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The Salt Lake Temple is being decommissioned. Here’s what that means

Crews begin construction on a major, four-year renovation of the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.
Crews begin construction on a major, four-year renovation of the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Crews got to work this week decommissioning the iconic Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so a massive four-year renovation project could get underway.

But what does it mean to decommission a Latter-day Saint temple?

It’s an extensive and careful transition process for preparing a sacred structure for construction, said Rich Sutton, temple area director for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He explained in a Newsroom release that “decommissioning occurs to remove sacred items and turn the building into a construction site.”

“We have been preparing for months for this process, which began almost immediately after the temple closed to patrons on Dec. 29,” Sutton said.

What will visits to Temple Square be like during temple renovation? We now know

The four-year renovation, announced by President Russell M. Nelson in April 2019, will restore, refresh and strengthen the Salt Lake Temple against any future earthquakes.

Even as the temple becomes a construction site, the church will not neglect its “sacred purpose and history,” Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations, said in the release.

“The decommissioning process allows us to carefully take care of what is inside the temple so we can then focus on our job of fortifying and protecting this house of the Lord,” Kirby said.

Here are some questions and answers that describe the process.

What sacred items are removed during the decommissioning?

Members of the church’s Temple Department remove temple clothing, temple records and other items used in performing temple ordinances.

Once the sacred items are gone, the temple is no longer considered a dedicated building and a recommend is not necessary to enter.

Additionally, workers will clean out offices, custodial closets and temple laundry, according to the release.

What happens to the furniture?

Temple furniture will be transported to places such as storage warehouses or other church facilities. In some cases, furniture may be donated to local nonprofit organizations.

Workers remove displays from the South Visitors’ Center following the closure of the Salt Lake Temple.
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

How will the church protect other interior items of historic value during the renovation?

Workers will remove stained glass windows, historic light fixtures and other items for protection during the renovation. Measures will be taken to cover historic finishes that will remain during the renovation period.

The church will display several Salt Lake Temple artifacts in the Conference Center during the renovation.

What happens next?

The last steps involve asbestos abatement and creating temporary power and utilities for construction.

How long does the decommissioning process last?

The decommissioning process will take several weeks, according to the release.

The Salt Lake Temple renovation is expected to be finished in 2024. Temple Square will remain open during that time with visitor experiences available at the Conference Center.

Where can I find updates on the renovation process?

You can find updates on the renovation at TempleSquare.org.