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Tongan and Samoan students say their families are overjoyed by the new temples

Photo of the renderings of the temple in Samoa with white walls, a tower structure, and palm trees around it.
Rendering of Pago Pago, American Samoa Temple

BYU–Hawaii students from Tonga and Samoa discussed how new temples announced in their countries brought joy to them and their families because they will make temple attendance easier. The new renderings of the temples, they said, also fit the island lifestyle.

“My goal is to save up and go back for the [American Samoa Temple] dedication and be able to see the smiling faces of the people and how blessed they are to be able to have a temple,” said Anna Fogava, a junior from Samoa majoring in hospitality and tourism management.

On Aug. 14, the Church Newsroom released the exterior renderings for the Neiafu Tonga and Pago Pago American Samoa temples, which were announced by President Russell M. Nelson during the April 2019 General Conference. Dates for the groundbreaking of the temples have not been set yet.

Both temples will be single-story and approximately 17,000 square feet, according to the Church Newsroom. The Pago Pago American Samoa Temple will be the first temple built in American Samoa.

Lina Pongi, a sophomore from Tonga majoring in TESOL, said she was in California when they announced the new temple, which will be built on the island where she was raised.

“I called my mom and my dad, and everyone started crying and was overjoyed because we finally get to have the temple, and it’s very close. From my grandma’s house, it’s a 2-minute walk, and from our house, it’s less than a 7-minute drive.”

Pongi said church members living on Neiafu save money all year to travel to Tongatapu, where the current temple is, and many can only afford to attend the temple once a year.

“It’s not an easy thing to travel over to Tongatapu and go to the temple because it’s very expensive to travel from Neiafu,” she said.

Nane Kaulave, a junior from Tonga studying social work, said although she is from Tongatapu and has a temple nearby, she has seen the sacrifices members make to travel to and attend the temple.

Renderings of Neiafu, Tonga Temple with white walls, brown doors, blue roofs, a white and gold tower structure, with palm trees around it.
Rendering of Neiafu, Tonga Temple

“I don’t feel like [the new temple] would affect us other than making us feel happy for our members and family who are in Neiafu. I’m just glad for them.”

Fogava said church members in American Samoa wondered when a temple would be built on their island, but Fogava said she didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

“I knew in my heart that one day there would be a temple built [in American Samoa], but I didn’t expect it would be this soon. … That morning when the prophet announced it, I was shocked. But in my heart, I was overjoyed. And at the same time, I was overwhelmed. … I was very emotional that morning.”

Fogava, a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 20 years, said she had learned the temple’s value and importance. “It’s so rewarding to be able to see [the new temple] and be part of something our ancestors … were praying for to happen.”

Rowanne Ajawas, a junior from Samoa majoring in Pacific Island Studies, shared Samoa’s new temple will be a great blessing because the current temple is not big enough for all the members who attend.

“[The Apia Samoa Temple] is always packed, and they always have to divide it. And most people aren’t able to make it to sessions. So it is a great blessing.”

Ajawas added this new temple will bring an opportunity for Western Samoa members to increase their temple attendance instead of relying on members from American Samoa to fill the temple.

Fogava said she initially thought the temple designs looked like an ordinary chapel but quickly realized the simple design fits the islands.

“I was looking at [the renderings] for another 10 minutes and changed my perspective and saw [the temple] as it is, the House of the Lord.”

Pongi said she likes the new temple’s exterior designs and noted how both temples are similar in design.