Based on the promise of a prophet, Latter-day Saints in France have looked forward for years to the day a temple will be built in France.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in 1998, told members in France that he felt the time had come for a temple to be built there. In 2004, as president of the Church, he once again spoke of the possibility of a temple being constructed in France.
Today, President Thomas S. Monson — President Hinckley's successor — announced that the Church hopes to build its first temple in France on property on the outskirts of Paris.
There have been several previous attempts to find a suitable site for a temple in France, but none was finalized, according to a statement released by the Church today. French members of the Church wishing to visit a temple usually travel to one of several in neighboring European countries.
One of the earliest "official" intimations that a temple would be built in France came when President Hinckley addressed some 2,400 members from the Paris France and Paris France East stakes, as well as members from the Caen, Tours and Rennes districts on the evening of June 4, 1998, at a meeting in the Les Pyramides Convention Center in Paris.
On that occasion, President Hinckley said he had been coming to France for a long time; his first visit to Paris was in 1935 after he had completed his mission in England. He recalled that he had the opportunity at that time to bear his testimony in France.
"When I came here in 1935, there were so very few members," he said. "When I came here after the war, there were so few members of the Church, and now there are 30,000 of you. I believe the time has come, and I want to be very careful of what I say; I don't want to build up your hopes, but the time has come when you deserve to have a temple among you, and we'll look for a place to build one. I don't know how long it will take to find a suitable site. I invite every one of you, my brethren and sisters, to plead with the Lord individually in your prayers to lead us to a property in this great city, or its environs, where we can build a house of the Lord so that you won't have to travel five hours to Frankfurt, or six hours to Zollikofen (Switzerland). Please unite your prayers with ours, and the time will come, and I hope that it will be quick in coming, when we can construct somewhere in this area a house of the Lord, a sacred temple, into which you can go and do that work which is found only in the temples of the Lord. The Lord said to Nicodemus, 'Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God'" (John 3:5).
Hope for a temple in France was buoyed further when, on May 28, 2004, President Hinckley met with members of the Church in a hotel convention hall on the Disney property at Marne-la Vallee, an eastern suburb of Paris.
He referred to the Copenhagen Denmark Temple, which he dedicated on May 23, and then said, "I wish I could announce that we could have a temple here, but we do not have a suitable place yet, in my judgment, to build it. And so, we will continue to look. I don't know when it will be built, but I am confident that we will have a temple for the French-speaking people of the Church sometime in the future.
"You are worthy of the richest blessings of the Church. You are worthy of every blessing which this Church has to offer. And there is no blessing greater than the blessing of the house of the Lord.
"And so, my brothers and sisters, I ask you to be patient for a time. I know it is a long way to Frankfurt where you go (to the temple). I hope that you will continue to go there, but sometime in the future a beautiful house of the Lord will grace this land" (Church News, June 5, 2004, p. 6).
Customarily, new temples are announced by the Church president during general conferences, after local government building approvals and property acquisition have been secured. Although the local government approval process for the temple in France is still under way, French newspapers were already reporting Church plans to build at Le Chesnay, near Versailles, and this prompted the announcement today.
Church spokesman Scott Trotter said that the Church has been working for many months with local officials. More details will be given later.
Upon hearing that the planned temple in France has been announced, Donald H. Staheli, who recently completed his tenure as president of the France Paris Mission and who was personal secretary to President Hinckley, said, "The Latter-day Saints of France are as devoted and faithful as any in the Church. The light of the gospel shines in their eyes. Their families are strong and committed to gospel living, and their priesthood leaders are completely dedicated to the work. They have waited patiently to have a temple in their beautiful country, and now the time has come. How happy we are for them!"