SALT LAKE CITY — At the conclusion of a two-day LDS Church general conference already replete with historic sustainings and sweeping changes, President Russell M. Nelson shared one additional surprise in his concluding remarks Sunday afternoon — the announcement of seven new temples, including the first-ever in the countries of India, Russia and Nicaragua.
The seven sites — spanning the four continents of Asia, Europe and North and South America — include Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru, India; Managua, Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia; and “a major city yet to be determined” in Russia.
“We want to bring temples closer to the expanding membership of the church, President Nelson said. “My dear brothers and sisters, construction of these temples may not change your life, but your time in the temple surely will.”
President Nelson will visit one of those cities with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles later this month, with their global ministry tour to stop in Bengaluru on April 19. The tour will also include stops where three other temples have been previously announced — in Harare, Zimbabwe; Nairobi, Kenya; and Bangkok, Thailand.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently has 159 operating temples worldwide. The seven announced temples bring the total number of additional temples either under construction or announced to 30.
"I'm shouting for joy filled with gratitude and tears running on my cheeks," said Vanjpu Kumar, a member of the high council for the Rajahmundy India Stake, which was formed in December 2016. "It's our true happiness."
Formerly known as Bangelore, Bengaluru has a population of more than 10 million people, with an LDS mission established there in 1993 and the first LDS stake — a collection of congregations similar to a Catholic diocese — created there in 2012 by then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks, now a counselor in the First Presidency. India is home to 1.3 billion people; the LDS membership there is about 13,500 members comprising 43 congregations.
While a city site for the first-ever temple in Russia wasn’t announced, that country had its first Mormon baptisms in the late 19th century. The church began formal meetings and missionary activity in 1990, receiving official recognition in 1991; there are now more than 23,000 Latter-day Saints in Russia. Then-Elder Nelson organized the first stake in Russia in June 2011; it was the second stake in the former Soviet Union.
The temple in Russia will be the second in the former Soviet Union, with the Kyiv Ukraine Temple dedicated in 2010.
Travis Hansen, a former BYU, NBA and Euro basketball player who played in Russia from 2006 to 2011 and was granted dual citizenship, said he was listening to conference when the temple announcements were made — and his phone promptly "blew up."
"Now everybody is contemplating, texting back and forth what city it will be in," said Hansen, now a bishop in Orem, Utah, and mindful of the three stakes in Russia — in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Saratov.
"My wife was the most shocked," Hansen added. "She got emotional because of the friendships and relationships that we have in Russia, and we know how much that is going to mean to them."
A temple announcement for Nicaragua was also meaningful to Hansen, who has a charitable organization there. "We also have a children's center (Little Heroes) in Nicaragua," he said. "We pictured all these amazing people who are going to be able to go to the temple now. It's a dream come true for so many.
For the 100,000 Latter-day Saints in the Central American nation of Nicaragua, their closest temples are in neighboring Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and has a metropolitan population of nearly 1.5 million.
The announced Layton Utah Temple, which drew a chuckle from Sunday afternoon’s attendees in the Conference Center, will be the 19th in Utah, which has a general population of 3.1 million people and nearly 2.1 million Latter-day Saints. In addition to the 17 operating temples ranging from Logan and Brigham City to Cedar City and St. George, a temple in Saratoga Springs was announced at last year’s conference.
The Richmond Virginia Temple will be the first in the state of Virginia, which is home to nearly 100,000 LDS members and dates its Mormon roots back to the early 1840s.
The Salta Argentina Temple will be the third Mormon temple in the South American country, following the first in Buenos Aires in 1986 and the second in Córdoba in 2015. Argentina is home to 44 million residents, with the LDS Church membership there at 450,000.
The Cagayan de Oro Philippines Temple will be the fifth in that country — two operating temples are in Manila and Cebu, with announced temples in the Greater Manila area and Urdaneta. The church in the Philippines counts 750,000 members and 101 stakes.
LDS temples differ from meetinghouses, with temple worship, instruction and religious rites therein only allowed for church members in good standing.
Two LDS temples are scheduled to be dedicated later this year — the Concepción Chile Temple on Oct. 28, and the Barranquilla Colombia Temple on Dec. 9. Last week, the church announced a public open house and dedication schedule for the Rome Italy Temple in early 2019.
Eleven of the 159 operating temples are currently closed for renovation, with two set for rededication in the next two months — the Houston Texas Temple on April 22 after interior repairs due to last year’s flooding, and the Jordan River Utah Temple on May 20.
Other temples closed for renovations are in Asunción, Paraguay; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Frankfurt, Germany; Memphis, Tennessee; Oakland, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Raleigh, North Carolina; Tokyo, Japan; and Washington, D.C. The Mesa Arizona and Hamilton New Zealand temples will similarly close later this year. The Deseret News' Trent Toone contributed to this report.