PROVO — Tears rushed over Gini Hansen's cheeks Monday afternoon as she watched workers place an iconic statue of the Angel Moroni on the Provo City Center Temple.
Hansen was one of more than 1,000 cheering, singing, grateful people who lined the streets to experience the latest milestone in the transformation of the Provo Tabernacle, gutted by fire in 2010, as the city's second temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The project isn't scheduled for completion until next year, but Hansen and tens of thousands of LDS Provoans already felt an emotional connection to the tabernacle and consider temples to be sacred, literally the house of the Lord.
"I think it's amazing," Hansen said of the massive project to use the remaining brick walls of the tabernacle for the new temple. "It's such a beautiful building. It has such history here. It will be a wonderful temple."
Standing just a few dozen yards from the statue just before it was lifted high into the air, Hansen paused as she began to cry.
"Having the Angel Moroni go up is a pretty special thing. I'm glad I get to see it. You hardly ever get to see that happen."
The LDS Church now has 141 operating temples around the world, nearly all of them adorned with the image of Moroni, a prophet from the Book of Mormon who as an angel visited church founder Joseph Smith, facing east and blowing a trumpet.
The event was a first for many, and most adults took photos and video with cameras, cellphones and iPads. News the statue would be raised at 2:30 p.m. spread rapidly Monday and produced a diverse crowd.
The BYU women's soccer team interrupted practice and stood across the street from the temple singing, "I Love to See the Temple," a beloved Primary song for LDS children.
Just behind them on the lawn of the Historic Utah County Courthouse, Nathan Peterson and his wife, Chelsea, recalled memories of the day he graduated from BYU and "walked" at the tabernacle.
They weren't living in Utah when a December fire gutted the tabernacle in 2010, but they moved to Springville afterward when Nathan Peterson returned to BYU to seek an MBA, which he'll complete in April.
The Petersons drive past the site most days.
"Our little boy loves to look at it," Chelsea Peterson said. On Monday, 4-year-old Luke felt like the temple was done now that the statue is in place.
Hansen learned the statue would go up from her daughter, who is a receptionist at Nu Skin, which neighbors the temple to the west and where hundreds of workers paused to watch from the glass building or on the terraces of two of the company's downtown high-rises.
Dozens more perched on top of the Historic Utah County Courthouse, the Zions Bank Tower, the Wells Fargo Tower and the Utah County Health and Justice Building to watch the crane lift the statue to one of the temple's turrets, where workers deftly moved it into place.
President John McCune, the head of the LDS Church's Utah Provo Mission, watched the work with a few dozen of his missionaries, who man an information booth outside the temple each day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Hansen and the Petersons said the Provo City Center Temple will be "their" temple when it is completed. Latter-day Saints are assigned to temple districts depending on where they live.
Several young mothers who stood together and talked as their little children played on the Nu Skin campus after the statue was in place also will be in the City Center Temple district.
"It's our neighborhood. It's our temple, which is pretty cool," Adrienne Murray said.
Her 5-year-old daughter Bella had peppered her with questions as the statue went up.
"Why do we put him up there?" she asked about Moroni.
Murray had an answer but considered it too technical, so she texted her husband for a Bella-sized answer.
"Tell her that's the direction his trumpet will call when Jesus comes again," he wrote.
Both Murray and her daughter thought that was perfect.
Provoans who had attended their own or their children's graduations, school concerts, church meetings and other events in the tabernacle were thrilled in October 2011 when church President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to build a temple inside the remaining walls.
The project required immense work underneath the foundation, and people soon gawked at the stilts that held up the building as excavation made way for an underground garage and a new foundation with waterproofing features due to a high water table.
"It's mind-boggling," said Hansen, who attended a recent meeting with missionaries assigned to the project. "It's built like a boat, totally waterproof, with five-and-a-half layers of concrete, drainage and waterproof materials.
"It's so meaningful to me how the church took a fragile old building and made it so secure."
Angel statues have adorned temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1846, when the faith completed a temple in Nauvoo, Ill.
The first temple to have a statue specifically identified as the Angel Moroni was the Salt Lake Temple. Today, most LDS temples have an Angel Moroni statue perched on a spire, facing east.
For Latter-day Saints, temples are different from meetinghouses or chapels where they gather each Sunday. In temples, they perform sacred ordinances and ceremonies, including marriage, for themselves and the dead.
Construction of the second LDS temple in Provo has generated major buzz in the city and city leaders beamed Monday as they snapped photos and took video.
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