SALT LAKE CITY — An iconic temple central to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith will close for four years for major renovation. Officials say they are keeping a careful eye on construction plans after a devastating fire this week at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Church President Russell M. Nelson said in a press conference Friday the Salt Lake Temple will close Dec. 29 to update the building, help it withstand earthquakes and create a more welcoming visitor environment.
“This project will enhance, refresh, and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds,” Nelson said. “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.”
The last time the Salt Lake Temple was extensively renovated was 1962-66.
“We promise you that you will love the results,” Nelson said. “They will emphasize and highlight the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ in His desire to bless every nation, kindred, tongue and people.”
Renovations on the Salt Lake Temple are a part of a wider effort announced last November to update and renovate the church’s aging pioneer-era temples. That includes the St. George Temple, the church’s longest-operating temple.
Work on the St. George Temple is set to begin in November and is expected to be completed in 2022.
Like all LDS temples, those in St. George and Salt Lake City are open only to church members for marriages and other ceremonies, though the surrounding grounds are generally open to the public.
Temple Square in Salt Lake City is among the state’s top tourist destinations, according to Associated Press.
According to a Q-and-A page the church posted on its news site, much of Temple Square will remain open during the renovation process. Only the temple, south visitor center and east plaza will be impacted.
The Q-and-A page also addresses how the church plans to protect the temple from fire.
The Church acknowledged the recent Notre Dame fire and understands how construction puts any project at greater risk for a fire. The Church plans to work closely with the contractor, Church risk management and local fire officials to finalize a fire prevention plan.
When the temple reopens in 2024, a brief open house will give outsiders their first glimpse of the interior in more than a century.
Following the open house period, the Salt Lake Temple will be rededicated and return to regular use.
The church operates over 200 temples worldwide, with a handful of new ones usually announced during the church’s biannual general conference each year. Utah currently hosts 17 operating temples.
Latter-day Saints consider temples to be the “House of the Lord,” the most sacred places on the earth. Temples differ from the meetinghouses or chapels where all are welcome to attend Sunday worship services.
In the temple, according to LDS church descriptions, the teachings of Jesus Christ are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ceremonies that unite families for eternity.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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