The first images from inside the renovated St. George Utah Temple were released Wednesday, as Latter-day Saint leaders hosted a media briefing and tours ahead of the start of the public open house that begins next week.

The St. George temple was completed and dedicated in 1877 by pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, making it the church’s first completed temple in Utah.

President Russell M. Nelson announced plans to update and upgrade the church’s pioneer-era temples at the end of general conference in April 2019, “a period of renewal and refreshing, and, for some, a major restoration.”

The church released multiple photos from inside the temple, including the celestial room and baptismal font.

Work has been underway for years on three of those pioneer-era temples — the Salt Lake Temple, Manti temple and St. George temple. Renovation for the fourth, the Logan Utah Temple, is pending.

“Efforts will be made to preserve the unique historicity of each temple wherever possible, preserving the inspiring beauty and unique craftsmanship of generations long-since passed,” President Nelson said.

When does the St. George Utah Temple open house begin?

The temple closed for renovation on Nov. 4, 2019.

The public open house begins Sept. 15. It will continue through Saturday, Nov. 11, excluding Sundays and Saturday, Sept. 30, due to general conference.

To make free reservations to tour the temple, visit reservations.churchofjesuschrist.org. The St. George temple is one of several with ongoing or pending public open houses.

The exterior now replicates the temple’s 1870s architecture better than the 1970s annex it is replacing.

“It looks more like the historic temple,” Kirby said.

When will the St. George Utah Temple be rededicated?

The St. George Utah Temple is scheduled to be rededicated on Dec. 10, 2023.

“I think the pioneers who built this would be pleased with our work,” said Andy Kirby, director of the church’s historic temple renovations. “They would be satisfied that we preserved their efforts and the beauty and the intent of their work.”

Latter-day Saints built temples in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois, only to abandon them after persecution forced them from their homes and, finally, to Utah.

“This is the first temple in the West,” said Steven E. Snow, former Church Historian and emeritus General Authority Seventy of the church. “I think Brigham Young was very, very happy that finally a temple had been built in the West before he passed.”

The St. George Utah Temple opened in 1877, 16 years before the Salt Lake Temple.

“This just happens to be my favorite temple because this is a temple I’ve known all my life,” said Snow, a St. George native.

Much of the renovation was a restoration, Kirby said.

The north and west additions to the temple were rebuilt to match the original architecture of the building. The temple also is now more accessible, with added elevators, better stairs, walkways and hallways. There is also a new baptistry entrance on the south side of the temple and a bride’s exit on the northeast corner.          

“The interior design matches the historic temple and furnishings that would have been appropriate in the 1870s and 1880s,” Kirby said.

The St. George temple underwent an extensive renovation nearly 50 years ago, then was rededicated in 1975 by President Spencer W. Kimball.

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First year of St. George temple renovation builds on pioneer foundation made with a cannon

“It’s quite beautiful,” Kirby had said previously. “I’m so excited to have people see that beautiful historic temple refreshed and renewed. They’ll recognize their temple when they go back. It will be more functional, it’ll be easier to get around with the new elevators and stairs.”

Similar to the Salt Lake Temple, the newly renovated St. George temple will reflect elements of the temple’s original historic design.

“The finishes will all be similar to the historic temple, so beautiful large archways and beautiful windows,” Kirby said.

Work crews encountered pioneer craftsmanship throughout the renovation, especially while structurally reinforcing the temple’s stone foundation. To build the original foundation, pioneer crews used a heavy cannon as a pile driver to put stabilizing materials in the swampy ground.

Modern workers covered support beams with steel, wrapped columns with fiberglass and drilled steel pipes called micropiles 35-40 feet deep into the bedrock below the foundation.

“It’s actually a load transfer,” Kirby previously told the Deseret News. “Not only are we encapsulating the existing stone foundation with reinforced concrete, we’re taking that load that’s sitting directly on that foundation and transferring load to the micropiles. They are encapsulated in that foundation, physically tied in with steel to the foundation.”

Workers also painstakingly removed asbestos and lead paint added during the 1970s renovation and upgraded the mechanical and electrical systems.

“It has all-new heating, air conditioning and cooling system … LED lighting and state-of-the-art high-efficiency systems throughout the temple, so it will operate in an efficient way for many years,” Kirby said.

“I anticipate that this temple will last for 50, 60, maybe even 75 years without a major renovation, if it’s maintained well,” he added.

The St. George temple has undergone multiple renovations since it was originally dedicated in 1877, according to the Church News.

  • The cupola was replaced in 1883 after a lightning strike.
  • The first annex was added in the same year.
  • Renovations were made in 1917, 1938 and 1975.
  • In 1999, the baptistry was renovated.

The same will be true inside, where floors altered in the 1970s are being redesigned to look more like the 1870s original.

The north addition will be home to two larger sealing rooms, administrative offices, men’s and women’s changing rooms, and a chapel.

Workers razed the west entrance to the temple that was added in the 1970s, exposing the old pioneer exterior. Crews refreshed the entrance and exterior.

This story will be updated.