Five additional smaller temples – four in the United States and one in Mexico – have been announced by the First Presidency. This brings to 22 the number of temples announced since last April when President Gordon B. Hinckley told of plans to construct 30 smaller temples, some of which had already been announced, throughout the world.
The five new temples will be in Baton Rouge, La.; Birmingham, Ala.; Columbia, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Merida, Yucatan.The Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple District will serve 22,883 members in nine stakes in Louisiana and Mississippi. The Church was established in this area early in its history. In 1841, Joseph Smith received a letter from New Orleans advising him that a group of members were there and requesting an elder to assist them. These members may have been among a group from the sailing ship Isaac Newton, which had arrived carrying Latter-day Saints from London. By the end of the year, New Orleans became a principal port of arrival for members, 17,463 of whom emigrated from Europe via New Orleans. A branch functioned in New Orleans from 1844 until 1855, when New York City became the port of arrival for incoming members.
Missionary work continued through the 19th century, despite opposition, and the Church here grew. The New Orleans Stake, the first stake in Louisiana, was created in 1955.
In Alabama, Church roots run deep – as early as the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Today, the Birmingham Alabama Temple District will serve 30,509 members in seven stakes, five in Alabama and two in Florida.
Missionaries are reported to have preached the restored gospel in Montgomery County, Ala., in 1839, but concerted missionary work did not begin until the early 1840s when Elder James Brown organized branches in Tuscaloosa and Perry counties. Later in the decade, most members in Alabama immigrated West with the body of the Church.
After the turn of the century, the first Sunday School was organized Aug. 22, 1911, in Montgomery. A chapel was completed in 1955, and the first stake in the state was created in Huntsville in 1968.
Missionary work in South Carolina began as early as 1831 and continued intermittently through the century. The South Carolina conference was organized in July 1882. The first stake was created in the state in 1947 in Columbia.
A total of 38,632 members in 11 stakes in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee are in the new temple district.
The new temple in Memphis, Tenn., will serve 26,127 members in seven stakes. The temple is the second planned for the state, the other one will be in Nashville. The first baptisms occurred in 1834. A small branch was organized by the end of the year. By 1839, 12 branches existed in the state. Despite severe opposition in the 1800s, the first meetinghouse was dedicated in Northcutts Cove in 1909. In 1965, the Memphis stake, the first in Tennessee, was created.
In the Mexican state of Yucatan, the new temple in Merida will be one of seven temples in Mexico, six of which have been announced since 1995. The Merida Yucatan Temple District will serve 32,667 members in nine stakes and six districts in Mexico and in Belize.
The Yucatan state of Mexico is on the north end of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico. This is the heart of Mesoamerica in the midst of some of the world's most renowned archaeological ruins.
The Church is fairly young here, dating back to only the 1950s. The first branch was organized in Merida in 1959; the first meetinghouse was constructed nearly 10 years later. The first stake in Yucatan was created in Merida in 1977.
- Historical sources for this article were the Deseret News 1997-98 Church Almanac and the Sept. 5, 1992, issue of the Church News.