A year ago today, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake jolted the trumpet from the hand and lips of the Angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake Temple 210 feet above the ground.
A lot has happened since March 18, 2020. The trumpet has not yet been restored to its rightful place. In fact, the statue is no longer in place on top of the temple as it continues to undergo renovation. So where are the trumpet and the statue, and what’s next?
No one was injured in the trumpet’s fall because it tumbled only to a ledge not far below the spire on which the statue stood. The earthquake caused some additional damage and falling stones, but pedestrians were not endangered since the temple grounds already were a construction zone. The temple closed three months earlier, at the end of 2019, for the start of an exceptional four-year renovation project.
Here’s what has happened in the past year:
The quake hits and the trumpet falls
The earthquake’s epicenter was about 15 miles west of the temple in Magna on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. At a magnitude of 5.7, it was the strongest tremor in the area in 28 years and caused broken gas lines, evacuations, power outages and a chlorine gas plume.
At the temple, the quake displaced spire stones and Moroni’s trumpet. No workers were injured and work crews were sent home for the day. They quickly returned to work and the temple renovation has continued unabated through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The core of the renovation is a monumental seismic upgrade that includes placing base isolators under the temple, which weighs nearly 100,000 tons. To learn more about how the remarkable new seismic system will be installed and protect the temple, click here.
Angel Moroni statue temporarily removed
Exactly two months after the trumpet fell, on May 18, workers used a giant crane to remove the damaged Angel Moroni statue and the round capstone on which it stood from the temple’s top for the first time since 1892, when 40,000 people watched it be put in place.
The statue is 12 feet, 5.5 inches tall. It is made of hammered copper and covered in 22-karat gold leaf. The trumpet in Moroni’s right hand had always been pressed to his lips as he faced east, a reminder that angels will herald the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Removing and refurbishing the statue and capstone was a planned part of the temple renovation, but the removal was accelerated by the earthquake, then delayed for weeks by aftershocks.
Angel Moroni statues are included on many temples, though not all. One was placed atop the new Pocatello Idaho Temple last week, the Rexburg Standard Journal reported. Most of the statues stand on a gold-plated ball instead of a capstone like the Salt Lake Temple statue.
Up close, the Salt Lake Temple’s statue made quite a sight as it was lowered to the ground last May.
“I never knew the Angel Moroni was so big,” said 6-year-old Elle Hirst as the crane gently set the statue on a platform in front of the temple.
In fact, the statue and capstone together weighed 5,000 pounds, or 2.5 tons.
Read more about the statue’s removal last year here.
Opening the capstone, which doubled as a time capsule
The capstone also was a time capsule, and later last May, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints watched church historians and conservators open the contents.
To read about what the capstone held, click here.
One thing that was not found by the historian, the conservator and Presidents Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring? A photograph of Joseph Smith. No known photograph of him exists, but one had been reported to be included in the time capsule. The photo cards in the time capsule were laminated together due to moisture damage, and no photographic images survived.
Where is the Angel Moroni statue is now
After lowering the statue from the temple last May and removing the capstone below its feet, crews moved the statue to a local storage facility. It will remain there until it is scheduled to be restored atop the temple. The renovation project was scheduled to be completed in 2024, but the church noted last week that several changes to the plans, noted below, may alter that timeline. No update has been provided.
The church has not said whether the trumpet already has been repaired and placed back in Moroni’s hand, or whether that will happen sometime in the next three years.
The work continues
- Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Utah has considered construction work to be essential, and the Salt Lake Temple renovation has continued. Crews have demolished a visitors center and several annex buildings around the temple, removed ornate finials from the temple spires for protection and refurbishment, exposed the pioneer-era foundation and shored up the foundation with specialized grout and other reinforcements. Here is a deep look at some of what has happened so far.
- The church also announced that it will replace the fountain in front of the Church Office Building to the east of the temple. Here’s what will go in its place.
- Last week, the First Presidency announced that it will double the capacity of the Salt Lake Temple by adding endowment instruction rooms, sealing rooms and a second baptismal font, making it the first Latter-day Saint temple with two fonts. Learn more here.
- Here’s a look at how Brigham Young determined the spot where the temple would be located, and some of the renovation work that happened last fall.