Port Moresby Papua New Guinea

Geoff: We’ve given Papua New Guinea Honorable Mention status in the past, but this is the first time we’re elevating it to full-blown Prediction status. This is huge, folks! Huge!

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. Now I recognize that of those, only two are stakes. But that’s impressive, considering all of them except the original Port Moresby Stake were organized since 2000. (If we change the math only to recognize countries with two stakes, disregarding districts, then the playing field flattens a ton, and we might as well talk about a temple in Austria, Mozambique, or any number of other locations.)

More than 27,000 Latter-day Saints call Papua New Guinea home. That is a respectable number as far as temple “viability” goes, even if the districts aren’t quite stakes.

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: Your use of Austronesian makes me swoon, but even if it didn’t, I’m utterly fascinated with this pick. I think the sheer number of members is a really compelling data point. That and the distance to the nearest temple, which is where, Brisbane? Fiji? Good grief.

There’s no question, however, that a temple here is not far from the minds of local members and international leadership. In late 2017 a visiting general authority and the Suva Fiji Temple president came to the half-island nation and spoke about, what else, preparing for the temple. To say it got hopes up, albeit patient hopes, would be an understatement.

But what I find most compelling is the opportunity here for the church, like many responsible development partners and corporate entities operating in underdeveloped regions to really lead out on being a smart and generous development partner in and around the areas they’d hope to establish as viable sites for a temple and other related facilities. Just a thought.