The Provo City Center Temple is gearing up for its open house this January with every stone set in place.
The former Tabernacle has been under construction since its groundbreaking on Mar. 12, 2012, the Provo Tabernacle-turned temple, has been under construction to restore and redesign the old building into the LDS Church’s 151st temple after a majority of the structure burned in a fire during 2010.
“This has been one of our most important projects, because of the historical significance this building has to the local community,” said Brent Rogers, the managing director of special projects for the LDS Church. “The Provo tabernacle has become a symbol of the city, and we wanted to keep it that way.”
The fire in December of 2010 left the Provo tabernacle in shambles. Fourteen million tons of debris, a fallen-in roof and a weak supporting structure was all that was left of the local landmark.
Despite the damage, Roger Jackson, principle architect of the construction of the Provo City Center Temple, was one of the people convinced that amidst the ashes, the tabernacle still could be salvaged.
“The day after the fire, I remember just ringing my hands thinking, ‘What can we do?'” Jackson said. “But since I have done this exact thing of restoring other historic buildings, I knew the Provo Tabernacle was savable.”
Jackson was one of the eight people on a committee that eventually determined the Provo Tabernacle could be transformed into a temple. Since President Thomas S. Monson announced the construction of the Provo City Center Temple in October 2011, Jackson has devoted all of his time and care into the project.
Keeping the look and feel of the tabernacle was a key element for all parties involved in the reconstruction.
“We wanted to keep as much of old building as possible, with as much care as possible,” Jackson said. “We actually had someone look and hand-touch every single one of the bricks on the building to make sure it was stable enough to last another 100 years.”
Jackson was happy to report that 95 percent of the building’s exterior is the original brick.
BYU’s Office of Public Archaeology director Richard Talbot directed the excavation of the original Provo Tabernacle foundation to give context to the Provo temple.
“It was important for us to discover and relay the history of the tabernacle because this truly was some of the most sacred ground to the original pioneers,” Talbot said.
As Talbot described, the first tabernacle was a place of worship and gathering for the whole community. It was the home to Utah Valley’s first baptismal font. It was the first stake center and the center of Utah Valley life during the foundation of the Provo and the surrounding county.
Emily Utt, historic sites curator for the LDS Church, also took part in guaranteeing that the new Provo City Center Temple echoed the feel of the original Provo tabernacle. It was her job, along with hundreds of volunteers, to find the history littered throughout the rubble.
Months after the fire, Utt and her team searched the debris to find hidden treasures. Their discoveries included a 1970 s shoe, old general conference tickets and a dozen other artifacts.
“We wanted enough data that we could restore the building to how it was the day before the fire,” Utt said.
Many details were destroyed in the fiery incident, but Utt assured that the Provo Tabernacle “is better documented than any other building.”
All the documentation and attention of hundreds of people paid off.
Bishop Gérald Caussé, presiding bishop of the LDS Church, walked around the temple Monday, Nove. 9, and declared that people who loved and missed the Provo tabernacle “will not be disappointed.”
Bishop Caussé explained that the same culture, same style and even some of the same tile used in the old Provo Tabernacle is present in the new temple. The overall design of the temple kept to the Victorian style of the original building. Even though the inside is no longer just one large room, the place will still seem familiar, according to Bishop Caussé.
“The pioneers would be thrilled to see their tabernacle restored,” Bishop Caussé said. “It is truly worth the title to be ‘The House of the Lord.'”
Bishop Caussé stressed what is most important is that there will be a second temple in Provo.
“Provo is the second city to have a second temple (South Jordan being the first) and that says a lot about the community here,” Bishop Caussé said. “We hope to see many young people and young married couples fill this new magnificent building. I expect I’ll see a lot of eternal marriages taking place here. What is most important is to carry on the Lord’s work.”
The Provo City Temple open House is Jan. 15-March 5. Open house reservations are available starting Jan. 4.