Need more information?

Top Leaderboard

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Some Additional Thoughts About the Future of the Temple Building Program of the Church

Hello again, everyone! Earlier this afternoon, I was on the Church Growth Blog, and a comment was made about the extent of President Nelson's temple-building plans which I wanted to address more fully here. The comment suggested that the recent statements by Elders Larry Y. Wilson and Quentin L. Cook might not mean what everyone seems to think they do. Another point was that, given Elder Wilson's statement (which he made in late April 2017 after President Monson made the final temple location announcement of his prophetic administration) mentioned 85 temples in 15 years, the number we would likely see within that time was closer to 66 or 190 rather than a ten-fold increase of the total number of temples. I attempted to post the following response, but when it became too lengthy, I opted to reproduce it here for more thorough discussion:

The argument that the statements of Elders Cook and Wilson may not have been indicative of as much of an increase in the number of temples may miss the mark. Elder Cook's recent statement was reportedly made in a stake conference held after the October General Conference, so none of the 19 temples announced last year "counted"  in that statement. Elder Wilson's statement, made in late April 2017 after President Monson made what would become the final set of new temple announcements during his administration, was actually 80 in 15 years, which would have been an average of 5 per year. It is almost impossible to tell which of the 19 locations was on that list, but what we do know is that President Nelson didn't plan on announcing a temple in India, and the announcement even caught those in the temple department by surprise, since it hadn't been discussed as a prospect beforehand. So at most, only 18 of the temples announced in 2018 could have been on that list.

Because no one outside of Church headquarters has seen the list of those locations, it is almost impossible to know whether any of the other 18 locations were actually on that list. Many of the locations did need a temple at some point, but for all we know, none of the 19 locations might have been on that list, or some might have been while others weren't. Another thing to consider is the fact that both Elder Wilson and Elder Cook (the former is serving as the Executive Director of the Temple Department, while the latter had served up until some point last year as the chairman of the Temple and Family History Executive Council) would be in-the-know about the details and extent of the plans because of their roles in those discussions.

So if we take Elder Cook at his word as one who has been in the know about that, there will be a tenfold increase. And since there was no qualifier added (as he did not say add a zero to the number of temples announced last year, or the number of temples currently announced), I assume that he meant add a zero to the current number, whether or not that relates to the number currently operating (161) or the grand total number (201), we are almost certainly going to see an unprecedented number of new temples announced, which is further evidenced by the fact that the Church is hiring a whole host of new employees for the temple department, for the express purpose of accommodating a surge in temple construction.

I think that the statements of both Elder Wilson and Elder Cook should be seen as equally meritorious, as both were privy to the discussions of that council. And don't forget, Elder Wilson's statement came before Elder Cook's did. So it is possible that President Monson set in motion the plan to announce 80 temples in 15 years, but was unable to act on it, and President Nelson not only opted to continue to act on that plan, but under the direction of the Lord, is expanding it in the ways apostles have described. If it were just one apostle mentioning this in one setting, I would have an easier time believing that the goal is closer to 85 or 190 temples.

But several members of the Quorum of the Twelve have spoken on this subject, and I take them at their word. I know that some of the reports of what those apostles have said have come from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone who asked the apostle about that. And if there's one thing I know in that regard, it is that the message can get confused or distorted the more it is passed from one person to another. But again, more than one apostle has reportedly mentioned things like this, including that President Nelson's status as the foremost building Church President will outpace and overshadow President Hinckley's previous legacy as such.

Another thing to consider here: Through his many decades in heart surgery, President Nelson has honed a sharp skill of attention to detail, getting to the heart of an issue (pun intended), and being ahead of the curve when it comes to decision-making. Perhaps President Monson had hoped to roll out some of the changes introduced in 2018 gradually, including an increase in the number of new temple announcements, but his declining health and ultimate decision in May 2017 to step back from an active role in leading the Church precluded and prevented that from happening. By contrast, President Nelson has had the health and vitality his predecessor lacked to move such priorities and the timing of them ahead of what was expected, and if he can do that, then I have no problem believing that he has set in motion and will continue to act on a plan to rapidly expand the number of temples and accelerate the process whereby they are built.

If the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple is any indication, then it will be easy for the Church to move temples announced in 2018 and beyond into construction far more swiftly than we have heretofore seen. Maybe for some temples it won't be as fast, but if most temples have construction underway within less than a year of their announcement and are on the smaller side, then it is not hard to envision the number of temples rapidly increasing beyond what anyone not privy to those conversations could expect. In fact, I have heard from a number of people around the world who are in a position to know about the temples in their nations of residence that land has been or will shortly be procured, that designs have been in the works for a while, or will be able to be drawn up and approved very quickly, and that building permits are also in the process of being acquired. Many of those temples may not only be on the smaller side, but may also more importantly be able to have a groundbreaking later this year, similarly to the Puerto Rico Temple.

Matt Martinich, who maintains the Church Growth Blog, has spoken to Church leaders or had contact with Church members who got word directly from the apostles, and has shared repeatedly on that blog that a surge is expected in temple announcements and construction. President Nelson stated in late October (as verified by the official Newsroom): "If you think this year [2018] was exciting, wait until next year, and the next year, and the next. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It's going to be exciting." I cannot say he was talking about temple construction, but given that that comment was made in an interview following the dedication of the Concepcion Chile Temple, he may have been talking about a whole host of things, and not just temple construction. But I also can't say he wasn't talking about temple construction at all.

President Nelson has done more in the first year of his prophetic administration than some Church Presidents of the past have done in twice or quadruple that amount of time, including setting a new record for the most temples announced in the first year of a prophet's administration. But more than that, 17 of the 19 locations had a specific city identified, so that adds to the record. New temple announcements are almost sure to continue, and things I have shared here indicate to me very strongly that a vast number of new temples are on the horizon for the years ahead, which will likewise set new records. On this blog, Elder Cook's statement was "take the current number, and add a zero to it." I don't think he was referring to the number of currently-announced temples or the number of those announced this year, or that would have been explicit in his statement.

As verified by numerous sources (including those endorsed by the Church), several apostles have directly addressed President Nelson's love for temples, and his desire to bring them closer to the people of the Church around the world who have to sacrifice so much to get to the nearest temple once. That said, it is also true that unless and until President Nelson spells out his plans through an official announcement or over the pulpit, we do have to rely almost solely on the statement of apostles, whether heard personally or through someone else. But 19 new temples in the first year of any prophet's administration is unheard of, and I have not seen anything anywhere that would indicate a slowing of new temples being announced. If anything, we are likely to see more temples like San Juan Puerto Rico, which can have approval granted, an artist's rendering released, and a groundbreaking held within 6-12 months following their announcements.

I am in the happy position of being able to share with you all that many of the temples announced last year have already had a site procured, preliminary plans drawn up and in various stages of approval, and are anticipated, like the San Juan temple, to have a groundbreaking later this year or in 2020. I have been able to find information that verifies this. So there will be a surge in the future, especially if temples announced this year and in the years following are planned to be on the smaller side, for which securing land and approval is much easier than it has been for other temples.

For what it's worth, these are the thoughts I had in response to the comment on the Church Growth Blog that the statement may have been misunderstood. I hope what I have shared here is helpful to all who read these observations. That does it for this post. 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.