Many LDS Samoans in Utah County and around the world may have felt a burden lifted Tuesday when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially announced the dedication of a new temple in the their homeland that will replace the important church building in Samoa destroyed by fire in July 2003.
Sam Atoa, the women’s volleyball coach at Utah Valley State College said, he, his friends and his family have watched the rebuilding of the temple very closely and have awaited the day the dedication would be scheduled.
“I am elated,” he said. “I can’t say enough about how thrilled and excited I am. This means a lot to the Samoan people in this community.”
Faithful members go to temples to participate in the church’s most sacred ordinances, including marriages.
The First Presidency, the leading body of the LDS Church, announced Wednesday that two other new temples, one Newport Beach, Calif., and one in Aba, Nigeria, will also be dedicated this summer.
Each temple will be open to the public for three or four weeks before its dedication ceremony. During that time, community members of all faiths will be invited to take tours of the elaborate buildings before they are closed to the general public.
The Aba Nigeria Temple will be open from June 18 to July 2 and will be dedicated on August 7. The Newport Beach, Calif. temple will open it doors to the public from July 23 to Aug. 20, and a dedication will be held on Aug. 28. And the new Apia Samoa Temple will hold its open house from August 6 to August 27, with a cultural event on Sept. 3 and a dedication on Sept. 4.
Atoa said he has been watching the temple construction and hoping it would be completed during the volleyball off-season so he could attend the big event.
“But it ends up right in the middle of the season,” he said. “I have not totally abandoned the idea though. It would be wonderful to be there.”
Atoa grew up in Samoa, just a quarter mile from the temple grounds. He said he remembers his relatives and friends flying to Hawaii or Tonga to attend the temple before the 14,560-square-foot building was completed in 1983.
The temple burned down in a construction-related blaze two years ago.
“They made great sacrifices to attend the temple, and then to see it destroyed was heartbreaking,” Atoa said.
Latter-day Saints consider temples “houses of the Lord” where Christ’s teachings are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ordinances that unite families for eternity, a statement from the LDS church said.
Luana Best, from American Fork, said it is important for Samoans to have a temple nearby because they take temple blessings very seriously.
“Many people have been without a temple for what, two years now?” Best said. “So for them to have those blessing again is really important.”
Some LDS members in Samoa have saved up time and money and have flown to nearby Tonga to get married or perform other temple ceremonies since their temple burned down.
It is still possible that Samoans from Utah and some other places in the United States will have a chance to view the temple dedication even if they cannot travel the great distance home.
“There is talk of them showing a satellite broadcast at a chapel in Salt Lake,” Atoa said. “If they do, there should be a lot of us there.”
Before the accident in 2003, the Samoan Temple served 56,000 LDS Church members in 16 stakes and one mission. Twenty-nine percent of the people in Samoa are LDS Church members, one of the largest percentages in the world.
For more information about temple open houses or dedications, visit www.lds.org.