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Temple to be built in the Caribbean

The First Presidency has announced that a temple will be built in the Caribbean and that a site has been selected in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

With this announcement, the Church will have 55 temples completed, under construction or planned. The start of construction for the Santo Domingo temple will be announced following necessary government approvals and completion of architectural plans.The temple is a milestone of the rapid growth of the Church in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean where, generally speaking, the Church has become well-established only in the past 15 years.

The temple will serve some 70,000 members. The temple district will include the Bahamas, the Grand Turk Islands, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Lesser Antilles, a chain of islands that stretches from Puerto Rico to nearly the coast of South America.

Missions in this area include the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East, Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West, Dominican Republic Santiago, Jamaica Kingston, Trinidad Tobago and West Indies.

Mission districts include: Bonao, Navarette, Puerto Plata, La Romana, Azua, Bani, Barahona, San Cristobal and San Juan in Dominican Republic; and the Port-Au-Prince Haiti North, Port-Au-Prince Haiti South, Kingston Jamaica, Mandeville Jamaica, and Ponce Puerto Rico.

Stakes in the new temple district include: San Francisco de Macoris, Santo Domingo Ozama, Santo Domingo Oriental, Santo Domingo Independencia, Santo Domingo, and Santo Domingo Geronimo in the Dominican Republic; and the Carolina Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Puerto Rico, Ponce Puerto Rico, and San Juan Puerto Rico.

The first visit to the Caribbean by a missionary came in 1841 when Harrison Sagers briefly visited Jamaica. In 1853, missionaries came to stay but found antagonism too severe and left after six weeks.

In 1970, the expatriate families of John L. Whitfields and Jay P. Bills began holding meetings in Mandeville, Jamaica. A branch was created March 22, 1970. In 1974, Victor Nugent was baptized and he and a fellow convert, Errol Tucker, kept the branch going after the expatriate families left. Missionaries arrived in Jamaica in 1978. Today, Jamaica has an estimated membership of 3,000.

In Puerto Rico, businessman Gardner H. Russell, who later became a General Authority as a member of the Seventy, began holding meetings with his family and LDS servicemen in 1947, forming the nucleus of what later became the organization of English-speaking members. Missionaries arrived in the mid-1960s, and the first Spanish-speaking branch was established in 1970, the same year that a meetinghouse was dedicated. An estimated 19,000 members now live in Puerto Rico.

Work began in the Dominican Republic with the arrival on June 9, 1978, of an LDS family, Eddie and Mercedes Amparo. Their arrival coincided with the announcement of the revelation that all worthy males could now hold the priesthood. They were soon joined by another LDS Family, John and Nancy Rappleye. Growth in the Dominican Republic since that time has been steady. By the time the first mission was created in the island nation in 1981, membership was at 2,500. By 1986, when the first stake was created in the Dominican Republic, membership had reached 11,000. Membership in 1990 reached 31,000, and now is estimated at more than 45,000.

After reading the Book of Mormon while living in Haiti, Alexandre Mourra traveled to Florida to be taught and baptized on June 30, 1977. He later worked with Canadian diplomatic attache, J. Frederick Templeman, a Church member who arrived in 1978 to organize a branch. Some 22 Haitians were baptized near Port-au-Prince shortly before Brother Templeman's arrival. Missionary work was opened in May 1980. In 1983, Fritzner A. Joseph became the first Haitian to serve a full-time mission. That year, membership reached about 500. By 1988, membership reached 2,200. Due to troubled internal conditions, foreign missionaries were removed in 1991.

However, the mission continues today with the use of Haitian missionaries, under the direction of Pres. Fritzner Joseph. Today, membership in Haiti is estimated about 5,000.

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