The Salt Lake Temple is currently being decommissioned. What does that mean?

Hours after the Salt Lake Temple closed on Dec. 29 for a four-year renovation, workers began removing sacred items and transitioning the working temple to a construction site. 

Rich Sutton, temple area director, said this process — called decommissioning — occurs each time a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is renovated, according to a Newsroom release

Emily Utt, curator in the Church History Department, added, “The Salt Lake Temple is somewhat unique due to its size and the years of history dating back to 1893. This building has been carefully cared for and preserved for a long time, and it’s a sacred experience to be involved in preparing it for this next important step.”

The Salt Lake Temple is pictured following its closure.
The Salt Lake Temple is pictured following its closure. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The first step of the weekslong decommissioning process is to remove temple clothing, temple records and other sacred items used in temple ordinances from the building. At this point, the temple is no longer considered a dedicated building. Renovation crews enter and workers clean out the temple laundry, offices and custodial closets. 

Read more about the multi-year renovation of iconic Salt Lake Temple

Furniture is then carefully removed from the temple and taken to warehouses and other Church facilities. Some furniture items might be donated. Stained-glass windows, historic light fixtures and other items are also removed to be protected during the renovation. Measures are taken to protect historic finishes. 

Construction work is underway on Temple Square as the Salt Lake Temple is decommissioned.
Construction work is underway on Temple Square as the Salt Lake Temple is decommissioned. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“Even as this temple becomes a construction site, we never lose sight of its sacred purpose and history,” said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations. “The decommissioning process allows us to carefully take care of what is inside the temple so we can then focus on our job of fortifying and protecting this house of the Lord.”

During the final steps of decommissioning, asbestos abatement begins, and temporary power and utilities for temple construction are set up. Crews will then begin the four-year renovation, which includes seismically strengthening the temple to help ensure it stands for years to come. 

Several artifacts from the Salt Lake Temple will be on display at the Conference Center throughout the renovation. The Conference Center will host visitors to Temple Square throughout the renovation — serving as the largest visitors’ center in the Church.

Matt Mendoza, left, and Steve Kirkland, of Identify Signs, install a sign on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, inviting guests to visit.
Matt Mendoza, left, and Steve Kirkland, of Identify Signs, install a sign on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, inviting guests to visit. Credit: Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Demolition of the South Visitors’ Center has also begun. Continual updates on the renovation of the temple can be found at TempleSquare.org.