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For week ended February 06, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

New Structure Symbolizes Mormon Growth
New York Times pg18 6Feb00 B1
By Gustav Niebuhr

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The New York Times calls the LDS Church's new Conference Center a symbol of the Church's growth since the Tabernacle on Temple Square opened in October 1867. The Tabernacle, which seats 6,000, is dwarfed by the new Conference Center, which will seat 21,000.

When the Tabernacle first opened, Brigham Young marveled that he could speak to so many people at once, even though the Tabernacle held less than 10 percent of the Church's then 81,000 members. But it was large enough to cause a traffic jam from those trying to attend the first LDS Conference there.

Now the Church boasts 11 million members, and the new Conference Center, large as it is, will hold a much smaller fraction of the Church's membership than the Tabernacle did when it opened. The building is larger than New York's Madison Square Garden, and similar in capacity to most contemporary sports arenas, according to project director Thomas Hanson.

Niebuhr's article gives a brief overview of LDS Church history, and focuses on Church growth in the past decade, when membership increased by more than a third, and membership shifted so that more members, 53 percent, live outside the United States. He also notes that this growth means a lot of construction. Presiding Bishop H. David Burton told Niebuhr that the Church has 1,400 capital projects under way worldwide, double what it had a decade ago. The projects include new buildings, renovations and expansion of existing structures, "I don't think you're going to see a breathing point," said Burton. "The church is growing at such a rate that it's really practically geometric."

The article also tells of the growth in the number of LDS Temples, rising from just 17 in operation 20 years ago to 70 now, and 100 by the end of this year.

Niebuhr points out that the Church hasn't released information about the costs of this building program, but quotes Richard and Joan Ostling's recent book, "Mormon America," and its estimate of $5 billion in Church income, a figure that the Church says is exaggerated.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the new Conference Center will cost about $240 million, says Niebuhr. He also discusses the importance of the Church's twice yearly General Conference.


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