By Ravin Robertson
Adding to the 114 temples operating around the world, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the construction of temples in Curitiba, Brazil and Panama City, Panama.
“There”s already a need for a temple in both of those cities. With that in mind, the First Presidency felt the need to build in those cities,” said Coke Newell, media relations officer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“Latin America generally is growing as rapidly as any part of the world, and therefore, the number of temples in Latin America has really grown,” said Richard Cowan, professor of church history and doctrine. “When I say Latin America, I include Mexico, Central America and South America.”
Cowan added that both Mexico and Brazil are both heading toward the one-million member mark, so they are prime candidates for more temples.
Newell said that the dimensions of the new temples will measure about 18,000 square feet and be medium-sized buildings.
Located south of Sao Paulo, the Curitiba Temple will serve 21 stakes from the Brazilian states of Parana and Santa Catarina, and more than 42,000 members.
Dan Magleby, 21, a political science major from Provo who served in the Curitiba, Brazil mission from 2000-2002 said one of the happiest moments of his life was when he heard the temple announcement.
“I was in shock. It was something I had worked for and prayed for, so it is nothing short of a miracle,” he said
“In Curitiba, it”s one of the places where the church has been there the longest, so to finally have a temple near the people of Curitiba will be a huge blessing,” Magleby said. “They are already a temple attending people, so to have a temple closer will be a big blessing in their lives.”
This will be the first temple built in Panama, the announcement of the Panama City Temple has been an anticipated event, said Emily Orison, 24, a marketing student at BYU-Idaho who served in Panama City from 1999-2001.
“President Hinckley visited us while I was on my mission and said that if members would continue paying tithing and being faithful, that a temple would be built,” Orison said. “I have just been waiting for a year and a half to hear that.”
Orison also said she is excited and ecstatic for members to have a temple closer by because “for the members, it will strengthen their testimonies. And for people, Panamanians, it will make them realize that the Church is not just another church.”
The Panama City temple will serve approximately 22,000 members from seven stakes and three districts.
Before the announcement of the Panama City Temple, Panamanian members had to travel to Bogota, Colombia, Caracas, Venezuela or San Jose, Costa Rica to attend a temple.
According to Newell, when an area reaches membership of at least 35,000, temple construction is merited.
At the end of 1999, Brazil had 743,000 members and Panama had 36,000 members.
“In terms of a huge major segment of the world, Latin America has had the greatest [member] growth, and it”s possible that within the lifetime of many of us, that it will pass 50 percent of the total Church population,” Cowan said.
Four other Brazilian temples have already been dedicated and are operating in Campinas, Porto Alegre, Recife and Sao Paulo.
Construction dates of the Curitiba and Panama City Temples are yet to be announced.
Specific locations and groundbreaking dates have also not been released.