Extensive Salt Lake Temple renovations remaking Temple Square

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The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will close this December for about four years as part of a major Temple Square renovation.

The temple will close Dec. 29 for extensive renovations and is expected to reopen in 2024 with a public open house.

“This temple and others built in Utah by these pioneer forebearers represent some of the finest examples of architectural design, engineering and the use of materials then available,” Church President Russel M. Nelson said. “They are among the most highly utilized temples in the Church. We have a sincere desire — yes, a sacred responsibility — to care for them that they may continue to serve as sacred houses of the Lord for many generations to come.”

Learn about the upcoming closure and renovation of the Salt Lake Temple, Temple Square, and the adjoining plaza near the Church Office Building.

Posted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Friday, April 19, 2019

Temple Square updates, renovations

According to Bishop Dean M. Davies, the first counselor in the Church’s Presiding Bishopric who also spoke at the press conference, the temple’s mechanical systems need updating and replacing. The deck surrounding the temple is also worn and needs replacement.

“The temple structural condition is very good, but it was designed and built to standards that are very old and antiquated,” Bishop Davies said. “It is our desire to refresh, renovate and structurally strengthen the temple to serve and protect patrons and to preserve the temple for years to come.”

As part of the renovations, the South Visitors’ Center, temple entry buildings and north annex building will be removed and replaced with new facilities.

The South Visitors’ Center will be replaced with two new buildings or pavilions, according to Bishop Davies. Two new temple entry pavilions and guest waiting areas will be built on the north side of the temple. A new underground annex will include a grand hall with large skylights providing a view of the temple.

Church Newsroom
This rendering depicts the one of the temple’s new entry buildings and the skylight in the underground annex to enter the temple. (Church Newsroom)

The project will install new access tunnels from North Temple Street to the temple, providing direct access to the temple from the Conference Center parking garage. Both temple entry pavilions and the tunnel will lead to the new grand hall in the underground annex and into the temple.

“The new site improvements will allow for better patron and visitor access and views to the temple and through Temple Square,” Bishop Davies said.

Church Newsroom
This rendering depicts the Salt Lake Temple entrance. The entry features a skylight with a view of the temple. (Church Newsroom)

The temple will also undergo significant seismic updates to help the building withstand large magnitude earthquakes, according to Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s special projects department. A base isolation system will be installed, similar to the systems in Utah’s Capitol building and the state and county buildings in Salt Lake City.

“It is a collection of structural elements, which would substantially decouple the temple from the earth, thus protecting the building’s structural integrity,” Roberts said. “The installation of the base isolation system will be challenging and time consuming. It will require deep excavations around the historic footings and foundation of the temple.”

Church Newsroom
This rendering depicts the base isolation system that will be installed in the Salt Lake Temple to prepare the temple to withstand a high magnitude earthquake. (Church Newsroom)

The seismic updates will require strengthening the temple’s stone spires and walls but preserve the temple’s historic footings.

“Once complete, it will protect people, the historic building and the beautiful interior and exterior finishes in the event of a large magnitude earthquake,” Roberts said. 

Portions of the wall around Temple Square will also be removed, providing a better view of the temple from all angles.

“The new site improvements will allow for better patron and visitor access and views to the temple and through Temple Square,” Bishop Davies said. 

Roberts acknowledged construction puts any project at greater risk for incidents, including fire. However, he said a fire prevention plan will be in place, including a 24-hour fire watch.

The plazas on Temple Square will also be improved, including the plaza between State Street and Main Street and the plaza from State Street on the east to the Main Street plaza.

“The plaza and landscapes from State Street on the east to the Main Street plaza will be repaired and refreshed with greater emphasis on the visitor experience and on the Savior,” Bishop Davies said.

President Nelson also spoke about how the changes to Temple Square will emphasize the life of Jesus Christ.

“We promise that you will love the results,” he said. “They will emphasize and highlight the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ and His desire to bless every kindred, nation, tongue and people.”

Operational impact

Roberts said the Church is working diligently to maintain the regular functions of Temple Square during the construction period. The North Visitors’ Center, tabernacle and assembly hall will still be open to the public. Christmas lights will continue, though they may be somewhat reduced.

“Both pedestrian and vehicle traffic issues will be coordinated closely with Salt Lake City,” Roberts said. “During construction, the other facilities on Temple Square will remain open to the public.”

However, Roberts said, the renovation is a major construction project.

“You will see scaffolding, you will see multiple tower cranes. We will work within the guidelines of the city noise ordinances unless we receive a special exception for things that would be better for vehicle traffic,” Roberts said. “It is a major construction project, so you will see that.”

Elder Larry Y. Wilson, executive director of the Church’s temple department, said patrons who usually attend the Salt Lake Temple for worship will be welcome to attend the Ogden, Bountiful, Jordan River, Draper and Oquirrh Mountain temples.

“These temples are making preparations to welcome additional patrons, although we expect there may be occasions when they experience increased waiting,” Elder Wilson said. 

The Salt Lake Temple currently does not accommodate non-English speakers, Elder Wilson said. By the time the temple construction is completed, the temple services will be available to members of the Church in more than 86 different languages.

“This will be a great blessing for members of the Church around the world who wish to worship in the Salt Lake Temple,” Elder Wilson said. 

Upon renovation completion, the Salt Lake Temple will offer both a live presentation and a film presentation of the temple ceremony.

“It will provide two things: one is a connection to the way things have been done since the beginning in the Salt Lake Temple as well as an opportunity to enjoy the more contemporary way in which they’re presented in all of those 86 plus languages,” Elder Wilson said. 

In a question and answer session with the press following the press conference, Elder Wilson added there are still plenty of opportunities for couples to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple before it closes in December.

“We do expect that there will be an increase in activity between now and the end of the year as people have final opportunities to worship in the Salt Lake Temple,” Elder Wilson said. “But it is available for couples who are desiring to be sealed there through the end of the year, and there are still many opportunities for them to sign up for open times if they would like to do that.”

The temple presidency and volunteer temple workers will be released upon the temple’s closure. Sister missionaries, however, will continue to serve on Temple Square. Bishop Davies said the Church hopes to make part of the Conference Center available during temple construction, giving visitors unobstructed view of temple construction.

“We do not expect that there will be any impact in terms of the kind of presence that we have on Temple Square with sister missionaries today and the kind of things they are doing to help visitors who come to Temple Square,” Elder Wilson said. 

Salt Lake Temple history

The Salt Lake Temple has been renovated many times since its original dedication in 1893, Bishop Davies said. The most extensive of these renovations took place between 1962 and 1966, when the temple received new plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning systems.

Some historic finishes were painted over in the 1960s renovation to match design aesthetics of the time. The original temple entry and annex were demolished, and a new entry and support facilities were constructed. A ceiling addition was also added to the north side of the temple.

(Church Newsroom)
The Salt Lake Temple’s current annex was built in the 1960s. The annex will be demolished and replaced with a new one during the temple’s upcoming renovations, beginning at the end of this year. (Church Newsroom)

According to President Nelson, efforts will be taken to maintain “the temple’s historic beauty” in the upcoming renovation. He said some of the surrounding grounds will be restored to resemble the conditions that existed when the temple was first constructed.

Roberts said detailed studies have been done in preparation for the temple’s renovations, including historical research on the temple’s original design and subsequent modifications.

“A detailed study of this research includes paint samples, murals, millwork and furniture,” Roberts said. “Where possible, efforts will be made to preserve the unique history of the temple.”

According to Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, who conducted the press conference, millions of people visit the temple annually.

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