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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas Post

Given all that's going on in my personal life and with my health, I have not yet had a chance before now to post about Christmas. I have a Christmas tradition on this blog of posting the same poem every year, then sharing my testimony of the true meaning of Christmas. It is my hope that, as I do so, the true meaning of Christmas will sink deeply into the hearts of all who read what I have to say.

This poem took on personal meaning to me when I was a young man and I first became aware of it. The first time I read it was because it had been shared in the December edition of the newsletter for my parent's ward. It really spoke to me, and each time I have shared it, I have used it as an opportunity for me to appreciate anew the wonder and majesty of the holiday season, wherein the Savior's birth is celebrated. As most of you are probably aware, research shows that Christ was actually born in the spring, and that we celebrate his birth in December only because that's when the world marks it. Modern revelation has identified Christ's actual birthday to be the same as the date of the restoration of the gospel, April 6.

It is remarkable to contemplate that the mission of the babe born in Bethlehem neither began there, nor ended on Calvary's cross. His mission and purpose was and will forever be eternal and everlasting. Without regard for his own comfort and life, He willingly gave the utmost sacrifice, His life, to redeem all mankind, not only every inhabitant that ever was or ever will be on earth, but also, and more amazingly, any one of God's spiritual offspring that were born in other worlds that have been, are, and will yet be. We owe so much more than we can ever repay to our remarkable Savior, who gave all that we might be able to return to Him and to our Heavenly Father and live eternally. The gift or redemption He offers to all, no matter their lot in life or how high or how lowly their station. Ours is the task to live in such a manner that we will be ready and worthy to greet Him when He comes again. That He will come is as sure and certain to me as is the fact that I live and breathe.

When considering all of this, I hope we will step away from what has become the hustle and bustle of the season, that we will overlook the commercialism and ill feelings that come with the imperfection of this world and especially in this season.

With all that in mind, I share this poem. I hope it will touch all of you as much as it has always touched me. May the true spirit of Christmas fill the hearts and minds of all who read this, and may we ever remember to always act with charity, the pure love of Christ, and reach out with that charity to bless the lives of all those with whom we come in contact. That this may be our privilege and our destiny is my humble prayer, as I leave this poem and this post with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

‘Twas the Night Before the Savior Came

‘Twas the night before Our Savior came and all through the house,
Not a person was praying, not one in the house.
Their scriptures were lain on the shelf without care,
Thinking Our Savior would not come there.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the late show, while I took a nap.
Where out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But angels proclaiming that our Savior was here!
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray,
I knew in a moment it must be the day!
The beauty of His face made me cover my head,
It was Our Savior returning just like he said....
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.
In the Book of Life which He held in His hand,
Was written the names of every saved man.
He spoke not a word, as He searched for my name.
Then He said, “It’s not here.” My head hung in shame.
The people whose names had been written with love,
He gathered to take to His father above.
With those who were read, He rose without a sound,
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late.
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and cried as they rose out of sight,
“Oh, if only I’d been ready tonight.”
In the words of this poem, the meaning is clear,
The coming of Our Savior is drawing near.
There is only one life and when comes the last call,
We will find that the scriptures were true, after all....

An announcement for the site and groundbreaking date for the Harare Zimbabwe Temple is due to happen early next year/Updated Temple Construction Progress Report

Thanks to how I was feeling physically today, I have not been able to do my usual check of the Church sites I try to visit daily or multiple times per day until just a few hours ago. As, no doubt, most of you who are vigorously following Church and temple news know already, and as it is such monumental news, I wanted to make it an official blog post topic. According to Rick Satterfield's excellent LDS Church Temples website, word has come that an announcement for the site of the Harare Zimbabwe Temple will be announced early next year, with the groundbreaking ceremony for that temple to follow shortly thereafter.

Before I go any further, I wanted to just comment on what a tremendous milestone this is, and what it means for the Church. It makes my head spin to realize that, for the first time I know of in the entire history of the Church, a temple outside North America will have a site announced and its ground broken roughly within one year after that temple was announced. No less significant and wonderful to me is the knowledge that, with this groundbreaking to take place when it does, for the very first time in Church history, we will have three temples simultaneously under construction in Africa. There are no words beautiful enough or strong enough to describe my feelings when I think of this news. My mom was born in South Africa and came here over 30 years ago on what she believed would be a "short vacation." Now her home nation of South Africa will soon have 2 temples in operation, and temples are spreading like wildfires throughout the land at an overwhelmingly fast rate. In the continent of Africa alone, there will soon be more temples there than there were in the entire United States, let alone the world, within the first 100 years of the gospel's restoration. And, as those who follow my posts are no doubt all too keenly aware, there is potential for quite a few more temple sites to be announced in just the African continent alone within the next 5 years or so.

What a remarkable time we live in! We are very blessed to live in a most unprecedented era of temple building. While it is still unknown how long construction in Zimbabwe will last, one thing is certain: if temples keep being announced and built at the rate they have been just in the last 5 years alone, not only are we more likely than not to see 200+ temples by or before the 200th anniversary of the Church, but we will also likely see future temple announcements in remote places that no one now believes as being possible.

I am equally certain of one other thing: this blog is fast becoming one of many outlets where such things can be discussed and analyzed in-depth. I am humbled by the knowledge that my recent post about possible locations for temples that may be announced in the near future has received by far the most views and the most comments of any post I've done in the entire time I've been blogging. And that is an absolute testament to me of the high interest in temples. It certainly isn't because of anything I've said here. In fact, it probably is the case in spite of things I've said here. I am awed and humbled that what I have to say means so much to so many. I am beyond grateful to all who are commenting and reading my thoughts about this subject that has been a lifelong love of mine.

Naturally and obviously, with the news that came down today, a massive edit was needed for my temple construction progress report. I share those updates with you now. As always, I am eternally appreciative of any and all of you who will read this post and, if you feel so inclined, comment on it.

That said, here's the report:

Temple Construction Progress Report (current as of 12/11/16)
Current Temple Status: 155 operating; scheduled for dedication; 11 under construction; 1 scheduled for rededication; 2 undergoing renovation; 10 announced; (NOTE: Up to 3 additional temples may soon have a groundbreaking announced).

Dedication scheduled:
156. Paris France Temple: Interior work underway; open house and dedication dates announced; scheduled to be dedicated on Sunday May 21, 2017.

Under Construction:
157. Meridian Idaho Temple: Exterior lighting tests underway; welcome center reopens in stake center; completion anticipated sometime in late 2017.
158. Cedar City Utah Temple: Erecting fencing; landscaping progressing; installing window frames and art glass; completion anticipated sometime in late 2017.
159. Tucson Arizona Temple: Adding landscaping structures and walkways; plumbing water feature; completion anticipated sometime in late 2017.
160. Rome Italy Temple: Interior work progressing; completion anticipated sometime in 2018.
161. Concepcion Chile Temple: Cupola assembly attached to steeple framework; paving main entrance; completion anticipated sometime in 2018.
162. Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple: Building the exterior walls; completion anticipated sometime in 2018.
163. Durban South Africa Temple: Pouring the foundations; connecting to city utilities; installing sewage lines; landscaping entrance mounds; completion anticipated sometime in 2018.
164. Barranquilla Colombia Temple: Exterior walls rising; completion anticipated sometime between 2018 and 2019.
165. Winnipeg Manitoba Temple: Groundbreaking held Saturday December 3, 2016; completion anticipated sometime between 2018 and 2019.
166. Fortaleza Brazil Temple: Concrete forms going up for second floor exterior walls; completion anticipated sometime in 2019.
167. Lisbon Portugal Temple: Laying meetinghouse footings and foundation; excavating for maintenance building; temple site cleared; completion anticipated sometime in 2019.

Scheduled for rededication:
8. Idaho Falls Idaho Temple: Closed for renovation; finish work underway; rededication scheduled for Sunday June 4, 2017.

Undergoing Renovation:
20. Jordan River Utah Temple: Closed for renovation; rededication anticipated sometime in late 2017.
41. Frankfurt Germany Temple: Closed for renovation; rededication anticipated sometime in 2018.

Announced:
168. Harare Zimbabwe Temple: Approval and construction preparation phase; official site announcement anticipated in early 2017, with the groundbreaking anticipated to take place shortly following the site announcement.
169. Arequipa Peru Temple: General contractor selected; groundbreaking pending.
170. Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple: Construction preparation phase; plans approved by local government; groundbreaking pending.
171. Urdaneta Philippines Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
172. Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
173. Bangkok Thailand Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
174. Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
175. Quito Ecuador Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
176. Belem Brazil Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
177. Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.

Key:
Bolded numbers and text denote temples whose numbers already exists (for renovations), or is certain due to a scheduled dedication, as well as information that is certain, such as dedication or groundbreaking dates.
Italicized numbers and text denote temples whose numbers may change based on the order in which future dedications and groundbreakings are scheduled.
Underlined numbers and text denote temples whose numbers may change based on progress towards planning, approval, and groundbreaking.
Red text denotes changes from the last posted temple progress update.