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Friday, April 13, 2018

Additional Church News--Part Two: An Exploration of Several Other Significant Stories

Hello again, everyone! As promised, I am back with a report on the remaining Church News stories that I found significant. First of all, in connection with the article published about Elder Soares, there was also this one regarding how a "chance meeting" (I put that in quotation marks because I don't believe it was in any way accidental) years ago between Elder Soares, his wife, and some members of the Church led to a life-long friendship. That was an amazing article to read.

Before moving on, I did want to make another observation here about the diversity of those at the top of the Church's leadership hierarchy. If my memory serves me correctly, although Elder Dale G. Renlund was born in the US, his parents emigrated from Sweden, and he grew up speaking Swedish primarily, with English as a second language. So technically he is a first-generation American-born apostle.

Additionally, with the calls of Elders Gong and Soares, they join Elder Uchtdorf in the growing group of apostles born outside of the US. It is significant to me that now, 1/5 of the currently serving apostles were born outside the US. And if, as I have observed, President Nelson might be more open to the idea of considering internationally-born candidates for any future vacancy (or, if there are no others before his own passing, his successors might continue to be open to that prospect), we will likely see the number of international apostles grow in coming years as well. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

But in moving on, I wanted to next note that the Church has released a new PDF version of the chart showing the General Authorities and General Officers of the Church, which includes those changes sustained in April (Elders Gong and Soares to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elders Coook and Gay to the Presidency of the Seventy (although there will, as President Oaks noted, be three changes in that Presidency on August 1), the 8 new General Authority Seventies, the new Primary Presidency First Counselor, and the new members of the Young Women General Presidency).

The PDF version of the chart would seem to confirm that there are indeed 90 General Authority Seventies (unless I have somehow miscalculated), which, if we add the 25 men in the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, Presidency of the Seventy, and Presiding Bishopric, brings the total number of current General Authorities to 115 rather than the 116 President Oaks mentioned. Since we don't know how he arrived at that number, it is almost impossible to know if he was off by one.

But if he was, I am inclined to cut him some slack. If reports are correct, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into preparing each General Conference address, and for the members of the First Presidency who specifically speak more than once per conference, having to devote time and effort into multiple addresses, even those in which Church leadership changes are announced, takes even more preparation time. I for one have never had a problem with acknowledging that our leaders are not perfect. That should be obvious to everyone. Only one Man I know of was ever perfectly perfect. The rest of us, whatever our calling or station, are equally prone to err in this life. And rather than being discouraging, the idea that even those at the top of Church leadership make mistakes should be encouraging. These men's amazing lives have been characterized by their ability to move beyond their mistakes and become better, which is a lesson we could all take to heart.

Sorry. I rambled again. Getting back on track, the Church News released this article with brief biographies of the newly sustained Area Seventies. As another quick sidenote, it is worth mentioning that such information has traditionally been published on Mormon Newsroom directly following the Saturday Afternoon Session. For whatever reason (which was probably due to the many other major stories that took precedence), this Church News article was the first introduction to these new area seventies. An interesting tidbit, but that is to be expected.

The final two stories I wanted to share are connected to President Nelson's ongoing world tour. This one shares highlights of the time the Nelsons and the Hollands spent in London England. This was a homecoming of sorts for Elder Holland, who serve a mission in the British Isles. And, to wrap up the news stories I wanted to cover, this report shares some preliminary details about the Church members in Jerusalem Israel preparing to greet the prophet, who was set to visit there today. Hopefully more will be reported about that visit in the next few hours. If that occurs, I will pass the information along in another new post.

Before I close this one, however, I wanted to observe something. As anyone familiar with the signs of the Second Coming of the Savior knows, the scriptures speak of two apostles who, during the opening of the seventh seal, will be killed in Jerusalem, and whose bodies will be left in the streets there for three days before they arise again. Some sources I have read wondered if those two will be President Nelson and Elder Holland, and that this might occur on their current trip. While it is not out of the question, it seems unlikely that will be the case. I say that for a couple of reasons.

Among the signs preceding the Second Coming, there are many that have already been manifested, while there are others that could happen any day now, and still others may be a few years (if not indeed a few decades) out. A careful reading of the sequence of events would seem to indicate that there are still other signs that need to occur before the death of the two apostles in Jerusalem.

That said, I am not in any way authorized to interpret the scriptures or to speak for the Lord. If the Lord wants that sign to occur during this trip, I have no doubt that we would hear of it at some point perhaps before today is over. I will not be surprised either way. And I for one hope the Lord will come sooner rather than later.

I likewise hope that my analysis of this news has been helpful to at least some of you reading it. 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.

Additional Church News--Part One: Article Published to Introduce Elder Soares; Some Additional Thoughts and Observations About the Calling of an Apostle

Hello again, everyone! In yet another example of how quickly new Church developments can be reported, I am pleased to post now in order to pass along many additional Church News stories that are worthy of a mention here. I became aware of many of these news articles earlier today, but due to taking care of some personal obligations, I was not able to pass those along before now. I should also note that this will be done in two parts. In this first part, I will be highlighting an article about new apostle Elder Ulisses Soares, and I will also touch on some observations regarding the administration of the Church, the handling of day-to-day questions from Church members, and how the calls of Elders Gong and Soares were handled differently than apostolic calls in the recent past. So let's get right to it.

In posting some Church news stories yesterday, I had referenced an article the Church news published to introduce Elder Gong. Today it was Elder Soares' turn. One common theme that I really appreciated in yesterday's article about Elder Gong was also present in this article about Elder Soares. Both articles mention the fact that, while our two newest apostles recognize that their appointments are historic for the Church (as Elder Gong is the first Asian American apostle, and Elder Soares is the the first Latin American apostle), they recognize that they have not been called to represent Asian or Brazilian Saints in the leading councils of the Church or to the Lord, but rather to represent the Lord's will to the people wherever they are sent.

And it is a point well taken. Many people seem to feel that there should be more diversity among the leading councils of the Church, and such people also found fault with President Nelson for the way he answered the question about diversity in Church leadership. While the Brethren we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators do manifest the Lord's will to us, and are the only ones authorized to speak in the Lord's behalf, as someone who has been a lay member of the Church for just over 31 years now, I know there is truth in what President Nelson said during the press conference.

The Brethren would not be as free as they currently are to discern, determine, and proclaim the will of the Lord if they were constantly being called upon to make determinations about local issues. Many people seem to feel that they have a right to discuss whatever their concerns or issues are with the leading Brethren of the Church, but overlook the fact that such things are now handled by local leaders. The fact is that if every concern was handled on a general level in this global Church, hardly any of the Brethren would be free to do much else than that. If local leaders are given the chance to resolve such things, as should be occurring, that will leave the Brethren free to not just settle important issues on a Churchwide scale, but, more importantly, to be out among the people of the world, and gaining more of an understanding about what Church members and friends of other faiths in various nations are experiencing, that they might more effectively minister and administer to people of all backgrounds.

And while it is significant, to be sure, that the first two apostles selected during President Nelson's administration were from minority groups in the Church, I would hope that the point made by both Elder Gong and Elder Soares is not lost: their focus will be representing the Lord's will to the people, and they are anxious to go wherever they are sent.

One other take-away I got from these articles about our newest apostles is that, for the first time of which I am aware, both Elders Gong and Soares, in reporting the circumstances of their calls, noted that they and their wives were asked to meet with President Nelson. That is somewhat unprecedented, in my experience. We have heard new apostles previously say that after they met with the Church president, they then shared the unexpected news of their new callings with their wives. But this is yet another example of how President Nelson is demonstrating his clear understanding of how such calls will affect the spouses involved as well, and also, by extension, how important the wives of these new apostles will be in terms of allowing their husbands to serve. That was great to read about.

As noted above, I had started this post intending to cover many news stories in one go, but the commentary I felt to provide on this article introducing Elder Soares makes it necessary to put the other stories in a post of their own. Therefore, 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 (which should be published within the next half hour or so and will touch on other important Church news), I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Temple Updates (Including Revised Thoughts on Announced Temples)

Hello again, everyone! I am back yet again with another post, this one that will cover some temple updates, which includes revised thoughts about announced temples. So let's get right to it. First, a general update; While no other temples under construction or undergoing renovation have had an update in their statuses since my last report, I did find an additional update for the Kinshasa DR Congo Temple. Yesterday I had reported that exterior cases had been poured, and that interior work was progressing. While those details have not changed, most sources I have available have added that a retaining wall is being poured along with the exterior staircases. That was good to hear.

With that said, I also wanted to note that there has been a major change in the order in which I list those temples that have not progressed beyond an announcement. This is primarily because, as noted below, I became aware of new information that indicated the probable locations of some of these temples, although, with a few exceptions (namely the Urdaneta and Greater Manila Philippines, Brasilia Brazil, and Bangkok Thailand Temples, all of which have had an official confirmation of their site locations).

As you will notice from the revised order, which I will share below, the Pocatello Idaho and Saratoga Springs Utah Temples have moved up on the list, because a probable site has been identified for the former, and it has been noted for the latter that the design process is underway. I have also adjusted the order of the Layton Utah and Richmond Virginia Temples, since new information has indicated that the Church procured certain plots of land in both locations, which reportedly occurred for the former just two days prior to its' announcement, while for the latter, a newspaper report notes that land was procured in 2015.

Just as a general point of information, I will also be watching for news of the Managua Nicaragua Temple site with great interest as well. Longtime readers of this blog will no doubt recall that, when sharing my belief that a Nicaraguan temple was just a matter of time, I used a report I had received in sharing the news that land has been held in reserve for a temple in Managua for a while now. The Church may at some point confirm that the site on which this temple will eventually be built is that one that had been held in reserve for an announcement.

All of that said, the revised version of the list of announced temples that I keep with my traditional temple construction report follows below. So as not to disturb the flow of that information, I will close now as I always do. 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.

Announced temples:
171. Bangkok Thailand Temple: Planning and approvals; artist’s rendering released on March 19, 2018.
Note: With the site identified and the release of the artist’s rendering, a groundbreaking for this temple may just be a matter of time.
172. Urdaneta Philippines Temple: Awaiting government approvals.
Note: The biggest barriers preventing progress on this temple were getting government approval and having an official site announced. With the recent confirmation of the site location, it may simply be a matter of time before government approval goes through, at which point a groundbreaking can be held.
173. Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple: Planning and preliminary construction phase; awaiting official site announcement.
Note: The contractor assigned to oversee design and construction for this temple indicated in March 2017 that a year of pre-planning would be needed before a groundbreaking was held. If that year has come and gone, we may see a groundbreaking set soon.
174. Brasilia Brazil Temple: Planning and approval; site inspected by Church engineers on June 21, 2017.
Note: With the site having been confirmed and inspected almost a year ago, a groundbreaking for this temple may just be a matter of time.
175. Greater Manila Philippines Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official name announcement.
Note: The site for this temple was confirmed not long after it was announced. Whether or not an official name is announced anytime soon, it may just be a matter of time until the groundbreaking is held.
176. Pocatello Idaho Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official site announcement.
Note: Although the citizens of Pocatello have speculated about two or more potential locations for this temple, one of those locations has emerged as being the most likely to be chosen. Depending on how quickly that is confirmed, a groundbreaking could follow shortly thereafter.
177. Saratoga Springs Utah Temple: Planning and approval; designs underway; awaiting official site announcement.
Note: Having received notification that the design process is underway for this temple, since it is a Utah temple, it seems relatively safe to assume that a groundbreaking could be held sooner rather than later.
178. Layton Utah Temple: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official site announcement.
Note: The Church reportedly acquired land in Layton two days before this temple was announced. Based on that acquisition, members have speculated that will be the most likely location for this temple. If that is confirmed in the near future, since this is a Utah temple, a groundbreaking could occur sooner rather than later.
179. Richmond Virginia Temple: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official site announcement.
Note: In mid-April 2018, a Virginia newspaper disclosed that the Church had purchased an 8-acre site in 2015. If the Church confirms that the site in question will be the official location for the temple, a potential groundbreaking could follow shortly thereafter, especially since temples in the US generally have their construction start a lot sooner than their international counterparts.
180. Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official site announcement.
181. Quito Ecuador Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official site announcement.
182. Harare Zimbabwe Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official site announcement.
183. Belem Brazil Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official site announcement.
184. Nairobi Kenya Temple: Planning and approval; awaiting official site announcement; media event held June 14, 2017.
185. Salta Argentina Temple: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official site announcement.
186. Bengaluru India Temple: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official site announcement.
187. Managua Nicaragua Temple: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official site announcement.
Note: When I first began sharing my thoughts on potential temples, I heard that the Church had land held in reserve in Nicaragua for a temple to be built when the timing and conditions were right for a subsequent announcement. If the Church confirms at any point both the site location and that it was being held in reserve, a groundbreaking could follow sooner rather than later.
188. Cagayan de Oro Philippines Temple: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official site announcement.
189. Russia: Announced April 1, 2018; awaiting official location and site announcement.