SALT LAKE CITY — Desmond Ncube couldn't believe his ears.
The Zimbabwe native and LDS convert was watching general conference with his wife and young son in their Colorado home when he thought he heard LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announce a temple would be built in his home country. Eyes wide with alarm, he had to turn to his wife for confirmation.
"She told me she just heard him say Harare, Zimbabwe, too," Ncube said. "I have watched all church conferences since becoming a member, but this will be the one I'll remember forever, the day my country got a house of the Lord. ... This is a dream come true!"
The Harare Zimbabwe Temple was one of four announced by President Monson during the Sunday morning session of the 186th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other temples will be built in Quito, Ecuador; Belém, Brazil; and a second temple in Lima, Peru.
"When I became a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963, there were 12 operating temples in the entire church. ... Now there are 150 in operation throughout the world," President Monson said. "How grateful we are for the blessings we receive in these holy houses."
President Monson made the announcement on the 180th anniversary of the day Jesus Christ, Moses, Elijah and Elias visited Joseph Smith and Olivery Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, the first temple of the LDS Church.
It’s been one year since President Monson last announced a new temple. In April 2015, he announced temples in the Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Africa), Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Bangkok, Thailand. At that time, President Monson called the building of temples "a very clear indication of the growth of the church."
The announcement of a second temple in Lima, Peru, is historic. When it is completed, Lima will be the first city outside Utah with two LDS temples. The first Lima Peru Temple opened in 1986. South Jordan, Utah, has two temples, Jordan River (1979, now under renovation) and Oquirrh Mountain (2009). The Provo Utah Temple was dedicated in 1972, while last month the Provo City Center Temple opened.
Outside of Lima, Peru is home to an operating temple in Trujillo and another previously announced in Arequipa. Peru is home to 557,000 members of the church, according to Mormonnewsroom.org.
There are more than 26,000 members of the Church in Zimbabwe. The nearest operating temple to Harare is a 13-hour drive away in Johannesburg, South Africa.
There are more than 230,000 Latter-day Saints in Ecuador. The temple in Quito will be the country's second, with a temple dedicated in Guayaquil in 1999.
Brazil has six operating temples — in Campinas, Curitiba, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Recife and Sao Paulo. Another temple is under construction in Fortaleza.
The construction of more and more temples throughout the world is the answer to a call made by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then the second counselor in the First Presidency, in the October 1985 general conference.
“The sacred and important work that goes on in temples must be accelerated,” President Hinckley said. “And for this to happen, it is necessary that temples be taken closer to the people rather than having the people travel so far to temples.”
A great day for Zimbabwe
Elder Walter Chatora, a member of the Third Quorum of the Seventy and a native of Zimbabwe, joined the church in 1993. He has served as a bishop, stake president and temple recorder. Amid a flurry of messages and jubilant emotions, he wrote in an email that Sunday was a great day for Africa, especially the saints in his beloved country.
"I can't express the feeling, it feels great to be a Zimbabwean today," Elder Chatora wrote. "I was sitting next to my fellow Seventy, Elder Makasi, when the prophet mentioned that he was going to announce some temples before his remarks. I looked at Elder (Tasara) Makasi and whispered, 'Harare, Zimbabwe.' When the prophet announced it we looked at each stunned and then after a brief pause gave each other a high five! ... We have longed for this day and I know Zimbabwe will never be the same again. The humble saints of this great nation will be blessed forever!"
Elder Tasara Makasi, a member of the Third Quorum of the Seventy, was also born in Zimbabwe and joined the church in 1994. He labored as a missionary in Harare before serving in many leadership callings over the years. He was thrilled with the news.
"I am overwhelmed with joy," Elder Makasi said in an email. "The coming of the temple will bless the entire country of Zimbabwe. This is a day we have long been waiting for. We thank our Heavenly Father for this great blessing. Both of us, the living together with our dead, will be blessed by this announcement."
Tears flowed for Ken Sharpe, a local church leader in Harare, when he heard the news. Earlier in the day Sharpe was in a meeting with other local leaders when one brother spoke of a temple coming to Zimbabwe one day. As he spoke, Sharpe said he looked at a photo of the Salt Lake Temple and felt a spiritual impression that a temple was coming soon. He never imagined it would be the same day.
"God is great, so great!" Sharpe said in an email. "I'm so joyful now and crying with tears of gratitude to our Father in Heaven and our Lord Jesus Christ for his tender mercies as I know this will open the much awaited doors of heaven to our country."
Daniel Miño Peña, a native of Guayaquil, served as a missionary in Quito, Ecuador, from 1985-1987, before attending BYU. Members of his family are active Latter-day Saints in Guayaquil while Daniel and his wife Denise now live in a Tenino, Washington. They were watching with their children Sunday morning when President Monson announced a temple would be built in Quito. Peña immediately thought of the members he served as a missionary.
“My heart was filled with joy when I heard the news," Peña said. "I rejoiced with them because I know what a blessing it will be for the people of the northern part of Ecuador to have a temple near by.”
Heather Harris, of Logan, also served as a missionary in Quito from 2010-2012. She agreed with Peña.
"I was just thinking during the General Women's meeting last week how exciting it will be when Quito finally gets a temple, so it was awesome to hear it announced today," Harris said. "The people there are so humble and faithful, and they love the temple. It will be a huge blessing for them to have a temple more easily accessible."
Utah resident Jenna Robinson served in the Brazil Belém mission from 2011-2013. She was watching conference with her family when the announcement was made. At first she did a double-take, then the tears flowed, knowing members and missionaries have fasted and prayed for a temple to come someday. In recent years Belém members have traveled for days by bus, foot or boat to attend the Recife or Manaus temples.
"I was overjoyed," Robinson wrote in an email. "It is an extraordinary blessing to have a temple of the Lord built in that beautiful city. ... As missionaries we would sit with immense anticipation during the announcements of new temples in general conference, knowing that their sacrifices would soon bring blessings and that the Lord knew and loved these people. I feel privileged to be a part of this journey of a temple being built in Belém."
Whenever new temples are announced, Chad Hawkins remotely celebrates with members in those areas. An artist and author of a new book, "Temples of the New Millenium," Hawkins has traveled to many temples, including Lima, Peru.
"Newly announced temples are the result of an area’s faithfulness, membership growth and stability," Hawkins said. "For over half a century, Perú has long been a stronghold for the church and a fertile land of membership growth."
The first temple in Lima is only 9,600 square feet, the second smallest in the church, yet it serves more than half a million members in nearly 100 stakes, the largest number of stakes served by any temple. After the dedication of the Trujillo Peru Temple in last year, the Lima temple district was reduced to 73 stakes, Hawkins said.
In contrast, the Mt. Timpanogos Utah Temple has more than 107,000 square feet and serves 55 stakes, Hawkins said.
"For many years, Lima Peru Temple presidencies and workers have given their best effort to serve the large number of temple patrons and keep the temple operating efficiently as possible," Hawkins said. "The announcement of Lima's second temple is a tribute to the faithful members of Peru while honoring the valued legacy of the original Lima temple."
In his remarks at the end of the Sunday Morning Session, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, commented on President Monson's temple announcement.
"What a blessing for the church. What a blessing for the membership. What a blessing for these nations, which receive those wonderful temples," President Uchtdorf said.
Elder Quentin L. Cook said of the temple announcement in his talk Sunday: "This is cause for us to humbly rejoice."
In his Sunday talk, Elder Kent F. Richards, a member of the Seventy, recalled attending a temple open house with Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his family. As the family gathered around the sealing altar, President Nelson explained the significant of the temple and its blessings.
"(He) explained to them that everything we do in the church — every meeting, activity, lesson, and service — is to prepare each of us to come to the temple and kneel at the altar to receive all the Father's promised blessings for eternity," Elder Richards said.
The four temples announced Sunday will increase the total number of new temples announced or under construction to 27.
At the time, there were 36 dedicated temples. Nearly 31 years later, on March 20, 2016, the Provo City Center Temple was dedicated, becoming the church’s 150th temple.
Ground has been broken on temples in the following locations, and the buildings are in various stages of construction: Barranquilla, Colombia; Cedar City, Utah; Concepción, Chile; Fortaleza, Brazil; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Lisbon, Portugal; Meridian, Idaho; Rome, Italy; and Tucson, Arizona.
A groundbreaking has been scheduled for the Durban South Africa Temple on April 9, 2016.
Temples have also been announced in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Arequipa, Peru; Bangkok, Thailand; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Urdaneta, Philippines; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Groundbreakings for these temples have not yet been scheduled.
Additionally, the Freiberg Germany Temple is closed for renovations and will be rededicated in September 2016.
The Frankfurt Germany Temple and the Jordan River Utah Temple are closed for extensive renovation and are expected to be rededicated in 2017. The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple is also closed for renovations through October 2016.
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