Reeve Nield, whose home is Zimbabwe, shares the backstory on the site for the Zimbabwe Harare Temple, where ground was broken on Saturday. She wrote, “In the 1980’s, the older man who lived in the home next to our Highlands Chapel passed away. His family very kindly offered my father first option to purchase the property. After some encouragement from my father and the then mission president, President G. Phillip Margetts, the Church purchased the property. The old home was then renovated and used for 20+ years as a mission office, three couple’s apartments and accommodation for six young Elders.
“From day one, my father always said that this property was to be for the temple one day!”
In a memoir written about Reeve’s father’s life, David M. Mayfield records, “Reg had a memorable visit with Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Carlos E. Asay in the mid 1980s, shortly after he had made arrangements for the Church to purchase the property adjacent to the current mission office. These brethren were inspecting the property. Reg recalls that they were walking a few steps ahead of him when he overheard Elder Oaks say, ‘This is the right place,’ whereupon Reg declared, ‘Yes, it is the right place!’ They turned toward Reg and asked, ‘the right place for what?’ He replied, ‘It’s the right place for a temple,’ and they said ‘yes.’”
A handful of leaders and invited guests of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a groundbreaking for the Zimbabwe Harare Temple on Saturday, December 12, 2020. Attendance at the ceremony was limited because of local COVID-19 restrictions. Despite having seen heavy rain for several days prior, the weather was clear—but quite warm—as invited guests gathered at the temple site.
Elder Edward Dube, a General Authority Seventy and First Counselor in the Africa South Area Presidency, presided at the groundbreaking and offered the dedicatory prayer. He is a native of Zimbabwe, where he joined the Church as a young man. He was joined by his wife, Naume; Elder Ciro Schmeil, a General Authority Seventy and Second Counselor in the Africa South Area Presidency, along with his wife, Alessandra; and several invited guests.
The event was also attended by His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa, who spoke at the groundbreaking service, said, “I would like to express my profound gratitude to the Church for extending an invitation to me. It is most opportune that this event comes in this month of December, where the majority of Christians from all walks of life and denominations, commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.”
“What a great privilege we have to have him [the President] grace this occasion for us. I have known His Excellency through his family for a number of years. He is a family man!” said Elder Dube.
The temple will be the first constructed in the country of Zimbabwe. It joins twelve other temples—seven of which are either announced or under construction—on the continent of Africa. The Johannesburg South Africa Temple, the first to be constructed on the continent, was dedicated in 1985. The most recent temple dedicated was the Durban South Africa Temple, earlier this year. Plans to construct a temple in Harare were announced in April 2016 by former Church President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018).
“The Harare Zimbabwe Temple will be a beautiful and stunning building. Like every temple, it will stand not only as a manifestation of the faith of Latter-day Saints who live close by in this country and the neighbouring countries of Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique, but also a manifestation of the faith of Saints all around the world,” said Elder Dube. “It reflects our testimony and our faith in Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness. It reflects our testimony and faith in His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. And it reflects our testimony and faith in the Saviour’s Atonement and Resurrection.”
“As we watch the rising of this building from the ground up, may we also turn our hearts upward to Thee and Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ,” said Elder Dube in the dedicatory prayer.
“We ask that the nation of Zimbabwe and its neighbouring nations on this vast continent will be blessed by Thy merciful hand […] Bless their leaders with courage to protect the religious liberties of the citizens and with insight to enlarge opportunities—that these people may be lifted from the bonds of poverty and disease and look forward to more prosperous living. May the teachings of the gospel through missionary work help heal, fortify, and strengthen Zimbabwe and the neighbouring nations,” prayed Elder Dube.
Just prior to Elder Dube’s remarks and the dedicatory prayer, President Mnangagwa spoke to the gathered group. “I applaud your church leadership for its strategic decision to construct this temple in Zimbabwe. This development is testimony to my Government’s commitment to the protection of the right to freedom of worship as enshrined in our National Constitution,” he said. “The church, just like the family, remains an important institution for the nationalization of social norms, values, and ethics. Both institutions are fundamental and have a responsibility to preserve and protect the moral fabric of our society. It is in the home—and the church—where children and the members of our society are taught lessons of love, respect, forgiveness, compassion, care, and service.”
In closing, President Mnangagwa offered, “My Government is grateful for the various humanitarian assistance and development projects made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to various communities within our country. As we approach the end of 2020 and start a new year, I urge this church and other churches in general to continue fasting, interceding, and praying for Zimbabwe, especially with regards to peace, development, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other natural phenomenon.
“As we go into the New Year and the years ahead, my administration will continue facilitating a closer relationship between the state and the Church.”
During his remarks, Elder Dube related a personal experience to those gathered about himself and Sister Dube traveling on a “smoky, noisy, old bus” in 1996 between Harare and Johannesburg with 20 other couples. They were traveling to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple—the only temple on the African continent at the time—to participate in sacred ceremonies there. The trip each direction was 16 to 20 hours, depending on the border immigration officials. Elder Dube related, “Each August for the next three years, at least 20 new couples, who had not yet been to the temple, joined us for our annual temple trip.”
He continued, “Little did we know then the change that was taking place within us. With each temple trip, we felt some transformation and new feelings—always penetrating and insightful. We developed desires to do good, we were convinced to lay aside incorrect traditions, and we were brought to a knowledge of the Lord through temple worship.”
The temple will be built on a 2.7-hectare (6.7-acre) site located in the Highlands area of Harare, which is Zimbabwe’s capital city. It will be a single-story building of approximately 1,600 square meters (17,250 square feet).
“Bless the workers so that they feel the importance of what they are doing, and so that they have additional skills needed to do their work the best they can,” Elder Dube prayed. “Wilt Thou protect them from injury and the effects of the current pandemic that covers the earth.”
Zimbabwe is home to more than 34,000 members, with 87 Congregations) Details for the open house and temple dedication, upon its completion, will be announced at a future date.