ST. GEORGE — Next week, the St. George Temple, a staple of the St. George landscape, closes for three years.
In January, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the St. George Temple would be closed for renovations starting Nov. 4 and carry through 2022. In May, church officials held a press conference in the temple visitor center sharing details and renderings of what the future renovations would involve and look like once complete.
“The temple is one of the of the most beautiful, premiere temples in all of the world, and definitely in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Brent Roberts, managing director of the church’s special projects department, said during the May 22 press conference. “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 to come.”
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.
Work to be done includes the demolition of the temple’s annex, which will be rebuilt in a style matching the overall architecture of the temple proper. The new annex will continue to serve as the St. George Temple’s primary entry once reopened.
The temple’s landscaping will also be given an overhaul, with plans for palm trees to line 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.
Parts of the restoration work will also include restoring elements of the temple that were changed or removed during the last major renovation that took place in the mid-1970s.
“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 temple is also considered significant to the LDS church due to the role it is believed to have played regarding the church’s doctrine involving baptism for the dead.
The St. George Temple is also the oldest and longest-operating temple in the church. Construction began in November 1871, and the building was dedicated for use April 6, 1877. Since that time, the St. George Temple underwent major renovations in 1917, 1938 and 1975.
Atkin said many older church members in the St. George area may remember being baptized in the temple when they turned 8 years old.
Atkin also referred to the pending closure as one that comes with a sense of trepidation, because he and many others would like to see the temple remain open. Nevertheless, they are excited for the coming renovation, even if it takes three years.
“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?” Atkin said. “I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities of service in our community as we prepare for that great day.”
The St. George Temple currently serves 12,000 youth and 90,000 adult members of the church and is operated by a combination of over 3,000 volunteers.
Once the temple closes for renovations, church members will be able to visit neighboring LDS temples in Cedar City and Las Vegas. Preparations have been made at both locations accommodate the anticipated influx of patrons, according to church officials.
Though the temple and surrounding temple grounds will be closed to the public during the renovation, the visitor center will remain open.
Once the renovation is complete, the St. George Temple will be open to the public for a short while for tours to showcase the renovations. After that, the temple will be rededicated for use by church members.
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.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presently has 159 temples in operation worldwide, with 15 more under construction, seven being renovated and 36 announced.
Among those on the “announced” list is a second temple in Washington County that was announced in October 2018. Thus far, the church had offered no additional information regarding a specific location or when it is expected to be built.
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