In the wake of the worst tropical storm to ever make landfall in Fiji, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rededicated the Suva Fiji Temple Sunday morning.

Government curfews, power outages and downed trees on roads prevented many Fijian LDS Church members from participating in the meeting, during which President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, offered a dedicatory prayer on the temple and the people of Fiji.

No Latter-day Saints or missionaries were reported injured by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which struck Fiji with winds up to 175 miles per hour in the night between the LDS Church’s youth temple cultural celebration and the temple rededication. The powerful category 5 storm left dozens of people dead, knocked out power and destroyed entire villages as it made landfall along the north coast of Fiji's largest, most populous island, Viti Levu. Suva escaped the brunt of the storm, which shifted direction in the hours before it hit the Pacific island nation.

In spite of the storm, local LDS Church leaders determined to move forward with the cultural celebration — which was cut short as winds and rain intensified — and with the temple rededication.

Elder Adolf J. Johansson, an Area Seventy, said he “felt a peaceful calm, a spiritual feeling that everyone would work out OK and that the sun would shine” on the temple the day of the rededication.

In the hours after Cyclone Winston hit the Pacific island nation, birds flew above the temple and the sun rose, shining bright light on the building used by mariners as a guide to navigate their boats safely into the Fijian harbor.

President Eyring also said he felt at peace with the decision to hold the church events in the hours before and after the storm.

After arriving in Fiji, he told a group of LDS missionaries that he studied the weather before getting off the plane in the Pacific island nation. He asked the question: “Should we change plans?” The answer, he felt, was “No.”

“I got the feeling, ‘Go forward. Don’t be afraid,’” President Eyring said, noting that the “Lord is in charge.”

Sunday’s rededication is the second temple dedication held during trying times in Fiji.

Amid political unrest, the Suva Fiji Temple was originally dedicated in a private service by then-Church President Gordon B. Hinckley on June 18, 2000. At that time, rebels were holding deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and other members of parliament hostage. Many businesses had been looted and significant parts of downtown Suva had burned. The military had declared martial law.

The 2000 dedication marked the only temple dedication since the original Nauvoo Temple that has been held in private and difficult circumstances, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who attended the original dedication and was with President Eyring in Fiji for the rededication.

Elder Johansson said it was important to the Latter-day Saints in the temple district that the rededication go on.

"The people of Fiji are not discouraged because of this situation because [President Eyring and Elder Cook] are here to ride out the storm with us,” Elder Johansson said. “They did not say we are praying for you. The message they brought is, “'We are here hoping and praying with you.'”

Members who did attend the rededication of the temple made their way to the temple grounds at personal sacrifice.

For example, Vito W. Qaqa, president of the Fiji North Stake and local chairman of the Suva Fiji Temple rededication committee, said a sliding door at his home collapsed during the storm, bringing water and wind inside. When power outages prevented him from opening a metal gate to make his way to the rededication, he removed a grill in the gate and, with his wife, slid through.

Litia Koto Cavu Wakarewakobau, who joined the church in Fiji in 1957, said a large tree fell down in front of her car. After maneuvering around the tree to attend the dedication, she and her husband, Meli, were stopped by police enforcing the curfew. However, when the couple explained where they were going, they were allowed to travel on to the temple.

Crews used generators to power the temple and the grounds during the rededication services.

The 12,755-square-foot temple, which closed in October 2014 for renovation, serves more than 35,000 Latter-day Saints in Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands. Because so many members could not participate in the meeting, President Eyring approved the rebroadcast of the dedicatory services for one week later, on Sunday Feb. 28.

After the rededication, curfews remained in place in Fiji — which impacted youths brought in by boat and bus for the temple cultural celebration and staying at the church schools in Suva.

Amid severe weather conditions caused by the cyclone, leaders ended the youth temple cultural celebration early Saturday.

Originally scheduled to be held in the open-air ANZ Stadium in Suva, the event was moved across the street to the enclosed Vodafone Arena.

However, as weather conditions intensified and the government asked everyone to vacate roads by 5 p.m., organizers skipped several numbers and had the 1,300 youths perform their finale.

Udro Lal, 21, spent the night at the church’s primary school grounds, located near the temple. With others at the school, he said he feared for his family — located on the north side of the island where the storm was the strongest. He was waiting for curfews to be lifted and roads to be cleared so church buses could take him and the others home.

Elder Johansson said members can feel the power of the adversary trying to stop temple work in Fiji. “But it will not happen.”

“There has been a famine in the land and today that will finally be broken,” he said, referring to the 16 months the temple was closed for renovations. “I believe the Lord requires of us not a sacrifice of money, but a sacrifice of faith. This experience taught the people who is in charge. That is the sacrifice the Lord wanted.”, @SJW_ChurchNews