How temple growth has fared during a pandemic that has limited work in and on temples

When the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is dedicated on Oct. 31, 623 days will have passed since the most recent temple dedication, the longest time between temple dedications for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in more than a quarter-century.

The sustained COVID-19 pandemic has resulted not only in the absence of temple dedications, rededications and accompanying open houses, but also the closure of all operating temples worldwide last year and the gradual and cautious phased reopening of them since.

But that’s not to say temple growth has ground to a stop during that time.

Far from it.

While the public-facing involvement of temple events and temple worship has been affected by the pandemic, consider the Church’s temple-growth totals by the end of October 2021:

  • At least three dozen new temple locations — and counting — will have been announced.
  • Ground will have been broken for nearly as many new temples.
  • Renovations will have started on two existing temples.
  • Open houses and dedications or rededications will have been scheduled for four temples, with two having finished their open houses and a third underway.

And many more temple dedications and rededications are likely to come in the new future, given the number of temples under construction or renovation.

An emphasis on temples is not just limited to work on the sacred edifices themselves but the temple work going on inside with ordinance work for the living and the dead. And President Russell M. Nelson underscored temple covenants, temple worthiness and temple participation in his messages during October 2021 general conference.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tours the Salt Lake Utah Temple in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 22, 2021.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tours the Salt Lake Utah Temple in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 22, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

When the major four-year renovation to the Salt Lake Temple is complete, there will be no safer place during an earthquake in the Salt Lake Valley than inside that temple, said President Nelson during the Sunday morning session. 

“Likewise, whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants,” the Prophet emphasized. 

“Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear. As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power. Then, when spiritual earthquakes occur, you will be able to stand strong because your spiritual foundation is solid and immovable.”

Now is the time to implement extraordinary measures — perhaps measures never before taken — to strengthen personal spiritual foundations, President Nelson said. 

Watch the video and see photos of President Nelson’s inspection of the Salt Lake Temple

“My dear brothers and sisters, these are the latter days. If you and I are to withstand the forthcoming perils and pressures, it is imperative that we each have a firm spiritual foundation built upon the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

“So, I ask each of you: ‘How firm is your foundation? And what reinforcement to your testimony and understanding of the gospel is needed?’”

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presides remotely at the Bentonville Arkansas Temple groundbreaking and offers the dedicatory prayer on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.
Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presides remotely at the Bentonville Arkansas Temple groundbreaking and offers the dedicatory prayer on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

‘An opportunity to learn remarkable lessons’

Church leaders have long taught that the ordinances and worship that take place inside a temple are far more important that exterior appearances and interior furnishings and finishes.

The same is true about temples during the pandemic — the greatest concern has been the limitations on work in temples rather than on the temples.

Mindful that normal temple worship and work have been interrupted — or at least limited — for most Latter-day Saints, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the pandemic provided “an opportunity to learn remarkable lessons.”

In a February 2021 interview, he added: “I think we have been compelled to reflect on, remember and cherish temple covenants and ordinances in ways we may not have otherwise appreciated.”

Elder Bednar acknowledged that Latter-day Saints have tried to remember their temple covenants and prepare for future temple worship during the pandemic by increasing family history work and preparing names for temple ordinances.

“Obviously there were some construction disruptions because of the pandemic, but relatively few of the temples are behind schedule. I find that to be miraculous. All over the world the construction of temples has moved forward in a remarkable way.

“So, yes, there have been some real challenges,” concluded Elder Bednar, “but ‘no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing.’”

Tour guides attend a meeting as they prepare for the open house at the Pocatello Idaho Temple on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
Tour guides attend a meeting as they prepare for the open house at the Pocatello Idaho Temple on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Temple totals today

As of Oct. 10, the Church has 265 total temples — dedicated, operating, under construction, under renovation or announced.

Those 265 temples are comprised of:

  • 168 dedicated temples, including nine undergoing major renovations (the Manti Utah Temple closes Oct. 1 for renovation).
  • 44 temples under construction, including several that have been completed and either are scheduled for dedication or awaiting an announced date.
  • 53 temples announced, including two temples scheduled for groundbreaking and 15 with specific sites announced.

Also, in regards to the phased reopening of temples following the closures due to COVID-19 conditions and precautions, the Church has as of Oct. 10:

  • 146 temples operating in Phase 3, offering all living and proxy ordinances.
  • 4 temples operating in Phase 2-B, offering all living ordinances and proxy baptisms.
  • 3 temples operating in Phase 2, offering all living ordinances.
  • 3 temples operating in Phase 1, offering living sealings of husband and wife.
  • 3 temples pausing operations because of local coronavirus-related restrictions — two in Phase 3 and one in Phase 2
  • 7 districts of the eight temples closed for renovations designated as Phase 3, allowing members in those districts to participate in ordinances at nearby temples.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Melanie Rasband and others pose between sessions of the Durban South Africa Temple dedication in Umhlanga, South Africa, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. From left: Elder Kevin R. Duncan, Sister Gladys Sitati, Elder Joseph W. Sitati, Elder S. Mark Palmer, Sister Jacqueline Palmer, Sister Melanie Rasband, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Carl B. Cook, Sister Lynette Cook, Elder Joni L. Koch and Sister Michelle Koch.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Melanie Rasband and others pose between sessions of the Durban South Africa Temple dedication in Umhlanga, South Africa, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. From left: Elder Kevin R. Duncan, Sister Gladys Sitati, Elder Joseph W. Sitati, Elder S. Mark Palmer, Sister Jacqueline Palmer, Sister Melanie Rasband, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Carl B. Cook, Sister Lynette Cook, Elder Joni L. Koch and Sister Michelle Koch. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Since the last temple dedication

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the Durban South Africa Temple on Feb. 16, 2020; it became the Church’s 168th operating temple. Within weeks, spreading COVID-19 conditions and restrictions resulted in the First Presidency closing temples, missionary training centers, local church meetings and activities and the like.

On Oct. 31, 2021, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Twelve is scheduled to dedicate the Winnipeg temple, which will be the Church’s 169th operating temple. That’s a span of one year, eight months and 15 days between the two dates, making for the longest absence of temple dedications for the Church in nearly three decades.

On April 25, 1993, the St. Louis Missouri Temple — the Church’s 45th operating temple at the time — was dedicated. That came 974 days – or two years and eight months — after the dedication of the Toronto Ontario Temple on Aug. 25, 1990, the Church’s 44th temple.

The lists below underscore temple growth in the 623 days between the Durban temple dedication and the Winnipeg temple dedication.

Wearing masks, Sabrina and Bryce Taylor arrive at the Draper Utah Temple on Sept. 21, 2021.
Wearing masks, Sabrina and Bryce Taylor arrive at the Draper Utah Temple on Sept. 21, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Pandemic-related temple closures

Key dates in the pandemic-related closures of temples and the phrased reopening:

Ephraim is pictured on Saturday, May 1, 2021. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Saturday it will build a new temple in the town.
Ephraim is pictured on Saturday, May 1, 2021. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Saturday it will build a new temple in the town. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Announcements of new temples

In the 623 days between the Durban and Winnipeg temple dedications, President Nelson has announced 48 temple locations.

In the four pandemic-period general conferences so far, the Church President has identified locations for 47 temples. He also announced an additional temple location outside of conference — for Ephraim, Utah — in that city in May 2021.

The eight temple locations announced during the April 2020 general conference (also noting current status):

  • Bahía Blanca, Argentina.
  • Tallahassee Florida Temple — site location and rendering released; under construction.
  • Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Temple — site location and rendering released; under construction.
  • Benin City, Nigeria.
  • Syracuse Utah Temple — site location and rendering released; under construction.
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
  • Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.
An exterior rendering of the Tarawa Kiribati Temple, released May 19, 2021.
An exterior rendering of the Tarawa Kiribati Temple, released May 19, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The six locations announced during the October 2020 general conference:

  • Tarawa Kiribati Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Port Vila Vanuatu Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Lindon Utah Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Greater Guatemala City Guatemala Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • São Paulo East, Brazil.
  • Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

The 20 temple locations announced — the most ever at one time — during the April 2021 general conference:

  • Oslo, Norway.
  • Brussels, Belgium.
  • Vienna, Austria.
  • Kumasi, Ghana.
  • Beira, Mozambique.
  • Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Singapore, Republic of Singapore.
  • Belo Horizonte Brazil Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Cali Colombia Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Querétaro, Mexico.
  • Torreón Mexico Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Helena Montana Temple — site location and rendering released; under construction.
  • Casper Wyoming Temple — site location and rendering released; groundbreaking set for Oct. 9.
  • Grand Junction Colorado Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Farmington New Mexico Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Burley Idaho Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Willamette Valley Oregon Temple — new name for the temple in Eugene, Oregon; site location and rendering released.
  • Elko Nevada Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Yorba Linda California Temple — site location and rendering released.
  • Smithfield Utah Temple — site released.

The 13 temple locations announced in the October 2021 general conference:

  • Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • Tacloban City, Philippines
  • Monrovia, Liberia
  • Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Antananarivo, Madagascar
  • Culiacán, México
  • Vitória, Brazil
  • La Paz, Bolivia
  • Santiago West, Chile
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Cody, Wyoming
  • Rexburg North, Idaho
  • Heber Valley, Utah
Elder Kevin R. Duncan, General Authority Seventy, speaks during groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Elder Kevin R. Duncan, General Authority Seventy, speaks during groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

How groundbreakings have fared

With construction labeled as “critical trade” and “essential work,” temple building has continued throughout the pandemic — ongoing construction, renovations and new builds.

That includes 32 temple groundbreakings in 10 states and 14 countries in between the Durban and Winnipeg dedications. And 21 of those came in the 2020 calendar year.

Traditionally large-scale events, groundbreaking ceremonies have adapted to the pandemic restrictions, becoming invitation-only events that have been broadcast within the temple districts and growing from just a couple of dozen invitees to now 150 to 200 as allowed by local guidelines.

On four occasions, ground was broken for two different temples on the same day — sometimes half a world away, from the Philippines to Guatemala and from Tonga to Kenya.

And given the various travel restrictions during the pandemic, groundbreakings have been presided over not only by general authorities of the Church but also by locally based Area Seventies and mission presidents. In the case of the Bentonville Arkansas Temple groundbreaking, Elder Bednar presided remotely via livestream.

The 32 temple groundbreakings from April 2020 through the end of October 2021 are, in chronological order:

The King and Queen of Tonga, His Majesty Tupou VI, right, and Her Majesty Nanasipau'u, help break ground on Sept. 11, 2021, symbolizing the start of construction of the Neiafu Tonga Temple.
The King and Queen of Tonga, His Majesty Tupou VI, right, and Her Majesty Nanasipau’u, help break ground on Sept. 11, 2021, symbolizing the start of construction of the Neiafu Tonga Temple. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Richmond Virginia Temple, April 11, 2020.
  • Layton Utah Temple, May 23, 2020.
  • Alabang Philippines Temple, June 4, 2020.
  • Auckland New Zealand Temple, June 13, 2020.
  • Feather River California Temple, July 18, 2020.
  • Orem Utah Temple, Sept. 5, 2020.
  • San Pedro Sula Honduras Temple, Sept. 5, 2020.
  • Brasília Brazil Temple, Sept. 26, 2020.
  • Moses Lake Washington Temple, Oct. 10, 2020.
  • Taylorsville Utah Temple, Oct. 31, 2020.
  • Salta Argentina Temple, Nov. 4, 2020.
  • Bentonville Arkansas Temple, Nov. 7, 2020.
  • Red Cliffs Utah Temple, Nov. 7, 2020.
  • Davao Philippines Temple, Nov. 14, 2020.
  • Cobán Guatemala Temple, Nov. 14, 2020.
  • McAllen Texas Temple, Nov. 21, 2020.
  • Antofagasta Chile Temple, Nov. 27, 2020.
  • Bengaluru India Temple, Dec. 2, 2020.
  • Okinawa Japan Temple, Dec. 5, 2020.
  • Harare Zimbabwe Temple, Dec. 12, 2020.
  • Mendoza Argentina Temple, Dec. 17, 2020.
  • Deseret Peak Utah Temple, May 15, 2021.
  • Tallahassee Florida Temple, June 5, 2021.
  • Syracuse Utah Temple, June 12, 2021.
  • Helena Montana Temple, June 26, 2021.
  • Salvador Brazil Temple, Aug. 7, 2021.
  • Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Temple, Aug. 21, 2021.
  • Neiafu Tonga Temple, Sept. 11, 2021.
  • Nairobi Kenya Temple, Sept. 11, 2021.
  • Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple, Sept. 18, 2021.
  • Casper Wyoming Temple, Oct. 9, 2021.
  • Pago Pago American Samoa Temple, Oct. 31, 2021.
Latter-day Saints leave the groundbreaking ceremony for the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.
Latter-day Saints leave the groundbreaking ceremony for the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Other temples under construction

In addition to the Winnipeg Manitoba and Pocatello Idaho temples and the 32 aforementioned temples with groundbreakings that have either occurred or are scheduled by the end of October, 11 new temples are considered “under construction.”

That 11 includes the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, which had its 2020 open house and May 17 dedication postponed because of the pandemic. The completed temple awaits rescheduled dates once large public gatherings are deemed safe there.

The others under construction, with starts prior to March 2020, are:

  • Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire Temple.
  • Urdaneta Philippines Temple.
  • Bangkok Thailand Temple.
  • Yigo Guam Temple.
  • San Juan Puerto Rico Temple.
  • Quito Ecuador Temple.
  • Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple.
  • Belém Brazil Temple.
  • Saratoga Springs Utah Temple.
  • Puebla Mexico Temple.
The Mesa Arizona Temple is pictured in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
The Mesa Arizona Temple is pictured in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Renovations, dedications and rededications

Well into the second year of the pandemic, the Church has four temples with open houses and either dedications or rededications set — the Winnipeg Manitoba and Pocatello Idaho temples as new sacred edifices to dedicate and the Mesa Arizona and Washington D.C. temples to rededicate after lengthy closures for renovations.

By early 2020, seven temples already had been closed for renovation — the Mesa and Washington temples along with the Salt Lake, St. George Utah, Hamilton New Zealand, Tokyo Japan and Hong Kong China temples.

An eighth temple — the Columbus Ohio Temple — joined that group on Aug. 15, 2020. Still an operating temple when all temples were closed in March 2020, it had reopened with limited operations before its closure for renovations.

The Manti Utah Temple is closing Oct. 1, the third pioneer-era temple receiving substantial updates and to be the ninth “under renovation” next month.

And when identifying the 13 new temple locations during the October 2021 general conference, President Nelson also announced the closing and reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple after the Orem Utah Temple is dedicated. Construction on the Orem temple started September 2020, and no completion or dedication dates have been set for that temple.

The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple
The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church originally had scheduled open houses and dedications or rededications in 2020 for three completed temples — the Winnipeg, Washington and Rio de Janeiro Brazil temples — that needed to be postponed because of the pandemic.

The Winnipeg temple’s Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, dedication date is just a week shy of one year from the originally scheduled Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, dedication date. Obviously, it is one of two temples that will conclude their open houses prior to the Church’s next temple dedication.

The other is the Pocatello temple, which was completed earlier this year and is already in its open house period. The open house will conclude on Oct. 23 — the same day as the Winnipeg temple. However, the Pocatello temple will be dedicated a week later, on Nov. 7, by President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Once with dates scheduled for 2020, the Washington D.C. Temple has its open house and rededication rescheduled for 2022 — the open house from late April through early June and a June 19 dedication.

The Mesa Arizona Temple has completed its renovation and will be rededicated by President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency on Dec. 12, 2021. Its open house will begin Saturday, Oct. 16, and run through mid-November.

The Washington D.C. Temple at dusk, July 2021.
The Washington D.C. Temple at dusk, July 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints