SAPPORO, JAPAN — On a rainy, windy Saturday, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and local dignitaries gathered for groundbreaking ceremonies for the church's Sapporo Japan Temple, the third LDS temple in Japan and sixth in Asia.

"I am thankful for this historic groundbreaking — even in the downpour," said Elder Gary E. Stevenson, who presided at the service as a member of the church's First Quorum of the Seventy and president of the Asia North Area. He was joined by his counselors in the area presidency, Elder Michael T. Ringwood and Elder Koichi Aoyagi, both members of the Seventy.

Following the groundbreaking Elder Stevenson reported: "Everything today was wet with rain, but the spirit of the saints was not dampened. They came with their hearts open and with complete joy as they saw the image of the temple at the groundbreaking ceremony. You could see that their eyes and hearts were just filled with joy to know that they are going to have a house of the Lord on the island."

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama also attended the service and expressed gratitude to the LDS church for its humanitarian efforts following the recent earthquake and tsunami.

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"With the recent Great East Japan Earthquake, you have made many social contributions in a spirit of service," Hatoyama said. "I cannot express my feelings toward your quiet service you have rendered with kindness on behalf of the people affected, in performing debris removal and many other tasks. I pray that your social contributions will further expand here in Sapporo as the Sapporo Temple is being constructed."

Plans to build the Sapporo Japan Temple were announced by LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson in October 2009. It will join two other Japanese temples — one in Tokyo and the other in Fukuoka — in serving 125,000 Japanese Latter-day Saints in some 286 church congregations.