Elder Renlund Dedicates Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple in French, Commends “Strong, Stoic, Devoted” Saints

Contributed By Scott Taylor, Church News managing editor

  • 15 April 2019

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center, is joined by his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, right, and their daughter, Ashley Renlund, left, as he conducts the cornerstone ceremony during the dedication of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Renlund dedicated the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on April 14, 2019.
  • He performed the dedicatory prayer in French and spoke of the valiant Latter-day Saints in the country.
  • The temple will serve over 62,000 Latter-day Saints there and in surrounding countries.

“God has blessed us with the temple among us. We will make the covenants in our temple in French and fulfill all the ordinances necessary to save our ancestors, strengthen our family bonds, and receive the instructions of the Lord in His holy house and promise to go there as often as possible.” —Elder W. Jean-Pierre Lono, Africa Southeast Area Seventy

When helping to identify images for a last-minute piece of artwork for the new Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple, Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, recommended something representing the Congo River. Second only to the Nile as the longest river on the continent and second only to the Amazon as the largest river in the world in discharge volume, the Congo River tops as the world’s deepest river and is the only one to cross the equator twice.

Elder Renlund, who dedicated the temple in Kinshasa in three sessions on Sunday, April 14, called the large piece depicting the renown Zongo Falls (also known as Nzongo)—some 130 kilometers (90 miles) from the capital city and feeding into the Congo River—as having “phenomenal symbolic significance.” Painted by Provo artist David Meikle and simply titled Congo Falls, it has been placed prominently just inside the temple’s entrance.

“When early Christian missionaries came, their converts to Christianity would take their fetishes—these inanimate objects that they believed were magical and had spirits and that they would worship—and do a pilgrimage to these falls and throw those fetishes into the falls as a token of their commitment,” said Elder Renlund to the Church News before leaving for Kinshasa for the weekend dedication events.

Those going to the Kinshasa temple will pass by the painting—having made their own modern-day commitments—as they enter to do ordinance work for themselves or their ancestors.

And the flow and power of the Congo River—which runs just 2 kilometers from the temple site and separates Kinshasa and Democratic Republic of the Congo from their northern counterparts Brazzaville and the Republic of Congo—is symbolic of the flow and power of inspiration, spiritual strength, and promised blessings now coming from the 163rd operating temple worldwide of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“God has blessed us with the temple among us,” said Elder W. Jean-Pierre Lono, an Area Seventy for the Africa Southeast Area who resides in Kinshasa. “We will make the covenants in our temple in French and fulfill all the ordinances necessary to save our ancestors, strengthen our family bonds, and receive the instructions of the Lord in His holy house and promise to go there as often as possible.”

Sister Mamie Ilunga, wife of Elder Eustache Ilunga, also an Area Seventy from Kinshasa, said, “What has excited me most is to have the blessing to witness for the very first time the dedication of a temple in our city and country. It is a witness of a dream becoming real.”

The history of the Congolese people is one of difficulty and hardship, said Elder Renlund, mindful of nearly a century and a half of challenges ranging from colonial rule under Belgium to independence to civil strife in recent years.

“And yet, you meet the people and you’re just amazed by how spiritual they are, how strong, how stoic, and how absolutely devoted they are to the Savior and to the restored Church,” he said.

The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple comes just 32 years after the Church received official recognition in the country, then known as Zaire; began meetings; and witnessed the first of many baptisms.

Church membership in Democratic Republic of the Congo exceeds 62,000, with the country counting 21 stakes, 153 congregations, and 3 missions; a fourth mission will open later this summer. Democratic Republic of the Congo membership accounts for 10 percent of all Latter-day Saints in Africa and is the world’s largest group of French-speaking members. Graphic by Mary Archbold, Deseret News.

Today, Church membership in Democratic Republic of the Congo exceeds 62,000, with the country counting 21 stakes, 153 congregations, and 3 missions. A fourth mission will open later this summer. Democratic Republic of the Congo membership accounts for 10 percent of all Latter-day Saints in Africa and is the world’s largest group of French-speaking members.

Elder and Sister Renlund and many of the participating leaders gave their remarks in French, one of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s official languages. With Elder Renlund having visited the country nearly 40 times, the Renlunds refined their French-speaking skills during the five years he served in the Africa Southeast Area Presidency; he served as Area President from 2011 to 2014.

In fact, Elder Renlund offered the dedicatory prayer in French. It is believed it is only the second time such a temple dedicatory prayer has been offered in a language other than English, the first being when then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf rededicated the Freiberg Germany Temple in September 2016.

Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second-largest country in Africa, approximately the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River, and has a population of more than 80 million, making it the fourth most populous country on the continent behind Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

The new temple will not only bless Democratic Republic of the Congo but also six other countries in the surrounding area assigned to the temple district—Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda.

Until now, members in Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rest of central Africa wanting to go to the temple had to make costly trips—in both time and money—to travel to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. By air from Kinshasa, the distance is 2,780 kilometers (1,720 miles) and requires a flight of nearly four hours; by car, the journey takes at least 48 hours.

In his dedicatory prayer, as reported by the Church’s Newsroom, Elder Renlund offered a blessing upon the Congolese people, that their needs may be provided for and that there may be peace in the country. He also blessed the members to be made strong despite their challenges.

The first dedication service included the cornerstone ceremony, where Elder Renlund, visiting leaders, and local members placed mortar around the temple’s cornerstone, symbolic of the completion and readiness of the sacred edifice.

Sunday’s dedication came on what is observed as Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, which marks the Savior’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the start of the final week of his mortal life. A large crowd greeted Him, covering His path with palm leaves, flowering branches, and cloth, shouting “Hosanna” and “Blessed be the King.”

The dedication’s “Hosanna Shout” and “Hosanna Anthem” was a fitting tie to the event two millennia earlier.

Joining the Renlunds for the dedication-related events over the weekend were Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy; Elder Hamilton’s wife, Sister Claudia K. Hamilton; and Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department.

Also participating were the members of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency and their wives: Elder S. Mark Palmer and Sister Jacqueline A. Palmer, Elder Joseph W. Sitati and Sister Gladys N. Sitati, and Elder Joni L. Koch and Sister Liliane M. Koch.

The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson in October 2011 general conference, with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presiding over the February 12, 2016, groundbreaking service at the temple site. The groundbreaking drew 800 attendees.

Sitting on nearly five acres located in the Quartier Basoko, Ngaliema, area of Kinshasa, the exterior of the temple is constructed of white plaster with a zinc roof, and the surrounding temple grounds feature a variety of local plants and flowers. The more than 12,000 square feet of interior flooring is constructed of stone from Egypt and tile from South Africa, which accompanies the geometric and diamond motifs featured in the interior design.

Temple facts

Location: 51 Avenue OUA, Quartier Bosoko, Ngaliema, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Plans announced: October 1, 2011, by President Thomas S. Monson

Groundbreaking: February 12, 2016, by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Construction start: April 4, 2016

Public open house: March 12–30, 2019

Dedication: April 14, 2019, by Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Property size: 5.34 acres

Building size: 12,090 feet

Architect: Naylor Wentworth and Lund Architects with V’Arconn

General contractor: Westland Construction

A pair of Congolese youth embrace outside the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on its dedication day, Sunday, April 14, 2019.

The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.

The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.

Latter-day Saints gather outside the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on its dedication day, Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Latter-day Saints gather outside the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on its dedication day, Sunday, April 14, 2019.

A young Latter-day Saint child attends the cornerstone ceremony in conjunction with the dedication of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

A young Latter-day Saint child attends the cornerstone ceremony in conjunction with the dedication of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

The flow and power of the Congo River—which runs just 2 kilometers from the temple site—is symbolic of the flow and power of inspiration, spiritual strength, and promised blessings now coming from the 163rd operating temple worldwide of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The painting Congo Falls by David Meikle is found in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Elder Renlund said the flow and power of the Congo River is symbolic of the flow and power of inspiration, spiritual strength, and promised blessings of the temple.