Thursday, October 9, 2014

Preservation Predictions: Will the Mesa Arizona Temple be Restored?

Note: The 'Preservation Predictions' series examines what historic Mormon buildings may be renovated/preserved in the future. For all of the posts in this series, click here.

With the open house of the Phoenix Temple underway, only 7 months after the Gilbert Temple opened its doors, I have been thinking about the possibility of the Mesa Temple being remodeled in the next few years.

Few of the early temples of the Church have escaped major remodels and renovations that have been unfaithful to the original architecture--varying from St. George (which was converted to stationary and had a back stairway added on to the structure) to Logan (which was gutted) to Laie to Mesa. Originally, the Endowment ordinance used five rooms; now, it only needs two (or three). In response to this, most older temples were completely remodeled, and Mesa is no exception.

The temple originally had a highly symbolic floor plan. When it opened, one newspaper wrote about how its entire plan was around a grand staircase: “[the staircase] is designed to serve more than the purely utilitarian accommodation . . . It suggests the story of man from earthly birth to the regions of celestial glory, and reflects the successive stages of progression. . . . The grand stairway may be said to typify the [ever] upward pathway which terminates in celestial glory" (Bradford W. Perkinson, The Ninth Temple: A Light in the Desert: Mesa, Arizona, 1927 to 2002, Seventy-five Years, 94–95).

 (Image Source: The Trumpet Stone)

All patrons who entered not only saw the grand staircase, with the door to the Celestial Room at the top--they had a view of the baptistry, and thus could see the progression of temple ordinances. Patrons would go partway up the staircase and then turn into the Creation Room, progressing through all of the rooms before arriving at the Celestial Room at the top.

(World Room; Image Source: The Trumpet Stone)

Unfortunately, the temple was heavily remodeled in the 1970s to accommodate a stationary presentation of the endowment. Care was not taken to preserve any original elements--men working in the endowment rooms were told that the murals were not going to be used again, so they took it off in the easiest way--tearing it down in bits and pieces (Perkinson, 353). The terrestrial room became the veil room (allowing all sessions access to the celestial room); the creation, garden, and world rooms each became a stationary room. Another area of the temple was converted into a fourth endowment room, allowing sessions to begin every 30 minutes.

Before the other temples in the Mesa area were constructed, Mesa's temple district had about 75 stakes--about the size of the district of the Mount Timpanogos, Ogden, or Provo temples. Gilbert took away 28 of those stakes, and the Phoenix Temple will take away another 16, leaving Mesa with about 31 stakes in its district--a much more manageable level.

Which leads me to the question--will the Mesa Temple be remodeled? The Laie Hawaii temple was remodeled in 2010. Its wonderful renovation restored the progressive nature of the endowment. Could the same happen for Mesa?

Way back in 2011, a comment thread on The Trumpet Stone contained the following comment from an anonymous user:

"I am a contractor that does just finish work on Temples. I know the "master plan" was to fix Laie Hawaii, then Mesa Arizona, and then Logan. Hawaii was finished in 2010: At double the cost of tearing it down and building a new one. Mesa is next. Logan will be interesting, because it will be a "Re-Creation" not a restoration. See, Because of ADA compliance, they can't put in all the stairs. But they will make it what it "could have been." The project will start in 2013. Promise."

Obviously, it's easy to jump all over what someone anonymously posts in an internet thread, but I still see the remodeling of Mesa (and Logan, and St. George) as a possibility. It could be that other issues have delayed the remodeling of Mesa--for example, the Phoenix Temple was majorly delayed because of neighborhood protests, or the missionary age change could have postponed other projects as tithing funds were diverted to the swelling missionary force.

I hope that at one point most of the older temples are restored to their original architecture. Here's to hoping that a reduced temple district will allow Mesa to undergo some sort of restoration soon.

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