Center Stage: LDS Church: 1999 in review

Moving toward the goal announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley to have more than 100 temples operating by the end of the year 2000, the Church saw the most eventful year in its history in terms of temple construction, as the century and millennium drew to a close. Every month in 1999 was marked by multiple announcements, groundbreakings and dedications.

A milestone was reached in Feb. 20, when a temple was announced for Palmyra, N.Y. That brought to 100 the total number of temples operating, under construction or announced in the Church.

Dramatically illustrating the proliferation of temples, ground was broken for four temples on the same day on March 20. And on Nov. 14, for the first time in history, two temples were dedicated the same day.

An especially fitting highlight to this year of prolific temple building is that ground breakings occurred at locations with profound historical significance in the Church: Palmyra, N.Y.; Nauvoo, Ill.; and Winter Quarters, Neb.

Here is a month-by-month chronology of major events in the Church in 1999.


Jan. 9-10: The Anchorage Alaska Temple, the 54th operating temple in the Church was dedicated, with President Gordon B. Hinckley presiding over seven individual sessions.

Jan. 9: Ground was broken for temples in Villahermosa and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the fifth and sixth in that country. Elder Richard E. Turley Sr. of the Seventy presided in Villahermosa and Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy in Ciudad Juarez.

Jan. 10: Ground was broken for the Caracas D.F. Venezuela Temple, the first in the country, with Elder Francisco J. Viñas of the Seventy presiding.

Jan. 16: Ground was broken for the Memphis Tennessee Temple in Bartlett, with Elder Gordon T. Watts of the Seventy presiding.

Jan. 16: Ground was broken for the seventh temple in Mexico, the Merida Yucatan Mexico Temple, with Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy presiding.

Jan. 22: President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at BYU-Hawaii.

Jan. 23: A temple was announced to be built in Fresno Calif., bringing to 99 the number of temples announced or operating in the Church.

Jan. 29: Members of the First Presidency toured the construction site of the Church's mammoth new assembly building taking shape north of Temple Square in Salt Lake City.


February: A letter from the First Presidency to members of the Church throughout the world called upon parents "to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church."

Feb. 6: Ground was broken for a temple in Raleigh, N.C., the first in that state, with Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy presiding.

Feb. 9: Deseret Management Corp., the Church's holding company for commercial entities, announced that it would acquire Bookcraft Inc., a well-known Salt Lake City publisher of LDS books.

Feb. 14: During February, some Salt Lake City wards in the area of the original 19 wards organized by President Brigham Young commemorated the 150th anniversary of their organization, as did the South Cottonwood Ward.

Feb. 20: Palmyra, N.Y., where the Prophet Joseph Smith communicated with the Father and the Son and received the early visions and revelations leading to the restoration of the Church, was announced as a temple site. It was a landmark announcement, bringing to 100 the number of temples currently in operation or planned for construction.

Feb. 21: In a Church satellite broadcast for full-time missionaries plus members of stake and ward councils and others, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared, "Any investigator worthy of baptism becomes a convert worthy of saving."

Feb. 23: A temple was announced for Oaxaca, Mexico, the ninth in that country.

Feb. 27: Ground was broken for a temple in Edmonton, Alberta, the second in that Canadian province, with Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the Seventy presiding.


March 6-7: The 55th operating temple of the Church was dedicated in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over four dedicatory sessions.

March 13: The First Presidency announced during the week that a temple would be built in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, bringing to 10 the number either dedicated or planned in that country. As the week ended March 13, Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy presided over the ground breaking for the Oaxaca Mexico Temple. Also on that day, Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy presided as ground was broken for the Kona Hawaii Temple and Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy presided as ground was broken for the Nashville Tennessee Temple.

March 13: A nearly yearlong exhibit highlighting principles and events of LDS welfare and humanitarian service opened at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, with President Monson presiding at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

March 18: President Gordon B. Hinckley, in Madrid for the dedication of the Church's 56th operating temple, paid a visit to Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia at the royal palace.

March 19-21: The Madrid Spain Temple was dedicated with President Gordon B. Hinckley presiding over 10 sessions.

March 20: Ground was broken for four temples on the same day: Elder Lionel Kendrick of the Seventy presided over the ground breaking for the Fukuoka Japan Temple, Elder Richard E. Turley Sr. of the Seventy presided at the Tuxtla Gutierrez Mexico Temple groundbreaking, Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy presided at the groundbreaking in Fresno, Calif., and Elder P. Bruce Mitchell at the one in Melbourne, Australia.

March 27: The First Presidency announced six more temples to be constructed in: Louisville, Ky; Medford, Ore.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Adelaide, Australia; Copenhagen, Denmark; and San Juan, Costa Rica.

March 27: Speaking at the annual General Young Women Meeting, President Monson gave "four action-packed objectives" to "gaze upward, look inward, reach outward and press forward."


April 1: The sesquicentennial of the organization of the Sunday School in Salt Lake City was observed. President Hinckley joined the Sunday School general presidency in opening a Sunday School time capsule from 50 years earlier and examining the items.

April 1: The cemetery at historic Winter Quarters, Neb., containing the remains of more than 600 Latter-day Saints from the Nauvoo exodus of 1846-47, was conveyed to Church ownership.

April 3-4: A surprise announcement by President Hinckley in his closing remarks that the historic Nauvoo Temple would be rebuilt on its original site highlighted the 169th Annual General Conference. Also at the conference, six brethren were sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy: Elders Adhemar Damiani, Stephen B. Oveson, David R. Stone, H. Bruce Stucki, Richard H. Winkel and Robert S. Wood. Also, three new Area Authority Seventies were sustained.

April 9: Elder Gary J. Coleman of the Seventy presided over the groundbreaking for the Montreal Quebec Temple.

April 10: Elder Carlos E. Asay, emeritus General Authority, died while serving as president of the Salt Lake Temple.

April 10-11: A shipment of 78,500 pounds of food was sent to assist refugees from Kosovo, just one week after the assistance was announced by President Hinckley in general conference. The humanitarian aid continued throughout the year, with many Church members volunteering their efforts in assembling hygiene kits and making quilts.

April 12: A temple was announced to be built in Reno, Nev.

April 14: Two new temples were announced for Guadalajara and Vera Cruz, Mexico, bringing to 10 the number of planned temples for that country in addition to the two already in operation there.

April 15: Three people died, one of them Donald Thomas, a Church security officer, and four others were wounded when a gunman opened fire inside the Church Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

April 20: Among those terrorized in a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., were 125 LDS youth. Though 13 high school students were shot and killed by two teenagers, none was LDS. One of the LDS youth suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

April 24: A missionary of the Church, serving in the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission in West Africa, Elder Jonathan Philip Barrett, died after being stabbed in the chest, apparently without provocation, by a lone assailant.

April 24: Ground was broken for a temple in San Jose, Costa Rica, under the direction of Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy. It is the second temple for that country.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy presided over the site dedication for the Copenhagen Denmark Temple, which, like the Vernal Utah Temple, is being created by the remodeling of an existing edifice, the Church's Priorvej Chapel in downtown Copenhagen.

April 24-26: The Church's 57th operating temple was dedicated in Bogota Colombia by President Gordon B. Hinckley, who presided over 11 sessions.

April 25: An estimated 57,500 Church members and friends assembled in a soccer stadium to hear President Hinckley speak at a regional conference in Santiago, Chile.

April 27: Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve directed the groundbreaking for the Montevideo Uruguay Temple, the first in that nation.

April 29-30: Nearly 20,00 women gathered from throughout the country for the 1999 Women's Conference at BYU.


May 3: Sixteen homes of Latter-day Saints were destroyed in tornadoes that struck parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. One member was killed in Oklahoma.

May 4: After 11 years and more than 2.5 million hours of volunteer labor, the largest census ever to be automated, the 1881 British Census, was announced. Containing information for more than 30 million individuals, it was released on CD-ROM for use in personal computers in family history research.

May 6: Speaking at the Weber State University Commencement exercises, President Hinckley encouraged graduates not to lose faith in America.

May 8: Ground was broken for a new temple in Baton Rouge, La., with Elder Monte J. Brough of the Seventy presiding.

May 10: Work began on a pedestrian plaza linking Temple Square to the Church Office Building plaza on the east.

May 13: President Hinckley addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, speaking of the worldwide operations of the Church.

May 20: Ground was broken for the Medford Oregon Temple under the direction of Elder D. Lee Tobler of the Seventy.

May 21-22: The Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony performed the last concert of its 30-year history in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Veteran director Robert C. Bowden retired Sept. 1.

May 24: At a news conference linked by satellite between Salt Lake City and Washington D.C., President Hinckley officially launched the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service, a free Web site,, offered by the Church and promising to be the greatest boon to family history research since the invention of microfilm.

May 25: On a hill overlooking the Sacred Grove, site of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Hinckley broke ground for the Palmyra New York Temple.

May 29: Temple groundbreakings were conducted by Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy in Louisville, Ky., Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy in Adelaide, Australia, and by Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy in Veracruz, Mexico.


June 11: The First Presidency announced construction of a temple in Perth, Australia.

June 12: Ground was broken for a temple in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, under the direction of Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy.

June 14: The First Presidency announced a temple would be built at the Church history site of Winter Quarters in Omaha, Neb.

June 22-25: The annual Mission Presidents Seminar convened in Provo, Utah, with 131 mission presidents and their wives hearing addresses from all three members of the First Presidency.


July 3: With Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Seventy presiding, ground was broken for the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple.

July 18: The Tabernacle Choir observed a milestone, the 70th year for its continuous nationwide broadcast "Music and the Spoken Word."

July 24: Dedication by President Hinckley of a new monument honoring the handcart pioneers of the 1850s highlighted Days of '47 activities in Salt Lake City.

July 24: In Quincy, Ill., descendants of Latter-day Saints who found refuge in that city after being driven from Missouri in the winter of 1839 commemorated the city's kindness with a trek across a Mississippi River bridge.


Aug. 1-2: The Guayaquil Ecuador Temple, the Church's 58th operating temple, was dedicated in eight sessions with President Gordon B. Hinckley presiding.

Aug. 3: It was announced that Elder Ben B. Banks was called to serve in the Presidency of the Seventy, succeeding Elder Joe J. Christensen.

Aug. 3: At a special fireside in Maracaibo, Venezuela, President Hinckley encouraged Church members to be more involved in missionary work and double membership in that country.

Aug. 11: A powerful tornado tore through the heart of Salt Lake City, injuring more than 150 people and devastating dozens of homes. One person was killed.

Aug. 19: The First Presidency announced a name for the new assembly building under construction north of Temple Square: the Conference Center.

Aug. 21: The Spokane Washington Temple, the 59th operating temple in the Church, was dedicated Aug. 21-23 in 11 sessions with President Hinckley presiding.


Sept. 4-5: The Columbus Ohio Temple, that state's first temple since the Kirtland Temple in early Church history, was dedicated in six sessions with President Hinckley presiding.

Sept. 7: President Hinckley dedicated the Spencer W. Kimball Student and Administrative Services Building at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho.

Sept. 11: A reconstructed monument at Mountain Meadows, Utah, honoring the memory of 120 people who lost their lives in the "Mountain Meadows Massacre" of 1857, was dedicated by President Hinckley.

Sept. 14: At a BYU devotional assembly, President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, said that inner peace results from righteous living.

Sept. 15: In a letter to leaders of local Church units, the First Presidency launched a Churchwide effort "to revitalize and improve teaching in the Church."

Sept. 15-17: Hurricane Floyd destroyed at least 20 homes belonging to Church members in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. One Church member died as a result of the storm.

Sept. 19: The 61st operating temple of the Church was dedicated in Bismarck, N.D., in three sessions with President Hinckley presiding.

Sept. 25: A Relief Society declaration reaffirming the roles and values of women was announced during the General Relief Society Meeting, and what has been known as the Relief Society homemaking meeting was renamed "Home, Family and Personal Enrichment Meeting" with a different focus.


Oct. 2-3: At the 169th Semiannual General Conference, President Hinckley bid goodbye to an "old friend," the Salt Lake Tabernacle. It was expected that by the following April, conference would be held in the new Conference Center being constructed north of Temple Square.

Also at the conference, President Hinckley said that since the first of the year, eight temples had been dedicated and another seven were scheduled for dedication by the end of the year. He also announced that ground would be broken within the month for the rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple.

Elders Joe J. Christensen and Andrew W. Peterson of the Seventy were granted emeritus status.

A new Primary general presidency was sustained: Coleen K. Menlove, president; Sydney S. Reynolds, first counselor, and Gayle M. Clegg, second counselor.

Three Area Authority Seventies were sustained and four were released.

Oct. 4: In a letter addressed to members of the Church throughout the world, the First Presidency reaffirmed Monday night as being reserved throughout the Church for family home evening.

Oct. 5: President Hinckley dedicated the renovated Ernest L. Wilkinson Center on the BYU campus.

Oct. . 5-7: After heavy rains and flooding in southeastern Mexico, more than 3,500 members of the Church in eight stakes were temporarily evacuated from their homes, many finding refuge in local meeting houses. Some 730 homes of members in the states of Veracruz, Tabasco, Hidalgo and Puebla were damaged or destroyed. The Church provided food and other humanitarian aid.

Oct. 9: Ground was broken for a temple in Birmingham, Ala., with Elder Stephen A. West of the Seventy presiding.

Oct. 15: ZCMI, the Church-owned department store that began as a pioneer-era cooperative in Salt Lake City, was sold by the Church to the May Department Stores Co. of St. Louis, Mo., it was announced by Church leaders.

Oct. 16: The First Presidency announced a uniform naming guideline for the temples of the world. Under the guideline, names primarily are to include the city and state or province or the city and country in which they are located.

Oct. 16-17: The Columbia South Carolina Temple was dedicated in six sessions with President Hinckley presiding.

Oct. 17: After 25 years, Jerold D. Ottley conducted his last Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

Oct. 23-24: The Detroit Michigan Temple was dedicated in six sessions with President Hinckley presiding.

Oct. 24: A little more than 153 years after the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Ill., were forced to abandon their newly completed temple and depart for the West, President Hinckley broke ground for a re-creation of the temple on the site of the original.

Oct. 29: Two new musical organizations — the Temple Square Chorale and the Orchestra at Temple Square — made their debut in a joint concert with the Tabernacle Choir in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.


Nov. 13: The Pedigree Resource File, a new international family history database on CD-ROM with 5 million names, was announced by the Church.

Nov. 14: For the first time in Church history, two temples were dedicated on the same day. Both of them in Canada, one was dedicated by President Hinckley in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the other by President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, at Regina, Saskatchewan. There were three sessions at each dedication.

Nov. 14-17: The Relief Society general presidency and an organization based at BYU were at the forefront of the second World Congress of Families held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Nov. 20: Ground was broken for the Perth Australia Temple under the direction of Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy.

Nov. 20-21: The Billings Montana Temple was dedicated in eight sessions with President Hinckley presiding.

Nov. 22: The new FamlilySearch Internet Genealogy Service web site was augmented with 240 million names in its genealogy data base, bringing the total to more than 640 million entries.

Nov. 26: A new documentary, "American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith," made its national debut over the Public Broadcasting System.

Nov. 26: Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke at the annual Christmas lighting ceremony on Temple Square. Among other lighting ceremonies at Church sites were events at temples in Mesa, Ariz. on Nov. 26, Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 27, and Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1.

Nov. 27: A name change was announced for LDS Social Services. The new name is LDS Family Services.

Nov. 28: Ground was broken for the Winter Quarters Temple. Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy presided.

Nov. 30: Speaking to 18,000 BYU students at a devotional, President Hinckley urged them not to "become a weak link in the chain of your family generations."


Dec. 5: All three members of the First Presidency spoke at the presidency's annual Christmas Devotional broadcast by satellite from the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

Dec. 8: On the eve of the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Sunday School in the Church, President Hinckley presided over the sealing of a time capsule to be opened 50 years hence for the Sunday School bicentennial.

Dec. 11: The appointment of Craig D. Jessop as Tabernacle Choir director, succeeding Jerold D. Ottley, who retired Dec. 3, was announced by the First Presidency.

Dec. 11-12: The Edmonton Alberta Temple was dedicated, with President Hinckley presiding over seven sessions.

Dec. 18-19: The Raleigh North Carolina Temple was dedicated, with President Hinckley presiding over seven sessions.

Dec. 24: President Hinckley was interviewed on "Larry King Live."

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