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The Provo Tabernacle has risen from ashes to become what will be dedicated March 20 as the Provo City Center Temple, but it has taken a host of talented and skilled experts to help bring that about.
Some of them were on hand on the temple grounds Nov. 12 to converse with news media representatives for a “Morning with the Experts” event hosted by the Church.
“We recognize there is excitement within the community and the Church about this particular temple,” said Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, who noted that he had already toured the temple.
“It’s a magnificent structure; it’s a beautiful temple, a gem in the community and truly worthy to be titled ‘a House of the Lord,’ ” he said.
Bishop Caussé noted, “There are only a small handful of temples in the Church that are transformations of other buildings, like tabernacles or meetinghouses, but none like this one. Because of the difficult process that transpired, more than a thousand people have contributed their best talents, gifts and experience to this beautiful structure.”
He added, “We have tried to preserve the historicity of the original building and the legacy of the early pioneers who first came to the valley and settled here and worshiped in the old tabernacle,” alluding to a previous tabernacle that predated the one that was in use for more than a century before being destroyed by fire in 2010.
Emily Utt of the Historic Sites Division in the Church History Department briefly sketched the history, saying the Provo Tabernacle, originally known as the Utah Stake Tabernacle, has been a city and Church landmark since its construction. “The tabernacle was built so Latter-day Saints in Utah County could have a central meeting place for stake conferences and other needs,” she said. It was also built as a community gathering and cultural space for Utah County residents.”
She said its construction began in 1882, following the designs of Church architect William H. Folsom. “The tabernacle’s style closely is tied to the popular late Victorian gothic style of the time and is among the best tabernacles built by the Church.”
A character-defining feature of the building, a central tower, has never been seen by most people now living, as it was removed in 1917 because of structural problems.
“The building has been renovated several times since its completion, most recently in the mid-1980s, but has remained true to the original style of architectural detail through the years,” she said.
“The Provo Tabernacle was a public meeting space for almost a decade before its dedication in 1898,” she said. “Two of the first major events in the building were LDS Church general conferences in 1886 and 1887.
“In the century since, the tabernacle has been home to almost weekly Church meetings, including innumerable stake conferences, and has hosted civic events like funerals, lectures, concerts and graduations, and that list goes on and on.”
Sister Utt said the devastating fire that began in the attic in the early morning of Dec. 17, 2010, and ravaged the interior and collapsed the roof, left many wondering if the cultural landmark could be saved. “Had Provo lost its heart? Were the walls stable? Was anything left of the interior of the building?”
She said the event caused several Church departments to scramble to figure out what was salvageable.