With the sight of green tropical foothills above and the blue waters of Walter Bay below, Elder Peter F. Meurs of the Pacific Area presidency offered the dedicatory prayer to commemorate the beginning of construction of the Port Moresby Papua New Guinea Temple.
The Saturday, April 22, event included government and business leaders as well as Church leaders from across the island.
Elder Meurs, a General Authority Seventy who serves as the first counselor in the area presidency and in August will become president of the Pacific Area, was joined by his wife, Sister Maxine Meurs, and Elder Robert Gordon, an Area Seventy, as well as other honored guests in the symbolic turning of the soil with shovels.
Sir Bob Dadae, governor general of Papua New Guinea; Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee, solicitor general; and Joe Zadrozny, chargé d’affaires, U.S. Embassy to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, all attended the event.
One group of 18 Latter-day Saint men trekked four days across the Kokoda Trail to make it to the groundbreaking in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea. The trail is a single-file footpath that runs approximately 96 kilometers (almost 60 miles) through rugged mountain ridges and rainforests.
“Temple groundbreaking is a beautiful occasion for us, the members here in Papua New Guinea,” local Church leader Sasa Zine told the Church’s Pacific Newsroom. “Never in my lifetime I thought I’d see this, and I’m so grateful. I think my children and my posterity will be blessed because of this event.”
In his brief remarks before offering the dedicatory prayer on the grounds and construction, Elder Meurs spoke not only of the purpose of temples but also of the faith of Latter-day Saints throughout Papua New Guinea.
The first branch in Papua New Guinea was organized in October 1979. Almost exactly 40 years later, in October 2019, President Russell M. Nelson announced a temple for the island country, which is located just north of Australia and includes hundreds of islands.
In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Meurs prayed that the construction period would be a time for Church members to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. “May they turn to Him and receive His healing and redeeming power,” he said.
After the ceremony, Elder Meurs told Pacific Newsroom that this time of construction while the temple is being built is “a great season of preparation” to help everyone get ready for the house of the Lord. “What a blessing it’s going to be to the Church and, I think, to the whole nation of Papua New Guinea.”
On May 3, 2020, the Pacific Area posted a six-minute video on Facebook about what the temple announcement means to members in Papua New Guinea. The video shares testimonies and Latter-day Saint efforts to prepare to attend the new temple.
Pelyne K. Keket of the Gerehu Branch shared about attending the temple with her husband and children. “I was so happy,” she said. It look a long time to be able to prepare. “We felt so close to Heavenly Father.”
At the time, Keket told her husband, “When we go back to PNG, I pray for that feeling to still be in my heart. I can’t wait for the temple to be built in Papua New Guinea.”
Port Moresby currently resides within the Suva Fiji Temple district, roughly 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) away.
President Barney Ambuia, Sepik River Papua New Guinea District president, commented, “The temple will be built in our own land in Papua New Guinea, and I am very thankful for the Lord’s blessings today.”
Ouhdin Lagaia added that “a huge measure of happiness” washed over her during the groundbreaking and over everybody else who attended.
The temple will be constructed on Muniogo Crescent in the Badili neighborhood of Port Moresby. Plans call for a one-story building of approximately 9,550 square feet. The rendering shows a white exterior with brown doors and window frames and a single spire. Papua New Guinea is known for its biological diversity and dense rainforest, so the grounds will include gardens with various flowers and palm trees.
A distribution center, a temple president’s residence, missionary apartments and patron apartments will be built near the temple. A meetinghouse was demolished to make way for the new temple.
Papua New Guinea has about 35,000 Latter-day Saints in 87 congregations and two missions.