‘Hope’ and ‘rising generation’ underscore groundbreaking for first temple in Kenya and East Africa

With children, youth and young adults among the speakers and a prevailing message of hope, a Sept. 11 groundbreaking ceremony signaled the start of construction of the Nairobi Kenya Temple — the first not only in that country but in all of East Africa for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some 100 Church leaders and members, guests and journalists gathered for Saturday’s event in Mountain View, a neighborhood of Nairobi. Attendance was by invitation only because of COVID-19 gathering restrictions, but the groundbreaking was livestreamed for Latter-day Saints and friends in meetinghouses and homes across Kenya and several neighboring nations.

Elder Joseph W. Sitati, president of the Africa Central Area and native of Kenya who presided at the event, said the day was dedicated to the rising generation of the Church. He invited them “to look at the temple that will come up in this site as their temple. This is the place they will get married; this is the place where they will make covenants that will bless them for all eternity.”

Daniel Odiero, age 9, speaks at the Nairobi Kenya Temple groundbreaking on Sept. 11, 2021.
Daniel Odiero, age 9, speaks at the Nairobi Kenya Temple groundbreaking on Sept. 11, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The day’s speakers included representation from the young adults, youth and children.

“At this moment I am so overwhelmed with joy. I am filled [with] peace,” said Shelda Wandera, age 24. “I know that our Savior and our Heavenly Father love us so dearly. That is why They have blessed us with this wonderful house.”

Fifteen-year-old Brandon Kioko said he was looking forward to making any personal changes that were needed to enter the House of the Lord. “The temple is a place where we can feel closer to God; a place where we can search for comfort,” he said. “I know [it] will bring blessings to individuals and families.”

Hope also served as a central theme to the groundbreaking, held on the day that the world memorialized the 9/11 tragedy that occurred 20 years earlier in the United States. As such, speakers highlighted the hope of triumph over death that is intrinsic to the purposes of temples.

Guests help to symbolically start construction by turning ceremonial shovelfuls of soil at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nairobi Kenya Temple on Sept. 11, 2021.
Guests help to symbolically start construction by turning ceremonial shovelfuls of soil at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nairobi Kenya Temple on Sept. 11, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In temples, said Elder Matthew L. Carpenter, a General Authority Seventy and counselor in the area presidency, “husbands and wives can be sealed  — which means married or bound — together forever, and have their children sealed — or bound — to them as a family, forever. These sealing blessings again are not only for this life, but they are for all eternity. …

“The day will come when one of us will die and we will be separated for a short time from each other,” he continued. “Knowing that we have made the marriage covenant with God by the proper authority, I know we will be together for all eternity. That brings great comfort and peace. That same comfort and peace can rest with each person who enters the temple of God.”

Those feelings of hope and peace can impact not only individuals, but societies as a whole, Elder Sitati said.

Temples “usher in peace in the world, because of the effect they have on people’s hearts. That is why this is a special day.” 

Rose Maloba, a 17-year-old young woman, speaks at the Nairobi Temple groundbreaking, on Sept. 11, 2021.
Rose Maloba, a 17-year-old young woman, speaks at the Nairobi Temple groundbreaking, on Sept. 11, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Also attending the event was Kenyan Member of Parliament, the Honorable Opiyo Wandayi, who shared a message written by the Right Honorable Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister of Kenya. That message underscored hope as well.

“Kenya has … a long, unique and proud tradition of tolerance and cooperation between faiths,” wrote Odinga, who is a member of the Anglican faith.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued the tradition of not only providing for our spiritual needs, but also for our physical ones. I therefore wholly welcome the decision to put up a dwelling place for God in Nairobi.”

Odinga said he thanked the Church “most sincerely, for the work you have done this past year and over the years to sustain the faith, hope and physical well-being of our people. At a very difficult time, members of the Church have been in the forefront, giving us reason to hope.”

The Nairobi temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson in April 2017 general conference. Once completed, the temple will serve not only Latter-day Saints in Kenya, but the temple district will include the surrounding countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The Church in Kenya started with the 1979 baptisms of a family of four. Today, nearly 15,000 Latter-day Saints reside in the country, which is home to two stakes, six districts and 54 congregations.