Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple

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Announced: April 2, 1980.

Location: At site of Church's Liahona College; Loto Rd., Tongatapu, Nuku'alofa, Tonga.

Site: 1.2 acres.

Exterior finish: "R-wall" exterior finish and insulation system on concrete block.

Temple design: Modern.

Architect: Emil B. Fetzer, Church architect. Renovation Architect; Naylor Whenton Lund Architects.

Construction adviser: Richard Westover and Richard Roley. Renovation adviser: Alan Rudolf.

Contractor: Utah Construction & Development.

Renovation contractor: Cabella Construction, John Cabella.

Rooms: Baptistry, celestial room, three sealing rooms, two ordinance rooms.

Floor area: 14,572 square feet.

Renovated floor area: 21,184 square feet.

Dimensions: 142 feet by 115 feet.

Renovated dimensions: 200 feet by 115 feet.

District: 16 stakes, two districts in Tongan islands.

Groundbreaking, site dedication: Feb. 18, 1981, by President Spencer W. Kimball with Tonga's King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

Original dedication: Aug. 9-11, 1983, by President Gordon B. Hinckley; seven sessions. Rededicated Nov. 4, 2007, by Elder Russell M. Nelson, two sessions.

Dedicatory Prayer

Done by President Gordon B. Hinckley

Our Beloved Father in Heaven, Thou great Elohim, our Eternal God, we reverently come before Thee in prayer in the name of Thy Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. We give thanks unto Thee for Thy many blessings so generously bestowed upon us. We thank Thee for the marvelous restoration of Thy great work in this dispensation, with all of the keys and authority appertaining thereto, through Thy chosen instrument, the Prophet Joseph Smith.

We thank Thee that Thou didst reveal Thyself and Thy Son unto him, and that there followed thereafter visitations of others to bestow divine authority. We thank Thee for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon with its record of the forebears of the people of Tonga. We are grateful for the strength of Thy work in these friendly islands. We thank Thee for the missionaries who for many years have come here to bring the glad tidings of the restored gospel. We thank Thee for their faith, for their consecration, for their willingness to face the perils of the sea and long absence from their homes to serve as Thy messengers to Thy people. We thank Thee for Thy many sons and daughters of Tonga who have similarly served with great devotion.

We are thankful that Thou hast touched the hearts of many by the power of Thy Spirit that they have accepted the truth and have walked in faithfulness. We thank Thee for all of Thy faithful saints in these beautiful islands and invoke Thy blessings upon them that they may be blessed with love and peace in their homes, that their lands shall be productive, that they shall be prospered in their righteous undertakings, that they shall be protected from the storms of nature and from the conflicts of men if they will walk in obedience to Thy commandments.

Now we are met together, Father, on this most glorious occasion in the long history of Thy work in these beautiful islands, to dedicate unto Thee and unto Thy Son this sacred temple. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the authority of the holy priesthood in us vested, and under assignment from him whom Thou hast appointed as Thy prophet at this time, President Spencer W. Kimball, we dedicate this, the Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including all of the structure, its facilities, equipment and furnishings, the grounds which surround it and the ancillary buildings associated with it.

We ask that Thou wilt accept this temple as the gift of Thy people presented unto Thee with love for the accomplishments of Thy holy purposes with reference to Thy children. It is Thy house. It is the house of Thy Son. We pray that Thou wilt sanctify it by the power of Thy Holy Spirit and that Thou wilt look upon it with favor and visit it according to Thy divine will.

May it always be held in reverence by Thy people. May they regard it as a most holy place for the administration of divine ordinances that are offered only in these sacred houses under the authority of the everlasting priesthood. May all who come here be worthy to enter these portals to receive the great blessings here to be given—their washings and anointings that they may become clean from the sins of this generation, the sacred endowment that they may enter into eternal covenants with Thee, their sealings that they may be joined together as husbands and wives, as children and parents, by that authority which binds in the heavens as it binds on earth.

May Thy watch care be over this sacred house, Father. May the grounds and the structure be preserved by Thy power and always be acceptable in Thy sight and beautiful in the sight of all who shall look upon this sacred structure and its surroundings.

Father, may Thy Holy Spirit dwell herein and may it radiate from this sanctuary that its influence may be felt with such power that even the passerby may regard it as a special and holy place.

We invoke Thy blessings upon Thy servant President Spencer W. Kimball, who is unable to be with us on this sacred occasion but who, in the authority of the priesthood he holds as prophet, broke ground for this structure. Wilt Thou bless him and extend his life according to Thy eternal plan. Bless those associated with him of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, the First Quorum of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. We invoke Thy blessings upon the temple presidency who shall serve here, and all the workers who will be associated with them. We ask thy favor upon the regional representatives, the presidencies of stakes and missions, the bishoprics, the missionaries, and all who hold responsibility in Thy work in these islands.

We invoke Thy blessings upon the king and queen of Tonga, and upon the government of this kingdom of Tonga and those who serve therein that they may look with favor upon Thy people always and assist them in the accomplishment of the purposes Thou hast set before them to teach the gospel to all of Thy children and to build Thy Church for the blessing of Thy sons and daughters.

Now, dear Father, accept of our thanks and hear our prayers as we dedicate this house to Thee and rededicate ourselves to Thy service.

Thou art our God. We love Thee and look to Thee. Thy Beloved Son is our Redeemer and the author of our salvation. Hosanna to God and the Lamb, now and forever. We praise Thee. We worship Thee in spirit and in truth. Please look with mercy and love upon us Thy children. Increase our faith. Add to our knowledge of things divine. Make us effective in Thy service we humbly pray in the name of the Redeemer of mankind, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Reaping harvest in Pacific paradise: Elder Nelson rededicates Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple

By Sarah Jane Weaver

Church News staff writer

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga — Wanting to protect his land from Western colonization in 1839, Tonga's Christian King George Tupou I offered a simple prayer: "O, God the Father, I give unto you my land and my people and all generations of people who follow after me. I offer them all to be protected by heaven."

The Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple in Tonga on May 23, 2019.
The Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple in Tonga on May 23, 2019. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Tongan legend tells of the king bending down, picking up soil, and tossing it in the air as a symbolic act of conveying his land to God.

The significance of the moment more than 50 years before Latter-day Saint missionaries would come to this South Pacific paradise in 1891— is celebrated by Tongans in song, dance and poetry, and is spoken about from the pulpit and in hymns.

The only Pacific nation to remain independent of western colonization, Tonga's national motto reflects the nation's spirituality: "God and Tonga Are My Inheritance."

There is no greater symbol of that national spirituality today than the

Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple, rededicated Nov. 4 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve. Spencer J. Condie, of the Seventy and president of the New Zealand/Pacific Islands Area, also participated in the rededication.

"We reaped the harvest today of seeds that had been sown by the king of Tonga, who gave the land to the Lord in the first place," Elder Nelson told the Church News after the dedication.

Indeed, the people of Tonga have never forgotten their rich spiritual heritage, said Temple President Eric B. Shumway. "The dedication — the giving of a temple and its people back to God through covenant — is at the heart of the tradition that extends to 1839."

President Shumway, who served as a missionary and mission president in Tonga, said there is gratitude among Tongan Latter-day Saints that they live in a "nation that was given to God."

Dubbed the "Friendly Islands" by foreign visitors, Tonga has the largest percentage of Latter-day Saints living in any nation in the world. An estimated 46 percent — or one in nearly every two — Tongans are members of the Church. The island kingdom houses 117 Latter-day Saint chapels, two Church high schools, six Church middle schools and a temple. There are 16 stakes, and of the 149 missionaries serving here, 135 are native Tongan.

"We are blessed here in Tonga," said Elder Sione M. Fineanganofo, an Area Seventy. "There is a chapel in almost every village in Tonga. We have the temple. We have a mission. What else do we need? We have everything in Tonga. Now we just need to remember to rededicate ourselves."

A large banner hanging across the road in front of the 21,000-square-foot temple shares that message in bold lettering: "Let's rededicate ourselves."

Closed in June 2006, the temple has been remodeled to include a temple-style baptistry and upgraded architectural features. The remodeled temple includes a 5,282-square-foot addition and will serve more than 50,000 Latter-day Saints in the Kingdom of Tonga. It is one of 124 temples worldwide, including five others that span the Pacific islands.

The dedication followed a successful three-week open house, attended by more than 40,000 people and launched when Tonga's king, His Majesty George Tupou V addressed a gathering of 200 dignitaries on the campus of the Church's Liahona school campus.

In his opening speech the king said, "We are gathered here today to celebrate the completion of this magnificent temple which is a tribute to the Glory of God."

The Nuku'alofa temple was originally dedicated in August 1983 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then second counselor in the First Presidency.

Elder Fineanganofo said the temple will now bless the people, "not only the members, but the Tongan people. Peace will be in Tonga," he said.

President Shumway said fundamentally, Tongans "are a very spiritual people."

"The core of your identity as a Tongan is that you are given to God and this land is given to God, so God and Tonga become your inheritance."

Tonga is located so close to the international date line that it is called "the place where time begins."

A land without fast food restaurants, Tonga is known for its lush green landscapes, plantations and small villages, ocean blow holes and flying foxes, which are large bats. But it is the people who are truly beautiful, said Elder Condie. Tongans have a giving nature; there is always room for visitors at a Tongan table.

And when the Tongans sing, usually in four-part harmony, a person doesn't just hear the music, but feels it. Music is a beautiful Tongan tradition shared among local Latter-day Saints.

They also share a rich Church history, said President Shumway. Early missionaries and converts sacrificed much for the Church, he said.

"The strength of the Church was manifest in eight or nine stalwart people who established the Church in their homes, largely to have the missionaries teach their children."

The Makeke school, meaning "arise and awake," was opened in 1926 and became the foundation for the Church school system here. Then, with the establishment of Liahona High School — a "beautiful, clean, campus" — the Church became a new light to the people, said President Shumway. Many Church members connect their conversion with the Liahona campus, he added.

And, he said, for many years the Church called older men with families to serve as missionaries. "They would have to sell all they had and support themselves, where they went," he said. "That sacrifice became a rich heritage for individual families."

Sister Falaetau Fineanganofo, wife of Elder Fineanganofo, is a third-generation Church member in Tonga.

In 1961, her family, including both sets of grandparents, traveled by boat, bus and plane to be sealed in the Auckland New Zealand Temple. In 1973, her grandfather hoped a temple would be built in Tonga. He asked her father, then a stake president, if he would inquire about a temple while visiting Salt Lake City for general conference.

When he returned with no word of a temple, Sister Fineanganofo's grandfather made a simple promise. There would be a temple in Tonga, he told them. The family would consecrate their land, next to Liahona, for the temple. Her grandfather died a short time later. But, true to his word, a temple was dedicated on the family land 10 years later, in 1983.

Lakalaka and Tevita Ka'ili, Tongans who just completed their third mission here, also share a rich Tongan heritage. Sister Ka'ili's family also made the long journey to New Zealand to be sealed in the temple. She remembers attending a Church conference on the Liahona property, sitting under a shelter made from coconut leaves.

Elder Ka'aili remembers his mother's dedication to the Church. A family without much money, the children in his family knew not to eat any fruit from their yard until tithing was paid. The best fruit was selected, picked and sold as the family's contribution to the Church.

Suliasi Vea Kaufusi is a fourth-generation Church member; his grandmother was one of Tonga's first converts in 1891. After Brother Kaufusi's father died, Brother Kaufusi returned home from BYU-Hawaii where he had just completed school. One of 14 children, Brother Kaufusi knew his father wanted every member of the family to gain an education and serve a mission. With his wife, Peggy, he helped raise and support his younger siblings in education and missions.

"I was just thankful I grew up in the gospel," he said. "I know what it is like to ask God when I need help."

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