What is the function of the Granite Mountain Records Vault?
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“What is the function of the Granite Mountain Records Vault?” New Era, May 1973, 48

“What is the function of the Granite Mountain Records Vault?”

Answer/Theodore M. Burton

One gasoline bomb thrown at an archive during a spontaneous riot or in a spirit of mad revenge may destroy priceless records that can never be replaced. A hurricane may blow devastatingly across a continent’s coastal regions or a typhoon may attack an island. A sudden night fire caused by a defective lighting system may make ashes of records that have been handled with tender care for hundreds of years. Vandals may pillage a parish church and dump priceless record books in a field to be destroyed by the elements. A riot or revolt caused by political agitators may lead to the burning of a library’s precious collection in the city square. And threatening still, as in all ages of mankind, are destructive wars.

The need for safeguarding the world’s vital records, original manuscripts, histories, biographies, and other genealogical records has long plagued mankind. Where and how can records be protected from destruction by the elements, the ravages of time, and the destructions of man?

Through microfilming, copies of original documents are being made in every corner of the earth; and thereby, copies of millions of pages of records are presently being stored safely and securely. The Church’s Genealogical Society is engaged in one of the most active and comprehensive genealogical programs ever known. Microfilming is the heart of this multi-million dollar genealogical operation. Microfilm photographers are filming records daily in locations the world over. Such documents as land grants, deeds, probate records, marriage records, cemetery records, parish registers, and other records known to be of genealogical value are being filmed. Over three-quarters of a million rolls of microfilm have been accumulated thus far, and several thousand new rolls are processed each month. The present collection of microfilmed records represents the equivalent of more than three million printed volumes of three hundred pages each.

To be lasting, the microfilm copies must be preserved under ideal storage conditions in an area offering protection from the violences of earth and man. High in the rugged Rocky Mountains of western North America, such a storage facility has been constructed. Protected beneath hundreds of feet of solid granite and high above the valley floor, safe from spring floods, a genealogical storage complex has been built by the Church. Safe storage is now being provided for millions of microfilm copies of priceless vital records.

The protection the Granite Mountain Records Vault affords cannot be equaled in an outdoor structure. There is nearly 300 feet of solid granite above the vault’s laboratory and office area and 700 feet above the six huge vault storage rooms. The storage area has three access tunnels faced with heavy bank vault doors in very strong encasements. The large door in the center tunnel weighs more than fourteen tons, and the narrower doors in the east and west tunnels weigh nine tons each.

The microfilming program was initiated in 1938 to help Church members have access to the records needed to identify their ancestors. The program is expanding each year as archivists of church, municipal, county, and state record repositories become aware of this undertaking and recognize its value. Upon request and according to planned schedules, the Genealogical Society microfilms records at no cost to repositories. A positive copy of the microfilmed records is usually donated to the repository for the privilege of microfilming.

It is the desire and goal of the Church to gather and preserve copies of the world’s genealogical information recorded through the ages into one central storage area where they will be safe from the ravages of nature and the destructions of man. This worthwhile purpose is being realized as each day cameras click in archive repositories the world over. The magnificent complex machinery is in motion, and in an efficient, businesslike manner, page by page and book by book, these records are being stored as priceless treasures, securely protected in the tops of the mountains.

  • Assistant to the Council of the Twelve