When was the last time a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated two houses of the Lord on consecutive weekends? And on separate continents?
With Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicating the Lima Peru Los Olivos and Orem Utah temples on successive Sundays this month, it marks the first time in nearly 22 years that one of the Church’s senior leaders will have dedicated two houses of the Lord in as many weekends.
And it has been even longer since back-to-back temple dedications were done by the same leader on different continents.
On Sunday, Jan. 14, Elder Christofferson dedicated the Los Olivos temple, the second temple in Peru’s capital city. And on Sunday, Jan. 21, he will dedicate the Orem temple, the first in that city but one of 28 total temples dedicated or under construction in Utah and the sixth in the state’s centrally located Utah County.
To find the last time a Church leader dedicated two houses of the Lord in such a short time, one has to go back more than two decades. However, back-to-back dedications by a single leader may happen again within months, not years or decades.
Last occurrences in 2002, 2000
In May 2002, the late President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated two temples in two South American countries with just one day between: the Campinas Brazil Temple on May 17, followed by the Asunción Paraguay Temple on May 19.
President Hinckley’s charge to have 100 dedicated houses of the Lord by the end of 2000 — the end of the 20th century — blossomed into 63 temples being dedicated from 1999 through 2002. As such, there were several times when he was dedicating two temples in as many weekends or in the same week.
He dedicated two temples in as many weekends on different continents several times, the last in late summer 2000. On Sunday, Aug. 20, he dedicated the Caracas Venezuela Temple, and six days later — on Saturday, Aug. 26 — he dedicated the Houston Texas Temple. President Hinckley also dedicated the Birmingham Alabama Temple the week after that, on Sunday, Sept. 3.
The Houston and Caracas temples are on opposite sides of the Gulf of Mexico, with nearly 2,300 miles (about 3,700 kilometers) between Houston on the southern coast of the United States in North America and Caracas near the northern coast of South America.
A greater distance — nearly 4,250 miles (nearly 6,840 kilometers) — separates the Los Olivos temple on the central-west coast of South America and the Orem temple in the Rocky Mountains of North America.
Prior to this month’s temple dedications in Lima and Orem, the Caracas and Houston temple dedications were the last time two were done on successive weekends on two continents — but it wasn’t the only time for President Hinckley.
And in the following week, he added two more dedications on a third continent as well as a stop in the South Pacific — dedicating the Adelaide Australia Temple on Thursday, June 15, the Melbourne Australia Temple on Friday, June 16, and the Suva Fiji Temple on June 18.
In 1984, as the second counselor in the First Presidency to President Spencer W. Kimball, President Hinckley dedicated two temples on two different continental areas within a week’s time when he dedicated the Sydney Australia Temple on Thursday, Sept. 20, and the Manila Philippines Temple on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
More temples, more dedications — but more leaders involved
What makes Elder Christofferson’s temple dedications on back-to-back weekends distinct is the number of Church leaders dedicating and rededicating houses of the Lord in the six years of President Russell M. Nelson’s tenure as President of the Church.
Previous Church presidents and their First Presidency counselors dedicated most new temples, with members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles occasionally called on to preside.
Over much of the past six years, President Nelson has assigned nearly all of the temple dedications and rededications to his counselors — President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring — and to those in the Quorum of the Twelve.
Of sharing the workload of a global Church, including the temple dedications and rededications with his counselors and the members of the Twelve, President Nelson asked several questions during an interview in São Paulo, Brazil, during his September 2019 global ministry in South America: “Have you ever been a father and taken children on a fishing trip? Are you happy catching a fish? Are you happier watching your children catch a fish?’ ”
President Nelson dedicated the Concepción Chile Temple in October 2018 and the Rome Italy Temple in March 2019. But the remainder of the two dozen new temples dedicated to date during his time as President of the Church — as well as nearly all of the rededications of renovated temples (the exception being the Washington D.C. Temple) — have been done by First Presidency counselors or members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The only current member of the Twelve who has not dedicated or rededicated a temple yet is Elder Patrick Kearon, who was called and ordained to the quorum only last month, filling the vacancy left by the passing of President M. Russell Ballard, the quorum’s former acting president.
Back-to-back dedications coming back soon?
Prior to Elder Christofferson’s Los Olivos and Orem assignments, the last Church leader to preside at back-to-back dedications — but not on successive weekends — was then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, while second counselor in the First Presidency. He dedicated the Tucson Arizona Temple on Aug. 13, 2017, and then the Meridian Idaho Temple three months later on Nov. 19, 2017.
There is a chance that within a few months, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles might preside at back-to-back temple dedications, but not on successive weekends and not on two continents.
If the schedule of officially announced temple dedications remains as currently constituted, Elder Gong will preside at the May 19 dedication of the Puebla Mexico Temple and the June 2 dedication of the Taylorsville Utah Temple. The two temples are in two countries but on the same North America continent, about 1,700 miles (or some 2,735 kilometers) apart.
However, the First Presidency could announce additional dedications of other houses of the Lord in that two-week window between May 19 and June 2 — similar to the recent Jan. 16 announcement of three dedications, for the Taylorsville, Cobán Guatemala and Salta Argentina temples in June.
Also of note, the late President Thomas S. Monson was the last Church leader prior to Elder Christofferson’s Los Olivos and Orem assignments to dedicate two houses of the Lord in the same month. In 2010, he dedicated the Vancouver British Columbia Temple on May 2 and The Gila Valley Arizona Temple on May 23.
Other dedication milestones of note
The consecutive temples dedications — by Elder Christofferson this month and possibly by Elder Gong in several months — is the latest unusual circumstance involving such temple milestones.
On Nov. 20, 2022, two houses of the Lord were dedicated on the same date — the first such pairing in more than two decades — when Elder Dale G. Renlund dedicated the Belém Brazil Temple and Elder Quentin L. Cook dedicated the Quito Ecuador Temple.
And last year, the Church of Jesus Christ had its first three-dedication day on Sept. 17, 2023, with Elder Neil L. Andersen dedicating the Brasília Brazil Temple, Elder David A. Bednar dedicating the Bentonville Arkansas Temple and Elder Cook dedicating the Moses Lake Washington Temple.
In June, the Church will have two dedications of houses of the Lord on the same day once again. On June 16, Elder Christofferson will dedicate the Salta temple and Elder Bednar the Layton Utah Temple.
The increased number of temples — including those under construction and those in planning and design — make multiple-dedication days more possible.
The Church currently has 335 total temples dedicated, under construction or announced. That includes:
- 187 dedicated temples
- 8 temples scheduled for dedication, including Orem on Sunday
- 44 temples under construction
- 1 temple scheduled for groundbreaking
- 48 temples with sites released
- 47 temples in planning
CORRECTION: An earlier version failed to note President Nelson’s rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple.