SUVA, Fiji Elder Earl M. Monson of the Seventy and second counselor in the Pacific Island Area presidency broke ground May 8 to symbolically commence the construction of the Suva Fiji Temple the most significant event for the Church in the island nation since it began operations here in the 1950s.
The temple, announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley during the 1998 April general conference, will serve the members in Fiji and nearby island nations, including Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu.
In turning the first spade of earth at the site, which is in a picturesque location not far from the downtown area of Fiji's capital city, Suva, Elder Monson told an audience of more than 500 Church members and local dignitaries, "It will be a privilege for many of you to watch as the temple grows from where we are today to a beautiful structure on this scenic hillside."
Elder Monson said the temple will stand as a reminder of the intention God has for families to be eternal. "It will be wonderful for mothers and fathers to be able to point to this temple and say that this is where we were sealed for eternity and their families will have a sense of peace and assurance that will help them through difficult times," he said.
Referring to the great era of temple building initiated by President Hinckley, Elder Monson continued: "In many ways we are preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior to the earth, but equally important is that we are preparing family members to meet Him. It is wonderful to know the steps to be taken on the strait and narrow path, defined by the Savior, that lead to eternal life, and to know how families and the temple are interlocked with them."
Formerly owned by the Australian government, the site was identified by President Hinckley in October 1997 as the preferred location for the temple. With views of the Pacific Ocean from three sides of the property, the land is located at one of the highest points in Suva.
After almost a week of rain, some were concerned the weather and site conditions were not conducive for the groundbreaking ceremony. However, for the one hour of the ceremony there were nothing more than a few sprinkles of rain. Gathered around a temporary shelter, the members and their guests stood on wide swathes of protective material to stop their feet from sinking into the ground as they listened to two Suva stake presidents, Paul Whippy and Josefa Sokia, and Elder Monson describe why the building was of such significance to both members of the Church and the people of Fiji.
In spite of cloudy skies and wet grounds, reported Elder Monson, "a warm and wonderful spirit prevailed and all felt a deep sense of gratitude for the wonderful opportunity of having a new temple."
After Elder Monson's remarks and his site dedicatory prayer, Church leaders and members walked a few yards up an incline on the property to break the ground at the exact point the 10,000-square-foot temple will be located. Assisting Elder Monson were local priesthood leaders. Children and other local members also participated in breaking the soil.
There are 11,000 members of the Church in Fiji. Members from the four stakes located on the main island of Viti Levu and the two districts located on the nearby island of Vanua Levu, presently travel to temples in Tonga, Samoa or New Zealand to participate in temple ordinances.
In addition to the temple, Suva city officials gave permission for the construction of a stake center on the new site when such a facility is deemed necessary.
Eighteen chapels and two Church-operated schools are located in Fiji.