JOHANNESBURG SOUTH AFRICA-Mormon Temple
Why are Mormon Temples built? How are they used? What takes place in them? For more than a century the Mormons have carried on the work of temple building. It began with the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith, erecting two of these Temples under the direction of the Lord; with two more projected in the middle-western part of the United States. On coming west the Mormons continued this work and within a few years of their arrival completed four temples in Utah. Since that time there are 122 Mormon Temples scattered throughout the world with 9 having been announced or under construction.
What is the purpose of the Mormon Temples? Temples are considered sacred structures in which eternal questions are answered. Each is dedicated as a house of God, a place of holiness and peace shut apart from the world. Truths are taught and ordinances are performed that bring knowledge of things eternal.1 A meetinghouse is different than a Temple, in which regular Sunday worship, instruction and other social and recreational activities occur. In the Mormon temple, faithful members receive specific instruction about the purpose of life and their relationship with God. Family-oriented ordinances, both for themselves and in behalf of deceased ancestors occur. These sacred ordinances are available only in Mormon Temples where it makes it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
Jesse Haven, Mormon missionary, stood on the slopes of Lion's Head overlooking southern Africa's Cape Town. On that twenty-third day of May in 1853, he forecast: "Many of the honest in heart will rejoice in the everlasting gospel." Jesse Haven, William H. Walker and Leonard I. Smith were there as Mormon missionaries to organize the Mormon Church and to dedicate the land to missionary work. Harsh conditions and opposition resulted in slow progress in those early days,2 with the Mormon missionaries being pulled out in 1865 and then not returning until in 1903. Missionaries were taken out again in 1940 because of WWII, and then returned in 1944.
From 1944 to present day, the membership of the Mormon Church has rapidly grown; so much so, that the Mormon Church leaders announced the building of a Mormon Temple in Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa in 1981. The site was dedicated and groundbreaking took place on November 27, 1982.
There was an enormous effort put forth in preserving the area's historical value. The site chosen for the Temple was once the site of estates built by nineteenth-century mining magnates and financiers. The area around the temple now features hospitals, office buildings and schools, many of which are housed in mansions from the Victorian Era.4
The Mormon Temple is visible from many parts of the city with its six spires reaching into the sky. The edges of the building are finished with tiered layers of face brick, immaculately fitted together, giving it an elegance and distinctiveness.3 That with the gray slate roof and the indigenous quartzite for the temple's perimeter walls and entrance archways, it fits in suitably with the historic buildings nearby.4
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon Prophet, dedicated the Johannesburg South Africa Mormon Temple on August 24, 1985.
Church members come from Congo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Madagascar to attend the Temple and partake in the blessings that only the Temple can offer.
For more information on Mormon Temples you may visit the following websites:
1 "Why These Temples?", by President Gordon B. Hinckley
2 "Saints in South Africa: Their Good Hope is in Christ", by Marjorie E. Woods, Ensign, Sept. 1986, p45
3 "The Church Commissioned by God", by Lucille Davie, Johannesburg News Agency, July 2004
4 "The First 100 Temples", by Chad Hawkins, 2001, p100