Preparing to attend and report on the April 14 dedication of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple, I heard several acquaintances mention the building’s simplicity and smaller size.
In meeting with the members of the Africa Southeast Area presidency in Salt Lake City for April 2019 general conference, all three — Elders S. Mark Palmer, Joseph W. Sitati and Joni L. Koch — shared the Congolese Latter-day Saints’ delightful excitement and grateful anticipation for the 12,000-square-foot temple.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, whom I met with and spoke with about that simplicity in advance of his presiding at the Kinshasa temple dedication, cited a parable shared by President Boyd K. Packer. The acting president of that same quorum shared the parable during the April 2000 general conference, the first in the then-new Conference Center.
“A merchant man seeking precious jewels found at last the perfect pearl. He had the finest craftsman carve a superb jewel box and line it with blue velvet. He put his pearl of great price on display so others could share his treasure. He watched as people came to see it. Soon he turned away in sorrow. It was the box they admired, not the pearl.”
By cautioning against focusing too much on the box instead of the pearl, Elder Renlund said President Packer underscored the difference of the attention given a beautiful, new Conference Center and the true value of the messages, teachings and testimonies offered inside.
The simplicity of the Kinshasa temple is “the exact opposite” of an elaborate, exquisite box, said Elder Renlund of the temple in DR Congo, a country he has visited some 40 times. “It needs to be adequately built and sufficiently lovely to reverence the Savior.”
Also, the simplicity is by design, so not to attract undue attention, as some temples have at times in parts of the world, he added.
“The Kinshasa temple is, to me, the most beautiful temple in the world,” Elder Renlund said, “and the ordinances there are going to bless people generationally.
“But the pearl is no different. And sometimes the box can distract from the pearl, so we won’t have that problem.”
He concluded: “The temple’s interior is such that everyone who comes from the temple district will feel like this is a remarkably beautiful place. And the ordinances — the pearl — are what enlivens the temple.”
In the end, I missed the dedication in the DR Congo, my trip negated by the losses of a visa application and accompanying passport submitted to the consulate office as well as the cancellation of a key flight on my itinerary to Africa. From my remote coverage of the weekend events, Latter-day Saints there spokereverently and gratefully for the temple.
And what I’ve learned is a Latter-day Saint temple is both a box and a pearl.
As boxes, temples come in various shapes, sizes and designs, with each one reflecting heaven and the local community.
The inside-the-box pearl is comprised of the endowments, ordinances, covenants and blessings helping us move forward along the covenant pathway. And that “pearl” is the same, no matter the shape, size or design of any temple worldwide.
I hope professional or personal travels one day take me to Kinshasa, to personally view the temple and even participate in sessions there.
And to experience the Kinshasa version of “the box and the pearl.”