PROVO — Interest in the Provo City Center Temple is high because of its pioneer/tabernacle heritage and the fact that it will become the 150th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As hundreds of thousands tour the new temple before its dedication on March 20, they will be able to see not only reminders of the historic building but also original artwork, fine craftsmanship and other unique features.
Elder Kent F. Richards, executive director of the LDS Church's Temple Department, summarized the artwork and decorative efforts in one word.
"I think the word is beauty. I think it creates a lovely environment that inspires us as we come into the temple," Elder Richards said during a tour with members of the media. "It's interesting; we pay more attention to the artwork and design sometimes in an open house than we do when we are actually serving in the temple because we are there for the purpose of receiving ordinances and performing this important work for the dead. But as we are there, just the ambiance, the feeling and the beauty permeates throughout the building and brings us to a spiritual level and feeling in the temple."
Sister Rosemary Wixom, the church's general Primary president, agreed.
"Our surroundings, wherever they are, whether it's in our homes, churches or temples, contribute to the spirit that is there," Sister Wixom said. "The artwork in this temple, uniquely 19 original pieces of art, have a huge impact on the spirit in the Provo City Center Temple."
For those preparing to tour the temple, here are some interesting facts, informative details and insightful stories to enhance the experience.
Below the temple on the first parking level is a series of displays, including historic photos, artifacts and other items, that recount the story of the Provo Tabernacle from its original construction through the 2010 fire and temple construction process. This display represents a connection between the past and the present, Sister Wixom said.
"It beautifies the purpose of the temple that grew from a dedicated building," Sister Wixom said. "It's interesting to see the history and what has happened through the years and now we have this temple."
Among the many items on display are a large photo of the tabernacle’s interior from 1910; an organ pipe fragment; old log books; baptismal records; a small portion of the baptismal font floor; fire-damaged scriptures; and mock-ups of decorations, door handles and various other items.
Elder Richards said examining the artifacts can help refresh memories for those who were familiar with the old tabernacle.
"It will bring to their mind and hearts that connection that will endure," he said. "It is a unique building. It has its wonderful pioneer heritage, history, legacy of faith, courage, pioneer craftsmanship and everything that allowed this building to be built in the 1880s. Now it's gone, except for the walls. But the spirit of that building lives on. You can't help but feel it as you are inside. It's a wonderful connection to our pioneer ancestors and all they did to prepare this community for these great blessings."
For more on the history of the Provo Tabernacle, visit history.lds.org.
The chapel pulpit
Elder Richards said the only original piece of furniture preserved from the Provo Tabernacle is a square, 4-inch section of carved wood in the pulpit, which can be found in the chapel. It escaped the fire because it had been removed for a musical performance.
Stained-glass Savior and lamb
Sister Wixom's favorite work of art in the Provo City Center Temple is a large stained-glass piece depicting the Savior Jesus Christ holding a lamb. It's behind the reception desk at the temple's east entrance.
"It's breathtaking," Sister Wixom said. "It's beautiful."
According to Elder Richards, the glass art is about 120 years old. It was found with some damage in a Presbyterian church in New York. The church commissioned a local artisan to repair, clean and restore it for the temple.
Sister Marsha Richards, Elder Richards' wife, found a spiritual meaning in the restored glass art portraying the Savior with the lamb.
"That is what Christ does with us," she said. "He heals and restores us."
In addition to the glass art, the temple has 19 original paintings.
James Christensen and Robert Marshall, former members of Brigham Young University’s art department, each produced murals in two instruction rooms that depict the Creation, the Garden of Eden and worldly landscapes. Marshall’s mural includes Utah Lake, Mount Timpanogos and a cougar.
Another painting is Michael Albrechtsen's "First Vision From Afar," which portrays how the heavenly pillar of light shining into the Sacred Grove during Joseph Smith's First Vision may have appeared to someone watching from a distant hill.
Elspeth Young's painting, "Mary Wanless," is based on the true story of a pioneer girl who lost her mother and cared for her disabled father. The painting, which shows Mary Wanless gathering edible plants and flowers, was placed in the hall outside the bride's room as a memorial to her faith and courage, and in hopes of inspiring young women, Elder Richards said.
A number of paintings in the temple were created by Michael Coleman and his son, Nicholas, Elder Richards said.
As with some other temples, the Provo City Center Temple comes with a flower motif. The columbine flower, found in Utah County, can be recognized in various designs in the wood, furniture, windows and walls of the temple.
Floral ribbon design
After the tabernacle fire, a green and pink floral ribbon design was found on a plaster wall in a boarded-up room. This festive design was incorporated into the bride's room, where it's displayed along the top of the walls.
More than 500 couples have already made reservations for marriages in the Provo City Center Temple, Elder Richards said.
See templeopenhouse.lds.org or call the Temple Open House Reservation Center at 855-537-2000 for more information about the open house.
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