Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world were delighted when President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple at the opening session of the 181st Semiannual general conference of the Church. Kinshasa, the country’s capital and largest city, houses the first Latter-day Saint temple built in the nation and in Central Africa. The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Temple is the fourth Latter-day Saint temple built on the African continent. The other three temples in Africa are in Johannesburg, South Africa (dedicated in 1985); Accra, Ghana (2004); and Aba, Nigeria (2005). The Durban South Africa Temple and Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire Temple have been announced.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has experienced rapid membership growth since the first stake of the Church in Kinshasa was created in 1996. There are currently 9 stakes in the combined conurbation of Kinshasa-Brazzaville with a total of 15 stakes and 4 districts in the countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of the Congo. The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple is a tremendous blessing to over 23,000 Church members spread throughout the vast region of Central Africa.
The completed temple contains instruction rooms, sealing rooms, a celestial room, and a baptistery. In instruction rooms, Church members learn about the purpose of life and make promises to live faithfully. Marriages are performed in sealing rooms, and Latter-day Saints believe families can be sealed, or joined, not only for this life but for eternity. The celestial room symbolizes eternal life in the presence of God and Jesus Christ.
Rapid Church Growth in Africa
The construction of Latter-day Saint temples (Temples are separate from chapels, where members gather for weekly worship services), no matter the location, is a sign of not only a Latter-day Saint community that is strong and mature but also one that is growing. The fact that the Church in Africa has grown exponentially in the past 30 years is surprising to even those who understand the culture and complexity of this vast region of the globe - whether they are leaders and converts living and serving in Africa, or those who journey to Salt Lake City, Utah to help guide the affairs of the global Church.
In 2014, more than 12,000 people were baptized and became members of the Church in Southeast Africa (about 4 percent of growth Churchwide) and 24,000 people were baptized and became members in West Africa (about 8 percent of the 296,000 converts around the globe). And in 2015, growth merited the creation of the Church’s first two stakes (groups of congregations under the direction of an ecclesiastical leader) in Mozambique. Also in 2015, the Church created 17 new stakes (each similar in size to a diocese) throughout Africa.
An understanding of historical context helps a person appreciate the rapid growth in membership that has occurred. In Africa 30 years ago, the Church had 137 separate congregations and about 22,000 members. Today, there are more than 1,600 congregations and half a million members — that’s 11 times more wards and branches and 20 times more members than in 1985.
Establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kinshasa
Kinshasa’s first Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in February 1986. Church services were organized in members’ homes until September of that year when the remodeled villa the Church purchased was ready to accommodate its 208 members. By July 1987, there were 300 members in the country, many of them young men and young families. Nine years after the Zaire Kinshasa Mission was established, the first stake (or group of local congregations) was organized. As of 2014, there were 37,909 Church members in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 130 congregations, 11 Family History Centers and now a temple.
The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple is constructed next to the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake Center on land that has been reserved for several years. An institute and seminary building also operates on the 10-acre property. The temple is located in the Quartier Bosoko, Ngaliema, area of Kinshasa at Avenue de l'OUA, Commune de Ngaliema, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on nearly five acres. Stone from Egypt and porcelain tile from South Africa covers the floors of the building, which is over 12,000 square feet. The interior design features a subtle elegant geometric and diamond motif. Landscaping offers a vibrant array of local flora in contrast to the white plaster exterior and zinc roof.
The ground was broken for the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on Friday, 12 February 2016. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presided. He was joined by members of the Area Presidency, Elders Carl B. Cook and Kevin S. Hamilton, and their wives, Elders Jean Claude Mabaya, Wembo Lono and Alfred Kyungu of the Seventy, a number of government and religious leaders, and 800 Latter-day Saints.
During remarks to the Latter-day Saints and members of the community, Elder Andersen commented, "This holy house will also bless the country and the people who surround it, whether or not they are members of the Church. It will be a light upon a hill, and the glory of the Lord will be upon it." He also paid tribute to the people of Africa and of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He stated, "They are a spiritual people. They trust in God and they pray to God. Our Heavenly Father loves His sons and daughters here and answers their prayers."
The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple Dedicatory Services
On Sunday, 14 April 2019, under a beautiful African sky, hundreds of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered to witness a historic moment - the dedication of the Kinshasa Democratic of the Republic of the Congo Temple. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles led the dedication and performed the cornerstone ceremony, which symbolizes the completion of the temple and its readiness to be dedicated for sacred use. He was accompanied by his wife Sister Ruth Renlund, members of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency and their wives, and other leaders.
In his dedicatory prayer, Elder Renlund offered a blessing upon the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that they may be provided for in their needs and that there may be continued peace in the country. He also gave a blessing upon the members of the Church that they may be made strong amidst their challenges.
In his remarks at the dedication ceremony, Elder Joseph W. Sitati, a member of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency, highlighted the significant growth in the number of temples of the Church worldwide, and the blessings that these holy edifices bring to the lives of the members of the church and the countries in which they are located.
The dedication of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple marks an important milestone for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the DRC, the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa by area. The history of the Church in the DRC dates to the 1970s when the first Congolese converts were baptized in Europe. Today there are more than 60,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the DRC, where the Church is experiencing phenomenal growth.
The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple is the 163rd operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide and the fourth operating temple on the African continent. The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple will serve seven countries in the surrounding area, including Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Gabon.