Despite opposition, LDS Church still wants a 100-foot steeple on a new Wyoming temple

Cody still hasn’t approved the structure.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) This artist's rendering shows the temple that's planned for Cody, Wyoming.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not backed away from plans for a steeple that would soar more than 100 feet high on a new temple planned in Wyoming, despite having scrapped a formal request for permission to build a structure that tall.

At a recent meeting, the Cody Planning and Zoning Board voted to prohibit the steeple, and some members expressed concern about outdoor lighting on the temple, according to the Cowboy State Daily. The board deadlocked 3-3 on proposals both for and against final approval of the single-story, nearly 10,000-square-foot building.

The board did sign off on a conditional use permit, reversing a June 27 vote to deny that step. And that vote reversed a June 15 decision to approve it.

The new approval stipulates that the temple cannot exceed 30 feet — the standard for the residential area where the temple would be built — rejecting a ruling by Cody city planner Todd Stowell that the steeple should not count toward the temple’s full height.

The height stipulation came after it was announced at the start of the latest meeting that the church had withdrawn its application for a special exemption to the height restriction. That, however, does not mean the church has given up its plans for a 77-foot steeple atop the 25- or 26-foot temple. According to the Cowboy State Daily, “Stowell said before the meeting he had been informed the church felt it didn’t need an exemption to have the temple height approved.”

The Salt Lake City-based church confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune that it still wants to build the temple as originally planned, complete with the steeple.

Stowell, a Latter-day Saint, has faced accusations that he is biased in the faith’s favor. According to a report in the Powell Tribune, at a June 15 meeting of the Cody Planning and Zoning Board, Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield — who said he was speaking only for himself — turned to Stowell and said, “What else do we have going on here? We have a shill in the city planner.”

Hatfield was told to leave the podium, and he has threatened to sue the city unless he receives a public apology.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) This is the spot in Cody, Wyo., where the Salt Lake City-based church wants to build a new temple.

Light fight

The proposed temple has created considerable controversy. The two major points of contention are its height and plans to light its exterior after dark. Several proposals regarding lighting were made at Wednesday’s meeting, but none was approved.

According to a lawyer representing the church, it is “amenable” to lighting restrictions. It has made changes to its lighting plans before. In April, the church compromised with Wasatch County over the still-in-the-planning stages Heber Valley Temple, agreeing to restrictions on the amount and temperature of the lighting, and agreeing to turn the lights off an hour after sunset or within an hour of the end of daily operations.

On July 17, the church sued Cody and the planning and zoning board for violating their own ordinances. In June, five members of the board met to consider the proposed temple, and voted 3-1 (with one abstention) to approve it. However, board chair Carson Rowley ruled the motion had failed because it had not been supported by a majority of all eight board members, including the three who did not attend the meeting.

(The news outlet originally reported there are seven members of the board; there are eight.)

Under Cody municipal code, approval requires “an affirmative vote of a majority of the Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board members in attendance at said meeting.” And with three votes from the five members in attendance, that standard had been met.

That happened again in the latest meeting when the six board members in attendance voted 4-2 to approve the lighting plan without restriction. That vote was ruled a tie because there are eight board members.

(J. Matt | Special to The Tribune) The Laie Hawaii Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, photographed Friday, April 1, 2022.

Not all temples have steeples

Although the vast majority of Latter-day Saint temples have steeples or spires, there are a few that do not. That list includes temples in Laie, Hawaii; Mesa, Ariz.; and Cardston, Alberta, Canada. All three of those are considerably larger than the proposed temple in Cody — from 42,000 to about 114,000 square feet. And, even without spires or steeples, all three would exceed the 30-foot limit in Cody — 50 feet in Laie and Mesa; 85 feet in Cardston.

Other temples without steeples or spires include Paris; Hong Kong; and Tucson, Ariz., which has a dome and rises about 50 feet. According to the church, that temple was originally designed with a 95-foot steeple, but that would have required a special permit and the plans were changed.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Arizona's Tucson Temple.

For decades, Latter-day Saint temples routinely were topped with the Angel Moroni — a major figure in the faith’s beginnings and its signature scripture, the Book of Mormon. That is no longer the case. Most new and planned temples, including Cody’s, do not or will not include those golden statues.