“Growth: Physical Facilities’’Wonderful Challenge’” Ensign, Mar. 2005, 77–78
Missionary work has been described as a “marvelous work,” and with the truly marvelous number of new members finding the gospel comes the challenging work of housing the new and expanding stakes and districts of the Church.
The day President Gordon B. Hinckley greeted the public as President of the Church, he noted some of the challenges posed by an ever-growing church. “The most serious challenge we face, and the most wonderful challenge, is the challenge that comes of growth. Accommodating the tremendous growth of the Church presents many problems and entails the construction of houses of worship and other facilities—but what a remarkable and wonderful challenge that is” (Jay M. Todd, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Fifteenth President of the Church,” Ensign, Apr. 1995, 6).
With that same optimistic attitude, the Church’s Physical Facilities Department has endeavored to keep up with the demand for new meetinghouses. In a general conference address last November, President Hinckley said: “We now have, at some stage, 451 meetinghouses of various sizes under construction in many parts of the earth. This tremendous building program is phenomenal. I know of nothing to equal it” (“Condition of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4). Approximately 300 new meetinghouses are built worldwide each year, with 150 existing meetinghouses receiving additions. Two-thirds of the construction is taking place outside of the United States.
The Church has had many years of experience and has developed proven processes for constructing meetinghouses. “Out of that vast experience,” President Hinckley said, “we are producing better buildings than have ever previously been constructed in the Church” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4).
Before a meetinghouse is built, the Physical Facilities Department evaluates whether there are other options to house the ward or branch, such as sharing a building with a nearby ward or branch, adjusting meeting schedules to accommodate more wards or branches in a building, or expanding existing meetinghouses. If it is determined that a new meetinghouse is needed, a request is made and prioritized based on other requests and available resources. Once a request is approved, it is added to a plan for proposed projects and sent to the Church Appropriations Committee for review. If the plan is approved, the meetinghouse is designed, built, and dedicated.
Often the Church uses standard plans to cut costs and increase efficiency when building, provide support to Church programs, and present the desired image to the surrounding community. “Our structures are beautiful,” President Hinckley said. “They add to the ambience of any community in which they stand. They are well maintained. … They combine beauty with great utility. If they look much the same, it is because that is intended. By following tried and tested patterns we save millions of dollars while meeting the needs of our people” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4).
In many cases the biggest challenge in constructing a meetinghouse is purchasing a site for the building. In some areas with large populations, land is scarce and often expensive. This issue has led to a few temples, such as Manhattan New York and Hong Kong China, being built out of existing buildings owned by the Church. In areas such as these, multistory designs are often used in building meetinghouses.
In the past a large challenge for members came from having to provide a large portion of the funds for the buildings themselves. Now, members are not asked to sacrifice their money for the buildings, but they are asked to give of their time to help care for and clean the houses of worship. Although this does help the Church financially, it also helps provide a sense of ownership and respect for the members who attend there.
Another challenge comes from the misunderstandings some have about the Church. Occasionally opposition from the community occurs when a new building is announced. The Church works to resolve these concerns whenever possible. It is not uncommon to see divine intervention on behalf of the Lord’s Church.
As the Church continues to grow in membership, the work of building houses for the Lord will carry on because they are the places where the gospel is taught, sacred covenants are entered into, and lives are changed. “It is true that the sun never sets on this work of the Lord as it is touching the lives of people across the earth,” President Hinckley said in a November 2003 general conference address. “Our work knows no boundaries. Under the providence of the Lord it will continue. Those nations now closed to us will someday be open. That is my faith. That is my belief. That is my testimony” (“The State of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 7).