Sunday, November 29, 2015

A History of LDS Tabernacles: Part 9 - The Future of Tabernacles

Note: This is the final post in a series on the history of the preservation and destruction of LDS Tabernacles. To see a full list of the posts in this series, click here.

For a Google Map that lists all of the tabernacles and their locations, click here.

Today, there are 39 tabernacles (of the original 77 on Richard Jackson's list) that are still standing. The Church owns 26 of them. Are these tabernacles safe? Will they still be standing in 20, 50, or 100 years?

Stained glass in the Garland Tabernacle (Image Source)

In another post, I discussed the Church's list of protected structures. 20 tabernacles are on that list (although that likely includes Provo, and perhaps Vernal, which are now temples). See that post for more information.

Definitely, then, some tabernacles are unprotected. Some may be torn down--most likely, the smaller, less grand, and (in the eyes of administration) less significant structures that  dot the landscape. The tabernacle in Snowflake may not have much to offer against the tabernacle in Kaysville, but does that mean it will be torn down? Only time will tell.

Paintings on the walls of the Manti Tabernacle

Certainly, the fire that burned down the Provo Tabernacle in 2010 is a reminder that any of our buildings can be claimed by a disaster. It has been encouraging to see the Church's response, as it has lovingly rebuilt the structure as a temple, even though it is much more expensive to do that than built a whole new structure.

Chapel in the Granite Stake Tabernacle

Other tabernacles' futures remain uncertain. The tabernacle in Wellsville is still closed as the Wellsville Foundation heroically struggles to raise the money needed to repair the roof and re-open the building. The tabernacle in Smithfield recently underwent a comprehensive study determining the future use of the building. The report concluded that it would likely cost over a million dollars to renovate the structure, regardless of the future use. Since it is owned by the city, the city council will have to decide the building's fate.

Even when their future is uncertain, tabernacles continue to stand across the Mormon corridor, symbols of the faith, works, and struggles found in Mormonism's history. Groups meet for religious and cultural events; they continue to gather into the buildings. Light continues to stream in through the stained glass windows in Kaysville's tabernacle; tourists continue to admire the woodwork in Paris, Idaho's tabernacle; the sounds of the organ in Salt Lake's tabernacle are broadcast to the nation every week in Music & the Spoken Word.

Light shines in through the stained glass of the Kaysville Tabernacle

I feel blessed to visit so many of these buildings. And as I ascend the spiral staircases in St. George, admire the bas-relief in Manti, or play the organ in Brigham City, I am reminded of the poem that was written by pioneers who built the St. George tabernacle and tucked underneath the sandstone steps, only to be found 75 years later:

...We have labored long
For many a year,
This noble structure
For to rear;

And thus we’ve often
Lacked for bread,
“You’ve nobly worked”;
By all was said....

So now kind friends
We say farewell,
This house and steps
Our works do tell,

God will preserve
And bless his own
With life eternal
And a crown.

Spiral staircase in the St. George Tabernacle

Poem written by Charles L. Walker; see Michael N. Landon, "“A Shrine to the Whole Church”: The History of the St. George Tabernacle," Mormon Historical Studies 12, issue 1 (Mar 2011), 125.

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