Provo native Andrew Giles doesn’t remember much of the Provo Tabernacle’s interior before a fire damaged it in 2010.
But he still remembers and reminisces on the feelings he had as a child looking over the balcony into the audience and speakers below, listening and having silent horseplay with his siblings during stake conferences.
This summer, 18-year-old Giles relived those memories and created new ones as a member of the landscaping crews for the historic building, now the soon-to-be completed LDS Provo City Center Temple. The work has answered his prayers by preparing him physically, financially and spiritually to serve a mission.
Persevering through uncertain beginnings
An unemployed Giles started out at a temp worker agency, praying for placement in a job that would provide a positive environment. He was initially torn between applying and not applying for a temporary job, as both he and his mom were worried he’d get stuck in a job with a bad atmosphere.
But Giles knew he had to save money for his mission, which he hopes to apply for in December. Other jobs he had applied to included long applications and decision making processes, but he needed a job fast.
The first thing Giles saw as he walked into the temp agency early one morning was an injured worker updating a sign tracking the number of days since the last on-site work accident so that it indicated “zero.”
“That probably made (my) mom freak out even more,” Giles said. But he and his family were excited and relieved when agency workers told him there was a job opening at the temple working on the landscaping.
Although Giles enjoyed working at the temple, it wasn’t always easy or even appealing. As they were receiving assignments on the grounds, he said he noticed one worker step off to the side, take of his hat and vest and leave within the first 15 minutes of being on the job.
They were assigned difficult tasks, such as moving dirt and heavy metal sheets from one side of the grounds to another.
“Just moving dirt all day, just for those couple of hours, wears you down a lot,” Giles said. “And so people come in, they get worn down and they just leave. They leave early and so a lot of people don’t make it past the first couple days or first week.”
Giles understood the struggle. He wanted to quit by lunch that first day, but he kept thinking about paying for his mission.
“Just knowing it was the Lord’s house and that I was doing service for him and earning money for my mission, (it) equaled out,” Giles said.
He returned to the agency after his first day to get his next assignment, still hoping agency workers would ask him to go elsewhere. He wanted a job that wouldn’t be so hard on him physically. His friends talked about “easy” jobs, such as dishwashing or holding signs.
But he was disappointed. “They were like, ‘Yeah, they like you, so you’re going back,'” Giles said laughingly.
Learning by working
Working at the temple around the people he was with proved to be a good environment for Giles. He estimated that, depending on the day, about half of the workers in his division were LDS. He met some people who were “really anti-Mormon” and others who weren’t LDS but had family members who are.
Giles built his relationship with a coworker by talking with him about the gospel. “He’s changing kind of because of the environment, I guess, or just a desire to be better and come back,” Giles said.
Although he started as a temp at a pay around minimum wage, he now works for Alan Christensen Enterprises doing other landscaping jobs at almost double what he started. Working long hours for about five months as a temp at the temple brought in enough money to pay for his entire mission.
Giles’ boss and foreman over landscaping Chad Vidinhar said Giles is a “very hard-working, very observant” young man and worker, which is probably why he was one of the few temps who stayed past the first day.
Giles wanted to serve a mission this summer, but health issues postponed it. Still, Giles said “there’s something really cool that’s happening” with him.
“Because of this job … I’ve been able to work hard. I’m learning so much about experience and hard work and what it takes to really just be dedicated to something,” he said. “That will really help me on my mission.”
Some days the work of digging holes the entire time was tedious. But Giles said other days he felt the Spirit strongly. “The more you work on it, the more that you see that it is a house of the Lord.”
That perspective helped him get through the harder, more physically demanding days.
“There are days where it’s rough and it’s like, ‘OK, I can’t feel the Spirit at all because it’s so stressful because it’s near the end,'” Giles said. “You need to be done by a certain day and so we’re just rushing through everything. But when you put it all together, you can feel the Spirit some of these days if you listen.”
Memorializing the tabernacle and the temple
The tabernacle has held a place in Provo residents’ hearts since its beginning. It was a place for “many civic events, choir performances, graduation and worship services,” as Spencer Ngatuvai reported for The Universe in 2012.
Residents and students have commemorated the tabernacle since the 2010 fire that made it a tragedy, but it hasn’t stopped there. Shock from the initial announcement that it was to become a temple quickly turned to excitement. BYU students have anticipated the positive effect it could have on Provo’s community.
Provo residents Julie Markham runs an unofficial temple construction blog, newtempleinprovo.blogspot.com, to follow the temple’s progress and anticipate its completion. The temple has already inspired more than a thousand posts on Instagram with the hashtag #provocitycentertemple.
While people can approach the temple fences to see the work, Giles has had a front-row seat to these changes.
Some of his favorite days have been planting larger plants and laying the sod on the grounds. Before those days, he said it was easy for people passing by to see only the dirt and overall lack of color. “Then when we get the sod and we put it down, that’s where the green just really amplifies the temple,” he said.
He noticed that the history of the tabernacle and the temple’s new purpose combine to give it a new meaning. “The outside is really significant because it just has all the old architecture and everything,” he said. “But then once you go in the inside, it gets a new level.”
A message on posters around the work site reminded Giles that the work was for the house of the Lord, and that there would be “nothing but perfection for him.” This has kept Giles motivated to put in his best work, even as he finished the last few detailed jobs of straightening sprinkler heads and smoothing out tree bark.
He noticed the importance of details one day when he was walking past the south side of the temple. He saw the stained glass window and the message, “Holiness to the Lord, House of the Lord.”
“Just that moment, I could feel the Spirit,” Giles said. “Nothing big, but those little things change you. And over time, they have a great impact.”