A Data-Driven Approach to Temple Predictions

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A deeper at look at how to forecast where temples might go in the future.

On June 21, 2021, the temple project manager of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented in front of the Lindon City council. In addition to revealing that the Lindon Utah Temple will have two baptistries, he referred to the design of the temple as a “4-50.” This means there are four endowment rooms with 50 seats each. He also mentioned that the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple was a “4-80.” What is the relationship between the ordinance capacity of a temple and the decision to build a new temple? Can looking at the capacities of operating temples tell us anything about where temples may be announced in the future?

Before every General Conference, many amateur Latter-day Saint prognosticators across the corners of the internet enthusiastically attemp to predict new temples that could be announced. Of course, Geoff Openshaw and Joe Peterson here at TWiM have a respectable record in their predictions. Matt Martinich at his blog, Growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also has a thriving comment section that begins many weeks before conference begins. Of interest as well is the Temple Matrix, which aggregates the predictions from the top commenters on the blog, as well as those from TWiM.

Most of the temples that have been announced have appeared on these prediction lists over the years. Some have taken longer than others to get announced. Others came as complete surprises. Some temples were surprises because of their remote location and low number of stakes. The temples that come to mind include Winnipeg ManitobaStar Valley WyomingYigo Guam, and Okinawa Japan.

Conversely, other temple announcements came as a surprise they are placed relatively close to an existing temple. Many of these temples are large and have operated for several decades. The Meridian Idaho Temple, announced in 2011, stands out as an unexpected announcement. At the time, there were less than 30 stakes assigned to the Boise Idaho Temple; the size of the temple district was not as large as others. However, some members from Treasure Valley reported that Boise temple was heavily attended by local members (and we can assume the Church maintains its own internal data to the same effect). The size of the temple in Boise did not have the capacity that the temple district demanded. The temple in Meridian ended up being twice the size as the temple in Boise.

In 2016 and 2017, President Thomas S. Monson announced second temples for the cities of Lima, Peru and Manila, Philippines. These came as relative surprises for many, although TWiM nailed the prediction, correctly identifying the location of the second temple in the Manila metro area. Considering the small sizes of these temples (Lima only being 9,600 square feet), the announcement of these temples were well placed. Temple renovations that expand the capacity of temples (like what was done in Buenos Aires), may increase capacity, but don’t do anything to bring the temple closer to more members. The cost of a large-scale renovation costs nearly as much as building an entirely new temple. Proximity to a temple helps members utilize a temple more frequently.

Many predicted second temples in São Paulo and Guatemala City and were later proved correct. Additional temples announced in the United States have continued to come at a surprise to temple predictors. In Utah, these include Red Cliffs (Washington County), Orem, Syracuse, and Lindon. In the case of Orem and Red Cliffs, the proximity to existing temples was a surprise. In the case of Syracuse and Lindon, these temples were announced relatively close to other temples that weren’t even in operation but had barely begun construction. By 2021, many noticed this trend and observed that the number of stakes in the Logan Utah Temple district may merit a second temple in Cache Valley. Smithfield, Utah was a leading contender last April and it quickly ended up coming to fruition.

Outside of Utah, several other temples have been unexpected. These include Feather River (Yuba City, California); Moses Lake, WashingtonYorba Linda California; and Burley Idaho. Located relatively close to existing temples with moderately sized temple districts, these temples came as a surprise. All these temples will draw from existing temples constructed in the early to mid-aughts and are of similar sizes. Therefore, they all have similar capacities for ordinance work.

In order to estimate the capacity of a temple, I had to know number of chairs in an ordinance room. Over the years I have collected photos that the Church has released prior to open houses. I counted the number of seats in every temple’s endowment room. For some of the temples, I had to make an educated guess based on temples of similar design.

Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, the church used to publish endowment session schedules for every temple. Commonly, Saturday has the most endowment sessions scheduled. Looking at the Saturday schedule can be an indicator as to the level of utilization a temple has. Without the schedules, I decided to come up with a hypothetical scenario to estimate the number of ordinances that could be performed if every session is filled to capacity from 5 am to 8 pm. Obviously, this is a highly unrealistic number. However, it can be a proxy variable to estimate the level of utilization.

To estimate attendance and utilization, there are many variables that could be used. For simplicity, I decided to use the number of stakes and districts that are assigned to a temple district. I assumed the average district has half the members of a stake. Stakes and wards are required to have slightly more members in the United States and Canada than the rest of the world. Therefore, I multiplied their temple districts by 1.5. For Utah and other areas with heavy concentrations of members, I multiplied the temple district by 1.75 or 2. Elder Craig C. Christensen revealed that despite having 13% of the membership of the church, the Utah Area has around 25% of the church attending membership. Concluding that Utah members are twice as likely to attend the temple regularly, I believe the modification is justified.

Finally, I divided the total capacity of each temple by the number that represented the temple district. I did the same for the number of sealing rooms in the temple. The resulting number is mostly meaningless except when compared to that of other temples. The number can be used to compare how much a temple is utilized. This is also assuming members attend the temple in an equal rate. This is a big assumption and can’t be accurate. However, members that are forced to travel long distances to the temple are sometimes more motivated to do so compared to members living closer to a temple.

After ranking the temples from most utilized to least, there are many conclusions that can be made. It can rate temples business of a temple and aide in predicting where new temples will be announced. Importantly, the results may also anticipate dark horse announcements that have been blind spots to temple predictors. 

The Accra Ghana temple currently has the largest temple district in proportion to the capacity of the temple. It’s no surprise that there are three temples currently planned inside the temple district. The Aba Nigeria Temple is not far behind and has two temples planned within its district. The Lima Peru Temple comes next. The future second temple in Lima will likely split the number of stakes in half. 

Next, I considered temples that are yet to be dedicated. I estimated the size of their temple district and added them to the list. If I knew the approximate size of the planned temple, I estimated the ordinance capacity. Then, I made a new list and reorganized the temple districts. This new model shows the estimated utilization of temples once all the new temples are finished. The results show the temples which will theoretically remain the most utilized. 

Here are some conclusions from the model:

As for temples that have the most potential to be overcrowded, the Aba Nigeria Temple is tied for top spot despite having two temples already announced in Nigeria. Stakes in southeast Nigeria are plentiful and denser than may parts of the world. The temple is one of the smallest in the church. This means temples in Uyo or Port Harcourt could be imminent.

Tied for number one is the Caracas Venezuela Temple. In addition to being a smaller-sized Hinckley-era temple, the temple serves all 34 stakes in Venezuela. Despite many South American nations getting second and third temples in the last decade, Venezuela has fallen behind. Given the political and economic condition at the present, it is no surprise that there have been no additional temples announced. President Hinckley once proposed building a temple in Maracaibo. Given more stable circumstances, a temple may also be viable for both Barcelona and Valencia.

Despite many temples being announced in Brazil, southern Brazil has not received any new ones. The temples in Curitiba and Porto Alegre appear high on this list.

Some of the largest temple districts in Utah (Provo, Jordan River, and Salt Lake) are going to be severely cut by new temples being planned. Therefore, these high-capacity temples are projected to drop significantly in utilization. In the Salt Lake Valley, the Taylorsville Utah Temple could become an attractive choice for many temple-goers because of its proximity to I-215. If the temple districts are strictly split up by driving distance, 52 stakes could be assigned to Taylorsville. That would leave both the Salt Lake and the Jordan River Utah temples with having 40 stakes each. The districts may end up being gerrymandered to meet the temple worker needs for each temple. But considering the size of the temple in Taylorsville compared to the number of potential patrons, there could be an imbalance on this side of the valley. 

For the rest of this piece, I will discuss other potential new temples, organized by geographic area. These areas may see temples announced in the near to mid-future.

Utah: Membership in Salt Lake County has been waning as members move to new houses in neighboring counties. Nevertheless, the medium sized temples in Salt Lake County have larger temple districts than the others in the state. The temple in Taylorsville may need to have some stakes diverted. The east side of the valley may be the best place to do so (Cottonwood Heights or Holladay). But Magna or even West Valley City may not be out of the question. The south end of the valley is not finished growing. There is a rumored temple site in Herriman, which would mainly pull stakes from the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple.

Others: For their size, Vernal and Brigham City appear high on the list. The small towns of        Roosevelt and Tremonton may have a chance at a temple announcement. Farmington is another possibility and Spanish Fork or Mapleton seem just like a matter of time. The parking lot at the Cedar City Utah temple was expanded in 2019, indicating larger than expected demand for this temple.

United States and Canada: This one might be controversial. However, If it is assumed that Rexburg is a discontiguous piece of Utah, then the same weighting would apply to Rexburg. Many of the YSA and student married stakes have 10 to 12 wards. Nearly all of them are considered “active members” based on their attendance of BYU-Idaho. The capacity of the temple is actually rather small in proportion to other temples in locations with a high concentration of members. A temple on the north side of the city would serve stakes in nearby small town communities as well as some Rexburg residents. Recently, the church officially acquired 40 acres of land just off of Highway 20 and across from the new Walmart Supercenter.        

Columbia, South Carolina and San Antonio, Texas are lower capacity temples and have a decent number of stakes. This would make Charlotte, North Carolina and Austin, Texas, of the likely candidates. Next, the Spokane Washington Temple appears to be well-utilized. Unless there is an expansion planned for the temple, a temple in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, may be plausible. Although a temple was recently announced in Helena, Montana, the small temple is projected to have 8 stakes. Another small temple in Missoula may help to cut down the temple district.  

Others: Riverside County, California; Queen Creek, Arizona; Rigby, Idaho; Flagstaff, Arizona; Northern New Jersey.

Mexico: Reynosa – Yes, this boarder city is just across the river from the new temple in McAllen, Texas. However, traveling across the border is difficult for many Mexicans and the temple in Monterrey appears to be the most utilized in the Mexican republic.

Others: Aguascalientes, Cancún, Culiacán, Saltillo.  

Central America and the Caribbean: Because of the small size of the new temple in Puerto Rico, a temple in the West Indies would be beneficial. There is a stake in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A temple in this country could help serve the plethora of Caribbean island nations as well as the Guianas in South America.

Others: Santa Ana, San Salvador; Retalhleu or Huehuetenango, Guatemala. 

Spanish South America:  Setting aside the situation in Venezuela, other South American  nations have the potential for more temples. Peru has more than one hundred stakes, which is considered many for its four temples. At least one temple along the northern coast (Chiclayo and/or Piura) could be imminent. Peru may also be primed for many small temples to be built in medium sized cities like Iquitos, Huancayo, Cusco, or Tacna. A third temple in Lima may not be out of the question.

Others: Viña del Mar, Chile; Santiago, Chile (second); Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; Rivera, Uruguay; Machala, Ecuador; Neuquén, Argentina.

 

Brazil: The two temples in southern Brazil have the most units for temples their size. The first members of the church in Brazil lived in the state of Santa Catarina, yet there is still no temple. A temple in Florianopolis seems like a good possibility. Another temple in the state of Rio Grande Do Sul also seems likely. Perhaps the cities of Pelotas, Santa Maria, or Passo Fundo are possible candidates. 

Others: João Pessoa, Maceió, Teresina, Ribeirão Preto. 

 

Africa: Besides Nigeria, the greater Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) area has many stakes and a very small temple. A temple across the river in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo would remove the need for those citizens to have to cross an international boundary. A temple in the interior of the DRC (Kananga or Mbuji-Mayi) would be much closer for several fast-growing stakes.

Others: Cape Coast, Ghana; Kampala, Uganda; Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire.

 

Europe: Last general conference, President Nelson shocked many by announcing three temple in Europe (Brussels, Belgium; Oslo, Norway; and Vienna, Austria). These temples are projected to only serve two or three stakes. Although Europe has not seen much congregational grown in the last few decades, this does not mean that temple construction needs to come to a halt. Among the stakes in Europe, the British Isles has the largest concentration. Ireland, Scotland, and Wales could all be possibilities for future announcements. Another temple in central England (Birmingham) may be likely. 

Others: More on the Iberian Peninsula (Barcelona, Spain and Porto, Portugal), Northern Italy, Southern France. 

Asia: The Philippines is the stronghold of the church in Asia. The yet-to-be finished temple in Urdaneta will have a large number of units assigned. Another temple in northern Luzon (probably  Cauayan or Teguegarao ) is likely. In the central Philippines, Tacloban City would serve a group of islands that currently need to travel to Cebu City.  

Others: Naga, Philippines; Angeles, Philippines; Taichung or Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Oceania: Samoa is split in between two main islands. The six stakes in Savai’i could take off the load of the many stakes in Upolu. Interestingly, the planned temple in Papua New Guinea ranks high due to its small size. It’s difficult to imagine another temple here because the only other stake is located on the small island of Daru. In Australia, The temple in Brisbane has many stakes for such a small temple. There is a outside possibility of a second temple in the metro area.

Others: Nuku’alofa, Tonga (second).

image/svg+xml Openclipart Salt Lake Temple Silhouette 2011-06-03T07:10:01 This is a silhouette of the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) made by my friend Jay and I. It is optimized for cutting on a Cricut. n nThis revised version is enlarged to match the page size and has some fixes in the spacing of the windows on the side towers. https://openclipart.org/detail/142003/salt-lake-temple-silhouette-by-sorenstoutner-142003 sorenstoutner Cricut LDS Latter-day Saint Mormon Saints Salt Lake City Silhouette Temple Utah

There are many factors that influence a temple announcement. Capacity of existing temples is only one of them. Other factors may include distance to the nearest temple, number of units in the immediate area, age and maturity of the stake(s) and mission, political feasibility, economic conditions, and of course: revelation and inspiration. Nevertheless, capacity of existing temples is an important indicator.

For some locations, capacity may not be the most important factor leading up to an announcement. The following lists are some other locations that become more probable when weighting these other factors more heavily:

Number of stakes in a city:

Osaka, Japan; Wellington, New Zealand; Monrovia, Liberia; Santiago, Dominican Republic; La Paz, Bolivia; Rosario, Argentina; Buenos Aires, Argentina (second); Tacoma, Washington; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Spanish Fork, Utah; Heber City, Utah.  

Distance to the nearest temples: 

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Jakarta, Indonesia; New Dehli, India; Hobart, Australia; Christchurch, New Zealand; Raromatai, Tahiti; Majuro, Marshall Islands; Antananarivo, Madagascar; Tirana, Albania; Kingston, Jamaica; Chihuahua, Mexico; Osorno, Chile; Punta Arenas, Chile; Iquitos, Peru; Cuiabá, Brazil; Victoria, British Columbia; Fairbanks, Alaska; Maui, Hawaii; Charleston, West Virginia, Augusta Maine; Knoxville, Tennessee; Wichita, Kansas; El Paso, Texas; Rapid City, South Dakota; Price, Utah.

It’s difficult to know what areas of the world are most deserving to have a new temple. Numbers and data may give us an indication. But truth be told, it’s unlikely that one area is more deserving than another. All of these cities mentioned above are deserving. With the passage of time, it is likely that most, if not all, of these cities will have temples one day

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