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Friday, December 15, 2017

Temple Site Possibilities: North America Southwest Area, Part Three--Current Temple Districts in Texas

Hello again, everyone! Before moving on to the subject of this post (which will be the four temple districts that serve the Saints in Texas), I wanted to issue an apology. I had posted a couple of hours ago regarding the current and potential future temples in Arizona, but I didn't check for errors or omissions, and I found that I had neglected to discuss one of the six districts.

Rather than keeping the post up and adding the relevant information, I opted to revert the original version of the post back into its' draft form so I could edit what I needed to and post the corrected version. If any of you made comments on the original post that were lost when I took that action, I hope you will forgive me and post such comments again. I continue to appreciate the dialogue we have been able to have take place regarding my thoughts on future temples, and I hope that comes across in what I say in these posts and in any replies I offer to your shared insightful comments. That said, let's talk about Texas.

Before talking about the 4 temple districts that serve the Saints in Texas, I wanted to note a couple of indirect personal connections which I have to that state. My mom, a South African native who came to the US on a "short vacation" in the late 70's, had prior to that time asked the Lord if she should serve a mission. The answer she received at the time was what she perceived as "no", but turned out to be "not just yet".

After she had been in Utah for a while visiting with friends she had in the area, through an unusual set of circumstances, she was stunned to find out that the Lord wanted her on a mission at that time. She served in Texas, where she had experiences in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

Additionally, I had a friend in my graduating class in high school who served in the Fort Worth mission. Through the experiences both my mom and this friend have shared with me regarding their service, and from what I have observed in the Church News about the state, the Saints there are faithful, and the Lord's work is moving along well there.

That is even more evident because of the four temples within that state. I will discuss them chronologically, which is also their alphabetical order. I will devote a paragraph each to the history of those 4, which are as follows:

The first one dedicated  was Dallas. That occurred between October 19-24, 1984  and was done  by President Hinckley, who was then Second Counselor in the First Presidency to Spencer W. Kimball; following a process that added on to that temple, President Hinckley dedicated just that added portion on March 5, 1989).

The next one to be dedicated was Houston, with that dedication taking place on August 26 & 27, 2000 and with President Hinckley presiding at that dedication as well. As we know, that temple sustained weather-related damage earlier this year and was closed to allow what began as a restoration process that the First Presidency subsequently announced would be a renovation. Following a private rededication sometime during mid-2018, the temple will reopen.

Texas's third operating temple was dedicated in the city of Lubbock, which occurred on April 21, 2002, and President Hinckley presided at that event as well. The final and most recent temple to be dedicated in Texas was built in San Antonio, and its dedication occurred on May 22, 2005. Once again, President Hinckley presided at that event.

So, having discussed the history of the current temples in Texas, it is time now for us to turn our attention to the composition of each of those districts and those future locations that may get a temple in the near future. Let's dive right in to all of that.

Following the dedication of the other temples, the Dallas temple district now covers 26 stakes in Northern Texas, and also the Shreveport stake in northern Louisiana. There may be a reason to split that district. How could that be done? Following the brief discussion of my temple picks on the now-defunct LDS Growth Forum, in which the most likely location for Texas's next temple was discussed, I heard some feedback from someone who lives within the Dallas Texas Temple district.

This individual confirmed an idea I had already considered, that the most likely location for a temple that would divide the Dallas district is Fort Worth, which is exact 32 miles from Dallas. I am glad to have the possibility of a Fort Worth Texas Temple confirmed as being very likely. Others might not feel the same way, but for me, I would defer to the opinion of someone who is familiar with the current district.

As for the Houston temple district, it covers 22 stakes in the southeastern portion of Texas. Among them is the Beaumont stake, whose members are 84.9 miles from the Houston temple. I welcome any thoughts about if and when Beaumont might potentially get a temple.

We now move on to the Lubbock Texas Temple, which has 5 stakes and 1 district from West Texas, and also the Roswell Stake from the southeastern part of New Mexico. And finally, the San Antonio Texas temple district is comprised of the 18 stakes and two districts within the south and central portions of Texas that include not only the 7 stakes based in San Antonio, but also the two stakes each that are based in Austin, McAllen, and Round Rock.

It may be possible for Austin to get its own temple at some point (since the Saints in that city have 79.7 miles to travel to get to San Antonio), but I have no idea how imminent that possibility might be. Let me know your thoughts in that regard in the comments below.

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.

Temple Site Possibilities: North America Southwest Area, Part Two--Current Temples in Arizona

Hello again, everyone! I am back as I promised, with the second part of my series of posts about the North America Southwest Area, which in itself is part of my larger series of posts about such possibilities and prospects worldwide by Church area. In continuing our discussion of current temples within the North America Southwest Area of the Church, we first turn our focus in this post to the subject of the six temple that serve the Saints in Arizona and the surrounding areas.

As most, if not all, of you are probably aware, the Tucson Arizona Temple became the sixth temple in the state about four months ago. Additionally, the state's first temple, which was built in Mesa, is set to close for its second renovation on Sunday May 20, which will also be the day that the Jordan River Utah Temple is rededicated. The Church in Arizona has a rich history, with 6 missions currently serving the state. There have also been 114 stakes established in Arizona, which breaks down further into 810 wards and 85 branches, for a grand total of 895 congregations within the state. With six temples, the congregational average for each is right between 149 and 150.

With that background in place, let's talk about each temple. I will be addressing the breakdown of each district in the chronological order in which they have been dedicated, which will be as follows: Mesa (for which dedicatory sessions were held between October 23-26, 1927, and were presided over by 7th Church President Heber Grant; the temple was rededicated following its' first renovation on April 15-16, 1975 by 12th Church President Spencer W. Kimball); Snowflake (dedicated on March 3, 2002 by President Gordon B. Hinckley); The Gila Valley (dedicated on May 23, 2010 by President Thomas S. Monson) Gilbert (dedicated on March 2, 2014 with a prayer that was written by President Monson and read (at his request) by his First Counselor President Eyring in the first session); Phoenix (dedicated on November 16, 2014 by President Thomas S. Monson); and, most recently, the Tucson Arizona Temple (dedicated on August 13, 2017, by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency).

Now that we have discussed the history of temple dedications in Arizona, let us turn our attention to the discussion of the current districts of each temple. Following the dedication of the other 5 temples in the state, the Mesa Arizona Temple district covers 29 stakes from the Northeastern Phoenix Metro Area and Arizona's Rim Country.

While there are several of those stakes that do not fall within a well recognized area of Arizona, the major regions that this temple district covers are as follows: 21 stakes from Mesa, 1 from Phoenix, and two each in the Scottsdale and Tempe areas.

There may or may not be a strong case to have another temple that would break up this district somewhat, and I have considered the merits of suggesting one for the city of Payson, Arizona (which is 76.2 miles from Mesa, Scottsdale or Tempe might be other good locations, but the former is located 12.9 miles from Mesa, and the latter is 6.8 miles from Mesa. Let me know your thoughts on all of that

We turn next to the district of the Snowflake Arizona Temple, which is comprised of 13 stakes. The most notable thing about that district is that it covers two stakes in the city of Flagstaff, which is the one potential location in Arizona that I have on my list for the near future. The Saints in Flagstaff currently travel a distance of 118 miles, and even though that is somewhat below the 200 mile goal President Monson has set, I still think a temple in Flagstaff would serve the patrons in that part of Arizona very well.

Additionally, temples have been built in areas where only one or two stakes are established, so I don't see Flagstaff's two stakes as being a potential deterring factor in whether or not a temple is built in the region. I could see a temple there sooner rather than later. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Next, let's talk about The Gila Valley Arizona Temple (for which, as most of you know, the inclusion of "The", which is deliberately capitalized in the name of the temple, mirroring the way the locals see that part of Arizona). The temple that was dedicated there now serves 6 stakes, 5 from Eastern Arizona (including President Kimball's beloved city of Thatcher), and 1 from Southwestern New Mexico. That seems to be a very manageable district size.

Now we will talk about the Gilbert Arizona Temple district. Its current composition has it covering 34 stakes in the Southern Phoenix Metro and Cobra Valley areas of Arizona, which includes the Casa Grande stake, 4 stakes in Chandler, 12 in Gilbert, the Globe and Maricopa stakes, 4 stakes in the Mesa area, 7 more from the Queen Creek region, and two others each from San Tan and Tempe.

I could see that district being potentially split into one or two others, and in the long run, several others. Although I only have the one temple possibility for Arizona (in Flagstaff), I wanted to mention that I see the potential merits of another temple being announced for either the San Tan Valley (13.9 miles from Gilbert), Tempe (13.8 miles from Gilbert), or Queen Creek (16.2 miles from Gilbert). It wouldn't surprise me to have temples in each of these Arizona cities at some point. I also briefly considered Chandler, but that is 6.2 miles from Gilbert, so there might be one built there someday, but perhaps not for the near future. If any of you have any thoughts about where a temple could be built that would split the Gilbert district, let me  know.

Moving on now to the Phoenix Arizona Temple, I wanted to note one very significant thing about it before I talk about the size and composition of its district. The dedication of this temple was the last one over which President Monson personally presided. In his current situation, having stepped back from active service due to age- and health-related challenges, we likely will not see him participate in any other dedications, barring a miracle.

That said, let's get into the specifics on the Phoenix Arizona Temple District. The temple serves those Saints from 20 stakes in the Northwest Phoenix Metro and Yavapai County regions of Arizona, which includes two stakes each in Glendale, Peoria, the Prescott Valley and Surprise, in addition to the Buckeye, Cottonwood, and Goodyear stakes and 8 other stakes based in Phoenix. That is a good size district, so there may or may not be a good reason for a second temple somewhere in the region to break it up somewhat. Let me know your thoughts on that.

And rounding out the Arizona temples is the one in Tucson Arizona, which was just dedicated four months ago. That temple serves 9 stakes from Southern Arizona, 6 of which are within the city of Tucson.

That does it for this post, which has discussed the current temple districts covering Arizona, and has advanced the notion of a few possible future locations for temples in Arizona. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, especially in terms of if I have missed or overlooked anything or if there are some things I should reconsider. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post (which should be put up later today), I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Temple Site Possibilities: North America Southwest Area, Part One--Area Overview and List of Current Temples

Hello again, everyone! With Church and temple news having slowed down in recent days, I am back to talk about the current and potential future temples within the next North American area of the Church, which alphabetically is the North America Southwest Area.

This area includes the entirety of the following five states: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. In addition, this area of the Church also covers the northwest quarter of Arkansas, the southwest portion of Colorado, and the southwestern third of Missouri, along with small portions of California, Kansas,  Louisiana, and Utah. Because it is an area of the Church that has 15 temples operating (just under 10% of all the operating temples), I have determined it would be best to approach the discussion of the present and potential future temples in a unique way. I will explain that more after I provide a list of those temples falling within the boundaries the Church has established for this area.

Those 15 are grouped by the number of temples in each of these states, then alphabetically as follows:  6 in Arizona (The Gila Valley, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Snowflake and Tucson Arizona Temples);  4 others in Texas (the Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, and San Antonio Texas Temples); 2 in Nevada (the Las Vegas and Reno Nevada Temples); the Albuquerque New Mexico Temple; the Monticello Utah Temple; and the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple.

That is a lot of temples to get through, so the unique approach I have chosen to take for this area is to do specific and distinct posts for the temples within each state (for Arizona and Texas), yet another one covering the two in Nevada, and the ones in Albuquerque, Monticello and Oklahoma City, and then round out the posts about this area by sharing those possibilities I see for the near future. So this post served to introduce what I will cover, and there will be four others coming before the end of the day today.

That does it for this post. While I don't anticipate any comments being made about this post, if any of you have any general thoughts about the approach I am taking, I would welcome and appreciate hearing from you. 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.

BREAKING NEWS: Changes to Youth Proxy Baptism Procedures and Annual Priesthood Preview

Hello again, everyone! A comment on my blog earlier today tipped me off to some big Church news that actually was released yesterday but of which I had somehow not been aware until that time.I apologize that I am late in posting about it, but it deserves to be mentioned.

In an official letter from the First Presidency, the Church announced yesterday that, beginning in January 2018, opportunities to serve in the temple would be expanded for the youth of the Church. As most of you are no doubt aware, it has been a long-standing understood practice for priest-age young men of the Church to have the authority to baptize other individuals and also to serve as witnesses to baptisms as well, but that was only for those who are living. With the changes announced yesterday, priests will be authorized to be the baptizers and witnesses to baptisms for the dead in temples everywhere.

Additionally, the First Presidency announced that young women would now be given the opportunity to assist in keeping the baptistery stocked with clean baptismal clothing. As one who worked in a temple for six years, I can say this is great news. During my time serving in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple, two problems were consistent: the baptistery never had enough priesthood holders to match the influx of youth that were coming to do baptisms.  And it always seemed like the laundry staff was short of people to deal with the volume of temple clothing that came through.

I don't have specific experience with either the temple laundry in general or that which came particularly from the baptistery, but I have been in meetings with my fellow male workers when our supervisors mentioned that the laundry was short-staffed and there was a scramble to ensure that was covered. If the other 158 temples of the Church are anywhere close to mirroring that situation, then these changes make sense.

Additionally, the First Presidency in that same letter (which will be read in congregations worldwide this Sunday) mentioned that, in a greater effort to ensure that Primary-age children were prepared for the priesthood and to do temple and family history work, the annual "priesthood preview" that had been attended solely by 11 year-old males of the Church in wards and stakes everywhere would be changed to be a "priesthood and temple preview" to which all 11 year-old girls and their parents would be invited as well.

This is not only great for the youth, but also wonderful for adult temple workers as well. Especially in areas where temples are busy and where ordinance workers may be needed elsewhere, this will enable the work of the baptisteries of the Church to go on uninterrupted. This will also hopefully continue to encourage youth everywhere to go to the temple.

That said, as always, there have been those that say these changes are not sufficient enough to put women on equal footing with men in the Church, and that will not happen unless and until women are allowed to officiate and serve as witnesses in the baptistery. And there are several groups pushing for the ordination of women to the priesthood that have said that this is a milestone, not a summit, and that they will continue to petition for women to be able to receive the priesthood until such requests are granted.

Of course, those who have truly studied the gospel, and particularly the doctrine of the priesthood and the Proclamation on the Family that was released 22 years ago will recognize the reasons why there is a separate but entirely equal opportunity for both men and women to serve side by side, both within the temple, and outside of it.

At any rate, as noted above, a copy of the letter outlining these momentous changes (which will take effect as of January 1, 2018) will be read in congregations throughout the world this Sunday, and the youth of the Church that have been interviewed by news media outlets about this change have reacted positively to these changes.

Not only should this be seen as a manifestation of the love the Lord has for the valiant youth of the Church who so faithfully do family history and take names to the temple for baptism and confirmation, but it is an extension of the authority those young men of age enough to be priests in the Aaronic Priesthood. And that will be above and beyond the already-significant participation of the youth of the Church in family history and temple work.

If early reports are any indication, that level of participation is likely to increase dramatically, above and beyond what it has been up to this point. For a more complete report of these changes and the responses of youth who were interviewed about them, see this article from the Deseret News (the parent company of the LDS Church News),

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.