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It’s not quite open to the public yet, but the makeover to the Church Office Building Plaza is nearing completion. And if you walk by on State Street, you can see a new feature that hasn’t been mentioned before.

A stone engraved with a scripture from Isaiah now fronts a renewed view of the Salt Lake Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The stone reads:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” — Isaiah 2:2

Renovation continues on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. An engraving quotes Isaiah 2:2.
Renovation continues on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. An engraving quotes Isaiah 2:2. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

That prophecy has deep meaning to past and present church leaders, who have said repeatedly the Salt Lake Temple is “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” In fact, on the first Sunday after Latter-day Saint pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to them about Isaiah 2:2.

In 1858, John Taylor, then an apostle and later a church president, noted that Joseph Smith, before his death in 1844, had said the church would migrate beyond the Rocky Mountains.

“We are here in the tops of the mountains, just as the Prophet said we should be,” he said in a general conference.

In a 2002 conference talk, Elder Robert D. Hales noted that when Salt Lake City hosted that year’s Olympic Winter Games, most of the world watched the Opening Ceremonies, which included images of the Salt Lake Temple.

“‘The mountain of the house of the Lord,’ with its brightly lit spires, has been witnessed by 3.5 billion people around the world,” said Elder Hales, who carried the Olympic torch to the First Presidency at the Church Administration Building.

Here are a few other brief statements by church leaders related to the scripture engraved into the new stone:

Elder LeGrand Richards, 1947 general conference

“(The pioneers) made great sacrifices to come to these valleys of the mountains. They left their homes, and President Grant used to say they left willingly because they had to.”

(He then quoted Isaiah 2:2-3 and Micah 4:1-2.)

“Every time I walk around this temple, I wonder what these prophets of old could have seen that could have been more grand and glorious and beautiful than the temple of God established in the tops of these mountains. These prophets did not only say that it should be established here, but they also said that men and women should come from all nations of the earth, and this gathering here today is a witness of the divinity of their prophetic words.”

Elder Stephen L. Richards, 1947 general conference

“What was the compelling force which drove (the pioneers) to such superhuman exertion and such widespread sacrifices? Strange as it may seem, it was their literal acceptance of an ancient prophecy revivified by modern revelation.”

(He then quoted Isaiah 2:2-3.)

“Every pioneer believed that prophecy with his whole heart. He saw the vision of its fulfillment in all his labors, trials and privations.”

Renovation continues on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, April 2020 general conference

“In my mind today, I picture millions of our members and friends connected to these proceedings electronically by television, internet or other means. We are sitting down as if together ‘in the top of the mountains.’

“I stand today on the sacred ground that has drawn millions of visitors. In 2002, Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympic Games. The Tabernacle Choir sang at the opening ceremonies, and the church offered concerts and programs for guests and participants from many, many nations. I will always remember seeing the temple in the background of the nightly news broadcasts worldwide.

“Over the years, presidents of the United States, kings, judges, prime ministers, ambassadors, and officials from many lands have come to Salt Lake City and met with our leaders ...

“What I am describing is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that in the last days, nations shall flow unto ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house.’ The great Salt Lake Temple stands in the center of that majesty and glory.”

President Russell M. Nelson, April 2013 general conference

“The Restoration fulfills many biblical prophecies. For example, Isaiah prophesied that the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains. The exodus of Mormon pioneers to the mountains of western America is a fulfilling saga of sacrifice and faith.”

What’s next on the Church Office Building Plaza?

When the church closed the Church Office Building Plaza, the January 2021 announcement said the project would take 18 months.

The project included the removal of the iconic fountain that unfortunately was leaking into the underground parking garage.

In place of the fountain workers have installed 91 flagpoles. The flags of the nations of the world will be rotated on the poles to represent the global nature of the church, according to Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations and communications director Georges Bonnet.

If the project is still on schedule, and there has been no indication it is not, that means the block east of the temple could be complete and open to the public this summer.

When the Church Office Building Plaza is complete, work will continue on landscaping the Main Street Plaza, the area closer to the east end of the temple where the reflecting pool was. The pond was torn out but is being replaced.

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What to know about the 2023 BYU Women’s Conference this week.

The latest Church News podcast this week is with Dean Brigitte C. Madrian of the Marriott School of Business on the positive influence of BYU.

What I’m reading

I am disappointed by a recent report regarding the church in a major news outlet. CNN published a search-engine friendly story called “What do Mormons believe?” Unfortunately, it didn’t answer the question well. The Church of Jesus Christ’s distinct Restorationist teachings about Christ and his Atonement don’t make it into the piece. Neither does the belief in a living prophet. The story also reports that “Mormons” “relocated several times” because they were “unpopular” due to missionary work and Joseph Smith’s teachings. That is mobocracy-washing, if you will. Without mentioning the mobs that drove them farther and farther west and the Missouri extermination order, CNN’s description of Joseph Smith’s fatal jailing in Illinois is stripped of all context but polygamy. The piece also is assertively provincial; there is no sense of a global faith decades after it became an international-majority church. There is also a brushover mention that the church “has occasionally made statements condemning racism,” which inaccurately describes the entirety of what President Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and others have said and done over the past five years alongside collaborators in the NAACP and UNCF (United Negro College Fund). I’ll just stop there.

I’ve written about the journey of people through the world’s most dangerous 60-mile stretch. I interviewed them at a church-sponsored facility for refugees in Texas. Now one of my colleagues has traveled to the Darién Gap to report on the plight of those preyed upon during those journeys.

This Latter-day Saint historian left his faith. Here’s why he returned.

Angel Studios raised $1.235 million in under 100 hours for “His Only Son.”

“The Chosen” partners with the Prison Fellowship to stream the series in U.S. prisons.

Behind the scenes

Renovation continues on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. An engraving quotes Isaiah 2:2. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Renovation continues on Temple Square and at the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Renovation continues on Temple Square and at the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News