LDS Church will get to light up its Heber Valley Temple after all, but the faith didn’t get everything it wanted

Latter-day Saint officials first asked Wasatch County to amend the regulations.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Rendering of the Heber Valley Temple. An update to Wasatch County's outdoor lighting regulations will allow the church to illuminate the temple.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will get to light up its yet-to-be-built Heber Valley Temple under the dark skies of Wasatch County, just not quite as bright as it initially wanted.

County Council members voted unanimously April 19 to approve new lighting standards that will pave the way for the church to illuminate the building as it does with its other temples around the world.

The change came months after the Salt Lake City-based faith first asked the county to update its regulations to allow for upward-facing lighting, sparking public feedback, debate among council members, and discussions with a county-hired dark-sky consultant.

Wasatch County Manager Dustin Grabau said Friday the end result of that process was an ordinance that balanced the competing interests of those who wanted the church’s proposed standards to prevail and those who backed the most restrictive lighting rules.

“I would say ‘compromise’ kind of undersells what we’ve adopted,” he said, “because what we’ve adopted is among the most conservative [standards] in the country.”

Wasatch County’s new requirements allow for upward-facing lighting but set limits to the amount of light in an area, cap the color temperature of lighting to a certain level, and require exterior lighting to be shut off an hour after sunset or within an hour of the close of normal business hours.

The regulations are stricter than the proposal an architectural firm submitted on the church’s behalf in November. The final ordinance requires a softer level of light than the faith initially sought.

Wasatch County first adopted its lighting ordinance — aimed at protecting night skies — two decades ago. The regulations prevented upward-facing lighting but placed no limits on brightness or how much light could be in a given area.

While the new rules may not be the strictest in the country, Grabau said, they set a more comprehensive framework for keeping light pollution in check.

“What we’ve adopted is overall many more requirements,” he said, “reflecting what the overall brightness of a project could be that previously we didn’t regulate at all.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson speaks at the Heber Valley Temple groundbreaking Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

The church held a groundbreaking ceremony for the planned twin-spired, three-story, 88,000-square-foot temple in October. The event was attended by church President Russell M. Nelson.

The Heber Valley edifice will be the faith’s first in rapidly growing Wasatch County and its 28th existing or planned temple in Utah.

Latter-day Saints view a temple as a House of the Lord, a place where the faithful participate in their religion’s highest rites, including eternal marriage.