As Provo residents anxiously await the open house and dedication of the new Provo temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the corner of 100 South and University Avenue, the construction project itself has become a tourist attraction.
Crews are working to bring back the historic feel and design of the former Provo Tabernacle. The task hasn’t been so easy.
“Every effort has been made to carefully document the existing elements of the Provo Tabernacle that survived the fire of December 2010, including careful study of historical photographs … it is not possible to restore the building interior in its entirety,” said David Hall, director of LDS temple design services. “Rather, significant efforts have been made to cast the new temple’s interior design consistent with the architectural styles used in the original tabernacle.”
Josh Yost, a Provo City planner, said the new design of the temple grounds will be “a smaller version of Temple Square in Salt Lake City,” due to the smaller parking area compared to Salt Lake City. The main entrance will be on the south side with a 50-car above-ground parking lot, and a garage parking lot with the capacity to hold 245 cars.
The temple is expected to be completed in 2015.
“Excellent progress is being made on the construction, but given the complexity of working with an historic structure, it is still too early in the process to provide a meaningful date,” Hall said.
The temple is being constructed to have two levels above ground and two below. The building currently stands on stilts, as construction workers continue completion of underground parking and the pouring of foundation floors.
“This was not the original vision we had for turning the tabernacle into a temple,” said Andy Kirby, the LDS Church’s project manager for the new temple. “In fact, I remember that on several occasions we specifically said, ‘We do not want to see the entire building in the air — we want to be able to sleep at night.’ But as we worked through several different construction concepts, this approach evolved. And yes, there are some nights we don’t get a lot of sleep.”
Kirby said the project was especially significant considering the fire that almost entirely destroyed the tabernacle — a building that had stood for almost 125 years.
“This is a beautiful rebirth,” he said. “From extreme adversity, the old tabernacle is being reborn to a higher purpose. There is symbolism there for all of us. You go through difficult times, even tragedy, and you can come back better and stronger than ever.”
Groups of tourists are frequently seen taking pictures of the intricate building process.
“I think it’s really amazing what the Mormons have done,” said Simon Taylor, a tourist from Australia. “It’s quite apparent to me that the Mormons are all across the world. I’ve traveled all over and seen their temples and churches alike.”
Taylor was picking his son up from the University of Missouri and decided to trek across several states as part of the American visit.
“I was shocked when I first heard they were building (another) one in Provo,” said Parker Rushton, a musical performance major at BYU. “A lot of students live pretty close, including me, so I could walk there easily. Then I realized how long it would take to build it and that I would be long gone out of Provo.”
Rushton feels more than accident may have been involved in the burning of the tabernacle.
“While it was a tragedy that the tabernacle burned down, I think the Lord, in His omniscience, knew that Provo needed another temple,” Rushton said.
Kristen Kerr, a BYU student about to leave on her LDS mission to Kobe, Japan, said she will be glad to see traffic diverted from the original Provo temple, the busiest in the Church.
“Growing up, the Salt Lake Temple was my ‘assigned’ temple, and I always thought that was a busy temple,” Kerr said. “But it’s nothing compared to the Provo temple. … Having a second temple in Provo will be a huge blessing to those all around.”
The LDS Church currently operates 141 temples around the world.