Temple renovations: St. George nears completion, Manti underway

There is great focus on the transformation happening at Temple Square, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has two other pioneer-era temples under renovation in Utah.

The St. George Utah Temple overhaul has entered its third year and is nearing completion while the work on the Manti Utah Temple is only in its beginning stages.

President Russell M. Nelson discussed plans to update and upgrade these and other early temples at the end of general conference in April 2019, saying a number of pioneer-era temples would “soon undergo a period of renewal and refreshing, and, for some, a major restoration.”

“Efforts will be made to preserve the unique historicity of each temple wherever possible, preserving the inspiring beauty and unique craftsmanship of generations long-since passed,” President Nelson said.

Within each project is a range of preservation, restoration, renovation and new construction, said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations in the church’s Special Projects Department.

“Our main goal is to give that peaceful feeling of ‘this is the St. George temple’ or ‘this is the Mesa Arizona Temple,’ and at the same time, improving the patron experience with better accessibility,” Kirby said.

Kirby recently spoke with the Deseret News to provide updates on the St. George and Manti temple renovation projects.

A construction crew works on the St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation, on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Update on the St. George Utah Temple

The St. George temple renovation is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, Kirby said.

“It’s quite beautiful,” Kirby said. “I’m so excited to have people see that beautiful historic temple refreshed and renewed. They’ll recognize their temple when they go back. It will be more functional, it’ll be easier to get around with the new elevators and stairs.”

The church posted a renovation update on March 28.

Similar to the Salt Lake Temple, the newly renovated St. George temple will reflect elements of the temple’s original historic design.

“The finishes will all be similar to the historic temple, so beautiful large archways and beautiful windows,” Kirby said.

The renovation has included structural reinforcement of the temple’s stone foundation. The mechanical and electrical systems have also been upgraded.

What crews are still working on:

  • The west stair and elevator tower.
  • Finish paint and cabinetry.
  • Tile in the restrooms.
  • Landscaping: The walkways, planters and landscaping are nearing completion. Drought tolerant shrubbery and trees are ready for an early spring planting to help ensure they are well rooted to survive the intense heat of summer. A sophisticated smart weather irrigation system is also being installed.
The St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation, is pictured on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The strengthening of the footings and foundations of the St. George temple took crews more time and effort than the church anticipated.

“In every historic renovation, we find and uncover things that we didn’t expect,” Kirby said.

Plans for the St. George temple renovation were released in May 2019 and the temple closed on for renovation in November 2019. Following a public open house, the temple will be rededicated.

The St. George temple has undergone multiple renovations since it was originally dedicated in 1877, according to The Church News.

  • The cupola was replaced in 1883 after a lightning strike.
  • The first annex was added in the same year.
  • Renovations were made in 1917, 1938 and 1975.
  • In 1999, the baptistry was renovated.
The Manti Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation.

The Manti Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation, is pictured on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Update on the Manti Utah Temple

The Manti temple closed for renovation on Oct. 1, 2021. Kirby estimates the project will take at least two years to complete.

One of the first areas of concern is a water leak on the east side of the temple from the hill down into the basement the temple.

“It’s been a persistent leak over many, many years, with several attempts to try to fix it,” Kirby said. “We hope we will be the the final attempt to fix and prevent that leak from damaging the interiors of the temple. So we’re working on that excavation.”

Initial renovation plans announced in March 2021 called for historic but aging murals in the temple to be photographed, documented and removed.

President Nelson said church leaders sought the direction of the Lord and felt impressed to modify those early plans.

Now, the murals will remain in place and will be cleaned and preserved as the temple undergoes a renovation that will upgrade the foundation, the water table on the grounds, electrical systems and more, Brent Roberts, director of special projects for the church said in May 2021.

The St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation.

The St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation, is pictured on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

What was learned from the Mesa Arizona Temple renovation

The recently completed three-year renovation of the Mesa Arizona Temple provided some helpful tips for the church’s other temple restoration projects.

Teams working on the Salt Lake and St. George temples visited the Mesa temple to learn how to preserve historic plaster, add new framing and drywall, and blend those different materials in the same room so when finished it looked the same.

“That’s been a tricky effort,” Kirby said.

They also learned more about the abatement process.

“In a historic temple, we find that hazardous materials like lead or asbestos, and often in surprising locations. We learn as we’ve been exposing those types of things where to look for them in the other temples. So yes, I do a continuous improvement effort to try to learn from each temple and pass those learnings on to the next one.”

What other early temples have been renovated?

Salt Lake, St. George and Manti are the latest temples to undergo major renovations.

  • The Washington D.C. Temple closed in 2018. After delays for COVID-19 and safe gathering, it will be rededicated on Dec. 13.
  • The Mesa Arizona Temple closed for construction in 2018 and was rededicated on Dec. 21, 2021.
  • The Oakland California Temple closed in 2018. It was rededicated on June 16, 2019.
  • The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple closed in March 2015. It was rededicated on June 4, 2017.
  • The Laie Hawaii Temple closed in 2008. It was rededicated on Nov. 21, 2010.
  • There are no current plans to renovate the Logan Utah Temple, the state’s other pioneer-era temple originally dedicated in 1884. “It’s functioning well,” Kirby said. “But potentially in the future.” President Nelson said the Logan temple will be renovated in the “coming years” in his closing remarks in April 2019.
The Manti Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation.

The Manti Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is closed for renovation, is pictured on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News