First Mormon temple in Middle East planned for Dubai

UAE announces first Mormon temple in Middle East will be built in Dubai
3 min read
07 April, 2020
The Latter Day Saint Church is based in Utah and is expanding to Africa, China and the Middle East.
The LDS Church has around 16 million followers [Getty]
The UAE has announced that a Latter Day Saints (LDS) temple will be built in Dubai - the first in the Middle East - as the US Restorationist Christian movement seeks to expand its presence overseas.

Better known as Mormonism, the church has around 16 million adherents worldwide with its followers renowned for their missionary zeal.

The temple will be built in Dubai to coincide with Expo 2020, which looks set to be delayed until next year due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

The church announced at its annual conference in Utah this weekend - known as the home of Mormonism - that a temple would be opened in Dubai following an invitation from Emirati authorities.

"The plan for a temple in Dubai comes in response to their gracious invitation, which we gratefully acknowledge," said Russell Nelson, president of the church, according to The National.

Head of the Latter Day Saints' Middle East operations, Elder Anthony D Perkins, also commended the Emirati authorities for allowing the temple - the first in the Middle East - to be built.

"We are grateful to the leaders and people of the United Arab Emirates," he told the UAE daily.

"They have been kind, gracious and welcoming to us and to people of all faith traditions."

The religion is known as Mormonism due to the religious text - the Book of Mormon - adherents hold sacred, which followers believe was revealed to the church's founder, Joseph Smith in the 18th Century.

The book is one of several other beliefs and practices that distinguish the Mormons from mainstream Christians.

The planned temple in Dubai - as LDS places of worship are known - is one of eight new structures to be built by the church to be built across the world, including in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.

The UAE has recently announced a long list of new places of worship to be built in the country, including a Jewish synagogue, Sikh Gurudwara and Hindu temple.

The measures are seen an act of "soft power" by the UAE and bridging relations with world powers such as the US and India.

Despite playing up its religious tolerance, the UAE is still considered to have one of the most repressive regimes in the Gulf region, jailing dissidents and activists.

In 2019, Amnesty International slammed the UAE's announcement that a number of non-Muslim places of worship were to be built during their so called "Year of Tolerance".

"The UAE authorities are trying to brand 2019 as the 'year of tolerance' and are now seeking to cast the Pope's visit as proof of their respect for diversity. Does this mean they are ready to reverse their policy of systematic repression of any form of dissent or criticism?" said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director.

"Since 2011, the authorities have systematically cracked down on their critics, including activists, judges, lawyers, academics, students and journalists by way of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearance, torture and other-ill-treatment".

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