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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The exterior of the newly renovated Jordan River Utah Temple in South Jordan, Utah, on Monday, March 12, 2018.

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Sister Joy D. Jones stepped across the threshold of a sealing room in the newly renovated Jordan River Utah Temple and reunited, spiritually, with her late son, Trevor.

“I cannot walk into a sealing room and not feel his presence,” she said. “I know we will be with him again, and that means everything.”

Trevor Jones died six months ago following a long battle with cancer. He was 39.

Sister Jones agrees the opening (or reopening) of a temple anywhere in the world is cause to celebrate. But the Jordan River temple is special for the Jones family. Years ago, they moved from Northern California to Draper, Utah. The temple — built just a short walk from its namesake river — became the family’s “second home.”

“There is a little piece of me here,” she said a few moments later outside the temple. When asked if she could imagine dealing with the loss of child without the temple’s sacred assurances, she shakes her head.

“We miss our son terribly,” she said, “but we rejoice that our Savior has made it possible for our family to be together again.”

Sister Jones teamed up with Elder Larry Y. Wilson on March 12, hosting reporters on a tour through the renovated temple. Passing through the building’s placid rooms and hallways, they pointed out newly hung murals, carpet design patterns and other interior elements.

But the reopening of the Jordan River temple, they said, transcends new glasswork, fresh carpet and a modernized heating and air system.

When he was a little boy, young Larry Wilson dressed in white, knelt at an altar in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple and was sealed to his family. That ceremony forever changed his relationship with the people he loves most.

Now a General Authority Seventy and the Church’s executive director of the Temple Department, he’s visited dozens of temples across the globe. But he remains anchored to that childhood temple memory of being forever connected to his parents and siblings. “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he said.

A towering landmark

Countless Latter-day Saints who call the Jordan River Utah Temple “my temple” could likely add their own life-defining experiences to those still impacting Sister Jones and Elder Wilson. Dedicated in 1981, the 149,476-square-foot building stands as an inviting physical landmark and a spiritual refuge from the world’s challenges.

After more than three decades of service, the Church’s 20th operating temple was closed in February of 2016 for extensive renovation.

“Over time, temples tire,” said Bishop Dean M. Davies, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. “It’s like owning a car. After a few years, you have to change the tires. And so in a temple, over a number of years, we have systems that show wear — heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical systems.”

Beyond the mechanical and seismic upgrades, workers also completely refreshed the interior of the Jordan River Utah Temple. Carpets have been replaced and new murals and other art features are found throughout the building’s five levels. Mahogany-fluted millwork fashioned by Utah artisans harmonizes with the interior’s drape motif design. New floor features throughout the temple include marble imported from Turkey.

Other renovation highlights include interior art glass, customized light fixtures and a new art deco pattern motif applied on the ceiling in the celestial room. Meanwhile, a grand staircase has replaced the temple’s escalators. (Elevators are found throughout the temple to assist patrons who need them.)

New exterior features include a locally designed fountain near the temple’s main entry and an exit on the west side where newly married couples can greet their guests and take photos. The ornate west exit opens onto a concrete plaza replete with decorative metal bench seating.

“The Jordan River Utah Temple is better than when it was new. … We’ve even added 10,000 perennials outside,” said Elder Wilson with a smile.

Besides reducing operation and maintenance costs, the recently completed renovation reflects the Church’s commitment to being “a good steward in the community,” added Bishop Davies.

Long-time Jordan River temple patrons such say the renovations have not diminished the temple’s distinctive feel. “The temple is beautiful,” said Courtney Blackham, of Riverton, Utah. “I grew up serving in this temple, so I’m so excited to bring my kids here. It’s all about families.”

Tour the temple

Now visitors of all backgrounds are invited to see the renovated temple for themselves. A public open house begins Saturday, March 17, and runs through April 28, except for March 18, 24, 25 and 31 and April 1, 8, 15 and 22. Free tickets are available at templeopenhouse.lds.org.

“We welcome everyone in the community to come see this beautiful temple,” said Elder Wilson. “It will give everyone a better understanding of what happens in an LDS temple and why they are significant to members of our faith.

“Plus, they will be able to see one of the most beautiful buildings to be seen anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley.”

Families can build their own timeless memories during the open house, added Sister Jones. “I hope the temple will be filled with children. As they walk through, they will feel the spirit of the temple and a desire to come back.”

The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.