Ground broken for first temple in West Africa

ACCRA, Ghana — The long-awaited groundbreaking for the Accra Ghana Temple was held Nov. 16 with Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve turning the first ceremonial shovelful of soil.

The half-hour service included remarks from Elder Nelson, who also offered the dedicatory prayer; Elder H. Bruce Stucki, president of the Africa West Area; and Elder Emmanuel O. Opare, Area Authority Seventy. Many local priesthood leaders of the Church were in attendance as well as members of local congregations. Also present were many members of government, past and present, including the Honorable Alhaji Aliu Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana; Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, member of parliament who is also minister for presidential affairs; other members of parliament and civic officials; and chiefs and elders of the Ga Traditional Area.

In his remarks, Elder Nelson spoke of his first visit to Ghana 15 years ago. A heart surgeon before he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Nelson met with Church members in Ghana in 1986 and also gave a lecture at the medical school on the history of heart surgery. At that time he was interviewed by radio, television and newspaper reporters who eagerly asked many questions, including what he was going to do for Ghana. They asked if he had come to bring a hospital, to donate medicines or to launch some other worthy project. He said that he explained he had not come to Ghana to build medical facilities, but was here to help the people build better lives. "I was here as a servant of the Lord to help them become better citizens, to build strong families, to gain true happiness and prosper in the land," Elder Nelson said.

Greeting members and friends at groundbreaking ceremonies are Elder Russell M. Nelson, center, with
Greeting members and friends at groundbreaking ceremonies are Elder Russell M. Nelson, center, with wife, Dantzel, and Dr. Emmanuel Abu Kissi, right center, an LDS surgeon who established a local clinic supported by friends of the Church. | Photo courtesy Africa West Area

"I think that the representatives of the media were disappointed in my response. But if any of them are still here, I can now report that members of the Church throughout the world have truly offered helping hands through significant humanitarian service. In those 15 years, this Church has sponsored 142 humanitarian projects in Ghana, valued at 7.5 million U.S. dollars. Those projects have included donations of books to libraries, medical schools and orphanages. The Church has provided vocational training and operated a specialized computer training center which has facilitated employment for more than 1,000 people. Many large containers of medical supplies have been donated. Clean water has been made available through the digging and refurbishing of wells.

"To care for the poor and the needy, members of our Church throughout the world, including those here in Ghana, go without food one day a month and contribute the money they would have spent as fast offerings. This selfless sacrifice by millions of members makes miracles happen and we are grateful to be part of such merciful measures.

Church and government leaders turn ceremonial shovelfuls of soil for first temple in West Africa.
Church and government leaders turn ceremonial shovelfuls of soil for first temple in West Africa. | Photo courtesy Africa West Area

"Important as these matters are, we realize that 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' (Matthew 4:4.) He is our Creator and we are His children. Now we will build a house here for His sacred purposes. Our groundbreaking today is significant but somewhat ceremonial. We hope all of you will return to an even happier day when this temple will have been completed. We will have a public showing. We invite you to return and look it over carefully and thoroughly. We have nothing to hide in these temples. But once they are dedicated, they then become sacred unto the Lord and we so regard them and care for them. At that later time of dedication, prophets and apostles will return to Accra, and here they will invest this temple with the necessary authority to seal families together forever and fulfill the great plan of our Creator. This temple will then stand not only as a symbol of our membership in the Church, but as a sign of our faith in life after death and as a sacred step toward eternal glory for us and our families."

Since the first official missionaries arrived in West Africa in August 1978, membership in Ghana has grown to more than 20,000 by October 2001.

On Feb. 16, 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Accra and announced plans for a temple to be built in Ghana. The contractor of the temple is Taysec Construction Limited. Elder Nelson described the temple site as being in a prime location on the most important thoroughfare in downtown Accra, Independence Avenue. The temple will be highly visible and will make an appropriate contribution to the architecture of the city, he said.

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