Monday, August 31, 2020

Afton Stake Tabernacle: Interior

 Here is an image of a funeral in the original tabernacle. A balcony went around three sides. At the front was a reed organ that actually had artificial pipes to look like a much more elaborate pipe organ. 

In the 1941 renovation, a new chapel was built on the north end and the original chapel space was repurposed to serve as classrooms and offices. Here is a picture of what the chapel looked like. It still was not traditional, with an off-center pulpit.

This is what the chapel looks like now with its 2009 renovation. The pipe organ was purchased from the Idaho Falls temple. The chapel looks much more elaborate now than it did before, although it doesn't come close to the original tabernacle interior. Still, I think it works well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Blog Update

Blog Updates:

5/6/2020 - Updated the post on the Union Stake Tabernacle with new pictures of stained glass. 

8/24/2020 - New post on the Afton Stake Tabernacle.

8/25/2020 - Updated creation room pictures on the Cardston Temple.


After almost 6 years of consistent posting, nearly 600 posts, hundreds of messages and comments from readers, and hundreds of thousands of views on this blog, I have reached the point where I will no longer be able to publish regular posts on this blog.

When I started this blog in 2014, I was an undergraduate at BYU and had a lot of time for a hobby that required lots of early morning drives on Sunday mornings (when I knew that chapels would be open). Sometimes, in order to reach further chapels, I would leave my apartment at 5 or 6 AM.

In the years since then, I graduated from college, began full-time work, got married, had a baby, began graduate school in the evenings, and have juggled serving in the bishopric. I haven't had the time to do all of the visits and research that I was able to in the past.

If I do have time to visit chapels that I haven't been to before, I will still post on this blog. I will also continue to post updates on the pioneer temple renovations, which I am watching with great interest. You can also check out some of my other articles I've written:

10 Stunning Examples of Stained Glass Windows in LDS Meetinghouses - LDS Living

The Evolution of Sacred Space: The Changing Environment of the Endowment - BYU Religious Symposium, 2014

The Preservation and Destruction of LDS Tabernacles - BYU Religious Symposium, 2015

Stained Glass in Latter-day Saint Chapels - Pioneer Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 2 (2019) [not available online yet]

I am very happy that I have been able to dedicate so much time to visiting temples, tabernacles, and chapels along the Mormon corridor and even outside of it. I'm also glad I've been able to work on this blog to document my pictures. My hope was to increase awareness of and appreciation for our architectural heritage in this Church, and I have had hundreds of people message me, many of them wanting to use the pictures in their own work. It makes me so happy to see other people enjoying the same thing I do.

I still welcome blog comments, messages to me, suggestions, feedback, or just conversation about these wonderful old buildings.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Afton Stake Tabernacle

Star Valley is a beautiful area on the western edge of Wyoming, settled in the 1800s by Mormon Pioneers. Afton, the central city in the valley, was home to the Star Valley Stake, organized in 1892. Built from 1904-1909, the tabernacle (known as the Star Valley Tabernacle or Afton Stake Tabernacle) was dedicated by President Joseph F. Smith.

Image Source: Church History Library

The building is stunning for its remote location. Stone for the construction came from a canyon on the west side of the valley. The chapel itself included a balcony along three sides of the building. (A future post will show interior pictures.)

 In 1941, the building was enlarged to include classrooms, offices, and other space. This was mostly placed on the north side of the building. The exterior also underwent some changes, losing much of the decorative spires and changing the windows in the tower itself. The old tower looked much more majestic overall. 

Image Source: Church History Library

In 2009, a final renovation was completed which stabilized the building. Unfortunately, in either the 1941 or the 2009 renovations (I believe the former), a new chapel was built in the addition and the original chapel space was repurposed to accommodate classrooms. This is really too bad, as the original chapel space looked lovely. However, I'm glad the building is still preserved.

Star Valley now has its own small temple that serves that 3 stakes in the valley.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Laie Temple

Note: This is one of a series of posts on the interiors and floor plans of historic temples:
1. St. George Temple (1877)
2. Logan Temple (1884)
3. Manti Temple (1888)
4. Salt Lake Temple (1893)
5. Laie Temple (1919)
6. Cardston Temple (1923)
7. Mesa Temple (1927)
8. Idaho Falls Temple (1945)

It has been months (and in some cases, years) since I've done posts on most of the temples in the Historic Temples series. I finally decided to write one on the Laie Hawaii Temple, with the disclaimer that I haven't yet visited this temple. I would love to see it. However, I have done some study on the history and architecture of the temple, and again, I've compiled a bunch of photos that show the temple's interior. Many of these photos were available after the temple's 2010 rededication. I've also learned a lot more about the history of the temple with The Laie Hawaii Temple: A Century of Aloha by the Religious Studies Center at BYU.

In 1915, the Cardston Temple's construction was underway. President Joseph F. Smith, who had a close connection to the Hawaii Islands (having served there in his youth as a missionary), visited the Church plantation site at Laie and dedicated a spot for the temple. He asked the architects of the Cardston Temple, Pope and Burton, to build a smaller version of the Cardston Temple at Hawaii.

Pope and Burton realized that the landscape was very different in Hawaii (rock, mountains, ocean) than in Cardston (rolling hills and plains). They adapted the plan very well, making it a simpler design, adding huge gardens and walkways so that the building didn't seem dwarfed by its landscape, and changing the exterior to be made of concrete using crushed local volcanic rock, then pained to creamy white. It gives the temple a wonderful appearance.

(Image Source)

The exterior has some wonderful features. Most notable are the friezes that decorate the outside. These are also visible in the temple's waiting room. (They were in the chapel, but it was decided to move them here where people could study them closely.)

Leo and Avard Fairbanks were originally approached about the idea of having small panels on the upper part of the temple showing subjects from Church history. They decided to make the design much larger, with one frieze for each dispensation: The Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Latter-day Dispensation.

Latter-day Dispensation, East Side

Nephite (Book of Mormon) Dispensation, North Side

New Testament Dispensation, South Side

Old Testament Dispensation, West Side

Each person on the frieze is a specific character. The BYU Studies Journal published a wonderful article on the Laie Temple that includes a detailed breakdown of each frieze. You can find it here, beginning on page 160.

The temple's basic floor plan mirrors that of Cardston. The baptistry and celestial room are both in the center of the temple, while the other ordinance rooms of the endowment are in the wings of the temple, progressing in a circular motion. I've done a drawing, but the Church also has a cutaway model of the temple that helps you visualize where everything is, and I've included photos from that.

The baptistry is on the main floor of the temple.

The baptistry has some wonderful features. The oxen were carved by Avard Fairbanks. Alma B. Wright, an art professor, painted the murals here. These are a series of lunettes, seven in total, each depicting different principles and ordinances of the gospel, as depicted in the Bible or Book of Mormon.

The lunettes are titled Receiving Priesthood Blessing, Administering to the Sick, Jesus Baptized by John the Baptist, Preaching the Gospel, Alma Rebuking Corianton, Baptism, and Healing the Blind.

Baptism and Unknown

Unknown, Jesus Baptized by John the Baptist, and Receiving Priesthood Blessing
 There is also some beautiful stained glass in the baptistry, but I believe that was added in the most recent renovation.

You will also notice that the concrete walls here have been scored to give the appearance of large blocks stacked upon each other. This was intentional, and is present in the hallways as well, to give the small temple the feeling of being part of a large and established structure.

Patrons who come for an endowment session first come into the temple's chapel before going upstairs to the creation room directly above.

There was some drama around the painting of the murals. Originally, Fritz E. Weberg--who painted the murals in the Salt Lake Temple's creation room the year before--was sent, along with Lewis A. Ramsey. Weberg apparently showed some instability and was sent home, to his dismay. (He spent some time in the state mental hospital, but later recovered and painted the creation room in the Mesa Arizona Temple). Meanwhile, Ramsey painted the murals for the creation, garden, and world rooms, but his paintings were mounted directly on the walls, and moisture problems led to mildew and deterioration. (Sketches of these murals were preserved in the Church History Library.)

So LeConte Stewart came in and painted the creation and world rooms. In the creation room, he decided to paint six murals, each one framed and depicting a different day of creation. He had to get this idea approved by the first presidency.

 In the garden room, LeConte painted a traditional green and verdant scene.

Meanwhile, Alma B. Wright, after finishing his baptistry paintings, painted the world room, depicting mountains, stormy landscapes, and fighting animals.

The terrestrial room has no murals, but it's lovely.

Finally, patrons pass into the celestial room. Beautiful windows line all four sides, depicting an abstract version of the tree of life. Most of the windows in the temple could originally open (to catch a breeze).

The temple originally had 3 sealing rooms, all on this floor, to the east of the celestial room (just above the creation room). The middle one was the most elaborate, "used for the highest of Temple ordinance." This means that it also serves as the temple's holy of holies.

Like all other historic temples, the Laie Temple has some major remodelings. In the 1950s, the temple was painted a soft shade of green, which was "shock for most who saw it," but fortunately, that layer of paint faded over the next couple of years, and the original white shone through. A major renovation took place in the 1970s. In that renovation, the film session was added to the temple, and all of the ordinance rooms were used as stationary endowment rooms, with patrons going to the terrestrial room at the end to proceed to the celestial room.

However, the temple underwent another extensive renovation in 2008-2010, and this one restored much of the temple's original features. Patrons now use the progressive ceremony, while still using the film (similar to the presentation in Idaho Falls, Los Angeles, and Nauvoo temples). 

I really like the Laie Temple. It is perhaps the simplest of the historic temples, but it still has exquisite detail, and it fits in with its setting.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Preservation Update: Pioneer Temple Renovations

2/10/20 - The St. George and Salt Lake Temples are now well into their renovations, and the work has ramped up quickly.

The Church provided an update on the St. George Temple recently. The entire annex is gone, along with the 1970s addition on the west (back) end of the temple.This means that you can now see original temple walls, windows, and doors that have been covered up.

In the picture below, you can see the annex is gone, along with the temple walls that were originally covered by the annex. They've also started covering up the stairways on the temple's east (front) end.

Meanwhile, the removal of the addition on the temple's west end has exposed the original window frames (and one of the original windows). The original window went directly into the temple's priesthood assembly room. When the temple was renovated in the 1970s, they just put up sheetrock over the window and built right onto the temple's back without removing it. It's nice to see it--although the new renovation will put on a new addition.

 Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Renovation is being well-documented by the Church Newsroom, including some great pictures of the Temple's assembly hall on the top floor and its celestial room. (Although it is odd to see these pictures with construction works in them.)

The assembly hall is being cleared of all of its chairs and tables:

The celestial room's furniture is also being wrapped and removed:

 And even the annex is being prepared for demolition. This is the chapel annex, which is actually quite beautiful. The annex is going to be demolished during this renovation, so I'm not sure if they will save the painting or otherwise have a large chapel for meetings like they do here.

 I'll keep you updated as these renovations move along!

12/4/19 - The Church provided some more details on the Salt Lake Temple renovation, including some images. Here's some before/after images:

Grand Hallway
 Note that the old picture on the left is a little out of date. The banister itself is also now white, except for the very top. The main differences in the hallway are the return of so many colors: Wood restored to the doors, moldings, and banister, green paint on the walls, etc. It looks wonderful. Currently, the entire hallway is carpeted, but this shows some of the original wood floors underneath! The Church obtained some of the original hallway carpet from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers organization, and they will copy that carpet for authenticity.

Creation Room

The creation room shows the smallest change. The seats will be reoriented to face the garden room.

Garden Room

The garden room will also be more colorful with its carpet and the return of the original wood.

World Room
Same for the world room. The wood in the hallways and rooms will be regrained and restored. The colors used in the hallway are based on Victorian-era colors used, and the murals will be cleaned and become much more vibrant as a result.

The Church is also being cautious, hiring extra firefighters to make sure the building doesn't receive any fire damage during the renovation.

One of my main concerns was whether live endowments would still be done in the Salt Lake Temple. The Church is adding screens to the rooms (likely drop-down screens in the ceiling), but they said today that live sessions will still be the normal routine. However, those wanting to do a film session (especially in other languages) can schedule a film session to attend. This is a great compromise--it means those that speak other languages can still perform endowments in this temple, but the live ceremony will be retained.

The more I find out about this renovation, the more excited I get. The Church is taking good care of what it calls its 'legacy' temples (its historically significant temples). I can't wait to see the end result!

5/22/19 - Today the Church announced the details on the St. George Temple's renovation. I have updated my "Preservation Predictions" post with details on that renovation and my thoughts on it.

4/19/19 - Today the Church announced the details on the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple. It will begin in December 2019 and last approximately four years. The main purpose of the renovation is to seismically strengthen the temple. However, here are some details pertaining to the temple's historic character:
  • The current temple annex (constructed in the 1960s) and south visitor's center will be demolished and replaced. These buildings are not historic and so I am fine with the changes, and how the building arrangements will emphasize the temple itself.
  • They reiterated several times that they are making every effort to maintain the temple's historic and pioneer character. They have done extensive research on this. I am very confident this renovation will be sensitive and preserve the temple's historic elements.
  • The temple will offer both live and film endowments. The addition of film endowments is a great choice, since it increases language availability, and putting a screen that comes down from the ceiling shouldn't ruin any of the original endowment rooms. However, the preservation of the live endowment is wonderful to hear! Of course, it begs the question of why the same thing couldn't be done in St. George and Logan, once they are restored...
  •  They mentioned that in the 1960s renovation, many things were painted white. They plan to restore the temple to its original, more colorful scheme. The murals will be restored.
  • They do want to increase accessibility, but they plan to do it in a very sensitive way that matches the historic character.
They briefly mentioned other renovations: they are reporting to the First Presidency on the St. George Temple in May, and public details will follow. They are studying the Manti Temple and taking care to preserve the murals and other experiences there. They are just starting to study the Logan Temple.

My overall impressions: I am excited! This will be great to see. What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment below!

10/7/18 - Today in General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced that the Salt Lake Temple, as well as other pioneer-era temples, will be renovated in the coming months and years. What does this mean for the historic architecture that is contained within?

Salt Lake Temple Celestial Room

The least surprising of these announcements is the Salt Lake Temple. The St. George and Logan Temples received substantial renovations in the 1970s, and the Manti Temple had a large one in the 1980s. The Salt Lake Temple, while it did receive some treatment in the 1960s, is largely overdue for sensitive treatment, particularly in terms of seismic stability.

I am not too concerned about the architecture, murals, paintings, stained glass, and other historic features of these temples being disturbed. Since 1980, and in recent renovations, the Church has shown incredible sensitivity in restoring its historic buildings to modern standards while preserving the historic features.

Manti Temple Spiral Staircase

It's possible that there may be a few changes, but I would be surprised if there were any that weren't absolutely necessary. I also doubt that the Church would remove the live endowment in the Salt Lake and Manti Temples, since these are the only places where it can be experienced. I also am not sure if the Manti Temple needs a major renovation, since it received one in the past 40 years. (The same applies to the Cardston Temple.)

Logan Temple World Room, pre-renovation

Meanwhile, a renovation for the Logan and St. George Temples could only be beneficial, particularly for the Logan Temple. Hopefully a renovation there would restore the murals, and possibly some type of progression, if possible, as well as making the building's feel to match the timeline in which the temple was built. The St. George temple could also have more of its murals restored/recreated while sensitively updating the building's architecture.

St. George Garden Room, pre-renovation
I will keep a close eye on announcements about these renovations and post my thoughts here.