From Tabernacle to Temple: Online Exhibit Documents Temple Site as a Center of Worship

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • Provo, UT

About 80 stained-glass windows survived the fire that destroyed the Provo Tabernacle in December 2010. The salvaged windows are now part of the temple in 2016.

Article Highlights

  • The exhibit details the history of the Provo City Center Temple site as a worship center for Latter-day Saints.

“I urge our people everywhere, with all of the persuasiveness of which I am capable, to live worthy to hold a temple recommend … and to make a greater effort to go to the house of the Lord and partake of the spirit and the blessings to be had therein.”  —President Gordon B. Hinckley (1995–2008)

“Since the 1850s, Latter-day Saints have been worshipping—making and keeping covenants—on the central city block of Provo, Utah, where the Church’s Provo City Center Temple now stands,” said Benjamin C. Pykles, a historic sites curator with the Church History Department.

Early Latter-day Saints gathered in a meetinghouse on the site, at a baptistry, and—after 1898—in a historic tabernacle. In coming weeks, the public will again gather on the site for the open house of the Provo City Center Temple.

A new online exhibit on details the history of the sacred site.

“The exhibit is special because it is trying to communicate something very unique in Church history,” said Brother Pykles, noting that history reveals “all the elements and components of Latter-day Saint worship on one single block.”

Construction began on the Provo meetinghouse in 1856, and the building was dedicated in 1867. In 1875 a baptistry was built adjacent to the meetinghouse, which was razed in 1919. The Provo Tabernacle—which was destroyed by fire in December 2010—was originally constructed on the site from 1883 to 1898. Generations of Church members worshipped in the historic tabernacle for more than 100 years.

President Thomas S. Monson announced in October 2011 that the fire-damaged Provo Tabernacle would be converted into Provo’s second temple. Ground was broken to begin construction May 12, 2012.

Brother Pykles said he wants those who study the rich history of the current temple site to “leave feeling there is a great heritage—a great history. They are a part of it. They are a part of the legacy that will live on as they make and keep covenants just like the pioneers did on that block.”

The pulpit from the Provo Tabernacle was salvaged from the fire in December 2010. It was then restored and returned to the temple chapel.

Jacob W. Olmstead, a historic sites curator with the Church History Department, said the online exhibit and a physical exhibit that will be displayed at the temple site through the open house are the result of a collaborative effort between the Church’s History and Temple Departments and the anthropology department at BYU.

Many people—both in the Provo community and the worldwide Church—are excited to learn more about the new temple and the history of the site, he said.

“There has been a great deal of interest in it and excitement about it,” he said. “This ground for more than 100 years has been the center of worship and the center of covenant making for the Provo community.”

A fire that started in the attic destroyed the Provo Tabernacle on December 17, 2010. Photo by Justin Soderquist.

Colors and furnishings in the celestial room of the Provo City Center Temple are intended to remind visitors of past generations who worshipped on the sacred site.

Historic photo shows the Provo Tabernacle with the baptistry in the foreground and the Provo meetinghouse behind.