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updated: 4/6/2013 1:30 PM

Mormon church build new temples in Utah, Brazil

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Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is planning to build two new temples in Rio de Janeiro and Cedar City, Utah, the president of the Mormon church announced Saturday.

Thomas S. Monson made the announcement in his opening address to more than 100,000 members of the church who've gathered in Salt Lake City for the church's 183rd semi-annual general conference.

Temples are considered sacred to Latter-day Saints and are used for religious rituals including proxy baptisms, marriage ceremonies and other rites designed to strengthen church teachings.

The exact locations of the new buildings will be announced at a later date, the church said. Worldwide, there are 141 temples in operation and 29 under construction.

The newly announced temple in Rio de Janerio will be the eighth planned or operating temple in Brazil, where there are more than 1.1 million Mormons. Six temples are up and running in the country and a seventh planned in Fortaleza previously had been announced.

The planned temple in Cedar City, which is located in southwest Utah, will be the 17th temple operating or planned in the state. The church had previously announced construction of temples in Payson and Provo. There are almost 2 million members of the faith living in Utah, where the church headquarters is located.

Monson also announced during his opening address Saturday that the church has created 58 new missions to accommodate swelling numbers of missionaries.

At the last general conference in October, church officials announced a lowering of the minimum age for missionaries: from 21 to 19 for women; and from 19 to 18 for men.

Leaders of the church and outside scholars believe that decision could be a landmark leading to many more women serving missions.

The church says applications for new missions are up two-fold since the announcement. About half of all new applications have come from women. Previously, only 15 percent of missionaries were women.

"The response of our young people has been remarkable and inspiring," Monson said.

As of April 4, more than 65,000 missionaries were serving around the world, Monson said, and more than 20,000 additional missionaries have been called to serve while another six thousand are in the interview process.

The semi-annual conference, which is taking place Saturday and Sunday, offers Mormons words of inspiration and guidance for daily living from the faith's senior leaders.

Millions more participate in the meeting through satellite, radio or Internet broadcast translated into more than 90 languages.

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