Six new temples will be added to the LDS Church's construction schedule, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the 170th Annual General Conference.
He also counseled church members to be kinder in their homes and among their neighbors.
The newest temples will all be built using the church's new, smaller design and are to be located in Aba, Nigeria; Asuncin, Paraguay; Helsinki, Finland; Lubbock, Texas; Snowflake, Ariz., and the tri-cities area in central Washington.
The new announcements bring to 121 the number of temples in operation (76), under construction (34) or announced for construction (11).
President Hinckley, world leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made the announcement from the pulpit of the church's new 21,000-seat Conference Center, where meetings were held for the first time Saturday and Sunday. The building is still in the final stages of construction and scheduled for formal dedication in October.
Many of the sermons given by church authorities during the two-day conference made reference to the landmark new building, both for its place in the church's future and in contrast to the pioneer-era Tabernacle it replaces as the venue for the church's general conference meetings.
Well-known for his aggressive building agenda, President Hinckley commissioned the construction of the new Conference Center. Additionally, the construction of new temples — the most sacred houses of worship in the church — jumped dramatically after he announced during the church's general conference in October 1997 that new, small-design temples would be added to the inventory of much grander, costlier temples.
The addition of smaller temples helps place them in locales where the church population is more sparse and does not justify the expense of building traditional temples, which are many times the size of a chapel building used for Sunday worship. Temples are reserved for marriages and other worship the church considers most sacred.
One such small temple stands finished and awaiting dedication in Palmyra, N.Y., where the church has its 19th century origins.
"We will dedicate the Palmyra Temple on Thursday. This will be a great occasion," President Hinckley said. "Then on Sunday we will dedicate the Fresno California Temple.
"We plan on dedicating altogether 36 new temples in the year 2000. I think we will accomplish all we set out to do. Quite a number of others in construction or announced will not be completed until 2001 or 2002," he said.
The temple announced in Nigeria is the second planned for construction in West Africa. President Hinckley traveled to Nigeria and neighboring Ghana in February 1998 as part of a five-country tour of the African continent. He announced while in Ghana that a temple would be built in the capital city of Accra in a neighborhood near a number of foreign embassies.
Hecklers in Ghana have succeeded in interrupting LDS Church activities in the past. Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Quorums of the Seventy said during a sermon Saturday that since the announcement of the Ghana temple, "the adversary has been relentless in trying to prevent that from happening.
"Brother Pace may be delayed in Ghana," President Hinckley said Sunday, "but we hope there will be no delay in Nigeria."
President Hinckley also talked Sunday of the success and challenges he and the church have faced in the world.
"I think no man has been blessed so richly as I have been blessed," he said. "Through the great goodness of others, I have traveled far and wide across the Earth in the interest of this church. I have had remarkable opportunities to speak to the world through the generosity of the media. I have lifted my voice in testimony in the great halls of this nation, from Madison Square Garden in New York to the Astrodome in Houston. Men and women of high station have received me and spoken with great respect concerning our work."
On the other hand, he continued, "During these years I have come to know of the mean and contemptuous ways of our critics. I think the Lord had them in mind when he declared: 'Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned.'
"We leave to him, whose right it is, judgments that may come to those who oppose his work."
President Hinckley said often the church is greatly misunderstood. "And I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism and arrogance," he said.
He encouraged church members to take the messages of the conference into their homes. "I hope that each one of us will be a better husband or wife, kinder to one another, more thoughtful, more restrained in our criticism and more generous with compliments."
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, gave closing remarks Sunday comparing the attention to building projects in the church to the work each church member is undergoing in preparation for life in the eternities.
"In a very real sense, we are builders of eternal houses. We are apprentices to the trade — not skilled craftsmen. We need divine help if we are to build successfully. The words of instruction provided by the Apostle Paul give the assurance we need: 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' "
President Monson said each person "is literally a spirit son or daughter of God" and should not find it difficult to approach God in prayer.
His four points of counsel were to be an example in word, conversation, charity and purity.
President Hinckley referred to the weekend meetings in the Conference Center as a "great shakedown cruise, as it were," tested by a capacity crowd. "This building has been filled to capacity. I don't see an empty seat anywhere." Saturday evening, he quipped that he should have brought binoculars in order to be able to see everyone in the congregation.
"There is something wonderfully significant about all of this," President Hinckley said of the conference. "It is a time of new beginnings."
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RAVELL CALL, DESERET NEWS