SALT LAKE CITY
With the 117-year-old gray-granite Salt Lake Temple serving as a namesake backdrop, a new temple model and accompanying exhibit is providing an inside look into the Church's iconic sacred edifice.
Unveiled Friday, May 28, at the South Visitors Center on Temple Square, the towering, 7-foot-tall model of the Salt Lake Temple with cutaway sides and precisely replicated rooms was unveiled by Elders Richard G. Hinckley and William R. Walker, members of the Seventy and executive directors of the Missionary and Temple departments, respectively.
The hope is the replica will benefit all who view it and the exhibit's accompanying presentations.
"We think we'll have a lot of members rethink their temple commitments and covenants, and perhaps those who have chosen not to go back to the temple for many years will hopefully be touched by seeing this and be reminded of the great experiences they had years ago," Elder Hinckley said. "Likewise, we hope for those members who have not yet been to the temple that this will be a motivating factor for them as well."
Elder Hinckley is also mindful of the potential impact on nonmember visitors as well.
"There's a great deal of interest in temples, and the thing most our nonmember friends don't realize is that while our temples are closed, our meetinghouses are open to them," he said. "So there's a big difference between a meetinghouse — of which we have thousands — and a temple, which we just right now have 132."
The new permanent exhibit includes kiosks showing high-definition photos and videos of the temple's rooms, with narration providing explanation of purposes and diagrams showing where the rooms are located on the model.
Elder Walker equated the model and presentation as providing an open-house experience for an existing, operating temple.
The Salt Lake Temple did have an open house prior to its April 6, 1893, dedication. The night before, some 5,000 city and business leaders and residents — many of them nonmembers — toured the massive structure.
Now, 117 years later, the public gets a close look inside the Salt Lake Temple. "This is a way for people to see it now as if there had been an open house," Elder Walker said.
The south and east exterior walls of the model have been cut away, allowing replicated views of many of the temple's rooms, from the baptistry and celestial room to hallways and spiral staircases.
The model is intricately detailed, with paintings, furniture and even working chandeliers and lamps imitating what is found inside the Salt Lake Temple.
Constructed by Peter McCann Architecture Models of Toronto, the replica building required 16 modelers and five months of elaborate efforts.
"Some of the detail is so fine that we had to find people that were capable of doing it at that scale," said Joseph Coulas, the firm's project manager.
Elder Walker pointed out the model features depicted rooms and areas that even temple patrons haven't seen, such as the fifth-floor assembly hall used for solemn assemblies and leadership training and the fourth-floor council room where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve meet weekly.
"When people come and see the model, they'll be able to see into the room and see where the president of the Church sits, where his counselors sit and where the Quorum of the Twelve sit," he added. "I think many members will be absolutely fascinated by that."
Both Elders Hinckley and Walker expressed amazement on the intricate details – from the handmade bulbs of the working chandeliers to the preciseness of the endowment room murals to the compound curves in the room windows.
And it was done by modelers who not only never had set foot in the Salt Lake Temple but never had even seen it until coming out to Temple Square two weeks ago to install the replica. Instead of first-person perspectives, they worked off information from the Church's use of state-of-the-art cameras, which provided images with a myriad of data points and measurements inside and outside the temple.
Elder Walker expressed gratitude to the First Presidency for its approval of the project, adding that the threesome had viewed the finished product just two days previous to the unveiling.
"President Monson was pleased," said Elder Walker, adding that the model firm was based in Toronto, where President Monson served as a mission president and has a fondness for the area. "When he learned the firm was from Toronto, that made it even more enjoyable for him."