Nearly 45 years after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first announced a temple for the South Pacific island of American Samoa, a temple in the capital city of the U.S. territory is officially under construction following the Saturday, Oct. 30, groundbreaking ceremony for the Pago Pago American Samoa Temple.
“This is an historic day for the wonderful Latter-day Saints of American Samoa,” said Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Church’s Pacific Area presidency, who presided at the event.
“The Savior is at the very center of everything we do. He is at the center of all that is done within the walls of the temple,” Elder Nattress said, adding “As we symbolically turn the soil, let us turn our hearts to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us establish a firm foundation in our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
He was joined at the groundbreaking by Elder Faa’ipito Auap’au, an Area Seventy from American Samoa, and Elder O. Vincent Haleck, an emeritus General Authority Seventy and native of American Samoa, along with stake presidents and many other members and friends of the Church.
A temple was originally announced for Pago Pago in 1977. However, in 1980, when President Spencer W. Kimball announced temples for Nuku’alofa, Tonga, and Papeete, Tahiti, he also announced a change of location of a Samoan temple from Pago Pago, American Samoa, to Apia, Samoa.
American Samoan members have been regularly traveling to Apia to attend the temple.
Pago Pago was once again selected for a temple with the announcement by President Russell M. Nelson during the April 2019 general conference. The temple will be the first in American Samoa, a U.S. territory where more than 16,000 Latter-day Saints live, comprising 43 congregations and five stakes.
The 17,000-square-foot sacred edifice will be located on Ottoville Road on the site of the Pago Pago Samoa Central Stake center in Tafuna, American Samoa. The temple construction will also include housing for the temple president and missionaries and a distribution center.
The groundbreaking ceremony was broadcast to the stake centers throughout American Samoa. A video of the event is available in both Samoan and English will be available at pacific.ChurchofJesusChrist.org beginning Monday, Nov. 1, and can be viewed on demand thereafter.
The new temple is a product of the faith and sacrifice of the local Latter-day Saints’ ancestors and the rising generation, Elder Auap’au said. “It will help point people to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. It will also bring love and togetherness to the local community.”
Said Elder Haleck: “The Lord has now answered our longing prayers and the sacrifice of so many who made the trip to receive saving ordinances for their families. … [The temple’s] beauty will raise our sights and spirits to heaven with the temple blessings that we will receive for ourselves and for our ancestors who have passed on.”
Among the notable guests attending, Governor Lemanu Mauga offered his congratulations to the Church. “The temple is a place where generations will be blessed and a home for closer worship to the Lord.”
The president of the territory’s Senate, Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, and the speaker of the House, Savali Talavou Ale, also attended.
Bishop Peter Brown of the Diocese of Samoa Pago Pago was touched when he saw the people at the ceremony shedding tears. He said, “This is a fulfillment of God’s wishes and the hope of the people to get a temple in American Samoa.”
Fifteen-year-old Jonalin Young said God knew the right time to build a temple in American Samoa.
“A time when everyone is in despair due to the pandemic, a time when the temple is needed most by many, and the time when He knew of my aching heart, longing for a family of seven to be sealed,” she said. “His timing is the perfect time.”
Salu Hunkin-Finau spoke of the Church’s long history in American Samoa, noting that missionaries first arrived in 1863, with the Samoan Mission opened in 1888.
“I am grateful to our leaders for their years of support,” she said, “so that we could usher in what we could not have envisioned 150 years ago since the Church was introduced on the humble island of Au’uu — a temple of the Lord here in Ottoville.”