The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is expanding in Africa with the addition of three new temples across the continent.
In addition to the current temples in Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria, three new temples are under construction in the Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Durban, South Africa, according to Mormon Newsroom.
Drew Chazen, a freshman from South Africa studying business management, said the news of the upcoming Durban temple is exciting because many more people will be able to visit and perform ordinances in the temple.
“The temples will be such a blessing for all those living there,” Chazen said. “I believe it will grow stronger testimonies and increase the faithfulness of the members.”
Johnson Agiriga, a sophomore from Nigeria studying computer information technology, said increased temple attendance in Africa will increase members’ standards and worthiness.
“I have seen how many members in Africa do make sacrifices in attending the temple because of the limited number of temples there and the proximity of those temples from where they’re living,” Agiriga said.
Agriga said people travel for days just to attend the temple and usually stay in the area for as little as a few days and as long as a week.
He said they stay for long periods of time because they know it will more than likely be a long time before they come back to the temple again.
Over the past 30 years, the Church has grown rapidly in Africa, according to Mormon Newsroom.
“In Africa 30 years ago, the Church had 137 separate congregations and about 22,000 members,” according to Mormon Newsroom. “Today, there are more than 1,600 congregations and half a million members.”
The Johannesburg South Africa Temple was the first temple built in Africa, and it allowed temple work to happen in Africa, establishing a temple on every habitable continent of the world, according to ldschurchtemples.com.
Currently, the South Africa Missionary Training Center in Gauteng serves the areas of Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to lds.org.
Chazen said there is still a long way for Africa to go, but the headway made so far is inspiring.
“It is a continent with so much potential and the Church helps people so much to make full use of the opportunities that are there,” Chazen said.
Agiriga said the Church’s influence in Africa has left a positive impact for members of the Church and nonmembers.
“I believe if this positive development is continued and sustained, it has the potential of changing the lives of people for the entire continent for good,” Agiriga said.
Agiriga said he was reminded of the famous quotes by President Boyd K. Packer.
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior,” Packer said. “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”
The youth of the Church in Ghana have committed to attend seminary and utilize the time to learn how to apply the spiritual knowledge gained through study, according to Mormon Newsroom.
Agiriga said seminary played a major role in increasing his gospel knowledge and strengthening his discipleship since his family joined the Church 10 years ago.
“I and my brothers usually walk a long distance on foot to attend seminary classes each day after the close of school, and that was really instrumental in strengthening our testimony when our family joined the Church,” Agiriga said.
Chazen said attending institute classes back in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa, was essential to his spiritual growth.
“It was always what I needed to get me through the week spiritually,” Chazen said. “There are so many things that are distracting, and institute helped me to focus on the things that are most important,.
The Church is building a new missionary training center in Accra, Ghana, that is able to train 400 missionaries at once, according to Mormon Newsroom.