News Release

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Dedicates Ground for Construction of Third Temple

“This city, this locale, this property, this province, and the entire nation of the Philippines will never ever be the same as a result of the construction of this building,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church), expressed during his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Urdaneta Philippines Temple.

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“Some of that will be quiet, private, and personal,” he said referring to the changes that may occur upon the construction and completion of the temple. “It won’t be headlining experience or dramatic public significance, but for the invitation that we make collectively to invite the Spirit of the Lord, the presence of the Lord, the power of heaven, attendance of angels, the work of the ministry from before the foundation of the world to come and to concentrate on a little piece of property in Urdaneta is no small matter in the work of the kingdom and in the progress of God’s family on earth.”

Elder Holland presided over the groundbreaking ceremony of the third temple in the Philippines, which took place at the 13-hectare construction site. Under the direction of the First Presidency of the Church, the 78-year-old apostle gave the dedicatory prayer to commence the construction of the temple.

In his dedicatory prayer, Elder Holland blessed the area, the service agents, employees, workers, engineers, volunteers, and all the aspects that will be involved in the project. He also expressed gratitude of the members who pay tithing faithfully.

“The payment of tithing by those who will never live to see this temple is one of the greatest examples of love, brotherhood, and sacrifice that we have in the Church of Jesus Christ,” he prayed. “The building of another beautiful house of the Lord is an example of how thou hast opened the windows of heaven and poured out a blessing beyond our ability to receive because we pay our tithing.”

Moreover, he included a prayer for all the members of the Church for their spiritual benefit. “We also dedicate our very lives to be more worthy of other blessings that we receive, including and especially, the blessings of the temple,” he said. “May we prepare personally to come here, even as the walls and the windows of the temple go up. That when the building is ready, so, too, will we be ready to worship here.”

Elder Evan A., Schmutz, Elder Michael John U. Teh, and Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, members of the Seventy and are serving currently in the Philippines Area Presidency, spoke during the ceremony. 

Elder Wakolo, in his message, shared about the history and significance of building temples. “That’s what the temple is, where the families can be sealed for time and for all eternity,” he said.

Elder Wakolo concluded his brief message by posing two important questions for the members to ponder “What are you and I going to do to sacrifice to increase or deepen our conversion towards our Eternal Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ as we accept the temple? What are you and I going to do to prepare our hearts and our minds – and even our families -- to accept the temple?” he concluded.

In his message, Elder Teh talked about the sacredness of temples. He explained that all throughout history, prophets built sacred places where people can commune with God. He pointed out that temples are literally houses of God.

He then proceeded to explain the differences between a temple and a chapel. “In the temples, only the highest of ordinances are performed,” he said. “It cannot be performed in any other place other.”

Elder Teh also explained to the friends of the Church present in the congregation of the functions of the rooms in the temples. He also said that those who participate in the temple change into white clothing to signify purity, reverence, and equality. “Inside the temple, we are all children of our Heavenly Father,” he said.

Elder Evan A. Schmutz expressed gratitude to the dignitaries and friends who chose to be present in the historic occasion. “You can perhaps feel some of the excitement that members of the Church feel on this occasion,” Elder Schmutz said. “We made a big deal of this, to turn some shovelful of dirt, because, for us, it represents all the culmination of many years of faith and prayers to bring a temple to this part of the Philippines.”

Elder Schmutz explained that upon the completion of the temple, the majestic edifice will be dedicated for the ‘work and glory of God’.

“We believe that the work and glory of God are to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of His children,” he explained. “It is within the walls of this temple that will be built, and many others, that the work can be done to a great extent.”

Sister Ana Marie C. Karganilla, a member of the Dagupan Philippines Stake (diocese), also spoke during the event.

“We all rejoiced in this wonderful news. The feelings were inexplicable. Many were overwhelmed and shed tears of joy. We became very excited, and we all waited with joyful anticipation,” Sister Karganilla said as she shared their reactions when Thomas S. Monson, former president of the Church, announced the construction of a temple in Urdaneta eight years ago during the 2010 October General Conference.

The groundbreaking ceremony marks the commencement of the construction of the temple and will take about three to five years to complete. “In a few years from now, we will see a beautiful temple. It will be a prominent landmark in this area. It will be majestic,” she said.

Sister Karganilla further explained the significance and relevance of temples to members of the Church, explaining that it is a place where members make formal promises and covenants to God.

“I know that when we make and keep promises and commitments with God in His holy temple, it can change our nature and help us become better,” she said. “It will bring immeasurable blessings and much good in our lives, in our families and in this land.”

Seated in the stand with Elder Holland included Hon. Amadeo Gregorio E. Perez IV, Mayor of Urdaneta City; Atty. Francis Tinio, representative of Hon. Amado I. Espino III, Governor of Pangasinan; Hon. Silverio D. Alvarcio, Jr., President of the Mayors’ League of Pangasinan; Hon. Alfredo Tumang, Barangay Captain of Barangay Nancayasan; Rev. Fr. Allen Romeo, Catholic Diocese of Bayambang; Major Vincent Gerardo, Salvation Army; and Ms. Lelia C. Sy, publisher of the Northern Times and Pangasinan Star newspapers.

Elder Augusto Lim, the first stake president in the Philippines in 1973; and Brother Ray Goodson, one of the first missionaries assigned to the Philippines, also joined Elder Holland in the stand.

“To be honest about it, we never dreamt that the Church would grow this fast,” Elder Lim said when asked about his thoughts after the event. “This was something that we really did not envision.”

With the third temple underway, Elder Lim felt overwhelmed to witness the Church in the Philippines grow exponentially in a little over 50 years. “I’m very happy for the people because a temple is a great blessing to the Church,” he said.

Elder Tomas S. Merdegia, Jr., a member of the Philippines Area Seventy (traveling minister) assigned in Urdaneta, expressed his joy in knowing that the third temple in the country will commence its construction. He shared that the happiness he felt during the groundbreaking ceremony was similar to what he had felt during the announcement and completion of the Manila Philippines Temple more than 20 years ago. To enjoy the full blessings of the temple, Elder Merdedgia encouraged the members to prepare and become worthy.

“As much as possible, they can go to the Manila Temple… to prepare themselves,” he said. “If they are going to work in the temple, they should be worthy.”

Ms. Lelia C. Sy, a long-time friend of the Church, shared her thoughts about the event. “I was very much amazed. I’m very happy. I could not explain the feeling because I was very much inspired to know that the third temple in the Philippines will be in my province, which is Pangasinan.”

She’s delighted that Latter-day Saints from Regions 1, 2 and 3 will not only see her home province when they visit the temple but will also get a taste of the Urdaneta culture.

“They are dedicated. They are passionate. They are always active. They always have the time for the Church even if they’re just volunteers,” Ms. Sy said when asked about what she thought about the Latter-day Saints.

With regards to interfaith relations, Ms. Sy said, “They embrace you as one even if you’re not a member of the Church. They treat us like brothers and sisters,” she said in Tagalog. “That’s why I’m happy.”

Active in social services, Ms. Sy also felt happy when she learned that the Church also donates wheelchairs and do humanitarian projects with local government units in Pangasinan. “[The Church] is not just about preaching,” she said in Tagalog. “You [the Church] also help give back to the community, reaching out.”

Other guests seated with the congregation included dignitaries, mayors, governmental leaders, friends of other faiths, the media, Church leaders of different stakes and districts (small dioceses), mission presidents and their wives from within the Urdaneta Temple district.

Elder Evan A. Schmutz conducted the ceremony while a choir of local members from the different stakes nearby provided the music. Songs that the choir and the congregation sang included Hark, All Ye Nations, Let Us All Press On, The Spirit of God, and Families Can Be Together Forever.

The Urdaneta Philippines Temple will be the third in the Philippines. The first is in Manila, dedicated in 1984, while the second is in Cebu City, dedicated in 2010. There are three other temples announced for the Philippines, which will be in the Greater Manila Area, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao. Once completed, there will be six temples in the Philippines. Overall, the Church has 201 temples all over the world either in operation, under construction or announced.

When the Urdaneta Philippines Temple is near completion, the Church will announce open house dates, so that the public will have the opportunity to tour the sacred building before it will be dedicated. The Church will then announce the date of the dedication. Once dedicated, the new Urdaneta Philippines Temple will serve Church members residing in Central and Northern Luzon, particularly Latter-day Saints in the Pangasinan Province.

Photo Credit: Daniel Labajo

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