Sunday, February 12, 2017

Latter-day Stained Glass: Part 2 - First Vision Stained Glass Depictions

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.

Of all the events in the Church, perhaps the one most commonly depicted in stained glass and murals is the First Vision. At least 7 depictions of this sacred event were made into stained glass and placed in meetinghouses for local members to enjoy. They end up providing an insight into how stained glass was used in early (and more modern) Mormon chapels.

The first instance of stained glass depicting this event was ordered in 1892 by the First Presidency, seeking a suitable feature for the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple. The Church gave very specific instructions on how the event should be depicted (for example, emphasizing that the Father and the Son were in exact likeness of each other, and that they did not have wings).

To my knowledge, the photo below, printed in the Spring 1969 edition of BYU Studies, is the only color print of this stained glass window. It is a fitting addition to the Holy of Holies.

Three copies of this stained glass window were ordered in the next few years. They were not exact copies; they each had their own style and shape. In 1907, the Salt Lake Seventeenth Ward ordered a copy of the window. That window still stands in the chapel that replaced the original one. You'll notice that the characters are quite similar in their posture to the original window, although the window itself is much bigger and the scene, grander.

And just a year later, in 1908, the Second Ward requested a copy for their chapel. Again, the figures are almost exactly the same, albeit with different positions and a different background:

In that same year, the new Liberty Ward, unable to meet the financial requirements of such a large window, ordered a small version to grace their largest stained glass window. This one used an entirely different template; a different artist was likely used to compose this scene.

Three years later, in 1911, the Brigham City 3rd Ward requested their own copy of the first vision stained glass. This one also used a different template from its predecessors:

In 1913, when the Adams Ward was constructed in Los Angeles, the ward ordered their own stained glass depiction of the event. This template matches the one that was installed in the Liberty Ward; while the Liberty Ward's building was constructed first, it could be that the Adams Ward's window was first ordered, and the Liberty Ward then copied their template (at a much smaller scale). The beautiful window hung in the chapel until 1959, when it was razed; it is now in the Church History Museum.

Apparently, somewhere around this same time, the LDS meetinghouse in or near Brawley, California also got their own small depiction of the first vision.

This pictures are pathetically small, but I found it online. The stained glass is now in the primary room. It looks like the figures of the Father and Christ match those of the ones in the Adams ward, although Joseph looks different. I'm still trying to find out the history behind this window.

Years later, in 1930, when the San Bernardino ward was building its own chapel, another stained glass depiction was ordered.

This one is quite unique because of how different the Father and the Son appear. Apparently, upon surveying the window, President Heber J. Grant was critical; saying that "the Father and the Son should be made to look alike." In this window, they do not resemble each other.

This window continued to hang in the San Bernardino chapel, even after it was sold 1960. In 1978, after repeated requests, the Church was allowed to buy back the window. It was hung in another nearby chapel until the Redlands temple was dedicated in 2003, when it was moved to the temple recommend desk, where it is currently located.

Even modern stained glass has sought to capture the beauty of this event: the Fairfield, California stake was able to fashion their own rose window that would fit at the front of a chapel they were planning on purchasing from another, non-LDS congregation. The First Vision was prominently featured in the center of the window, while other, smaller windows surrounded it:

There are certainly other windows depicting the First Vision, although the status of some of these windows are unknown. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has reminisced about his meetinghouse in Germany, which also had a stained glass depiction of the First Vision. The location of this window is now unknown.

These are all of the depictions of which I am aware. If there are any more out there, I'd love to hear about them! The most recent window was made for the Palmyra Temple, dedicated in 2000. It is housed in the lobby, along with clear windows that allow patrons to see the Sacred Grove outside.

Of course, the First Vision is quite unique to the LDS Church for its depiction in stained glass. Other windows were much more mainstream, depicting Christ and other traditional Christian symbols. This series will examine those relationships in future weeks; next week, we will examine the sources of stained glass and who enabled these windows to be made and installed.

Next Week: Part 3 - In Memoriam, In Glass: Donations of Stained Glass Windows


  1. The San Bernardino version was not stained glass; it was something called painted glass and went through a restoration to hang in the Redlands temple.

    1. The San Bernardino version is certainly a different style; however, I would still say it fits the definition of "stained glass," since it has lead that is holding the panes in place. Many stained glass windows are painted in order to show details that would be impossible to show using just different colored panes.

      The First Vision window actually was made with other smaller windows that are now scattered across a few areas. It really does have an interesting history.

  2. I have never seen a color photo of the one hanging in the Holy of Holies! Thank you for posting it.