Friday, May 22, 2020

"Behold, mine house is a house of DISorder"

Shanghai, China

On April 4, 2020, in General Conference, Pres. Nelson provided details regarding the announced Shanghai, People’s Republic of China temple [1]:

"Context for the plan for Shanghai is very important. For more than two decades, temple-worthy members in the People’s Republic of China have attended the Hong Kong China Temple. But in July 2019, that temple was closed for long-planned and much-needed renovation.

In Shanghai, a modest multipurpose meeting place will provide a way for Chinese members to continue to participate in ordinances of the temple — in the People’s Republic of China — for them and their ancestors."

Yet two days later, the Shanghai Religious Affairs Bureau disaffirmed that a temple would be built in Shanghai. Its announcement stated (this is an unofficial, Google-based translation) [2]:

"1. According to the relevant laws and regulations of China, foreigners are not allowed to set up religious organizations and venues for religious activities in China.

2. The Mormon Church of the United States released information on the establishment of the so-called "Temple" in Shanghai. Our civil sect department was unaware of it."

Even Foreign Policy newsletter picked up on the discrepancy [3]:


The church did not comment on the Shanghai bureau’s statements [4]. This is confusing in light of the fact that even the church said (and spent considerable space detailing) that Pres. Nelson "enjoys a decades-long association with the People’s Republic of China." [5]

The Shanghai Temple is still not mentioned on the church's list of current and anticipated temples. This may be because the church is likely dedicating a portion of an existing facility to accommodate ordinances, not building a new structure. Thus, it is considered "a modest multipurpose meeting place," not a temple. [6] Equally bewildering is the Chinese government's treatment of Pres. Nelson's announcement, for even Pres. Nelson is quoted as saying, “The Chinese people value those long-term relationships, and I’m really pleased that I’m regarded here as one of their old friends.” [5]

This is not the first time the Church has announced a temple without obtaining permission from local officials. Orem, Utah's mayor was caught off-guard when a temple was announced in his city in October, 2019. Why all the secrecy? Because [7]


Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Another temple announced on April 4th is slated for Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It's based on an invitation by the UAE government.

"The plan for a temple in Dubai comes in response to their gracious invitation, which we gratefully acknowledge." [1]

The Arabian Peninsula isn't well-known for its overwhelming membership counts. The UAE only has 5 wards and 1 branch. [8]

The Church reportedly has 2,000-2,500 members spread out among two stakes and several districts in the Middle East, northern Africa, eastern Europe and western Asia. [9]

This mirrors circumstances found in other announced/constructed temples 

* The 40,000 square foot [10] Rome Temple, where Italian membership rolls total to around 27,486. Demand for temple ordinances is so scarce in this temple that patrons need to make an appointment. [11]

* The new temple in Okinawa, Japan, will likely have only one stake (five wards and three branches) and one district assigned to it as these are the only stakes and districts in the area. [12]

* The Russia Temple [13] will service only 23,300 members found in 3 stakes (2018) [14]. Missionaries are prohibited from proselyting there. [15] With activity rates between 17-23%, that leaves 5,359 active members (which includes children) in all of Russia. [16]



Tooele, UT

A third temple I'd like to highlight will be located in Tooele, Utah. Now, the Tooele Temple was announced on April 7, 2019. [17]

On May 5, 2020, the Church announced that it would develop a residential community to surround the temple. While the church's development of planned residential communities isn't new, what is surprising is its purpose [18]: 


I've never heard of real estate being an effective protection for temples. I think most would expect that to be God's job.


QUESTIONS


(First, some background: By my count, based on this page, there are 224 temples either operating, under renovation, being constructed or have been announced. Out of those 224 temples, 41 have been announced. The oldest announced (yet unconstructed) temple is the Harare Zimbabwe Temple, announced April 3, 2016) [19].

Why does the church consistently allow a considerable lag time between when it announces a temple and when the construction commences? While I understand the need for secrecy, it seems that announcing a temple before all the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed with local officials (1) seems a bit premature/presumptuous, and (2) forcing members (especially local members) to wait for 4+ years for some temples is a needlessly long wait. 

What does "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" [20] mean to you? Is the Savior just talking about making sure you have enough money in your bank account to build a tower, or could there be a bigger picture here?

If the Lord's "house is a house of order" [21], then why are we consistently encountering temple-related misspoken announcements, building delays, etc on a worldwide basis?

Why was "a modest multipurpose meeting place" in Shanghai, China announced alongside those of new temples? The positioning of this statement left members assuming the announcement was of a temple. Not only members, but the Chinese government, too. 

Please explain how real estate developments serve as protection for temples. What is the scriptural basis for this?

Why is the church (presumably) spending millions of dollars building temples in areas where there are hardly any members to fill them?

We are told, "And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God;" [22] If the house of God will require it being set in order at some future date (and we know it will be in the future, because "the inheritances of the saints" who are "enrolled in the book of the law of God" have not yet been officially arranged that I'm aware of), then that supposes the house of God is what? Perhaps not "set in order"?

1      https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/04/57nelson?lang=eng
2      http://mzzj.sh.gov.cn/hygq/20200411/630779280bae4e93a781c2bfe216bbe9.html
3      https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/22/china-respond-new-coronavirus-outbreaks-harbin-russia-imported-cases/
4      https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/04/29/plans-an-lds-temple/
5      https://www.thechurchnews.com/global/2020-01-29/president-nelson-reaches-out-to-china-responds-to-coronavirus-by-sending-protective-equipment-172935
6      https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/temples/list?lang=eng
7      https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/faith/orem-temple-announcement-catches-some-off-guard-excites-area-mayors/article_b712e802-9101-5c7a-9050-3fdeb0d6766d.html
8      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=229&cmdfind=Search
9      https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/church-announces-temple-united-arab-emirates
10      https://www.ucanews.com/news/diplomacy-seen-in-mormons-first-temple-in-china/87744
11      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=107&cmdfind=Search
12      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=view_other_articles&story_id=687&cat_id=30
13      https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/russia-temple/
14      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=179&cmdfind=Search
15      https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2019/09/09/missionaries-have-been/
16      https://cumorah.com/index.php?target=view_other_articles&story_id=465&cat_id=30
17      https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/tooele-valley-utah-temple/
18      https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/residential-community-near-tooele-valley-utah-temple
19      https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/temples/chronology/
20      Luke 14:28
21      D&C 132; 8, 18
22      D&C 85:7

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