Downtown’s iconic Salt Lake Temple has closed its doors to patrons and is scheduled to remain off-limits for four years to complete major renovations.
But that doesn’t mean there has been no activity this week on the square at the heart of Mormondom.
Construction crews have erected a chain link fence on the west side of the square in front of the Assembly Hall and Tabernacle, creating a walkway from the gate on South Temple to the one on North Temple.
By mid-January, the square’s South Visitors’ Center and portions of the south Temple Square wall will be demolished, according to a recent news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and nearby statues, trees and fountains will be removed.
The square will remain open during this work, but the experience will change for the millions who visit there each year.
The giant Conference Center, across the street, will become the main venue for the “guest experience,” Tanner Kay, manager for guest services, said at a December news conference.
The massive building, used mainly for the twice-yearly LDS General Conferences, Kay said, is the new home of art exhibitions, temple artifacts, a cutaway model of the sacred structure and an orientation film about the temple’s history.
The center’s balcony and roof, he said, also will give visitors a vantage place to view the ongoing renovation and seismic-retrofitting of the temple, originally dedicated in 1893.
All four of Utah’s pioneer-era Latter-day Saint temples are due for renovations.
The St. George Temple, Utah’s first, closed in early November to undergo a three-year makeover. Temples in Logan and Manti also are scheduled for upgrades. Dates and details of those projects have yet to be announced.
Latter-day Saints consider temples “Houses of the Lord," places where devout members participate in their faith’s highest rites.