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'This is undoubtedly a miracle': Latter-day Saints around the world react to 8 new temples announcement

President Russell M. Nelson concluded the 189th Annual General Conference on Sunday with historic news: eight new temples will be built in various regions across the globe.

New temples were announced for Pago Pago, American Samoa; Okinawa City, Okinawa; Neiafu, Tonga; Tooele Valley, Utah; Moses Lake, Washington; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Antofagasta, Chile; and Budapest, Hungary.

The Church president also announced plans to renovate the Salt Lake Temple (including Temple Square and the adjoining plaza near the Church Office Building), the Manti Utah Temple and Logan Utah Temple.

Specific plans for the Salt Lake Temple and its adjoining properties will be announced on April 19, 2019. The Manti and Logan temples will be renovated in coming years.

"When those plans are prepared, they, too, will be announced," said President Nelson.

Renovation plans and details for the St. George Utah Temple have already been released.

Mika Katich, of Auburn, Ala., and Chelsey Campbell, of California, take a selfie in front of the Salt Lake Temple as conferencegoers arrive at the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Mika Katich, of Auburn, Ala., and Chelsey Campbell, of California, take a selfie in front of the Salt Lake Temple as conferencegoers arrive at the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Silas Walker

"This work will require that each temple be closed for a period of time," he said. "Church members may continue to enjoy temple worship and service in other temples nearby. When each project is completed, each historic temple will be rededicated."

Prior to announcing the eight new temples, President Nelson asked for reverence to mark the sacredness of the moment.

"As we announce plans to construct a new temple, it becomes part of our sacred history. Now, please listen carefully and reverently. If I announce a temple in a place that is special to you, may I suggest that you simply bow your head with a silent prayer of gratitude in your heart. We do not want any verbal outbursts to detract from the sacred nature of this conference and the Lord’s holy temples."

Temples old and new offer opportunities to recommit to Christ.

"May we renovate our lives through our faith and trust in Him," said President Nelson. "May we access the power of His Atonement by our repentance each day. And may we dedicate and rededicate our lives to serving God and His children — on both sides of the veil."

President Nelson will forever be connected to temple building. He has announced 27 temples in 364 days.

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Antofagasta, Chile

In northern Chile, approximately 5,000 miles from the Conference Center, Antofagasta Chile Stake President Jaime Castillo witnessed a memorable reaction from his fellow members and friends gathered at the stake center.

There were broad smiles and a few gasps at the moment they heard President Nelson utter the name "Antofagasta." The tears began to flow seconds later and people rose to hug one another. But out of respect for their prophet, there were no shrieks, screams or cheers.

"Still, we are feeling so many wonderful emotions," President Castillo told the Church News minutes after the Sunday afternoon announcement.

Conferencegoers sing a congregational hymn during the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Conferencegoers sing a congregational hymn during the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred

"We feel such gratitude and humility. We know that the Lord knows us here in northern Chile."

President Castillo said the Latter-day Saints living in the greater Antofagasta area love the temple. They are proven templegoers — but the trip to the nearest temple (in Santiago, Chile) is both costly and difficult.

"It takes about 22 hours by bus to get to Santiago, but we still try to get to the temple a couple of times each year."

Now President Castillo and other local priesthood and Relief Society leaders will gather in the coming days to discuss preparations. They don't know where the future temple will be built. They don't have a dedication date.

"But we know we can start preparing ourselves," he said. "We are so grateful."

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The Antofagasta Chile Temple will be the Church's third temple in the South American nation. There are almost 600,000 Latter-day Saints in Chile, serving in more than 600 congregations. The Santiago Chile Temple was dedicated in 1983 and rededicated in 2006.

President Nelson dedicated the Concepcion Chile Temple last fall.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

In San Pedro Sula, Roger Zavala from the San Pedro Sula Honduras Stake said he felt his heart would burst with joy when he heard President Nelson announce that his country's second temple would be built in his hometown.

"Our hearts are filled with joy knowing that so many faithful members here are helping to make this temple possible through their faithfulness and service," he said. "Both our families on earth and our relatives on the other side of the veil will be blessed for eternity."

Conferencegoers leave the Conference Center after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Conferencegoers leave the Conference Center after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Silas Walker

Zavala's friend, Salomon Arguelles Lara, called President Nelson's announcement "sublime news."

"I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit and God's love for all of us," he said. "This is undoubtedly a miracle and a great blessing."

The San Pedro Sula Honduras Temple will be the second temple in the Central American nation. The Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple was dedicated by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in 2013

Neiafu, Tonga

Tongan Latter-day Saint and Utah resident Taniela Fauloa said his fellow Latter-day Saints living in Neiafu are well-known as temple-loving people.

"They work so hard to travel to the temple in Nuku'alofa," he said. "We all know it has long been their wish to have their own temple in Neiafu."

Plans to build a second temple in his Pacific Island nation are an answer to many prayers, answered through a latter-day prophet.

“We understand and know this is the right time for the Lord in fulfilling our dreams of the people of the island.”

"We are all very excited and humbled, and full of gratitude. We understand and know this is the right time for the Lord in fulfilling our dreams of the people of the island. We understand we now have to do our part and the Lord fulfills (his work) in His time."

The first temple in the Kingdom of Tonga was first opened in 1983. More than 65,000 Latter-day Saints call Tonga home, making up 60 percent of the island nation's population. It is the most densely populated Latter-day Saint country in the world.

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Sunday's final session of general conference will never be forgotten by natives of "the Isles of the Sea." Besides the future Neiafu Tonga Temple, plans were announced to construct a temple in Pago Pago, the capital of the United States territory of American Samoa.

"I'm grateful to know that God is mindful of our people," said Carlson Amitoelau, an American Samoan living in the Salt Lake Valley. "It is an answer to the prayers of the faithful who desire to attend the Lord's House but may not have the means"

When American Samoa native Helen Satele heard President Nelson's announcement, she gasped.

"My eyes automatically filled with tears because of how much I knew this meant to our people," she said. "My mind went to my family and all my people back home. This will do wonders for them and I for sure want to help contribute to this wonderful, wonderful work."

Conferencegoers leave the Conference Center after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Conferencegoers leave the Conference Center after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Silas Walker

Pago Pago America Samoa West Stake Patriarch Andrew Autele said his heart felt like it "was going to burst" with joy. "I cried in humility and gratitude for this wonderful blessing. I felt our Heavenly Father's overwhelming love for our island saints."

Pago Pago resident Betty Schroeder added she was "so thrilled to hear the wonderful news of finally having a temple in American Samoa. I'm so filled with gratitude and just very very happy."

Mitzie Jessop Taase served as the matron of the Apia Samoa Temple (2014-2017), laboring alongside her husband, President Douglas W. Jessop. Traveling to the temple from Pago Pago to Apia has long been "a huge undertaking" for her family. "We must plan months in advance, saving up money and taking time from work," she said. "Knowing a temple will be built here is a truly humbling experience. We are so very grateful. I'm absolutely humbled, but thrilled to know a temple will be built on my island."

The future Pago Pago temple will be American Samoa's first such edifice. More than 16,000 Latter-day Saints live on the territory of seven islands and coral reefs.

A temple was originally announced for Pago Pago in 1977. However, in 1980, when President Spencer W. Kimball announced temples for Nuku'alofa, Tonga, and Papeete, Tahiti, he also announced a change of location of a Samoan temple from Pago Pago, American Samoa, to Apia, Samoa. Pago Pago was originally chosen as a more accessible location for more South Pacific Latter-day Saints. But with temples in Tonga and Tahiti, it was decided to build a Samoan temple on the nation of Samoa to be closer to more Samoan Saints

Okinawa City, Okinawa

Matt Silver was watching general conference Sunday from his living room in Salt Lake City. Still, he planned to follow President Nelson's request for reverence. But when he heard the name of one of his former mission areas — Okinawa City, Okinawa — read from the Conference Center pulpit, he couldn't help an audibly response. "Oh, I can't believe it," he said from his spot on the sofa.

Immediately, Silver's mind visited the memories of the friendly Okinawans that he grew to love as a missionary about five years ago. He knew they have dreamed of a temple on their Japanese island.

Conferencegoers walk to the Conference Center for the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Conferencegoers walk to the Conference Center for the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Silas Walker

"They have been fasting and praying for a temple for years," he said. "A temple has been on their minds for a long time."

The Okinawan people, he added, have deep feelings for their ancestors — so the family-centered purposes of the future temple will resonate with many. Most Latter-day Saints in Okinawa opt to travel to the Tokyo Japan Temple to perform temple work. The flight isn't cheap, but they sacrifice for the temple.

"It's an expensive ordeal, so having a temple in Okinawa will be an amazing blessing."

The Okinawan members are a combination of native Okinawans and American military personnel serving on the island. The future temple will be the fourth temple built on Japanese soil. Other temples are operating in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Sapporo. Approximately 130,000 Latter-day Saints live in Japan.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Hungary Mission President Kyle B. Hettinger was watching general conference Sunday with his wife, Sister Barbara Hettinger, at the mission home located above a meetinghouse in the capital city. It was around midnight when they heard President Nelson's announcement that Hungary would have its first temple.

Immediately, his mobile phone came to life. "We received many immediate emails, texts and social media contacts about the wonderful blessing of a temple here," said President Hettinger. "Right now, the temple that the majority of members go to in Hungary and western Romania is the Freiberg temple in Germany. The faithful pioneering Saints will be thrilled. We are excitedly anticipating the intensified progress of the Lord’s work here."

A former Eastern Bloc country, Hungary is home to more than 5,000 members, one stake and 22 congregations. The Church received legal recognition in this European nation in 1988.

Moses Lake, Washington

Mitchell J. Heaps, first counselor in the Moses Lake Washington Stake Presidency, said the announcement of a temple in his community is “unbelievable and believable at the same time.”

The rural farming community has hoped for the temple for a long time.

“We have a legacy of saints in the area,” Heaps said. “They came in the 1950s to settle the area with the Grand Coulee Dam nearby. … (The temple announcement) shows that our Father in Heaven trusts us to carry the work forward here in Eastern Washington.”

Heaps said the area has one stake with 12 units — about 4,000 members — who make up about 15 percent of the community.

Conferencegoers stand near blossoming trees during the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Conferencegoers stand near blossoming trees during the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred

“Moses Lake is kind of a smaller, farming, agricultural area,” he said. “We’re kind of in the middle of everything, but we’re not really close to anything.”

It is about an hour and a half to the Tri Cities Washington area, about an hour and a half to Spokane, and two and a half hours to Seattle.

Church members in the Moses Lake area now attend the Columbia River Washington Temple.

“The Columbia River Temple is one of the busiest smaller temples,” he said. “They’re running at capacity and have been for (a while) now. … We’ve got some wonderful saints, wonderful members of the Church here.”

Heaps, who grew up in the area and is now raising his family there, said for years he heard his friend Glenn Perrins talked about having a temple in the area.

Although he heard his friend speak of it often, it still seemed like a distant dream.

“He was always a strong believer and he talked about (a temple) openly,” he said. “In 2013 he died of cancer, but he told his kids he’d be working on it from the other side. I can certainly see that’s happened.”

There are three temples in Washington (the Seattle, Columbia River and Spokane temples). Members from the Evergreen State recently welcomed President Nelson, where he spoke to some 49,000 people at Safeco Field in September of 2018.

Tooele Valley, Utah

President Todd C. Thompson of the Tooele Utah Stake admits its was perhaps best that he and his family were not inside the Conference Center Sunday when President Nelson read the list of future temples.

"Our reaction was pretty joyous," he said. "It's good that we weren't in the conference center because we would've made a bit too much noise and President Nelson asked us not to. But we were pretty excited about it."

Conferencegoers leave the Conference Center after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Conferencegoers leave the Conference Center after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Photo: Silas Walker

Latter-day Saints who call Tooele County home have long prayed for a temple. The area has experienced dramatic growth in recent decades.

"We're just very joyful that it will happen in our lifetime and we just believe this will be a tremendous blessing for the whole Tooele valley," he said.

For many across the Tooele Valley, Sunday's announcement still came as a welcome surprise.

"This is something we've been hoping for but knowing it might not happen in our lifetimes," said President Thompson. "We were trying to just be patient and humble and we're grateful that the Lord is answering those prayers."

The Tooele Valley temple will be Utah's 21st temple. Other new temples are planned for Layton, Saratoga Springs and Washington County.

The Beehive State is home to more than 2 million members.

Scott Taylor, Marianne Holman Prescott and Aubrey Eyre contributed to this report.

A previous version of this article misspelled Neiafu, Tonga and the Neiafu Tonga Temple.

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