Members around the world react to President Nelson’s 8 new temples announcement

President Russell M. Nelson announced eight new temples during the women’s session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference. The temples were announced in the following locations:

  • Freetown, Sierra Leone
  • Orem, Utah
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Bacolod, Philippines
  • McAllen, Texas
  • Coban, Guatemala
  • Taylorsville, Utah

No surprise, the announcements were cause for celebration for Latter-day Saints living in the future temple sites.

Taylorsville, Utah

Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Steadman Overson said she was “overjoyed and so excited” to learn a temple would one day operate in the city she has called home almost her entire life.

The mayor’s family has lived in Taylorsville for generations.

Located in the center of Salt Lake County, Taylorsville is home to about 60,000 residents. What was once largely a farming community is now filled with subdivisions, parks and a growing business community.

President Russell M. Nelson, center, waves to the crowd as he enters the Conference Center before the women's session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson, center, waves to the crowd as he enters the Conference Center before the women’s session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Credit: Colter Peterson, Deseret News

Mayor Overson anticipates the future temple forever changing her city.

“It’s going really put Taylorsville on the map…. It’s just going to be wonderful,” she said. “It’s remarkable and I’m so delighted.”

Orem, Utah

Elder Glen D. Mella, an Area Seventy and Orem resident, said President Nelson’s announcement of plans to build an additional temple in Utah County is a monumental blessing.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” he said. “We’ve been blessed to have access to temples in this area with temples in Provo and American Fork, but with the new growth in Utah County there continues to be an opportunity for another temple.”

Elder Mella said having a temple in Orem will also change his community, even though similar edifices dot Utah County.

“We know that the central purpose of temples is to bring people closer to the Savior Jesus Christ. The primary blessings will impact individuals and families — but it will also have a positive effect in our community.

“We will become a closer, more tight-knit community.”

The two temples announced for Utah bring the number of temples in the Beehive State to 23 total, including 17 currently operating and a groundbreaking scheduled for this month Saratoga Springs.

Temples in Orem and Taylorsville join another two announced by President Nelson in the past year — the Washington County temple in October 2018 and the Tooele Valley temple last April.
Church membership in Utah exceeds 2.1 million in 596 stakes and 5,156 congregations.

Coban, Guatemala

Ingrid Marina Caal de Lornez was watching Women’s Conference with her husband in Cobán, Guatemala, when she heard President Nelson announce her hometown would be the site of her country’s third temple.

President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the women's session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the women’s session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Credit: Colter Peterson, Deseret News

“I got so emotional,” she told the Church News. “I wasn’t expecting news like this so soon. The temple is going to help us strengthen our faith. Such faith will help out all the people from my community of Salacuim in Coban.”

Guatemala Cobán Stake President Duglas Coy Duerig added: “To learn that we will be privileged to have a temple in our city is so special. I have so many emotions right now — it’s difficult to put them all into words.”

Traveling to the temple in Guatemala City is difficult for many Latter-day Saints in the Cobán region. Lives will be blessed because scores of faithful members will be able to one day visit the temple with great frequency, said Presidenbt Duerig.

Guatemala is home to nearly 278,000 members comprising 49 stakes and 441 congregations as well as six missions. A temple in Coban will be the country’s third, with the first dedicated in Guatemala City in 1984 and a second in Quetzaltenango in 2011.

Bentonville, Arkansas

Bentonville Arkansas Stake President Simon F. Keogh said he received 64 texts in the moments after it was announced a temple would be built in his community.

“It is hard to feel anything but gratitude for the Lord for this tender mercy,” he said. “Collectively as a stake, we’ve understood that to qualify for the blessings of the temple we needed to be faithful, diligent, obedient and exercise that faith in using the temple that we’ve been assigned to (in Oklahoma City).”

President Keogh said his stake has made family history work a top priority in recent years. The Bentonville-area youth have responded joyfully.

“It is hard to feel anything but gratitude for the Lord for this tender mercy.”

“Having a temple of the Lord in Bentonville will be a tremendous blessing to the entire community, which is largely a dominantly Christian community full of good people. Now they’ll have a beacon and a symbol of Christ’s love and a symbol of the restoration that will help them come to a greater and truer knowledge of who He is and the blessings He has available for them.”

A temple in Bentonville will be the first in the state of Arkansas, where the Church membership is nearly 32,000 strong, with seven stakes, 69 congregations and 1 mission headquartered in that city.

McAllen, Texas

A temple in McAllen will also enrich the local Latter-day Saint community. They will soon enjoy unprecedented access to the blessings of a dedicated edifice, said McAllen Texas Stake President J. Romeo Villarreal.

“I’ve just been getting one message after another: ‘Is it true?’ ‘Did we hear right?’,” he said.

President Villarreal said recent converts will be especially affected by the future temple.

Women pack the Conference Center during the women's session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
Women pack the Conference Center during the women’s session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Credit: Colter Peterson, Deseret News

“There is absolutely no doubt that for a new convert to be involved in temple and family history work, especially in visiting the temple, (will be an) enormous strengthening factor for them staying active…. It is going to solidify the testimony of so many.”

More than 357,000 members reside in 75 stakes and 698 congregations in Texas, which also has eight missions. A temple in McAllen will be the Lone Star State’s fifth, with operating temples in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Lubbock.

Bacolod, Philippines

Cora Ius was baptized in Bacolod, Philippines, in 1980 and now lives in Orem, Utah. She was present at the Conference Center when President Nelson announced a temple in her homeland — and her current town. She said she felt “over the moon” with excitement.

“This is a miracle for me personally to be able to witness this,” she said with emotion in her voice. “I know that the Saints have worked so hard back in Bacolod. They have been praying for this for years.”

Ius said she is overjoyed to know that her family living in Bacolod would now be able to attend the temple as often as they want. Members in Bacolod have been traveling the temple in Cebu.

Doris Jardeleza Yap, Ius’ younger sister, lives in Bacolod and was also baptized in 1980.

“This time, members don’t have any reason at all that they cannot afford to finance the travel expenses because of the distance,” Yap said. “I know that we are so blessed for these (new temples) and we can continue temple work, especially for our dead ancestors.”

Ius said she and her family fought hard to stay active in the Church in Bacolod. “For us to be able to stay active since our baptism and be able to witness all of this is a tremendous blessing,” she said.

“It is so worth the fight for us,” she added. “Now we’re reaping the blessings. I’m so happy for the pioneers over there in Bacolod.”

The temple announced for Bacolod would be the country’s seventh overall and the fourth announced in less than three years, joining planned temples for the Greater Manila area (announced in April 2017), Cagayan de Oro (April 2018) and Davao (October 2018).

The Philippines is one of only a handful of countries worldwide where the Church has 100 or more stakes — 107, with its 785,000 members in 1,227 congregations. Besides its 22 missions, the Philippines has two operating temples in Manila (1984) and Cebu City (2010), with a third under construction in Urdaneta.

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone claims more than 21,000 members in five stakes and 69 congregations as well as one mission.

The country is currently assigned to the Accra Ghana Temple district, with that temple more than 915 miles from Freetown, a 33-hour trip by ground transportation.

Freetown resident Marion Campbell said she and her fellow Latter-day Saints in Sierra Leone were elated with President Nelson’s announcement.

“We are so excited — having a temple in our own country will be a great blessing,” she said. “We are overjoyed.”

Plans to build a temple in Freetown, she added, is evidence of the Lord’s love for His people in this West African nation.

“All of us — members and non-members — need this temple,” said Campbell, a convert and returned missionary.

Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, visited Sierra Leone in June to observe the implementation of the Gospel Literacy Program. There she observed a country where “the gospel is rolling forth.”

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Saturday also marked a historic moment for Latter-day Saints in Papua New Guinea. Plans for the island nation’s first temple are now underway.

Elder Robert Dudfield, released during general conference as an Area Seventy, had assignments that took him regularly to Papua New Guinea. He said he “could not begin to describe my joy.”

After the announcement he immediately thanked, via social media, Papua New Guinea families for their work to prepared for the temple. “The vision has been realized,” he said of the country where President Nelson dedicated property for the Popondetta Branch chapel in November 1991. The Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission was created in February 1992.

“My heart is so full right now,” Elder Dudfield said. “Having served alongside my Papua New Guinean brothers and Sisters for the last few years I know firsthand what a temple means for them. They are a people of faith, commitment and a deep love for the Savior Jesus Christ. For many of the 32,000 members it is an answer to decades of prayer.

“Over the last few years we have seen families strengthened as they have walked the covenant path, which has led to stronger communities and a country that has become temple ready.

“I join with them weeping for joy at the blessing of a temple in the country.”

More than 28,000 Latter-day Saints comprise the two stakes and 80 congregations in Papua New Guinea, which has a pair of missions in the southwestern Pacific nation. The country is part of the Suva Fiji Temple district, with Port Moresby a 2,200-mile flight from Suva.

Prophetic pattern

President Nelson’s Saturday evening announcement continues a prophetic pattern of prolific temple building.

 During the October 1997 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley revealed plans to build three smaller than usual temples in Monticello, Utah; Anchorage, Alaska; and Colonia Juarez Mexico. Those temples would serve as prototypes for a new design.

“In recent months we have traveled far out among the membership of the Church,” President Hinckley said during the 1997  announcement. “I have been with many who have very little of this world’s goods. But they have in their hearts a great burning faith concerning this latter-day work. They love the Church. They love the gospel. They love the Lord and want to do His will. They are paying their tithing as modest as it is. They make tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples. They travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats. They save their money and do without to make it all possible.

People walk outside Temple Square before the Saturday afternoon session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
People walk outside Temple Square before the Saturday afternoon session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“They need nearby temples — small, beautiful, serviceable temples.”

Thirty such temples, said the Church’s 15th president, would be built in continents across the world.

 President Hinckley was inspired to build smaller temples while on a road trip between Colonia Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso Texas.

“I reflected on what we could do to help these people in the Church colonies in Mexico,” he said in a 1998 Church News interview. “They’ve been so very faithful over the years. … And yet, they’ve had to travel all the way to Mesa, Arizona, to go to a temple.”

Then the smaller temple concept came to the prophet’s mind.

“I concluded we didn’t need the laundry. We didn’t need to rent temple clothing. We didn’t need eating facilities. These have been added for the convenience of the people but are not necessary (for the temple ordinances).”

 The essential elements of the temple, he knew, could be included in smaller structures that could be built in a shorter amount of time at a reduced cost.

The Monticello edifice became the first of the “small” temples in July 1998. Dozens of such temples were built in corners across the globe, offering legions of Latter-day Saints unprecedented access to the blessings of temple service.

Temple building tradition 

The Church’s 16th leader, President Thomas S. Monson, would continue his predecessor’s temple building tradition. As Church president, President Monson dedicated 14 temples — and rededicated or announced many more.

 As reflected in Saturday evening’s announcement, half of the Church’s “announced” temples are to be built outside of the United States.

 Since becoming the 17th Latter-day Saint president, President Nelson has announced 35, including Saturday’s announcement.

Church News reporters Aubrey Eyre, Scott Taylor, Sydney Walker and Sarah Jane Weaver contributed to this article.