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Why President Russell M. Nelson is assigning an unprecedented number of other apostles to dedicate temples

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints places mortar during the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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What President Russell M. Nelson is doing now with the dedication of temples never has been done before in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Nelson continues to utilize the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to dedicate temples.

Nine different leaders have dedicated the 11 temples that have opened during his presidency. That diversity in dedications has been matched just once before, at the very beginning of church history, but comparing what happened then with what President Nelson is doing now is comparing apples to anvils.

The first 11 temples were dedicated by nine different leaders — across 119 years and the administrations of nine church presidents. President Nelson has matched that in the first four years of a single prophetic administration, and he will surpass it next year.

And he already has assigned a 10th leader, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Twelve, to dedicate the 12th temple finished during his administration, the Rio de Janeiro Temple, in May.

In all other eras of church history, church presidents or counselors in the First Presidency have dedicated most temples, partially as a way for senior leaders to visit church members around the world.

Why does President Russell M. Nelson assign other apostles to dedicate so many temples?

President Nelson has said he assigns other apostles to dedicate new temples as a way to be inclusive.

He has dedicated two temples — in Rome and Concepción, Chile. He has assigned the other nine dedications completed so far to eight other leaders. He assigned Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — the first Latin American apostle — to dedicate temples in Brazil and Peru.

“Have you ever been a father? Taken the children on a fishing trip?” he said in a 2019 interview. “Are you happy catching fish? Are you happier watching your children catch fish? I get more joy out of the fact Ulisses Soares dedicated the Fortaleza Temple than if I’d done it. I really do. I’m so happy he’s had that experience.”

It’s important to revisit those first 119 years of church history for context.

Eight of the 11 temple dedications performed in the time were done by church presidents. Remarkably, Brigham Young never dedicated a temple. (Bold indicates a leader’s first temple dedication. * indicates church president at time of dedication):

  • 1836 Kirtland Temple — Joseph Smith Jr.*
  • 1846 Nauvoo Temple — Orson Hyde
  • 1877 St. George Utah Temple — Daniel H. Wells
  • 1884 Logan Utah Temple — — John Taylor*
  • 1888 Manti Utah Temple — Lorenzo Snow
  • 1893 Salt Lake Temple — Wilford Woodruff*
  • 1919 Laie Hawaii Temple — Heber J. Grant*
  • 1923 Cardston Alberta Temple — Heber J. Grant*
  • 1927 Mesa Arizona Temple — Heber J. Grant*
  • 1945 Idaho Falls Idaho Temple — George Albert Smith*
  • 1955 Bern Switzerland Temple — David O. McKay*

Compare that to President Nelson’s administration.

The two dedications conducted immediately before President Nelson became church president in January 2018 were done by two additional leaders, President Henry B. Eyring and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, which means the church now has seen the last 13 temples dedicated by an unprecedented 11 different leaders.

Here is a list of who has dedicated temples during President Nelson’s administration:

  • 2018 Concepción Chile Temple — President Nelson*
  • 2018 Barranquilla Colombia Temple — President Dallin H. Oaks
  • 2019 Rome Italy Temple — President Nelson*
  • 2019 Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple — Elder Dale G. Renlund
  • 2019 Fortaleza Brazil Temple — Elder Soares
  • 2019 Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple — Elder David A. Bednar
  • 2019 Lisbon Portugal Temple — Elder Neil L. Andersen
  • 2019 Arequipa Peru Temple — Elder Soares
  • 2020 Durban South Africa Temple — Elder Ronald A. Rasband
  • 2021 Winnipeg Manitoba Temple — Elder Gerrit W. Gong
  • 2021 Pocatello Idaho Temple — President M. Russell Ballard

In May, the Rio de Janeiro Temple will make it 12 leaders dedicating the previous 14 new temples. Elder Stevenson will be the seventh leader assigned by President Nelson to dedicate a temple for the first time in their ministries. That, too, is unprecedented.

(Note: The existing Mesa Arizona Temple on Dec. 12 and Washington D.C. Temple on June 19 are scheduled to be rededicated. They are not included here because they are rededications.)

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Behind the Scenes

McLean House was the home where Robert E. Lee signed the surrender terms drafted by Ulysses S. Grant.
The reporting trip to cover President Dallin H. Oaks’ talk at the University of Virginia last week afforded an opportunity to visit Appomattox Court House, the village where Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee in 1865, the beginning of the end of the Civil War. Six days later, President Lincoln was assassinated. This photo is of the McLean House, where Grant sat and wrote out the terms and Lee signed them.
Tad Walch, Deseret News