As temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints begin to reopen, Church members are feeling excited about attending once again. But one temple will remain closed for an extended period. The Salt Lake Temple, one of the Church’s crown jewels, is currently under a large renovation project and won’t open until 2024. Officially dedicated on April 6, 1893, the Salt Lake Temple took 40 years to build. Over the last 168 years, it has come to mean different things to diverse sets of people. During the long construction process, it was a rallying point for Church members when extreme sacrifices were being made. Since its completion, it has offered spiritual blessings and direction to millions of people around the world.
As I’ve been following the renovation process, it occurred to me that, metaphorically speaking, a lot of things that are being done to the temple are things that we could be doing in our own lives. Keeping temple commitments has always been a point of focus for patrons, but if all aspects of the temple are seen as the golden standard, couldn’t we try to emulate its renovation process, strange as it seems?
Nailing Down History
During renovation, crew members came across several square-headed nails, some as long as six inches, which offered a glimpse back at the handiwork and the materials that went into the temple’s construction. I would dare guess that most families have not had a dinner-table discussion on the significance of nails to human progress or to God’s work. But it’s worth touching on.
The first nail-making machines came about in England in 1590 with the invention of slitting mills. Despite this significant feat, it wasn’t until circa 1790 that nail manufacturing was seen in the United States. Before then, colonists had to rely on hand-produced nails, or they were imported from England. In fact, during the earlier part of this 200-year period, nails were quite scarce. For instance, in colonial Virginia in the mid-1600s, it was a common practice for temporary settlers to burn down their makeshift, shoddy homes upon returning to Europe. Once the fire was extinguished, they would sift through the debris and take the nails with them.1
Between 1790–1820, various machines were invented to speed up the process of making nails from bars of iron. These nails were known as “cut” or “square” nails because of their roughly rectangular cross section. This new technology represented a significant jump in architectural progress because it moved builders away from depending on timber framing with wooden joints. It deserves mentioning that the large, granite-based Salt Lake Temple could not have been built without cut iron nails. Likewise, the buildings of today, impressive as they are, could not be constructed without the use of small, metal nails which are embedded in their frameworks.
What’s the point of this crash-course lesson on nails? One idea is the importance of remembering how the past contributes to the present. As forgotten as nail technology has become on us, we can’t deny that it played a significant role in the architectural blessings we have today. We can see how this analogy might play out in other aspects of our lives. By understanding the lessons learned from our ancestors, we can make more sense of the present and better bless our own lives and the lives of those around us.
I once asked my dad why he had remained in Church activity his entire life. Though I wasn’t experiencing any doubts on my end, I was still curious about his reasons. I thought his response was interesting. Among a couple other things, my dad told me that he had made it a point to remember his own spiritual experiences as well as the experiences of others. These things provided him with a purpose to keep moving forward.
One of the biggest changes on the temple grounds was the construction of a new tunnel (completed in early May) connecting the Conference Center parking garage to the temple, allowing easier access for visitors. The tunnel is only 128 feet long, yet the process of building it was precarious and required a lot of foresight and planning. For starters, the passageway is only 20 feet underneath a heavily trafficked street and the soil is very unstable, consisting of cobble and sand. Mining the tunnel had to be slow and methodical, with only four feet being mined at a time. A concrete mixture was sprayed on the tunnel’s surface to stabilize the walls against cave-in risk. Next, rebar arches were placed every few feet for increased stability. Additionally, the tunnel has a ten-inch-thick lining, a water-proof coating, and a finish coat. The list goes on for all the precautions that were taken to make the project a success.2
Similarly, building new, metaphorical tunnels in our own lives takes careful thought and planning and is almost always done in small increments. Different hazards and challenges that could derail our progress have to be considered and addressed. Calculated risks and sacrifices need to be made. Persistence through unexpected hardships and obstacles is necessary. Relying on tried-and-true principles like faith and forgiveness is required. All this so we can become the type of people that Heavenly Father wants us to become.
To further protect the temple against earthquake activity, four additional steel trusses have been added to the roof. The trusses are triangular-shaped and fit between the north and south walls of the temple.3 The trusses add strength in the areas where the roof is the weakest. Once a pair of new trusses is in place, cross bracing—or a series of columns, braces, and beams—is installed to provide additional support to the trusses. Essentially it works like this: If an earthquake were to occur, the amount of horizontal or lateral force against the walls of the temple could be quite large. The trusses would absorb much of that force and the cross bracing attached to those trusses would help transfer that energy to the ground. The result would be less damage to the temple walls and roof. Trusses and cross bracing are essential elements for protecting against seismic activity.
What spiritual support systems are we installing in our lives to protect against and better absorb the inevitable trials or even tragedies that will come our way? What are we doing to become men and women of steel, so to speak? For me, I’ve learned that continually adding new spiritual capabilities is important. The spiritual aptitudes we currently have may provide us with enough support for today’s trials, but will they be enough to get us through future challenges? Continually developing our spiritual identities will be critical if we want to withstand and grow from impending hardships.
Ever Changing and Building
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is when Christ teaches His apostles that certain miracles can only be accomplished through prayer and fasting. During Christ’s ministry, His apostles, at times, ministered to the sick when He wasn’t present. In one such case, a man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit approached the apostles for assistance. Evidently, the apostles had tried to cast out the evil spirit but had not been successful. Desperate for a cure, this man approached Christ for help. Christ immediately cast out the spirit from the young man. Befuddled, the apostles asked Christ why they couldn’t cast out the spirit. In addition to teaching them about faith, Christ said that certain miracles could only be accomplished through prayer and fasting. Doubtless, the apostles would have already been familiar with the power of prayer. But fasting? Apparently, Christ was teaching His disciples about a source of spiritual power that they hadn’t fully grasped or understood. If they wanted to increase their spiritual capabilities, they would need to learn more about the principle of fasting.4
This story provides a good example of the importance of developing new spiritual passageways. All of us will experience times in our lives where, to further understand or overcome something, we will need to either refine or begin developing a spiritual capability.
Like the temple construction effort, we may need to remember something that we may have forgotten, build a new tunnel in our life, or further strengthen a vital characteristic. It’s interesting to consider all the things the temple can teach us, no matter the season.
- “Revisited Myth #19: Iron nails were so valuable that people burned down buildings just to get nails,” History Myths Debunked: The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth, July 3rd 2014, https://historymyths.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/revisited-myth-19-iron-nails-were-so-valuable-that-people-burned-down-buildings-just-to-get-the-nails/
- Trent Toone, “What’s happening with the Salt Lake Temple renovation? Here’s the latest update with photos,” Deseret News, May 6, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/5/6/22423254/whats-happening-with-the-salt-lake-temple-renovation-heres-the-latest-update-with-photos.
- Trent Toone, “Steel trusses added, fountain removed, tunnel completed. See June photos of the Salt Lake Temple renovation,” Deseret News, June 21, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/6/21/22540568/steel-trusses-added-fountain-removed-tunnel-completed-see-june-photos-of-salt-lake-temple-renovation
- Matt. 17:21