Crews demolished the remains of the fire-devastated Apia Samoa Temple the last week of July, retrieving the surviving Angel Moroni statue and placing it in storage until it can again grace a newly constructed temple in this Pacific island nation.
Fire destroyed the 14,000-square-foot temple July 9, the first time in Church history an operational temple has burned. Construction on the new Apia Samoa Temple, utilizing a more recent temple design and the original Angel Moroni statue, will begin immediately, said President Sapele T. Fa'alogo of the Pesega Samoa Stake.
Plans for the reconstructed temple will follow the design of recent temples and implement more efficient use of space and resources, according to a Church press release. The proposed design will include more than 16,000 square feet and a fire prevention sprinkling system now required by current building codes.
The fire started during an ongoing renovation at the site to expand the baptistry, foyer and offices. The temple was closed but scheduled to reopen after a late-year rededication. No one was injured in the fire and no temple records, which had been removed before renovation work began, were destroyed.
The Church awarded the same contractors — Westland and Westerland, who had been working on the temple renovation — the contract to clear the temple site and rebuild the temple.
Church members gathered at the temple site July 24 to watch crews remove the Angel Moroni statue. "Once again there were many watching with tears in their eyes of sadness but a feeling of gladness knowing that the angel will be on the new temple in a couple of years standing as a symbol of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," said Elder J. Knollin Haws.
Hundreds of members and others gathered at the temple site the night of the fire, staring through the darkness at the blackened remains of the temple. However, at morning's first light, the Angle Moroni statue shown forth gold, not black. "To us, that is a miracle," said temple President Daniel A. Betham.
Many Church members, he added, view the statue's survival as a symbol of hope that a temple will again stand in their nation.
During the two-year construction process, members in Samoa will focus on preparing to enter the new temple and working on family history, President Betham said. "One thing I know is that there will be a lot of genealogy work for our own people here," he said.
Until a new temple is complete, Samoan members will have to travel to Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii or New Zealand. Three couples assigned to the Samoa temple have been re-assigned to the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. Other temple missionaries will remain in Samoa, shifting their focus to family history work.
Many weddings had been planned to be held as soon as the temple re-opened later this year after renovation work was completed, President Betham said. One couple, in particular, had already postponed their summer wedding, choosing to wait until the temple renovation was complete. President Betham said he doesn't know what they will do now that the temple will not be ready for more than two years; only about 35 percent of those who had planned weddings can afford to travel to another temple, he said.
The Samoan members are comforted by the fact that the Church cleared the temple site so quickly, said President Betham. It was hard to look at the blackened remains of what was the temple.
He said Latter-day Saints are also comforted by viewing the beautiful gardens on the temple site that survived the blaze. The flowers in the gardens were all donated and cared for by the members in the temple district.
"The main thing is that members are looking at the temple differently now," he said. "Before it was right here and they could go any time they wanted. . . .
"This will really change our lives now."