Apostle Oaks Admits, Temples Easier to Build Temples Than Fill

With every General Conference, President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson announces a list of new temples the church plans to build. These announced temples are often in early stages of development. They love to build these temples and there are likely multiple reasons for this. They are eager to show the church is growing. They are growing the real estate holdings, they are using the temple construction as a way to evade taxes and even launder money by giving contracts to families and friends. But even though temples may be easier to build than to fill, they are even easier to announce.

"It's a lot easier to build temples, than it is to fill temples." - Dallin H. Oaks, Church News Video 2024 | wasmormon.org
“It’s a lot easier to build temples, than it is to fill temples.” – Dallin H. Oaks, Church News Video 2024

It’s a lot easier to build temples, than it is to fill temples. By building a lot of temples we are writing for ourself a requirement that we be more diligent in teaching the doctrine of the church, the temple covenants and worthiness, so that we’ll be able to fill temples in all these places where we’re building them, instead of just building them.

Dallin H. Oaks: Church News video “Filling the Temples,” President and Sister Oaks on the need to fill temples, not just build temples.

It is easier to build temples than to fill them. It’s also easier to announce temples than it is to build them…

Russia Temple Announcement

The Russia Temple was announced in 2018, now six years ago. The church website still has not indicated even a city for the Russia Temple in the huge county. No building plans have been created.

President Russell M. Nelson made the historic announcement of Russia’s first temple at the end of his closing remarks at the 188th Annual General Conference. No city was named as part of the announcement—only that it would be constructed in a major city yet to be determined.


Was this an actual announcement or a simple wish to build one in Russia in the future? Seems odd to announce a temple without planning far enough to choose a city to build it in.

The Shanghai, China Temple

Sometimes building temples becomes complicated. Just a few years after announcing a Temple in Russia, Russell Nelson announced a temple in Shanghai, China. This time he has a city in mind, but still seems to have forgotten to check with the government of China if they would allow a temple to be built. They do not allow missionaries or proselytizing, so why would they allow a temple?

Brothers and sisters, during times of our distress when temples are closed, you can still draw upon the power of your temple covenants and endowment as you honor your covenants…

Today we are pleased to announce plans to construct eight new temples in the following locations: Bahía Blanca, Argentina; Tallahassee, Florida; Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Benin City, Nigeria; Syracuse, Utah; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Shanghai, People’s Republic of China…

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.

In every country, this Church teaches its members to honor, obey, and sustain the law.5 We teach the importance of the family, of being good parents and exemplary citizens. Because we respect the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, the Church does not send proselyting missionaries there; nor will we do so now.

Expatriate and Chinese congregations will continue to meet separately. The Church’s legal status there remains unchanged. In an initial phase of facility use, entry will be by appointment only. The house of the Lord in Shanghai will not be a destination place for tourists from other countries.

These eight new temples will bless the lives of many people on both sides of the veil of death. Temples are a crowning part of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In God’s goodness and generosity, He is bringing the blessings of the temple closer to His children everywhere.

Russell M. Nelson, Go Forward in Faith, April 2020 General Conference

And then China announced that no temple had been approved and that it was a “fabrication out of nothing”.

1. According to relevant Chinese laws and regulations, foreigners are not allowed to establish religious organizations or set up places for religious activities in China.

2. The American Mormon Church released information about building a so-called “temple” in Shanghai, but our city’s religious and religious departments were completely unaware of it. This is wishful thinking on the part of the American Mormon Church and a fabrication out of nothing.

Shanghai Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau Office

The Cody, Wyoming Temple

The church announced a temple in Cody, Wyoming, and initially received all the required permits, but then the city rescinded the approvals, effectively rejecting the temple. Once the church sued the city, and threatened to sue the Mayor for ordering the permit not to be issued. He was responding to a grassroots movement against the temple claiming it was an eyesore and not a “blessing” to the community.

The Announced Cody Wyoming Temple received approval but was later redacted "It's a lot easier to build temples, than it is to fill temples." - Dallin H. Oaks
The Announced Cody Wyoming Temple received approval but was later redacted “It’s a lot easier to build temples, than it is to fill temples.” – Dallin H. Oaks

The church proposed a nearly 10,000-square-foot building with a 100-foot, 11-inch-tall tower off Skyline Drive in a rural residential zone, Wendtland said. In that zone, churches aren’t allowed except under a Conditional Use Permit, and building heights are limited to a maximum of 30 feet.


Neighbors argued the church should have gone through a different approval process and claimed the development agreement encroaches on their property rights, disrupting their views and adding noise and light pollution, which would affect their privacy. Perhaps it’s easier to announce a temple than to build it because an announcement doesn’t require a team of corporate lawyers to sue a city.

The city’s planning and zoning board approved a site plan for the temple and then later rescinded its approval in July, prompting attorneys for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to sue in a Wyoming district court, arguing that the panel violated its own rules.

The board subsequently approved the site plan again, with some restrictions.

In August, a grassroots group opposed to the construction plan of the temple went to court to try to block it. Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods filed the petition in district court as a “last line of defense against an LDS corporation that has threatened and intimidated our community” by going to court.

Cody Mayor Matt Hall, meanwhile, ordered the city’s Community Development Department to withhold a building permit for the temple — a demand he has now lifted because, he said, the church threatened to file a federal suit.

Is this Wyoming LDS temple now a go? Cody issues building permit after church threatens a second lawsuit.
Court battle remains unresolved in state court. Salt Lake Tribune Article, Scott D. Pierce, Sep. 18, 2023

The nearly 10,000-square-foot temple sparked controversy mainly because of the size of the building and its steeple on an almost 5-acre piece of land overlooking Cody. Some living in the neighborhood say the steeple will destroy their viewshed, and the temple will have other negative impacts like ruining the night sky and creating more traffic.

The temple dispute is a topic that has dragged on for more than a year in Cody. The issue has riled up the community, causing a clear divide between those who support and oppose the project.

Cowboy State Daily: Cody Residents Opposed To Gigantic LDS Temple Outraged As Church Stages Area To Build, Leo Wolfson, May 11, 2024

Relocate the Temple
Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods
Cody deserves a Temple that will:

  • Retain architectural integrity of our neighborhoods: The height of the Temple will exceed 100 feet, towering more than 70 feet above nearby residences, which are limited to a height of 30 feet. This requires a Conditional Use Permit and Special Exemption, which will be considered by Cody Planning, Zoning, and Adjustment Board on May 24.
  • Protect our night skies: 24-hour lighting will illuminate the Temple and the surrounding 140 parking spaces. The Cody Master Plan cites Dark Night Skies as one of Cody’s greatest assets.
  • Safeguard our traffic corridors: Skyline Drive and feeder streets from the downtown area are not designed to accommodate increased traffic of visiting stake members from the Bighorn Basin-7800 members, according to the church. Skyline Drive is a two-lane, dead-end street, and the safety of the many families who live, walk, jog, and ride bikes along this street will be compromised. The traffic study submitted in the application does not meet city and state requirements.
  • Value wildlife habitat: The acreage designated for the Temple is part of a migration corridor along Sulphur Creek and home to scores of wildlife. The Cody Master Plan states that abundant wildlife habitat further contributes to Cody’s western lifestyle and quality of life.
  • Adhere to Cody Master Plan: The Cody Master Plan was developed by nearly 2,000 Cody residents who shared concerns, preferences, and ideas for Cody’s future. The Master Plan calls for limiting the height of new and remodeled construction to respect the existing character of neighborhoods, to maintain a consistent scale of development, and to preserve scenic views. The Master Plan also calls for buffering residential development from noise and other traffic impacts.

The proposed site of the LDS Temple threatens the integrity of existing Cody neighborhoods, infrastructure, dark skies, and wildlife habitat. The community would be better served by a Temple in a more appropriate location in Cody.

Handout from preserveourcodyneighborhoods.org

Church President’s Temple Complex

It seems that Russell M. Nelson is very motivated to have more temples to his name than anyone else. He must have had another chip on his shoulder when Hinckley was called the Temple Prophet, he is competing for the legacy as the Temple Builder, stealing the title from Hinckley, his nemesis. Nelson has already announced more than twice the number of temples as Hinckley, but he’s yet to dedicate half as many. Time will tell if he’s able to dedicate any more before his term is up, but he’s sure to announce a dozen more if he makes it to the next general conference.

Gordon B. Hinckley12.87 years79 temples81 temples77 temples
Thomas S. Monson9.91 years45 temples37 temples35 temples
Russell M. Nelson6.38 years168 temples71 temples32 temples
As of May 31, 2024 according to the counts at https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/statistics/presidents/

These temples are not building themselves and they are expensive to build. The church famously has seemingly unlimited funds though and are happy to use these funds for the one thing they always claim to be using them for: “keeping the lights on” and building meeting houses and buildings for worship. Perhaps the church is using the temple construction as a way to launder money. The authorities approve budgets and often favor family businesses with the extravagant spending on temple decor.

The authorities used to require certain attendance goals be met and certain temple recommend holders in the area, but now it seems they announce temples as fast as they can find land to build them. The church does state that they need more senior missionaries, perhaps they are worried about staffing these temples.

Maybe the reason they are focused on building them is because Oaks is right, they are simply easier to build than they are to fill. Especially when filling a temple requires enough members with a temple recommend to enter. No one knows if they are ever full – especially not once the temple is built. Everyone knows if they are built and building more though, so its perhaps mainly a signal they are hoping to show internally as well as externally that all is well in Zion, and the church growth rate and membership levels are perfectly fine. Nothing to see here, carry on.

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