Do not open until 2122: Utah Capitol time capsule returns home with poignant message

Gov. Spencer Cox, joined by House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant, places a time capsule into one of the columns at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Gov. Spencer Cox, joined by House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant, places a time capsule into one of the columns at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox held up a sealed letter as he stood by the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

This letter is unlike anything he's ever written before, addressing someone he will never meet: the Utah governor a century from now. It's a letter that Cox said he wrote from his heart, explaining everything happening in Utah now and the work underway to address it.

It brags about Utah's economy, that it was the fastest-growing state in the nation from 2010 to 2020 and that Utah also led the country in volunteerism and charitable giving.

"I wanted them to know Utah was different today," Cox said, summarizing the letter in his hand. "Utah was really unique. We got along and we worked together. That we tried to find ways to solve the greatest problems we're facing and we tried to do it together regardless of our (differences)."

However, it didn't shy away from issues also at the forefront now: drought, unaffordable housing and political divisiveness, all things he wants the future governor to know that current Utah leaders tried to fix, even if they aren't able to.

He told the future governor that they will be able to judge this generation based on what does and doesn't work between now and the time it's opened.

Gov. Spencer Cox holds up a letter he wrote to the people of Utah. The letter was placed inside a time capsule that will be stored inside one of the columns of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
Gov. Spencer Cox holds up a letter he wrote to the people of Utah. The letter was placed inside a time capsule that will be stored inside one of the columns of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Moments later, he stuffed the letter into a metal box that contains letters and video messages from Utah's elected leaders, as well as license plates, coins, photos from cities and towns around the state, books, sports memorabilia and some relics from the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a time capsule that intends to give the people of Utah a century from now an understanding of life now.

Once the box was sealed, the governor and some of the state's other elected leaders picked it up, carried it up the steps of the state Capitol and placed it in a space underneath a column while the Farmington High School band played nearby. The time capsule is to remain undisturbed until 2122.

Gov. Spencer Cox poses with House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant at the Capitol in Salt Lake City prior to placing a new 100-year time capsule into a column on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
Gov. Spencer Cox poses with House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant at the Capitol in Salt Lake City prior to placing a new 100-year time capsule into a column on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Wednesday's ceremony isn't the first of its kind. Utah leaders first placed a time capsule by the state Capitol cornerstone on April 4, 1914. In fact, most of Wednesday's ceremony attempted to recreate the 1914 ceremony.

State leaders at the time intended that the capsule — filled with newspapers, coins, stamps and other trinkets from the time — wouldn't be reopened until 2014 but then a funny thing happened. The more recent leaders struggled to find it because those details weren't very clear. Once they did find it, they postponed the opening until October 2016 so it could be a part of the celebration honoring 100 years of the building's opening.

Cox said the state wanted to create another time capsule because it will help Utahns a century from now understand all the current efforts to make the state a better place, which will undoubtedly help the future understand that aspirations don't really change over time. He believes this because he helped open the 1914 time capsule and saw everything those state leaders left the state leaders a century later.


Our state is never going to cease to have hardship. ... We have, as a state, learned how to endure adversity regardless of what's happening around us — and also get better and better as a people and as a state to come out stronger at the end.

–Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville


There are plenty of similarities in the world today compared to when Utah created its first time capsule. Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, points out that conflict was just breaking out in Europe in 1914, something that's happening again in 2022. There was also a major global pandemic a few years after it was sealed, which would have been the case had the new time capsule been placed right after the old one was opened.

The message he hopes the people of 2122 understand is difficulties will always emerge but there's a blueprint to handle them.

"Our state is never going to cease to have hardship. That's just a part of what happens in life," Wilson said. "We have, as a state, learned how to endure adversity regardless of what's happening around us — and also get better and better as a people and as a state to come out stronger at the end."

That's exactly what Cox wants the future generations to understand, especially since it's easier to analyze the past than it is to predict the future. He'll never know what Utah Gov. William Spry thought the future of Utah would look like and he'll never know what Utah will look like in 2122.

What will the view from the Utah State Capitol steps look like in 2122? Will they have flying cars then? What will the population be? More importantly, will all the issues now impacting Utah be solved by then?

The one certainty, Cox says, is collaboration is important to solving issues. He closed out his letter with a challenge to the Utah people of 2122 to pledge to work together as they look for solutions that help the generations beyond them much like Utah leaders are trying to do today.

"That's my hope for this time capsule," he said. "That as they look back, they'll look back with gratitude with the decisions and sacrifices that were made by the people of Utah in the year 2022 and that those sacrifices paid off in the year 2122."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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