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Fifty years ago on Wednesday, Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dedicated the Provo Utah Temple, the church’s 15th.
The church announced the new temple on August 14, 1967, and held a special dedication on September 15, 1969. It was completed in early 1972. At the time, the temple served more than 100,000 members in the center and l eastern Utah.
After the Missionary Training Center was built just west of the temple, the Provo Utah Temple became the church’s busiest temple because it also served students from nearby Brigham Young University, according to Richard O. Cowan, retired professor of religious studies. History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University and author of “Provo’s Two Temples” published in 2014 in cooperation with the Center for Religious Studies and Deseret Book.
It wasn’t until the 2016 dedication of the downtown Provo Temple that some of the workload in Provo was lightened. The Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork, dedicated a few years earlier, also helped to grow church membership in Utah County.
While church members revere temples as the House of the Lord, modern temple architecture has often prompted other nicknames such as the wedding cake, the flying saucer, and more.
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It wasn’t until 31 years after the temple was built that a statue of the angel Moroni was placed atop the spire. While the spire was originally gold, the addition of Moroni led to the spire being changed to white.
The grounds total 17 acres of land which once housed fruit trees and people hunted pheasant and wild turkey.
Cowan remembers the days before the temple and for decades watched the temple build and undergo a number of changes.
“For three-quarters of a century there had been only the four pioneer temples in Utah. When my wife Dawn and I moved to Provo in 1961, where I joined the faculty at BYU, we had to to Salt Lake for temple service, and that was before the freeways were built,” Cowan said. “We were called to serve in one of the BYU student stakes, we learned that those stakes were assigned to the Manti temple.”
Cowan said he and his wife often rode with one of the student quarters on a chartered bus to Manti – the round trip to and from the temple session taking about seven hours.
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“We thought if there was a temple in Provo, we could do at least three ordinances instead of just one at that time. So you can imagine our excitement when, in 1967, we learned that there were plans to build temples here and in Ogden,” Cowan added.
Architect Emil B. Fetzer designed the features of the Provo Utah Temple and the original Ogden Temple which celebrated its 50th anniversary in January.
“Those close to the project say the symbolism comparing them to ‘cloud by day and pillar of fire by night’ was unintentional,” Cowan said, referring to the white building by day and the spire and windows golden lights illuminated at night.
Cowan followed the construction with great interest, as well as the groundbreaking, the laying of the foundation stone, the open house and, finally, the inauguration.
“I will never forget our overwhelming feelings at the dedication. Towards the end of the service, the choir sang the ‘Hosanna hymn’, and the congregation was then invited to join in the singing of ‘The Spirit of God’ “We were so choked with emotion that we couldn’t sing and didn’t even feel like talking until we were outside afterwards,” Cowan said.
Cowan said students who attended an overflow rally in the newly built Marriott Center described the unusual experience of being in the crowds exiting that arena in complete silence.
Provo historian Brent Ashworth and his wife, then only two years old, were among those students who listened in the overflow.
Ashworth’s family home was in the Oak Hills neighborhood of Provo, directly above the temple site. As a young man, he was able to observe each step of the temple’s progress and then witness it.
“From the earliest days of my childhood in Provo, I remember my parents and grandparents talking about Temple Hill. We knew it was somewhere in upper campus,” Ashworth said. “We used to to play war on the property.We used to cycle through the regions.
“When the temple was announced, we were excited. In 1972, we were all concerned at the time. I remember going to watch it just below the hill where we lived. I remember photos of President Joseph Fielding Smith and other brethren,” Ashworth added.
Ashworth said he remembered the dedication speeches. “I remember the Hosanna Shout. I thought it was something really special. We saved our white handkerchiefs from that,” Ashworth said.
The Hosanna Shout is a sacred moment in the dedication ceremony. The Hosanna Shout is a way for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to honor and praise God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, according to a church statement on the practice.
The cry is a symbol of how the crowds reacted to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem in the last week of his life. The Hosanna Shout became a corporate experience for members with the 1836 dedication of the Church’s Kirtland Temple. Towards the end of the dedicatory services, the congregation joined in shouting three times, “Hosanna! Hosana! Hosanna to God and the Lamb, Amen, Amen and Amen!
Historically, other events throughout Church history have been honored with the Hosanna Shout. According to the church, since the cornerstone ceremony at the Salt Lake Temple in 1892, the Hosanna Shout has been done by waving a white handkerchief, the memento Ashworth still has today.
“We thought it was really good,” Ashworth said of participating in the Hosanna Shout. “Since Primary days when I was a child, there were only 7 temples. It was truly unique to have a temple in our own city.
Temples are considered the House of the Lord, and special or sacred experiences may be had by worthy members who attend. Ashworth said he had such an experience that he will never forget.
“After our son died, I had a special experience at the Provo Temple. We brought missionaries to the temple,” Ashworth said. “I had a strong feeling of turning around and one of the missionaries had my son’s face. It was a testimony to me that he was doing missionary work on the other side.
There are countless members who have had unforgettable experiences and felt warm affection for the Provo Utah Temple over its 50 years.
In Cowan’s book, a number of students and acquaintances shared their feelings. Cowan shares them here.
Briana Crook described how walking down University Parkway from Orem she could “see the Provo Temple lit up, in all its glory welcoming me home.”
Brooke Lefevor considered the temple in her home “my temple,” but acknowledged that after she came to BYU, the Provo Temple took on that role. She was grateful that the temple servants knew her by name; once, when she came alone without her friend, a worker said, “Oh, don’t worry. We will always be there for you; you are never alone.”
When Kate Kimball was called to lead the Relief Society in her college ward, she was overwhelmed. However, she acknowledged, “When I attended the Provo Temple as a willing servant of God, I received promptings that directed me how best to fulfill my calling. I was able to see the sisters in my parish as if through the eyes of God. My love for them grew with each thoughtful visit to the temple.
The Provo Utah Temple has been a beacon of hope for many, whether they are getting married or performing vicarious work such as baptisms of deceased ancestors.
Some people celebrate its 50th birthday in unique ways.
David Amott of Preservation Utah said, “Due to cold weather, COVID, and other factors, our temple 50th anniversary celebrations will include an online lecture and photography series and other contests that will award prizes. people who create striking images. of the temple”.
The 50th anniversary will celebrate the fact that there has been a temple in Provo for 50 years.
“While our 50th anniversary commemorations will, in one way or another, be about the preservation of the building, we will not be using the event to directly promote the preservation of the building,” Amott said.
In October 2021 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will rebuild the Provo Utah Temple when the Orem Utah Temple is completed.
The location of the temple will remain the same, but the architectural appearance will be significantly improved and redesigned, just like the temple in Ogden. Closing dates will be announced later.