After almost four years, the renovation of the St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is complete.
The restored structure at 250 E. 400 South — constructed of red sandstone and plastered over in white — was opened to media members on Wednesday. Invited guests will tour this week, public tours are scheduled to begin Sept. 15 and continue through Nov. 11. It will be rededicated Dec. 10.
“The pioneers who built this would be pleased with our work,” said Andy Kirby, director of the church’s historic temple renovations, said in a news release. “They would be satisfied that we preserved their efforts and the beauty and the intent of their work.”
New millwork, altars, recommend desks, cabinets and baseboards were designed to reflect what would have been constructed in 1877.
Announced in 1871 and completed in 1877, the St. George Temple is the oldest still in use by Latter-day Saints. (Construction began on the iconic Salt Lake Temple in decades earlier, but it was not completed until 1893. The Salt Lake Temple — and its surrounding square — is currently undergoing massive renovations, which will not be wrap up until at least 2026.)
The St. George Temple is the first completed in Utah and the third constructed after the church was organized in 1830. (The first, in Kirtland, Ohio, was dedicated in 1836; the second, in Nauvoo, Ill., was dedicated in 1846. Both were abandoned as Latter-day Saints migrated west. A new temple on the site of the original Nauvoo Temple was dedicated in 2002; the Kirtland Temple is owned by the Community of Christ.)
The glistening St. George Temple is the “first temple in the West,” said former Church Historian Steven E. Snow, a St. George native. “I think Brigham Young was very, very happy that finally a temple had been built in the West before he passed.” Young, the second president of the church, died less than four months after the temple was dedicated in 1877.
Snow, an emeritus general authority Seventy, and other locals are no less thrilled to see their landmark temple reopen. “This just happens to be my favorite temple,” he said, “because this is a temple [that] I’ve known all my life.”
Dana Moody, the great-granddaughter of George Brooks, who carved stone for the St. George Temple and the nearby historic St. George Tabernacle, cherishes her familial ties not only to the building but also to the faith
Her ancestors “made sacred promises and covenants with God,” Moody said in the release, “that can’t be done in other places. We believe that as we make those promises and those covenants with God, it binds us together for eternity.”
Accord to Kirby. the north and west additions were rebuilt to match the building’s original architecture. Elevators and better stairs, walkways and hallways were added to make the structure accessible. There is also a new baptistry entrance on the south side and a bride’s exit on the northeast corner.
Historic murals in the veil and celestial rooms were removed in the 1970s and partially restored in the 1990s, according to the church. New murals painted by Linda Curley Christensen, Keith Bond and David Miekle were commissioned to “capture the rugged natural beauty of the southwest Utah landscape.”
And the mechanical systems have been updated. “It has [an] all-new heating, air conditioning and cooling system … LED lighting and state-of-the-art high-efficiency systems throughout the temple,” Kirby said, “so it will operate in an efficient way for many years.”
He said that the interior design “matches the historic temple and furnishings that would have been appropriate in the 1870s and 1880s.” The 1877 wood-frame windows were replaced by new wood-frame windows patterned after the originals. A new skylight was added to the bride’s room area, using the quatrefoil motif seen throughout the temple as the basis of the design.
About 250 trees were added to the site, and the temple grounds feature water-wise plants, with an irrigation system enhanced with secondary water. The 1970s fountain on the north plaza was replaced with a new one, also of quatrefoil design, and a fountain was added on the east plaza.
The pioneer-era temple closed in November 2019 for renovations that were originally expected to last three years, but ended up taking closer to four. The overhaul included “limited seismic upgrades” to the white-plastered edifice, with steel added to the structure’s original wooden trusses, along with installation of new heating and cooling systems, and partial demolition and rebuilding of the temple annex.
Designed by church architect Truman O. Angell, the St. George Temple has undergone three previous renovations — completed in 1917, 1938 and an extensive overhaul in 1975 — as well as numerous updates and improvements. In 1883, the cupola was replaced after it was struck by lightning years earlier. Because of aging and corrosion, the original wood dome exterior of the spire was replaced with white fiberglass in the 1990s.
“I anticipate that this temple will last for 50, 60, maybe even 75 years without a major renovation,” Kirby said, “if it’s maintained well.”
Latter-day Saints view a temple as a House of the Lord, a place where the faithful participate in their religion’s highest ordinances, including eternal marriage and baptisms for the dead. The St. George Temple is the first where endowments for the dead were performed.
When the St. George Temple reopens to patrons, it will bring the number of temples currently operating in Utah to 16 — a list that includes Bountiful, Brigham City, Cedar City, Draper, Jordan River (South Jordan), Logan, Monticello, Mount Timpanogos (American Fork). Ogden, Oquirrh Mountain (South Jordan), Payson, Provo (scheduled to close for renovations in February 2024), Provo City Center Temple (converted from the former Provo Tabernacle), Saratoga Springs and Vernal.
The Orem Temple is scheduled to be dedicated in January, and the tally of temples that have either been announced or are under construction includes Deseret Peak (Tooele), Ephraim, Heber Valley, Layton, Lindon, Red Cliffs (St. George), Smithfield, Syracuse and Taylorsville.
Altogether, there are 28 temples open, under construction, under renovation or announced in Utah, where the global faith of 17 million members is headquartered.