SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Temple worshipers displaced by more than four upcoming years of renovations will have to attend other temples in Salt Lake or Davis County, but one other possibility exists — a new temple announced just last month in Tooele County, a senior Latter-day Saint leader said Friday.
President Russell M. Nelson announced the Tooele Valley Temple on April 7 during his final remarks at the latest global general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many years can pass between a temple announcement and completion while the church's Temple Department navigates site acquisition, permitting, construction and, sometimes, delays. The recently completed Rome Italy Temple took more than 10 years.
The Temple Department's executive director, Elder Larry Y. Wilson, told the Deseret News and Church News on Friday that an accelerated process for the Tooele Valley Temple would help relieve the pressure of Salt Lake Temple visitors on other area temples during the Temple Square renovation.
"We're hoping that Tooele will be open before the Salt Lake Temple for precisely the reason you indicated," he said. "And we will be moving as rapidly as we can on the construction of that temple."
The church operates 163 temples around the world, with 17 in Utah. Other than Salt Lake, three are in southern Salt Lake County. The closest temple to Salt Lake City is 20 minutes north, in Bountiful in Davis County.
For two-thirds of Latter-day Saint temples, just getting from announcement to groundbreaking has taken more than three years.
On the other hand, nearly a quarter of the church's temples have been completed on a faster track, with ground broken within six months of their announcement. Most of those fast-tracked temples were built during the church's temple-building boom from 1997-2000. During that time, 35 temples were constructed within two years after they were announced.
The fastest was the Monticello Utah Temple, dedicated just nine months and 22 days after it was announced in 1997.
Since 2000, one other temple has been finished within two years — the Manhattan New York Temple, which was constructed in an existing building.
Only six other temples outside the 1997-2000 period have been finished within three years — the Gila Valley Arizona, Boise Idaho, Redlands California, Taipei Taiwan, Freiberg Germany and Brigham City Utah temples.
"There are so many unknowns," Elder Wilson said about the Tooele Valley Temple project. "We're still at the very beginning of that project. So many unknowns related to the design, the governmental approvals and the challenges of the construction process. I would hope that it would be open — and I suspect that there's a good prospect of it being opened —before the Salt Lake Temple renovation is done. But it's hard to say."
Latter-day Saint Sabbath worship takes place in tens of thousands of meetinghouses. Temples are reserved for what President Nelson on Friday called "sacred ceremonies and ordinances that are the crowning facet of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The highest blessings that God offers to his faithful children are available only in a temple."
Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn looked forward to a Latter-day Saint temple coming to the valley after the announcement last month.
"I am thrilled with the news of a temple coming to our beautiful valley!" she told the Deseret News. "Members have waited for this announcement for many years. I look forward to working with church officials as this great edifice comes to our valley!"
People have speculated about a temple coming to Tooele for years, said a former mayor, Charlie Roberts.
"Our valley is growing and it's going to continue to grow," he said. "I remember when the Jordan River Temple was built and it was out in the sticks, nowheresville. All I've seen with temples is how they spur good development. So I expect that will happen wherever it's built out here."
The 17 operating temples in Utah are Salt Lake, St. George, Manti, Logan, Provo, Ogden, Jordan River, Bountiful, Mount Timpanogos, Vernal, Monticello, Draper, Oquirrh Mountain, Brigham City, Payson, Provo City Center and Cedar City.
Four additional temples have been announced in the state, in Saratoga Springs (announced April 2017), Layton (April 2018), Washington County (Oct. 2018) and Tooele Valley.