It appears the season of major temple closures is among us (and by major temple closures we mean lengthy, “serious” closures, not closures of “major” temples). Just recently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the long-term closures and rededications of the Washington DC and Oakland California temples, both of which will close for a few years. Now the Church has announced the closure of the Tokyo Japan, Oklahoma City Oklahoma, Memphis Tennessee, and Asunción Paraguay temples for major refurbishments, including updated mechanical components as well as new furniture.
Of these temples, only the Tokyo Japan Temple is not a so-called “mini” temple—smaller temples with fewer frills, a common floor plan and design, and dedicated around 2000 in the run-up to having 100 temples dedicated before the new millennium. With many of these smaller temples coming up on their late teens, a major refurbishment is understandable. Let’s just hope they aren’t closing because of structural deficiencies like the mini temple in Montréal did.
The Tokyo, Oklahoma City, and Memphis buildings are slated to close in October 2017 while the Asunción Temple will be granted a month-long stay and close in November of the same year. There is no word yet on exact dates.
According to the Church Newsroom, renovations for Tokyo will be completed in 2020 while the other three temples will be ready in 2019, presumably because the smaller temples will require less work across less square footage; Tokyo is over 50,000 square feet.
Saints in these areas will certainly suffer some inconveniences if they wish to continue temple work during the closures. The closest temples to Tokyo are either the brand-new Sapporo Japan Temple way up on Hokkaido or the Fukuoka Japan Temple way down on Kyushu. Or they can fly to Seoul. Saints in Paraguay—the third-poorest country in South America—will have the option to travel to temples in Argentina, Brazil, or Uruguay. Lastly, the closures of Memphis and Oklahoma City leave us with a giant templeless island in the middle of the plains (thus making us wish that Rogers/Bentonville thing would happen already). Thankfully, there are still temples sort of nearby in Nashville, Birmingham, Kansas City, or Dallas (and elsewhere).
Mormon temples differ from meetinghouses in purpose and scope. They are not a place for large-scale regular Sunday or weekly meetings. Instead, they are buildings for instruction and sacred covenants. If you’re not Mormon and a temple is announced near you, please do us all a favor and don’t protest out of traffic and noise concerns. Those protests should be reserved for the announcement of a meetinghouse that will have an oval floor plan and be cladded with burlap-esque walls.