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‘Be true to their legacy': Original Salt Lake Temple builders honored at Pioneer Day celebration

SALT LAKE CITY — Taking the time to pause for reflection amid the hustle and bustle of a renovation of epic proportions and generational influence, Jacobsen Construction workers at the Salt Lake Temple celebrated Pioneer Day with one another by remembering the builders who came many years before them.

“I ask that each of you go about your work with the mindset that we trod where others did before us, and be true to their legacy,” Project Manager Josh Fenn told all those who were there for the celebration. “And please press forward with steadfastness.”

Fenn was speaking over a megaphone to hundreds of workers who had taken time from their busy schedule to commemorate Pioneer Day, which marks the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. (Jacobsen’s celebration was held two days early.) Each person enjoying the day’s (socially distanced) festivities was treated to a hearty box lunch that contained a note of encouragement: “As a Salt Lake Temple Renovation Project team member, now, you too, are part of Pioneer Day’s enduring legacy. You represent the grit, talent, and optimism that will continue to preserve cultural heritage and this symbol of sacred identity for millions of people — now and for generations to come.”

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Foreman Paul Merrill said Pioneer Day is an especially significant occasion on this job site because of the inspiration that can be gained by thinking back on the undaunted original builders who crowned their journey west with the Salt Lake Temple.

“You see the amount of work that went in to it — the way they had to do it all by hand, and haul in stones from up in the mountains. The amount of labor and hard work that it took to build such a spectacular temple is just amazing to me,” Merrill said. “There’s a unique spirit here. You know, I think the original craftsmen are here with us — and I want to be able to say that we, too, did a good job of taking care of this temple. I consider myself blessed to be on this project.”

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Pioneer Day is a reminder that the 40-year construction of the Salt Lake Temple was not only an achievement of timeless architecture and craftsmanship, but also a spiritual triumph, said Georges Bonnet, communications manager for the Special Projects Department with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“There is a historical legacy associated with the building of this temple. There is, more importantly, a spiritual legacy. Those builders of the past, the pioneers of the past, the church leaders of the past, were very visionary,” Bonnet said. “They did their very best to produce what we now have — which is being renewed, extended and magnified based on what they did to take us another several hundred years forward.”

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Looking not just to the past, but the future, too, can be a motivator for the men and women of Jacobsen Construction seeking to leave their own building legacy that stands the test of time, said Dusty Roe, project superintendent.

“If somebody uncovers our work 120 years from now, we hope it can be looked upon in the same way, that people will be able to say we didn’t do it any disservice, that we put amount of care and same amount of professionalism as the original builders,” Roe said. “I’d like people to look back and say ‘Wow, what an outstanding job.'”

View more of Josh Fenn’s remarks here:

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