Port Moresby Papua New Guinea
Geoff: With Nicaragua finally receiving a temple, Papua New Guinea, the Austronesian country comprising the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, is now the country in the world with the most stakes or districts without a temple – 14 at last check. The issue, however, is that unlike Nicaragua, only a small fraction of those units — two — are stakes. But it’s still impressive since every unit except the original Port Moresby Stake was organized from 2000 onward. In addition, there are 27,000 Latter-day Saints in the country, a perfectly acceptable number as far as temple viability.
Moreover, look at Guam. Two stakes. Two districts. This isn’t meant as a dig against Guam, but if we are at the point of building temples within those types of parameters, Papua New Guinea has every sense to expect one at some point.
The main argument against would be infrastructure. Approximately 3.5% of Papua New Guinea’s road network is paved. The Lowy Institute noted in 2017, “Compared to developed economies, the physical stock of infrastructure assets in Papua New Guinea is insufficient to deliver the economic and social services needed to drive faster economic growth and improve human development.” The long and short of it: it’s hard to build a temple in an area where the growing membership has incredible difficulty traveling to the building. That’s not to say the saints haven’t sacrificed in the past for such things, but barriers to entry matter.
Joseph: You make an excellent case, ol’ Geoff ol’ buddy ol’ pal. If only there was an organization with an impressive track record for developing large scale infrastructure projects that could help, literally, to pave the way for a temple in this promised land, then we might be able to see this as a more likely temple destination. Can you think of any, Geoff?
But for real, can you imagine if the Church just said, “OK, we’re going to build a temple in Port Moresby, but before we do that, we’re going to work with the government there to double the amount of paved roads in the next 3 years”?
Geoff: Yeah, but that’s not how we roll. We’re more into large-scale donations and partnering with the experts that do that sort of thing. Latter-day Saint Charities (still aptly named) is more about serving as a middleman for high impact, high visibility projects along those lines. P.S. I’m all for it.