “Think about the importance of the two towers of a suspension bridge,” he said, “In English this is referred to as the ‘Power of Tower’.”

Quoting Jesus Christ, Elder Stevenson shared, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.” (Matt. 22:37-39) “And just as the weight of an entire huge suspension bridge rests on two towers,” he said, “I want you to remember that the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Elder Stevenson continued, “Just as the two towers of a bridge are supported by wires, these two commandments are interconnected.” He encouraged each member, both adults and children, to begin building bridges of faith in their own lives, by keeping the commandments, loving God, and loving their neighbors.

Referring to the “unique” Okinawa Temple District, Elder Stevenson provided another perspective on the parable of the “two towers.” The newly dedicated temple serves both the Japan Okinawa Stake and the Japan Okinawa Military District. As the two are united by the temple's purpose, then Latter-day Saints from diverse cultures and experiences can be united in the right spirit. “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18) “This is what we want to be like in Okinawa,” Elder Stevenson admonished, “It is my hope that both the Japan Okinawa Stake and the Okinawa Military District can support these two towers, with hearts united, towering up into the heavens.”

Elder Stevenson concluded his comments, promising that as the members attend the temple, they will see this righteous unity increase. He then shared his testimony, and the devotional ended. Afterwards, members and missionaries attending in the Okinawa Ward had the opportunity to shake hands and visit briefly with Elder Stevenson and Elder Wada, along with their wives. Those attending in the other locations also had an opportunity to visit with the area leaders.

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