Nairobi, Kenya • The LDS Church will break ground for a temple in Nairobi to serve its growing number of East African followers.I'll leave it to the reader to note the appropriateness of a Mormon missionary in Kenya named Sister Lillywhite.
The church confirmed the plan this week during the visit of its president, Russell M. Nelson. The new leader — installed in January after the death of President Thomas S. Monson — made Kenya his third stop on a global tour that church officials bill as an effort to connect with the faithful.
The growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is positive but slowing in the U.S. Growth is also slowing abroad but stands at about twice the U.S. rate. Construction of a temple — a setting for key Mormon blessings allowed nowhere else — is a sign that the Utah-based faith has established strong roots in a region.
There are 159 Mormon temples worldwide, and the planned Nairobi temple is one of 30 more announced or under construction. Nelson referred to the church’s early prophets when he told a group of Mormons and guests Monday in Nairobi:
“You perhaps don’t think of yourself as pioneers, but you’re just as much pioneers here now as Brigham Young and his associates were following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s,” Nelson said, according to the church. (Smith founded the faith in 1830 in New York state. Young led Mormons to the American West.)
“Membership in the continent of Africa is about the same as it was for the whole church in the year I was a boy,” Nelson added during an address broadcast to Mormon congregations throughout Kenya.
The future temple in Kenya, home to more than 13,000 Mormons, will be the eighth in Africa. Three temples are already open on the continent: in Accra, Ghana; Aba State in Nigeria; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Two more temples — in Kinshasa, Congo, and Durban, South Africa — are under construction. New temples have also been announced for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Harare, Zimbabwe, where Nelson traveled after he left Kenya.
Apostle Jeffrey Holland accompanied Nelson on the trip and also addressed the gathering in Nairobi.
“It will be a while before it’s up, but plan to attend when you can; plan to make that a highlight of your life as often as circumstances and finances and transportation will allow,” he said. “Nothing will bless you more.”
Mormon ordinances include proxy baptism for dead ancestors and the “sealing” of marriages and families, so they may — Mormons believe — live together after death. These ordinances can happen only in LDS temples.
Now, East Africans who want to participate in these ordinances have to travel far to the nearest one, said Evelyn Jepkemei, the director of the church’s Coordinating Council of Public Affairs in Kenya and Tanzania.
“Members have been traveling to South Africa … but not all can afford the cost. They want the temple to be part of their worship,” Jepkemei told reporters gathered for Nelson’s speech.
Construction of the Nairobi temple is “part of the vision to ensure that all saints [members] have access to a temple.”
According to Ellis Mnyandu, the church’s international director of public affairs for the Africa Southeast Area, it takes three to four years build a temple. They are often grand, multistoried structures, and only Mormons in good standing may enter once temples are consecrated.
He said that while a site for the Nairobi temple has been selected, its location has not been made public. “We can only project that the temple will be dedicated about 2021,” said Mnyandu. “It will be one of the smaller designs.”
The LDS Church, which is organized into wards (single congregations) and then stakes (usually five to 10 wards), has two stakes in Kenya and three in Uganda.
Mormon missionaries first arrived in Kenya in the 1980s amid suspicion, and the faith group was shunned as a cult and anti-Christian. Mormons call themselves Christians but differ from other denominations in several ways, including that their Book of Mormon is, along with the Bible, a sacred text, and that the head of the church is considered a prophet.
The faith has gained acceptance in East Africa and registered with the Kenyan government in 1993. The church carries out humanitarian and disaster relief work, supporting health, clean water, immunization and food programs.
“The humanitarian capacity is endless. It is going on all the time,” said Sister Lillywhite, one of the church’s missionaries in Kenya.
As reported by Bob Mims and David Noyce of the Salt Lake Tribune, April 20, 2018 (updated April 21, 2018) (links in original):
In a land replete with ancient Hindu temples and Buddhist and Islamic holy sites, LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson predicts his 188-year-old faith’s planned house of worship in Bengaluru, India, will have a positive impact throughout South Asia.
“The influence of the [Mormon] temple will be felt not only by the people here in this particular part of India, but it will bless the people of the entire nation and neighboring nations,” Nelson stated Thursday after arriving in the city of more than 12 million people.
He shared similar optimistic sentiments Friday in Bangkok, Thailand, site of another planned LDS temple, stating that the “future for the church is bright here in Asia.”
Nelson, who succeeded the late Thomas S. Monson as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January, announced Bengaluru as the site of India’s first Mormon temple during the church’s General Conference in Salt Lake City this month.
“It was a thrill for me to receive the real impression that I should announce that there will be a temple here in India,” Nelson said. “The temple is our ultimate destination here on planet Earth. All the blessings that God has in store for his faithful people come in the temple.”
In Thailand, he and his entourage visited the location for a temple that was announced three years ago.
“We had a very special feeling [there],” Nelson said at a meeting with several thousand members in the Thai capital. “Just think of how ancient the activities of the temple are. … We have temple work documented from the time of Adam ... in the Old Testament and New Testament times.”
Nelson, accompanied by his wife, Wendy, and apostle Jeffrey R. Holland and his spouse, Patricia, began their April 10-23 globe-trotting tour in London. From there, the group flew to Israel, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India and Thailand. The journey concludes with visits to Hong Kong and Hawaii.
Meeting with LDS leaders, missionaries and members Thursday, Nelson talked about the challenges of lifting India’s Mormons to a status worthy of taking part in temple rites, which include eternal marriages, proxy baptisms for deceased ancestors and other sacred ceremonies. Only Latter-day Saints in good standing are permitted in temples.
“In a way, it’s easier for us to build a temple than it is to build a people who are ready for the ordinances and covenants of the temple,” he said. “It’s going to take you a little while to get ready. It will take us a little while to build it as well. … Now, I’m 93 years old. You better hurry.”
Before the meeting, LDS leaders looked at potential building sites for the temple. No announcement on a specific location was made, but Holland pledged that the edifice will be a “national treasure.”
“It will be revered and admired and loved by these millions of people,” he said, “and bless them in a wonderful, wonderful way.”
For the thousands of Mormons in India, the planned temple and Nelson’s visit were dreams come true.
“Our church is growing fast in our country, and this will bring many blessings to our nation,” said Paul Vijayakumar, who served a Mormon mission in the area in 1988. “Those days here, very few people [were] able to bless the sacrament [communion] and pass the sacrament and partake [of] the sacrament. So today I’m happy that this hall was filled with a lot of members.”
The LDS Church, which began unofficial missionary outreach in India in the 1850s, dedicated its first meetinghouse in the nation of 1.3 billion in 2002. Today, the church lists more than 13,500 members in 43 congregations.
That is a small, but valued contingent of Latter-day Saints, but Nelson, formerly a renowned heart surgeon who has visited India twice in the past, proclaimed: “They love God, and I love them.”
The “prophet, seer and revelator” to 16 million Mormons worldwide said the church’s “approach is to take the poverty out of the people, not the people out of the poverty, as we teach them that God loves them and that if they’ll keep his commandments, they will have joy in life.”
On Friday, he urged Thailand’s Latter-day Saints to prepare themselves for temple worship. “I bless you with love at home, success in your work and joy in your hearts.”
The nation is home to 22,000-plus Latter-day Saints in 41 congregations.