President Nelson Outlines Plans for Salt Lake Temple during Its Four-Year Closure for Renovation

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News editor

  • 19 April 2019

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks at a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019. Watch the full press conference below.

Article Highlights

  • The temple will close December 29, 2019, for approximately four years.
  • Mobility will be increased, as well as translation capabilities.
  • Seismic and safety concerns will be addressed.

“We promise you that you will love the results. They will emphasize and highlight the life, ministry, and mission of Jesus Christ in His desire to bless every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” —President Russell M. Nelson

The Salt Lake Temple will close December 29, 2019, and remain closed for approximately four years, President Russell M. Nelson announced Friday morning, April 19.

“We promise you that you will love the results,” said President Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “They will emphasize and highlight the life, ministry, and mission of Jesus Christ in His desire to bless every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”

Speaking at a press conference held in the Temple Square South Visitors’ Center, President Nelson joined other senior Church leaders and renovation project managers to talk about the massive and historic Salt Lake Temple renovation and preservation efforts.

“The project will enhance, refresh, and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds,” he said. “Obsolete systems within the building will be replaced. Safety and seismic concerns will be addressed.”

Renovations will also make the temple more accessible to those with limited mobility, and translation capabilities will be incorporated. Some of the grounds will be restored to resemble conditions that existed when the temple was first constructed, he said. Work will also be done on the adjacent plaza near the Church Office Building.

“Every reasonable effort will be made to honor and maintain the temple’s historic beauty. We will strive to preserve its reverent setting and character as originally directed by President Brigham Young.”

President Nelson said looking at the historic Salt Lake Temple brings to remembrance the pioneers who built the temple. With the site identified by Brigham Young soon after the pioneers’ arrival in 1847, construction on the building began in 1853 and was completed 40 years later.

“One of the many evidences of the Restoration of the Savior’s Church is the building of temples across the world,” he said. “Temples are precious to us, because in them, Church members and their families participate in sacred ceremonies and ordinances that are the crowning facet of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

For 126 years the Salt Lake Temple has inspired and served generations of Church members, he said.

Watch the full press conference from Friday, April 19, 2019, announcing renovation and preservation plans for the Salt Lake Temple.

“This temple and others built in Utah by these pioneer forebears represent some of the finest examples of architectural design, engineering, and use of materials then available,” he said, noting the Church has a sacred responsibility to care for the buildings.

“To some extent, buildings are like people. Not only is the aging process inevitable, but it can also be unkind. The good news is that buildings can be renovated. The bad news is that needed renovations takes time.”

President Nelson noted that the press conference was held on Good Friday. The day reminds the world that “Easter Sunday is nigh,” he said.

“Easter stands as a recurring testimony that Jesus is the Christ, our redeeming Lord and Savior. We express our love for Him along with the witness that God lives. Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church.”

Bishop Gérald Caussé, the Church's Presiding Bishop, conducted the media conference. Bishop Dean M. Davies, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, called the project “very significant and impactful.”

On July 28, 1847, just four days after arriving in the Great Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, and several others walked from their north camp to a section of land located between two creeks in the heart of the valley, he explained.

“It is recorded that Brigham Young waved his hand and said ‘here is the 40 acres for the temple. The city can be laid out perfectly square north and south, east and west.’ It was moved and seconded that the temple lot was to be set aside and to contain 40 acres. However, after further review, the 40 acres was later reduced to 10.”

But construction did not begin immediately.

“The most important task facing Church leaders was to settle the saints, plant crops, and to prepare the way for the many thousands who would soon come to Zion, and for the building up of the Kingdom,” he said.

In 1853, Brigham Young determined to begin work.

On February 14, 1853, ground was broken. At the groundbreaking, Brigham Young spoke for about 30 minutes. Then after an interlude of music and song, Heber C. Kimball offered a prayer consecrating the ground.

The groundbreaking of the Salt Lake Temple February 14, 1853.

The First Presidency led the procession to the southeast corner of the temple site, where they loosened a piece of frozen earth about one-foot square. President Young then lifted his spade and cast the first shovelful of earth aside for the building of the temple, and the work commenced.

“Many Church members tithed their time and resources for the building of the temple,” Bishop Davies said.

“The project was monumental, even by today’s standards.”

It would take 40 years to complete the temple.

“Stone was quarried from the nearby mountains, trees were felled from nearby forests, and every effort was made to erect a lasting monument to God and to His people,” said Bishop Davies.

The temple was dedicated 40 years later by President Wilford Woodruff on April 6, 1893.

The Salt Lake Temple after its dedication in April 1893.

The Salt Lake Temple has been renovated many times since its original dedication, he said, noting the most extensive renovation took place from 1962 to 1966.

“The temple and support facilities have served the Church with distinction,” said Bishop Davies, who was employed by the Church as the managing director of the Special Projects Department with responsibility for temple design and temple construction before his call to the Presiding Bishopric.

However, he added, there are a number of needs for the temple that President Nelson referred to in his comments and announcement.

Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department, said numerous matters must be considered when a temple is closed for an extended renovation.

Watch a virtual walk-through of the planned Salt Lake City Temple renovation.

The Salt Lake Temple is “one of the largest operating temples of the Church and serves thousands of patrons in the Salt Lake Valley as well as many other Church members who visit Salt Lake City from around the world,” he said.

During the renovation, patrons who normally attend the Salt Lake Temple can attend other nearby temples including the Ogden, Bountiful, Jordan River, Draper, and Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temples, he said.

“These temples are making preparations to welcome additional patrons, although we expect there may be occasions when they experience increased waiting,” Elder Wilson explained, noting that schedules for all temples can be found online at temples.churchofjesuschrist.org.

“There are no plans to formally reassign any stakes to other temple districts during the closure. Youth and adult Church members are invited to attend any temple of their choosing.”

Elder Wilson said that after the completion of the renovation project, the temple will be able to serve members who speak more than 86 different languages. “This will be a great blessing for members from around the world who wish to worship in the Salt Lake Temple,” he said.

During the closure, administrative meetings currently held by Church leaders in the temple—including the weekly meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—will then be held in designated areas of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

In addition, the closure will also impact thousands of Church members who volunteer their time to serve as workers in the temple, he said.

“We express our heartfelt gratitude for these faithful and dedicated workers, as well as to our devoted employees,” Elder Wilson said. “Following established precedent, the temple presidency and all ordinance workers will be formally released after the temple closes for renovation.”

A rendering shows a view of the east block of Temple Square.

A rendering depicts the Salt Lake Temple’s south side.

A rendering of the Salt Lake Temple shows the temple’s south side at street level. The views will be improved from street level after the renovation.

A rendering shows the north side entry into Temple Square.

A rendering view inside the north gate of Temple Square shows the top of the skylight over the recommend desk entry.

A rendering shows the entry into the temple, the recommend desk, and the skylight.

A rendering of Temple Square after renovations.

A rendering of the Salt Lake Temple's base isolation system. The system is designed to protect the structure from earthquakes.

A rendering of the temple’s base isolation phase. The system is designed to protect the structure from earthquakes.

A Salt Lake Temple section looking west at the center line. An underground entrance from the temple parking lot will be added.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, center, and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, right, walk through the South Visitors’ Center prior to a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019, about renovation plans for the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (center) and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks (left) and President Henry B. Eyring (right), sit prior to a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Russell M. Nelson shakes hands with dignitaries prior to speaking during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019, about renovation plans for the Salt Lake Temple and historic Temple Square. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

A view of Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Temple Square and downtown Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.

A view of the flowers on Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple on Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.