First Presidency released sites and renderings for temples in Vanuatu and Kiribati

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released site locations and exterior renderings for a pair of recently announced temples on Pacific Ocean islands, the latest in a string of similarities between the two temples.

The latest details for the Port Vila Vanuatu Temple and the Tarawa Kiribati Temple — first announced by President Russell M. Nelson on the same day, Oct. 4, 2020 — were made public Wednesday, May 19.

Exterior renderings show sister-like temples — single-story edifices of approximately 10,000 square feet, each with a center spire. The two will be the first temples in their respective Pacific Island nations.

Vanuatu and Kiribati are currently in the Suva Fiji Temple district. That temple is 1,072 kilometers (479 nautical miles) due east of Vanuatu and 2,168 kilometers (1,171 nautical miles) southeast of Kiribati.
Vanuatu and Kiribati are currently in the Suva Fiji Temple district. That temple is 1,072 kilometers (479 nautical miles) due east of Vanuatu and 2,168 kilometers (1,171 nautical miles) southeast of Kiribati. Credit: Church News graphic

Groundbreaking dates and interior renderings have yet to be released, with detailed design plans still being developed. Project leaders are beginning to work with local civic officials on preliminary plans and filing public documents.

Both Vanuatu and Kiribati are currently in the Suva Fiji Temple district. That temple is 1,072 kilometers (479 nautical miles) due east of Vanuatu and 2,168 kilometers (1,171 nautical miles) southeast of Kiribati.

Port Vila Vanuatu Temple

The 1.62-acre temple site is at Port Vila’s Blacksands Crossroads, where the Church’s Blacksands meetinghouse is located. Plans call for the construction of an ancillary building, which will include an arrival center, patron housing and distribution center.

Vanuatu is home to 10,210 members — one of every 30 residents of the island nation is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ — as well as one stake and 37 congregations and one mission.

A branch in Port Vila was first organized in July 1973, with missionaries assigned in Vanuatu in 1975. On his tour of Pacific islands in June 2003, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to what was the largest group ever assembled in Vanuatu, with 2,212 Latter-day Saints and friends gathered throughout the meetinghouse chapel, classrooms and doorways and out onto the lawns.

Tarawa Kiribati Temple

An exterior rendering of the Tarawa Kiribati Temple, released May 19, 2021.
An exterior rendering of the Tarawa Kiribati Temple, released May 19, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The .80-acre site at Ambo, South Tarawa, will include not only the temple but a new meetinghouse and a facility for patron housing. An additional ancillary facility will be located 450 meters west of the temple site.

The Church counts nearly 21,000 Latter-day Saints in Kiribati — or about one out of every six residents — as well as two stakes, 37 congregations and one mission.

Kiribati — pronounced “KEE-ruh-bas” — is a collection of 33 Micronesian islands in the mid-Pacific, where the equator and international dateline meet.

Church roots trace back to local school teacher Waitea Abiuta asking if his graduates could attend Liahona High School in Tonga, with the request approved in 1972. Abiuta and several students converted to the Latter-day Saint faith, and the students later served as Kiribati’s first missionaries in October 1975.

The first constructed meetinghouse was completed in 1984, and Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the first stake in 1996.