More than 25 years after the Church received legal recognition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Thomas S. Monson announced during general conference that a temple is to be built in the capital city of Kinshasa. In a country with a Church membership of more than 23,000, news of the temple is an answer to prayer.
"Even after the meeting at which the announcements were made, when asked about it, each member of the Area Presidency would just choke up and be unable to speak for several minutes," said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy and Africa Southeast Area president. "Our reaction is not unique; the same happens with virtually everyone with whom I have spoken who will be in the new temple districts. The announcement of the Durban South Africa Temple and the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple is an answer to many, many prayers over years. I believe the Lord has revealed His direction and the Brethren have had the faith to press forward even though they know that doing so will be filled with some challenges."
For many Latter-day Saints in the area, a temple in Kinshasa means they will be able to attend the temple in this lifetime — a dream many didn't know would become a reality.
"The Congolese Saints are alternately weeping and jumping for joy," Elder Renlund said. "Few Congolese Saints have been able to enjoy the blessings of the temple because of distance, cost and visa issues. Most who have come to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple, which is 2,100 miles away, have been aided by the General Temple Patron Assistance Fund that President Monson mentioned as he announced the new temples."
The General Temple Patron Assistance Fund assists Church members by helping them attend the temple for the first time. The Church members who qualify have made a significant and meaningful sacrifice, and for many it is the only time they are able to attend the temple.
"The vast majority who have received their temple blessings have been unable to return," he said. "A temple in Kinshasa will not only allow easier access for first-time temple-goers, but it will also allow Saints to return the temple for repeat visits. A temple in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will, undoubtedly, help heal these lands which have suffered terrible conflicts and tragedies for centuries."
The Church is robust and growing in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Elder Renlund said. "The leadership is mature and committed and the members are devoted."
Today, there are 10 stakes and three districts, with faithful members and very high attendance statistics.
"The examples of dedication and sacrifice in the midst of hardship are numerous and awe-inspiring," Elder Renlund said.
Elder Alfred K. Kyungu, an Area Seventy from Kinshasa, said the members were thrilled after the announcement of a temple.
"You could imagine how happy are our people about the announcement of the temple," Elder Kyungu said. "The same Saturday night the entire DRC was informed about the news some of our members danced in their houses that night to express their joy. … I cried out in my house when I received an [email] from [Salt Lake City] just 10 minutes after the announcement."
The Sunday after the announcement, much of the testimony meeting at Church was on the subject of the temple.
"People are now saying they will be going to the temple by walking and as often as they can," Elder Kyungu said. "No more flight, no more enough money to save for the trip. One brother has said that he no longer needs the passport. Some said they will be using bicycles to avoid a traffic jam."