When Exactly Does a Temple Cease to be a Temple?

salt-lake-temple-renovation-decommissioning (2)
Latter-day Saint temples routinely go down for lengthy renovations, but at what moment does the temple cease to be... a temple?

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n case you somehow missed it, the Salt Lake Temple, icon of our faith and a symbol of Latter-day Saintism around the world, closed on Dec. 29 for massive renovations. Aside from some remodeling of the layout, the entire building will be seismically retrofitted down to the foundation. Adjoining buildings that form the temple complex will be torn down and replaced.

But we already knew a lot about this. However, the Church was nice enough to release an article that discusses the “decommissioning” of the Salt Lake Temple and answers a question many of us have posed: at what point does a temple under renovation technically cease to be a dedicated temple?

According to the Church, during the decommissioning, which is a lengthy process going beyond the untempling of a temple, the Church’s Temple Department removes all sacred items from the building, “including temple clothing, temple records and other items used in the completion of temple ordinances. As soon as this is completed, the temple is no longer considered a dedicated building, and a recommend is not needed for renovation crews to enter.”

So there you have it. Clothing. Records. Other stuff that I’m sure you can surmise. Once those are gone, there’s no prayer or ordinance that untemples the building. It simply no longer dedicated.

Granted, this calls into question some ugly scenarios. What if some ne’er-do-wells somehow entered a temple and robbed it of the items mentioned. Would it automatically stop being a temple until they were returned? Let’s not find out.

You can see some images below, courtesy of the Church, that show the decommissioning work in action.


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Decommissioning itself is pretty interesting, especially for a structure with as much history as the Salt Lake Temple. Workers ensure that anything historic is removed, including light fixtures, door knobs, etc. Some furniture is put in storage. Other might be donated to local charities. Some other artifacts from the temple will actually be on display in the Conference Center across the street. Naturally, not everything can be removed, and the crews go to great lengths to protect the historical integrity of the building before the impact hammers start doing their thing.

Temples are sacred to Latter-day Saints and differ from the church’s everyday meetinghouses in size and purpose. The Salt Lake Temple is expected to be rededicated in 2024.


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