Thursday August 26, 2023
For the first time in my life, I am using a Mac Book Pro mini. It packs power in a very small form factor. It is small and rugged. Perfect for travel.
I started the day by working the morning shift at the Draper Utah Temple. Every time I go I feel that my happiness level is boosted. It was great today to welcome two sisters through the veil with beautiful smiles.
It’s 8:25 p.m. at Salt Lake International Airport. I am at gate A27 just east of the center of the airport in what is known as the east extension of Concourse A. This extension was opened recently. This time there was very little walking to my gate. Hurray! The central tunnel has been covered, which is a good sign of progress there.
My flight, Delta 2127, to Los Angeles has been delayed 1 hour and 20 minutes. Soon it became clear that the reason for the delay was that Delta had no crew to man the flight and that we were waiting for a crew arriving from Los Angeles to become our crew. At 9:15 p.m. they announced a crew was coming in shortly from LAX and that they would be manning our flight! There should be just over an hour after we land in LA to change planes for the long Pacific crossing.
I’m both excited as well as a bit concerned about the Open House and Dedication activities. I am excited to be going back to Thailand where I landed fifty years ago this month. I am a bit concerned about things I've heard from different people that suggest not everyone involved in the open house and dedication are on the same page.
I registered to visit the open house four times today. One each for September 1, 2, 4, and 5; though registrations are never required for temple Open Houses.
I’m taking 8 copies of “The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia.” President Burgener with whom I feel I have a great relationship (though we've never met in person) will decide how the books will be distributed.
We came up with a great idea for the open house to allow members and former investigators who attend the open house to search poster boards of former missionaries with their mission photo, current photo, and e-mail address. They could then use the e-mail address to reconnect with former missionaries. Elder Tyler Haslam (no known relation) was going to work with me on this project. The temple department canned the idea saying it was “proselyting” which is no longer allowed with temple open houses.
I’m excited about the Missionary Reunion in Bangkok. It should be a great time. It was just over a year ago that I organized an “Old Heads” missionary reunion outdoors at Draper Park. That said, I have no idea how many former missionaries may be attending but I do know the mission presidents who are scheduled to speak.
I’m also excited to hear Elder Gong speak at the auxiliary building (known in Thailand as the Annex) on Sunday. The chapels are apparently on the first and third floors. I can't wait to explore this massive building.
Friday August 26, 2023
To get to Thailand one travels east or west from the United States. West is a little shorter but east gives you the wind at your back. Singapore Airlines has a flight from Singapore that always goes east. First Singapore to New York and then New York to Singapore. The old Pan American World Airways had two flights Flight 2 going west and Flight 1 going east, both visiting the same cities.
My trip took me west to Los Angeles. The arrival of my flight from Salt Lake was too late to take the air-side shuttle bus to the International Terminal. So I had to walk very fast from Terminal 3 (Delta) to Terminal B (International) and go through screening again. Then I had to find the right gate. I was sweating profusely when I sat on the plane, just about the last one to board. Connecting to a Bangkok Flight from Taipei was simple, but again they had us do a simple screening, even though everyone theoretically had already been screened.
I rode the Boeing 777 from Los Angeles to Taipei. In economy, the seating is 3-4-3. It has just two engines but is very LONG. It seemed to me that the engines were quieter than normal, but perhaps that was because I was sitting in front of the engines. At times they were remarkably quiet. My nephew by marriage is a pilot for Delta. He has flown many aircraft, including the Boeing 777 that he flew from the United States to Australia. He sent a photo of him sitting in the front of one of the engines. I don’t know how he got there but it was an interesting photo. Since then he has opted for shorter routes flying the Airbus 320 series. He has the seniority now that he can choose his routes.
It was before dawn when we arrived in Taipei. After a two-hour layover, we boarded an Air Bus 330 for the trip to Bangkok.
Saturday August 26, 2023
I first arrived in Thailand on August 11, 1973, as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I made my 5th trip to Thailand arriving in Bangkok on August 26, 2023, just a little more than 50 years after my first arrival. My flight from Taipei arrived at about 9:30 a.m. in Bangkok. Suwanaphumi Airport looked like a ghost town. The only airplanes I saw were old Thai International Airlines planes that had been parked all around the airport. The airport seemed deserted, but it must have just been a slow time of the day. After determining which group of transportation providers was the one I had signed up with, I was in a big SUV on the way to the Asoke Residence UHG (not far from the Asoke Chapel).
I hoped to walk around the temple and visit the Auxiliary (Annex) building this afternoon. I don’t like the English word Annex for the building. The original Salt Lake Temple was augmented with what was called the Annex building because it was annexed as a part of the temple itself. The building behind the Bangkok Temple will never be an annex of the temple.
I left the hotel for the 10-minute walk up Asoke, to the Subway Station on the south side of Petchaburi road. I decided to go down into the subway to (a) find cooler air and (b) avoid any crazy drivers at the Asoke-Patchburi intersection. In the Bangkok subway system, they have numerous shops as you walk along on level 1. Coming up the escalator from level 1 I was just around the corner from "Temple Square." The plot of land on which the temple and the auxiliary building were constructed. The plot of land however was anything but square.
I walked around the front side of the temple and arrived at the main entrance to the auxiliary building. The first three floors all have this very nice lobby area in the center of the south side of the buiding. I sat down in the lobby. I introduced myself to a sister sitting nearby. Her response was "You are Reed Haslam. The one who wrote the book?" I affirmed that I was indeed the author.
There is now signage in the Annex Building for the Open House which starts on September 1. The distance between the Temple and the Auxiliary Building is perhaps 30 feet. As usual, the tour of the temple starts at the Stake Center (in this case the Annex Building). Tomorrow I’ll go to the Asoke Ward at 9:00 am and the International Ward at 10:30.
Sunday August 27, 2023
Today it was pure joy to see how much the church has grown in Thailand. After 50 years the country now has four stakes (Bangkok, Bangkok North, Bangkok West, and Ubon) and two districts (Udorn (Northeast) and Chiangmai (North)).
Today I attended sacrament services at the auxiliary building. At 9:00 a.m. I joined the Asoke (Thai) Ward. Former mission president Michael Smith was the first to greet me as we warmly greeted each other. At 11:00 a.m. I attended the International (English) Ward sacrament meeting and Elder's Quorum. The Bishop of the international ward had a distinct British accent as did the two speakers during the meeting. The number of foreigners now working in the Bangkok area is huge, much larger than 25 or 50 years ago. The Bangkok North stake also has an International Ward of its own as well. Two full wards in the Bangkok area are devoted to families of foreigners working in Thailand.
The auxiliary building continues to amaze me. There are two chapels in the building. Both are located center, north side of the building on the first and third floors. Today meetings were held on the third floor as Elder Gong will be speaking in the first-floor chapel this evening.
Later former missions presidents Larry White and Anun Eldredge arrived for the meeting. The current mission president Kelly Burgener also attended and spoke at the meeting. The first two Thai speakers spoke for over 15 minutes each. That alone was impressive. Too bad they spoke at such a pace that I understood little of what they said. President Burgener spoke at a pace where I understood a lot more of what he said, which of course was more enjoyable. This may have been the first time four Thailand Bangkok mission presidents were together in one room.
Next was the International Ward’s meeting. I met Anun Eldredge (the first Thai to serve as a missionary and mission president). He greeted me warmly. I was shocked to find that the chapel and the overflow area (about half the size of the overflow (gym) in the United States was also full! ) Some couples planning to be temple workers, transferred their membership records to Thailand and recently augmented the size of the international ward. Nonetheless, it was the largest audience I’ve ever seen at a sacrament service in Thailand. Fifty years ago the International Branch had only 30-50 foreign members (mostly U.S. military personnel) that were living in Bangkok.
The Senior missionaries in the Bangkok area attend one of these wards. In my day we had no senior missionaries. For half of my mission, there are also no sister missionaries. Thailand had yet to be certified as an appropriate place for Sister missionaries to serve. While some of the International Ward is composed of American families there are many others including British and Chinese. A young man sat behind me who was in town because he works for Western Digital Corporation and their disk drives are manufactured in Thailand. He was just on a business trip from the United States.
After the sacrament meeting, I met up with Dave Rockwood. He’s been doing business in Thailand for over 25 years. We went off to the Elder’s Quorum. Things were confusing today since we were using the third rather than the first floor and the layout of the other rooms on the third floor was different than the first floor. It took a good 15 minutes to get the second-hour meetings started. The instructor spoke on the topic of making commitments to temple attendance.
At the end of the meeting, Elder Tyler Haslam came up and introduced himself to me. We had been connected through President Burgener several months ago. He showed me his genealogy which ties him to the Haslams who settled in Cache Valley. Mine are the Haslam’s that settled in North Salt Lake. That said, both lines go back to the Manchester England area, thus joining at some point.
After the meetings, I was able to have lunch at the nearby FX hotel with President Eldredge, his wife, and David Rookwood. Mark Tippets and his wife were at a nearby table as well with Brother and Sister White. I learned a tremendous amount about Dave’s business acumen over the next several hours. Later Mark Tippets joined us. Our discussion lasted until 4:45 p.m. when it was decided that it was time to walk back to the auxiliary building for the 6:00 p.m. meeting with Elder Gong.
The chapel on the first floor was about one-third full when we arrived. David Rockwood shared with me some crazy things that he experienced on his mission. These included a snake bite, and riding his bike into a canal when the board bridge over it failed.
At 5 minutes to the hour, the church authorities came in with their spouses for the meeting. The speakers included Elder Johnson (of the Asia Area Presidency and former Mission president in Thailand) the stake Presidents of the three stakes in the Bangkok area, and the current mission president, followed by Sister Gong and Elder Gong. Their translators did a good job translating their messages into Thai, that task is not simple!
Did you notice that Temple President Wisit Khanakham was not on the stand during the meeting?
Among Elder Gong's remarks were, (1) the blessings of the Temple will bring you joy, (2) they will bind you to Jesus Christ, and they will link families together. After the meeting, he offered to personally greet anyone who wanted to meet him in the courtyard outside between the Temple and the Auxiliary Building.
Monday, August 28, 2023
Today was "FUN DAY." I took the MRT (Subway) and the Sky Train to the Paragon Shopping Center. The center is far bigger than the City Creek Center in Salt Lake City. It's got all kinds of high-end merchandise for sale. During my 2006 visit, I saw a movie there. Back then they had these recliner lounges where you could almost lay flat. Those have been replaced with large leather chairs. I saw two movies. One was a Korean Film called the "Moon". It was a fictional story of Korea's second manned mission to the moon. [Recently Korea landed an unmanned at the south pole of the moon]. This mission also targeted the South Pole. It was suspenseful, but as the end approached the doability of rescuing the lone astronaut in the manner portrayed was surely not feasible. It was fun at times to read the Thai script on the screen. I've found that the new curvy font for Thai is hard for me to read.
Not realizing there are two Sky Train lines at Siam Station and that each platform has one-side for the Silom Line and another for the Sukhumvit Line, I was a little mixed up about the train I first boarded. I got on the Silom line returning to my hotel. I should have taken the Sukhumvit line. That made for a bit of creativity to get back to Petchaburi station (part of the MRT (Subway)). The MRT Blue Line now makes a complete circular trip around Bangkok and the Silom line intersects with it at Si Lom station.
Brother Wisan posted the official video from the Church of the inside of the Thailand Bangkok Temple , which was released today just as I had expected. Brother Suchart had told me endowment rooms have 22 seats. As best I could tell from the video, that is the correct number. However, when I first toured the inside of the temple I realized the correct number in 28. There are probably two endowment rooms. This number compares to 96 at the Jordan River Temple and 48 at the Draper Utah Temple. The Jordan River Temple has six endowment rooms while Draper has just two. I doubt Jordan River ever fills the seats, but right after the new movie was released in February it almost did as temple workers were asked to see it as soon as possible. I conducted one session that first week. I made a few mistakes, but truly the biggest risk for temple workers conducting sessions is now falling asleep.Tuesday, August 29, 2023 - Day 1 of VIP Temple Tours
Former Mission Presidents Larry R. White and Michael Smith were tasked with doing the VIP tours of the temple which started today. Since I was not involved, I decided to take a nighttime boat tour on the Chao Phraya River. The boat I selected was a new and large vessel, which departed from the River City shopping center at the edge of the river. It was pretty straightforward. Subway from Petcaburi to Sukumvit. Sky Train from Asoke to Siam. The other sky train from Siam to Saphan Tuksin and then a short boat trip up river to River City. It was simple, except for getting off the boat taxi at River City. The subway and sky trains are so well organized regarding letting others depart before new riders get on. Unfortunately, the river ferry was not so well organized. People were getting on as I was trying to get off. The boat powered up to leave the dock so I jumped off and fell. I suffered a scrape just below my knee and cut open my pants (about 3 inches) at that location. I walked from the dock to River City. They had a drug store so I got bandages for my wound.
When the boat pulled up, my jaw dropped, The vessel was HUGE! On the door, it read maximum guest capacity 500! I had traveled on the river before to a small theatre for a Thai play and then returned, I had seen the Buddhist landmarks all lit up at night and wanted to repeat the experience.
The buffet stretched for many feet in the three sections of the cabin. There was everything you might expect and then some. They had a cake-like pastry in three flavors that melted in your mouth. They offered a spicy noodle dish that tested the limits of my spice level. They had prawns that we so big I failed to figure out how to get to the meet. They had mutsamun strew, sorry fields not the dish most of us love. They had a band with vocalists. They had an open-air deck where when we approached one bridge they asked everyone to duck so that this one bridge would not hit us in the head.
Wednesday, August 30, 2023 - Day 2 of VIP Temple Tours
In the morning I decided to check out the Terminal 21 Shopping Center. This mega-mall is located near the intersection of Sukhumvit Road and Soi Asoke, thus it is only one subway stop away. This high-end shopping center is not as big as Paragon, but at 6 stories it is still huge. Seeing a Subway store listed in the directory, I decided to see if it compared to home. I thought chicken teriyaki ought to be safe. It was good, but could not match home.
I found another home favorite "Cold Stone" and had to try that. The strawberry sundae was nice but again could not match home.
At about 3:00 p.m. President Burgener texted me and said this afternoon would be a good time for me to come visit him. At about the same time, it started to rain outside. I decided to wait for the storm to pass by before taking the 10-minute walk to the auxiliary building. About 40 minutes later it seemed to be about over and local Doppler radar confirmed that it should end soon. As I left my hotel I packed all eight books in my carry-on bag and departed. I decided to take a hotel umbrella with me. Light rain continued all the way. As I entered the subway, the guard at the screening station put my umbrella in a cover so that water did not continue to drop from it to the floor. I left the umbrella in the umbrella stand at when I reached the auxiliary building at parking level 1. It has become standard practice for me to walk down the west side of the temple to the underground parking lot to enter the auxiliary building
From the first time I interacted with President Burgener, I've felt friendship. Today was no different. I asked "Do you work 18 hours a day 7 days a week?" He responded, "Yeah that's about right." Clearly, the Lord supports his efforts to keep up that pace continually.
While at the office I met Elder Tyler Haslam from Tennessee. He's the only other Haslam I've known to serve in Thailand. His line goes back to Haslams in Cache Valley Utah, mine to the Haslams in North Salt Lake. Both lines go back to Manchester England "The Home of the Haslams." Elder Haslam (2022 edition) is serving as an assistant to President Burgener.
Thursday, August 31, 2023 - Day 3 of VIP Temple Tours
As you know I am part of the media having published books. So on Media Day, I received a special VIP tour of the Bangkok Thailand Temple. Okay, that's not the reason. Former Mission President Michael Smith invited me to join a small group tour with him.
The Bangkok Thailand Temple is much smaller than it appears. Everything in Bangkok is vertically oriented, as the price per square meter of land is extraordinary. The temple is that way too. While it is tall, it is not very deep, probably not more than 150 feet (46 m).
The inside is beautiful. The colors in the carpet on the ground floor were awesome. There's the recommend desk, visitor waiting area, offices, and the baptistry. The water in the baptistry was clean and clear. Brother Walker had mentioned to me that the water throughout the complex was clean and ready to drink! Skipping floors 2 and 3 which I am told are dressing rooms only, we arrive at the fourth floor. This floor accommodates two endowment rooms (each with 28 seats), the celestial room, and two sealing rooms (one large and one small). The Lotus flower theme is a bit modern in the glass but stands out better in other representations.
My eyes watered up as I contemplated the blessing that many in Indochina would receive at the Bangkok Thailand Temple. It only took 50 years after I arrived as a missionary for this to become a reality. My heart rejoices.
Several of the VIP visitors brought flowers, that were distributed around the auxiliary building.
Friday, September 1, 2023 - First Day of the Public Open House
I was at the temple this morning for the opening of the public open house. There were lots of old heads (old returned missionaries and some younger heads there as well. Soon the classroom where they were to show the introductory movie was full, so they moved us and others to the chapel on the 1st floor for the movie presentation.
The movie is rather long, well over 10 minutes. Once the movie ended, they started to pull rows of people. out of the chapel for the tour. To utilize the elevator going up suggested breaking everyone into groups that would fit in a single elevator (about 14 people), so they did that. Everything flowed well from then on. Unlike the VIP tour, we took an elevator to the third floor. Here we did see the bride's room and some of the sisters' locker area. The bride's room seems to be a must-see on every temple tour. From here we climbed the stairs to the 4th floor where the ordinances except initiatory are performed.
The signage was excellent in Thai and English. You could take extra time in a room as you felt necessary, as was done at the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple Open House. Just as we finished on the fourth floor, there were my new best friends Elder and Sister Tippets. Elder Tippets suggested that I take his place for a few minutes by opening the door to the stairway to return visitors to the ground floor, which I did, and then just hung around to help for the rest of the 9 a.m.-1 p.m. shift.
During my visit to Bangkok, I became acquainted with five Facebook Friends whom I had never met in person. The way that happened of course was that they introduced themselves to me. I think I have 200 or more Thai Facebook friends that I have never met in person. These chance meetings of course were simply delightful.
The opening hour and a half was busy, but things slowed down after that while picking up during the lunch hour.
Congratulations to the Temple Open House Committee for coming up with a solid plan to make it possible for people to see all the usual areas one sees at a temple open house and doing so in a very vertical temple.
The Missionary Reunion - The Oldest Chapel - Asoke
September 1st was the Bangkok All Mission Reunion event at the old Asoke meeting house. The first-ever reunion to which all former missionaries were invited.
The missionary reunion was held at the Asoke Chapel, just a ten-minute walk from Temple Square. I was told that the auxiliary building could not be used for this event because the Temple Department prohibited it. The Asoke Chapel was completed in 1972, with local funds mostly coming from Latter-day Saints who lived and worked in the Bangkok area during the war in Vietnam. The mission offices were moved to a new second-floor addition in 1976. I visited the chapel as it probably won't be around much longer. It has now passed fifty years of service.
I arrived a couple of minutes past 5:00 p.m. after a very short walk from my hotel. The original event was to include a check-in to receive a name tag. Hey, that's the way we do it in the States, but there were no name tags.
I've never been to a mission reunion before where the program started with one and a half hours of speakers, but this one did.
At about 5:22 p.m. Elder Chaichana started the meeting, The Asoke Chapel and overflow were almost full at this point. He invited any missionaries who arrived before President Morris to come to the stand and they all had a chance to say a few words.
As the Area Authority Seventy living in Thailand, he shared his view of the growth of the church in Thailand and the importance of the new Bangkok Thailand Temple. He spoke of the long wait it has been for there to be a temple in Bangkok. He was baptized in 1976 the year after I returned home. His wife was baptized before I first arrived.
Next, he played a video presentation of the history of the church in Thailand, featuring many photos that I knew well, and adding a few new ones I had never seen. The presentation included the times various cities were opened. When it came to President Morris's time the list of opened cities was lengthy and included the city I opened "Chaoengsao" which was closed six months after I left and I doubt has ever been opened again. Eventually, the presentation got past 2012, the year my book was printed and then the material was all new.
Following him he invited three mission presidents to speak starting with Anun Eldredge who has recently returned with his wife to serve in the Temple. Brother Anun has a beautiful voice and great clarity in spoken Thai. It was clear that he loved to speak. He took jabs at Larry White and Michael Smith in turn. They were the other two former mission presidents to speak. He talked about being among the earliest Thais to be baptized and the joy he had serving as a mission president in his own country [So far he remains the only native Thai to serve as mission president.]
Larry White was next. As one of the Elders who first met Sister Srilaksana he told a small bit about her story. In my book "Translating Scripture: The Thai Book of Mormon," I recount her story in detail. Most of that book was included in Chapter 3 of the Thailand section of "The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia." Sister Sri was the mother to early church members in Thailand.
Michael Smith was the last speaker as President Burgener was busy receiving a new set of missionaries. He also spoke of his days as a missionary and the challenges of those times. He reflected on the importance of a Temple in Thailand and the blessings it would bring. Larry White had all of his missionaries on the stand at one point for a photo opportunity. They filled the seats on the stand. It appeared that perhaps just over half of them were native Thais. For the native Thai returned missionaries, this was their reunion. They sang together "Called to Serve", which must have been a mission tradition.
Then out of the blue Elder Chaichana called upon me to say a blessing on the food. I was as unprepared as I could be at this moment in time. Recently I've thought about the words I might use to say something in a meeting, but I had not rehearsed a Thai prayer in my mind in years. Let's just say I stumbled my way through it as best I could, which I admit was not very well.
The food and socializing came next. Let me just say this about the food: Thai Sisters in the United States have prepared far better Thai food than the catering company provided this evening.
Several couples from the late Morris era and early Brown are now serving as senior missionaries. On the 5th floor of the auxiliary building, there are apartments for about 6 such missionary couples. I did not expect to find these apartments.
As for the missionaries from the first two years of the Morris era who I knew there were myself, Dave Rockwood, and Peter Wilden. Total reunion attendance was about 200.
Saturday September 2, 2023
I learned that the Thai people "sleep in on Saturday." How did I know this? The Partchaburi subway station was practically empty! The 9 a.m. subway train had open seats!
I was off to the "Weekend Market at Chatuchak." It is sort is a "must-do" for tourists in Bangkok. There are acres of small family businesses located next to a large city park. It's several stations and 54 Baht from the Petchaburi subway station. This market is claimed to be the world's largest. All I can say is that it is huge. I needed some gifts for the granddaughters (bracelets), grandsons (elephants), and yet-to-be-named gifts for my wife, daughter, three daughters-in-law, three sons, and a son-in-law.
After you walk through a dozen aisles of stuff you think you have seen everything, and it all seems to be repetitive. Some stores offer massages, bowls, and plates in remarkable colors, t-shirts with crazy stuff on them, shoes, watches, stuff carved of wood, flowers, etc. What I never found this year was a place that sells neckties. That was so unusual, in 2010 they were easy to find.
Sunday, September 3, 2023 - A visit to the branch in Ayuthaya
Forty-nine years ago I was serving in Ayuthaya. Ayuthaya is located about seventy miles north of Bangkok on a major highway. My junior companion was Mani Seangsuwan, the 5th native Thai to serve as a missionary. I did my best gospel teaching while in Ayuthaya. There were about eight people (aged 16-24) who were eventually baptized among those we shared the gospel with. So rather than stay in Bangkok I ventured out to Ayuthaya.
To make the trip as pleasant as possible, I hired a car and driver for just about $100. He arrived in a late-model automobile at my hotel and we were off.
Today, the Ayuthaya branch is part of the Bangkok North stake. The area north of Bangkok has grown over the last 15 years as a place for the manufacture of technology goods, particularly disk drives.
There was nothing about Ayuthaya that I recognized from my time as a missionary. The road into town from the main highway is 8 lanes wide today. Yes, I said 8 lanes. Ayuthaya was the capital of Thailand from the mid-1300s to 1767 when the Burmese invaded and laid waste to the city. Numerous ruins from that era are still visible today.
The current branch meets in a portion of a commercial building and has done so for several years now. The location is not far from Wat Yia Chaimongkol a popular tourist venue. Thanks to today's mapping technology, finding the location was simple.
There were 35 members in attendance today. The branch acknowledged several baptisms in recent weeks of younger people. One such new member was confirmed during the meeting.
My former companion Mani Seangsuwan and his wife served here during one of their senior missions. I had not remembered this but was reminded of it by some members.
During the meeting, I shared my testimony in Thai. It went much better than the blessing on the food at Asoke the other evening,
I was warmly greeted by many of the members. They were a bit surprised that someone would come up from Bangkok to visit them. There were no breaks in those offering testimonies.They invited me to stay for lunch, and I did. My driver was also served lunch. Their Thai food was excellent.
The branch president took a more formal photo of all those present. I was told he did this every Sunday. It seemed like a good way to document those who attended each week.
Monday September 4, 2023
I returned to the hub of excitement the Complex of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Petchburi Road (which I call Bangkok's "Temple Square".) That said the plot of land is nothing close to square! This morning I offered to volunteer with the first shift (9 a.m. - 1 p.m.).
I was first assigned to help visitors get around the first corner of the courtyard on their way to the temple. This might sound like a poor assignment, but it was anything but that. First I met again with Sister Jirapinya Thareerat, she was in the courtyard. This gave me the perfect time get get a photo with her. Later she came by with her father Bunja on her phone and I was able to say hello to him. Bunja and his wife are now living in Khon Kaen. Bunja was an officer in the Royal Thai Airforce.
To be honest, finding the daughter of a young man whom I helped teach in Ayuthaya 49 years ago, who was now a missionary, was the most heart-warming part of this trip to Thailand. There are not that many second-generation families in Thailand that are active saints.
Another Thai sister came forward and recognized me from Facebook. I realized this must be another of my Thai Facebook friends. She was so excited she hugged me. Fifty years ago this would have been outside cultural norms, but those norms have changed over the years.
Later Elder Suchat Chaichana came into the room where I'd take refuge from the heat, so long as no visitors were approaching my corner. His wife soon joined him. People who came into the room engaged in Q&A with others after their tour. Before I knew it two females asked to talk with someone about the church, so I got Sister Jiraphinya and her Filipino companion to come into the room and speak with them. When that was over they met Brother Suchat and his wife. I was able to walk over and explain that I had taught her father in Ayuthaya. The sister missionaries were happy to make his acquaintance.
With an hour or so left in the shift, I was invited to take the place of another sister at the baptismal font inside the temple. It was 15-20 minutes after the shift ended when Matthew Vogel, a supervisor, came to relieve me. Before I left he told me how much he appreciated my books and would like to see them in e-reader formats.
Tuesday September 5, 2023
At the temple open house today I was asked to usher in the Endowment Room. That was a sweet assignment because I could sit in a chair until I heard footsteps coming to the door, and then I would stand and smile as visitors entered the room.
Under current Church Temple Department guidelines, they want visitors to feel the peace, calmness, and spirit of the temple. Thus remarks are discouraged but simple answers to questions can be given. Later Elder Suchat Chaichana did a similar thing with the visitors who accompanied him.
While I was in the room missionaries came in with investigators, The two of them shared comments and testimonies to those who were with them. Later Elder Chaichana did a similar thing with the visitors who accompanied him.
One visitor had been to the Washington D.C. Temple. He remarked about it being a true landmark in the capitol area. I explained that the Church hoped it would catch the attention of people working in embassies all over the city.
One gentleman asked what comes after this room. I explained that this room represented the world in which we live while the next one would represent where God lived.
I'm guessing that the number of guests the temple receives on weekdays is 650-1000 while Saturdays are much busier.
The temple will be a marvelous blessing to the members of the Church in Thailand and nearby countries.
Wednesday September 5, 2023
Today was my final day in Thailand. I volunteered to help at the Open House. It was nice that the Thai members were able to fill all required hosting locations today. I was asked to watch over the refreshment/conversation room for those who stopped by after their tour.
So members who brought friends came in got some water and talked about their experience.
A young couple came in. They said they were Roman Catholic and they could tell that what they had just seen was something new and different. Along with a senior missionary we chatted with them for about ten minutes. We affirmed that we believed in the same Jesus Christ, but that we had more to offer such as the work done in temples. We also chatted with them about continuing revelation. Hopefully, at a future date, they may come back looking for more information.
A Thai Sister who has been handling the main front door at the auxiliary building had to leave and asked Sister Eldredge to take her place. I noticed she was having trouble opening and closing the door. So I went over to check things out. Before long I became the one handling the door!
One of the two doors was not aligned properly. I decided to leave the good door closed and use the broken door to let people in and out. Just before my shift ended at 1:00 p.m. I looked more closely at the door frame. About one-third of the screws in the frame had come loose or were never properly installed.
I decided to go to the fourth floor for lunch. Soon after I arrived so did Sister Jiraphinya and her companion from the Philippines. Apparently, in today's Bangkok Thailand Mission, there are numerous Filipino missionaries. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet the daughter of a young man I taught in Ayuthaya 49 years ago. It was even better to find her serving a mission. I wished her all the best as she continues to serve as a missionary.
Then it was back to the hotel and complete packing. I had dropped 28 pounds of books and 4 pounds of candy (for the Thai children's Halloween - Thai candy is not all that sweet). My bags would be underweight. Next was a chauffeured ride to Suvarnabhumi International Airport for the long trek home. As our plane, an Airbus 330 took off to the south, the clouds parted long enough to see the mouth of the Chao Praya River where it enters the Gulf of Thailand. That was sweet! Fourteen hours later I would be in San Francisco and a while after that back in the valley of the Great Salt Lake.
This trip was about (a) helping at the Open House, (b) meeting new people, and (c) strengthening existing friendships, particularly with Brother Bunja Thareerat and his family.