Touring the Provo City Center Temple
On the morning of Jan. 11, I woke up extra early and got on the 6:30 a.m. Frontrunner train from Ogden to Provo.
Around 8:45 a.m., we pulled into the Provo station and I walked 5-6 blocks to the new Provo City Center Temple for the media tour.
There is a lot of interest in this temple because it was once the Provo Tabernacle. A fire in 2010 destroyed all but the walls. Six years later it has been remade into Provo’s second temple, also the 150th in the church. As I walked towards it that morning, seeing the beautiful temple set against a backdrop of majestic snow-capped mountains, it was an inspiring sight.
I was sitting with my Deseret News colleagues in the adjoining pavilion, visiting and waiting for the press conference to begin, when a familiar-looking and distinguished woman approached us to introduce herself.
“Hi, I’m Rosemary.”
It was Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president. She is an impressive individual. She had such sparkle and genuine expression in her eyes. We told her our names and she said something like, “I recognize your names (bylines), it’s exciting to meet such famous people.” I told her if anyone was famous it was her.
We didn’t have the opportunity to talk very long, but if I had the chance to speak with her again, I would ask this question because I’ve always wanted to have more insight into children with special needs like my daughter Elise: “In all your travels as primary general president, what have you learned about children with special needs and how the Lord loves and takes care of them?” Maybe someday I will get a chance to ask that question.
Elder Kent F. Richards, director of the church’s temple committee, and Elder Larry Y. Wilson were also on hand to lead the media tours. Elder Richards led our tour and I am always impressed with how these men and women answer questions and explain things in a clear and concise way.
As always, the temple was marvelously beautiful, filled with inspiring art and skilled craftsmanship. One funny moment came when Elder Richards pointed out that a BYU art professor had painted the massive mural in one of the instruction rooms, depicting the creation, the garden of Eden and the world today. This artist included Utah Lake, Mt. Timpanogos, and even a cougar. After pointing out the Cougar, someone asked why the artist didn’t paint a Ute Indian? Elder Richards said there might be one behind some rocks in the painting, but smiled and declined to comment further on Cougars and Utes.
Elder Richards also shared two cool spiritual insights. First, he pointed out the design of a temple. You start the tour in the basement with the baptistry, then move up with the initiatory, endowment and finish at the top with the highest ordinance of the sealing and there you find the celestial room. It’s also how we progress in the gospel, starting with the ordinance of baptism, the endowment and on up to the crowning ordinance of being sealed to an eternal companion. In the Provo City Center Temple, the celestial room is located directly below the main spire and the Angel Moroni.
Later in the tour, Elder Richards showed us a beautiful stained-glass piece of art depicting the Savior holding a baby lamb. He said the 120-year-old glass came from a Presbyterian church in New York. There were cracks in the glass where the baby lamb is but an expert repaired, cleaned and restored it. It sits behind the reception desk on the east side of the building where people can see it when they enter that way. Elder Richards and his wife Marsha pointed out that the restored glass art can be a reminder of how the Savior is able to repair the cracks in our lives and make us whole and beautiful once again. It was a powerful lesson.
The burned out and renovated Provo City Center Temple can also be a powerful reminder of the Savior’s Atonement. I was talking to a friend the next day who told me she attended a fireside given by a couple that had served as construction missionaries as the old tabernacle was being transformed into a temple. In their remarks, this couple described the methods for taking the burned out building and how it was made into a temple. Along the way they would show photos of the fire’s aftermath and ask people to consider, “Have you ever felt like this at one point in your life?” They go on to compare this and other spiritual parallels to the building process, illustrating the Lord’s ability to take something burned out and scarred and transform it into something wholesome and beautiful. It’s especially powerful when you consider the special role of a temple in the gospel and our lives.
I feel very blessed to have had this experience and highly recommend that people take advantage of the opportunity to see the Provo City Center Temple or tour any temple during an open house. More importantly, if you don’t have a temple recommend, qualify to obtain one and go serve and spend time in these holy places. Temples are the one place on earth where we can feel closest to heaven and the Lord.