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Several decisions about the Salt Lake Temple announced last week by the First Presidency did not get the same attention from media and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they might have if made separately.
First and foremost, the bottom line is that the temple’s capacity will increase dramatically.
“We anticipate the temple will be able to accommodate more than double the usual number of patrons,” according to a Q&A document issued along with the church’s news release.
Several of the other underreported developments tie into that bottom line:
Moving and doubling the baptistry
Before the coronavirus pandemic erupted, the baptismal fonts in many Latter-day Saint temples were in high demand.
“Temple baptistries are busier than ever. Some temples have even had to adjust their schedules to accommodate the increase in the number of young people attending the temple,” President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, said during the April 2016 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The increase in youth doing baptisms for deceased ancestors over the previous decade had led many to ask the question, Have church leaders ever thought of adding a second font to a temple?
Of course they had, and last week the First Presidency acted, announcing that an additional font will be added to the historic Salt Lake Temple during the ongoing four-year renovation project.
The two baptismal fonts will be located on the lower level of what will be a new temple annex north of the main temple. This is not unusual. Many temple baptistries are located outside temple buildings in annexes and connected by hallways. They are dedicated as part of the temple.
The number of sealing rooms in the Salt Lake Temple will increase from 13 to 23, according to the Q&A.
The largest of those rooms will accommodate marriage parties up to 75 people. In all, the temple will be able to perform more marriages with more wedding guests.
The big headline last week was that the church was discontinuing the progressive, room-to-room live presentation of the endowment that was being used only in the Salt Lake Temple and Manti Utah Temple.
What went less noticed was the temple now will have five instruction rooms that can accommodate a total of 750 people, approximately doubling the capacity for endowment ceremonies.
It’s also worth noting that before the temple closed for renovation, endowments sessions began once an hour, on the hour. With five instruction rooms, sessions will begin every 20-30 minutes, adding more flexibility for the increased number of temple patrons.
The current location of the baptistry will be moved, as noted above, to make room for the two new instruction rooms.
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What I’m reading ...
News broke today that 7-foot-6 former BYU and NBA player Shawn Bradley is paralyzed after the bike he was riding was struck by a car. Godspeed to his family.
The First Presidency authorized a new position in the church, giving approval for the Europe Area to call women to be international area organization advisers. The Church News reported that the Europe Area has called six women to the positions, from which they will provide mentoring to stake and ward women leaders and participate in leadership councils.
Jenny Reeder is an excellent church historian whose work on the history of women in the church I’ve written about a few times in the past. Now she has published a strong chapter for the book “First: The Life and Faith of Emma Smith.” LDS Living excerpted the chapter, which focuses strongly on her efforts with compiling the church hymnbooks. I learned a lot I didn’t know.
As a boy, I loved playing in stake and region softball and basketball tournaments. We won three region tournaments up on the Oregon/Washington border, but we weren’t so good in basketball. I was playing about a dozen or so years after the end of the All-Church tournaments, and I’ve always been fascinated by them. Here’s a look back by Jason Swensen to the last team to win the All-Church basketball title.
Football, or soccer to Americans, is something I learned to love on my mission to German in the 1980s. Jürgen Klinsmann was a star goal scorer at the time, and he’s written a new piece about two of today’s great strikers that puts the fun in football.
As I was writing about the endowment ceremony, I came across this interesting, thorough 2013 piece from the BYU Religious Studies Center called, “The Evolution of Sacred Space: The Changing Environment of the Endowment.” It was quite helpful.
Hat tip to my friend Steve Kingsolver, who posted this delightful and joyful ESPN piece on the great baseball hitter George Brett. I loved to read Brett stories, but I’d never heard this one, and it’s all true.