With royalty in attendance and proceedings broadcast live over national radio, ground was broken for the Neiafu Tonga Temple on Saturday, Sept. 11.
The temple will be the second of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Kingdom of Tonga, joining the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple which was dedicated in the capital city in 1983.
Elder Inoke Kupu, an Area Seventy, presided and conducted at the groundbreaking ceremonies on the temple site on Tu’I Road in Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga.
Attendees included His Majesty King Tupou VI and Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u, Speaker of the House Lord Fakafanua and the Honorable Prime Minister Reverend Dr. Pohiva Tuionetoa and other distinguished guests.
In a prayer dedicating the site and the construction process, Elder Kupu prayed for the Latter-day Saints in Tonga’s northern islands, who try to attend the Nuku’alofa temple once a year. “Bless the Saints of Vava’u and the Niaus that they may live worthily to receive the blessings of the temple.”
President Russell M. Nelson announced a temple for Neiafu during the April 2019 general conference. Its exterior rendering and site location were released later that year — Aug. 14 — with initial designs calling for a single-story structure of 17,000 square feet. Housing for the temple president and missionaries and a distribution center will also be constructed on the site.
In his remarks, Elder Kupu underscored the purpose of temples and the future open house and dedication.
“This temple is being built next to Saineha High School, a Church sponsored place of learning, which will soon be bathed in the light of the temple and a beacon of peace and safety to all. Temples are holy places of worship and a higher place of learning where individuals make sacred covenants with God, which when kept enable people to return to live with God once more. To have the teachings of the world is good, to have the teachings of God is essential.”
He continued: “In a few brief years, the building of this temple will be complete, and after an open house where people of all denominations can walk through the temple and receive an explanation of the rooms and their purposes, it will be dedicated to the Lord.”
Elder Kupu also read a message to the King and Queen and other dignitaries in attendance from Elder Ian S. Ardern, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Pacific Area presidency, who with other area leaders were not able to travel to Tonga because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
In part, it read: “We are honored that you chose to be at this groundbreaking ceremony for the temple. Your presence only serves to add to the importance and majesty of this occasion.”
The groundbreaking ceremonies were broadcast live nationally on Tonga Broadcasting Commission’s radio network and to guests in four overflow facilities nearby.
The 2021 groundbreaking comes on two significant anniversaries — 130 years after the first missionaries arrived in Tonga in 1891 and 40 years following the groundbreaking for the Nuku’alofa temple.
The Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua, who attended with his wife, said, “Fane and I were privileged to be a part of this momentous groundbreaking service. The temple will be an historic monument for the Vava’u Saints and the Kingdom of Tonga.”
Tonga is home to some 175 congregations comprising more than 66,000 Latter-day Saints — roughly 60 percent of the nation’s population.