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
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Plus, there are historical references in paintings.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
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
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
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.