This week in Mormon Land: Nelson turns 96, predicting the next apostles and temples, and a new anti-Trump push

(photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson speaks at the Saturday evening session of General Conference on April 4. 2020.

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.

Sixteen candles plus 80

(Photo courtesy of Russell M. Nelson) Russell M. Nelson as a young boy.

At 96, Russell M. Nelson is used to receiving birthday wishes, but he no doubt is getting many, many more since taking the church’s reins 32 months ago.

So the prophet-president took to social media Wednesday to post a picture of himself as a young boy and thank those well-wishers.

“I have been blessed richly with opportunities to meet and come to love God’s children all over the world. I have also witnessed many miracles and mercies from the Lord,” he wrote. “Many of you have wished me a happy birthday. I wish to thank you and express my love for all who read this. The Lord loves you, and I am a witness that he is in the details of our lives.”

So what has the heart-surgeon-turned-faith-leader accomplished in his 96 years? Well, he … oh, never mind. The list is too long. You can learn more about his life and his presidency here, here and here.

Who will be the next apostles?

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé gives a talk in 2017.

There are no current vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of course, but when the next spot does open up, Times and Seasons blogger Chad Nielsen has landed on a list of leading candidates.

After analyzing trends among previously selected apostles — including age, nationality, career and prior church service — Nielsen identified a half-dozen top prospects:

Jose L. Alonso, a 61-year-old native of Mexico who worked as a homeopathic physician and surgeon, with a degree in pediatric development, and now serves as a general authority Seventy.

Gérald Caussé, a 57-year-old Frenchman who, as presiding bishop, oversees the church’s vast financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations.

Carl B. Cook, a 62-year-old Utahn who worked in commercial real estate and now servces in the Presidency of the Seventy.

Carlos A. Godoy, a 59-year-old Brazilian with wide-ranging business experience who serves in the Presidency of the Seventy.

Patrick Kearon, a 59-year-old Englishman with communication and education experience who has lived and worked in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. and now serves as senior president of the Seventy.

Arnulfo Valenzuela, a 61-year-old native of Mexico with business education and marketing experience who is a general authority Seventy.

Nielsen referred to other contenders as well — from Latin America, Africa and the western United States' so-called Mormon Corridor.

“It’s best to not talk about these types of things in the aftermath of a death in [the apostle] ranks (or when the possibility of such is likely in the near future),” he writes, “so I figure now is as good a time as any to discuss the issue.”

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy speaks at the 2019 First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

What about the next temples?

While we’re in prediction mode, let’s turn to temples.

Matt Martinich, an independent demographer who tracks church growth at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, has come up with a fresh list of the 10 “most likely” locales to have a temple announced at next month’s General Conference — if, as has become a trend and a tradition, new temples are announced.

  • Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

  • Monrovia, Liberia.

  • Angeles or Olongapo, Philippines.

  • Tarawa, Kiribati.

  • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

  • Missoula, Mon.

  • Colorado Springs, i.e., Martinich’s hometown.

  • Santiago or Tuguegarao, Philippines.

  • Charlotte, N.C.

  • Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The first eight are holdovers from Martinich’s March tally. A year ago, the researcher correctly predicted half the new temples named at the October 2019 conference.

New women’s group targets Trump

Some influential Latter-day Saint women, including a former judge, an ex-legislator, academics, authors and musicians, have banded together with one goal in mind: Defeat Donald Trump in November.

“Our current president is dishonest, incompetent and uncaring about people who don’t look like him, who don’t agree with him or who are outsiders in other ways,” retired Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham says in a newly released video from “Women of Faith Speak Up and Speak Out.”

Trump is never named in the video — nor is his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, nor any political party — though the messages, like the one from Durham, are pointed. The participants make clear they are not speaking for the church, but they also make clear they are speaking as religious women.

“This November, as women of faith and covenant, we reject the ugly, cruel and corrupt to champion principle, unity, harmony and integrity,” says Ally Isom, a former top aide to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert who worked for the church’s public affairs department until earlier this year.

“This means,” adds Neylan McBaine, who heads up Better Days 2020, a nonprofit dedicated to educating Utahns about women’s contributions to the state, “we cannot vote to reelect our current president.”

Read Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke’s take on this new group here.

In recent weeks, the Trump and Biden campaigns have made direct appeals to Latter-day Saint voters.

Love begets inspiration

The Psalmist wrote that he loved the Lord because the Lord had heard him.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has found the opposite to be true as well. The popular apostle says he hears the Lord when he loves the Lord.

In a “How I Hear Him” video, Uchtdorf says focusing on his gratitude and love for the Savior helps “open doors” to inspiration.

“Love is the key,” he says. “When I’m not grateful, I cannot feel this love. And when I’m grateful for the Savior and for what the Lord has given me, then this love opens doors and ... will help me to make the right decisions.”

This week’s podcast: Affirmation goes global

(Courtesy photo) Nathan Kitchen, president of Affirmation.

Launched in the 1970s, Affirmation is one of the oldest support groups for LGBTQ members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As the Utah-based faith has evolved in its understanding of and approach to its LGBTQ members, Affirmation has expanded as well — across the country and around the world.

For the next four weekends, the organization will host a virtual international conference, complete with live and recorded workshops, speakers and discussions.

On this week’s podcast, Affirmation President Nathan Kitchen discusses the internet gathering, the group’s widening reach, and the challenges LGBTQ Latter-day Saints face from Arizona to Argentina to Australia and across the globe.

Listen here.

Relief efforts

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint volunteers remove a fallen tree from a house in Leesville, La., on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.

• Hundreds of Latter-day Saint volunteers have flocked to Louisiana to help clean up debris, rebuild roofs and provide food in the wake of Hurricane Laura.

“I’m a senior citizen, and I had no help,” Gayle Carlson, a widow who lives in Sulphur, La., said in a news release. “All my neighbors had people coming over to help them, and here I am with nobody. And when you people came, I don’t know, I almost fell to the floor and thanked God for that.”

Temple updates

• Next week, 144 of the church’s temples — including the Chicago Temple and three more in Mexico — will be back in operation, providing marriage “sealings,” while 89 of those also will be offering “all temple ordinances for living individuals.”

• The Manti Temple began offering all living ordinances this week, making the Monticello Temple the only operating Utah temple not to have advanced to Phase 2 of the reopening plan. Parts of southeastern Utah, where Monticello is located and which includes areas in the Navajo Nation, have been hard hit by the coronavirus. The historic Salt Lake and St. George temples are closed for extensive renovation.

• In addition, the church has temporarily paused activities at the Mexico City Temple and all California temples.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A small group of invited guests gathered in the north-central Utah community of Orem Saturday, Sept 5, 2020, for the groundbreaking of the Orem Utah Temple.

• A socially distanced groundbreaking Saturday launched work on the Orem Temple, which will become Utah County’s sixth Latter-day Saint temple and one of 24 either built or planned in the Beehive State.

The single-spired, three-story, 70,000-square-foot edifice will rise along one of Utah’s most heavily trafficked freeway corridors, general authority Seventy Evan A. Schmutz noted in a news release, “drawing the gaze of millions as they pass by this hallowed ground.”

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder José Bernardo Hernández, an area Seventy, speaks with Honduran Latter-day Saints during the San Pedro Sula Honduras Temple’s groundbreaking event on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2020, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. His wife, Mercedes, also spoke during the event and expressed the happiness she feels because of the new temple’s construction.

• Church leaders also broke ground for Honduras' second temple.

The San Pedro Sula Temple — along with the Tegucigalpa Temple — will serve the Central American nation’s 180,000-plus Latter-day Saints.

• The church released an exterior rendering this week of the Davao Temple.

The two-story, 18,450-square-foot structure will be one of seven operating or planned temples in the Philippines, home to more than 805,000 church members.

(Rendering courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Davao Philippines Temple exterior rendering.

Face to Face with an apostle

Apostle Ronald A. Rasband and his wife, Melanie, will discuss the church’s restoration Sunday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. MDT in a Face to Face event broadcast to young adults around the globe.

The broadcast was planned to originate from the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, N.Y., where Mormon founder Joseph Smith said he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Due to COVID-19 travel limits, though, it now will emanate from a movie-set replica of ancient Jerusalem in Goshen, Utah.

The Rasbands will focus on “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World,” a document the church issued in April’s General Conference.

Quote of the week

“While describing the followers of the Savior, the Apostle Paul used the metaphor of a single ‘body of Christ’ where the good health of one member causes all others to rejoice. Such a community reflects an understanding of mutual dependency and interest in the welfare of one another. When we truly enter such a community, we will show gratitude by acknowledging how much our personal successes in life are only possible by the support and guidance of those around us and from our Father in Heaven. We will understand that wearing masks outside is not a sign of oppression, but a testimony of our commitment and love for our fellowman. We will be reluctant to dismiss welfare as merely a ‘handout’ to those who refuse to work, but will make an effort to follow the Savior’s admonition to feed the hungry and clothe the naked without judgment. And as our communal lives are informed by scripture, we will better understand that those crying ‘Black Lives Matter’ are merely people pleading for the protection that comes from full inclusion in a community. We will finally understand that no man is an island and how much we need each other!”

Samuel Alonzo Dodge in a By Common Consent blog post

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