The Anchorage Alaska Temple is getting bigger — again. But this time, the resizing comes with a complete reconstruction and a slight trade of locations.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that the Anchorage temple will be reconstructed. The significantly larger temple will be built on the same property — but relocated to where a currently used meetinghouse now stands.
And during construction, which is expected to start in early 2024 and be completed by summer 2026, the existing Anchorage Alaska Temple will remain open and operational.
The announcement and an accompanying exterior rendering were published Monday, Jan. 23, on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, with the report adding that dates for the public open house and dedication will be announced closer to the completion date.
Enlarged a second time
The announced project is not the first enlargement for the Anchorage Alaska Temple, which was one of the first “smaller temples” identified in late 1997 as the Church doubled its number of temples worldwide and surpassed a total of 100 operating temples at the end of the 20th century.
After nine months of construction, the 6,800-square-foot Anchorage Alaska Temple was dedicated in January 1999 — and operating for four years before being closed for renovations and expansion.
The 10-month project increased the building’s size by 75% to its current 11,937 square feet, including the addition of a second ordinance room, offices and new dressing rooms. Five years after the original dedication, the temple was rededicated and reopened for instruction and ordinance work.
With the latest announced reconstruction, the temple’s square footage will increase to approximately 30,000 square feet — an increase of more than 150% from the temple’s current size and well more than four times its original size. The Church announced the temple’s new design would be a standard two-room, 40-seat plan.
Reconstruction and relocation
The temple and the meetinghouse that serves as the Anchorage Alaska Stake center sit on 5.4 acres on Brayton Drive, which runs alongside the busy Seward Highway in south Anchorage. The two buildings share a parking lot.
The reconstructed temple will take the stake center’s 13111 Brayton Drive address. Once it is completed and dedicated, the current temple — at 13161 Brayton Drive — will be decommissioned, with a new meetinghouse to be built on the existing temple location.
Historic role as a smaller temple
In the Saturday evening priesthood session of the October 1997 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley first announced plans to build temples in Houston, Texas, and Porto Alegre, Brazil. At the time, the Church had 50 dedicated temples and 17 more in some course of construction.
He then acknowledged Latter-day Saints living in more remote areas with smaller, more limited membership. “Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances?” he asked, adding that “bright and clear” answers to such prayers had come.
“We will construct small temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances,” he continued, saying they would be built to temple standards and able to accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings and all other ordinances in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead.
President Hinckley also cited possibilities for limited operational schedules and shared property space and parking with a local stake center.
“One of these small temples can be constructed for about the same cost it takes just to maintain a large temple for a single year,” he said. “It can be constructed in a relatively short time, several months.”
He continued: “We are planning such structures immediately in Anchorage, Alaska; in the [Latter-day Saint] colonies in northern Mexico; and in Monticello, Utah. In areas of greater Church membership we will build more of the traditional temples, but we are developing plans that will reduce the costs without any reduction in terms of the work to be performed therein. We are determined, brethren, to take the temples to the people and afford them every opportunity for the very precious blessings that come of temple worship.”
Six months later, at April 1998 general conference, President Hinckley announced the Church’s push to have a total of 100 dedicated temples at the close of the 20th century.
The Anchorage temple’s history
Anchorage fit the need for such a smaller temple, with local members at the time living some 1,500 straight-line miles from — or drives of about 40 hours to — either the Seattle Washington or Cardston Alberta temples.
Once the plan was announced, the Anchorage Alaska Temple followed the lead of the Monticello Utah Temple in the planning, construction and dedication of smaller temples, with Monticello considerably closer to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
Groundbreaking for the 7,000-square-foot Monticello Utah Temple was held later that same year, on Nov. 17, 1997, and dedicated eight months later on July 26, 1998. Like the Anchorage temple, the Monticello temple was closed after several years of operation to be renovated and expanded to 11,000-plus square feet.
Ground was broken for the Anchorage Alaska Temple on April 17, 1998. Less than nine months later, a brief public open house held Dec. 29-31, 1998, drew more than 14,000 visitors.
President Hinckley dedicated the temple on Jan. 9, 1999, as it become the 54th operating temple of the Church of Jesus Christ, which did reach the goal of 100 by the close of the century with 102 dedicated temples at the end of the year 2000.
At the time of its dedication, the Anchorage temple district included the state of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory.
The district for the Anchorage Alaska Temple — which has remained the Church’s northernmost temple — includes Alaska’s nine stakes.