The Latter-day Saint temple in Provo is getting a makeover — from its original Space Age, circular design to a more standard, traditional look.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a rendering Wednesday of what the iconic sanctuary will look like after it is remodeled. The temple will remain in its current location but be unrecognizable from its current form.
The rounded temple, designed by then-church architect Emil Fetzer, opened in 1972, just weeks after its architectural twin, the Ogden Temple — the only other temple with a similar, circular design — was dedicated. That temple was rebuilt as a more traditional structure as well and reopened in 2014.
“The Ogden and Provo temples evoke a Space Age symbolism, a streamlined Saturn V rocket propelling the Apollo module beyond the terrestrial frontiers and into the great void of space,” Steven Cornell and Kirk Huffaker wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune in 2010. “...The intended symbol, a Hebraic pillar of fire atop the cloud God employed to stifle the Egyptian army as Israel made her miraculous escape, was similar to the modern Saturn V imagery.”
And Fetzer’s interiors for the Ogden and Provo temples featured an innovation that has since become a Latter-day Saint staple: Ordinance rooms — where members hear the story of human history from the Garden of Eden through mortality to the afterlife — all lead to the Celestial Room, representing heaven, in the center.
The current Provo Temple design is “part of a larger built landscape that developed in the mid-20th century,” David Amott, executive director of Preservation Utah, wrote Wednesday. “Many of Brigham Young University’s modernist buildings, the Missionary Training Center, and the homes surrounding the temple were built in more or less the same era and thus hang together in a unified way.”
To place a classically styled building in the middle of this larger landscape “would destroy this unique, living record of how the LDS Church grew (grew up) in the middle of the 20th century and became the global institution it is today,” Amott wrote in an email. “The Provo Temple created a prototype for all temples that came after it (in the LDS Church’s effort to take the temple experience to the four corners of the world), and for that reason alone it deserves to stand.”
Generations of “missionaries from all over the globe, BYU students, etc., have used this temple to receive their spiritual rites, perform rituals for others, etc.,” he added. “This is not just a local temple and a local issue.”
Social media was awash in comments about the proposed revisions.
“I am sad to see it go! The old Provo temple is like your family dog. We are allowed to complain about it but that doesn’t mean we want to replace it!” tweeted Lauren Simpson. “It’s an ugly dog, but it’s OUR ugly dog.”
“It was distinctive, cleanly artistic w/carefully chosen symbolism,” Weston C. tweeted, “and took a cherished (if sometimes poked fun at) place in personal/local history.”
“Moving from a future-oriented design to past-oriented is interesting,” Chad Reiser wrote on Twitter. “The church had a small handful of temples in the ‘60s, now all temples are built to look like they’ve been there for hundreds of years.”
Church President Russell M. Nelson announced the planned overhaul in the faith’s October General Conference.
The Provo Temple will close after the completion of the Orem Temple, which is under construction. No dates have been announced for the completion of the latter and the closure of the former.
The church also released a rendering Wednesday of the Smithfield Temple, which was announced by Nelson in April. The three-story, 81,00-square-foot building will be constructed on 13.3 acres at the intersection of 800 West and 100 North just north of Logan.
There are currently 14 temples operating in Utah, and three more — the pioneer-era Salt Lake, St. George and Manti structures — are undergoing renovation. Temples also are planned or under construction in Ephraim, the Heber Valley, Layton, Lindon, Orem, Saratoga Springs, Smithfield, St. George (a second one), Syracuse, Taylorsville and Tooele — for a total of 28 existing or announced Latter-day Saint temples in the Beehive State.
Latter-day Saints consider a temple to be a House of the Lord, where Jesus Christ’s teachings are reaffirmed through ordinances that unite families for eternity.