Utah Polynesians Mourn Destroyed Temple

Utah Polynesians Mourn Destroyed Temple

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Jed Boal ReportingMany Polynesians in Utah are mourning the loss of a very important spiritual center in their lives. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints temple in Samoa burned to the ground last night.

The temple in Apia, Samoa meant a lot to many Polynesians living here. Word of the fire this morning spread as quickly as the flames that devoured the structure itself.

An investigation into the cause started immediately, but the Temple was being renovated and the cause is believed to be related to the construction.

LaVon Ankers grew up across the street from the temple; it will always be home to her.

LaVon Ankers, Former Samoa Resident: "First, you don't hear a lot of temples burning down to the ground, let alone it being right across from our home."

Ankers says it was a very big deal when the Temple was dedicated in August 1983. Previously the closest Temple for all Polynesians was in New Zealand.

LaVon Ankers: "Back when we were young, my parents saved every penny there was and we got in a boat to go to New Zealand to be sealed as a family."

Ankers' uncle, Percey Rivers, was in the Temple Presidency when it was dedicated.

Percy Rivers, Former Member Samoa Temple Presidency: "When this temple was proposed they were very interested in it because that meant they had it right at their door."

Rivers' great grandfather actually settled the town of Apia in the early 19th century. It's a sad day in his extended family.

Percy Rivers: "They feel they've lost something. Something precious for them is gone."

Rivers has not been home in the past dozen years since he moved to Utah, but now he hopes to travel home and help in the rebuilding process.

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