Temples in 2021: Emphasis not just on edifices themselves but work of salvation going on inside

In 2021, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated its first temple in more than 20 months and saw nearly 100 temples involved in key advancements from announcement to completion. However, President Russell M. Nelson provided the year’s most powerful moment involving temples with a video and message during October 2021 general conference.

Conducting a virtual tour of the under-renovation Salt Lake Temple, President Nelson said it’s easier to build a temple than to build a people worthy of the temple. “It’s the ordinances and covenants in the building that are the things that really matter.”

Any emphasis on temples is not just about work on the sacred edifices themselves but the temple work going on inside with ordinance work for the living and the dead, as President Nelson underscored temple covenants, worthiness and participation.

Noting the seismic improvements being made to the Salt Lake Temple, President Nelson said no place in the Salt Lake Valley will be safer than inside that temple. “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.”

Continued reopenings after COVID-19 closures

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

After closing all temples in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then instituting a cautious four-phase reopening process two months later, the Church continued reopening temples through 2021.

At the start of 2021, two of the Church’s 168 operating temples were in Phase 3 (offering all living and proxy ordinances), 136 were in Phase 2 (all living ordinances), 21 were in Phase 1 (living sealings for husband and wife), and nine temples and districts of under-renovation temples were closed or not assigned a phased status.

Read more: Changes in phased temple reopenings in 2021 through graphics

In March, the First Presidency announced the first 13 temples to move to Phase 2-B later that month, with the new phase designation expanding the Phase 2 allowance for all living ordinances with proxy baptisms and confirmations. Temple baptistries began opening for small groups, particularly for youth and unendowed members with temple recommends.

By the end of 2021, 163 of the Church’s now 170 operating temples and districts were in Phase 3, five in Phase 2-B and two in Phase 1.

Temple events, construction and announcements

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, wave to Latter-day Saints outside the Mesa Arizona Temple following its first rededication session on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mesa, Arizona.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, wave to Latter-day Saints outside the Mesa Arizona Temple following its first rededication session on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mesa, Arizona. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

DEDICATIONS: Following the Feb. 16, 2020, dedication of the Durban South Africa Temple, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 623-day gap until the Church’s next temple dedication — the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple, by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Oct. 31, 2021. A week later, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the Pocatello Idaho Temple.

REDEDICATIONS: The Mesa Arizona Temple is the only renovated temple to be rededicated in 2021, on Dec. 12 by President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency.

RENOVATIONS: At the end of the year, eight temples continue to be closed for major renovations. The eight includes one starting its multiyear renovation in 2021, the Manti Utah Temple, a pioneer-era temple that closed on Oct. 2.

GROUNDBREAKINGS AND CONSTRUCTION: In 2021, Church leaders broke ground for 12 temples. As the year closes, 44 temples are somewhere in the “under construction” phase, between groundbreaking and dedication.

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

SITES AND RENDERINGS: The Church released site locations and/or exterior renderings for 26 temples in 2021 — eight of which began construction this year.

NEW TEMPLES: President Nelson announced 34 new temples in 2021 — 20 in April 2021 general conference, one in May and 13 in October 2021 general conference. Of this year’s 34 announced temples, two are already under construction, 12 have site locations and exterior renderings released, and another has a location identified.

With the new temples, the Church now has 265 total temples worldwide that are operating, under construction or announced.

SCHEDULED FOR 2022 AND BEYOND: Dates in 2022 have been set for the open house and dedication of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, the open house and rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple and the groundbreaking for the Freetown Sierra Leone Temple. Also announced this year, the Provo Utah Temple will undergo signification renovations, but that project won’t start until completion and dedication of the Orem Utah Temple.

Temple milestones achieved and planned during 2021.
Temple milestones achieved and planned during 2021. Credit: Church News graphic

Also in 2021

In March, the First Presidency modified the ongoing renovation of the Salt Lake Temple to increase patron capacity by adding a second baptistry and additional instruction and sealing rooms. And earlier this month, the First Presidency shared a new estimated completion date, noting the temple and its surroundings will be completed in 2025.

In May, the First Presidency announced that time-only marriages in the temple would no longer be performed.

In September, the First Presidency directed all temple patrons and workers to wear face masks at all times in the temple and reiterated urging Church members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

And in November, the Church announced it will permanently close cafeterias inside its temples in early 2022, a move to simplify temple operations.

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

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