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  • Writer's pictureNathan Augustine

Thinking About the Kyiv Ukraine Temple

Updated: Mar 5

Kyiv Ukraine Temple

Since the Russian Army invaded Ukraine I have wondered about the condition and status of the temple in Kyiv. For a long time the official page for the Kyiv Ukraine Temple on the Church's web site said:

Temple closed
This temple has suspended all operations and ordinances until further notice. If you have an existing appointment for a sealing or your own endowment, you will be contacted by temple staff. Please check this page frequently for updates. Thank you.

Which is hardly a surprise. The temple has recently reopened, which is, in my opinion pretty amazing considering the ongoing war and the frequent missile and drone attacks happening throughout the country. I guess it shows both the resilience of the Ukrainian people and just how hard it is to stop the work of the Lord.

According to my research only once has a modern operating temple been in a combat zone and its story is pretty amazing. President Oaks, at the time a member of the Quorum of the Twelve with responsibilities over East Asia, told the story in a CES Fireside talk titled "Miracles."

President Dallin H. Oaks

In December 1989 there was an attempted military coup in Manila, the capitol of the Philippines. The Manila Philippines Temple stands next to a major Philippine Army base called Camp Aguinaldo. Rebel forces attacked the base and both sides used heavy weapons like helicopter gunships, airplanes, tanks, armored vehicles, rockets and bombs. On Saturday afternoon the rebels forced open the gates of the temple grounds with the intention of occupying the temple. Dignardino Espi, director of temple security, along with two other security guards and two custodians were the only people at the temple that day. (The temple president closed the temple in anticipation of violence.) Acting on the direction of Floyd Hogan, the temple president, they did not resist the rebels, in fact Brother Espi worked to establish a positive relationship with them. Because of his approach, he was able to dissuade them from entering the temple itself, instead allowing them to occupy the temple annex, a separate building.

The rebels and government troops exchanged almost constant gun, rocket and mortar fire throughout both Saturday and Sunday. Later government troops used aerial strafing and dropped bombs while the rebels responded with heavy anti-aircraft machineguns. Slowly the government troops pushed back the rebels until those at the temple were the last holdouts. Brother Espi heard the rebel commander tell his troops to prepare for a last stand.

Sunday night the government's local commander prepared his men for an 11:00 pm final attack on the rebels in the temple annex. Temple President Hogan met with the government's local commander and tried to persuade him to delay his attack until the next morning in the hope that the rebels would surrender or abandon the temple grounds. The commander refused saying that he had direct orders from the general in overall command and only he could call it off. President Hogan tried unsuccessfully to contact that general.

However the final attack never came and by the next morning the rebels had fled. The fighting was over and all that remained was to survey the damage. Elder Oaks said:

On Monday morning President Hogan inspected the temple annex. It had shrapnel marks and many broken windows on the north side, but inside, none of its locked rooms had been entered. The temple itself had not been entered and was not damaged. A total of six mortar or rocket shells had exploded inside the temple grounds. From their trajectory, President Hogan concluded that some of these shells had to have passed between the spires of the temple [Remember this temple has SIX free-standing spires!]. The patron housing building under construction nearby had been hit by four or five rockets and had sustained extensive damage. The Manila temple opened for normal sessions the next day.

The only damage anyone found on the temple itself was a single bullet hole at the top of the tallest spire. Though it was not specifically stated; since the Angle Moroni statue tops the tallest spire that must mean that the bullet hole was on or close to the statue.

Manila Philippines Temple

(the annex is the building on the left connected to the temple by an arched breezeway)

Of course Brother Espi and President Hogan were not the only ones working to protect the temple, nor was their only work to try to persuade the people on either side of the conflict. The Sunday that the fighting took place was Fast Sunday. Brother Espi and the other staff fasted and held a prayer meeting as the sounds of fighting surrounded them. Saints throughout the Philippines also fasted and prayed specifically for the safety of the temple.

Philippine Area President George I. Cannon phoned Elder Oaks early Sunday morning Utah time and told him about the planned government final attack on the rebels holding out in the temple annex. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve had previously, and for reasons that had nothing to do with the situation in Manila scheduled an unusual meeting for that morning in the Salt Lake Temple. Because of the time difference that meeting was happening at the same time that the attack was supposed to take place. Therefore, at the exact hour that the government was planning to attack the temple grounds in Manila, Elder Marvin J. Ashton was leading the Apostles and Prophets of the Church in a prayer for the safety of that temple, its workers and patrons.

Considering the raging storm of combat that surrounded the Manila temple it is truly miraculous that it came through unscathed. Combined with the timing and how so many things coincided at just the right time the miraculous nature of the events becomes even more obvious. Which of course is the point of Elder Oaks's talk. (see also: Third Hour blog: Bombs, Bullets and Rockets; How the Manila Temple Miraculously Survived Rebel Occupation and Preserving the Sacredness of the Temple)

Now, does this tell us anything about what may happen to the Kyiv Ukraine Temple? Not really. As I write this the Russian Army has been pushed back from Kyiv and appears to have abandoned its offensive against the capital at least for now. But considering the Russian's use of missiles, drones and long range artillery, which have hit targets in the far west of Ukraine, along the boarder with Poland and their repeatedly targeting of civilian infrastructure, there really isn't a building in all of Ukraine that is safe (CNN).

Apia Samoa Temple

The Manila Philippines Temple was protected during what amounted to a battle on the temple's grounds. However, the Apia Samoa Temple was totally destroyed by a fire (see my post on Buildings), so obviously an operating temple can be not only damaged but destroyed. I see this as analogous to, for example what happened to Alma and Amulek as opposed to what happened to Abinadi.

To review, Alma and Amulek were cast into prison and threatened with death, even witnessing the deaths of other prisoners. However God protected them and eventually miraculously freed them while slaying their captors (Alma 14). On the other hand Abinadi was also cast into prison, threatened with death and protected for a while but his captors eventually killed him, though not until after he had finished testifying of Christ and against the wickedness of his captors (Mosiah 17).

The point is that Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective. He can see what we cannot. Therefore things often happen that we do not understand, and that even hurt, but God is in charge. He is guiding events and everything that happens He eventually turns to good. We are here in this world to be tried and tested; to prove to God and ourselves that we will do what is right no matter what, even when doing what is right hurts. That means that sometimes we will escape physical danger in miraculous ways and sometimes the miracle isn't something anyone can see in the moment.

Kyiv Ukraine Temple

I pray for the safety and recovery of the people of Ukraine and I pray for the deliverance of the people of Russia.

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