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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Review of Temple Construction Progress During the Second Quarter of 2020

Hello again, everyone! As the final minutes of June 2020 move towards their inexorable conclusion here in Utah, I am pleased to provide a look back at temple construction progress which has occurred during this second quarter of this year (spanning from April 1 until today). Within that time, 8 new temples have been announced. Open house and rededication arrangements have been scheduled and then postponed for the Washington D.C. Temple. And several more temples have had site locations confirmed, exterior renderings released, or groundbreakings scheduled.

Based on the developments that have occurred this quarter alone, the Church may also be queueing up as many as 8 temples for a groundbreaking within the next quarter (through the end of September), aside from the 3 already scheduled to occur in July, August, and September. It will be interesting to see all of that unfold, and to the best of my ability, I will continue to document those events as they happen. With those preliminary comments in mind, I'd like to remind you all where the Church stood in terms of temple developments as 2020 began, and where things stood by the end of the first quarter of 2020, just 3 days prior to the April 2020 General Conference.

Having posted those two links, we now look at where things stand as of tonight, which marks both the end of the second quarter of this year, and also the end of the first half of 2020. With the sheer number of breaking news developments relating to temples that have been shared by the Church during the first half of this year, it will be interesting to see what announcements come down the pike in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I will be particularly excited to see what happens in terms of temple developments during the upcoming third quarter of this year, and more importantly, between now and the October 2020 General Conference.

As I mentioned previously, I have no idea whether the Church might schedule any other temple groundbreakings to occur between now and the first weekend of September, when ground will be broken for the Orem Utah Temple. Assuming that the Feather River California, Salta Argentina, and Orem Utah Temples are the only ones that have a groundbreaking between now and September 5, then the Church will still have 11 to break ground for between that day and the end of the year.  

There are only 13 Saturdays between September 12 and the end of the year, if we exclude General Conference Saturday and the final two Saturdays of the year for Christmas and New Year's, and there might be a reason to exclude the 1 or 2 other Saturdays in November before and after Thanksgiving Day. So unless the Church holds more than one groundbreaking on any week between mid-July and the end of the year, there will have to be at least one groundbreaking per week.

As I also mentioned, it seems likely that, within the next couple of weeks, the groundbreaking arrangements could be announced at minimum for the Tooele Valley, Washington County Utah, and Taylorsville Utah Temples, and I can see groundbreaking announcements in the near future for Moses Lake Washington, Bentonville Arkansas, and McAllen Texas. I'm also hopeful that there could be private groundbreakings for several international temples as well, especially in places where COVID-19 has not had such a profound impact, and where construction can safely begin.

If all goes well, it wouldn't shock me to see the total number of announced temples go down to 30 or so from its' current 39, between now and the weekend of the October 2020 General Conference. But time will tell whether or not that is possible. I'm also hopeful for much more temple news coming down the pike. With all of that being said, that concludes my thoughts about temple construction progress which has occurred during this second quarter of 2020.  I would also mention here, just briefly, that my next apostolic milestone update is set to be published here on Sunday July 12, so stay tuned for that. 

In the interim, I am pleased to note at this time that, one week ago today (on Monday June 23), President Nelson observed his latest prophetic tenure milestone. As of that date, the length of time for which President Nelson had served as Church President became equivalent to the tenure length of Joseph Fielding Smith. President Nelson thus became the 14th longest-serving Church President.  He won't abserve his next tenure milestone until mid-February of next year.  In between now and then, his next prophetic age milestone will be observed in August, and I will be providing more details on that in the aforementioned apostolic update coming up on July 12. 

President Nelson's First Counselor, President Dallin H. Oaks, who also serves as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently observed a tenure-length milestone. Just two days ago (on Sunday June 28), the tenure length of President Oaks as Quorum President matched that of Harold B. Lee. As a result, President Oaks is now the 17th longest-serving Quorum President in Church history. He will observe his next two milestones as such on two consecutive days next month, and I will be sure to provide further details on those in the aforementioned July 12 update.

I am in the midst of necessary updates to my October 2020 General Conference predictions as well. And I also continue to monitor all Church news and temple updates and will pass word of all such developments to you all here as I become aware of such things. That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Some Thoughts About Church Growth (or the Lack Thereof) in Certain Areas

Hello again, everyone! Although I anticipate that breaking news will be provided at some point tomorrow morning on the reopening of more temples under phase 1 (which allows husband and wife live sealings with limited in-person attendance), and although it seems more likely than not that the Church could share a couple other breaking developments relating to temples, I had something else I wanted to mention on this blog at this time. 
Before I get into that topic today, I also wanted to note that I'm specifically anticipating the announcement of at least 2 temple groundbreakings, and maybe also the new announcement of 1 or more temple sites and/or the release of one or more additional temple renderings. and that additional developments may be reported on one or two other fronts as well, what I wanted to focus a new post on today couldn't wait at all.  
I wanted to note that, over the last few months since the April 2020 General Conference was held, since the Church had subsequently released quite a bit more in the way of nation-by-nation statistics that were updated as of year-end 2019, Matthew Martinich, who maintains the Church Growth blog, has been in the process of overhauling the content he provides in his "Reaching the Nations" profiles through cumorah.com. 
Through his blog, he has shared links to many of those updated profiles. And with that focus (and the ensuing comments in the associated threads thereof) in mind, I wanted to post some thoughts from me here about Church growth (or the lack thereof) in certain areas. Some of the most recent posts shared by Matt with the updated profiles focus on nations within Europe, Asia, and South America. In many of those recent threads, problems related to Church growth across those continents were detailed. Those issues have principally been noted in the Europe, Europe East, Asia, Asia North, and South America South Area (with the possible exception of the nation of Argentina). In the early 2000s, the Church sent out 3 apostles (including then-Elder Oaks to the Philippines and Elder Holland to Chile from 2002-2004, and Elder Perry to Central Europe from 2004-2005). The apostles sent to those areas specifically focused on Church growth issues in those regions and provided a more personal touch towards fixing and/or reversing those issues.
Between 2002 and now, the Church has called 10 new apostles (Elders Uchtdorf, Bednar, Cook, Christofferson, Andersen, Rasband, Stevenson, Renlund, Gong, and Soares). Of those 10, five have connections to Europe (with Elder Uchtdorf being a native German, and Elders Bednar, Cook and Andersen having served in European missions, while Elder Soares has been a mission president in Portugal), two have connections to Asia (with Elders Stevenson and Gong both having served missions in Asian ntions, and both having served in Asia Area presidencies, while Elder Stevenson has also served as president of a mission in Asia), and 3 or 4 have served missions, in area presidencies, or as mission presidents in South American nations (namely Elders Christofferson, Andersen, Soares, and perhaps also Elder Rasband).s counsel
So I have a couple of theories here. First, many of the latest comments on the Church Growth blog have suggested something that I believe will absolutely be true, that COVID-19 conditions may ultimately lead the Church to see greater success in nations currently experiencing struggles with growth-related issues. I definitely hope that will be the case, and could see it happening. At the same time, however, a part of me wonders whether President Nelson, whose right-hand man President Oaks had the experience of previously presiding over an international area of the Church, may choose at some point in the near future to send one or more apostles out to any of these struggling areas and to take oversight thereof for a period of one to two years.
It may not happen, especially since the apostles have been utilized more frequently of late in performing duties typically done by the president of the Church or his counselors. But on the other hand, having such apostles in such areas would enable them to personally oversee some of those assignments while serving for a time as presidents of those areas.. And the apostles have been commanded in scripture to "send" the word and their representatives abroad rather than filling long-term assignments abroad themselves. There's a lot to consider about this scenario that may or may not occur again in the near future, just as it had been utilized in the early 2000s.

I will be interested to see if the current conditions impacting the growth of the Church on the Asian, European, and South American continents resolve themselves following the elimination of COVID-19 as a factor, and whether or not the Church needs to take action on any of these issues at that time. I also continue to monitor all Church news and temple updates, and will be sure to pass word of those along to you all as I become aware of such things.
That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Church to Hold Condensed Online-Only Training for New 2020 Mission Leadership

Hello again, everyone! More breaking news has been reported by the Church News within the last few minutes. As a result of COVID-19 conditions worldwide, the 2020 Seminar for all new mission leaders who will begin their service on July 1 of this year will be conducted entirely online and with a condensed schedule. The seminar, usually spanning 3-4 days towards the end of June, will be held this weekend. This continues the Church's efforts to be good neighbors who earnestly consider the health of those over whom they have stewardship.

The seminar usually includes a high degree of participation from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in addition to all who serve on the Missionary Executive Council (that includes Elders Uchtdorf, Christofferson, Andersen, and Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, at least one member of the Presidency of the Seventy, and at least 2-3 general officers of the Church (at last notified check, that included Sisters Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, and Cristina B. Franco, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency). 

By definition, those GA Seventies serving in the Missionary Department are there as well. Ordinarily, that includes Elder Brent H. Nielson, who has served as Executive Director of that Department for the last several years, and those who serve as Assistant Executive Directors, which, at last check, included Elders W. Mark Bassett, Craig C. Chirstensen, Weatherford T. Clayton, James B. Martino, and S. Gifford Nielsen. But Elder Nielson has been called to the Presidency of the Seventy, so unless he is assigned to continue serving on the Missionary Executive Council in that new role, he has been or will be released as the Executive Director of that Department.

Of the Assistant Executive Directors listed above, only Elders Bassett and Clayton are not currently serving as president of any area of the Church. And of the two, it seems more likely to me that Elder Clayton will succeed Elder Nielson as the Executive Director of that Department. But time will tell in that respect. I am grateful that the Church is continuing to roll with the punches when it comes to the COVID-19 adjustments that have become necessary in cosideration of the health of Church members worldwide.

And it is also wonderful that modern technologoy can make it possible for the Church to provide virtual training. It's likely that the October 2020 General Conference Leadership sessions will go forward as planned, but be provided through virtual methods to eliminate the need for in-person attendance. Still no word on specific arrangements/additional changes for that General Conference, but it will be interesting to see what happens with all such developments. I continue to monitor all Church news and temple updates and will be sure to pass word of all such things along as I become aware of those developments.

That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

BREAKING TEMPLE NEWS: Exterior Rendering Released and Groundbreaking Date Announced for the Orem Utah Temple

Hello again, everyone! Less than 24 hours after the release of the rendering and site information for the Mendoza Argentina Temple, more breaking temple news has been shared. In n totally unexpected development as far as the timing of both the announcement and the event itself are concerned, an exterior rendering has been released and a groundbreaking date announced for the temple in my current city of residence, Orem Utah. The rendering shows the 70,000-foot 3-story temple with a tall single-spire design. Although many of the community leaders here told the Church they'd prefer an angel Moroni on the temple, with the Church acknowledging that not all temples being built have that statue, it appears that this temple will not have one either. The groundbreaking has been set to occur on Saturday September 5, 3 weeks after the groundbreaking for the Salta Argentina Temple. Elder Craig C. Chirstensen, who will continue as Utah Area President following the other changes in area leadership becoming effective on August 1. Attendance at the temple site will be by invitation only. It appears that, given current COVID-19 restrictions here in northern Utah County, the groundbreaking will be a private event, not broadcast by the internet to Church buildings or being featured on social media or anywhere else, though I imagine that a video of the proceedings in their entirety will be available in due course.

Having noted all of that, a couple of additional comments from me here: I said earlier that the timing of the Orem Utah Temple groundbreaking announcement and scheduling was unexpected. I said that because for a while now, it appeared that the next Utah temples to have a groundbreaking would be the Tooele Valley, Washington County, and Taylorsville Utah Temples. Clearly I was mistaken in that respect, but I'm not necessarily surprised about that, as I have been mistaken about plenty of things in the recent past. That will continue to be the case. But I am hopeful that the Church might soon announce groundbreakings for at least two of those 3 other temples in the next short while. There is also one other thing that surprises me with respect to the timing of this announcement and the scheduling of this event itself. That surprise comes by way of the text under the headline of the Newsroom announcement. The text in question reads as follows: "Orem Utah Temple designated as the Church's 190th temple worldwide." So, first of all, the announced timing of the groundbreaking for this temple would make it currently and tentatively numbered the 186th temple of the Church.

The size of the temple, which is comparable to that of the Layton, Tooele Valley, and Washington County Temples, suggests that construction could take between 2-3 years, which means it would wrap up at some point in late 2023-early 2024 or so. Above and beyond those observastions, however, insofar as I am aware, the Church is not in the habit of giving a temple a designated number before construction begins, or even generally until construction wraps up. That suggests to me that the Orem Utah Temple will be built on a very definitive schedule, one that may see other temples with groundbreakings yet-to-be-announced have a construction process that will be swifter than what is going to be done for the Orem Utah Temple. That idea is not necessarily a shocker, since we know that plans currently call for the Tooele Valley Utah Temple to be built on an accelerated schedule to help with temple activity while the iconic Salt Lake Temple remains closed until 2024 for renovation. As I said, the shocking part to me is that the Church has given this temple a designated number which does not, at the present time, appear to be accurate.

I am hopeful that that means that the Church is working on the factors that have delayed the construction for the Puebla Mexico and Lima Peru Los Olivos Temples, in addition to factors that will allow other temples that may have a groundbreaking either just before or just after that of this temple to move ahead of it in the construction queue. I will also note here that I had been hoping that a groundbreaking announcement for one or more of the Utah temples would be coming down the pike, but again, the fact that it is Orem first and in early September is surprising to me. One thing is very clear to me: there are going to be unprecedented developments in terms of temple construction in the days ahead. That has been true thus far this year, and it will be even more true going forward. For my part, I continue to monitor any and all such developments and will bring word of those to you all as I become aware of such things.

That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BREAKING TEMPLE NEWS: Exterior Rendering Released for the Mendoza Argentina Temple

Note: This post was originally published to this blog at 10:41 AM, and was updated between 4:20 and 5:20 PM.

Hello again, everyone! The First Presidency today released the exterior rendering for the Mendoza Argentina Temple. The Church also specified the site location. When originally reading this announcement, it appeared to me as though the confirmed location was different from the one that had been speculated. But as a result of a more careful reading of the release, the site location was confirmed for the speculated spot, which will be between Calle Dr. Pose and Calle Dr. Coni E, along Avenida Champagnat. The temple appears to be a single-story edifice. It will be around 21,000 square feet, and accompanied by an adjacent meetinghouse. At present, a groundbreaking date has not yet been established, with project leaders working through the approvals process in the coming months. But it could be possible that this temple might have a groundbreaking before the end of this year. The announcement of the rendering and site information for the Mendoza Argentina Temple comes just 18 days after the early Jun announcement of the site location, rendering, and groundbreaking for the Salta Argentina Temple. And it is the latest in an unprecedented period of announced temple developments. If, as anticipated, this temple has a groundbreaking later this year, it will mark the first time ever that two new temples will be under construction at the same time in Argentina. And a groundbreaking for this temple will also mark the first time since 2018 that more than two temples are under construction in South America. I do not include Brazil in that definition, since Brazil comprises a separate area of the Church. This announcement also comes in the midst of unprecedented temple developments being reported throughout Latin America (which, by definition, includes Brazil and Mexico, in addition to the rest of Central and South America). As I observed in reply to a comment made by longtime reader Eric S. this morning about this announcement, just when I think I have the likely sequence of temple events for the next 12-18 months sorted out, an announcement like this changes the game again. Based on these most recent announcements, I have adjusted a few of my files again. I will include links to each of those files, along with brief explanations of what the files are, along with any needed additional context.

First, I have updated certain sections of my temple construction progress report. Some iinformation about the numbering used may be helpful. Firstly, with the groundbreakings having been held earlier this year for the Richmond Virginia, Layton Utah, Alabang Philippines, and Auckland New Zealand Temples, those temples are ahead of any temple in this first document. Based on current projections, the Richomond Virginia Temple will either be the last dedicated in 2022 or one of the first to be dedicated in 2023, with the dedication for Layton happening next. Barring any massive delays, Auckland New Zealand may be the next to be completed. I'd anticipate the Feather River California, Alabang Philippines, and Salta Argentina Temples to be completed next, though the three may change places with each other. I'd next conjecture that the Bangkok Thailand Temple would be dedicated, unless full-scale efforts soon begin on either or both the Puebla Mexico and Lima Peru Los Olivos Temples, for which the compleion is hard to gauge while full-scale efforts are pending. With that in mind, hopefully the numbering for the temples in the first couple of sections of the first document makes more sense.

And of course, it goes without saying that the timing of completion of temples which are now or will soon be under construction is up to the Lord, so any thoughts offered in the remainder of that first document are no more and no less than my own personal observations and theories, based on what is currently known or unknown about those temples, and all such information is subject to change as more information comes to light.

That said, let's move on to the next document, which shows the probable timing that may come into play for groundbreakings during the reaminder of this year and the first part of next year. Another document shows the temples most likely to have a groundbreaking  this year and next year. And the final document I want to share here details some data about those temples for which no official information has been announced.

What I said about the temples in the first document applies to all announced temples: Any data I have offered or will offer is no more and no less than based on my own personal analysis, and all such information is thus subject to confirmation, denial, or correction through official announcements from the First Presidency. But the overarching principle also remains true: we are living in a time where unprecedented developments are occurring in all facets of the work of the Church and the progression of the gospel, and that is particularly and specifically true for temple developments. For my part, I continue to monitor all Church news and temple updates and will pass word of all such things along to you all as I become aware of those reports. That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.