A fire consumed the Provo Tabernacle on Dec. 17, 2010 bringing the 130-year-old tabernacle to the ground and leaving ashes in its stead.
Now just over five years later, the Provo Tabernacle has been reconstructed as the Provo City Center Temple, which officially opens for a public open house beginning Friday, Jan. 15 and running through Saturday, March 5.
Members of the media were invited on Monday for a tour of the temple with LDS Church leaders Elder Kent Richards, Quorum of the Seventy; Sister Rosemary Wixom, Primary general president; and Elder Larry Wilson, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and assistant executive director of the Temple Department.
“I think it also represents a remarkable transformation in the aftermath of the fire that took place here,” Elder Wilson said. “If you look at those pictures, there was nothing but a little masonry and a whole lot of ashes. In Isaiah we read that the Lord will give us a beauty for ashes. I think this is such a stunning example of beauty replacing ashes thanks to the Lord. What we have here is even more significant than what was here before.”
The Provo City Center Temple has the same walls as the original Provo Tabernacle, including the bricks. While few items were saved from the fire, the Provo City Center Temple designs hold true to the original tabernacle and pioneer heritage.
“They’ve tried to pick up as much as they could from the previous tabernacle,” Elder Wilson said. “The Tabernacle was designed by William Folsom, who also designed the Manti Temple. They’ve gone back to the Manti Temple as well as the previous Tabernacles and other things that were designed by William Folsom and they’ve tried to bring those forward in the decorative work and the motifs they use in this temple.”
As you tour the Provo City Center Temple, here are eight things to look for down the halls and in the rooms of the temple:
1. Light of the temple
Staying true to the historical time setting of the original Provo Tabernacle, the Provo City Center Temple has a variety of 19th century light fixtures throughout the temple. We counted seven different types of lamps sitting on tables, but you are likely to find more.
2. The original pulpit
Following the Provo Tabernacle fire, historians tried to recover as much as possible from the ashes, but only a few things survived the fire. Of those things, even fewer were salvageable to use in the Provo City Center Temple. However, the podium in the Provo Tabernacle was portable and had been moved out the night before for a musical performance. Historians were able to preserve the four inches of wood underneath. (It is the square piece underneath the top layer which is darker than the other pieces.)
3. Levels and layers
There, surprisingly, are four levels in the Provo City Center Temple. The tour goes for three levels — it misses the second level underground which is for laundry. If you walk to the plant in the corner and look up before going up the stairs, you will see a gorgeous stairwell view spanning for three levels. You can do the same thing at the top looking down.
“There’s a sense of rising heavenward in the process of instruction and progressing toward God,” Elder Wilson, said about the different floors in the temple.
The door hinges have an intricate design which is true to the Provo Tabernacle.
5. Detailed themes
The columbine flower is found in the mountain valley of Utah County, which is why it was chosen as one of the motifs for the temple. In each of its temples, the LDS Church tries to incorporate designs true to the landscape surrounding the temple.
6. Original artwork
The LDS Church had 19 local artists complete original artwork for the Provo City Center Temple, such as this painting of Jesus Christ being baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan that hangs over the baptismal font.
Another breathtaking painting found in the temple is called “First Vision From Afar” by Michael Albrechtson, which hangs in the central hall on the first floor underground.
The murals in the two instruction rooms at the Provo City Center Temple are by two different artists: Robert Marshall and James Christensen. Both murals progress from the back of the room to the front telling the story of the creation to the Garden of Eden and finishing in the front with our world today.
7. Gothic revival
The stained glass on both the inside and outside of the temple use the same motif. Each pane of window is glass set in a Gothic arch. In one window there is the honeybee hive, representing deseret or the symbol of Utah and the industriousness of the pioneers. The other window has an image of the scriptures laid open.
Typically the seats in the instruction room are separate, but the LDS Church wanted to keep the character of the Provo Tabernacle. In doing so, they had the back of the chairs fixed together like benches, while keeping the seats separate. You won’t see this in another temple.