Crews removed the angel Moroni statue and circular capstone from the Salt Lake Temple’s central east spire Monday morning.
The statue and capstone — weighing 5,000 pounds or 2.5 tons and resting 160 feet high — were carried through the air to the ground via crane for preservation and refurbishing. Both items will now be prepared for a later reinstallation.
“The Salt Lake Temple is the house of the Lord, and it is being shored up and strengthened to be able to stand for generations to come,” said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations, in a Church press release. “Each aspect of this project plays an important role in helping this sacred structure to remain a symbol of permanence, optimism and faith for people around the world.”
The statue was damaged in an 5.7 earthquake the struck the Salt Lake Valley in March. Paul Lawrence of Jacobsen Construction said the quake was a reminder of the importance of a seismic upgrade for the temple, which closed for renovation at the beginning of 2020.
Determined to build the temple of the “best materials that [could] be obtained in the mountains of North America,” early Latter-day Saints constructed the temple from local granite. During the first 20 years of construction, workers hauled stone 20 miles from Little Cottonwood Canyon to the temple block by wagon teams, according to a history of the temple found on ChurchofJesuschrist.org.
On April 6, 1892, crowds gathered in and around Temple Square for an elaborate capstone ceremony in which workers placed the 12-foot angel Moroni statue.
Overall, it took 40 years of meticulous work to complete the temple.
According to the Church History Department, “those who passed by Temple Square noted the ‘clattering sounds of chisels’ continuously striking stones, ‘cheering those who have an ear for such music,’ as stonecutters shaped rock for placement in the temple walls.”
The renovation of the temple includes the installment of a base isolation system to help the building withstand a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Lawrence said this system connects the base with the temple roof through secure rods and cables in the towers to protect the building from further damage.
“We create a safe zone around the perimeter of the building where that building can move,” Lawrence said. “It allows the building to move with the earthquake up to four or five feet in any one direction.”
Before the base isolation system can be installed, workers are drilling to strengthen the stone foundation of this structure first completed in 1893. Crews are pumping grout into the foundation’s gaps — a process that increases its solidity and strength as well as the appreciation of Lawrence and his team for the fine work of those 19th-century pioneer builders.
“I feel a reverence for the craftsmen and individuals that have gone before us and built this wonderful structure,” said Lawrence, who plans to retire when this temple renovation is complete. “To be a part of what they did so many years ago and everything that they had to sacrifice — that hit me when we uncovered the original foundations and saw the markings and the evidence of the work they did.”