SALT LAKE CITY — President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for two new temples as he opened the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday.
The temples will be built in Tucson, Ariz., and Arequipa, Peru.
"No church-built facility is more important than a temple," President Monson said.
The LDS Church has 139 temples in operation around the world. Another 27 were already under construction or planned before the announcement.
"I can't stop crying, it's just incredible," Tucson's Megan Allen said. "It's a huge thing to have that so close and so available for everybody. I remember for every conference, everyone was on the edge of their seats for the announcement, and finally this is the one."
Growing up as a youth there, Allen said it was always a big deal for everyone to be able to go to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. There were months of planning, and they often had to leave early in the morning and it would be an all-day event.
"I'm excited for the youth," said Kalene Day, who is from Marana, Ariz., a town near Tucson. "They have been so strong and having a temple here is going to be amazing ... it's just going to to give us something more to work towards, it's going to be a wonderful experience."
The Tucson temple will be the sixth in Arizona, according to a church press release. Three of the other five temples, those in Mesa, Snowflake and Gila Valley, have been dedicated and are operating, while those in Phoenix and Gilbert are under construction. There are approximately 400,000 Church members in Arizona.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the church, and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited the city of Iquitos, a remote city in Peru, in June of this year. For members in the area it is difficult to attend the temple in Lima as often as they would like. President Uchtdorf told the Saints, "Stay temple worthy. Focus your lives on the temple and always hold a current recommend, even if you cannot currently attend the temple."
Bernardo Solari, of Lima, Peru, had a family from Arequipa recently move into his ward to be closer to a temple where they could be sealed together.
"They went to watch conference with their family in Arequipa," Solari said in an email. "I wish I could have seen their faces in that very instant! I know it means a lot to them because they (had) to even move to Lima to be able to get sealed."
The initial response of Solari, who served an LDS mission in Los Angeles, Calif., was excitement and surprise, since the announcement for the Trujillo, Peru, temple was made not long ago.
"A couple of families cried of happiness, the spirit was strong," Solari said. "Many people that live around Arequipa, the city of the eternal spring, will be blessed; I can't imagine how many families will be eternal."
To Cade Robinson, a current student at Utah State University who served his mission in Arequipa from 2008 to 2010, the announcement of the temple has made him excited, more than anything else.
"They have been praying and wanting a temple for years and years and they are finally getting blessed with one," Robinson said.
It has been reassuring for him to see his, and so many others', work in the area was done with a purpose.
"Hopefully it helps everyone have more confidence for being faithful and working hard and being good people and being patient," Robinson said. "And if they kept moving forward they would get a temple."
Peru is home to approximately 30 million people including more than a half million members of the Church. The Arequipa temple will be the third in the South American country where missionary work officially began in 1956. Church members in Arequipa, Peru’s second most populous city, currently attend temple services in Lima, which is almost 500 miles away.
The last time President Monson had announced new temples was in October 2011, when he said the church would build temples in Provo, Utah; Paris, France; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Durban, South Africa; Barranquilla, Colombia; and Star Valley, Wyo.
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Ground has been broken for the Provo City Center Temple, which will rise out of the ashes of the former Provo Tabernacle with renovation and reinforcement of the exterior walls that were damaged in a fire that destroyed nearly all of the historic building. Groundbreaking dates for the other five have yet to be announced.
There have been almost 30 temples announced since President Monson became the president of the church in February 2008, and 15 temples have been dedicated since then. President Monson dedicated 11 of the 15, starting with the temple in Rexburg, Idaho, a week after becoming president.