“Tahitians Feel Spirit of Peace in New Temple,” Ensign, Dec. 1983, 66–67
In addition to its stately earthly beauty, the new Tahiti Temple left visitors impressed with the spirit of peace and reverence they felt as they streamed through it before its dedication.
Saints who live in these Pacific islands had no trouble identifying the source of their feelings. They gave thanks to our Heavenly Father for inspiring the First Presidency to build a temple in their midst. President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, offered the dedicatory prayer October 27.
President Hinckley expressed gratitude for the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. “While he was yet alive and while the Saints were yet in Nauvoo, he was inspired to call the first missionaries to these beautiful Society Islands of the Pacific. From their dedicated labors in those early years there came a great harvest.”
He spoke of the growth of the Church in the islands and added: “There is now strength and maturity among the many thousands of the Saints of French Polynesia, for which we express gratitude unto thee. As a capstone of all this effort we now have this beautiful and sacred house to present unto thee.”
He asked that the temple might “be holy to thy people, a sanctuary of peace from the noise and the conflicts of the world, and a house in which they may labor for eternal blessings for themselves and for those who have passed beyond the veil of death.
“We ask that thou wilt preserve it as thy house. May it be protected by thy power from any who would defile it. May it stand against the winds and the rains that beat upon it. May it be beautiful to all who see it, and sacred to all who enter it.
“We pray for those who govern these islands,” he added, “that they may be guided by thy spirit to conduct the affairs of government in such a way that those who live here may rejoice in the privileges afforded them, and may the government and the people of these beautiful islands always be hospitable to thy appointed servants.
“We pray for thy people who walk in faith and obedience wherever they may be found. Reward their faith and prosper their labors.”
Nearly five hundred Tahitian Saints packed the chapel of the temple for the first of six dedicatory services held there October 27 through October 29.
During the opening dedicatory service, President Hinckley recalled a tragic shipwreck that occurred twenty years ago, during his first visit to the Society Islands. It claimed the lives of many Saints. He said he felt that they were now looking on approvingly at the dedication of the temple and that the prayers of these departed Saints were influential in the decision to build a temple in Tahiti.
Georges Bonnet, regional manager for temporal affairs of the Church in Tahiti, said Saints at the services felt strongly the presence of these other onlookers as President Hinckley spoke of the shipwreck, inviting those who survived to use the temple well.
Polynesian members, including a group of singing grandmothers, gave a warm island greeting to the visitors from Salt Lake City. In addition to President Hinckley, visiting General Authorities included Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Jack H Goaslind, Jr., and Elder Rex C. Reeve, Sr., of the First Quorum of the Seventy; and Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown.
The temple attracted attention among Tahitian Saints and nonmembers alike. More than sixteen thousand visitors toured the structure before its dedication. Many enthusiastic nonmember visitors recruited others to go back with them. “My friends visited the temple four or five times,” Brother Bonnet said. Missionaries received more than five thousand referrals.
“Most Polynesians, whether members or not, are very, very glad to have the temple here,” Brother Bonnet added. They take pride in its beauty. Visitors were enthralled by the simple elegance of its decor.
Many visitors requested more information about the purpose and meaning of ordinances to be performed in the temple. Among them were the highest-ranking French government official on the island, High Commissioner Alain Ohrel, and the head of the local government, Gaston Flosse.
The 8,500-square-foot temple, the twenty-fifth currently operating in the Church, is located in downtown Papeete. It will serve the 8,000 members of multi-cultural French Polynesia, offering services in French, English, and Tahitian.