Historic Manti LDS Temple is rededicated by a surprise visiting VIP

Church President Russell M. Nelson, who was not scheduled to be at the ceremony, does the honors in a Utah town where his father was born.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson, center, arrives at the Manti Temple for its rededication on Sunday, April 21, 2024. Nelson is joined by wife Wendy; apostle Ronald A. Rasband and his wife, Melanie; general authority Seventy Kevin W. Pearson, left, Utah Area president, and his wife, June; and general authority Seventy Kevin R. Duncan, right, executive director of the church’s Temple Department, and his wife, Nancy.

President Russell M. Nelson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rededicated the renovated Manti Temple on Sunday evening as the twin-spired monument to Utah’s pioneer past rejoined the faith’s practicing present.

“We build temples to honor the Lord,” Nelson said in a news release. “They are built for worship and not for show. We make sacred covenants of eternal significance inside these sacred walls.”

Nelson’s ancestral ties to the central Utah area run deep. His father, Marion, was born in Manti, and his mother, Edna, came from nearby Ephraim, where another Latter-day Saint temple is under construction.

In his prayer Sunday to God, Nelson said, “we rededicate this magnificent temple to thee from its foundation to its towers. We rededicate each room for its intended and sacred purpose” — which includes binding families together in the hereafter.

“We are grateful that, because of [Christ’s] Atonement,” he added, “we have the possibility of eternal life with thee and with our families.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Manti Utah Temple is one of 30 existing and planned temples in the Beehive State, home to more than 2 million Latter-day Saints.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson and wife Wendy participate in the rededication of the Manti Temple on Sunday, April 21, 2024.

The 99-year-old church leader’s presence and participation in the ceremony was a surprise. The Utah-based faith had announced recently that apostle Ronald A. Rasband would preside at the rededication.

“This sacred temple is particularly special to me because my family history is so closely connected to it,” Rasband, who attended and spoke at the service as well, said in the release. “By divine design, the Manti Utah Temple is built on sacred land and has been consecrated by those who for more than a century have faithfully made and kept sacred covenants.”

During a public open house, tens of thousands of visitors flocked to Manti (population 3,500) and waited in line, sometimes for up to two hours, to tour the retooled temple, considered one of the architectural gems of 19th-century Utah.

Inside, they marveled at the woodwork and craftsmanship of the pioneer-era builders, along with the freshened-up murals painted by acclaimed artists Minerva Teichert and C.C.A. Christensen.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Ordinance room in the Manti Temple displays the brightened Minerva Teichert murals.

The temple’s planned renovations initially sparked a public backlash after the church revealed plans to remove the murals, but the top leaders eventually decided that the paintings would remain and that another temple would be built seven miles away, in Ephraim.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Celestial Room in the Manti Temple.

The rededicated Manti Temple now becomes one of 18 functioning Latter-day Saints temples in Utah, joining Bountiful, Brigham City, Cedar City, Draper, Jordan River (South Jordan), Logan, Monticello, Mount Timpanogos (American Fork), Ogden, Oquirrh Mountain (South Jordan), Orem, Payson, Provo City Center (converted from the former Provo Tabernacle), Red Cliffs (St. George — dedicated in March); Saratoga Springs, St. George and Vernal.

Two more new temples are scheduled to be dedicated soon — in Taylorsville on June 2 and Layton on June 16.

The faith’s most-celebrated temple, the iconic six-spired Salt Lake Temple, in the heart of Utah’s capital, is undergoing extensive renovation and is expected to reopen in 2026. The space-age Provo Temple, meanwhile, is being torn down and overhauled. It will be renamed the Provo Rock Canyon Temple.

Eight more temples — Deseret Peak (Tooele), Ephraim, Heber Valley, Lehi, Lindon, Smithfield, Syracuse and West Jordan — are either under construction or in planning stages.

When all are completed, Utah will be home to 30 temples of the state’s predominant faith.

Latter-day Saints view these buildings as houses of the Lord and, unlike their more common meetinghouses, places where devout members participate in their highest religious rites such as eternal marriage.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A staircase in the Manti Temple.