Suva Fiji Temple
On 7 May 1998 the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that plans had been made to build a temple in Suva, Fiji. The temple is the 91st operating temple of the Church, and serves more than 35,000 Latter-day Saints in Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands. It is the first temple built in Melanesia.
Before the dedication of the Suva Fiji Temple, the 12,000 members in four stakes currently living on the main island of Viti Levu and in two districts located on the nearby islands of Vanua Levu,Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu, traveled to temples in Tonga, Samoa or New Zealand. Now their own temple is located just minutes away near the Samabula Chapel. It is a scenic location not far from the downtown area of Suva, Fiji's capital. With views of the Pacific Ocean from three sides of the property, the land is located at one of the highest points in the city.
Early Missionary Work in Fiji
The first Mormon missionaries arrived in Fiji in 1893. It was hard work for missionaries to travel among the 100 inhabited islands of Fiji to teach the people. The work was slow, and it was not until 1954 that the first branch was organized. After 1954 the work began to quicken, and by 1993 there were more than 6,600 members in six wards and fifteen branches.
A groundbreaking ceremony and site dedication were held for the Suva Fiji Temple on 8 May 1999. Earl M. Monson, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, presided at the ceremony and dedication.
According to the 22 May 1999 edition of the Church News, Elder Monson made the following remarks to those in attendance:
- It will be a privilege for many of you to watch as the temple grows from where we are today to a beautiful structure on this scenic hillside. The temple will stand as a reminder of the intention God has for families to be eternal. It will be wonderful for mothers and fathers to be able to point to this temple and say that this is where we were sealed for eternity, and their families will have a sense of peace and assurance that will help them through difficult times. In many ways we are preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior to the earth, but equally important is that we are preparing family members to meet Him. It is wonderful to know the steps to be taken on the straight and narrow path, defined by the Savior, that leads to eternal life, and to know how families and the temple are interlocked with them.
The site chosen for the temple was 4.7 acres and is considered one of the most beautiful temple sites. The Pacific Ocean can be seen from three sides of the property on one of the tallest hills in the area, and is located just a few minutes away from downtown Suva. The exterior of the 1,185-square-metre temple is finished with snow-white granite from Campolonghi, Italy and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. The building stands 65-feet high and is crowned with a gilded statue of the angel Moroni, who is significant to Latter-day Saints for his role in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The colors and design motifs of the temple were inspired by the flowers, beaches and jungles of Fiji. The interior of the temple features original art glass and a hand-painted mural depicting the landscape and flora of the islands.
Open House and Temple Dedication
The temple was open for public tours June 7th through the 12th, 2000. Just before the open house, starting on May 19th, political unrest occurred in Fiji. A group of armed rebels held a group of government leaders hostage in Suva for weeks. Those held hostage included the Prime Minister of Fiji at the time, Mahendra Chaudhry. The situation was so intense that the Church decided to send all of the missionaries in the area to the other side of the island to avoid any dangerous situations. Despite these problems and little media attention, over 16,000 people toured the temple including 300 community leaders. Those who toured the temple were able to see the two ordinance rooms, two sealing rooms, Celestial room, and baptistery. They were also able to learn more about Mormon beliefs associated with the temple.
The Suva Fiji Temple was dedicated on 18 June 2000 by Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1995 to 2008. Because of the political unrest that had been going on since before the open house, it was decided that a small dedication service would be best and the normal four dedicatory services were abandoned. Sixty people attended the dedication which was held in the Celestial room of the temple.
The Suva Fiji Temple was closed 13 October 2014 through 15 December 2015 for renovations which included improved air conditioning operations, and the refreshing of all finishes with some slight modifications. During the closure, other temples in the Pacific Area accommodated members from the Suva Fiji Temple District, including those who desired to receive their own ordinances.
A Picturesque Tour of the Suva Fiji Temple
The following pictures from Mormon Newsroom of the inside of the Suva Fiji Temple were officially released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 19 January 2016.
Open House and Cultural Celebration
The open house which was free to the general public was held on Monday, 25 January, through Saturday, 6 February 2016. There was not an open house on Sunday, 31 January. The tours began at the adjacent Fiji Service Centre, and consisted of a 10-minute video presentation followed by a 30-minute walking tour through the temple. The temple is located at 2-20 Lakeba Street, Samabula, Suva. A local Church leader who oversaw the open house, Vito Qaqa, commented, "We welcome everyone to come and see our temple. We look forward to sharing with visitors why Latter-day Saints consider temples our most sacred places of worship."
The re-dedication of the Suva Fiji Temple was preceded by a cultural celebration featuring music and dance by 1,300 Latter-day Saint youth from around Fiji and friends from other faiths. The celebration honored the pioneers of the Church and the early pioneers of the Pacific in helping the worldwide faith to grow. Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church commented, “I join with you in celebrating the great contributions of so many who have built up the kingdom of God in these islands. You will touch hearts that will transform those in this audience with feelings of love for the Lord and gratitude for all that Heavenly Father has done for us.”
The event was scheduled to take place at on the evening of Saturday, 20 February 2016, at ANZ Stadium in Suva. However, due to an impending cyclone, it was moved up from the evening to the afternoon and the program was shortened. Instead of using the outdoor venue as planned, the event was moved across the street from the stadium to the enclosed Vodafone Arena. The media and members of the public were invited to attend.
The Suva Fiji Temple is Rededicated
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rededicated the Suva Fiji Temple on Sunday, February 21, 2016. The re-dedicatory sessions were held at 9:00am, 12:00pm, and 3:00pm. The services were broadcast to meetinghouses in the Suva Fiji Temple district, and the regular three-hour block of meetings were cancelled to allow members to participate in the services. Accompanying President Eyring were Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy, members of the Pacific Area Presidency and temple presidency.
The Suva Fiji Temple will serve members in Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.