Episode 189: Salt Lake Temple renovation update with Brent Roberts and Andy Kirby

Four years after the Salt Lake Temple closed in January 2020 for extensive renovations, the managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, and the director of historic temple renovations join the Church News podcast

During April 2024 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “The temple is the gateway to the greatest blessings God has in store for each of us.”

Part of this continual focus on temple service is the extensive renovations of pioneer-era temples, including the iconic Salt Lake Temple, which closed in January 2020 for extensive renovations. This episode of the Church News podcast features an update on the renovations of the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square with Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, and Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations.

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Brent Roberts: You talk about the Salt Lake Temple, how it took 40 years to construct. But 40 years was generations for them. They were evolving, going through issues, strengthening their testimonies, and the temple was there when they needed it. And I look at those pioneers, especially the sacrifice — literally everything they had, in many respects — because they knew that they needed to have the power that comes with a covenant that they could only get in the temples of the Most High. And we feel the same way about Salt Lake. And we feel the same way about the other temples throughout the world. It is the power that you receive in making and keeping covenants that makes a difference in individuals’ lives. And we’re just thrilled to be a part of that.


Sarah Jane Weaver: This is Sarah Jane Weaver, executive editor of the Church News, welcoming you to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During April 2024 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson said, “The temple is the gateway to the greatest blessings God has in store for each of us.” Part of this continual focus on temple service is the extensive renovation of pioneer-era temples, including the iconic Salt Lake Temple, which closed in January of 2020 for extensive renovations.

On this episode of the Church News podcast, we are excited to give an update on the renovations of the Salt Lake Temple and of Temple Square. Joining us are Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, and Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations.

Thank you, both, for coming on the podcast.

Brent Roberts: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here.

Andy Kirby: Yeah, it’s nice to be here.

The Angel Moroni statue is lifted and placed atop the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: When we spoke last on the Church News podcast, the Church had just finished digging down to the foundation, and now work has completed actually going back up to the top of the temple. Angel Moroni has been returned to the spire.

Can each of you give us an update on what is the status of the Salt Lake Temple renovation?


Brent Roberts: You bet. I think I’ll leave some of the details to Andy, but what an incredible journey it has been over the past number of years since the last time we talked. It’s been a great blessing. We have gone through a situation where most of the things that were covered and unforeseen we now know in reality. It gives us a better option to construct and a better option to move forward. It’s just been a great blessing.

I think our mission has stayed the same, and our mission, as given to us by President Russell M. Nelson, was to emphasize and highlight the life and ministry and the mission of Jesus Christ all throughout Temple Square, including the temple. And the renovation of the temple, of course, was to make it a greater patron experience as well as provide mechanical, electrical, plumbing upgrades, and most importantly a seismic upgrade so that it would stand through the Millennium, is what the President has talked about many times. So, I think we stay true to that mission.

We also have a number of projects that have gone on. As you know, we have finished the Church Office Building Plaza, the Church Plaza there and the Main Street Plaza has all been open to the public. We also completed the northwest portion of Temple Square, and it has been open, and we’re excited about those, and we’ll move forward as we continue the project both on Temple Square, the temple Assembly Hall, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Beehive and Lion House. So, we are still very busy for the next 2 ½ years, but as we move forward, we feel very confident that we’re fulfilling the mission that was given us and just grateful for the opportunity to be involved.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Andy, do you have anything to add to that?

Andy Kirby: Yeah. As Brent mentioned, we’re working in many areas of Church headquarters right now. We continue the work of the seismic upgrade of the Salt Lake Temple. It’s an amazing process and experience to see it come to life. We have strengthened the foundation of the historic temple, and we’re almost ready to complete our new foundation to add to the strength of the Salt Lake Temple. We’ve excavated down. We’ve built new footings around the historic temple foundation. We’ve placed base isolators, which are large mechanical devices that allow the temple to move less than the earth in an earthquake. And now we’re building the top transfer girders, the beams that support the load of the temple on top of those base isolators, and we will transfer the load of the temple onto this new system this summer. So it’s a very exciting time for the seismic work.

In other areas, we’re continuing to build the temple addition, which is the support structures to the Salt Lake Temple. There are three stories of basement below the ground north of the temple. And we will increase the capacity of the Salt Lake Temple from before our construction started. For example, we will have two baptistries, we will have 12 additional sealing rooms — a total of 21 sealing rooms — we will increase the capacity of the endowment ordinances. That’s really what the temple is about; it’s really providing a great opportunity for members of the Church to come to the temple and to perform ordinances and to receive blessings from our Father in Heaven. And now we will make it more accessible to patrons who, for example, speak different languages. The ordinances can be performed in their language.

And so, it’s exciting to see the progress going, and we’re in many stages of construction throughout the different areas of the temple. For example, the concrete work is still going on in some areas, where in other areas we’re doing millwork and paint and decorative paint. So, trying to keep everybody busy in many areas of construction at the same time.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and when you talk about this mammoth project — which actually you make sound pretty ordinary but is very extraordinary and innovative as far as historic buildings go — it is great that you also mentioned covenants and ordinances. President Nelson has said that it’s easier to build a temple than it is to build a temple-ready people. He said that more important than the structure itself are the ordinances and covenants that take place inside.

And knowing that, talk about all of the innovation that has occurred, because this project really is unique among other projects around the world.

Angel Moroni is raised atop the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Brent Roberts: It’s very much so. It’s unique not only because of the size of it and the constructability of what we’re trying to do, but it is unique because it is a sacred building. You know, President Nelson oftentimes, as we do our reports to him, and we report to him monthly and share with him the updates of the Salt Lake Temple and the full project, he reminds us that it is the Church’s responsibility to care for these sacred buildings. But it’s also their responsibility to make sure that they, the people, can come to it.

I remember when we put the monument of Isaiah 2:2, if you look on the State Street side, as you enter the plaza on the State Street side, as we put that monument up, he was absolutely thrilled, and we were all thrilled, because it says: “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.” Well, the President took a portion of that scripture, “All nations shall flow unto it,” and gave to us part of our mandate. He said, “If all nations are going to be here, then technologically we need to take care of all nations.” And so the audiovisual portion that will be in the temple itself for the patrons will be in so many languages, and people for the first time throughout the world can come to the Salt Lake Temple, attend the Salt Lake Temple and be able to hear it in their own language.

And he says, and we all think, that that’s partial fulfillment of what Isaiah talked about the mountain of the Lord and this special temple. But we feel the sacred responsibility, Andy and I, and the full crew, including our consultants and contractors, to make sure that this box — which is the box; it’s not the pearl; the covenant is the pearl, but that this box — is sacred, it’s taken care of and gets the respect that it deserves, built by hands of pioneers years ago. And we feel kindred to them, though we use tools that make it a little easier to do what we do, and though we use concrete that’s a little harder than the concrete that they made. We are thrilled at the opportunity to be part of a pioneer. We don’t claim to be them, but we claim to be the people that are associated with them. And I’m sure they’re cheering for us. And we’re just thrilled at that blessing and opportunity.


Andy Kirby: President Nelson said that “we promise ... that you will love the results,” and the results “will emphasize and highlight the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ in His desire to bless every nation, kindred, tongue and people.” So, as we have been finishing some of the plazas, we have been preparing areas for future statues to be placed on the grounds, and these statues will focus more on Jesus Christ and His ministry.

For example, in the northwest quadrant, we have three statue locations that should be placed later this year and in the beginning of next year as they’re completed, and I’m excited for people to see that message at Temple Square and to experience those beautiful grounds. We’re used to the beautiful flowers and trees and experience at Temple Square.

One of our goals in these landscape areas is to provide a quiet, contemplative space where people can be near the temple and can pray and feel the Spirit and focus on the temple and their discipleship with Jesus Christ. And I think we’re doing a good job as we open these areas up. And so if you have the opportunity, come see how beautiful they are.


Sarah Jane Weaver: So, Brent, Andy mentioned statues that will appear throughout Temple Square. I think most people are eager to know what will happen to the Christus statue that they would have visited so many times in the visitors’ center on Temple Square.

Brent Roberts: There will be a Christus statue on Temple Square, and it will be in one of the south pavilions on the west side. And you will see the Christus in a beautiful format. And behind that, you will see the newly renovated Salt Lake Temple in a big-window format. It’ll be there, and that’s been approved, but there’ll be a Christus on Temple Square.

Andy Kirby: We’ve actually placed the statue there, and we’re constructing around it. So it’s in a box being protected right now.

Brent Roberts: For another two years.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah. And there’s also an area of the plaza that shows flags of the world. Tell us about those.

Brent Roberts: I was just at a meeting a few weeks ago with President Nelson, and he looked out his window and looked into that. And he said, “It is exactly like we as a First Presidency envisioned it would be. It is beautiful.” And he said, “What you have done with the flowers around” — and they happened to be pink flowers at that time — “just enhances the square. And it is not a stagnant area, with the flags moving and the wind bustling through the trees. It is exactly what we envisioned. And it shows the world that all children of God are welcome.”

And I was thrilled, of course, to hear that from the President. But I think Andy and his crew have done a remarkable job of trying to encapsulate, as well as our designers, encapsulate what the First Presidency desired, and to be able to put it there. And now you can come and visit and see it. It’s wonderful.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Andy, we talked now about getting everything seismically all set this summer. What’s next? What comes after that?

Andy Kirby: Oh, great question. We have cast the large transfer girders around both the east towers and the west towers of the temple. These are giant transfer girders. They are 15 feet tall, about 15 feet thick. They’re full of reinforcements and posttensioning. Right now, we’re inserting posttensioning cables into these beams. Then, in June, we will cast the transfer girders around the north wall and the south wall of the temple to complete the upper foundation of the temple.

This is amazing, world-class engineering and construction. It’s difficult. And it’s beautiful. Right now we’re inserting these posttensioning cables. We will insert over 260 miles of posttensioning cables into this transfer girder. It’s like a suspension bridge built inside a reinforced concrete beam. I know that’s really engineery, but I geek out about that. It’s kind of fun.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and for my sake, you’re going to have to tell me what a transfer girder is.

Andy Kirby: Yeah. The transfer girder is the upper foundation, and it transfers the load of the temple from the soil that it’s currently sitting on out and into the new footings and base isolators that we have built. So, imagine a bridge built to transfer the load to the new footings inside and outside the original foundation of the temple.


Sarah Jane Weaver: So, this temple really can stand into the Millennium.

Andy Kirby: I believe it can, yes. Yeah, this is a special engineering. Base isolation is a technology that’s been around. We have a seismic consulting company that is based in San Francisco, and so they do base isolation retrofits to existing buildings. So they’re experts at this. They also have local experience; they designed the system for the Utah State Capitol. And for the Salt Lake Temple, it’s a newer technology, where we can design a system that allows the ground to move around the temple and a large earthquake up to five feet in any direction. So there’s a space around this base-isolated section of the temple. We call it the “moat” or the “crush zone.” You don’t want to be there in an earthquake, but it allows the temple to stand more stable while the earthquake happens around it. And then we’ll have a cap over the top of it with normal plaza stones. It’ll be beautiful, but it’s exciting technology.

We’ve also been strengthening the temple stones itself. We have removed about 6,000 stones from the top spires of the temple and built new steel trusses inside each spire, and then rebuilt or put back each stone where they each came from originally back onto the steel system. And then our last activity on the center-east spire was placing back the Angel Moroni statue, which we refurbished and strengthened, and so it’s connected to that system also. Later, we will connect the new steel systems in the roof of the temple and in the spires down to this new top foundation by posttensioning through holes that we’ve drilled through the walls and the towers of the temple. So that will tighten or consolidate and unify the historic stone structure on top of its new, strengthened foundation.


Sarah Jane Weaver: That’s amazing. Brent, tell us what’s happening inside the temple.

Brent Roberts: Well, because we had the opportunity to put in heating, ventilation and air conditioning to portions of the north addition to the temple, we’ve already begun working on finishes. We’re putting in millwork in the baptistries and in the hallways of the north edition, and the north edition is significant; it’s about 300,000 square feet. So, it is all the ancillary services that we need to conduct a wonderful opportunity in the temple. And we’ve already started the finishes there. So, that puts us on a schedule where we can finish those up and be able to systematically finish room by room as we move forward.

That’s pretty exciting when you start seeing finishes in. In normal temples, when I see us starting those finishes, it means we’re only about 10 months away from dedication. This one’s a little bit different because the finishes are so many. So, to see them, it’s just exciting to know that we’re moving to a new chapter in the construction phaseology of what we’re trying to accomplish.

And so far, the finishes look fabulous. And we’re actually starting to put some primer paint in. And so, to see some of that paint is wonderful. We’re also refurbishing the celestial room and other rooms that will remain for the most part intact, making sure they’re clean and painted and sanded, and we’re working on that process as well.

Photos are taken by construction workers as the Angel Moroni is raised atop the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: So, will the temple look, for someone who was a regular in the temple, when they go back, will it feel familiar to them?

Andy Kirby: I believe it will. And we will also unify the interior design throughout the full temple so that when you come in the entry and you go to the historic part of the temple, it will feel similar. So, we’ve taken those historic design elements and put them into the new part of the temple also.

Brent Roberts: I think the President, when he gave us our mandate, he said every reasonable effort should be made to honor and to maintain the temple’s historic beauty. We have done that the best we can. But what we have not been able to accomplish, we have brought back millwork that will feel like the Salt Lake Temple. It’s identical, it’s repeatable, it’s beautiful. When you go into the temple, you’ll feel like you are home in Salt Lake. What will be different is there’ll be a lot of different hallways and paths, so you’ll have to figure out what the path is, because it won’t be the same. However, the finishes will feel like vintage Salt Lake Temple.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and as you’ve been involved in this process, Brent, is there something that’s surprised you?

Brent Roberts: Well, what surprised me the most as we got into the seismic work, it surprised me just how big it was. And we knew that; I could see it in drawings, I could see exactly the time that it would take. But the effort that has gone into reinforcing what Andy called those transfer beams over the foundation have been herculean in many respects, and the efforts on the part of multiple engineers throughout the world who we’ve consulted with, and our local people, just to get the rebar, put in those areas and reinforce it to the point we could pour concrete.

And, you know, and I just express my gratitude, especially to the city of Salt Lake and those that have worked with us. I mean, during the last two months and a half, our major pours, we poured over almost 5,000 to 6,000, 7,000 cubic yards of concrete, which means we started at 10 p.m., and we closed North Temple, and we closed South Temple. And we had over 400 trucks, each on separate pours, rotating, coming through to get enough concrete in there. And they worked so well with us with very little complaints.

I think that surprised me the most, was just the effort that it took us to get to that point. Hopefully there’s not many other surprises. And we don’t like surprises; we like predictability. But what we have found in something that’s never been done before, like life, you have to learn to adapt and reevaluate and reengineer. We also have to do it in our own lives when we have issues and problems that come up. The temple is not that much different. I’m grateful for Andy. As you know, his title is the director of historical projects for my department and for the Church.

And Salt Lake, we looked at him years ago as a person we would put on to Salt Lake, but in the meantime, we kept him busy in Manti. You know, it was one of Andy’s projects of his. And the St. George renovation, any of you that have had the opportunity, or listeners had the opportunity, to see either one of those temples, will see kind of the quality of work, or a prelude to what the Salt Lake Temple will look like, especially in St. George with some of the finishes there and the antique look, and Andy’s done a good job handling those. Now we’re just going to, you know, give Andy smaller projects like regular temples and things like that. We’re not sure what we’re going to do with him. But we have plenty of work lined up for him.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And Andy, I hope you’ll give us an update on both Manti and St. George. But before you do that, I’d love for you to answer the question that Brent just addressed: Was there a time in this project so far that you thought, “Wow, I didn’t expect that”?

Andy Kirby: Very similar to Brent, I saw the design evolve. I helped present it to Church leaders, and when we actually started building it, you can’t describe the immensity, the mass of it. For example, the rebar, the reinforcement that we put in, like Brent mentioned, these are No. 18 bars, so the diameter of the reinforcement bar is 2 ¼ inches. Normally, in regular construction, we use No. 3, 4 or 5 bars. So that’s half an inch in diameter, right, for a No. 4 bar, so it’s massive. And it was very difficult to build. And I’m proud of the teams that have done it. It was very difficult work. We had crews at times working 12-hour shifts, six days a week. So they’re working hard out there, and I’m really proud of what they’re doing.

Just the immensity of it. You can design it, you can plan it, and then once you build it, to stand there and to experience it is a special experience for me. I geek out about some of this construction, and it’s exciting. But also to have the opportunity to see the work that those pioneers did and to imagine the time in which they built it and the sacrifice that that effort took during those times is special. And to add to it and strengthen it, I feel a special bond to those pioneer builders. And, you know, in a way because I feel a bond to the people who will use the temple in the future also. And then even further than that, their influence goes beyond the veil. So, it’s very rewarding work.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I do want to talk about St. George and Manti, because this was happening not just in Salt Lake but in other places during this time period, where you had people who were trying to establish cities, who were struggling to bring in crops and who were putting an enormous effort into building a house of the Lord.


Andy Kirby: I’m currently listening to “Saints, Vol. 2″ again. And it reminds me of the struggle and the challenge, just for survival first, and then at the same time, their dedication to the Lord and their commitment to build a house of the Lord so that they can receive blessings from Him. It’s so significant. It’s a monument to their commitment. And then to work on multiple temples. My first project for the Church was the Provo City Center Temple. In lots of ways, it was a great structural engineering practice for me. The Salt Lake Temple is 10 times that, but it was a great experience to do a very difficult thing. Then the renovation at the Mesa Arizona Temple, that turned out beautifully. We unified the design, the grounds with that building.

And then to work on St. George, the first temple dedicated west of the Mississippi, and to think about what that meant to have a temple dedicated. And I also just read another book about Wilford Woodruff’s experience in the evolution of the temple doctrine, called “Wilford Woodruff’s Witness,” and to imagine Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff there in this new temple and preparing for the endowment to be delivered to the Saints. And so, just reading those accounts and those histories and then working on these structures at the same time, I feel a special connection to those people, and it’s great. St. George temple, it’s amazing what they built in the desert and how beautiful it was. It was a great opportunity to renew it to make it more functional. The accessibility of that temple is great, and it’s beautiful. It shines, a beautiful white beacon in the desert of St. George.

And then we just finished the Manti temple. That was also a special experience. I grew up in southern Utah County, so many of my family members were married in the Manti temple. And it’s traditional for many families to go there, so I’ve had great experiences in the Manti temple. And then to work to renew it, to help preserve it so that it can function well for the next 50 years, and then to do it in a way that it feels like the Manti temple, and at the same time, it’s new and functions better. It’s a great experience, and so I’m really proud of the team that did that, and it was special to be there as it was dedicated, and now it’s operating, and members of the Church are performing ordinances and receiving blessings and being blessed by Father in Heaven there.

A view of St. George on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. At lower left is the St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | Ravell Call, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and the first time I went in both the St. George temple and the Manti temple, it actually stilled me. I was so touched by the power that you feel when you walk in and how special those temples feel. Brent, President Jeffrey R. Holland was able to dedicate the St. George temple, which has significance to him, and President Russell M. Nelson was able to dedicate the Manti temple.

Both of those sacred occasions were made more meaningful by the opportunity for those dedications to become personal. What was it like to be there?


Brent Roberts: It was a memorable and unbelievable experience, one of which, spiritually, I will remember forever — not because it’ll be in my mind; because it’ll always be in my heart. The St. George temple, to be again, after Andy’s good work, to be again in the assembly room as President Holland took the opportunity to rededicate a temple that was so meaningful to him personally, and to his family. I mean, I was amazed when he stood and said, during that period of time, they did baptisms; he was baptized at 8, he was also baptized in the St. George temple. It has been in his life and in his family and a legacy forever. He was sealed in the temple.

I had the chance to walk, you know, President Holland through with others, and his felt stories about, you know, being in the area and in the St. George temple was significant and influencing to me. And Manti as well, as being involved in the decisions that we made, and the decisions that were made through revelation to President Nelson to both renovate as much as — not a lot, but renovate and refresh the Manti temple, make sure the mechanical, electrical, plumbing was taken care of and that water intrusion was taken care of, and in turn realize that we couldn’t do all the accessibility things that we wanted to do, and within weeks received the revelation to build the Ephraim temple. Those were special opportunities, especially because his family has ties to that area.

And it was remarkable and will always be a memory that I will share, because Manti is so important to us as a family. My wife and I went to the Manti temple every week after we were first married, because we were at Snow College. And it looks the same, even better now. So, just a wonderful opportunity and what a great blessing it was to have two prophets, seers and revelators, each one dedicate the respective temple that means so much to them and to their family.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I loved that President Nelson mentioned that all eight of his great-grandparents were from the Sanpete area. They would have all looked to that temple as something important in their lives. Andy talked a little bit about how he feels about the pioneers.

Brent, can you share your feelings about those who just labored to make these temples possible?


Brent Roberts: I’d love to. One of the things that — as a person in facilities and management of construction for a number of years — one of the things I’ve always looked at is when you talk about the Salt Lake Temple, how it took 40 years to construct. And I always kind of scoff and say, “Forty years. Wow, that’s a long time.” I look at it now, and I really understand why it took 40 years. I mean, I look at it and say, “I hope we can do it a lot quicker than that,” you know? But we’ll obviously do it in a lot less time with an incredible amount of resources.

But 40 years was generations for them. They were evolving, going through issues, strengthening their testimonies, and the temple was there when they needed the temple. And I look at those pioneers, especially in Manti and in St. George and in Salt Lake, the sacrifice — literally everything they had, in many respects — because they knew that they needed to have the power that comes with a covenant that they could only get in the temples of the Most High. And we feel the same way about Salt Lake. And we feel the same way about the other temples throughout the world. It is the power that you receive in making and keeping covenants that makes a difference in individuals’ lives. And we’re just thrilled to be a part of that.

Elder Pearson, left, President Nelson, Elder Rasband and Elder Duncan, pose for a photo in front of the Manti Utah Temple prior to the rededication on Sunday, April 21, 2024.
President Russell M. Nelson, center left; Elder Kevin W. Pearson, General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Utah Area, left; Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, center right; Elder Kevin R. Duncan, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, right, pose prior to the Manti Utah Temple dedication in Manti, Utah, on Sunday, April 21, 2024. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: Andy, what do you want members to know about the Salt Lake Temple renovation project?

Andy Kirby: I think I’d go back to President Nelson’s message — “Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures” — and that President Nelson wanted to teach us about building our spiritual foundations using the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple as a metaphor. And that it’s an unprecedented effort. It’s significant. I appreciate the opportunity that we have to have the resources and the trust of Church leaders to do it. But it’s a beautiful symbol of strengthening, of renewal, of unprecedented measures to prepare for unprecedented times. So, I think it’s a beautiful symbol, and I would just echo what President Nelson said.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brent, we see the Salt Lake Temple used as a symbol of the Church, of Church headquarters, of so many things. What do you think of when you see an image of the Salt Lake Temple?

Brent Roberts: Well, the first thing I think of is, you know, Dec. 18, 1986, when my wife and I were married for time and all eternity. And emotionally, it’s hard for me to get over that because that’s truly the greatest meaning that we have, is that we were married there. Families started that day. And so working on it is not only just a thrill, but it’s also a spiritual blessing for us.

But as I see it now, I try to envision what Isaiah may have been talking about. I just — I am thrilled. Even this last conference, as I was walking on the plaza with my wife, a family from Peru, or Chile, or somewhere in Latin America — the only reason I know they were Latin American is they were much shorter than I was. And they were there as a family, peering up at the construction of the Salt Lake Temple with tears in their eyes, thrilled that they had an opportunity to be there, to be at general conference, to listen to prophets, seers and revelators.

And I sure look forward to the day that they can come back and go to the Salt Lake Temple, and hear and experience the ordinances in their own language. And so when I see the Salt Lake Temple, I think about the hundreds and millions of people that will come as well as the millions of people on the other side of the veil that will be blessed because of the ordinances done by faithful members in a dedicated house of the Lord.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And Andy, what do you think of when you see that beautiful building?

Andy Kirby: For the construction, it represents the fellowship we have with the original. I actually think of a symbol that’s carved on the east and west sides of the temple; it’s called the “hand of fellowship,” and it’s a symbol that, to me, represents many things. It represents covenants, commitment to God. It represents working together and fellowship. Pioneer builders, but also, as we go to do ordinances in the temple, the fellowship we have with our ancestors. But most importantly, an opportunity to go to the house of the Lord, to be invited into His presence and to be lifted up by Him.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Brent, we’ve talked a lot about how members are going to utilize or be able to participate in this temple through ordinances and covenants. But Temple Square is also the top tourist attraction in all of Utah.

What do you hope people see in that temple or from that building, as they gaze on it, who aren’t familiar with the Church, who are just coming and want to learn something?


Brent Roberts: I think I hope they look at it not as an architectural wonder — which it is — but I hope they look at it and they feel closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. And our mission is to do everything we can to enhance Temple Square and the temple. You become closer to Jesus Christ by being there, and the feeling of the wonderful Spirit that is there. You know, President Nelson and the First Presidency, in our designs, emphasized that although only recommend holders will be able to go and participate in ordinances in the temple, that they really wanted everyone to have a temple experience that came.

And to have that temple experience, we have built two entry pavilions, which you can see from North Temple, and those entry pavilions are really that; they’re nonpatron waiting areas and areas that people can go into and feel the Salt Lake Temple and the Spirit that is there in a dedicated house of the Lord, without entering in to do ordinances, they will also get a temple experience. And to them, that was very important. And, you know, we made modifications to our design and our thoughts and our feelings because they wanted people that are passing by that want to go in and get an experience of what it’s like inside the temple to be able to do that.

And of course, we’ve done other things in visitors’ centers or in the south pavilions that will also enhance that, that will be, you know, for the public to see. But I just hope that they look at it and they say, you know, “What an incredible edifice that is. And yes, the architecture is great, but that’s the Lord’s house. And that’s where the Lord abides.”

President Jeffrey R. Holland, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, middle, stands outside the St. George Utah Temple on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, with, from left, Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy; Elder Matthew S. Holland, a General Authority Seventy; Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé. | Nick Adams, for the Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Andy, I’m going to ask you a very hard question, because it’s very hard to predict how long a project is going to take, especially when it involves such a complicated preservation process.

But when can we anticipate that this might be open again?

Andy Kirby: Well, we have a very specific date that we’re working to, and I’ve committed to Brent and other Church leaders to meet that date. But until they announce it, I say 2026.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. That’s actually a short time, when you think about it.

Andy Kirby: It is. That’s a lot of work to do in the next two years, and we are diligently focusing on maintaining our schedule, maintaining our commitments to meet those milestones. It will be an exciting time. Now you can see the structure, you can see the entry pavilions that Brent talked about, you can also see the south guest pavilions, which is basically the new visitors’ center for Temple Square. And it’s a beautiful time to see the renewal of the Salt Lake Temple on Temple Square.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, Brent, these historic renovation projects are just a small portion of the temple work that is occurring across the globe. The Church now has 350 temples that are dedicated, announced or under construction; 153 of those temples have been announced by President Nelson, making this the greatest era of temple building in the history of the Church.

Can you comment on this worldwide, very accelerated temple-building construction, dedication, that we are seeing unfolding right now?


Brent Roberts: As you’ve said, it is unprecedented. And I remember when I was graduating from Sunday School — we used to have little graduations — I had a picture of the Salt Lake Temple, and around the Salt Lake Temple were all the other temples of the world. And in order to graduate from that class, I had to memorize all of those. And, boy, that would be a task now, wouldn’t it? It’d be an incredible test now. But I remember looking at that, and I found that photo just a little while ago, one that is very similar to it, and realized that many of those temples that are on there have also been renovated and updated. But just expansive work that we are involved in.

I am just grateful for wonderful people who have been schooled, who have gone out and learned the trades that they need to learn to be able to be in a position that they can be useful at this time. We have an incredible team. We understand that President Nelson and the First Presidency, under the direction of the Lord, will continue to announce temples. And if you notice, they’re not announcing them in the easiest places to build. Some are easier, some are not. But we know that they are truly directed, you know, the President is truly directed to these locations because of being able to find or to get to temples rapidly.

Is it a major effort? I think that would be an understatement to say that it’s a major construction effort. It is a phenomenal effort. But it is manageable because the Lord is there with us, and He’s helping us. And we have great people put in a great position with thousands and thousands of great contractors out there who are building and designing buildings for us that never knew they would be, and they’re stepping up, and it’s just making a huge difference.

I think in a report I did to the First Presidency just a week ago, we have over 160 active temple projects, between design and construction and remodels. One hundred sixty ongoing, of which every month I show them a picture of everything under construction and an update to them where we’re at worldwide so they understand that, and it’s just — it’s amazing the way that it’s taken off. And some people say, you know, “Brent, what is your favorite temple, since you’ve been involved in so many?” My favorite temple is the last temple we dedicated. That’s what it is, because they’re all so meaningful to me. And there are so many out there, but every one is unique to the individual, and the uniqueness comes to them when they go into that temple and receive covenants.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I’m so glad you mentioned that some temples are being built in places that are not easy to get to; I think of Papua New Guinea and other fairly remote locations. How do you undertake a project like that?

Brent Roberts: You know, the process is very similar. But when you look at Papua New Guinea, or you look at Tarawa, Kiribati, for an example, we have to elect “What is the easiest way to do that?” and “What is the most effective way?” There’s not the skills on the island of Kiribati to build a temple, which means either I have to bring a construction company in or we have to build a modular temple, haul it in and then assemble it there. We’ve chosen to go the modular route, and we will there. Just weeks ago, we spoke to them, and our contractor’s wonderful, but there’s not a crane on the island that can help us. So, we will ship a crane in for a little while to be able to accomplish that. And then we’ll ship it to another project. And those are difficult builds, but they’re not impossible to do.

The manufacturing technology and the construction knowledge in the world right now, I believe, has been advanced to the point where we can build temples. And that’s what it’s for. Yes, of course we can build beautiful hotels and beautiful everything else throughout the world. But what we have worldwide, I believe, is for the building up of the kingdom, and we have the ability to do those things. He doesn’t make it easy. Doors aren’t always open. We receive opposition. Satan is still strong, you know. Pray, you know, we have to pray as much as anyone else the doors will be open to us. But we just never give up, and we keep moving forward.

President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Wendy Nelson tour the renovation work at the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 22, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: And Andy, we hear a lot that the best materials and the best construction techniques are used in temples. What exactly does that mean?

Andy Kirby: Oh, good question. What is best? It’s not necessarily the most expensive, right? It’s what suits the purpose of the temple the best. So, they’re fine materials, and they’re beautiful also. So the answer is what’s best for the house of the Lord, and it doesn’t necessarily mean most expensive.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And Andy, Brent’s talked a little bit about welcoming the world in our visitors’ centers. We’re also going to have a chance to welcome anyone who wants to see the inside of the temple at an open house before it’s dedicated.

Andy Kirby: Yes, very exciting times. It was a great experience to be a participant in the open houses of the different pioneer temples that I’ve had a privilege of working on, especially with my family and sometimes with youth groups and going through. It’s a great opportunity to help teach the purpose of the temples and to prepare youth and others who may not have been endowed to understand the purpose of temples, so it’s a great opportunity. And that opportunity will happen with the Salt Lake Temple also.

It will be an exciting time. I imagine millions of people. It’s not my responsibility to plan for that open house, just my responsibility to finish the temple. And I look forward to the time when it’s open and the world can see what a beautiful temple it is outside and inside, and most importantly, that it’s the house of the Lord and to feel that Spirit inside of it.


Sarah Jane Weaver: We have a tradition at the Church News podcast, where when we wind up, we like to give our guests the last word and ask them the same question. And the question is: What do you know now? And Andy, we’ll start with you and then conclude with Brent and have each of you answer the question: What do you know now after working on the Salt Lake Temple renovation project?


Andy Kirby: I know that this is the Lord’s work, that this is His house. I know that when we’re entrusted to help Him with His work, that He will bless us along the way. Despite constant challenges, He will provide gifts of the Spirit to help inspire us to know what to do, to know what to change. And I’m grateful for that influence as we work on this project. I know that He is in the work and that it is His work.


Brent Roberts: I think what I have learned or what I know now is something that I have always known but more enhanced than ever before — that we, as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and members of the Church, have a prophet, seer and revelator on the earth today, and that he through the direction of the Lord guides and directs this Church in His work.

I believe more now in revelation than I’ve ever believed in my life. And that this is the Lord’s house, and that revelation not only comes to His Prophet and to the other members of the Twelve and First Presidency and others, but they can come to us. They can even come to a lowly managing director who’s struggling with a direction or decision to go in construction, because it makes a difference.

I think the greatest thing that I know now is that He directs His work through the people. Even if they may be someone like Andy and I, He directs His work through us, and He assists us through the Spirit, as Andy has mentioned. I know that more now than I’ve ever known before.


Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News executive editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so it can be accessible to more people. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests; my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen; and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channels or with other news and updates on the Church on

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