Monday, March 26, 2018

President Nelson's April 2018 Worldwide Tour: Analysis

The Church announced on March 23rd that President Nelson, Elder Holland, and their spouses will undertake an 11-day international tour that circumscribes the globe from April 10th-23rd. The itinerary for the trip is as follows:
  • London, England (April 12th)
  • Jerusalem, Israel (April 14th)
  • Nairobi, Kenya (April 16th)
  • Harare, Zimbabwe (April 17th)
  • Bengaluru, India (April 19th)
  • Bangkok, Thailand (April 20th)
  • Hong Kong, China (April 21st)
  • Laie/Honolulu, Hawaii (April 22nd)
I provided some observations about President Nelson's first trip as President of the Church in a recent article published by The Salt Lake Tribune. However, I also want to provide some additional analysis:

First, all but two of the eight cities on the list have temples in operation or that are announced. Three of these cities - Bangkok, Harare, and Nairobi - are located in countries where no temple currently operates but where a temple is announced. An artistic rendering for the Bangkok Thailand Temple was recently released to reveal a stunning 44,000 square foot edifice that has even surprised local Thai members given its size for a country that has only four stakes, two districts, and 21,000 members. The temple appears very large even considering it will likely serve an additional 28,000 members in other Southeast Asian countries. Reports I have received from members in Kenya and Zimbabwe suggest that these temples in these locations may begin construction in the near future. It is possible that the Church may hold temple groundbreaking ceremonies in one or more of these locations as part of the international tour. President Nelson's visit to Jerusalem appears more symbolic than functional since there are less than 300 members in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and essentially stagnant growth has occurred for many years. However, it is interesting to note that a temple once functioned in Jerusalem during Old Testament and New Testament times. President Nelson's visit to Jerusalem will be the first in 22 years for a President of the Church since President Hinckley visited Israel in 1996.

Second, an announcement of a temple for India may be likely during this weekend's General Conference or during President Nelson and Elder Holland's visit to India. The Church in India has steadily grown during the past 15 years as membership has increased from 3,428 to 13,141 and the number of congregations has increased from 21 to 44. The Church organized its first stake in India in Hyderabad in 2012 and today has four stakes and three districts. There are also more than 4,000 members and three districts in Pakistan. Currently members in South Asia travel to the Hong Kong China Temple to participate in temple ordinances. However, a future temple in India appears more likely once there is a city with at least three stakes in order to adequate meet temple ordinance worker needs. Currently there are no cities in India with more than one stake.

Third, President Nelson and Elder Holland's trip to Hong Kong may provide opportunities for leadership training and meetings with People's Republic of China (PRC) members albeit such meetings would only be permitted if they were to occur in Hong Kong given prohibitions regarding association with PRC members and foreigners in mainland China. The Church in China has grown significantly since the first branches were organized in Beijing and Shanghai for PRC members in 2004. Most have joined the Church abroad or through family connections within the confides of the law. Today there are branches and member groups in many, if not most, of the 127 cities in mainland China inhabited by one million or more inhabitants. President Nelson also possesses special ties to China and previously studied Mandarin Chinese after feeling prompted to do so at President Spencer W. Kimball's request that members of the Church learn more about the Chinese people in 1979 (click here for more information).

Fourth, President Nelson and Elder Holland's worldwide tour does not include countries with the most Latter-day Saints in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania, nor does it include countries where the Church has reported the most rapid growth during the past 5-10 years. However, the tour does include the two most populous countries - China and India. Thus, emphasis on reaching the world's two most populous nations, in addition to temple building, may be an important theme that emerges from the tour.


cheyney webb said...

I encourage you to join twitter and tweet out your blog posts. Enjoy your analysis, think more folks would
enjoy reading ti.

Grant Emery said...

For some reason, I keep thinking President Nelson will redo his Special Witnesses video in Jerusalem. It seems fitting that the prophet's video be in the Holy Land. I just re-watched the old one, and he barely talks of Christ; his focus is the Abrahamic covenant. So, that might be one reason for the change.

Noel Shaw said...

In Europe he is visiting London,
Britain has the largest church membership in Europe.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I didn't realize that it had been so long that a standing prophet had not been to the Holy Land. Many of those years BYU and other college students were shut out of the Jerusalem Center because of violence and threats of hostility. Times have changed since September 2001.
I have always heard about the Apostles visiting the Holy sites of Palestine/Israel.
I hope I can make tremendous foreign visits at age 93!
I wonder how much press he will receive from India and China.
Or even Africa or the South Pacific.

John Pack Lambert said...

Well since President Nelson is not going to the South Pacific probably not much.I hope some press is received in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yeah, I know that Hawai'i is north of the equator, but I still consider it a part of greater Polynesia. What percent of Hawai'ian Saints hail from Samoa, Tonga, and the other Oceanic cultures that the PCC in Laie represent?
Also, good to see that the Prophet is visting both shores of Oahu. Any chance Honolulu would ever have it's own temple? I guess for transportation purposes Maui would make more sense.
How many members in Maui now?

James said...

As always, Matt, I very much appreciate your analysis, both in the newspaper article and again in this post. I don't find it accidental that President Nelson will be visiting Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Thailand as part of this tour, and I am grateful to hear that the members in Zimbabwe and Kenya have said that work on those temples might be underway soon.

With that said, with the site location and artist's rendering released for the Bangkok Thailand Temple, a groundbreaking may just be a matter of time. But my research indicates that the Church may wait on a groundbreaking for that temple perhaps until later this year, primarily because there is an existing building on the site that would need to be demolished and the site cleared before such a groundbreaking could occur. Could that be done within the two weeks or so before President Nelson's scheduled visit? Perhaps.

While I was a Welfare Services missionary, we received word that the Church-sanctioned efforts in which we were involved were going to be transferred to a room in the Deseret Industries specifically set aside for that purpose. The official change took effect roughly a month later. So I imagine if the contractor had sufficient notice that President Nelson was planning to conduct a groundbreaking while in Bangkok, he could do whatever was necessary to ensure the site will be cleared by that date.

I likewise hope that something similar could be true for the temples in Nairobi Kenya and Harare Zimbabwe. If the members there see that as being possible, I cannot doubt that it is so. But unless the site locations and artistic renderings are released for those temples within the next two weeks before the tour begins, there might potentially be more of a wait for either or both.

James said...

I also know that Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, who presides over the Africa Southeast Area of the Church had indicated shortly after the Zimbabwe temple was announced that a site announcement and groundbreaking was anticipated to occur in very short order in 2017. Since that did not happen, while I hope it could occur during President Nelson's time in Zimbabwe, I don't feel very confident at all that a groundbreaking will occur during that time. I would love to be proven wrong on that.

And shortly after the announcement of the Nairobi Kenya Temple (which is also waiting for a site announcement and artist's rendering), a media event was held, with Elder Joseph W. Sitati, our first native Kenyan general authority, fielding questions from the media, which was doubly fitting, as he is currently one of several Assistant Executive Directors in the Temple Department. During that meeting (if the information I found on it is accurate), he mentioned that it usually takes the Church 2-3 years at minimum following the announcement of any temple to have a site announced and a groundbreaking scheduled. If we take Elder Sitati at his word, then 2019 may be the earliest point at which the Nairobi temple might have a groundbreaking.

Of course, in addition to those general authorities that are familiar with the cities in question, I would certainly trust the members to be in the know regarding how close the temples in their areas may have a site confirmed and a groundbreaking announced. As we know, the sites for the second Manila temple and the temple in Brasilia were confirmed not long after their announcement last April.

There are a lot of very exciting and amazing things occurring in terms of temple progress. Another temple I am watching closely is the Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple. After that one was announced in April of 2016. I heard that the contractor indicated he would need a year of pre-planning with the site to get it ready for its' groundbreaking. If, as I also heard, that year began last March, we may soon see a groundbreaking scheduled for this temple.

And with the site confirmed for the Urdaneta Temple, if government approval goes through quickly enough, that will allow a groundbreaking for that temple as well. Aside from announced temples, I learned a few days ago that full-scale construction is likely to begin for the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple within the next month or less,

For those interested in my analysis of all such developments, with my thanks to Matt for allowing me to do so here, I post a general link to my blog, where I always welcome any and all feedback on things I cover there.

I have also outlined in another thread on this blog my reasons for believing that, even with all the changes in general Church leadership that President Nelson will be handling, new temples may very likely be announced. What an exciting time to be a member of this Church.

James said...

Eduardo, regarding your question about how many members the Church might have in the areas you mentioned, the statistical report of the Church for 2017 will be shared this weekend. After the general information is released, the Church will also publish many of those updated numbers you were asking about. I am not sure how they do it (perhaps by saving a draft of such changes in a safe place to subsequently be published), but the Church always seems to act very quickly in getting such specific data for different world cities, regions, and areas up on Mormon Newsroom not long after General Conference concludes. The statistical report presented each April is one of many things to which I look forward during General Conference.

Christopher Nicholson said...

Despite many years of stagnant growth or decline in France, the Le Chesnay Ward was recently created in the Paris France Stake. I think it's safe to assume that has something to do with the temple being dedicated there less than a year ago.

Grant Emery said...

Anyone have any idea whether the YW general presidency will be replaced? I know this conference marks 5 years. I wonder whether they'll postpone since they're already calling two apostles or not.

When the current YW general presidency was called, they made the bold move to call an international general board. It's been disappointing that the since-called RS and Primary general presidencies have not followed suit (though it was very possibly not given to them as their prerogatives). The bleeding-heart liberal that I am (not really, but I give that vibe), I would love to see the first non-white general auxiliary president be called. If I am correct, there has never been a non-white general president of any of the auxiliaries. I wouldn't say no to another international general board. (Though, admittedly, they have made an effort to include immigrants to the SLC area on the boards.)

Grant Emery said...

Also, I don't know if we're doing apostle guesses on here, but my predictions are:
(1) Elder Gong
(2) Bishop Caussé
(3) Elder Kearon
(4) Elder Yamashita (this one is wishful thinking, but I really like him)

Eduardo Clinch said...

I saw that Maui only has two stakes. And they fall under the Kona rather than Laie Temple. Not sure about the airport situation and which parts of the island fly easier to either Oahu or the Big Island, but I wish Maui could maybe develop at least another district and have their own temple.
I wonder if Maui attracts more LDS because of jobs and such, or more people move the other way to Oahu or the mainland?
On that note, about 3-4 years ago a real awful bully elder from Westville Utah by the last name Green chased a very nice and potentially great Elder Hill from the Hawai'i Mission. Perhaps Elder Hill would have gone on to baptize souls in Maui and the other islands; he was hazed out after the first 6 weeks and the poor mission president did not honor the necessary transfer request or correct Green or some of his other idiot cohorts.
Not to air too much dirty laundry, but I would still like to have a talk with this Green. He had better pray for forgiveness, like all of us need but some more than others.
Point is, hopefully the islands will continue to grow and progress despite the errors of some callous or weak howlie priesthood holders.
God bless us to heal from past errors and offenses.
Let us feel the "ha". Anyone recall that talk? Not sure how many years ago.

James said...

Grant, I do anticipate that the Young Women General Presidency will be changed, unless the calling of the new apostles and any subsequent Church leadership changes take up so much time that the First Presidency does not have a chance to make that change. In terms of potential candidates for the apostolic vacancy, in October, I compiled a long list and published it on my blog, and I have also recently added some additional context to those thoughts. I include a link to both posts below. But having offered these thoughts, I am ready and very excited to be able to sustain whomever the Lord has inspired President Nelson to call. It is sobering to think that if those calls have not been made yet, that could occur at any point in the next 26 hours or so. We have heard previous "new apostles" talk about being called as early as the Tuesday and as late as the day before General Conference. If I had to make a guess, I would venture my opinion that those calls have already been made. It will be exciting to see what happens there, and I hope that we all are ready to sustain those called, whether or not those individuals are among those on anyone's list.

Hope those links (and my thoughts and observations, such as they are) might be helpful to some of you. Whatever occurs during this General Conference, I will be doing my best to pass along updates throughout the conference.

And I am of the opinion, as noted elsewhere, that new temples will be announced. It is going to be an awesome weekend for sure. And looking ahead, it will likewise be interesting to see how the Women's Session might affect the typical layout of the Saturday evening Priesthood Session in October.

If I may make one more observation, anyone who has a hard time believing modern revelation actually happens have clearly not paid enough attention to all of the many things President Nelson's administration has done since they began serving together about 2.5 months ago. What I love most about being part of the Church is seeing how much these Brethren are actually in tune with the real problems facing all people of the world, whether they are Church members or not.

Mike Johnson said...

I have been wondering about what a temple in India might look like. I wonder how much one would borrow from the cultural motifs that are there.