PROVO, Utah "Truth and righteousness are sweeping the earth," BYU President Merrill J. Bateman declared during the opening general session of the 2000 BYU Women's Conference on April 27. "It is evidenced by the spread of missionary work, the formation of stakes and the building of temples."
President Bateman, who is also a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was a keynote speaker during the session along with Mary Ellen W. Smoot, Relief Society general president. Thousands gathered at the Marriott Center for the event, which kicked off the two-day conference, April 27-28. (Please see related articles on this page and pages 3, 8 and 9.)
After quoting prophecies about how truth and righteousness will someday fill the earth (see Moses 7:62) and how Joseph Smith prophesied that the Church would one day fill North and South America, President Bateman explained: "Truth and righteousness are sweeping the earth in three phases. The first is missionary work which introduces the gospel. Stakes represent the second phase. Temples represent the third phase."
President Bateman then elaborated on each phase:
The Spread of Missionary Work in the Last Days, 1830-2000
Missionary work began almost simultaneously with the formation of the Church, he explained, with Samuel Smith proselytizing in upstate New York. President Bateman then showed a series of maps by year, portraying the growth of organized missions throughout the world. "Today, there 333 missions. The fall of the Berlin Wall opened Eastern Europe to missionary work. The density of missions in North, Central and South America continues to increase."
The Growth of Stakes Across the World, 1830-2000
President Bateman displayed maps showing the growth of stakes in the Church. "The map illustrating the location of stakes in the current year indicates that Joseph Smith's prophecy about the Church filling North and South America is coming true. Today there are more than 2,500 stakes with a heavy concentration in North, Central and South America."
Temples in the Latter Days
He showed maps portraying the growth and status of temples throughout the Church. He recalled how in 1996 during a General Authority meeting, when the Church was preparing to dedicate the 50th operating temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated he hoped to have 100 operating temples by the close of his ministry. "I sat there stunned. It had taken 166 years for the first 50 temples. How could another 50 temples be built in the remaining years of his life?"
About 18 months later, President Hinckley announced the plans for smaller temples. Today, there are more than 80 temples in operation.