First Presidency announces Salt Lake Temple changes — increasing capacity, impacting live sessions; Manti temple next for renovation

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday morning modifications to the ongoing renovation of the Salt Lake Temple, as well as a planned upgrade of the Manti Utah Temple.

The modifications for the Salt Lake Temple include adding a second baptistry and additional instruction and sealing rooms — increasing capacity for the sacred building which was originally dedicated in 1893. The temple cafeteria will be discontinued.

The Manti temple will join the Salt Lake Temple and the St. George Utah Temple as the third pioneer-era temple dating back to the late 19th century to undergo renovations. Plans and a starting date for the renovation will be announced later this year. 

For both the Salt Lake and Manti temples, temple instruction will move from a live presentation conducted in several different rooms to single-room film presentations. Also, storied but aging murals in both buildings are being removed.

The March 12 announcement from the First Presidency included a supplemental document with questions and answers about the Salt Lake Temple project.

“From the time our pioneer forebears arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, the vision for, construction of and worship in the Salt Lake Temple have held a special place in the minds and hearts of Church members,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring in the statement. “The building is a symbol of our love for the Savior Jesus Christ. It is now being renovated and upgraded so that it may continue to fill that role for many, many years.”

Salt Lake Temple expansion — and reduction

As the Salt Lake Temple renovation project has progressed since being announced nearly two years ago, Church leaders have “felt the Lord’s hand guiding us in modifying several aspects of the renovation,” wrote the First Presidency in the statement.

“The Salt Lake Temple is at the heart of Church headquarters. As the Prophet Isaiah foretold, many will come to this house of the Lord from all nations (Isaiah 2:2-3). Many changes are being made to ensure a familiar, uplifting experience for members who attend that temple.”

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019, about renovation plans for the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 19, 2019, about renovation plans for the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

While seismic protection is the primary reason for the renovation, the Church also is taking the opportunity to make other improvements and changes, according to leaders.

Recent modifications include the addition of two instruction rooms, more sealing ordinance rooms and a second baptistry, which allow for greater capacity and more temple ordinances being performed; leaders anticipate with the changes the temple will be able to accommodate more than double the usual number of patrons.

When the renovation is completed, the temple will have a total of five instruction rooms, each with a capacity for 150 people. Four instruction rooms will be located on the temple’s first floor, with the fifth on the second floor.

The addition of 10 new sealing rooms brings the total number to 23, with varying capacities of up to 75 individuals.

Read more: President Nelson details plans for Salt Lake Temple during its 4-year closure for renovation

Both baptistries will be located in the lower level of the new temple annex, which is north of the temple itself. The location of the previous baptistry will be used to accommodate the two new instruction rooms.

A rendering of one of two baptistries that will be built in the renovated Salt Lake Temple
A rendering of one of two baptistries that will be built in the renovated Salt Lake Temple Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The temple annex will house support facilities, including a bigger chapel, a larger marriage waiting area, additional dressing rooms and the baptistries.

A cafeteria will no longer be offered at the Salt Lake Temple. The area previously housing that operation will be used to accommodate the additional facilities supporting the temple’s increased capacity.

“We look forward to the day when the renovation is complete and we can welcome friends from around the world to tour the temple prior to its dedication,” said the First Presidency, “and then for members to once again worship in this beautiful house of the Lord.”

From live presentations to film

In both the Salt Lake and Manti temples, the member experience previously included a progressive, room-to-room presentation by live actors. However, both will be transitioning to single-room presentations by film, similar to what is done in the Church’s other temples worldwide.

While the live presentations have been done in English, the film presentation will be available in more than 80 languages.

“This decision will also make it possible to hold more sessions each day,” the First Presidency said, adding “we hope it will help more members feel confident to serve as ordinance workers without the requirement for lengthy memorization.”

Prior to renovation, live-presentation endowment sessions in the Salt Lake Temple started every hour. With the five instruction rooms operating after the temple’s reopening, sessions will be able to start every 20 to 30 minutes, allowing more flexibility for patrons attending the temple.

The First Presidency said that with the two historic temples, there is a desire to ensure that the learnings and experiences are similar for all coming from anywhere in the world. “The same ordinances, covenants and authority are available in every temple and will now be presented in the same way — and now in more than 80 languages.”

Murals and other historical elements

Temple renovations for the future are impacting historical elements, such as the expansive murals in the two temples, said the First Presidency.

In the Salt Lake Temple, the addition of the new instruction rooms, a new method of presentation, seismic strengthening and changes to meet accessibility requirements meant that the temple murals would need to be moved and/or repainted. Some sections of the murals were in poor condition and beginning to crumble.

“It was impossible to know whether the murals could be preserved during such a move,” the First Presidency said. “They were originally painted directly on lath and plaster walls, which had been repaired and repainted many times because of water damage and other deterioration. Further, the change to a film presentation meant that the rooms would be reconfigured.”

A rendering of the celestial room in the renovated Salt Lake Temple
A rendering of the celestial room in the renovated Salt Lake Temple Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

For these reasons, the murals were carefully photographed and documented before removal, with some original portions being preserved in the Church’s archives.

Many of the building’s other historic features also have been photographed and documented — and in some cases, architecturally salvaged. The historic staircases in both the Salt Lake and Manti temples are being preserved.

In the Manti temple, the murals will be similarly photographed, documented and removed. Some areas and elements of the building’s structure will be updated to accommodate the single-room film presentations as well as improved patron accessibility. 

Manti Utah Temple
Manti Utah Temple Credit: Deseret News archives

Manti Utah Temple renovation

The multi-year renovation of the Manti Utah Temple will begin later this year, the First Presidency announced. 

The renovation and renewal — which will include mechanical updates and other changes — is “part of our effort to preserve and extend the life of our pioneer temples” as well as “to prepare the temple to serve for generations.”

At the April 2019 general conference, President Nelson provided an update on the renovation of pioneer-era temples, with the plans for the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple, Temple Square and adjoining Church Office Building plaza announced later that month.

He also said the Manti Utah and Logan Utah temples would be renovated in coming years (renovations for the St. George Utah Temple had been announced earlier in 2019).

Temple renovation timing, renderings

More information about a projected completion date of the Salt Lake Temple renovations will be provided as the project progresses, according to the Church statement.

Some of the recent changes do impact and alter interior renderings previously released to the public. New renderings accompanied the latest First Presidency update on the renovations.

The new designs of additional rooms and facilities do not impact the General Authorities’ meeting space in the Salt Lake Temple.

“The historic pioneer temples have been a blessing to the Latter-day Saints for more than 140 years,” the First Presidency wrote in the March 12 statement, “and we know that with the updates and renovations now announced or underway, they will continue to serve their sacred purpose for generations to come.”