Sarah Weaver, Deseret Morning News
Worshipers gather in front of Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple on Sunday. The temple will serve more than 50,000 Latter-day Saints in the Kingdom of Tonga.

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga — In what is known as "the friendly islands," the Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was rededicated Sunday by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the church's Quorum of the Twelve.

The temple, originally dedicated in 1983 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, had been closed since June 2006 for remodeling. It will serve more than 50,000 Latter-day Saints in the Kingdom of Tonga.

The dedication followed a successful three-week open house, attended by more than 40,000 people and launched when Tonga's king, His Majesty George Tupou V, addressed a gathering of 200 dignitaries on the campus of an LDS school, Liahona.

On Saturday evening, a program of singing and dancing was held in conjunction with the dedicatory events.

"This is a great, exciting occasion," said Elder Nelson, who presided at the event. "My feelings were captured in the very first words sung by the choir, 'Hallelujah,' which means praise to the Lord God Jesus. Tonight, we sing praises to God."

Elder Nelson, attending the event with his wife, Wendy Watson Nelson, offered greetings to the Royal family and church members from President Hinckley.

Tonga has the largest percentage of Latter-day Saints in any nation in the world. An estimated 46 percent of Tongans are LDS. The island kingdom houses 117 LDS chapels, two church high schools, six church middle schools and a temple. Of the 149 missionaries serving here, 135 are native Tongan.

"We are blessed here in Tonga," said Elder Sione M. Fineanganofo, an LDS Area Seventy "There is a chapel in almost every village in Tonga. We have the temple. We have a mission. What else do we need? We have everything in Tonga. Now we just need to remember to rededicate ourselves."

A large banner hanging across the road in front of the 18,000-square-foot temple shares that message in bold lettering: "Let's rededicate ourselves."

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