Note: This is a part of a series on the history of the use of stained glass in LDS meetinghouses. To see a full list of the posts in this series, click here.
Stained glass is not cheap today; it was particularly not cheap to members struggling to build up the Church at the turn of the century. One of the reasons stained glass arrived so late to the fledgling Mormon Church was because of the cost--not just the cost of ordering the glass itself, but also of having it shipped to Utah. This certainly became cheaper once the railroad arrived, but it was still expensive.
One of the most common ways stained glass was introduced into wards was through generous donors who could afford to purchase the windows. The Twenty-ninth ward residents may not have been able to raise money for such colorful windows, but the Bishop of the ward, Theodore McKean, donated three windows to grace the front of the building.
Similarly, Annie D. Watkins donated the funds to the Salt Lake 17th Ward to purchase the large, gothic window depicting the First Vision.
If donors were unable to provide a window for a chapel when it was built, chances would come in later years during remodels and renovations. The 18th Ward originally had no window in its building; when a remodel was done several years later, John T. Caine arranged for a beautiful stained glass window he donated to be installed in the chapel. The 18th Ward was later taken down and rebuilt close to the State Capitol, but the window he installed continues to grace the chapel interior.
|(Image Source: Church History Library)|
That is not to say that local members alone could provide the funds needed. Mrs. A.W. McCune, a resident of Salt Lake City, donated a stained glass window of Joseph Smith receiving the plates to the Ocean Park (now Santa Monica) Ward in California. How often Mrs. McCune was able to visit and enjoy the window she donated is unknown; local members were certainly appreciative. [This image is of a copy of the original window, and is a poor quality image. If I get the chance to visit the chapel and document it, I will be sure to update this post.]
Of course, this is not to say that all windows were donated by wealthy members; when no donor could be found, local ward members often provided the funds themselves. The Alhambra, California Ward had a circular window of frosted glass at the front of their chapel. A local member later recounted that in 1938, the Young Women's leader gathered the girls together and asked, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a stained glass window up there that had a picture of the Savior? Wouldn't you girls like to earn the money? Let's raise the money."
The Young Women responded by selling Christmas cards, donuts, cupcakes, and other items. They were able to raise enough funds to have a local designer put in a beautiful stained glass window showing Christ knocking at the door. It still stands there today, and the girls' efforts made the window even more meaningful. One of them recounted her feelings: "...at 6 o'clock, we had Sacrament Meeting at night. And when the sun would go down behind that window, it would just glisten--the Savior stood out there and that door."
|(Image Source: Zion Eggs; Instagram)|
But even donors appreciated the meaning that stained glass windows could bring for them and for others. Mary Jane Gardner Miller and Margaret Gardner Miller helped donate the window of Christ to the Murray First Ward, in memory of their husbands. Donor names were listed on the bottom of the window.
One window was not enough for Mary Jane; a few years later, she saw a window of Christ as the Good Shepherd and was so moved by the depiction that she donated it to the Millcreek Ward. When she passed away, the Bishop spoke of how much the window meant to her, and quoted the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. Because of her donation, Mary Jane's emotions, story, and generosity are captured in beautiful, colored stained glass that now provide beauty and comfort to local members in Millcreek, Utah; a century later.
Next Week: The Peak of LDS Stained Glass