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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Final Temple Construction Progress Updates for 2019

Hello again, everyone! With the final hours of 2019 drawing to a close here in Utah, I'd be remiss indeeed if I did not take this opportunity to provide a look back at temple construction progress that has been made throughout 2019. And with my now being able to share specific links to particular reports, there is far less actual information for me to share in this post itself.  So, without further ado, I present the first report of 2019, the one from April 1, 2019, what that progress looked like half-way through 2019, how things looked as the fourth quarter began, and where that progress is now that 2019 is coming to a close. Based on all the progress that has been made this year alone (as evidenced by these reports), I have every reason to hope for similarly-outstanding progress, perhaps to another significantly-unprecedented degree, in 2020. I will continue to monitor all such developments as they occur and bring you word of those ASAP after I learn of them. 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.

List of Temples for Which a New President May Be Called in 2020

Hello again, everyone! Contrary to what i had supposed and originally planned, on this New Year's Eve 2019, I am pleased to bring you earlier than expected a copy of the list I have put together which shows temples for which a new president may be called in 2020. Given that the announcement of new missions which will begin operating in 2020 came in November, I have no doubts that the list of new mission presidents who will begin serving in 2020 will be released either by the end of this week or next week, with the announcements of new temple presidents for 2020 beginning to be made by either March or April at latest. In the meantime, as I mentioned, after New Year's, I anticipate that the announcements of temple events will start relatively early in 2020. If the information I have obtained is correct, then full-scale renovation will begin on the Salt Lake Temple on January 2, 2020, and the announcements coming down the pike in relatively short order could include (at minimum) the open house and dedication information for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, with groundbreakings being announced for the following temples: Auckland New Zealand, Richmond Virginia, Layton Utah, Tooele Valley Utah, and Orem Utah.

I also anticipate more official details coming down thcpike (including potential groundbreaking announcements) in relatively short order for the following additional teemples: Bengaluru India, Nairobi Kenya, Harare Zimbabwe, Brasilia Brazil, second Manila Philippines, Managua Nicaragua, San Pedro Sula Honduras, and Coban Guatemala Temples. Further, based on the reports I have received from various contacts or sources I have come across, it seems possible (if not almost entirely likely) that the Church could potentially break ground for as many temples in the first half of 2020 as was the case for 2019 in its' entirety (which would be 11 at minimum).

And as I have previously noted, depending on how much the Church can do to clear the queue of announced temples somewhat between January 1 and the weekend of the April 2020 General Conference (which is set to occur on April 4-5), the additional research I have done seems to point to the fact that, while a massive number of temple announcements is not likely to occur, I would not be shocked to see President Nelson provide initial details of his temple construction goals and plans, with anywhere between 1-3 dozen new temples announced over that weekend.

If any of these developments occur, there will be plenty to cover in 2020, but I anticipate that number of reported developments will continue to increase year-by-year going forward for however long President Nelson continues to live and serve as the Lord's prophet (which, if the great plethora and abundance of statements made by his wife and his apostolic colleagues are to be believed, is likely to be another 1-2 decades at minimum). For my part, I will do my level best to stay on top of all such developments and will endeavor to do whatever I can to bring word of those to you all as I become aware of them in the coming year.

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.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Temples Which Will Have An Extended Closure Period in 2020/Blog Projects Planned for 2020

Hello again, everyone! As 2019 continues to wind towards its' close, I am pleased to post now to note that I have compiled a list of temples which will have an extended closure period during 2020. The list largely speaks for itself. Just a couple of things I would note. First, for the first time in a couple of years, the Provo Utah Temple does not have a continuous extended closure period planned. Secondly, the list for this year and the list for next year may or may not impact the list of temples I have previously provided for which a renovation might take place. That particular project is something for which I will be providing my analysis after the first of the year. In the coming days, I will also continue to monitor all Church news and temple developments. In addition to that, I wanted to share my list of upcoming projects which I have planned ahead for this blog in 2020 as well, and I also plan to post a list of temples for which a new president may be called in 2020 as soon as I have that put together as well, which will be at some point after the first of the year. I similarly anticipate that after the first of the year, there will be a list of new mission presidents for 2020 releawsed, in addition to several new temple developments reported within the first 2-3 weeks of this year.

Above and beyond all of that, before 2019 officially ends, I will be publishing on this blog a post that will focus on the quarter-by-quarter progresss during 2019 which has occurred for the temple construction program of the Church. And due to my new practice of sharing links to these documents, this end-of-year review of that progress will be the first to feature every quarterly version of that report which I previously published on this blog, in addition to a look at the never-before-shared fourth-quarter 2019 version of that report.

At the outset, I hope all of you are looking forward to the upcoming content just as much or more so than I am to providing it. 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 for a happy, safe, and inspiring end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

UPDATED: Current Apostolic Statistics

Hello again, everyone! I wanted to take the chance now to provide the latest apostolic statistics. I have come to the conclusion that the best way to do so is to provide shareable links to those updates, so that anyone with those links can read them in their current forms. And that will also eliminate the need to publish two posts for this update. The updated data comprises two parts, the first, and the second. The information largely speaks for itself. I continue to monitor all Church news and temple developments, and will do my best to pass word of those along to you all as I receive it. In the meantime, it is also worth noting that, once the Salt Lake Temple ran its' final sessions last night, it is now officially closed for its' renovation. As previously noted, that temple is anticipated to be closed until sometime in 2024, when the conclsuion of its' renovation process will be marked by a public open house which is expected to last at least 3 months, with a rededication following that which could very well span 2-3 weeks, in a way that would allow at least one session to be viewed by members in every part of the world in which the Church has a formally-established presence. That said, if not before then, I will be back two days from now to provide a look at temple construction progress that has occurred during the fourth quarter of 2019, and also how much progress has been made since the beginning of this year in comparison to its' end.

In the meantime, 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.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Elder Gerrit W. Gong Celebrates His 66th Birthday Today

Hello again, everyone! I am back two days before Christmas to post a tribute to Elder Gerrit W. Gong, who is celebrating his 66th birthday today. As I mentioned previously, his is the last apostolic birthday to occur in 2019. The next apostolic birthday (which will be the first for 2020) will be marked on January 24, at which time Elder D. Todd Christofferson will be 75. But getting back to Elder Gong, let's get into some biographical information. Gerrit Walter Gong was born in Redwood City, California, on this day in 1953, to Walter and Jean Char Gong. While he was given his father's name for his middle name, his first name was given in honor of and out of respect to Gerrit de Jong, whose family his mother had lived with while studying at BYU-Provo. Both of Elder Gong's parents trace their ancestry back to China, although his father's family emigrated from China to the US during the late 19th century, and his mother's family are ethnic Chinese and lived in Hawaii. After graduating from high school in Palo Alto, California, he served as a missionary for the Church in Taiwan. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree at BYU, then continued his education at Oxford University, where, as a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a master's degree and a doctoral degree in philosophy. He first met Susan Lindsay, the woman he would later marry, while giving presentations at the MTC focused on the culture of Taiwan, to groups of missionaries assigned to serve in that nation (Sister Lindsay, at that time, was preparing to serve her mission in Taiwan). At some point following her return from missionary service, while he was on summer break from Oxford, the two began dating. After Gerrit returned to Oxford, he and Susan (who was a BYU student) continued their courtship. The couple was married in the Salt Lake Temple on January 2, 1980, and raised 4 sons. They spent most of their married lives in Virginia and Maryland. Brother Gong became a special assistant to the US Secretary of State in 1985. He went on to be a professor at Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University.

He would go on to serve as a special assistant in the US State Department and as a special assistant to the US embassy in China. In 1989, he served as China Chair and Asia Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was tapped to participate in multiple education summits, in addition to serving on the United States Department of Education's National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. He went on to serve as Assistant to the President of BYU for Planning and Assessment. In the Church, Elder Gong served as a bishop, stake president, and area seventy. During his time in the latter assignment, he accompanied the presiding authority to my parent's Stake Conference. As he spoke, I was impressed by his warmth, knowledge of the scriptures, and ability to teach from them. While I may not remember any specifics of what he said, the power of the Spirit which I felt when he was speaking was unmistakable. After that conference, I had the opportunity to greet and chat with him informally. What I had seen at the pulpit while he spoke was even more apparent in his personal interactions with me and other members of my parent's stake. This is a man who feels and teaches by the Spirit.

During the April 2010 General Conference, Elder Gong was among those called as a General Authority Seventy (to serve in the First Quorum). He filled various assignments at Church headquarters for the first year or so after his call. From August 2011-August 2013, he served in the Asia Area Presidency as a counselor. In 2013, he was called as president of that same area. As a result of Elder Ronald A. Rasband's call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the October 2015 General Conference, Elder Gong was called to the Presidency of the Seventy on October 6, 2015. He transitioned out of his role as Asia Area President and into his new assignment in that Presidency effective January 4, 2016. He had responsibility for overseeing the work of the Church in the North America Northeast Area. He also served on the Church Board of Education and Boards of Trustees, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Boards.

After serving in the Presidency of the Seventy for roughly 2.5 years, and following the deaths of Elder Robert D. Hales and Church President Thomas S. Monson, new Church President Russell M. Nelson called both Elder Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares to serve as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They were first sustained in that assignment on March 31, 2018, and both were ordained to the apostleship the following Thursday (April 5, 2018). The two are the first Asian American and Latin American apostles of the Church. In June 2018, Elders Gong and Soares met with representatives of the media for the first time as new apostles. At that time, Elder Gong reported that he had been asked to chair the Scriptures Committee. He also serves as a member of the Priesthood and Family Executive Council, the Leadership and Training Committee, and the Outreach Committee. He had additionally indicated that he had been asked to oversee the Church's Asia and Asia North Areas, but official Church resources say those areas are supervised by Elder Gary E. Stevenson.

Elder Gong has given only 6 addresses in General Conference thus far, 1 following his call as a General Authority, 1 other while in the Presidency of the Seventy, and 4 more since beginning his service in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, all of which are worthy of review, and each of which I can endorse without hesitation. I am grateful to have been able to write this post in honor of his 66th birthday today. Because of my previously-referenced personal interaction with him, I can testify that the Lord has prepared him for his present assignment, and I whole-heartedly sustain him and the other 14 apostles. 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, December 15, 2019

BREAKING TEMPLE NEWS: Elder Ulisses Soares Dedicates the Arequipa Peru Temple

Hello again, everyone! As some of you may recall, on November 12 of this year, the Church's official Newsroom shared this report in conjunction with the start of the open house for the Arequipa Peru Temple. At that time, the article indicated that Church President Russell M. Nelson would dedicate that temple. Fast forward to the day of the dedication (today). When I reported last night on the youth devotional that was held under the direction of Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I had assumed that it was a continuation of the new format of the "divide and conquer" strategy wherein two apostles would be in attendance at a dedication or rededication but the junior apostle would preside at one part of that event, while the senior apostle would preside at the temple dedication the next day. And that theory seemd to be proven last night when, at the youth devotional, Elder Soares took the opportunity to excuse President Nelson from the youth devotional. However, this afternoon, I found another report from the Peruvian Newsroom, which indicated that Elder Soares himself presided at the dedication of the Arequipa Peru Temple today. Therefore, President Nelson's absence the entire weekend despite the prior announcement marks another example of him sending junior apostles to represent him at such events. And that means that Elder Soares has now presided at two temple events this year, which is a good opportunity for him to grow into his apostolic assignment

The dedication of this temple, meanwhile, means that there are now 167 operating temples of the Church. And given that the Church now only needs to dedicated 33 additional temples to have 200 in operation before the 200th anniverssary of the restoration of the gospel (Saturday April 6, 2030, which is now just 10.31 yeajrs away), the Church would only need to dedicate roughly 3.2 temples on average per year during that time to do so. The Church will dedicate 3 new temples next year (slightly below that average), but will go on to dedicate a minimum of 5 temples the following year, and at least 5-7 more in 2022. So that average will continue to go down.

In the meantime, as reported by both the Newsroom and the Church News, on the Friday before last week's First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, President and Sister Nelson welcomed Claire Crosby, a 7-year-old viral Youtube sensation and Church member, and her family to their home, where the prophet played the piano while Claire sang "Silent Night." It was wonderful to catch this glimpse illustrating that President Nelson is not only social media savvy, but loves Primary children in the same way the Savior would if He were here.

Additionally, Elder Tad R. Callister, who is an emeritus General Authority and was released in April of this year from his service as Sunday School General President, took an opportunity recently to look back on how conversing with a young missionary who was struggling with personal doubtts and questions about the gospel led him (Elder Callister) to realize that the Church ruins its' members for any other Church. I continue to monitor all such developments and will keep passing word of those along to you all as I receive it.

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, December 11, 2019

BREAKING TEMPLE NEWS: First Presidency Announces Site Locations for 3 US Temples

Hello again, everyone! Around 2.5 months after the October General Conference, the First Presidency today announced the locations for 3 of the 4 United States Temples which were announced during that conference. The McAllen Texas Temple will sit on a 10.6 acre site on the northwest corner of Second Street and West Trenton Road. It is anticipated to be a single-story temple with an area of approximately 25,000 square feet, with a central spire, complete with an adjacent meetinghouse that will have an area of 17,000 square feet. The Orem Utah Temple is set to be built on a 16-acre site, sitting at 1471 South Geneva Road. It will be a three-story temple anticipated to be around 70,000 square feet, with an adjacent meetinghouse of 20,000 square feet. And the Taylorsville Utah Temple will sit on a 7.5 acre site located at at 2603 West 4700 South. It is anticipated to be roughly the same size as the Orem Utah Temple. An existing meetinghouse on that property will be razed to accommodate the temple, with no plans at this time to replace it.

Unless I am mistaken, this brings the number of temples which could potentially have a groundbreaking within the next 12-18 months to around 19. The First Presidency certainly is placing a high priority on moving things along where they can. And quite honestly, when I saw temple news, I was anticipating something more official on the Harare, Nairobi, or Bengaluru temples. But I am grateful that the Lord has opened the way for this preliminary information to be released for these temples, which indicates to me that city leaders in these locations are anxious to have a temple in their midst.

For my part, I continue to monitor all Church news and temple updates and will do my level best to pass word of those along to you all as I receive such news. 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, December 3, 2019

Some Thoughts About the First Presidency's 2019 Christmas Devotional

Hello again, everyone! As some of you may be aware, since the Church changed the layout of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, I have kept track of who has spoken therein every six months. Based on my research and analysis, I am predicting that, at this year's devotional (which will be held this Sunday), President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, will be conducting it. I am also predicting that the speakers will be the following general Church leaders: Brother Milton Camargo, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency. This is the first time I have ever attempted to publicly predict the speaking lineup for this devotional. As always, I will be just as pleased if any or all of these predictions prove incorrect as I will if any or all of them are verified as correct. The important thing will be what is said therein, not whomever might speak during it. And I look forward to the Christmas messages that will be given through song, prayer, spoken word, and the Spirit. In advance of that devotional, I offer my personal witness that the devotional has been planned in every detail in accordance with the Lord's will and under the direction of the Spirit, and that we will be blessed as we hear and act on the messages we will receive thereat.

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.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Marks His 79th Birthday Today

Hello again, everyone! I am back today with a post written in honor of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who is celebrating his 77th birthday today. Elder Holland has long been one of my favorite apostles, and I have a couple of familial connections to him. My dad was born and raised in St. George, and his father (Dean Stokes), was Elder Holland's home teaching companion when "young Jeff" was an Aaronic Priesthood holder. According to my dad, his father often expressed his wonder that a boy like Elder Holland had been could become an apostle of the Lord. I know that at times, it may seem that each member of the Church, to a certain degree, may put the leading Brethren of the Church on a pedestal, but I am reminded in accounts, such as that which was shared by my grandfather, that these men may have been foreordained to the apostleship, but they are no different than any other member of the Church; the Lord just ordered their lives based on their personal choices in such a way that when such calls came to them, they were qualified through years of service in the Church and living what they believe. That is important for all of us to remember.

I also have another indirect connection to Elder Holland. My mom is a freelance proofreader, and in the early days of her marriage to my dad, she worked on many projects for the Church Educational System. Since that occurred at the time when Elder Holland was the Commissioner of the CES, he was essentially my mom's "boss." And she speaks warmly of the experiences she had working with him on such projects.

Personal connections aside, I wanted to share a brief biographical sketch of Elder Holland. Jeffrey Roy Holland was born in St. George, Utah to Frank D. and Alice Bentley Holland on December 3, 1940. He served full-time in the British Mission. His mission president was Marion D. Hanks, (who at that time was a member of the now-defunct First Council of the Seventy and later served in the First Quorum and Presidency of the Seventy). One of young Elder Holland's missionary companions was Quentin L. Cook, with whom he would later serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Upon his return from his mission, he married his high school sweetheart, Patricia Terry, in 1963. They are the parents of a daughter and two sons, one of whom, Matthew, had been serving as the President of Utah Valley University, until he was called to serve as president of the North Carolina Raliegh Mission last year.  Following his mission, Elder Holland attended BYU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in religious education.

He went on to earn a doctorate degree in American studies from Yale. He then became a professor at BYU, serving as Dean of the College of Religion. He served as Commissioner of Church Education from 1976-1980. In 1980, President Dallin H. Oaks, who was then serving as President of BYU-Provo, announced his intention to move on to other opportunities. Commissioner Holland was put in charge of the committee to find the new BYU President. Two days later, he was stunned when the First Presidency appointment him to that assignment. He had reportedly been favored for the position by President N. Eldon Tanner, who was then serving as First Counselor in the First Presidency, and was the protege of then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who at that time was the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asssigned to the Church Board of Education.

Elder Holland would go on to serve as president of BYU for 9 years himself, until his April 1, 1989 call as a General Authority and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Prior to his call to general Church service, Elder Holland also served as a bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, and regional representative. After the First Presidency was reorganized following the death of President Ezra Taft Benson, President Howard W. Hunter took immediate action to fill the apostolic vacancy. In the space of a few short hours on Thursday June 23, President Hunter issued a call to the apostleship to Elder Holland, gave him his apostolic charge, set apart and ordained him to that calling,  and had him join the other 14 apostles in their weekly meeting at the temple. That action was sustained by Church membership during the Solemn Assembly that was held exactly 100 days later.

Elder Holland gave 3 talks prior to his apostolic call (one of which he gave in April 1983 as president of BYU during the Priesthood Session, with his son, Matthew, (who was a teacher at the time) also speaking during that session. And since his call to the apostleship, he has spoken 51 additional times, meaning he has given a grand total of 54 addresses  in General Conference. To me, it always seems as though the talks given by Elder Holland are specifically focused on something I have been dealing with personally at the time. As a consequence, listening to him speak every six months is one of my favorite things about General Conference weekends.

Some of my favorites among those 54 in recent years have been None Were With Him (from the Easter Sunday Morning Session of the April 2009 General Conference); Lord, I Believe (from the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 2013 General Conference); and Songs Sung and Unsung (from the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 2017 General Conference). The last thing I want to mention about Elder Holland is that he is currently the second most-senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the fourth most-senior of our 15 apostles. He is also the fourth-oldest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and is the seventh-oldest of the 15 apostles.

I am grateful for the life and ministry of Elder Holland, and although he may not ever read this, and for the chance I had to write this post in tribute to his birthday today. That does it for now. Any 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. 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.