Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple
The Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple is the 23rd operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The first Mormon missionaries arrived in Tonga in 1891. Missionary work in the area was steady but in 1922 a law was passed restricting the number of North Americans who could get visas to Tonga. Because of this law, Church leaders began calling missionaries in Tonga to serve in their own country. This was very beneficial to the Church in Tonga because when World War II started in 1940 and outside leadership had to return to the U.S. there was a strong base of leaders and Priesthood holders among the local members of the Church. On June 7, 1946, the Book of Mormon was published in Tongan, which greatly increased missionary work, and in 1954 the Church began publishing a Church magazine in Tongan.
The first stake was organized in 1968; at the time there were just over 10,000 members in Tonga. There are numerous Mormon schools in Tonga and they have helped the Mormon Church grow in the area even when proselyting was restricted or when other missionary work was slow. Now the Tongan monarchy fully supports the Church. The king of Tonga encourages his people to keep the Sabbath day holy, and businesses are closed on Sunday. Tongan tradition supports the idea that family comes first, making the principles of the Mormon Church inviting to many people of Tonga. Today Tonga has more Mormons per capita than any other nation in the world. Forty two percent of the population are members of the Mormon Church.
On April 2, 1980 the Mormon Church announced that a temple would be built in Nuku'alofa Tonga. A groundbreaking ceremony and site dedication were held on February 18, 1981. President of the Church at the time, Spencer W. Kimball presided at the ceremony and gave the dedicatory prayer. Tonga's king, Tauga'ahau Tupou IV attended the ceremony. Labor missionaries who volunteered their time from New Zealand and other South Pacific Islands did most of the construction of the temple.
The Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple was open to the public for tours July 19th through the 30th 1983. Those who toured the 14,572 square foot temple were able to see the exterior, walk the grounds of the five acre temple site, and see the interior which includes two ordinance rooms, three sealing rooms, the Celestial room, and baptistery, as well as other facilities needed to carry out ordinances according to Mormon beliefs. The temple is located on the grounds of the Liahona College, on Tonga's main island Tongatapu, the school is the largest Mormon school in the country.
Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the temple in multiple sessions held during August 9-11 1983. The Nuku'alofa Temple serves more than 45,000 Mormon members in the Tongan islands. The Tonga temple is very busy, staying open six days a week and even all night on the last Friday of every month so that all who want to attend have the opportunity. This is in part because of the Tongan people's respect for their ancestors and interest in family history work.