Latter-day Saint Life

Listen: How the Testimony of a Former NFL Player Helped Make This Temple Possible


When Elder Vai Sikahema was a child in Tonga, a wooden home was a luxury in his village where most homes were made of thatch. 

Perhaps this is why Elder Sikahema remembers so vividly his father peeling the wood siding from their home to sell it. 

"I suspect my father would have sold the entire, you know, it would have been just four posts and a roof," Elder Sikahema says in a This Is the Gospel podcast. 

► You'll also like: Watch: How a Former NFL Player's Powerful Testimony Helped Bring a Temple to Philadelphia

Elder Sikahema says his mother made tapa cloth, cloth made from tree bark, as a replacement when his father eventually tore off the entire side of their home. 

At the time, these measures were necessary for the Sikahema family to raise money to travel to the nearest temple in New Zealand. "Whatever could be sold was sold," Elder Sikahema remembers. 

And this memory of sacrifice has served Elder Sikahema well throughout his life as the first Togan NFL player and as a news anchor in Philadelphia. 

In fact, it was this experience and his testimony of temples that helped make the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple possible.

In October 2008, Elder Sikahema received a phone call from his stake president, who worked for the Church, that seemed a little unusual. His stake president asked for a number the Church could call to reach the Philadelphia mayor at the time, Mayor Nutter

"I said, 'Is this about a temple?'" Elder Sikahema says. "He goes, 'That's beyond my pay grade, but I need that number.' I'm doing the calculations in my head; they're about to announce the Philadelphia temple at the October conference." 

Elder Sikahema's calculations were correct. That October 2008, a temple was announced for Philadelphia. 

But 2009 went by, then 2010 and 2011, and no groundbreaking was announced for the temple in Philadelphia. 

Then, Elder Sikahema was invited to attend a meeting with Church leaders and Mayor Nutter. 

As Elder Sikahema soon discovered, the meeting was organized because a city agency was trying to take back the land the Church had purchased for the temple. From the beginning, it didn't appear the meeting was going well. 

"The mayor kept looking at his watch, and he was getting antsy," Elder Sikahema remembers.

Then, during a pause in the conversation, Elder Sikahema received a prompting that would help change the course of the meeting. 

"I had this impression that I should tell the mayor what happened to [my] family," Elder Sikahema says. "So I raised my hand and I said, 'Mayor Nutter, can I say something?'"

Listen to the full podcast or read the episode transcript here to find out what happened next. 

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