The turn of several dozen shovelfuls of dirt on Saturday, March 19, signaled the beginning of construction of the Freetown Sierra Leone Temple — the country’s first temple.
Elder Hugo E. Martinez, General Authority Seventy and the Africa West Area president, presided and offered the dedicatory prayer on the site. In attendance was Nabeela Tunis, minister of the country’s western region, and other government and religious leaders. The groundbreaking ceremony had limited in-person attendance and was broadcast to members in the country.
In a prayer dedicating the site and the construction process, Elder Martinez acknowledged the country’s religious freedom that allows people to choose how they worship God.
“Many have embraced the restored gospel of Thy Son Jesus Christ and look forward to the glorious day when they may attend the temple here in their homeland, to unite their family for eternity,” he said.
The Freetown Sierra Leone Temple will be a single-story building of approximately 18,000 square feet and built on a 2.9-acre site located at Jui Road, Kossah Town, Freetown, Sierra Leone. A two-story ancillary building will contain an arrival center, patron housing, presidency apartments, ordinance worker apartments and utility buildings.
Elder Martinez was joined by his wife, Sister Nuria Martinez. Also participating were Elder Larry S. Kacher, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Africa West Area presidency, and his wife, Sister Pauline Kacher; and Elder Daniel Kabason, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Sister Millicent Kane Kabason.
In his remarks, Elder Martinez spoke of the significance of having a temple in the country.
“Throughout history the Lord has commanded His people to build temples. The Church builds temples all over the world to increasingly make temple blessings more available to a greater number of Heavenly Father’s children,” he said.
He shared how when he and his wife were in their native Puerto Rico, they had to fly to the United States to attend the temple.
“Nuria and I can testify on the promised blessings received in the temple and the direction of how our families can be together forever,” he said.
He noted how members of the Church in Sierra Leone have had to travel by plane to go to the temple in Accra, Ghana, which comes at a personal sacrifice.
Elder Kabason, an Area Seventy, encouraged members to prepare to go to the temple by getting a temple recommend.
“If it has expired, please make an appointment with your bishop and get it renewed,” he said. “Those who do not have a temple recommend, begin to prepare yourself spiritually. Put your life in order and get a temple recommend.”
The nearest temple is the Accra Ghana Temple, which is more than 2,000 kilometers, or 1,250 miles, away. There is also a temple in Aba, Nigeria, which is about 3,100 kilometers, or about 1,900 miles, from Freetown. Three other dedicated temples in Africa are the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo, Johannesburg South Africa and Durban South Africa temples.
Another three temples are under construction — the Abidjan Ivory Coast, Nairobi Kenya and Harare Zimbabwe temples. Nine more temples have been announced, but are not yet under construction. They are the Antananarivo Madagascar, Beira Mozambique, Benin City Nigeria, Cape Town South Africa, Kananga Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kumasi Ghana, Lagos Nigeria, Lubumbashi Democratic Republic of the Congo and Monrovia Liberia temples.
The Praia Cape Verde Temple, an island republic some 500 kilometers off the coast of West Africa, is scheduled to be dedicated in June. It is assigned to the Church’s Europe Area.
There are more than 22,700 members of the Church in Sierra Leone in 79 congregations.