Geoff: I know, I know. We’ve been down this road before. Mongolia’s capital has made the list a few times, dating back to some of our first installments in this lovely tradition. I’ve long felt that it is a land ready for something a temple, but that sentiment has only been bolstered by our new environment where it seems anything goes.
If you’ve not thought of this before, here’s my logic: Mongolia – enormous in size but small in population – has two stakes and one district. That may not seem like much, especially since there’s just a horde of unofficial Church membership to the south in China, and a few districts to the north in Russia. But some years ago, Latter-day Saints already made up 25% of the Christian population of Mongolia. With only three million people in the country, two stakes is nothing to shake a stick at in a largely Buddhist nation.
But the temple in Cambodia is what sticks with me. Cambodia has more districts – four – to complement the two stakes in the country, but it also has a significantly higher population. If all of those were to become stakes, that would mean roughly 2.7 million people per stake. If you did that to Mongolia, you’d have 1 million per stake. You see where I’m going with this. Per capita matters. And Mongolia’s isolation also represents a strong use case for a temple in an area where the saints have to sacrifice much to receive such blessings due to their sheer isolation.
Not only am I calling the temple there, but I will also bet that it will be of the 20,000 square foot range when revealed, and the mural in the first ordinance room will be all about yurts and horses and stunning countryside.
Joseph: Eagles, Geoff. You forgot eagles. This is, after all, the land where they have relied on the skills of the majestic bird for centuries to assist in their ancient hunting traditions. Don’t you remember the 2016 documentary about 13-year-old Aisholpan, the first female in twelve generations of her nomad family to become an eagle huntress? OK, I haven’t seen it either. But it looks amazing. In fact, movie stills could just be the murals in a temple there, that’s how stunning the cinematography looks.
As for your various and impassioned arguments for, I don’t have any obvious ones against. In fact, I think this is exactly the sort of place I can see President Nelson finding irresistible to pass on, if for the general conference reaction alone. We’ve seen how chuffed he looks when mildly cracking wise or delivering an emphasized punchline over the conference center podium. Now imagine that with something as momentous as a temple in one of the most isolated population centers on planet earth.