Phnom Penh North Stake President Bunhouch Eng was one of some 450 people in attendance in 1996 when President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated Cambodia for missionary work. Only half of those 450 were Latter-day Saints.
He spoke about how a little handful of members then could become a great multitude of converts to the Church, “with hundreds and then thousands and beyond that, tens of thousands as the years pass,” President Eng recalled.
“I feel that the building of a temple on this site is another example of blessings from the Lord that President Hinckley prayed for.”
Today, the Southeast Asia country of Cambodia is home to more than 15,000 Latter-day Saints — and soon, a new temple. Ground was broken for the Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple on Saturday, Sept. 18, as reported by Newsroom.
“I’m so excited,” President Eng said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “I know that it’s not only us that are excited, but many of our ancestors are watching, rejoicing and excited with us concerning this sacred work, because they are hungry for the salvation of their souls.”
President Veasna Kuonno Neang of the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission presided at the event and offered the dedicatory prayer.
“This is a day heaven is smiling on us,” President Neang said. “This is a day of light and gladness. The light of Christ will shine here as temple construction is completed. …
“Today, a holy temple of God will begin its foundation representing the faithfulness, love and joy of the Saints in Cambodia. We know that when we come to the temple, we can feel closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be such a blessing to come to the temple as often as we can.”
Though attendance was limited due to COVID-19, members and friends across Cambodia and neighboring countries viewed the groundbreaking via online broadcast. Latter-day Saints in Cambodia have traveled to either Hong Kong or the Philippines to attend a temple.
The single-story temple of approximately 10,000 square feet will be built on a 3.16-acre site located on Russian Confederation Street, between the Cambodia Institute of Technology and the Institute of Foreign Languages near the Royal University of Phnom Penh. An ancillary building will also be constructed on the site.
In addition to President Neang and President Eng, speakers during the groundbreaking included Sister Hong Channy and Sister Yos Srey Nouch, who both expressed excitement for a temple in their land and gratitude for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
President Neang encouraged all Latter-day Saints in Cambodia to obtain a temple recommend and, more importantly, live a worthy life that qualifies them to enter the house of the Lord.
In the dedicatory prayer, he prayed the temple would be “a beacon of light and hope” and that God would sanctify the site and protect it, “that this site may be protected and blessed to be on a fully suitable setting and foundation for a sacred house of the Lord.”
President Russell M. Nelson announced a temple for Cambodia’s capital city on Oct. 7, 2018, one of 12 temple locations he identified during October 2018 general conference. He unveiled the Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple’s exterior rendering and announced its location 13 months later during a ministering visit on Nov. 19, 2019.
Thousands of Latter-day Saints grew silent as the Church president displayed the rendering. The stillness, however, was quickly replaced with a wave of delight that rippled across The Premier Centre Sen Sok, a Phnom Penh exhibition hall and reception center.
“That is what it will look like — isn’t that beautiful?” asked President Nelson, acknowledging the sacred work done in a temple before adding, “Preparing for the temple is sacred work.”
The sacred building is an indication that “God knows and loves” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cambodia, he said.