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Mormon church shows inside view of Salt Lake Temple through new exhibit

SALT LAKE CITY — Twelve decades after the completion and dedication of its Salt Lake Temple, the LDS Church is opening up the iconic Mormon landmark to the public for tours — in a virtual, visual and small-scale way.

With the actual 117-year-old gray-granite temple serving as a fitting backdrop, a 1/32nd-scale Salt Lake Temple model towering more than 7 feet tall was unveiled Friday morning by church leaders in the Temple Square South Visitors' Center.

And the hope is the replica — replete with cut-away walls and views of detailed depictions of the building's layout and rooms — will help visitors better understand the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Many people think our temples are like great halls or cathedrals," said Elder William R. Walker of the Quorums of the Seventy and executive director of the church's Temple Department. "Actually, they have a number of rooms designated for certain functions such as marriages, baptisms and instructional sessions."

Before temples are dedicated and then used by only LDS Church members in good standing, they are available for public visits in open-house tours that draw tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of visitors.

LDS leaders anticipate that many times more than those numbers of people will "tour" the existing Salt Lake Temple during the lifetime of the new replica.

"This replica will show the millions of visitors who come to Temple Square the beauty and majesty of this sacred and historic building," said Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the Quorums of the Seventy and executive director of the church's Missionary Department.

Once temples are dedicated, they are used by church members for sacred purposes and ceremonies. "But this exhibit will provide the public with a glimpse of the interior and a feeling of the Spirit that is present there," Elder Hinckley added.

The south and east exterior walls of the model have been cut away, allowing replicated views of many of the temple's rooms, such as the large assembly hall, areas where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve meet regularly, the baptistry and other ordinance rooms.

The model is intricately detailed, with paintings, furniture and even working chandeliers and lamps imitating what is found inside the Salt Lake Temple.

Constructed by Peter McCann Architecture Models of Toronto, the replica building required 16 modelers and five months of elaborate efforts.

"Some of the detail is so fine that we had to find people that were capable of doing it at that scale," said Joseph Coulas, the firm's project manager.

The new permanent exhibit includes kiosks showing high-definition photos and videos of the temple's rooms, with narration providing explanation of purposes and diagrams showing where the rooms are located on the model. The presentation is modeled after what is shown and explained in a typical open-house tour of an LDS temple.

Construction on the Salt Lake Temple began in 1853 and was completed in 1893, with the sacred edifice dedicated on April 6 of that year. It was the sixth temple built by the LDS Church and is the fourth-oldest of the 132 temples currently in operation.

Just prior to its dedication, the Salt Lake Temple was toured by a reported 5,000 city officials, businessmen and residents — many of whom were nonmembers getting their first interior view of a Mormon temple. The first was built in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836, and the second in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1846. The next three were in Utah — St. George, Logan and Manti.

Elder Hinckley said the new temple model provides an additional reason for people to visit — or revisit — Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake. "Because of its history and spiritual significance, this temple is beloved by millions and recognized as an icon of Mormonism throughout the world," he said.

Salt Lake Temple model

The 1/32nd-scale replica was built by Peter McCann Architectural Models. A 16-member team constructed the model in five months, after several months of preparation.

The model measures 88 inches from the base to the top of the spires. Atop its pedestal, the entire display reaches nearly 12 feet in height.

The replica itself weighs between 600 and 800 pounds; each glass panel in the pedestal display weighs 200 to 300 pounds.

Experts with specialized skills in model construction participated in the project, including an electrical engineer and craftsmen who constructed the chandeliers, the structure, parts and interior paintings.

Materials include acrylic plastic, heavy card stock, brass, wood, gold leaf and glass.

The model was built in eight different sections, each independent of the other.

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