Opening in Tahiti

Thousands throng to temple open house; transportation strike eventually benefits

PAPEETE, Tahiti — Dawn broke on Oct. 12, in this part of French Polynesia, with Latter-day Saints in a state of high anticipation. This was to be the first day of a three-week open house of the temple for especially invited dignitaries and for general public guests. Many hours of planning and preparation had been focused on this day.

Renovated Papeete Tahiti Temple, lustrous against a darkening South Pacific sky, has opened its doors to the public prior to rededication. Originally dedicated in 1983, the building serves members in French Polynesia.
Renovated Papeete Tahiti Temple, lustrous against a darkening South Pacific sky, has opened its doors to the public prior to rededication. Originally dedicated in 1983, the building serves members in French Polynesia. Credit: Photo by Elder Ferrin and Sister Peggy Orton

The bright dawn was soon overshadowed with the news that government opposition leaders had declared a strike and had established road blocks that prevented auto traffic from flowing in and out of the city.

Church members with assignments to serve as open house tour guides, ushers, refreshment servers, and as family history guides arrived at the temple grounds by walking, riding motorbikes, or by driving their cars to the barricade and then having a friend meet them with a car on the other side to take them to the temple. The prevailing thought was that with the hindrance of the closed roads and general disruption of the city routine, there would be disappointingly few people visit the temple. The flow of guests for the first few hours was indeed meager, but then began to swell and look more encouraging.

With offices and schools closed, it was soon realized that many were coming to take a tour of the temple who might not have done so in the normal course of events. What at first seemed like a blow to the organizers' plans began to be a blessing in disguise as visitors came in abundance. Though the strike persisted, by Oct. 14 more than 4,000 had participated in the temple tours during the first three days of the open house.

The Papeete Tahiti Temple, originally completed and dedicated in 1983 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, has been closed during the past year for remodeling and upgrading. The temple will be rededicated Nov. 12.

Latter-day Saints of French Polynesia who visited the temple exuded excitement and anticipation in having a temple ready for resumption of temple work and worship. Typical of their comments is that expressed by Church member, Teoaotai Vahua. "I am so happy to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to come to visit the temple today. It is so beautiful, and I felt such a wonderful spirit when I was in it," he said.

More than 4,000 people toured the 23-year-old temple in first three days of open house.
More than 4,000 people toured the 23-year-old temple in first three days of open house. Credit: Photo by Elder Ferrin and Sister Peggy Orton

Brother Vahua came to tour the temple with his wife, Rosine, daughter Rosina, and a recent convert to the Church, Monique Cao. Brother Vahua was born and raised in the Cook Islands, and lived in New Zealand for 20 years before moving to Tahiti. He earns his livelihood as a baker in a local hotel.

Imiura and Ghislaine Teriipaia, who own a taxi business in Papeete and served as tour guides at the open house, were also impressed with the temple. "It is such a great blessing for the people of French Polynesia to have the temple opened to them again," Brother Teriipaia said. "We are so thrilled for this great opportunity that has come to us."

New temple president Thomas R. Stone led some tours for dignitaries, among whom were Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Tahiti, Monsignor Hubert Coppenrath, and Papeete's Mayor Michel Buillard.

Visitors line up to tour renovated temple. More than 4,000 people toured the 23-year-old temple in first three days of open house.
Visitors line up to tour renovated temple. More than 4,000 people toured the 23-year-old temple in first three days of open house. Credit: Photo by Elder Ferrin and Sister Peggy Orton