Unfortunate news just reported in The Salt Lake Tribune indicates that plans for a Shanghai temple may have hit a bump in the road. Peggy Fletcher Stack's story, "Plans for an LDS temple in Shanghai may have hit an obstacle," reflects some decent investigation and a good understanding of how things work in China. Kudos, Peggy! We can't be sure at this stage if the apparent problem is real, serious, or just temporary, or if anything has actually gone wrong, but with parts of the government in China saying we don't have a deal, it sure looks like trouble As the article points out, such setbacks happen often in negotiations in China.

There are many organizations, departments, bureaus, and diverse interests that can play a role in these things and influence outcomes, resulting in the fairly common occurrence of a foreign entity thinking an agreement is settled when, in fact, it is still up in the air or might be reversed. It is possible that President Nelson's surprising announcement has been set back by increasing tensions between the US and China, or that it was premature from the perspective of key leaders in Beijing, Shanghai, or a variety of agencies and bureaus, or had not yet been approved by someone that those involved did not realize needed to be involved. The announcement itself could have triggered alarms or stirred people to become involved that might not have been originally--if so, that doesn't necessarily make it a mistake, for it may have resulted in facing hidden challenges months or years earlier than would have occurred otherwise, possibly leading to a swifter final resolution, one way or the other (of course, I personally hope that a temple will be possible in the end). I doubt that there is no fundamental issue apart from temporary misunderstanding from some officials -- to me, this looks like genuine trouble that will require further negotiation and patience.

When sensitivities are at play, surprises abound in China. Anything involving foreigners can be sensitive, as can anything involving religion, and when you put the two together for a deal involving foreigners seeking to create a temple in China, a final agreement may take several cycles past the stage when all seems settled to the foreign party.

The announcement of a Shanghai temple, as surprising as it was, was merely a baby step, and this set back may also be merely a small but painful step backwards, the kind of temporary setback we have encountered many times in seeking to build temples around the world. Will there be a temple in Shanghai? I sure hope so. It will benefit local members there and reduce their need to go to Hong Kong or other places to receive temple blessings. But until all relevant authorities are on board and any new concerns are resolved, we'll need to be patient. It may also require some improvement in relationships between the West and China which have become greatly strained in recent weeks.
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