Restoration and Church History
Preserving the Sacredness of the Temple

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Preserving the Sacredness of the Temple

In 1989 Saints in Solano saved to make the eight-hour journey to the Manila Philippines Temple. Many planned to receive their own temple endowment; seven families also planned to be sealed together for eternity. These members remained committed to the trip even when, in the week before their departure, the government announced a 20 percent increase in gasoline prices. Despite the increased cost and reports of growing unrest in Manila, they set out on the evening of Thursday, November 30.

That night, a group of soldiers launched a coup attempt against the government. When the Solano Saints arrived in Manila in the early morning of December 1, much of the city had closed down—but the temple president, moved with compassion, told the Saints the temple would open for them. Staff at the temple prayed they could gather enough ordinance workers. Several soon arrived, including a sister who had walked five miles to the temple after her bus was canceled due to unrest. By early afternoon, the Solano Saints had received all their ordinances. As they loaded onto their jeepneys to travel home, small-arms fire and mortar shells could be heard in the distance.

On the evening of Friday, December 1, Dignardino Espi, director of temple security, arrived to care for the complex with two other guards, Remigio Julian and Felipe Ramos. The atmosphere, Espi recalled, was “tension filled” as reports of skirmishes between rebel and government forces just 400 meters away crackled from a small radio in the guardhouse. Through the night, the guards worried about how to maintain “the sacredness of the Temple and its surroundings” if conflict moved closer.

The next day it did. Espi, Julian, and Ramos watched as a rebel tank smashed through a government blockade on the road between the temple and the nearby military base. Rebel troops disembarked on temple grounds, but Espi convinced them to take shelter in the buildings around the temple rather than in the temple itself. The government soon began air strikes on rebel targets. Espi updated Church leaders of the situation by phone and was told to make his own safety his priority rather than the edifice. Shortly afterward, phone lines were cut.

On Sunday morning the guards fasted and held a prayer meeting as air strikes on the temple grounds continued. Church members around the Philippines also fasted and prayed for the temple, as did Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple. That evening, however, Espi listened as negotiations between the government and rebels on the temple grounds broke down. He heard the rebel commander direct his troops to prepare for a last stand—but Espi continued to pray the man would change his mind. “As we stood on watch all evening, we didn’t hear any explosion or gunfire,” Espi recalled. “We feel that peace is prevailing all over the temple and its surroundings.”

The next morning Espi and the other temple guards discovered that the rebels had quietly retreated during the night. Mortars, rockets, and gunfire had done significant damage to the patron housing, but the temple itself was unharmed.