The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled plans Wednesday for renovating the St. George Temple, which will include seismic upgrades, new heating and cooling systems, landscaping and partial demolition and rebuilding of the temple annex.
“This is one of the beautiful, premier temples in the church,” Brent Roberts, managing director of the church’s special projects department, said in a news release. “Latter-day Saints have worshipped here for almost 150 years. However, the building has worn out over time, and it is once again time for us to refresh and strengthen this historic structure for future generations to enjoy.”
The building will close Nov. 4. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2022.
The project includes “limited seismic upgrades” to the temple, with steel being added to the structure’s original wood trusses. There will be “some excavation around the temple’s foundation” for the installation of new heating and cooling systems.
There will be significant changes to the existing temple annex. The upper portion will be demolished and replaced with a structure designed to complement the temple. A 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.
There also will be improvements to the entire temple block, with new walkways, landscaping, water features and trees.
During the renovation, “some public access will be restricted,” according to the release. Some sidewalks will be closed, and some roads will be “temporarily" shut down during construction. The visitors’ center will remain open, but there will be no access to the temple itself.
And the annual Christmas lights display will be suspended until renovations are finished.
“The St. George Temple represents the devotion, sacrifice and faith of early members of the church. This temple was built by hand in the desert as an expression of their faith,” said Emily Utt, historic sites curator with the Church History Department. “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.”
The St. George Temple will be the first of two temples in Utah to close down for renovations. In April, the church detailed its plans to overhaul and strengthen the iconic Salt Lake Temple against earthquakes, a project that will begin Dec. 29 and is expected to take four years to complete. Two other pioneer-era temples — in Logan and Manti — also will be renovated. Details of those projects have yet to be announced.
Ground was broken on the St. George temple at 250 E. 400 South — constructed of red sandstone and plastered over in white — on Nov. 9, 1871. It was dedicated April 6, 1877, becoming the third Latter-day Saint temple completed and the first in Utah. It remains the oldest actively used temple in Mormonism. (The first, completed, in Kirtland, Ohio, is owned and operated by the Community Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The second, in Nauvoo, Ill., was destroyed; a replica on the same site was dedicated in 2002.)
According to the Utah-based faith, the St. George Temple’s cupola was replaced in 1883 after a lightning strike; the first annex was also added that year. Previous renovations were completed in 1917, 1938 and 1975, and the temple was was rededicated Nov. 11, 1975.
In October, the church announced it would build a second temple in Washington County; the exact location has not yet been released. Other temples are planned for Saratoga Springs, Layton and the Tooele Valley, bringing the total tally of Latter-day Saint temples in Utah to 21.
During the St. George renovation, area Latter-day Saints are being encouraged to attend two other temples in the region. Barely 50 miles to the north, the church opened the Cedar City Temple in December 2017. Some 120 miles to the south, the Las Vegas Temple came on line in December 1989.