What's the No. 1 place to visit in our capitol city? Temple Square, of course, which has been closed for major renovations since Dec. 29, 2019. Visitsaltlake.com reports that between 3 million and 5 million people annually flock to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake—more visitors than to all of Utah's "Big Five" national parks combined.
The Salt Lake Temple itself, an icon of Western Gothic architecture, greatly needed safety and seismic upgrades. Not only were the building's mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems aging, but the threat of a major earthquake is a growing concern. After Salt Lake experienced a 5.7 magnitude tremblor one morning back in March 2020, the subsequent shaking caused the golden trumpet on the angel Moroni to fall off, and some of the smaller spires had minor displacement. The major shaking not only alarmed employees and visitors, but some of the faithful saw it—along with the COVID-19 pandemic—as a signal of God's wrath.
If you have driven by Temple Square in the past year, you'd have seen bulldozers digging several stories deep around the temple to get beneath it to install the anti-earthquake equipment. Also, the southeastern visitors center was torn down to allow for access and equipment storage.
To protect the historic Temple from future damage, church officials authorized the installation of a "base-isolation system," one of the most effective means of protecting a building against the forces of an earthquake. This system installs one or more types of bearing to support the weight of the structure through things like sliding plates and elastomeric pads like shock absorbers to dissipate the energy of the quake. A base-isolation system provides seismic protection by separating the structure (superstructure) from the base (foundation or substructure). In separating the two, the amount of energy that's transferred to the superstructure during an earthquake is reduced significantly.
The LDS Conference Center, which has been closed for 15 months, is now offering guided and self-guided tours of the Conference Center daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Inside the Conference Center, you'll find a replica of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's famous "The Christus" statue as well as displays of the work being done on the temple itself.
Many are familiar with the larger-than-life marble replica of "The Christus" that, for more than 50 years, was a centerpiece in the North Visitors' Center with a massive mural of the heavens behind it. That statue has been put in storage, because the North Visitors' Center is next to be demolished later this year to make way for a garden.
In July, the Assembly Hall and Tabernacle will reopen from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, allowing visitors to listen once again to the amazing sounds of the organ or hear volunteers drop pins from the podium, illustrating the acoustics of the Tabernacle, constructed without nails. It's a great, free tour. (Organ concerts, rehearsals and other concerts are still on pause as are the live Sunday performances of Music and the Spoken Word.)