Testimonies from a three-generation Latter-day Saint family and an Apostle’s message and prayer highlighted the Thursday, Nov. 8, groundbreaking ceremonies for the Abidjan Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) Temple.
“Today is a sacred day, a holy day, a day that will long be remembered in the records kept in heaven and by the Saints of God here in the Ivory Coast,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who presided at the ceremony and offered his remarks and a dedicatory prayer in French, the official language of the West African nation of more than 24 million people.
“The building of this temple means that the restored kingdom of God will be established here in Abidjan and throughout the Ivory Coast until the Savior returns to the earth, and that there will be covenant people here to receive Him when he returns.”
The temple was one of three new temples — along with ones for Bangkok, Thailand, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti — announced by the late President Thomas S. Monson on April 5, 2015, during the Sunday morning session of general conference. The temple is being built by the Cocody Côte d'Ivoire Stake center, and a rendering of the temple’s exterior was released last month.
Ivory Coast is home to nearly 44,000 Latter-day Saints, 14 stakes, 211 congregations and two missions. Church members in Abidjan, the country’s largest urban center on the southern Atlantic coast, currently attend the Accra Ghana Temple, which requires a 12-hour one-way trip by car to reach.
Missionary work in Ivory Coast began just three decades ago, and the first meetinghouses in late 1990s. In his April 2015 general conference address (the same conference as the aforementioned temple announcements), Elder Andersen highlighted a pair of the Church’s “pioneer” couples in the country — Lucien and Agathe Affoue and Philippe and Annelies Assard — who separately had joined the Church in Europe before relocating in Ivory Coast in the 1980s and meeting and forming a Sunday School.
The Assards were married in her native Germany, where they joined the Church and were sealed in the Swiss Temple, later moving to his native Ivory Coast. In his remarks at the groundbreaking, Elder Andersen shared the testimonies of three generations of the Assard family.
From Annelies Assard: “With a grateful heart, I testify to you, dear brothers and sisters, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Messiah and that our Heavenly Father listens to the prayers of His Saints. We are in His true and living Church.”
From Dorothée Anzoua, a daughter of the Assards: “When I think of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wonderful gift He gave me by sacrificing himself for me, I am infinitely grateful to Him. This feeling of love and gratitude strengthens and motivates me every day to make the right choice and to consult the Holy Spirit to guide and lead in my daily journey. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ that teaches me the truths about the plan of salvation and the eternal life promised to those who follow His way.”
And from Marie-Emmanuelle Anzoua, a granddaughter almost 13 years old: “The gospel and the Church are very important in my life because without them, I would not know our good Savior who made so many sacrifices for us to become just and right. I am very (grateful) to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ because we have the restored truth. Our Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ have done so much for us that we cannot count it. So, obey His commandments, glorify Him and sanctify Him.”
Elder Andersen was joined by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, who also spoke in French during the ceremony as well as Elder Marcus B. Nash, General Authority Seventy and Africa West Area President, and his wife, Sister Shelley Nash; and Elder Edward Dube, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Africa West Area, and his wife, Sister Naume Dube.
“Each time I enter in the temple, I am touched by the fact that the Lord permits us to enter in His holy house to receive the blessings that we cannot receive in any other place on earth,” said Sister Andersen.
She added: “My dear brothers and sisters, you have made so many sacrifices to go to the temple and to return year after year. We are greatly strengthened by your faith and your devotion.”
While the 10 a.m. groundbreaking was an invitation-only event, the proceedings were broadcast to local meetinghouses. Also attending and speaking were Daniel Kablan Duncan, the nation’s vice-president, and M. Mattias N’Gouan, major of Cocody.
Elder Andersen explained that the construction of the Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple — estimated to take two years — will involve the best materials and best work of craftsmen and construction crews. In short, he said, “we will ask for near perfection in materials and labor.”
Citing teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle challenged the local Latter-day Saints to a similar task in their personal preparations.
“Let this be an example for us in our own lives. Let us devote ourselves during these months of construction to better shaping our character and souls to be ready to enter the dedicated temple. Let us be better husbands and wives, better children; let us be more true to following the Savior. … Let us be honest in our tithes and offerings. Let us be kind and generous to those around us. Let us pray with humility and real intent.”
The Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple will be the sixth on the African continent. Three temples are currently operating — in Aba, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; and Johannesburg, South Africa. The Abidjan temple will join ones in Durban, South Africa, and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo as the three temples under construction.
Another four temples have been announced but not yet started — in Harare, Zimbabwe; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Praia, Cape Verde.