The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced plans to build a temple to serve some 50,000 members in Samoa, Tonga, French Polynesia (Tahiti) and Fiji.
Scheduled for a late 1978 groundbreaking and a 1980 completion, the $1.5-million temple will be situated in American Samoa at a site to be announced later. Prior to its formal dedication, the public will be invited to tour the temple. After the dedication, it will be open only to worthy members of the Church.
Temples of the Church are not used for congregational worship services. They are reserved for special ordinances such as marriages (generally for eternity) and baptisms. Ordinances include those for the deceased as well as for the living, There are sixteen temples now in use worldwide, another nearing completion in Brazil, and still others on the drawing board for Japan, Mexico, and Seattle, Washington.
Church members in Polynesia currently use the temple in Hamilton, New Zealand.
The First Presidency said the temple in Samoa will alleviate lengthy and expensive traveling by Church members in the islands, who now travel anywhere from 1,246 miles (Tonga) to 2,544 miles (Tahiti) to reach the temple in New Zealand.
With a temple in American Samoa, the Tahitians will be 1,419 miles away and those in Fiji and Tonga considerably closer.
The Mormons in American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and Fiji belong to some 180 congregations. There are 13 stakes and four missions of the Church in the area to be served by the temple.
Mormon missionaries were first sent to Polynesia from the Church’s headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1842. Today, an estimated ten percent of the population in Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Fiji are members of the Church.
The temple will be a one-level structure, situated on an elevated site for flood protection, according to Emil B. Fetzer, Church Architect, who is in the process of designing the building. It will be designed so that a future addition, if needed, will double its performance capacity.
Building materials will be selected from native resources, Fetzer said, “probably lava type stone and some of the many fine hardwoods available in the area.”
Because of the heavy rainfall in Samoa, the temple roof will be designed to function “as a giant umbrella for drainage efficiency,” the architect said. In addition, he said, “the roof will be made as soundproof as possible, another consideration prompted by the heavy rains.”
“Architecturally, we want the temple to fit comfortably into the islands, to blend in with the country and the culture,” Fetzer added.
The temple will include rooms for marriages and other ordinances, a baptismal font featuring a bas relief giving the appearance that the font rests on the backs of oxen, representing the twelve tribes of Israel; offices, locker rooms, kitchen, dining room, nursery and laundry.
A temple committee of local Church leaders has been organized to work with representatives of the Church Physical Facilities Department in the planning and construction of the temple, under the direction of the First Presidency. Tufuga S. Atoa, Western Samoa, has been named chairman of the temple committee. Atoa is Regional Representative of the Church’s Council of Twelve Apostles for the Samoa Region.