Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple
During the Sunday Morning Session of the 135th annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on 5 April 2015, President Thomas S. Monson announced the Church's intention to build a temple in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti. Soon Latter-day Saints who live in one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nations with a poverty rate approaching 60 percent, will be able to partake of the richest blessings of their faith through temple ordinances.
Haiti is home to more than 22,000 Latter-day Saints (out of an overall population of nearly 11 million), 46 Latter-day Saint congregations, and one mission. The temple district comprises more than 17,000 Latter-day Saints located in four Haiti stakes (similar to a diocese) and three districts (smaller than a stake).
At a stake conference held on Sunday, 12 March 2017, at the Centrale Chapel in Port-au-Prince, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced that the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple would be built on land immediately behind the chapel on Route de Frères.
The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple will be the first built in the country and the second built in the Caribbean, where missionary work officially began in 1980. Church members in Haiti currently attend temple services in the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple, requiring nearly a day's journey. The Church is growing steadily in this island nation where its third and fourth stakes were recently organized in 2012—all four stakes being headquartered in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, which boasts well over two million residents.
A Few Facts about the Church in Haiti
Latter-day Saint membership in Haiti has steadily grown since 1977 when Alexandre Mourra, a prominent Haitian businessman of Jewish-Arabic descent, was visiting his cousin’s business and noticed his cousin’s wife reading the Book of Mormon. Interested in the book, he wrote to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, to get his own copy. When he received the book, he read it in one sitting. Touched by this experience and his newfound testimony, Alexandre flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was baptized in July of 1977, making him the first official Latter-day Saint in Haiti.
On 13 August 1980, the Haitian government gave official recognition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two months later, the first branch of the Church was established in Port-au-Prince with Alexandre Mourra serving as the branch president.
Haitian Saints love to sing, even though many of the early Saints had to learn hymns by ear. Haitian-born Marc-Aurel reveals, "The saints in Haiti really love to sing. They sing loud. I would say most of them don’t know how to read music. But they like the words, they like the tune, and they sing as if they really mean it." His mother learned the hymns by hearing others sing early in the Church's history in Haiti when hymnals and other church resources were not widely available.
Less than 0.2% of Haitians are Latter-day Saints—that's 2 in 1,000. The vast majority of Haitians—80%—are Catholic. With only 18,165 members in a nation of almost 10 million, Latter-day Saints in Haiti are still a very rare thing. Pioneer Haitian Church member, Fritzner Joseph says, "I have been living in Haiti for all my life. I grew up in Haiti, and I made progress living in Haiti. And I know that if the Saints there can remain faithful, they will succeed."
Today, there are more than 23,000 members of the Church in Haiti, five stakes (a group of congregations), 26 congregations, 20 branches (smaller congregations), and one mission - the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission.
Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple
The ground was broken for the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple on Saturday, 28 October 2017, as Latter-day Saints and community leaders gathered to participate in the event. Elder Walter F. González, a member of the Seventy, president of the Caribbean Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a Uruguayan native presided at the groundbreaking ceremony and offered the dedicatory prayer. Elder Claudio D. Zivic and Elder Jose L. Alonso, counselors in the Area Presidency, also participated. They hosted Dominique Saint-Roc, mayor of the community of Pétion-Ville, the location of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple.
Responding to questions from the local media, Elder González said, "The temple groundbreaking ceremony was a wonderful spiritual experience. I can only think about everlasting joy and gratitude for all what the temple means in our lives. It is hard to express with words. This was a day of joy and gratitude when we start to build a portal to heaven as we come to better understand the importance of the covenants made in the temple and how they impact our daily lives, both in this time and eternity." A choir comprised of local Mormons in Haiti provided music for the sacred occasion.
Prosner Colin, a member who works in the Church's Haiti office, commented, "My beloved wife, Patricia, and I and our three beautiful kids, Eliza, Niel and Neilla, pray for the coming of the temple in each of our prayers. We pray for the hearts of the Haitian saints [to] keep turning to the Lord in order to continue the merit to have the temple. . .. It is real, we will have a temple, it is not a dream. For me this temple gives me hope that this nation will not be destroyed, and the Gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ will be in this land forever. I have hope that this country will change ... and I have hope that this House of the Lord will bring peace to this country in every aspect."
Public Open House and Youth Devotional
The public open house officially began on Thursday, 8 August 2019 - although a few visitors had already toured the new edifice. The public open house continued through Saturday, 17 August 2019 — except for Sunday, 11 August 2019. The hours for the open house were from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Hours on Saturdays were 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Among the first visitors to the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple was a delegation from the U.S. Embassy. They were hosted by Caribbean Area President Elder José Alonso, a General Authority Seventy, and Elder Bien Aimé Huberman, an Area Seventy and chairman of the temple’s organizing committee.
A youth devotional was held on Saturday, 31 August 2019
The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple is Dedicated
The Haiti Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple was dedicated on Sunday, 1 September 2019, by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The dedication of the new temple drew such interest that 23 members of the press came from far and near. Before the first of three dedicatory sessions, Elder Bednar said, "It’s amazing how the temple is a source of light, not only spiritually, but temporally." He also said, "On this day of dedication, I think not only of today, but also of the future, and what this temple will cause to happen in this country." And he said, "It is a place of supernal peace, which prepares you to go back into the world more stronger, and perhaps more purposeful than you were before."
Elder Bednar was joined Sunday at the temple by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, along with Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, and the Caribbean Area Presidency — Elder Jose L. Alonso, Elder Eduardo Gavarret, and Elder Jorge M. Alvarado. The wives of the area presidency — Sister Rebecca Alonso, Sister Norma Gavarret and Sister Cari Lu Alvarado — also attended.
Richard Bird and Ben Penrod, from Mapleton and Salem, Utah, respectively were two of the former church missionaries who served in Haiti who came back for the dedication. They served from 1998-2000. Because of dangerous conditions and political unrest in the last few years, only Haitians now serve missions in Haiti. Penrod said, "I think the progress you see in the members from the time we were here to now, is huge. The Temple will bind those families together, and it will be impactful for them and for future generations." Bird said, "One of the most amazing things, is that missionaries have been pulled in and out, and Haitians have stepped up and gotten stronger. For us to come back and see how much the Church has grown, is really heartwarming."
Emanuel Eximus, a Port-au-Prince native and a married father of three young sons, said, "“This is a day that I have waited a long time for. Today, I am so amazed that we have a temple in my own country." Because of the economic challenges that many Haitians endure, and because paying for passports, transportation and other costs can be almost impossible, many Haitian Saints were unable to attend the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple. Eximus, a convert to the Church, stated, "I’ve only been able to go to the temple in Santo Domingo on two occasions."
The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple is the 165th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The temple opened for ordinances on 10 September 2019.