By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau
LAIE Construction of a 40,000-square-foot chapel complex on the Brigham Young University-Hawaii campus is to begin next month and will provide students with a place dedicated to their religious lives when it is completed in late 2002.
Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded BYUH more than 40 years ago, its students have held services in classrooms, conference rooms and auditoriums. But with their numbers at 2,200 and with 16 congregations on campus, the students have outgrown the universitys facilities, said James Smith, president of the BYUH First Stake. (In the Mormon faith, a stake is a territorial division, consisting of a group of wards, under jurisdiction of a president.)
"Our students are very adaptable, and there wasnt an inconvenience until lately," said Smith, a music professor at BYUH. "For us the building isnt a crucial thing, but its the churchs practice that where you have a need, it will build a beautiful building. So its going to be wonderful to have a place thats totally dedicated to worship and church activities."
Smiths stake has 10 wards, or congregations, of single students while the BYUH Second Stake has six wards of married students. Each ward has more than 100 members. The BYUH Stake Center will provide two chapels, offices for 14 bishops, or lay ministers, offices for two stake presidents, 28 classrooms, a library, two kitchens and a large central cultural hall for special events such as wedding receptions and luau.
Students are excited by the new center, said Joel Kongaika, a BYUH junior who lives on campus with his wife. During the groundbreaking, he said, he anticipated being in his last semester and a father when the chapel is completed.
"Speaking for the married students, its going to a place where our families will definitely grow closer worshiping God," said Kongaika. "Its going to be neat meeting in a dedicated chapel, too. Up until now, weve been meeting in classrooms. When youre in them five out of the seven days in a week, and then you go back to one on Sunday, you have to change your attitude from school to worship. Being in a chapel will be great."
The center also will be a great place for students to learn leadership, Smith said. Except for the bishop, who is often a BYUH faculty member, each wards leadership positions are filled by students. They teach the gospel and Sunday school, and lead the womens Relief Society, he said.
"They take a very great deal of responsibility and really live their religion and work at it," Smith said. "Its remarkable to find young people from 17 to 25 who seriously build their lives around religion."
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