President Gordon B. Hinckley announced a plan to begin building small temples in remote areas of the church to complement the 69 larger temples either operating or in some phase of construction around the globe.
Unlike chapels used for Sunday worship, temples are used by faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for marriages, baptisms and other sacred ordinances focusing on the eternal potential of family relationships. Temple worship is an integral part of the church's genealogical pursuits, where ancestors are sought out and temple ordinances performed vicariously on their behalf.The announcement came during the Saturday priesthood session of the 167th Semiannual General Conference on Temple Square and was broadcast to a worldwide audience via satellite.
Most existing temples are much larger than local chapels, and, therefore, are located in areas with large church populations. Church members living in remote areas have become accustomed to traveling great distances to participate in temple worship.
"There are many areas of the church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of temple ordinances?" President Hinckley asked, rhetorically. "While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer came bright and clear."
Plans will advance immediately for such mini-temples in Monticello, Utah, Anchorage, Alaska, and in northern Mexico.
President Hinckley said he expected many local church leaders would respond to the announcement by saying "This is exactly what we need."
"Well, let us know of your needs, and we will give them careful and prayerful consideration. But please do not expect things to happen all at once. We need a little experience with this undertaking," President Hinckley said.
"Where possible, we would place such a building on the same grounds as the stake center, using the same parking lot for both facilities, thereby effecting a great saving," President Hinckley said. "One of these small temples could be constructed for about the same costs as it takes just to maintain a large temple for one year. It could be constructed in a relatively short time - several months."
The buildings would be constructed to "temple standards, which are much higher than meetinghouse standards. They would accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings (marriages), and all other ordinances to be had in the Lord's House for both the living and the dead," President Hinckley said.
The small temples may only be in use one or two days a week, depending on local need. "That would be left to the judgment of the temple president," he said.
Small temples would be staffed completely by local church leaders and members. They would be run by a temple presidency consisting of a president and two counselors, who would serve for an indefinite period.
"The operation of such temples will require some measure of sacrifice on the part of our faithful local saints. They not only will serve as ordinance workers; it will be expected that they will clean the buildings and take care of them. But the burden will not be heavy," President Hinckley said. "In view of the blessing, it will be light, indeed. There will be no paid employees. All of the work of operation will represent faith and devotion and dedication."
Church members dress entirely in white while participating in temple worship. Patrons at larger temples have the option of bringing their own clothing to the temple or using clothing, for a small fee, that is maintained and laundered inside the temple. Many temples also have cafeterias.
President Hinckley said church members will be expected to bring their own temple clothing to the small temples, and there will be no food service facilities.
"I repeat that none of the essentials would be missing. Every ordinance performed in the House of the Lord would be available. These small buildings would have at least half the capacity of some of our much larger temples. They could be expanded when needed," he said.
Prefacing the announcement, President Hinckley said two new traditional-scale temples will be built in Houston and Porto Alegre, Brazil.
"In areas of greater church membership, we will build more of the traditional temples, but we are developing plans that will reduce the cost without any reduction in terms of the work to be performed therein. We are determined to take the temples to the people and afford them every opportunity for the very precious blessings that come from temple worship," he said.
"I believe that no member of the church has received the ultimate which this church has to give until he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the Lord."
The church is building local meetinghouses at the rate of 350 per year, President Hinckley said earlier this week. Many of the buildings are constructed using a portfolio of stock floor plans and elevations, adapted to meet local building requirements, which keeps design costs down.
Traditional temples usually have a unique design at each location. An artist's conception of what one of the small temples would look like was released with the announcement, but President Hinck-ley did not specify whether the church would use the practice - as with meetinghouses - of using a collection of floor plans and elevations repeatedly.
President Hinckley has initiated several temple projects during his tenure as prophet that have expanded on traditional temple-building practices.
The first temple to be built by remodeling an existing church structure will be dedicated next month when the Uintah Stake Tabernacle, built in Vernal just after the turn of the century, becomes the Vernal Utah Temple. President Hinckley presided at the groundbreaking for that project in May 1995.
President Hinckley developed the combined-use design of the church's Hong Kong Temple, dedicated in May 1996, to be congruent with the scarcity of Hong Kong real estate. The multistory structure also includes a meetinghouse and mission offices.
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See story on A20.
- Temples throughout the world, A20.
- Summaries of all Saturday speakers, A21.
- Deseret News Web edition coverage, A20.