Mormons dedicate fifth temple in Brazil

Curitiba, Brazil - Mormon church president Thomas Monson dedicated the church's fifth temple in Brazil, a nation where Mormons have both experienced growth and struggled with retention.

Monson and two other church elders used mortar to lay a symbolic cornerstone of the building, the 125th temple dedicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. It was the first visit outside North American for Monson since he became president of the Mormon church in February.

Temple-building was a major focus of Monson's predecessor, Gordon Hinckley. Temples are considered sacred to Mormons and can be entered only by members in good standing.

The church's growth worldwide is expected to be a major concern of Monson's presidency. The Mormon church now boasts more members abroad than in the U.S., where the church has its origins. About 55 percent of the world's 13 million Mormons live outside the U.S., according to church figures.

Brazil factors large in that trend. As of 2006, the last year for which statistics are available, the church reported more than 970,000 church members in Brazil. A sixth Brazil temple is planned, as well.

At the same time, keeping members in Brazil has proved challenging. A Brigham Young University sociologist used census data from Mexico, Brazil and Chile to show the number of citizens who claim Mormonism as their religion was only 20 to 25 percent of the church-reported membership figures, suggesting low retention.