Thursday, August 20, 2015

Salt Lake Temple: Interior

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)

This post is about the temple's floor plan. For information and updates on the temple's 2019 renovation, see here

I was originally not planning on doing a post on the Salt Lake Temple, because it has been extensively covered on many other sites. However, I've found the original source of many of the pictures that float around on the internet (The Salt Lake Temple: A Monument to the People), and so was able to get scans that are much higher quality than other photos. I've also found some photos from various (Church-sanctioned and approved) sources that help to piece together the building for those who haven't been able to attend a session here. Most of those come from stills I've taken from The Mountain of the Lord (a Church film about the Salt Lake Temple) and Temples, a short Church video that describes the use of temples.

The Salt Lake Temple is a landmark building, inside and out. Those who have attended other pioneer temples will immediately notice that the Salt Lake Temple is much more ornate and detailed than the temples in St. George, Logan, and even Manti (although Manti is much closer to its level). It, along with Manti, is one of the two temples where a live endowment is performed, instead of film.

The ground floor of the temple is split into two halves, divided by a hallway which patrons enter from the annex. It is fairly evident when you come into this room from the annex--the building is much more ornate than the annex.

(Image Source: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 29 No. 3)

This is the view of the hallway as patrons enter the temple. (The temple is not nearly as whitewashed now; this photo was taken around 1980. A lot of the natural wood color has been returned, which is a relief.) On the west side (right part of the photo) is the baptistry.


The doors and rooms on the sides of the baptistry were originally used for the initiatory ordinances. Now, they've been changed to dressing rooms.



The lower hallway itself has some nice paintings. There is one by Dan Weggeland that shows Christ. There are also two by Alfred Lambourne that you'll see right as you enter the hallway. One is The Hill Cumorah, painted in 1892. (The hill is painted to look much larger than it is in real-life, emphasizing its doctrinal and historical importance.)


The other is Adam-Ondi-Ahman (also likely painted in 1892). Originally, there was some discussion about hanging this painting over the veil in the Celestial Room, but it was instead placed in the lower hallway.


On the south side (left) of the hallway are the creation room and garden room. The creation room is immediately on the left upon entering the temple proper. It originally had no murals, but they were added in 1915 by Fritjob Wiberg. No animals are in this creation room, which is different from most others.

(The chairs are facing toward the garden room in the first photo. They no longer face that way; they face toward the small door that provides access to the northeast tower.)






Patrons leave this room, heading south into the garden room up a small ramp. This is the view of the room as you enter:


Some notes: the 3 doorways lead to small recesses, but there was originally a small greenhouse connected there that had living plants.

The center doorway used to have a small lift that was used by temple workers in the endowment. President McKay apparently thought that it did not achieve its intended effect and was more distracting than anything else, so it was also removed.

The murals here was painted by John Hafen, helped by Edwin Evans. Lorus Pratt helped with the foliage, while Dan Weggeland did the animals. Much of this needed to be re-painted in 1938. Only the right front wall has original paint.

This is the view from the recess on the right of the above photo. The door goes to the southeast tower stairwell, but it's not used by patrons or workers. It could be used as an emergency exit.




The murals in this room are lovely, with vibrant green and blue colors. The ceiling is higher, and there is a type of skylight (lit with electricity) in the center of the room. At the front of the skylight is the all-seeing eye. You can see this in this next picture, which is the view of the garden room as patrons exit to proceed up the grand staircase.


Patrons emerge out onto this landing, and proceed up the staircase. As they do, they pass a stained glass depiction of Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden. The stained glass used to be located near the entrance to the world room, but it was moved when an elevator was placed there.




This is the view as patrons reach the top of the staircase. Straight ahead is the door that leads to the Celestial Room. When patrons are finished with their session, they come out of that door and go down the staircase. On the right is a large painting titled Christ Appears to the Nephites, painted by William Armitage in 1890. Nearly 12 feet tall, it's a beautiful painting that showcases Armitage's European training. Armitage painted another large work titled Joseph Smith Preaching to the Indians, and it hung in the lower hallway of the temple for over 50 years. It's now in the Church's archives.


As the patrons come up the grand staircase, they get this glimpse of the Celestial Room ahead, but they turn left to enter the world room.

(Image Source: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 29 No. 3)

Now on the second floor, patrons enter the world room. Here, the in place of the serene murals of the garden room, the paintings depict animals fighting, rugged landscapes, and other signs of the world we live in. This mural was painted by Dan Weggeland, Edwin Evans, and John B. Fairbanks. The mural was painted onto plaster which began to chip off, so in 1922 John and his son, J. Leo Fairbanks, re-painted the room, using the initial sketches to duplicate the original murals. This is the view as you enter:





Both of the doorways at the front are used during the endowment. When it's time to leave this room and enter the terrestrial room, patrons take the door on the right.


Looking back into the room as you exit:


The terrestrial room is beautiful--ornate carvings, stained glass, and a gracefully curved veil at the front. The windows in this room are artificially lit, as the addition of sealing rooms is now behind the wall.


Better colors in this one:



Looking from the veil toward the back of the terrestrial room:




Finally, patrons enter the celestial room on the other side of the veil. The ceiling is high and takes up the floor above; colorful floral paintings grace the walls, and other ornate designs are available to view.


There are 4 major doors that you can see in the photo above. The one on the far left, up the small staircase, used to be an office, but it has since been changed to a beautiful sealing room, flooded with natural light (because it is located in the central east tower). The next one is the sealing room for the living; the one on the far right is the original sealing room for the dead (pictures below). The one in the center, with its doors closed, leads up to the Holy of Holies, a special room reserved for use by the Prophet.





Looking at the Celestial Room from the small staircase that leads up to the tower room:


This is a photo of a small statue above the veil as you enter the celestial room. The explanations for this statue are varied: that it is Christ (albeit a feminine-looking one), that it is Mary and was donated by the Catholic church, or that it is Aphrodite (since it looks like a seashell). Other people say it is Heavenly Mother or the Roman goddess Venus. Which is it?


In An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, one article, titled "The Woman at the Veil," seeks to answer this:

"The true origins stem back to Joseph Don Carlos Young, the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, after the death of Truman O. Angell in 1887.  His great contribution to the temple was a redesign of the interior plan, which included the original interior furnishings.  While in Boston at the advice of his father Brigham, Don Carlos, as he was called, saw a statue made by a young sculptor.  Fascinated by it, he purchased it and busts of two cherubs.  Dubbed the “Angel of Peace,” probably by its sculptor, Young had it enlarged to a full-size, six-foot statue.  The original had wings, because it supposedly represented a female “heavenly being.”  Young took the wings from his original and apparently directed that the copy be made without wings as well.  It is not certain, but the authors believe Cyrus Dallin, the sculptor of the Angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple was likely the sculptor of this piece too....It is certain, however, that it does not represent Mary, Venus, or Aphrodite."

Here's a better view of the sealing room for the living. Before the addition of many more sealing rooms on the north side, this room was used for live sealings.

This is the view as you enter. On the opposite side is a door leading to a small waiting room.




This is a view as you stand in that sealing room, looking back toward the door into the celestial room.


Here are some views of the sealing room for the dead. The stained glass shows the Angel Moroni and the Prophet Joseph Smith.
 


 



This temple is truly breathtaking. Few temples can compare to it and Manti.

The endowment rooms only take up the first two floors of the temple. The third floor is all administration rooms. The only way to get to these floors is from the elevators or spiral staircases in the corner towers:



(Image Source: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 29 No. 3)

Here is where the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet every week. This floor is not as tall as the others, and much of the floor is taken up by the higher ceiling of the celestial room and Holy of Holies below.


One of the most beautiful stained glass windows in the temple, called the Memorial Window, is found on this floor. It shows the temple flanked by a pair of shields. This is the view of it from the High Council Room.


Finally, taking up the top floor of the temple is the Priesthood Assembly Room, one of the larger ones of the Church, and certainly the most ornate. (Other assembly rooms are found in St. George, Manti, Logan, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Nauvoo Temples. The Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple also has a priesthood assembly room--the only international temple to do so--but that probably merits another post.)

(Image Source: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 29 No. 3)

 A full balcony runs along both sides. Pulpits at both ends are found under decorative arches--one labelled Aaronic and the other, Melchizedek.


This assembly hall is used regularly, particularly before General Conferences. It was in this assembly room that the general authorities of the Church were notified of Official Declaration 2, and sustained it unanimously.

This is the view as you enter the assembly hall from the corner staircases.






On each end of the assembly hall are a series of pulpit and an elaborate pavilion; one represents the Aaronic Priesthood; the other, the Melchizedek.



If you want to sit on the balcony, you ascend one of the beautiful spiral staircases in each corner.



I really like the Salt Lake Temple. Some parts of the architecture were whitewashed in the past, but I feel that the Church has been more sensitive to the original architecture in recent decades, and the 2019-2024 renovation looks especially promising. If you attend this temple, don't be afraid to explore the 3 sealing rooms off of the Celestial Room and take a close look at the paintings in the upper and lower hallways. When I've gone, I've never been rushed and there are some great historic things to see.

46 comments:

  1. I'm a worker in the Salt Lake Temple. The other day I was standing studying the stained glass depicting Adam & Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden and I realized the sword-bearing angel has six toes. Adam & Eve only have five, but the angel has six.

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    1. That's something I wouldn't have noticed, Dave; you're right. I'm guessing that was an error in the glass that either went unnoticed or was ignored. Thanks for the heads up; I've got a few sources on stained glass that I'll check out to see if that is mentioned.

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    2. What you think is the 6th toe is just the foot, not an extra toe.

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    3. I believe the stained glass window I Louis Tiffany historically is probably the most valuable piece in the temple except for a Ming Vase it's in front of the holy of holies someone donated

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  2. I sent two stained glass windows to the church history museum and am looking for a buyer for the remaining two SLC Temple Annex windows 1896c. These are the upper level 9'x8' arched windows.

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    1. I might be able to hook you up with a buyer. Do you still have them?

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    2. Shoot me an email at klersion@gmail.com if you are still looking for a buyer.

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  3. Does anyone here know the history and/or symbolism of this statue of Joseph and Hyrum seemingly adoring this female light bearer? I'd love to get the group's wisdom and take on it.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/6b/0f/9c/6b0f9c7e408789b80209f582b578f90f.jpg

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    1. Crump Family,

      I have seen that photo before. The statue was removed sometime in the early twentieth century, but it should still be in Church storage. I haven't found a satisfactory analysis of the statue or its history, so any information on it is pure speculation.

      If I had to guess, I would say it's a depiction of a female goddess on the top, but without a knowledge of the background, it's impossible to say who. I would love to get more knowledge of it, including all of the figures on the base. Maybe one day...

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    2. That is so cool! I've wondered, because there is so much female symbolism in the celestial room, including the goddess on the shell. What a gorgeous sculpture. I wonder when it was removed? And why?

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  4. Was this statue in the Salt Lake City Temple?

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    1. Yes; it used to be in the Celestial Room.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. Are the sealing rooms off the celestial room still used?

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    1. I've seen them used for sealing for the dead, but they're not used for sealings for the living anymore, I believe. There might be a few exceptions.

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  7. They are currently used for both living and dead. You just have to request it when booking your wedding. The reason they are used so rarely is that most wedding parties are not that tiny! I think parties have to be smaller than 10.

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  8. Do you know when the shape of the veil was changed? I assume the original veil was straight across between the two rooms. It is now curved with the ends protruding into the telestial room (partially blocking a few north windows), and the center into the celestial room. I'm sure the change was for added efficiency.

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    1. I'm actually not sure, Brian. I assumed it had always been curved, but it wouldn't be hard to change.

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    2. I was curious about that too. I had seen the veil straight across in this old photo from 1912. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_Lake_Temple#/media/File:Salt_Lake_Temple_Terrestrial_Room_Veil.jpg

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    3. My guess is that it would have taken place in the early 1960s, when the major renovation of the temple took place. (This added the annex and new sealing rooms on the north side.)

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  9. A couple of questions .... Mostly trying to figure out the right terminology or naming conventions.
    1) My In-Laws were married in a small sealing room off the Celestial Room. My Wife's older sister showed us one time when we were there. Is that called "the tower room"? Is there more than one? We are hoping to go this summer (before it's closed for the remodel) to show our kids that room. That one is pretty easy.
    2) My wife and I were married in a sealing room way off the Celestial room. It's in one of the towers, and right next to one of the original entrance doors to the outside. You have to go up a step or two, through an office, down some steps to get there. Does this sealing room have a name or anything. When we were there, we asked a few temple workers and the first three or four couldn't help us find it. BUT, they very very kindly asked an more experienced worker, who did know and took us there. I'd love to have a name or something for that room to make it easier to find it again. Again, we hope to visit this summer and take our kids.
    3) Something probably not known yet, but ... in the restoration, will those rooms be removed or dramatically changed. I think the "tower room" in the Celestial Room is likely to stay, (just a guess, that would be a very big change). But I worry that the sealing room we were married in will be changed into something very different, since it is a strange, relatively inaccessible room.

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    1. Hi scXenon,

      This becomes difficult because a lot of times, sealing rooms have different names. I am fairly certain the sealing room up the small staircase in the celestial room is the "tower room." No other sealing room that I'm aware of is located in the east tower. That one should be easy to see when you're there.

      My guess is that the sealing room that you are married in is on the other side of the Holy of Holies. (See the second floor map in the post.) If you go through the sealing room for the living, there is a small lobby where one of the sets of doors on the east side would enter. There is also an office and I believe another small sealing room over there (although I'm not sure). I don't know if it has a name, but hopefully this will help you be guided over there.

      I think you're spot on in your guesses with the renovation--I don't see them changing the tower sealing room (unless they restored it to some type of an office for historical accuracy, but unlikely), but I'm not sure if they'd decide to remove some of the older, more obscure sealing rooms in the temple. I guess only time will tell. It would be nice if they left it!

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    2. There are three sealing rooms in the center east tower of the Salt Lake Temple, stacked. The highest is accessed by ascending the staircase in the south east corner of the Celestial Room. The middle sealing room is accessed through the corridor just inside the main southeast door. From the Celestial Room you can go through the sealing room for the living and its waiting room to that corridor, which also accesses the southeast corner spiral staircase. The lower sealing room is on the same level as the Creation Room and Garden Room, and is possibly not used as much as many other sealing rooms because it must be accessed using the southeast corner tower staircase in order to avoid passing through the Creation Room or Garden Room.

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  10. If I go do a session at the temple I am curious if a temple worker will let me walk to see the tower staircase that goes up to the assembly hall? What is the protocol on this? I feel the temple is so big but unlike other temples you rarely get to see any of it. Id love to see more than just what you see in the session.

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    1. Brian, I have never asked, but from what I have heard they don't take patrons up there. (I asked to see some parts of the Logan and St. George Temples was always politely declined.) I think the issue is the temple becoming kind of a tourist attraction, although I understand the desire to see all of it. That's why I'm excited about the open house...

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    2. I may have the answer you are looking for. I have lived in three temple districts that the temple has the large, traditional Assembly Hall. (Los Angeles, Manti, Washington DC) In each I was told by the temple president that the scheduling and use of the Hall is done by and through the First Presidency, and temple presidents are instructed not to show temple patrons through the Hall for casual viewing. If you attend the Manti temple on a slow weekday you may find yourself touring every part of the temple . . . except the Assembly Hall. Hope this helps.

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    3. That seems to make sense, Bruce.

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  11. I am inquiring about the mural described below:

    "Straight ahead is the door that leads to the Celestial Room. When patrons are finished with their session, they come out of that door and go down the staircase. On the right is a large painting of Christ visiting America, surrounded by little children and angels. I believe it was done by Dan Weggeland, but can't confirm that yet."

    Were you ever able to confirm the artist? And/or the name of this painting? Do you happen to know if prints are available of this piece, and if so, where? I'm trying to purchase one as a gift for a family member who fell in love with this painting recently. Thank you in advance!

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    1. Hi Anon. Alas, I have studied every inch of that painting for an artist signature and can't find it. My guess is Dan Weggeland because it matches the style of his other paintings. I have also searched for this painting all over and haven't found it anywhere, so I don't believe prints are available. I'm sorry! It is a beautiful painting.

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    2. Thank you for your fast response. That's disappointing for my family member, but what can ya do.

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    3. One more question for you, do you happen to have any other shots/angles of this painting?

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    4. So far I haven't found any others. If I do I will definitely post them here!

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  12. I was wondering where someone might see the rooms/apartment that James E. Talmage worked from while writing "Jesus the Christ"?

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    1. My understanding is that Talmage was given a room on the top floor of the temple in one of the towers (maybe east?). I haven't seen any pictures of this office.

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    2. On the cutaway model in the visitors center they show the room he used. It now has his portrait hanging in it, as is shown on the model. I think during construction the model is now displayed at the Conference Center across the street.

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    3. I helped with a 3rd floor administration area remodel about 18 years ago and was told that Talmage used the open space on the 3rd floor just east of the North/South corridor adjacent the east tower. There was a roll top desk still against a wall in the corner where he evidently had hand-written much of the manuscript. The oval window just north of that space was popped open and used to load equipment/materials into the temple for the renovation project.

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    4. Several decades ago my husband and I volunteered to clean the SL Temple, as part of our stake cleaning assignment. We arrived at 9pm, and after a brief meeting with paid cleaning staff, and the head of the cleaning department, we started vacuuming the dressing rooms. We also were assigned to dust the spiral stairways. When done we met upstairs and were told we were all going to go dust the Assembly Hall at the top, because there was a large scheduled meeting for it the next day. But when we went up there the head of the cleaning department was told it had already been cleaned. He said we could all leave, since everything that needed doing was done. Many of our cleaning group then left. We stayed, and I expressed how I didn’t want to go home yet, because I loved this temple, me and my grandparents were endowed here, etc., and that I loved architectural stuff, and my dream was to take a tour of the entire temple, to see all about it, etc. Then, to our delight, the Head cleaning guy said, “Okay, those who want to, let’s go. I’ll walk you through.” And that’s just what we did for several hours afterwards. We saw the little apartment at the bottom, where we were told the Prophet (& his wife), sometimes come to stay if he wants to stay all night praying in the temple for special reasons. We were shown the Talmage room and desk where he wrote “Jesus The Christ”. The lovely wooden “lockers’ that the Apostles, 1st Pres. use, in the offices area. The doorway to the Holy of Holies. Where, if you stand on the threshold (I wanna say it had orange tile in front of it, but I’d have to look back in my journal to be sure), an alarm goes off and security comes running. We even opened one of the East oval windows upstairs, and looked out on the viewing pond at the East side of the temple, at people walking around below. We walked through rooms and rooms, and ended at the very top, where one of our group got to climb a ladder to see the swinging pendulum that is under the Angel Moroni statue, to keep it from snapping off during an earthquake. Plus, we opened the door leading out to the roof, and all looked out along that, as well. It was a highlight of my life, and seriously, felt like a gift from Heavenly Father, just to me, because He knew how much I wanted to see and hear all the details, history, that the head cleaner showed us that night. As we walked, several of the regular cleaning employees were with us, with amazed looks on their faces, and saying in whispers to me “I’ve never even seen this room! And I work here! I can’t believe he’s taking you guys here!” As we walked along. We were told details of how the toilets upstairs were designed so as to not make any sound, to not disturb the sessions going on below, etc. One other note: there was a huge rolled up antique red oriental rug in an empty room upstairs, that the cleaner said was donated long ago, and was probably used back before they painted everything white, etc. Oh! This was a night to remember! Anyway, thanks for this excellent article.

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  13. Is there a image/sketch of the floor plan showing the apartment used by early temple presidents? I have heard it was above the Garden room, behind the room labeled 'Sealing Room for the Dead'

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  14. Hi, thank you for this incredible overview. Do you happen to know when the tower room was changed from an office to a sealing room? Would it have probably happened before 1995? Thank you. Also, would there have been a way (before current restoration) for a temple goer to walk from the celestial room to the main east doors of the temple, without much difficulty, maybe just passing through a short corridor or two? I don't mean go through the main doors but just approach them from the inside. I have a memory of a worker leading me there, and I just want to confirm that that is possible, to help make sure my memory is clear. Thanks again.

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    1. My assumption is that the tower room was changed to a sealing room in the 1960s (the same time they added the north addition of sealing rooms).

      Yes, you can easily access the east doors by going through the sealing room for the living. That sealing room has two doors--one into the celestial room, and on the opposite end, one that leads into a small "reception room" that connects to the east door on the south.

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  15. My great-grandfather, Rudolph Pruhs, was on "a committee on furnishing the Temple" prior to it's dedication. It is noted in "The Journal of George Q. Cannon" 4 January 1893. Rudolph was an furniture maker, upholsterer and interior designer. He also created the chairs for the Alberta Temple in 1923.

    Ken Pruhs

    https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon/1890s/1893/01-1893?lang=eng#p22

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  16. Hello, I am Freddy Molina, a returned missionary... I am a lover of fine arts, and all my life I have felt the need to paint, in fact it was the works of art of the church that taught me the gospel since my childhood. It would truly be a true honor for me to paint for the church and its temples, I am a painter who has specialized in realism, and I am currently painting a work of Christ blessing the children in the Americas. I am Nicaraguan and I do not have many contacts within the Church, to be able to offer my art at the service of the Church. If anyone has information on how, you can contact me at fredd.moli21@gmail.com.

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  17. I'm doing some research on a painting that hung in the temple after it was dedicated in 1893. Do you have any information about those kinds of paintings?

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