Insights into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Story 2023-04-11 - The Salt Lake Temple - May 15, 2023 Update

Construction continues on temple square and at other locataions near Temple Square.

For those who are not familiar with church properties in downtown Salt Lake City, I made the following diagram. Adjacent to temple square are other blocks (also square) that are owned by the church. I decided to give the other blocks a 'square' name (no one else uses these names). East of Temple Square is "Office Square" where many church offices are located. North of Temple Square is the Conference Center, which I have named "Conference Square." West of Temple Square is another square, with two important buildings. The first is the Church History Museum (where historical artifacts (other than books are kept), and the Family Search Library (formerly known as the "Family History Library")

Temple Square Construction
The west side of the temple. The temple spires on the east and west sides of the temple are now missing. The "arm at the left carries electrical and water inside the temple. This closeup shows the granite stones behind the scaffolding.
Decorative precast concete panels. Purpose: Unknown. The panels are lying on the new temple foundation. Workmen arrive at the top floor of the exterior elevator near the southwest corner of the temple.
North View of the Temple from the Conference Center South View of the Temple
The north extension of the temple reaches ground level. Only skylights will be above ground level. The extension is three stories tall and will house offices, baptismal fonts etc. Like the north extension of the temple, the Temple Experience Visitor Center (just beyond the workmen) is mostly underground with some extension beyond ground level. The steep hill to the left goes down to the temple foundation.
The northwest garden area designed for peaceful meditation is progressing. The building show here is a part of that area. It is not clear to me what is planned for in interior beyond, temple views and restrooms. Planter boxes with water lines and ligting are under construction.
Temple Square
The Assembly Hall - A large and ornate Chapel. The building is used when the tabernacle is simply too big. The original meeting place built after the Saints came to Utah. It was finished in 1867. It is the home of the "Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra and Bells on Temple Square." The building was etensively renovated in 2003-2004. Before the remodeling many thousands were baptized in the tabernacle (including myself). My father documented how the roof was constructed as his thesis in Civil Engineering in the 1940s.
Office Square
Joseph Smith Memorial Building - Once this was the Hotel Utah, but was remodeled for offices, banquet areas, and other uses, while retaining the Roof Restaurant with the best views of Temple Square.
The Church Office Building tower was opened in 1972 and dedicated in 1975. At 420 feet tall it was the tallest building in Salt Lake City for many years. It contains most, but not all of the church offices in the Salt Lake City area.
Church Administration Building - Offices for the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. The Lion House and Beehive House are pioneer residences which remain on Office Square. Both are now being renovated.
View of the construction entrance between the Relief Society Building and the Church Office Building Tower The largest part of the Office Building Plaza is 100% complete. The only areas to finish are the construction entrances from South and North Temple streets. This should be complete this summer.
Conference Square
The Conference Center. Construction begain on July 24, 1997 and was completed in 2000. City Creek which runs trough the area is partially surfaced along the south side of th Conference Center.
Other Nearby Buildings
The Church History Museum - The museum houses historical artifacts excluding books. Family Search Library - The wold's largest collection of geneological records.

Story 2023-04-11 - The Salt Lake Temple Renovation Project reaches the halfway point

On April 11, the deseret news reported that the renovation project for the Salt Lake Temple had reached the half-way point as the final concrete was placed for the new footings on which the base-isolators will sit which will support the temple. Concrete deliver trucks brought in 1600 cubic yards of concrete (that requires about 160 truck loads.) The pour was difficult because lots of re-bar had been placed before the concrete was poured. Rebar is used because while concrete had tremendous compressive strength, it has poor tensil strength. You can't compress it much but if you can get a hold of it you can tear it appart. The rebar provides greater tensil strength.

The author once helped his father pour 4 feet of concrete through holes that had been drilled in the floor above to provide extra protection from a high energy radiation system that was being instsalled a the University of Utah Medical center. We could not see through the floor or observe the conctrate from below as forms were there holding the concrete in place. Large cuts had been made in the concrete walls to allow the concrete to flow out into the wall so that the new concrete could be held in place as the new ceiling above the radiation machine. It was a blind pour and we could not be certain that the concrete had flowed into the walls properly. We had to wait 28 days before we could remove the forms from the outside walls to see how well the concrete had dlowed into the walls. The pour had not gone smoothly because of continuous clogging of the concrete pumper. We had reasons to be worried. Thankfully the concrete had flowed well enough into the walls that we did not have to start over 9a financial disaster).

At the temple the pour flowed in under the temple walls and extended many feet outward from the walls. The depth of the footing was six feet. A typical home had footings of about 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Story: 2023-04-03: A Look at Church Statistics for the year ending December 31, 2022

On Saturday afternoon of the April General Conference the church releases "on-line" the annual statistics for the prior year. What follows is a discussion of those results. A year ago the church announced membership by continent and country. I could not find a update to those numbers this year. One thing is certain, North and South America have more than 80% of total church membership based on data from 2021.  

The year 2022 saw strong improvement in church membership metrics as the world came out of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. Church membership topped 17 million for the first time. It would be nice if the church reported the number of "Children of Record Baptized", rather than number of "Children of Record born,"as we could infer some other important statistics from that.

As convert baptims accelerated from recent years, the total topped seventeen million for the first time
The number of missions worldwide has been in the 400-421 range since the required expanions which were required when the missionary age was lowered to 18 for young men and 19 for young wormen.
The rebound from 2020 when many missionaries were recalled due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is simkply stunning.
The number of baptisms per missionary almost returned to 2019 levels, which was the highest level since 2013.
The rebound in baptisms tracks well with the rebound in the number of full time missionaries serving
The number of Church Serivce Missionaries dropped by almost seven thousand. I don't have an explaination for this decline.
Clearly people did not want to have children in 2020, but things returned to a more normla level in 2021 and 2022. It's just a fluke that the 2022 and 2023 number are almost identical.
The number of temples dedicated in 2022 was 5. This number must increase going forward. There are about 320 temples in operation or announnced. There are 175 temples dedicated as of the end of 2022. That leaves about 145 temples that have been announced, site disclosed, ground broken, in construction or complete but not yet dedicated.

Story 2023-01-28 - The Church releases new photos from Temple Square

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released new photos from elevated locations around temple square. These photos now offer a look into what is being done on main street.
Photo from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (JSMB) looking northwest shows the huge new fountain which is replacing the old one, just east of the temple. The new temple north of the original building is laying out the second floor (of three floors) mostly below ground level. This is the area for administration, baptistry, and sealing rooms. This photo also from the JSMB looking mostly west and a little north clearly shows the new "Visitor Experience Center" on the left side.
Photo looking east from perhaps the temple, shows the new main street fouintain (lower center) and the Church Administration plaza (which is mostly complete.) Photo from the Conference Center looking mostly south and a little east shows much of temple square. A lot of snow sits in the northwest quadrant where a new garden area is built to allow peacful meditation on temple sduare. This garden area is largely where the former North Visitor Center once stood.
Story 2022-12-04 - Presiding Bishopric takes Siteing, Construction and Maintenance Responsibility for Temples
I don't know when this change was made, but I just learned that the Office of the Presiding Bishopric now has all responsibilities with the site selection, design construction and maintenance of Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first presidency still approves site selection and design, but the Office of the Presiding Bishopric selects the site.

President Hinckley liked to visit the selected sites before approval when possible. For instance he traveled to Vancouver B.C. Canada to view the site for the temple. The group stopped at a church to use the restroom and there were some sisters in the building and could not believe the President of the Church had stopped by. They correctly comcluded a temple was on the way for their city.

The temple department formerly had this responsibility, but now their function is focused on supporting the needs of Temple Presidencies.

With the speed of new temples being announced this change makes sense, not to mention that the Presidiing Biishopric has offices all around the world.

Story 2022-11-25: The Sealing Rooms at the Payson Utah Temple seem popular.
On Saturday November, 18, Sherry and I traveled to the Payson Utah Temple, for the sealing of her nephew. We'd been here before for the sealing of my cousin not long after the temple opened. The couple, who grew up in Riverton, chose the Payson Temple for the beauty of its sealing rooms. The days before Thanksgiving week are popular for weddings, but the Payson temple were crowded with weddings on the day we visited. The fountain ourtside the front side of the temple is also a fine place for photographs.

The sealing rooms take the temple's top floor, and the endowment rooms are on the second floor. The San Diego Temple also follows the pattern of the sealing rooms being above the celestial room. There is a direct elevator from the first floor to the third floor. The large marriage waiting room is located in the center of the third floor, with sealing rooms around it along the outside walls. The glass allows significant light into the rooms, and the glass wall is rounded in the four rooms in the middle of each wall. The rooms are indeed very attractive. I don't know if the Payson Utah floor plan has been used anywhere else.

Story 2022-11-23/2: New missions to start operations July 1, 2023
Most new missions are located in Africa, where church growth is strongest. They include:
Story 2022-11-23/1: A New Course for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
The Church announced a new vision for the Choir going forward. Under the direction of the Choir President Michael O. Levitt, the new vision includes: The Choir presidency earlier this year announced new "high-level" objectives including:
  1. Expand the digital audience
  2. Magnify the Choir's missionary role.
  3. Ensure the Choir reflects the Church's worldwide mission
  4. Increase Worldwide visibility
Story 2022-11-15: An Update on the Progress of the Renovation of the Salt Lake City Utah Temple
There are now four tall cranes on temple square, one is just on the west side of the former north-south walkway. Christmas at Temple Square will be very limited due to all of the construction and I suspect there will be some on Temple Square (near the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall) and at the Conference Center. I also saw a few lights forming trees being assembled on the west side of the Church History Library.
Tower cranes galore above Temple Square. Taken from the southeast corner of NorthTemple and Main Street
Temple - From the outside, it looks much like it did six months ago. However, there is now a large pipe, 6-8 feet in diameter, that appears to run East-West under the center of the temple, below the 'Jack and Bore' pipes. Those pipes have been constructed to hold the temple in the air while the base isolators are installed. The spires on the east side are shrouded in material, suggesting some is being done there that requires temperature control or perhaps just for winter protection.

New Temple Construction (north of the temple) - This area has not progressed much in the last 6 months, beyond the completion of the second floor (from the bottom). I had expected to see much more progress here. This new part of the temple will be the location of two baptismal fonts. The new floor meets the opening of the tunnel to the Conference Center) right in the middle, suggesting access to both the bottom and the floor above it from the conference center parking structure may be in the works.

View from South Temple A six-foot pipe runs out the west side, below the 'jack and bore' holes
The newly constructed addition to the temple will include offices, locker rooms, and two baptismal fonts, among other things North Side of the Temple
View of west end of the temple near the Tabernacle Second floor above ground for the North Temple Addition
Just to the left of the center, you can see the tunnel under North Temple. Note the second floor bisects the tunnel near the center point Workers near the top of the temple foundation above the 'jack and bore' holes.
Visitor Center - South of the Temple - Excavation in this area started six months ago and now the concrete walls are up to ground level. The Church released more details on the center's nature a few months ago, calling it a “Perpetual Temple Open House.”
The construction entrance off South Temple is in the foreground and the ramp indicates just how far below ground- level excavation was done. To the left behind the red and white barricades is where Southeast Corner of Temple Square, where the old South Visitor Center once stood and it is the new Visitor Center is being constructed. The new visitor center foundation walls are almost complete as it rises from temple square ground level.
The Garden Area north of the Tabernacle suggests it will be something like the Church Office Building plaza but with more trees and plants. A small building in this area is under onstruction in the northwest corner.
A concrete foundation is being laid down, covered with plastic. The photo shows a walkway into the new area. A star (or snowflake) design is visible, with what appears to be electric conduits.
A small building is being constructed near the west wall. This building was part of the early renderings of the New Temple Square. Many construction materials are on site, including rebar, indicating much more concrete to come. A large pile of dirt also remains, suggesting it will be used as fill dirt.
The Church Office Building plaza has progressed. The gate and entrances from State Street are now in place, and much of the central plaza is nearing completion. The area between the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Church Administration building is still an entry for construction vehicles. The space between the Relief Society Building and the Church Office Tower is also largely untouched. Views of the work on the main street area is unavailable except in elevated locations (such as uppper floors of the Jospeh Smith Memprial building).
Alleyway along the west side of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at South Temple Alleyway along the west side of the Relief Society Building at North Temple
The center gate along State Street to the new Church Office Building Plaza The fence along State Street is complete for the Church Office Building Plaza
Story: 2022-05-09: An Update on the Progress of the Renovation of the Salt Lake City Utah Temple
The temple remains surrounded by scaffolding which is attached to the temple's foundation. There is an elevator near the southwest corner and there are stairs in some locations for moving between levels.

Progress on the new underground portion of the temple is proceeding north of the temple. The basement floor is in place, and concrete walls have risen beyond the bottom. Three concrete pumping assist devices are permanently located here, as I've never seen before.

The old North Visitor Center has wholly disappeared. The north wall of Temple Square is gone except for a 20-foot section. A construction truck entry now exists on the north side. The entry is near West Temple extending to the middle of the block. Construction in the northwest corner of Temple Square has started. This area north of the Tabernacle has been designed for gardens, but some building construction has creeped into the site formerly occupied by the North Visitors Center. I also spotted a pile driver at the west end of the area formerly occupied by the visitor's center. Generally, these machines are used to prepare for a tall building or object, but can be used to strengthen weak ground.

Surrprisingly, the plaza that fills the space between the Church Office Building, Church Administration Building, and the Joseph Smith Memorial building is not yet complete. It is still an active construction zone. New landscaping is being installed on the north and east sides of the Church Office Building tower.

Excavation is now starting south of the temple for a new Visitor Center.

Can the Salt Lake Temple be rededicated in 2025, perhaps, but there is a tremendous amount of work yet to complete.

The main street plaza is now closed. Small walkways are provided from the north to the Relief Society building and from the south to the Joseph Smith memorial building. If this lasts through Christmas, there won't be much to "the lights on Temple Square" in 2022.

View from the Northwest Corner of the Temple The new section north of the temple rises. You can see the tunnel to the conference center on the left side of the photo
Pictured is one of three concrete pump booms on the temple's north side. These help trasport concrete to the desired location. There are three of these on the north side of the temple. Construction is now taking place where the old North Visitor Center was located.
This is a view of the lower portion of the west end of the temple. The circular holes at the bottom will have steal strands placed through them from side to side. These steel ropes will hold the temple in the air while the base isolators (that guard agaist earthquake dammage) are installed. The north wall of the temple
The North Visitor’s Center once stood here. Note the new sheet of concrete that has been placed here. The Conference Center is in the background. Excavation is starting on the south side of the temple for the new Visito's Center. 
Spring Flowers on Temple Square - Only found between the Tabernacle and the Assembly Hall and around the Assembly Hall Temple Square from the Conference Center
Temple Square Tours are now at the Conference Center Work on the Plaza is ongoing.
Story: 2022-04-14: A Look at Church Statistics for the year ending December 31, 2021
During General Conference, the Church announced membership statistics by continent. This data surprised me. Note: You can also drill down into individual countries within a continent. The data source. Here's the continent data:
CONTINENT Members % of Total Missions % of Total Temples % of Total
Worldwide 16,805,400 100% 407 100% 170 100%
North America 9,489,479 56% 174 43% 112 66%
South America 4,232,425 25% 97 24% 21 12%
Europe 500,239 3% 34 8% 13 8%
Asia 1,259,094 7% 45 11% 8 5%
Pacific Islands 587,462 3% 18 4% 10 6%
Africa 736,701 4% 39 10% 5 3%
Here's what surprised me:
  • 81% of church members live in the western hemisphere. The church is predominantly a western hemisphere church.
  • All of Europe constitutes only 3% of church members!
  • There are MORE than a million members in Asia. Yes, ok, don't get too excited. There are over 4 billion people in Asia!
  • Africa has a larger percentage of Church Members than either of Europe or the Pacific Islands which includes Tonga where more than 50% of the population are church members.

Looking at traditional church statistics. We'll start with missionary work; because that is most interesting for 2021.

The number of full-time missionaries serving increased a bit. While the Church knows roughly how many members are of a given age, that data is not public. Thus it is unknown what a reasonable number of missionaries is at this current time. However, based on conference talks, you would have to assume that the church knows this number should be higher. With the pandemic seemingly past us, the number serving as full-time missionaries should grow during 2022.

The significant increase in the number of convert baptisms in 2021 over 2020 clearly indicates that the Church has learned how to use social media and live video to proselyte successfully. The number of convert baptisms in 2021 was more than three times that of 2020, a remarkable achievement. The increase in the number of convert baptisms iumped from 2.1 per missionary to 3.2, a rate that equals 2015 when there was no pandemic to deal with.

One of the stranger statistics that the church distributes is the number of children born to church members that were recorded on church records. Clearly the lockdowns of 2020 resulted in a large rebound of the number of children born in 2021! A more interesting statistic would be the number of children or record baptized. That's a value we don't know. With it one could determine the number of members who died or were excommunicated (oops wrong term, the proper term is membership terminated).

The forgoing charts explain the increase in church membership at the end of 2021 versus the close of 2020. The overall growth rate during 2020 and 2021 was smaller than in previous years.

The number of part-time church service missionari.first announced in 2010. The number has been in the 30,000s since 2015.

The number of church missions grew by just two during 2021 and the number for 2022 will likely be four. The two announced in January (Laie, Hawaii and Rwanda Kigali Mission) and the two announced during spring conference (Bristol England (a re-opening) and Spain North Central. It is quite uncommon for new missions to be announced at spring conference. The large jump in 2013 was due to the reduction in the age for missionary service.

There were two temple dedications during 2021 (Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada and Pocatello, Idaho) There was one rededication during 2021 the Mesa Arizona Temple. With so many new temples under construction, these values will be skyrocketing in the years to come. The Rio de Janerio temple was ready for dedication in early 2020, but the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic postposed it to 2022. The open house in Rio is now underway and it will finally be dedicated in May 2022.