For a Google Map that lists all of the tabernacles and their locations, click here.
Built at the turn of the century, the old tabernacle in Lehi stood near the center of town, its 112-foot tower sticking above the business and homes. But it was now 1963, and it looked like the tabernacle was again under threat of being replaced.
The tabernacle had first been sold in 1920 after the local Church authorities determined that it was simply too expensive to keep up. The building was purchased by the Alpine School District, continued to deteriorate, and was purchased back by the Church (it cost $500 to buy the building back, but over $40,000 for necessary repairs).
But now, years later, the tabernacle was again considered too expensive to maintain. So, in 1962, even after concerned members advocated other options, it came crashing down and was replaced. A local member wrote a short poem about the building:
"It stood silent as a sentinel
’twas a beacon in the sky
That old building now had been torn down
And I’ll forever wonder why.”
|Lehi Tabernacle (Image Source: Church History Library)|
The following tabernacles, as far as I can tell, were intentionally demolished during this period of Church history (others were destroyed in this time period, but those were all by accident, whether by fire, earthquake, or other causes). Each one has its own story; each one was deeply loved by the local community.
Cardston, AB 1954
Atlanta, GA 1954
Grace, ID 1960
Mesa, AZ 1961
Ogden (Original) 1971
La Grande, OR 1977
Rigby, ID 1980
The records show that there were very few cases where local members didn't put up some resistance. Residents in Ephraim were told that their tabernacle was structurally deficient; still, a local newspaper was quick to point out that the first round of dynamite only dislodged one stone from the tower. In Cardston, a member wrote an editorial criticizing their tabernacle's upcoming demolition, arguing, “Why should we abandon it and tear it down? A few thousand dollars well spent would put the building in first class condition.…Our tabernacle is not expendable."
|Ephraim Tabernacle (Image Source: Church History Library)|
I passed by the scene of destruction today,
And I wondered what the people would say
Who built up so tall to stand
A monument to God and Land.
I wonder what their eyes would say
As the bulldozer clawed their labor away?
Only to leave the lone white star
That now stands sadly and leads no where.
Would the pioneers’ voices cry and shout
As the tawny orange-yellow flame broke out
To singe the stones and blacken the sky?
Would they yell in a giant chorus, “Why?”
Would those for whom life was a daily struggle
Condone as right this smouldering rubble?
Or do I hear a voice in the timber’s glow
Calling, “Change is not always progress, you know?”
|Rigby Tabernacle (Image Source: Church History Library)|
|Coalville Tabernacle (Image Source: Church History Library)|
The demolitions of these decades were marked by one notable holdout, in Heber City. This case will be studied later in the series. Still, even as Heber stood, tabernacles in other areas were coming down in greater numbers than ever before. What were the reasons for the demolitions? And, perhaps more commonly asked, "Who was to blame?"
Next: Part 5 - Who's to Blame?