ST. GEORGE, Utah (KUTV) — A longtime landmark in southern Utah is about to reopen after a major renovation.
The St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will offer free public tours starting next week.
It’s the longest operating temple in the entire church and the first one completed in Utah – back in the 1870s.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to tour the pioneer-era structure during its open house, which runs from Friday, September 15 through Saturday, November 11.
Church leaders hosted a media tour and briefing on Wednesday ahead of that.
“It’s spectacularly beautiful,” said Matthew Holland, a General Authority Seventy (a seventy is an office of priesthood in the Mormon church) who heads the church’s communications department.
For Holland, coming to St. George is like coming home.
“This is where my family’s from,” he told KUTV. “These are our roots in St. George, Utah, and specifically this temple.”
Holland was married here, and so were his parents. His mother, Patricia, passed away earlier this summer. His father, church apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, has been dealing with serious health challenges.
It’s moments like these when families mean everything,” he said, “and the concept of being together forever has never been more important to me.
Members of the church take part in things like marriages and vicarious baptisms inside temples. The St. George Temple, which first opened in 1877, has undergone several major renovations.
Historian Matthew Godfrey said this latest one hearkens back to the era when it was first built.
You see all of these furnishings, you see these fixtures, I think it helps kind of transport you back to 1877,” Godfrey said. “You can think, boy, what a really remarkable thing that the saints did down here and how much that says about how valuable the temple was to them.
The church doesn’t disclose costs for projects like this. But Holland said renovating pioneer-era temples is important to preserve history, and to make the faith’s highest ordinances available to more people.
“This really is not just important for Utah or for the pioneer church,” said Holland. “This is important for the global church as the flowering of our temple tradition.”