SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The extensive renovation of the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now in its ninth month. For people passing by Temple Square, they can now look through the construction fences and get a glimpse of 170 years ago as much of the foundation stones have laid bare.
“It’s special to see those stones. It makes me think of the times in which the stones were laid, the resources that the Saints had during those times and the struggles they were going through,” says Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations for the Church. “Compare it to our days when, yeah, we may be struggling with worldwide pandemics and things like that, but our resources are very different and our technology is different.”
The 5.7 earthquake that struck Salt Lake City on March 18 caused construction crews to pause for a week while safety assessments were conducted. COVID-19 on the other hand, has not disrupted the temple project because construction work is deemed essential in Utah.
“[The pandemic] has made us a lot more focused on people’s safety on-site. And not just their physical safety, but also their health and well-being,” says Spencer Loveless, a project manager with Jacobson who manages scheduling for the Temple Square construction site. “COVID is changing how we can move manpower through the building and how many people can be working next to each other at any one time.”
For many people, seeing the temple and Temple Square under such major construction has been an unfamiliar sight for them.
“In this phase of the construction process, it may look a little bit shocking to some,” Kirby says. “It’s a little bit messy and there’s been significant changes around the temple. But trust that this is a phase and a step [in] the important process of strengthening the temple and preparing it for many generations in the future.”
With the temple’s foundation stones more exposed, crews are strengthening them to prepare for the installment of the base isolation system which will help the temple withstand a high-magnitude earthquake.
“In my opinion, there are some buildings that are worthy of a base isolation [system]. This is definitely one that I believe is deserving of it,” says Brandan Rowley, who is in charge of the seismic portion of the project. “If any building in the valley is worthy of going to this extent, this is the one.”
The current work of strengthening the foundation will continue through the end of 2020. Kirby says that the current work is perhaps the most challenging part of the renovation. Kirby says that as an earthquake, pandemic, and strong winds have all affected Salt Lake City this year, that he sees the temple foundation as a metaphor for life.
“What do we need to do to strengthen our own spiritual foundation?” he asks. “We need to trust in the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.”