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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Temple Site Possibilities: North America Southeast Area

Hello again, everyone! While I hope that the discussion of temple prospects in areas I have already covered will continue, I wanted to post again tonight about the current and potential future temples within the North America Southeast Area, which is comprised of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, most of Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and small portions of Texas and Virginia.

Within this area of the Church, there are 10 temples in operation. Of those 10, 2 are in Florida (Fort Lauderdale and Orlando), with 2 others in Tennessee (Memphis and Nashville) and there is one temple apiece  in each of the following states: Alabama (Birmingham), Georgia (Atlanta), Kentucky (Louisville), Louisiana (Baton Rouge), North Carolina (Raleigh), South Carolina (Columbia),

I also have at least one additional location in my sights for this area in the near future, and as we talk about each of these districts, I will be sure to include any other possibilities that come to mind. Let's get right into all of that.

We start first in Florida. The temple in Orlando was the first of the two temples dedicated by President Howard W. Hunter during the brief 9 months he presided over the Church (the other being the Bountiful Utah Temple). The Orlando temple district covers 21 stakes in North and Central Florida and the Kingsland stake from Southeast Georgia. That  district seems fairly manageable. I next wanted to briefly mention that the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple was dedicated around 3.5 years ago. That temple  district currently serves just 8 stakes in South Florida.

Next we turn our attention to Tennessee. The Memphis Tennessee Temple, dedicated in April 2000 by President James E. Faust under President Gordon B. Hinckley's smaller temple plan  is currently closed for renovation (with its exterior being given a completely different look). That temple district is currently comprised of 3 stakes in Arkansas, 2 in West Tennessee, and the Topelo stake from North Mississippi.

Before talking about the Nashville Temple district, I wanted to note a couple of interesting facts about the two Tennessee temples. During the renovation process, members assigned to the Memphis temple will be accommodated at neighboring temples, including the temple in Nashville. Nashville was announced first, but Memphis had a groundbreaking first, and President Faust dedicated the Nashville temple 4 weeks after presiding at the dedication of the Memphis Temple.

With that trivial information out of the way, we now talk about the current composition of the Nashville temple district, which takes in 8 stakes in Central and East Tennessee and 2 others in Western Kentucky. Both of the temple districts in Tennessee seem to be a reasonable size, so I don't see a need for a third temple in that state, at least not immediately. If and when it is needed, I could see such a temple in the Knoxville area.

Now we come to the discussion of the 6 states that each have 1 temple. First, a general note: Most of these six temples were part of President Hinckley's plan to bring smaller temples to the people. In addition to the Memphis Tennessee Temple, 2 others (Baton Rouge Louisiana and Raleigh North Carolina) are set to close next month.

While no expansion appears to be in the works for either temple, the design used for other smaller temples from the Hinckley era that are undergoing renovation may be given the same new exterior look that has applied for other temples of that era that have been or are being renovated.

But in getting back to the discussion of the other six temples in this area, we start in Alabama, where the Birmingham Temple was dedicated in September 2000 by President Hinckley. That temple district covers 7 stakes in Alabama and 2 others in Northwest Florida. With so few stakes, until the stagnant growth of the Church in the United States reverses, it doesn't seem likely that this district will split any time soon.

Turning our attention now to Atlanta Georgia, the temple in that city was dedicated by President Hinckley during President Kimball's tenure as Church President. President Hinckley would return to this temple as Church President 14 years and 5 months after the original dedication to rededicate the baptistry folowing renovation.

And an additional rededication was done by President Thomas S. Monson for this temple 3 years and 3 months after he became President of the Church. As for its district, the Atlanta Temple currently serves the Saints within 13 stakes in Georgia, and the Chattanooga stake from the southeastern part of Tennessee. Another fairly reasonably sized district that likely won't need to split anytime soon.

Now we move on to Louisville Kentucky, where the temple was dedicated in March 2000 by President Monson. Its district is currently comprised of 9 stakes, 5 within Kentucky, 2 from Indiana, 1 from Southwestern Ohio (the Cincinnati Ohio stake), and the Huntington Stake from Southwestern West Virginia.

Before going on I wanted to pause here for a few minutes and note that if, as I surmised in my post about the North America Northeast area, a temple is built in Richmond Virginia, then it might be built to serve both Virginia and West Virginia, which would pull away stakes in those two stakes from their current district. I do think we will see a Richmond Virginia temple fairly soon. The only question is how soon that will be.

With my apologies for all the side notes, that brings us to the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple. Originally dedicated in mid-July 2000 (one of the rare times such a dedication occurred during the typical recess month for the General Authorities), that temple is scheduled to close for renovation, and that closure goes into effect on Sunday January 28 of next year. The Saints living within the Baton Rouge temple district will be accommodated at neighboring temples.

As for its district, the Baton Rouge Temple district currently covers 6 stakes in Louisiana and 3 others from Mississippi. Some have conjectured that a temple in Jackson Mississippi is just a matter of time, and I could see that happening, but as it seems to be a more distant prospect, I have it on my list for the future. If and when such a temple is built, it will take stakes away from the Baton Rouge district.

The Raleigh North Carolina Temple, originally dedicated in mid-December 1999 by President Hinckley, will also be closing for renovation, and that closure is set to occur 3 weeks prior to that of the Baton Rouge Temple. The only temple in North Carolina covers 12 stakes, all of which are located within the state boundaries. During the closure, the North Carolina Saints will be accommodated at temples in neighboring states. The one really nice thing about all of these smaller temples that are being closed for renovation is that there are other temples close by that can serve the Saints during that time.

One of those neighboring temples that will be accommodating Saints in this area is the Columbia South Carolina Temple. That temple, dedicated in mid-October 1999 by President Hinckley, The district of that temple covers 14 stakes, 6 from South Carolina, 5 from North Carolina, the Augusta and Savannah stakes from East Georgia, and the Kingsport stake from Northeast Tennessee.

With all of this information in mind, you may notice some missing information. In addition to the 10 temples above, this area of the Church also is comprised of Arkansas and Mississippi. So let's talk about those two states for a minute.

First, I would like to say a word or two about Mississippi. The four stakes in that state are divided between a couple of different temple districts. The Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and Jackson stakes, as mentioned above, fall within the boundaries of the Baton Rouge temple. The Tupelo stake is the only one that falls within a different district, and that district is the Memphis Tennessee Temple.

Jackson Mississippi is only a 172.2 mile drive from the Baton Rouge temple. While that may not seem to be an inordinate distance for the members in Mississippi (it does fall below President Monson's 200 mile goal), some may feel it is far enough away to warrant a temple of its own. Let me know your thoughts on that.

Turning now to Arkansas, the only other state in this area of the Church that does not have a temple, there are currently 2 missions of the Church in that state, in the capital city (Little Rock)) and in Bentonville, which was the first mission of the Church to be established in the state. Additionally, Arkansas has 7 stakes, 4 of which currently fall within the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple district, while the other 3 are covered by the Memphis Tennessee Temple. As both of those temples are closed for renovation, Arkansas Saints have a longer trip to get to the closest one to them.

That said, I will say this: I think Arkansas can and will get a temple very soon. The only question marks that come up on that is when will it happen, and where will that temple be located? I have an answer. When considering the most probable location for the first temple in Arkansas, I have heard three main possibilities floated around. The first is Little Rock, since the Church seems to favor the capital of any US state for the location of its first temple. A mission is within that city.

The other two are fairly close together. For both Rogers and Bentonville, they are 7.8 miles apart, so some see them as interchangeable in terms of how likely either could be to be selected for the first temple site in Arkansas. I also know that Elder Bednar has personal ties to both cities.

Some (including many experts with whom I have shared my thoughts) have advanced Rogers as the best city for the first temple in Arkansas. In general, I would trust their opinion above my own. But in this one case, I have an additional reason for favoring the city that was home to the first mission in Arkansas.

A very good friend of mine served his mission in the area and is quite familiar with both cities. According to the information he gave me, the Church has held land in reserve for a temple in the city of Bentonville for several years. An official announcement will follow when congregational growth makes such an announcement practical, and when the Church can be assured there will be sufficient member support (in terms of patrons to keep such a temple busy, and workers to staff it for the hours it will be open).

Let me be clear on this: I am not in any way discounting the fact that the Church may elect to build the temple in Rogers, as suggested by several who study Church and temple-related developments perhaps with a greater expertise and more consistently than I do. That said, I find it hard to believe that the Church would procure land for the purpose of building a temple and not use it for that purpose. It may have happened before, but it doesn't seem likely in this case. That is why Bentonville is my pick for Arkansas's first LDS temple. And that city is the only pick on my list for this area, unless I add those possibilities I referenced above.

How'd I do? Did I miss any potential locations I should be considering more seriously? What are your thoughts on the most likely location for Arkansas's first temple? It's your turn to "sound off" in the comments below. I look forward to the feedback.

That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. 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.