LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced a plan Sunday to build 30 new temples around the globe, augmenting tenfold the small-temple construction plan he first announced last October.
The specific location of each of the new temples has yet to be announced. "They will be in Europe, in Asia, in Australia and Fiji, in Mexico and Central and South America and Africa, as well as in the United States and Canada," he said in closing remarks of the 168th Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.The two-day conference, beamed via satellite to meetinghouses around the world, was composed of messages urging members to exemplify, in word and practice, such Christ-like virtues as tolerance, kindness, obedience and faith.
In a move typical of the well-traveled leader, President Hinckley's closing comments were filled with gratitude for the Latter-day Saints. He made special mention of a group from Ecuador, who were seated on the front row of the Tabernacle on Temple Square, thanking them for their effort to attend the conference.
It is to such members that President Hinckley has devoted much of his time since becoming the president of the church in 1995. His efforts to visit Latter-day Saints in many nations has given him firsthand understanding of members' desire to receive temple blessings.
"I will not give you the specific cities at this time. Stake presidents will be advised as property is secured. I am confident the membership of the church will do a lot of speculating as to whether one of these will be in their cities."
In the 10 million-member church where construction on new Sunday meetinghouses around the globe is completed at the rate of one each day, temple construction has traditionally proceeded on a much slower scale. Temples, closed on Sundays and used on other days for marriages and the church's most sacred ordinances, are typically much larger and more expensive than chapels with each temple project distinctively unique.
The church's 51 operational temples are located where there is a large church membership base.
The plan President Hinckley announced in October was to begin building smaller temples in areas of the world where church populations are more isolated, or where the church population is not likely to grow significantly. The first three announced are either in planning or under construction in rural southern Utah, Alaska and northern Mexico. The southern Utah temple, in Monticello, is fur-thest along and should be dedicated this fall.
The small temples will be fully functional but without many of the amenities, like a laundry, cafeteria and dining room and full-time staff, that are standard in larger temples.
"One of these small temples could be constructed for about the same costs as it takes just to maintain a large temple for one year. It could be constructed in a relatively short time - several months," President Hinckley said in October.
President Hinckley traveled in February to Africa, where the only temple on the entire continent is in the far southern city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg is out of reach of most of the continent's church members.
During a large, outdoor meeting with church members in Accra, Ghana, on Feb. 16, President Hinckley announced plans to build a temple there. The Accra temple will accommodate church members in western Africa, many of whom cannot afford to travel to Johannesburg or the next nearest temples in Europe.
"In recent months we have traveled far out among the membership of the church," President Hinckley said Sunday. "I have been with many who have very little of this world's goods. But they have in their hearts a great burning faith concerning this latter-day work. They love the church. They love the gospel. They love the Lord and want to do his will. They are paying their tithing, modest as it is. They make tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples. They travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats. They save their money and do without to make it all possible.
"They need nearby temples - small, beautiful, serviceable temples. Accordingly I take this opportunity to announce to the entire church a program to construct some 30 smaller temples immediately," he said.
"This will be a tremendous undertaking. Nothing even approaching it has ever been tried before," President Hinckley said.
"If temple ordinances are an essential part of the restored gospel, and I testify that they are, then we must provide the means by which they can be accomplished. All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it. The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the church has to offer."
President Hinckley said in a separate address at the conference Sunday morning he would enjoy "sitting in a rocker, swallowing prescriptions, listening to soft music and contemplating the things of the universe," but his activity has seen him "up and doing. I wish to face each day with resolution and purpose. I wish to use every waking hour to give encouragement to bless those whose burdens are heavy, to build faith and strengthen testimony."
Furthering the church's temple-building program has been a major part of that activity. During his 40 years as a church general authority, he has either dedicated or rededicated more than half of the church's working temples.
It has been said the 87-year-old church leader would like to see 100 temples operating during his lifetime. The 30 announced Sunday along with others in existence or under construction would bring the total to 98. "We had better add two more to make it an even hundred by the end of this century, being 2000 years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh," he said.
President Hinckley invited local church leaders in October to write to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City if they thought circumstances in their area would warrant the construction of one of the new small temples. The church has not said how many letters it has received so far.
Complications of acquiring property slowed the announcement of the Accra, Ghana, temple by several years. Church members who greeted President Hinckley during the February trip in Harare, Zimbabwe, on the other hand, have already purchased ground they hope will become a temple site. That land has since been donated to the church and is partly occupied by a mission home.