This week in Mormon Land: Predicting the next temples, releasing new Book of Mormon videos, reaching out to doubters

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A glimpse at season three of Book of Mormon Videos filming in Hawaii. Alma the Elder baptizes in the Waters of Mormon.

The Mormon Land newsletter is a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whether heralded in headlines, preached from the pulpit or buzzed about on the back benches. Want this free newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.

Temple predictions

(Rick Bowmer, AP file photo) In this April 6, 2019, file photo, the Angel Moroni sits atop the Salt Lake Temple. Many Latter-day Saint temple include this iconic statue.

President Russell M. Nelson already has revealed at least one “surprise” for next month’s General Conference: New temples will be announced.

The big question, always, is where they will be built.

Well, Matt Martinich, an independent demographer who tracks church growth at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, has come up with “10 most likely locations for new temples” to be named from the Conference Center pulpit next month:

  • Benin City, Nigeria.

  • Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

  • Monrovia, Liberia.

  • Freetown or Bo, Sierra Leone.

  • Angeles, Philippines.

  • Bacolod, Philippines.

  • Colorado Springs, Colo. (wishful thinking or lobbying, Matt, for your hometown?)

  • Rogers, Ark.

  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

  • Tarawa, Kiribati.

Since taking the church’s reins 20 months ago, Nelson has announced 27 additional temples.

Listening and loving

By Common Consent blogger Scott Bosworth shares a heartfelt talk he gave in sacrament meeting about a friend whose doubts eventually led him away from the faith and ended his marriage — not only because of his disbelief but also, it seems, because his loved ones refused to discuss his questions and concerns.

“It is not tragic in the church when someone believes or feels differently about doctrine X or Y or Z,” Bosworth writes, “but instead when the reaction to that belief leads to marginalization and isolation and eventually to an empty spot in the pew.”

He then reminds members who may be feeling that “something about the church” doesn’t work for them to know that they’re not alone.

“There are lots of other people, far more than you think, who ... know what you are feeling,” Bosworth concludes. “And if you need to talk, please talk with me. … You are welcome — here, in our pews, but also in our home and at our dinner table. You are our people.”

Read the full talk here.

This week’s podcast: The Russian evolution

(Michael Stack | Special to The Salt Lake Tribune) Red Square at dusk, the Kremlin, seat of the government, left, and St. Basil’s Cathedral on the right.

The Salt Lake Tribune ran a special three-part series this week on the challenges Western faiths, including the LDS Church, face in Russia, a nation dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church.

One of the biggest obstacles — if not the biggest — is the government’s ban on public proselytizing by so-called outsider religions. Latter-day Saint missionaries, for instance, are called “volunteers.”

David Stewart, an independent demographer who served a mission in St. Petersburg and co-founded The Cumorah Project, which tracks, among other things, Latter-day Saint growth around the world, discusses the status of Mormonism in Russia on this week’s podcast.

Listen here.

Check out The Tribune’s series, too:

  • Part 1 explains what Western faiths are up against in Russia.

  • Part 2 explores the future of Mormonism there.

  • Part 3 examines why building a temple in Russia will be a tall order.

The ‘exed’ files

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lavina Fielding Anderson, who was excommunicated in 1993 as part of the so-called September Six, has had her request for rebaptism rejected by the faith's governing First Presidency after being approved by her local lay leaders. Anderson was photographed at her Salt Lake City home with the work of her late husband, Paul L. Anderson, on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019.

She attends church every week. She plays the piano. She sings in the choir. She has the backing of her bishop and stake leaders.

But Lavina Fielding Anderson can’t be baptized.

Or, rather, rebaptized.

The governing First Presidency has rejected her request for readmission more than a quarter century after she was excommunicated as part of the so-called September Six, a half-dozen writers and scholars disciplined by the church in 1993 for their writings.

“I have kept my covenants, remained close to the church and have felt that what I have done is accepted by the Lord,” Anderson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “If there is unfinished business, it’s the First Presidency’s, not mine.”

95 candles

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints President Russell M. Nelson addresses the congregation at the close of the gala celebrating his 95th birthday, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

In 1924, Ellis Island’s entry point closed, and the first Winter Olympics opened. Vladimir Lenin and Woodrow Wilson died. Jimmy Carter and Russell M. Nelson were born.

Latter-day Saints celebrated their prophet-president’s 95 years of life with a lively celebration of salutes and songs — three days ahead of his actual Sept. 9 birthday — at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

The headliners included pop star Donny Osmond, tenor Nathan Pacheco and the harmonizing Bonner Family, along with apostles Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring and M. Russell Ballard.

The birthday boy himself — a renowned heart-surgeon-turned-religious-leader — showed his musical chops, too, by playing a Chopin prelude on the piano.

Nelson’s return gift to the appreciative audience: his testimony.

“If I have learned anything certain, it is that Jesus the Christ is the son of God [and] his church has been restored in the latter days to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior.”

Temple updates

(Rendering courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Saratoga Springs Temple.

• Ground will be broken Oct. 19 on the 87,000-square-foot Saratoga Springs Temple, according to a news release.

Three other temples are planned in Utah — in Layton, Tooele County and Washington County — bringing the Beehive State temple tally to 21.

• The newly renovated and expanded Frankfurt Temple, one of two in Germany, will be rededicated Oct. 20 after a public open house from Sept. 13 through Sept. 28.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The newly renovated Frankfurt Germany Temple.

• The president of the Nuku'alofa Temple in Tonga died Sept. 5 due to complications from pneumonia, the church announced.

Taniela A. Langi had been overseeing the temple with his wife, ’Anaseini V. Langi, since 2016.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Taniela A. Langi and his wife, ’Anaseini V. Langi. Taniela, president of the Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple, died Sept. 5.

Lights, camera, scriptures

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A look at season three of Book of Mormon Videos filming in Goshen, Utah. Alma the Younger records his testimony.

Netflix can take a back seat next week for Book of Mormon lovers.

Starting on Sept. 20, videos from the church’s live-action series’ first and second seasons — covering 1 Nephi through Enos in the faith’s foundational text — will be released every Friday through Dec. 27.

More videos, including seasons three and four, will come out next year and in 2021.

“Season one was really exciting because we shot the story of Nephi and Lehi’s journey through the wilderness. In season two, we were able to capture a lot of really great doctrines and teachings,” senior producer Aaron Merrell said in a news release. “ … [For season three] it’s the best of both worlds. It’s packaged around beautiful stories about people living the principles of the gospel.”

The third season focuses on the scriptural “dream team” of King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma and Amulek.

“As I’m directing the scene … I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’m so thankful that I’m seeing this.’ I’ve read the book many times, but just to see it come to life is awesome, and I think people all over the world are going to respond to that,” director Adam Anderegg said in the release. “It’s not necessarily a dramatization of the scriptures — it’s a visualization of the scriptures.”

Reyna Aburto, second counselor in the all-female Relief Society’s general presidency, is excited that the videos will “bring the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all corners of the world.”

Watch the trailer here.

Republican rule

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rod Decker talks about his new book, "Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room," during the Sunstone Symposium at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

Back in Brigham Young’s day, Mormons often called the political shots in the Utah Territory. In a very real sense, former television reporter Rod Decker argues, they still do.

“Utah is the most religiously polarized electorate of any state in America,” Decker, author of the newly released “Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room,” said during a recent talk about his book at the annual Sunstone Symposium. “It’s sort of a pale reenactment of territorial times. We have a Latter-day Saints party; we have a non-Mormon party. We call them different [names] — now we call them Republicans and Democrats.”

Polls repeatedly have shown Latter-day Saints — in Utah and across the nation — are reliably Republican, but Jana Riess’ Next Mormon Survey indicates that more and more younger members — though still relatively conservative compared to the rest of the electorate — are leaning Democratic.

Farewell salute

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A Boy Scout salutes the American flag at the Scouting Commemoration Gala on Sept. 3, 2019.

The Boy Scouts of America honored the church recently even as the Utah-based faith prepares to sever its centurylong ties to the youth organization.

“It’s our way of celebrating and saying thank you for the partnership we have had,” Mike Surbaugh, BSA’s chief Scout executive, said in a news release. “ … Scouting is better because of the church.”

Latter-day Saint leaders are poised to unveil a new global program for children and youths in a special broadcast Sept. 29.

“If I didn’t have so much excitement about the future and knowing what the church is going to do [starting next year], I’d be very sad,” apostle Ronald A. Rasband said about the approaching end of the faith’s 106-year partnership with Scouting. “I have wonderful feelings of the legacy of Scouting, and I have a tremendous anticipation about the new worldwide initiative.”

Quote of the week

(Michael Stack | Special to The Salt Lake Tribune) Boris Leostrin, president of the St. Petersburg LDS Stake.

“It’s like snow in April, but winter is not coming back.”

— Boris Leostrin, president of the St. Petersburg Stake, on the challenges facing the church in Russia.

Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.