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Nelson hopes temple renovation urges members to renew commitment to faith

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The plans for the renovation of the historic Salt Lake Temple were unveiled on Good Friday, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Russell M. Nelson used the renovation as a metaphor urging member to renew their own commitments to Jesus Christ.

“We promise that you will love the results,” Nelson said of the improvements planned for Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple. “They will emphasize and highlight the life, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”

Earlier this month, President Nelson announced plans to renovate four pioneer-era temples, including Salt Lake, Manti, Logan and St. George. So far, plans for the Salt Lake temple renovations are the only ones to be unveiled. The Salt Lake Temple will close December 29, 2019 and will remain closed for approximately four years, Nelson announced Friday. 

The temple is expected to reopen in 2024 with a public open hosue. 

“This project will enhance, refresh, and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds,” said President Nelson. “Obsolete systems within the building will be replaced. Safety and seismic concerns will be addressed. Accessibility will be enhanced so that members with limited mobility can be better accommodated.”

Seismic updates and a facelift of the grounds

Church officials explained a new base isolation system will be placed underneath the Salt Lake Temple, dedicated in 1893, to protect against a major earthquake. Similar updates were already done to the Tabernacle in 2008. That undertaking will require deep excavations around the temple. 

The existing annex and temple addition on the north side, built in the 1960s, will be demolished and rebuilt, Church officials said Friday. That facility was originally built five decades ago to address the need for more support facilities and more sealing (marriage) rooms. 

The South Visitors Center will be demolished to make way for two new guest and visitor pavilions. 

The wall around Temple Square will also be modified to provide for a more open and “inviting” view of Temple Square from a distance

“The Salt Lake Temple is the center of Temple Square and the Church headquarters campus,” said Bishop Dean M. Davies, first counselor in the Church’s Presiding Bishopric. “New site improvements including multiple entry points will provide better access and views to the temple and through Temple Square. The new landscape will provide a pleasant atmosphere for all who visit Temple Square.”

The renovated Salt Lake Temple will feature new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. 

Access to Temple Square

When the renovation is completed, temple patrons and guests will enter the temple through the new entry pavilions to the north, proceeding down to a grand hall. That entry point, where the recommend desk will be situated, will sit under large skylights that will allow visitors to see the temple above. 

Patrons who enter from the Conference Center parking area will be able to get to the temple through a new guest access tunnel that will be built under North Temple Street, Church officials said Friday. That will allow for direct underground entry to the grand hall. 

A Latter-day Saint ‘Vatican’

Bishop Dean M. Davis, who fielded several questions from reporters Friday, said the temple renovation and the updates to the grounds at Temple Square will put more emphasis on Jesus Christ. Lately, there has been a renewed emphasis on the name of the Church, with President Nelson urging members and non-members to refrain from using the nickname “Mormon” when referring to the organization. 

“This is the Savior’s church,” Davies affirmed. “We want [visitors] to think of Salt Lake just as easily as they think of Jerusalem or of the Vatican  – as a place where Christianity really has its heart.”

“As we watch the renovation of the temple and Temple Square, I invite each of us to renew our dedication to the Lord and his holy work,” said Nelson. 

Plans for the renovation were announced just two months after the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited the Vatican and had an audience with Pope Francis. Church officials were there to dedicate the new Rome temple in a city many consider one of the birthplaces of Christianity. 

Church officials said Friday there has been a vision to renovate the Salt Lake Temple since Gordon B. Hinckley presided over the Church. 

Church officials said the Salt Lake Temple has been renovated many times since its original dedication. The most extensive renovation, officials said, was from 1962 to 1966.

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