10 years after devastating earthquake, Haitian Latter-day Saints welcome friends to nation’s first temple

Unimaginable horror fell upon Haiti in the opening month of 2010 when a massive earthquake claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced legions more.

The disaster prompted a world-wide humanitarian response — including tens of millions of dollars from the Church to help fund food, clean water and other disaster aid efforts.

Almost a decade later, the quake recovery continues. But Haitian Latter-day Saints are celebrating this week as they welcome their friends and neighbors to their nation’s first temple.

The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple public open house officially begins on Tuesday, Aug. 6 — although a few visitors have already toured the new edifice, surrounded by lush gardens reflective of Caribbean flora.

“I can’t believe my eyes,” said Michael Paquette, a Canadian who was one of the first international missionaries to serve in Haiti in the 1980s. “I used to walk up and down this road outside the temple, Route de Freres. (That) was in the early days of missionary work; now there are (several) stakes here in Port-au-Prince. Now the temple is here.”

The building’s beauty is amazing, he added. “It is very special for the saints in Haiti.”

Caribbean Area President José Alonso, far right, hosted representatives of the U.S. Embassy on a recent tour of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple that included, from left, Jean Baptiste, U.S. Embassy defense attaché Commander Kenneth Eller, Haiti communication director Sister Pierre-Nau and Area Seventy Elder Bien Aimé.
Caribbean Area President José Alonso, far right, hosted representatives of the U.S. Embassy on a recent tour of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple that included, from left, Jean Baptiste, U.S. Embassy defense attaché Commander Kenneth Eller, Haiti communication director Sister Pierre-Nau and Area Seventy Elder Bien Aimé. Credit: Courtesy of the Caribbean Area Public Affairs

Counted among the first visitors to the Port-au-Prince temple was a delegation from the U.S. Embassy. They were hosted by Caribbean Area President Elder José Alonso, a General Authority Seventy, and Elder Bien Aimé Huberman, an Area Seventy and chairman of the temple’s organizing committee.

Elder Huberman noted the historic significance of having a temple operating in his homeland.

“The temple is, first and foremost, important because the members will be able to do their sacred ordinances,” he said.

In the past, the high cost of travel and passports prevented many Haitian Latter-day Saints from worshipping regularly inside temples in neighboring Dominican Republic and other nearby nations.

“(Now) we will also be able to go to the temple in our own country with our friends, family and our own people,” he said. “It is a new day for us, a new program. We are very satisfied. Everyone is excited and we are ready now for the open house to begin.”

The Port-au-Prince temple is distinctly Haitian.

A photo of a sealing room in the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple, which will be open to the public during an open house beginning Thursday, Aug. 8, through Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019.
A photo of a sealing room in the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple, which will be open to the public during an open house beginning Thursday, Aug. 8, through Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Turquoise blue and lime green carpets throughout the interior mimic the neighboring sea and the island’s fecund plant life. It’s patterned after an array of local vegetation — including palm leaves, tropical flowers and the hibiscus, Haiti’s national flower, according to a Church-provided facts report.

Palm leaf motifs are found in several areas of the temple such as the celestial room, sealing room, baptistry and foyer. Palm leaves, of course, were used to celebrate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Temple visitors will also spot hibiscus-inspired wall plaster patterns in the brides’ room.

Artwork adorning the Port-au-Prince temple includes two original works: “Haiti Palm Trees by the Sea” and “Mountains near Port-au-Prince,” both by Russian artist Emin Zulfugarov, the report noted.

The public open house will continue through Saturday, Aug. 17 — except for Sunday, Aug. 11.

A youth devotional in Haiti will be held on the eve of the Sept. 1 dedication of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple. The temple will open for ordinances on Sept. 10.

Haiti is home to more than 23,000 Latter-day Saints.