It’s time once again! Thanks for joining us as we jovially speculate on where temples might be announced in the October 2020 General Conference. It’s exciting when we learn of new temples, even if we had to be reminded a few years ago not to be too irreverent with our enthusiasm. President Nelson clearly relishes announcing new temples, even without a crowd of the faithful waiting on his every word.
If you’re new here, we have a shockingly decent track record at predicting these. Last time, for example, we basically called new temples in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Benin City, Nigeria; Bahia Blanca, Argentina; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Of course, Shanghai shocked all of us.
Six months ago, we were concerned that the seriousness of COVID-19 and the austere trappings of conference from a little training room in the Church Office Building might mean President Nelson would skip temple announcements. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and we’re expecting new temples announced this time around, but of course, we are not prophets nor in a position to announce anything, so for all we know President Nelson will say nothing at all! And given the mounting backlog of temples yet to start construction (21 at last check), we wouldn’t be surprised if the Brethren wanted some time to play catch up, especially because of COVID-related delays. But given President Nelson’s focus on temples (don’t forget his initial remarks upon assuming the mantle largely centered on the temple), we think more are likely.
When we started these semiannual predictions many years ago, we used one crucial metric to help inform where temples should go: President Monson’s declaration that at the time, 85% of Church membership was within 200 miles of a temple. President Nelson has moved beyond that, even telling Church leaders that he wants every saint within two hours of a temple. Two hours in a more developed country is quite different from two hours in a developing one, of course, but for the sake of easy visualization, we’ll stick with the 200-mile radius map that we’ve used for years. Please reference it below and look for gaps!
So read on!
Joe: I know that trains are very fast and efficient in Japan, making it easier for cross country travel to a temple that may still look like quite the journey. Take Osaka, for example. The distance to Tokyo, where the temple is, is about 317 miles, a nearly seven hour car ride. The Nozomi bullet train gets you there in just two and a half hours, but that can be expensive and still take the whole day, round trip, to do a session. Isn’t it a wonder that ten, or even five years ago this was considered a close temple? But this is a different time. Internationally, having a mere handful of stakes is enough to justify the presence of a temple. In Monopoly terms, you no longer need four houses before you build a hotel on your property. This changes the way we look at the map in terms of stakes and branches, member demographics, and geographic distances to the nearest oxen-supported baptismal font.
The short of it is, the seven stakes which could easily orbit a temple in Osaka, Japan, are more than enough to meet the criteria—the data we use as criteria, anyway, sans prophetic insight—to consider Osaka a deserving locale. I could easily see a Hong Kong or Manhattan-styled temple that has a small land footprint. But in a city known for its iconic plum, peach, and cherry blossom trees, perhaps the Church would splurge on a plot of what must be very expensive land in order to have what I imagine would be stunning temple grounds. At the very least, the mural artists for an Osaka temple would have a heyday, or should I say blossom-day, depicting the natural landscape.
Geoff: The Church in Japan isn’t exactly busting at the seams (the most recent stake in the country was organized in 2000), but the temple in Sapporo is new enough. We also have one going up in historic Okinawa.
So why not throw up another temple on the island of Honshu? It’d be roughly halfway between Tokyo and Fukuoka, both home of temples. And with Okinawa temple district following the recent trend of comprising fewer than five stakes, one can easily make an argument for Osaka, just as you have, sir! Well done, Joseph! You did a great job!
Charlotte North Carolina
Geoff: Alright, this one is admittedly something of a stretch, but Charlotte continues to be one of those fast-growing metroplexes that is typically on the short list for major league sports expansions, to say nothing of being the headquarters of the delightful Bank of America and home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR is boring. Come at me.
Of course, a growing economy and populace is not a shoo in for a temple; Church membership and activity is. And this is where things get somewhat tricky. The main Charlotte area hasn’t had a new stake since 2006. North Carolina’s most recent stake was organized in 2010 near Greensboro. However, the Charlotte area bleeds over into South Carolina, and the Fort Mill South Carolina Stake, centered on Rock Hill, was organized in 2018.
The Columbia South Carolina Temple already has 17 stakes in its district, and South Carolina has been home to a number of new stakes over the past five years alone, thus giving it some breathing room in terms of what it would give up in order to accommodate a temple in Charlotte. It’s not unreasonable to peel off the five North Carolina stakes, plus that of Rock Hill and the Kingsport Tennessee stake to serve a smaller temple.
Again, not a slam dunk, particularly based on Church growth in North Carolina itself, but a logical choice to spread the load out a bit, if you will.
Joe: After a recent reading of BYU-grad Mehrsa Baradaran’s book, The Color of Money, I have to say that the Bank of America, Geoff, is anything but American or delightful. But I digress.
As to whether a temple in this town that wants so desperately to be seen as world class (as one passenger on a plane next to me said of Charlotte) mayhaps the city would like to pull a card out of Dubai’s playing deck and invite the church to build a temple next to the aforementioned NASCAR Hall of Fame.
You’re right that this one, at least by U.S. temple trends, does seem to be a bit of a stretch. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned with temple predictions these past couple years, it’s to expect the unexpected. Appalachia does seem woefully underserved (will there ever be a temple in West Virginia?) and seven stakes is most definitely not nothing, so I’ll happily eat crow if Charlotte gets its day in cour–er, General Conference.
Geoff: Per Appalachia: 1) I don’t think Charlotte is part of Appalachia; 2) Do not forget that my beloved Pittsburgh, a Top Five City of the United States, and home to only three stakes, is soon to be temple country. The Pitt! The dream is to live in Mt. Lebanon and commute to work in Oakland. Then I’ll take the kids to Kennywood in the summer while my coasterphobic wife misses all the fun.
Joe: I don’t really have any data I can point to for what I’m about to say, so we’ll just call it a hunch. But I think the Church, or at least that part of the Church that decides where new temples go, is looking to its hub-and-spoke scattering of stakes in the American West, and looking for gaps where smaller clusters of saints isolated by geographic distance or landscape may be able to regularly sustain temple-going activity. Temples that fuel this gut feeling for me include all of the recently dedicated or announced ones in Utah, Idaho, Washington, and Arizona. It wouldn’t surprise me if Montana got a new, smaller temple in Missoula, or if New Mexico gets one closer to the four corners area in Farmington. Even a second temple in Vegas would fit this hunch for me. A consolidation or strengthening the stakes of Zion nearest to HQ perhaps? I don’t know. Have at me, Geoff.
What I do know is that the greater Seattle area has 34 stakes in its temple district, which is just far too many these days, right? I mean, we can’t just let that ride. No! There must needs be a gimme for the good saints in Tacoma. Something of pride, of their very own that isn’t just an airport. From Federal Way to Olympia, nay, Elma, the southern Puget Sound could solidly feed 12 stakes into an easily accessible Tacoma temple. This should happen. It would surprise me a little if it doesn’t, to be honest. I mean, ever hear of Moses Lake?
Geoff: Why on this green earth would you bless the anarchists of Puget Sound with another temple? They think they are so good that they started their own little commune in the spirit of Freetown Christiana. Nonsense. I don’t care that Tacoma is not Seattle. Transitive property!
Also, we have to discuss the Tacomaroma. You all know what I’m talking about. Tacoma has a singular odor all its own. DO WE WANT THAT WAFTING INTO A TEMPLE? We soundproof the buildings, but I’ve read nothing about our efforts to smell-proof temples and pump pleasing scents into them a la Disneyland. But props for the wonderful glass museum. This is fine. I don’t expect it. But I also didn’t expect Moses Lake, so there’s that.
Geoff: Is Mongolia becoming my new Rogers, Arkansas? A temple prediction forever consigned to the realm of the hypothetical until I formally disavow it, only to have it finally be announced? Let’s hope so! But if that’s the case, I shall disavow thee, Ulaanbaatar! Thou art disavowed!
Look, my logic here remains the same. Nothing has changed. Ulaanbaatar still has two stakes, but Mongolia overall has a much higher number of Latter-day Saints per capita than most other countries, many of which have received or are receiving temples. Add to this Mongolia’s relative isolation and the inconvenience its members experience being assigned to the (currently closed) Hong Kong China Temple, and this makes plenty of sense.
Perhaps the only thing working against it is that India, Thailand, and Cambodia—all future recipients of temples—are also assigned to Hong Kong, and we wouldn’t want to strip away too much from that temple’s district too quickly. But it’s only two stakes and a district. That’s, what, a weekend’s work in Utah?
Joe: This reminds me of a car wash marquee I saw during a particularly dry season in Utah that said “Make it rain, wash your car!” To which I’d reckon that if the irony holds, then perhaps leave this temple off of our next round of predictions in six months, and you’ll be sure to get your Mongiolian announcement.
To your argument for, however, I’d say (as I’ve said before) that even in this era of tiny temples in isolated hinterlands, the smallest number of units we’ve seen to comprise a temple district is, what, three stakes? It doesn’t help things that the Irkutsk Russia District was discontinued this year. Maybe they’re working to get to the threshold of three stakes in Mongolia proper before forging ahead. The extreme isolation of its capital city does make a hearty argument, even if total numbers of Saints makes it a tough sell.
São Paulo Brazil #2
Joe: My argument here can be summed up simply by saying “as in Lima, so in São Paulo,” which is to say that for megacities, particularly in the global south, that have just one temple but a plethora of stakes, have populations of would-be temple attenders in need of better, closer access, despite there being a temple mere miles away. Nearly 21.6 million people live in the greater São Paulo area, with more than half of them urban. To cross that sea of humanity for any reason can take just as long as driving a couple of hours if you live in, say, Fargo and you’re going to the Bismark temple. Add the cost of public transportation, and going to the temple can quickly become a pastime exclusive to the wealthy.
That São Paulo’s temple district, with its 46 stakes, could handle another temple is a given, but the conundrum is in finding an obvious location. The scattershot of the stakes in the area don’t really cluster, other than the handful of stakes near the coast. There’s no obvious suburb or nearby city like we saw with Puebla in Mexico that would justify a temple on its own and still meaningfully divide the stakes assigned to the existing temple. But we can’t just let 46 stakes in one temple district stand, not in this era of temple proximity standards!
Geoff: São Paulo already has has second temple. It’s called the Campinas Brazil Temple.
I jest, but the Campinas temple has a massive district covering huge chunks of Brazil north and east of São Paulo. It even includes what will become the district of the completed-but-not-dedicated Rio de Janeiro temple.
I’d put a second São Paulo Temple somewhere around São Bernardo do Campo, perhaps, which has a fast-growing residential construction center as well as a robust automotive industry! Or maybe Itaquera.
Las Vegas Nevada #2
Geoff: For an area as heavily populated by Latter-day Saints, it’s astonishing that Las Vegas has only one temple, and it’s been there since the early 1990s. It’s time to rise up, higher than the Stratosphere, and welcome another edifice to the lovely valley! That one casino that kinda looks like the Manti temple ain’t gonna cut it.
But where should it go? That’s a tough one. Henderson, famous for its contingency of Latter-day Saints, has seen a number of new stakes in recent years and could easily merit a temple. But Henderson also sits in the southeastern party of the valley, and the existing temple is in the eastern central part of the valley.
Summerlin, a stepfordian nightmare, might make a logical choice. It’s on the western side of the valley. It’s bougie in all the best, Draper, Utah-esque ways. It’s surrounded by a host of newer stakes. Let’s make this happen, cap’n!
Joe: While it seems a little confusing as to why the Las Vegas area hasn’t grown its temple footprint in the last two decades of what has amounted to staggering population growth, we’d do well to remember that the existing temple is, in fact, an 80,000 square-foot titan that can accommodate many wards and stakes. In this prediction, we may not be dealing with a temple that’s bursting at the seams to accommodate the patrons, so much as the practical logistics of how far we Americans have grown accustomed to traveling to visit a House of the Lord. Which is to say, not very far at all. You’ve spoiled us, Tommy!
Still, the 30 stakes in or near Vegas could likely support another edifice not only now, but for the future of this fast-growing population hub. I would strongly suggest we avoid another Draper-esque situation. Summerlin should be out. We don’t need another temple with neighbors who treat it like their own personal country club of righteousness they can walk to from their immodest McMansions they built to compete with the Heavenly Joneses. I still think Henderson is the likely spot, even if it’s “east valley” or whatever they say down there. Western Henderson in particular would be easily accessible by several freeways, although I’m sure land there comes at a premium.
Geoff: Fun fact, though – You know why the Church likes to build temples in newer, sometimes posher housing developments? It typically gets the developers to pay for the utilities for the temple. So when you complain about Draper, remember that the pipes filling that baptismal font came at no price to the members, except, uh, the tithing that one who can afford said McMansions is paying.
Joe: You’ve really been a champion of consistently predicting a temple on this island. The thing of it is, a mere two stakes and two districts is a pretty small temple district, but on the other hand, consider the following:
- The isolation factor.
- The two stakes are actually on the atoll of Tarawa which condenses that Latter-day Saint population in a big way.
- Guam didn’t even meet this bare-bones threshold of critical mass.
Now I don’t mean this to sound as ignorant as it probably will, but is there even any land big enough on Taraway available to build a temple on? Or is this the ideal location for that boat temple you and Kurt keep talking about?
Geoff: Ah, a classic! The wind was taken out of my sails a bit when President Nelson announced a temple in Guam a year ago, so much so that even John Groberg would not be able to find a way to paddle me to shore, as Guam would likely have been part of a Kiribati temple district. But why not spread the love around? Sure, there are two stakes and a district on Tarawa alone, but that atoll only has about 50,000 people, so it’s pretty densely LDS. Add in the Marshall Islands and this totally works.
Moreover, the Guam temple will only take in Guam’s sole stake, and a stake and two districts in Micronesia. Kiribati remains assigned to the Suva Fiji Temple, a sizable distance. Perhaps the main thing working against this scenario is that all of Papua New Guinea, which has a new temple going in, is also assigned to Fiji, and stripping away those stakes and districts along with Kiribati (and probably the Solomon Islands) might leave Fiji bereft of temple patrons and workers.
Rapid City South Dakota
Geoff: Let’s revisit them Black Hills! We haven’t brought up Rapid City in some time, and South Dakota’s largest city isn’t an obvious choice for a temple. The area is sparsely populated. Neighboring Wyoming has more stakes. There’s already a temple in North Dakota. Rapid City has one stake.
So what gives? As you can see, Rapid City sits outside the beloved 200-mile radius zone. Shameful! They make these people drive to Bismarck, home of one of the worst state capitols in the country? Nonsense!
Besides, while there is only one stake in Rapid City, there is a stake in Gillette, Wyoming and a brand-new one in Sheridan, Wyoming (although the latter sits reasonably close to Billings, Montana, home to another temple). In an era when we build temples for two stakes, let’s throw one to the homies. I’d make some joke about using the land for the never-to-be-finished Crazy Horse monument, but that would be bad form. So, uh, just build it by the Walmart in Spearfish.
Joe: Have I already used the Wall Drug bit with this one? If so, I don’t care, here I go again. Sixty miles to the east of Rapid City lies one of the greatest establishments known to mankind: a drug store. What has made this drug store such an icon for the jubilant roadtripper was nothing more than a clever little ad campaign that placed “distance to” signs all over the land that told pilgrims wherever they were just exactly how far they had left to go to get to Wall Drug.
Now I’m not one for overworked metaphors, but this one screams out! A Rapid City temple could do the exact same thing and before you’d know it, people from everywhere would be making a pilgrimage to a spiritual drug store, if you will. Hey, if Elder Bednar can get away with the parable of the pickle then I’m good, here, OK! Anyway, there, I fixed the problem of only having one stake in the immediate vicinity.
Santa Cruz Bolivia
Joe: Aaaaaand coming in hot for its third consecutive appearance on the official This Week in Mormons temple prediction list is……SANTA CRUZ de la SIERRA, BOLIVIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! (please clap).
I want to say something about this, and the thing that I want to say is this: Nigeria. That’s right. This prediction is simply too easy on its own. Nigeria, as I referenced in my last prediction for Santa Cruz, was a good guess for a third temple, despite its second being announced only a year-and-a-half prior. We should up the ante for Bolivia this time, because both Santa Cruz and La Paz—Bolivia’s capital city—are very deserving of their own temple announcements. So, por que no los dos? I can just imagine President Nelson looking bemused as he drops the news of two temples in this landlocked South American cultural paradise.
But looking to Santa Cruz specifically, it is surrounded by national parks and rainforests. I hear the Church is in early talks with the team that brought us Rainforest Cafe to replicate the natural environment in the Celestial Room, complete with an animatronic serpent!
Geoff: Two temples in Bolivia would be interpreted by foreign policy wonks, such as myself, as the Church approving of the ousting of socialist president Evo Morales. After all, the Cochabamba Temple was dedicated in 2000. Morales came to power six years later while the Church continued to grow, adding at least 10 stakes since 2006, yet no second temple in the country unlike similar South American countries? Yeah man, this will be a tacit jab at socialism! They are not coming for my freedom!
Hey, so anyway, we’ve made the case for Santa Cruz before. It stands out quite a bit for having so many stakes but not its own temple. We’re drifting towards this becoming a Rogers, but it took us years of badgering to get our temple in Nicaragua, so we have to keep fighting the good fight for the Bolivians!
Geoff: Here’s my wacky one! Where’s the area with the newest stakes in southern Utah County? Payson, where that massive temple is located? No sir. It is, by a hair, good ol’ Spanish Fark.
Many cool kids in the know might recall that Spanish Fork already has a temple, albeit not a Latter-day Saint one but the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, famous for its festival of colors and quite popular among the college student population of nearby Provo and Orem.
The Payson Temple was dedicated only five years ago, but in that time, the population of southern Utah County continues to boom, with plenty of development centered on Spanish Fork, particularly for those who wish to buy a nice house without paying the premium that comes from living in nearby Mapleton. And while I’ve argued elsewhere that simple population growth is not necessarily a direct correlation to Church growth, this is Utah County. Come on. Sure, sure, there are those Silicon Slopes and all that, but most of that is up around Lehi. Southern Utah County is where true faith continues!
There are currently 29 stakes serving the Payson Utah Temple, with most of them in the immediate area save four. A Spanish Fork temple would presumably take in the 13 stakes of Spanish Fork and Mapleton currently assigned to Payson and could even take in Springville’s 8 stakes, which currently must make the arduous trek to downtown Provo for temple work. The only downside here is this would leave Payson with 16 stakes, but again, if population trends continue, more stakes shall be had!
Besides, in college I worked near the little general aviation airport and I’d frequently grab a meal in downtown Spanish Fork. Do this for my own nostalgia.
With a temple in Orem recently underway, putting up another temple so close might be overkill, at least for the time being. So if not here, I say let’s finally give the Heber Valley some love.
Joe: Geoff you whacky whack-person, you! Just when we’ve finally started to see some temple parity between Utah County and Davis County and here you are advocating for this??!! I do think it’s overkill. There’s already the temple going in at Saratoga Springs, too. I think the Saints in the part of the world where “Church Culture™” is the most toxic don’t need yet another seeming validation of their self-perceived spiritual superiority. Not to mention, I have a suspicion that the absolute explosion of new temples announced and built in Utah is starting to taste a little bitter to the Latter-day Saints in the rest of the world in this here global religion of ours.
The case you’ve built with the numbers is reasonable, however, and I don’t doubt that it would be a lightly attended temple, so maybe at the end of the day that’s the main consideration. Is it needed in terms of accessibility to alleviate a long journey or an overcrowded existing temple, though? That seems unlikely.
Semiannual Where-in-Russia-Will-the-Temple-Go Speculation
Last time around Joe said Saratov. Geoff said Samara. Neither said Moscow. So for fun, let’s say… Yekaterinburg.