SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Temple will close on Dec. 29, 2019. It will remain closed for about four years, church officials announced Friday.
The majority of the grounds will remain open for visitors throughout the renovations.
The iconic temple will reopen in 2024 for a public open house before church leaders rededicate the building during a ceremony that sets aside the temple for the work of God.
The open house will mark the first time the Salt Lake Temple will be available to the public since construction was completed in 1893.
The Salt Lake Temple, Temple Square and an area by the Church Office Building will all undergo extensive renovation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced during a press conference on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake.
Here are eight of the most major renovations:
- The temple will undergo significant mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural and seismic renovations that will not only modernize the temple's facilities, but will allow the 126-year-old building to better withstand a large earthquake.
- The south and north entrances to Temple Square will undergo renovations that will make the area more appealing and inviting to visitors. Crews will demolish the solid walls that surround the temple and construct fences that allow those on the outside to see inside the grounds.
- The annex and 60s-era buildings on the north side of the temple will be demolished and rebuilt.
- The South Visitors' Center will be demolished and replaced with two new guest and visitor pavilions.
- A new guest access tunnel underneath North Temple Street will allow visitors to cross from the Conference Center to Temple Square.
- The plaza and landscapes from State Street on the east to the Main Street Plaza near the Church Office Building will be "repaired and refreshed with greater emphasis on the visitor experience and on the Savior," church officials said.
- Those entering the temple itself will enter through the new north pavilions and proceed to a "grand hall" where they will find the recommend desk — a formal entry point into the temple for members. The desk will sit underneath a large skylight that lets in natural light and provides a view of the temple above.
- The Salt Lake Temple ceremonies will be available in 86 languages after renovations are complete. They are currently only available in English. The Salt Lake Temple is one of a few temples that still performs ceremonies completely "live," or by designated temple officiators. After renovations, the ceremonies will be performed both by temple officiators and by video.
Impact of the renovations
The Salt Lake Temple is an iconic landmark in Utah and a sacred house of worship for the church's 16 million members. Temple Square is the most-visited tourist site in the state, drawing 3 million to 5 million people each year — even more than conferences, skiing and the national parks.
It is still unclear how the area's closure will affect businesses in downtown Salt Lake, but state and tourism leaders are optimistic.
Gov. Gary Herbert: "The logistical aspects of this certainly are going to have an impact. We’re going to have congestion and traffic, closing off of streets as we have construction work that takes place here on Temple Square.
The renovations come at the same time as a couple of other major projects, including several skyscrapers that are slated for construction in downtown Salt Lake.
"That will be a little bit of a frustration I'm sure for people trying to get around. But on the other hand, it shows the vitality of Salt Lake City. We’re not closing things down, we’re expanding and remodeling and remodernizing."
The renovation will include a significant seismic upgrade to help the temple withstand a large magnitude earthquake. —Brent Roberts, Church Special Projects Department pic.twitter.com/0YWq0Ufmb3— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@ChurchNewsroom) April 19, 2019
Herbert believes the renovation will eventually be a major enhancement to the area, and the construction may even draw visitors who are curious to see what's going on.
When asked how this will impact businesses at the City Creek mall across the street, Herbert said he believes there may be some economic impact, but the renovations will eventually increase the number of patrons that frequent the mall.
Scott Beck, President and CEO of of Visit Salt Lake: "First and foremost, we want to say thank you to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their commitment to keeping this cultural anchor so vibrant and sustaining its future. That is very important to us. Everything that we saw was super exciting."
Beck is excited the church will open up Temple Square and make it more accessible as the walls come down from around the grounds. While he said renovations may impact the city's wedding business for the years the temple is closed, that's more of a niche market (though hopeful couples can still get married in the temple until the end of December).
The grounds will still be open to visitors throughout the renovation phase, and both Beck's office and the state's Office of Tourism will work closely with the church to coordinate construction schedules, they said. They both believe the renovations will be positive in the long run.
The renovations are even more extensive than expected, but church officials did not reveal how much the project would cost.
What are temples?
Faithful members of the church attend the temple to make sacred promises with God. While visitors are welcome in church buildings used for regular church activity and Sunday worship, faithful members believe the temple to be an especially sacred place. Only members who follow the standards of the church are permitted to enter.
"Ours is a sacred responsibility to care for them. Therefore, these pioneer temples will soon undergo a period of renewal and refreshing — and for some, a major restoration," President Russell M. Nelson, leader of the church, said in early April. "Efforts will be made to preserve the unique historicity of each temple whenever possible, preserving the inspiring beauty and unique craftsmanship of generations long-since passed."
Church leadership announced during April general conference, a biannual meeting for church members, that all temples built during the "pioneer-era" of the church would soon undergo renovation.
The temple in St. George will be closed in November and will reopen in 2022.
When President Nelson announced the Salt Lake Temple closure Friday, he mistakenly said the temple would close in 2029, though he was corrected once he was finished speaking.
"Is that the only mistake I've made all day?" he joked.
Watch the video of the press conference here: