Sarah Jane Weaver: How faith and temples bless generations

‘Regular temple worship will enhance the way you see yourself and how you fit into God’s magnificent plan,’ promises President Russell M. Nelson

PAPEETE, Tahiti — In November 2006, I sat on the wharf in Papeete, Tahiti, where the local vendors were selling food near the island nation’s iconic black-sand beaches. Demonstrating typical Tahitian hospitality, Zaina Vitali shared crepes as she recounted the story of her family’s first trip to a temple.

Before the Papeete Tahiti Temple was dedicated in November 1983, Vitali — one of 12 children — traveled with her parents, siblings and grandparents to the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. Her father sold the family car and the family land to earn money for the trip. The family sustained themselves on a diet of mainly rice and sugar for almost two years to make up the difference. And when they could not afford enough white fabric to make temple clothing for everyone, they supplemented the cloth by bleaching rice and sugar bags.

On the strong foundation they built, the Papeete Tahiti Temple — the Church’s 25th — was dedicated on Oct. 27, 1983.

I was in Tahiti for the rededication of the temple on Nov. 12, 2006 — 23 years after it first opened — by the late Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Tahiti is a land filled with lush foliage and bright flowers surrounded by blue waters. Speaking of the deeply spiritual people there, Elder Perry said Tahitian Latter-day Saints share a legacy of faith equal to the beauty of their land.

I will never forget as dozens of Tahitian members shared the experiences they had when the temple opened its doors after the renovation. They spoke of the connection they felt to those who had gone before and to friends and family not of our faith.

Tiare Tauaoar, then a new member, felt forgiveness in the temple. Maima Tamu of the Papeete Stake — through an experience with her 1-year-old son — felt close to her deceased father. Kelly O’Connor, who traveled to the St. George Utah Temple to be married while the Tahiti temple was closed, said she received peace in the temple for the concerns of her heart.

Dorina Pangsiang of the Auera Ward, Raromatai Tahiti Stake, attended the first temple dedication in 1983. “I have no way to tell the feeling we had at that time,” she said.

She said the members of her stake must travel all night by boat to reach Papeete. She remembers local leaders asking members to pray for a temple, promising with faith one could be built. What they said came true, she said. “We have our temple.”

Almost two decades since the rededication of the Tahiti temple, I have met thousands and thousands of people who have expressed similar sentiments as temples have been dedicated or rededicated in their countries and communities. The Church now has 189 dedicated temples, with 161 more in various stages of planning and construction. Of those 350 temples that are announced, under construction or dedicated, President Nelson has now announced 168 temples. His invitations to us about the temple contain stunning promises.

“My dear brothers and sisters, construction of these temples may not change your life, but your time in the temple surely will,” he said in April 2018 general conference. “In that spirit, I bless you to identify those things you can set aside so you can spend more time in the temple. I bless you with greater harmony and love in your homes and a deeper desire to care for your eternal family relationships. I bless you with increased faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a greater ability to follow Him as His true disciples.”

In October 2021, he again asked Latter-day Saints to focus on the temple. “I plead with you to seek — prayerfully and consistently — to understand temple covenants and ordinances. Spiritual doors will open. You will learn how to part the veil between heaven and earth, how to ask for God’s angels to attend you, and how better to receive direction from heaven.”

And again in October 2022 general conference: “Each person who makes covenants in baptismal fonts and temples — and keeps them — has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ. Please ponder that stunning truth. The reward for keeping covenants with God is heavenly power — power that strengthens us to withstand our trials, temptations and heartaches better. This power eases our way.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, during April 2024 general conference, President Nelson said that those who serve and worship in the house of the Lord can expect to receive answers to prayer, personal revelation, greater faith, strength, comfort, increased knowledge and increased power. “Time in the temple will help you to think celestial and to catch a vision of who you really are, who you can become and the kind of life you can have forever. Regular temple worship will enhance the way you see yourself and how you fit into God’s magnificent plan.”

Then President Nelson announced the Church will build a second temple in French Polynesia, in Uturoa.

Zaina Vitali’s father glimpsed those blessings for his country when he sold the family car and the family land to take his parents and children to the temple in New Zealand.

Even as an adult, Zaina Vitali remembered the trip well. Almost two decades later, I still remember how she spoke with a reverence for her father and the other early Tahitian pioneers and their faith that still ripples into the generations that came after them.

She will always be thankful, she said, “for what they left behind.”

— Sarah Jane Weaver is executive editor of the Church News.

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