ST. GEORGE — Details of the pending closure and renovation of the St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were revealed to the public Wednesday morning.
Gathered at the temple visitor center, LDS church officials offered a summary of what the public and church members can expect to see during and after construction and renovation work slated to begin Nov. 4 and carry through to 2022.
“The temple is one of the of the most beautiful, premiere temples in all of the world,” Brent Roberts, managing director of the church’s special projects department, said during a press conference held at the visitor center. “Members of St. George, southwestern Utah and parts of Nevada have worshiped here for almost 150 years. However, like other temples of its age, building systems have worn out and need to be refreshed and need to be restrengthened for future generations.”
Like other pioneer-era temples in need of upgrades and improvements, the St. George Temple will undergo extensive structural, mechanical, plumbing and finish work, Roberts said.
Part of the restoration work will include restoring elements inside and outside the temple that have changed during the last majority renovation that took place in the 1970s. One of the goals of the work is to restore how elements of how the temple appeared during its early days of operation.
“We believe the current plans to preserve, restore and renovate this sacred place will honor those who came before while also improving the temple’s safety and function for patrons,” said Emily Utt, historic sites curator with the Church History Department.
Major work on the building and temple block will include the demolition of the temple’s annex. It will be rebuilt with a design matching that of the St. George Temple and continue to serve as the temple’s primary entrance.
The segment of 400 South that runs along the temple will also be redone and regraded to make it more level. Currently there are two speed bumps in the roadway by the temple entrance.
Landscaping will all be redone, though existing trees will remain and new ones will be added, along with palm trees lining the walkway from the temple block’s east entry to the steps of the temple. The east entry will also be remodeled to include a new plaza. A new brides’ exit and plaza will be added to the east side of the annex, and a new baptistry entrance and exit will be added on the temple’s south side.
As with all church projects, Roberts also said there is a fire prevention plan in place as reference to the fire that consumed the LDS East Stake Center just west of the temple was made. Features of that plan include daily inspections, 24-hour fire and security watch, strategic placement of fire extinguishers and extensive caution in regard to grinding and welding work where a fire could occur.
“The St. George Temple has always maintained a significant role in the history of this great church,” said Ralph Atkin, a local public relations official for the church.
The St. George Temple is the oldest and longest-operating temple in the church. Construction began in November 1871 and was dedicated for use April 6, 1877. Since that time, the St. George Temple underwent major renovations in 1917, 1938 and 1975.
The temple is also considered significant to the history of the LDS church, Utt said, due to the role it is believed to have played regarding the church’s doctrine involved baptism to the dead.
The St. George Temple serves 12,000 youth in the region and 90,000 adults, said Michael Suhaka, managing director of the Church’s Temple Department. The temple has also been operated by a combination of 3,200 church members and volunteers.
During the closure and renovation of the temple, church members will be able to visit neighboring LDS temples in Cedar City and Las Vegas and preparations are being made at both locations accommodate the anticipated influx of patrons, Suhaka said.
“We are confident they will be able to receive those who want to serve in the temple,” he said.
While the temple grounds will be closed to the public during the renovation, the St. George Temple visitor center will remain open. Suhaka invited the public to continue visiting and also watch “the beautiful renovation that’s occurred” through the large windows facing the St. George Temple.
The annual Christmas lighting at the temple will also be on hold during the temple closure and renovation.
Once the renovation work is concluded, the St. George Temple will be open to the public for a short while to tour the inside of the temple and see the work that has been done. After that, the temple will be rededicated for use by church members.
“I love the hook at the end,” Atkin said. “It’s three years, but can you imagine the beauty that’s going to be here and the excitement that will resonate throughout this community? I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities of service in our community as we prepare for that great day.”
James A. and Danise McAthur, longtime patrons of the St. George Temple, both said they were excited by the renovation details.
“To see them build the annex so it looks like the temple is incredible,” Danise McArthur said.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” James A. McArthur said. “It’s going to be spectacular.”
There were no updates to last year’s announcement concerning a second temple being built in Washington County at Wednesday’s press conference.
The church operates over 200 temples worldwide, with a handful of new ones generally being announced during the church’s general conference each year. Utah has 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 meeting houses 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.
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