6 things to look for at the Payson Utah Temple Open House


Days before the Payson Utah Temple Open House officially opens to the public, the media toured the 146th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Our committee has been preparing for four months to present the temple to the people, and we want this to be the people’s temple,” said Lana Hiskey, public affairs chairperson for the Payson Utah Temple Open House and Dedication. “And we hope the people are now preparing to come to the temple.”

While the public has silent walkthroughs of the temple, the media got a guided tour with Elder Kent F. Richards, executive director of the Temple Department and member of the Quorum of the Seventy. Richards provided historical, symbolic and architectural insight to the development and design of the Payson Utah Temple.

Here are six specific things to look for at the Payson Utah Temple Open House in order to get more out of your tour.

1. Levels of significance

(Photo by Rebecca Lane)

(Photo by Rebecca Lane)

The Payson Utah Temple follows the same layout as the Gilbert Arizona Temple in that it has five levels.

On the bottom floor, there is the baptistry, the first ordinance in the LDS Church. This is where proxy baptisms and confirmations are performed for the dead.

The second floor has dressing rooms for the members who have received their ordinances beyond baptism. The third floor holds the chapel waiting room where patrons wait before participate in an endowment session, an ordinance when members make covenants and receive video instruction. On the fourth floor, patrons join in the endowment session and sit in the Celestial room, a room for reflection. The final floor is where the seven sealing (marriage) rooms are.

“There is a general significance that we tend to go up towards heaven as we get to the higher ordinances,” Richards said.

2. Payson connections


Payson’s history and landscape is displayed throughout the temple, which is most noticeable in the design (more on that under “apple blossoms”).

“We want the community to feel like it is their temple,” Richards said. “And so we typically find a little motif, a little design and it makes them feel like they are home when they come in. It is a wonderful connection to the community itself.”

Residents might even recognize specific places from the paintings (more under “local art”).

Plus, there are historical references in paintings. For example, Brigham Young sent scouts to what is now the Payson Temple District only three days after the pioneers arrived in Utah Valley, making the picture of Brigham Young in the bapistry historically accurate.

3. Apple blossoms

Celestial room table

The LDS Church creates design themes that reflect the area where the temple is built. Payson is know for its apple orchards and wheat, both of which are visible throughout the temple.

“There are a lot of apple orchards in this area,” Richards said. “And they’ve been a mainstay in the agricultural efforts of this community.”

Pay close attention to the furniture throughout the temple, especially in the Celestial room. There are apple blossoms etched into the furniture — including the arm rests on the couches. Take a close look at the center table in the Celestial room where you’ll see apple blossoms tinted a different color on the wood surface.

4. Stained glass progression


Tom Holdman, a Utah Valley resident, did all of the stained glass work for the temple. The glasswork also displays apple blossoms, featured in different stages.

Starting on the bottom floor in the baptistry, the apple blossoms are barely buds. As you advance to each level through the temple, the apple blossoms grow until they are in full bloom on the top floor of the temple.

“The ordinances on the higher levels of the temple are more special,” Richards said. “Ordinances are progressive, so the apple blossoms become a little more lovely and a little more beautiful.”

5. Copycat mural

Baptistry art

In the baptistry, the woodland mural with forest animals in the background might be familiar to a temple traveller. The mural is a copy of the Calgary Alberta Temple in Canada.

6. Local art

Elspeth Young is a local artist who was commissioned to paint pictures for the Payson Utah Temple. An original painting of Jane Elizabeth Manning, one of the first settlers in Utah Valley, hangs in the sealing room waiting area. This pictures titled, "Till We Meet Again," is another picture of the early pioneer by Young. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Elspeth Young is a local artist who was commissioned to paint pictures for the Payson Utah Temple. An original painting of Jane Elizabeth Manning, one of the early settlers in Utah, hangs in the sealing room waiting area. This picture titled, “Till We Meet Again,” is another picture of the early pioneer by Young. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

The Payson Utah Temple features 19 original pieces of art, many of which are done by local artists. All of the pieces are either landscapes of the area, have historical significance or are pictures of Jesus Christ.

“Most of them are local artists. Some of them come from the western states,” Richards said. “Typically they are members of the Church or they’ve done work with us before. The artwork goes through several levels of review, and ultimately, the First Presidency approves all of the paintings that are in the temple.”

Elspeth Young, a Utah Valley artist, was commissioned to paint pioneer pictures for the temple. An original painting of Jane Elizabeth Manning, one of the first settlers in Utah Valley, hangs in the sealing room waiting area.

Take a photographic tour of the Payson Utah Temple and read more background information here

Rebecca Lane

While her first language is sarcasm, Rebecca dabbles in English and Russian to achieve her lifelong dream of being a journalist. A BYU sports fan, reading enthusiast and wannabe world traveler, Rebecca is a Colorado transplant that is convinced Colorado's mountains are much larger than the many Utah County peaks. Rebecca manages UtahValley360.com for Bennett Communications. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccalane.


  1. AvatarJ Reply

    Well then, this painting being hung in the temple is very ironic. Jane was the first documented African-American woman to come to the Utah Territory as a Mormon pioneer. With her husband Isaac James, she had eight children. Their daughter Mary Ann was the first black child born in Utah. After Isaac left the family in 1869, Jane repeatedly petitioned the First Presidency to be endowed and to be sealed, along with her children, to Walker Lewis, a prominent African-American Mormon Elder. Lewis, like Elijah Abel, had been ordained to the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, and Jane therefore assumed that he would be eligible for temple ordinances. However, her petitions were consistently ignored or refused.

    After Isaac died in 1891, Jane asked that she and her family be given the ordinance of adoption so that they could be sealed in that manner. Her justification, according to her correspondence with church leaders, was that Emma Smith had offered to have her sealed to the Smith family as a child. She was now reconsidering her decision, and asked to be sealed to the Smiths.

    Her request was refused. Instead, the First Presidency “decided she might be adopted into the family of Joseph Smith as a servant, which was done, a special ceremony having been prepared for the purpose.”[2] The ceremony took place on May 18, 1894, with Joseph F. Smith acting as proxy for Joseph Smith, and Bathsheba W. Smith acting as proxy for Jane James (who was not allowed into the temple for the ordinance).[3] In the ceremony, Jane was “attached as a Servitor for eternity to the prophet Joseph Smith and in this capacity be connected with his family and be obedient to him in all things in the Lord as a faithful Servitor”.[4]

    Jane was dissatisfied with that unique sealing ordinance, and applied again to obtain the sealing that was offered to her by Emma. According to the diary of Franklin Richards, the LDS First Presidency met on August 22, 1895, to consider Jane’s appeal, but again turned her down. (At this same meeting, they also considered the case of Mary Bowdidge Sojé Berry Smith, “a white Sister who [married] a negro man [and] entreats for permission to receive her ordinances but is refused.”)

  2. AvatarAmy T Reply

    The picture of Jane James is beautiful, but she was not an early settler of Utah Valley as stated in the caption to the picture. She noted in her autobiography, “I have lived right here in Salt Lake City for fifty-two years, and have had the privilege of going into the temple and being baptized for some of my dead.”

    Perhaps as the Payson Temple is being dedicated, complete with this lovely artwork, it would also be appropriate to remember four early African American pioneers and faithful members of the Church more local to southern Utah Valley: Alex and Marinda Bankhead, Chaney Redd Cunningham, and Venus Redd Cupid.

    1. AvatarK. Allred Reply

      Amy, thank you for the beautifully detailed reminder of Jane James, the Bankheads and the Redds. Their legacies continue to inspire us today. As I have traveled the world, I have met many individuals whose understanding of Mormon pioneers is inadequate, especially in regard to non-white LDS members. So, thanks for clarifying!

  3. AvatarMolly Reply

    Not sure how a painting of Jane Manning is very flattering. She was sealed as a servant to Joseph Smith because black women weren’t allowed to have their own endowments. That’s pretty embarrassing for the church to advertise.

    1. AvatarK. Allred Reply

      The first 140 years of LDS Church history were dynamic, dramatic, and at times unpleasant. Our forbearers were very much human, seeking answers to some pretty tough political and religious issues. Even Joseph Smith, the Church’s first prophet/president, struggled to make his way through life in a country where African Americans continued to be subjugated until well after his own assassination.

      Nevertheless, the Church does not hide its history. I am thrilled to see the painting of Jane Manning in the Payson Temple, which is the town where I raised my children. Payson is a loving, caring, and welcoming community. Jane fits in here–yesterday, today, and tomorrow. She must be very gratified to look down and see how her life and legacy have helped to lay the groundwork for this new House of God.

      1. AvatarAiri Reply

        Thank you for this wonderful reminder! I too am happy–I see the hanging of this picture as a step forward.

      2. AvatarAiri Reply

        As a woman of color myself, I am tremendously pleased to see this painting in the Payson Temple. I hope that the petitions of naysayers will not result in this painting being taken down. I think it would be tragic if their personal issues with the Church led to temple officials deciding to take down this tribute to a faithful woman. If the painting were taken down, the probable replacing of a woman of color with another portrait of a white man, or even a landscape, would feel like a step backwards for many non-white members. I love this painting, and I love that it is in the temple, in the room with the highest level of ordinance.

        1. AvatarKassie Reply

          I had the privilege to see this painting yesterday as I attended the temple open house and it really touched my heart. First off, it is a beautiful painting to begin with, but even more so to me because she looks like one of my best friends from my mission. I adored this painting.

        2. AvatarRobert Finicum Reply

          The painting was my favorite part of the temple visit. The restoration of the Church has included understandable stumbles along the way given the fact that it was made up of men and women who were products of their own culture. This painting is beautiful and sends a powerful message that all are truly equal before God. I would honestly hope there aren’t naysayers about this wonderful message.

  4. AvatarLottie Reply

    It is terrible that the church would put a portrait of a woman sealed as a servant up in the temple! I am appalled at the lack of sensitivity to this topic, and have contacted several civil rights organizations with this story. To glorify the churches racist past is disgusting. If you want to recognize this brave and faithful woman by all means pay her tribute, but don’t leave her image in the sealing waiting room, a place she wasn’t even allowed to enter when she was alive!

    1. AvatarAiri Reply

      Perhaps it’s not a glorification of a racist past, but a way of honoring a woman who would now be treated differently… Maybe even an apology of sorts?

      1. Avatarbwv549 Reply

        > Maybe even an apology of sorts

        It is an interesting thought, I agree. Still, LDS Church leaders have been emphatic on multiple occasions that the Church does not apologize. In every instance where a “statement of regret” was interpreted as an apology they have corrected the record (~”that was not an apology”). I am unaware of the Church issuing a single apology in its entire history, hence it seems misguided to consider this an act of apology. Furthermore, nothing prevents leaders from issuing an actual apology at any time (i.e., they have lawyers on retainer and historical experts at BYU who could easily draft such an apology for approval). Just my thoughts on this.

    2. AvatarRobert Finicum Reply

      That’s interesting that you viewed it as a glorification of slavery. I thought is was a wonderful message that all races are equally beautiful before God. There is an obvious lack of multiculturalism in church artwork and I am glad that at least someone recognized this. I believe the white dress of the African American woman was a wedding dress and not a slavery gown considering it was in the marriage waiting room. A bride in her wedding dress is one of the top symbols of beauty and I thought it was very honoring to have the bride be black.

  5. AvatarDebra Brady Reply

    We, who know God, also know that men make mistakes in the name of religion. Mortal men and women will continue to make mortal mistakes, however, there is no doubt in my mind that God is a just God and will make everything right for all people. We are often petty and worried about things that happen here on earth when we also know that those who have passed on have reached a state of not worrying about the small stuff. The sculpture is beautiful and such an honor because she was an honorable person. God loves us all!!!

    1. AvatarLottie Reply

      What’s the point of having a prophet or “mouth piece of God” if he is wrong? If those prophets made mortal and moral mistakes how can you trust your current prophet isn’t also making proclamations and decisions while being mortally and morally mistaken? Having a portrait of your founding fathers eternal servant in a sealing waiting room is despicable and insensitive.

      1. AvatarK. Allred Reply

        Lottie, I sense some hatred and anger coming through your comments. God is mindful of you and me. He was mindful of His church through the ages. The prophet Spencer W. Kimball received revelation for the Church in 1978, when skin color no longer played a role in Church membership or standing in the Church. Wow — that was a thrilling and happy day for all of us faithful LDS members! We had prayed long and hard for this change, which came just a few years after the laws of the land (USA) changed following the Civil Rights era of the sixties.

        Please embrace our love for a living prophet who guides us today. There is no need for hatred or anger when we discuss God and Jesus Christ. He will not abide where hate and anger exist (Colossians 3: 8-15 “let the peace of God rule in your hearts”) Join us in celebrating this auspicious occasion and in remembering how far we have come in temple worship!

        1. Avatarjskpatriot Reply

          K. Allred, beautifully said. And I suppose that those who are so unhappy and non-supportive of the prophets of God will not have to worry about seeing the painting in the temple anyway.

  6. AvatarJustin Reply

    I have to agree, this is a strange place to put her portrait, considering what she wanted and how the church’s responded.

  7. AvatarJentry J Reply

    I think her portrait being placed there is perfect! Her deepest desire and highest aspiration on this earth was to be sealed for eternity to her family. And it is quite inspiring to me, and should so be to everyone else who hears her story; that she did not just give up when her requests were declined. She did not give up on the church, or her faith in what was to come beyond this life. I am sure that because of our wonderful church ordinances, she and her family have since been sealed for time and eternity by proxy. And that is what mattered most to her. So as I said, her portrait is in the perfect place! And will stand as an inspiration to many!

  8. AvatarClayson Lyman Reply

    Visited Payson Temple Wed 29 April and was super impressed with the workmanship, materials used, paintings, furniture, etc. Particularly impressed with three paintings and would like to know how I can get prints: 1) Lady holding daughter with sunflowers, 2) Black lady with hands folded in lap in mode of prayer, 3) Savior at well with lady and water vase – These three paintings are new to me and I very much want to know more about the artists, the painting titles, and again how I can get prints. Thank you.

  9. Avatarpratt h Reply

    I wish to know more about having servents in the celestrial kingdom I have never heard stories about that.any info would be helpful.

    1. AvatarBruce Young Reply

      The idea of having servants in the hereafter is not LDS doctrine. For some context, see chapters 2 and 16 of “The Last Mile of the Way” (by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray–preferably in the recent revised and expanded version published by Zarahemla Books). Note this, for instance, on page 20: “The fact that many Church leaders, including President Woodruff and Joseph F. Smith, did not believe blacks were to be eternal servants is indicated by their words about her and Isaac Lewis Manning [her brother] at their funerals.” Isaac’s obituary reads in part: “He was treated with a great deal of deference by all the Church officials and was respected and revered by all who knew him for his kind disposition and generous nature. He and his sister had special seats reserved for them in the tabernacle near the front in the center of the building” (see page 124).

  10. AvatarRuss Reply

    I see this picture and think early Utah womanhood and would love a copy in my home. It looks like a fine piece of art. The Church, the United States of America and all individuals suffer a form of prejudice in one form or another and lack the ability to undo the past. All they can do is move forward. I view my life as the ability to improve the future for all individuals.

  11. AvatarBruce Young Reply

    It’s interesting that most of the comments have been about the picture of Jane Manning James. I feel like I know her. My wife (Margaret Blair Young) is an expert on her life, which she dramatized in a series of historical novels co-written with Darius Gray (Standing on the Promises) and in a play (I Am Jane). In the novels (each chapter of which is followed by historical notes) you’ll find details clarifying and contextualizing all the issues that have been raised on this page. In addition, Margaret has given firesides and presentations around the country, often recounting Jane’s story and quoting her words. Margaret is also cited in the Church’s recent statement about race and priesthood (see footnote 13 at https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood ).
    The story of Jane’s failure to receive the full temple blessings she desired is sad. But she dealt with that disappointment in a much different way than some of her supposed defenders are doing. She remained faithful and strong to the end, her dictated testimony (to be read at her funeral) including these words: “My faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is as strong today–nay, it is if possible stronger than it was the day I was baptized. I pay my tithes and offerings. I keep the word of wisdom. I go to bed early and arise early. I try in my feeble way to set a good example for all.” The word “feeble” reveals her humility–but she was anything but feeble. Comparatively, she was one of the strongest and noblest members the Church has had. And I’m sure she is thrilled with each of the new temples, including the one in Payson.

  12. AvatarGeorge Reply

    Years ago after serving my shift at the Atlanta Temple, I left the building and met Jane Manning out on the parking lot sidewalk–a modern black pioneer women. She was doing one-person presentations. It felt like I really was talking to her! It was an awesome, spiritual experience!

  13. AvatarEllis LeRoy Reply

    Elspeth Young is one of my favorite artists and does beautiful paintings – portraits of women that she honors for their strength of charter and womanhood. Before this painting made it to the Payson Temple it hung in the Spring Salon collection. It was my favorite painting in that exhibit. While it’s current location is somewhat ironic, is is also very fulfilling. It graces the beauty and persistence of all women. I’m sure that he she could pick the location for the painting that would be the exact place she would want it.

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