APIA, Samoa The Apia Samoa Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was destroyed by fire on Wednesday evening.
The cause of the evening blaze has not been determined. The blaze may have been be related to an ongoing construction project at the temple, said Paul E. Koelliker, managing director of the Church's Temple Department.
The 20-year-old temple was being renovated and expanded to add a baptismal font and was scheduled to be rededicated in December.
There were no reported injuries.
People with buckets attempted to douse parts of the blaze until fire crews arrived a short time later, according to Richard Chadderton, a church employee on the island. Many people were on hand to witness the blaze.
"It was sad...a lot of (people) were crying," said Queenah Va'aulu, 17, who lives near the temple.
The Apia Samoa Temple, the only LDS temple in Samoa, was dedicated Aug. 5-6, 1983, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then second counselor in the church's First Presidency. It is situated on a 1.7-acre site near an LDS Church school and the church's mission home in Pesega, Samoa.
Wednesday's fire marks the first time a functioning temple has burned. The Nauvoo, Ill. temple was torched by an arsonist in 1848 after the church population had abandoned Nauvoo to migrate west.
News of Wednesday's fire quickly reached Samoan-born Utahns. Mark Ahmu of Highland grew up in American Samoa and remembers visiting the temple grounds as a child.
"I think the members are pretty faithful down there," said Ahmu, whose great-grandfather donated the land on which the temple was built. "They will do whatever it takes to help rebuild. The culture is one of really strong faith. It will be sad for people to hear the news, but it is not something that will keep them down."
The temple featured a modern design with a masonry exterior finish over concrete block and a cedar shake shingle roof. Total floor space was 14,560 square feet.It is expected that the temple will be rebuilt, but that decision will be made later by the church's First Presidency, the church said in a news release.