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Gerry Avant, Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson speaks to children after conducting the cornerstone ceremony for the Cebu City Philippines Temple on Sunday.

CEBU CITY, Philippines — LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson dedicated the Cebu Philippines Temple on Sunday, proclaiming it "a beacon on the hill" that brings light to the world.

"It is a beautiful temple, a house of the Lord," he said.

In offering the prayer to dedicate the 133rd temple in operation by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Monson expressed gratitude for the missionaries who served in the Philippines, beginning nearly half a century ago, and for "the thousands of missionaries who have followed in their footsteps."

The church gained official recognition in the Philippines in 1961.

Three of the four missionaries who put the church's roots down in Cebu attended the dedication. Two live in Utah — Richard Thorson of Layton and Tom Pearce of Hunter. The third, Paul Wright, traveled from Piedmont, Calif. The fourth missionary, Don A. Asay of Concord, Ore., had business commitments.

When they arrived, the four young missionaries found only one Filipino and five U.S. servicemen who were Latter-day Saints. Now, 43 years later, they were surrounded by thousands of members at the dedication of the temple. Proceedings of the dedication were broadcast to LDS chapels throughout the Philippines.

The Philippines Temple District serves some 200,000 members living in the Visayas and Mindanao island groups in the southern part of the Philippines. The 400,000 other Latter-day Saints in the Philippines are served by the Manila Philippines Temple, which was dedicated in 1984.

During a ceremony to seal in place a symbolic cornerstone, President Monson expressed gratitude for the Filipino people and sacrifices they made during World War II.

President Monson also said he enjoyed being in the Philippines and particularly at the dedication of the Cebu temple. "I felt the spirit of the Lord" today, he said.

Other LDS general authorities who traveled from Salt Lake City for the dedication were President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy. Elder Walker is the executive director of the church's temple department. Other members of the Seventy who attended included Elder Keith R. Edwards, president of the church's Philippines area, and Elder Won-Yong Ko and Michael J. Teh, first and second counselors in the area presidency.