The Granite Mountains Records Vault has been aptly called the “Mormon version of the pyramids.” While the Egyptian pyramids were built to house the remains of a few rulers, the Granite Mountain Vault was constructed in the 1960’s to store the world’s largest collection of records of the dead. For many deceased persons, the genealogical information stored in the Vault is the only evidence that they ever lived.
This near impregnable facility is situated underneath as much as 700 feet of stone. It has an internal water reservoir and doors strong enough to withstand a nuclear blast. There are six separate vault chambers that are accessible by one main and two smaller entrances.
The Church of Jesus Christ began storing records on microfilm in 1938. As the microfilm collection began to outgrow the Genealogical Society of Utah building, Church officials started searching for a secure location where the archive could be protected and have room to expand. Sites in downtown Salt Lake City, City Creek Canyon, and Redd Red Butte Canyon were considered. Eventually, it was decided to build the storage facility deep in a mountain in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City.
Blasted 600 feet into the side of a mountain, the Vault stores a vast collection of microfilm. Approximately 2.4 million rolls have been amassed so far-- about 35 billion images in total. In 2004, these images began being converted to digital files. The images are of “such documents as land grants, deeds, probate records, marriage records, cemetery records, parish registers, and other records known to be of genealogical value.” The Church has since pledged to digitize all of the genealogical records in the Vault and make them available free of charge on familysearch.org.
Apart from genealogical records, the Vault stores Church records and artifacts including handwritten temple ordinance books, Latter-Day Saint scriptures in every language in which they have been published, financial records, and minutes from the meetings of General Authorities of the Church.
Since there are no longer any public tours of the facility, rumours abound about what else might be stored in this super secure vault. Some people have even half-jokingly suggested that the vault contains Book of Mormon artifacts such as the sword of Laban or maybe even the famous Gold Plates. The public’s fascination with the facility was evidenced in fall 2019 when over a thousand people showed interest in a hoax event “Storm the Church Vault, They Can’t Stop All of Us”. Church officials clarify that the site is not secret, but secure. Visitors are not permitted, helping to protect the records from tampering, foreign materials such as dirt and dust, and unwanted changes to temperature or humidity. Nestled in Little Cottonwood Canyon, The Granite Mountain Records Vault is equipped to store records and artifacts indefinitely.