URDANETA, Philippines — Standing on the site of the future Urdaneta Philippines Temple, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said “this property, this city, this province and the entire nation of the Philippines will never ever be the same as a result of the construction of this building.”
Presiding at the groundbreaking ceremony for the third temple in the Philippines on Jan. 16, Elder Holland offered a prayer of dedication on the 32-acre site of the future temple.
The changes that will occur with the completion of the temple “will be quiet, private and personal,” he said.
“It won’t be a headlining experience of dramatic public significance, but the invitation we now collectively make to invite the Spirit of the Lord, the power of heaven and the attendance of angels to concentrate on a little piece of property in Urdaneta is no small matter in the work of the kingdom of God on earth and the progress of God’s family in their quest for exaltation in the eternities.”
In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Holland blessed the employees, workers, engineers, volunteers and others who will be involved in the project. He also expressed gratitude for members who pay tithing faithfully.
“The payment of tithing by those near and far, some of whom will never live to see this temple is one of the greatest examples of love, brotherhood and sacrifice that we have in the Church of Jesus Christ,” he prayed. “The building of another beautiful house of the Lord is an example of how Thou hast opened the windows of heaven and poured out a blessing beyond our ability to receive because we pay our tithing.”
He also prayed for the spiritual benefit of the Latter-day Saints in the temple district. “We also dedicate our very lives to be more worthy of the blessings we receive, including and especially the blessings of the temple,” he said. “May we prepare personally to come here, even as the walls and the windows of the temple go up. That when the building is ready, so, too, will we be ready to worship here.”
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In addition to Elder Holland, members of the Philippines Area Presidency — Elder Evan A. Schmutz, Elder Michael John U. Teh and Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, all General Authority Seventies — spoke during the ceremony.
Elder Wakolo spoke about the history and significance of building temples. “That’s what the temple is, where the families can be sealed for time and for all eternity,” he said.
Elder Wakolo concluded by posing two important questions for the members to ponder: “What are you and I going to do to sacrifice to increase or deepen our conversion towards our Eternal Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ as we accept the temple? What are you and I going to do to prepare our hearts and our minds — and even our families — to accept the temple?”
Elder Teh talked about the sacredness of temples, explaining that all throughout history, prophets have built sacred places where people can commune with God. He pointed out that temples are literally houses of God.
He then pointed out the differences between a temple and a chapel. “In the temples, only the highest of ordinances are performed,” he said. “It cannot be performed in any other place other.”
Elder Teh also addressed the function of the rooms in the temples, saying that those who participate in the temple change into white clothing to signify purity, reverence and equality. “Inside the temple, we are all children of our Heavenly Father,” he said.
Elder Schmutz expressed gratitude to the dignitaries and friends present at the historic meeting. “You can perhaps feel some of the excitement that members of the Church feel on this occasion,” he said. “We made a big deal of this, to turn some shovelsful of dirt, because for us it represents all the culmination of many years of faith and prayers to bring a temple to this part of the Philippines.”
Elder Schmutz said upon completion, the temple will be dedicated for the “work and glory of God.”
“We believe that the work and glory of God are to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of His children,” he said. “It is within the walls of this temple that will be built, and many others, that the work can be done to a great extent.”
Sister Ana Marie C. Karganilla, a member of the Dagupan Philippines Stake, also spoke.
“We all rejoiced in this wonderful news. The feelings were inexplicable. Many were overwhelmed and shed tears of joy. We became very excited, and we all waited with joyful anticipation,” Sister Karganilla said, sharing reactions from when President Thomas S. Monson announced a temple in Urdaneta eight years ago during the 2010 October General Conference.
The groundbreaking ceremony marks the commencement of the construction of the temple and will take about three to five years to complete. “In a few years from now, we will see a beautiful temple,” she said. “It will be a prominent landmark in this area. It will be majestic.”
Seated on the stand with Elder Holland were Hon. Amadeo Gregorio E. Perez IV, mayor of Urdaneta City; Atty. Francis Tinio, representative of Hon. Amado I. Espino III, governor of Pangasinan; Hon. Silverio D. Alvarcio, Jr., president of the Mayors’ League of Pangasinan; Hon. Alfredo Tumang, Barangay Captain of Barangay Nancayasan; Rev. Fr. Allen Romeo, Catholic Diocese of Bayambang; Major Vincent Gerardo, Salvation Army; and Lelia C. Sy, publisher of the Northern Times and Pangasinan Star newspapers.
Elder Augusto Lim, the first stake president in the Philippines in 1973 and emeritus General Authority Seventy, and Ray Goodson, one of the first missionaries assigned to the Philippines, also joined Elder Holland on the stand.
“To be honest about it, we never dreamt that the Church would grow this fast,” said Elder Lim after the event. “This was something that we really did not envision.”
Elder Tomas S. Merdegia Jr., an Area Seventy, expressed his joy in knowing that the third temple in the country will commence its construction. He said the joy he felt at the groundbreaking ceremony was similar to what he had felt during the announcement and completion of the Manila Philippines Temple more than 20 years ago.
Sy, a long-time friend of the Church, shared her thoughts about the event. “I was very much amazed. I’m very happy. I could not explain the feeling because I was very much inspired to know that the third temple in the Philippines will be in my province, which is Pangasinan.”
The country’s first temple is in Manila, dedicated in 1984, while the second is in Cebu City, dedicated in 2010. There are three other temples announced for the Philippines, which will be in the Greater Manila Area, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao. Overall, the Church has 201 temples worldwide, either in operation, under construction or announced.
Once dedicated, the Urdaneta Philippines Temple will serve Church members residing in Central and Northern Luzon.