Manti LDS Temple reopens. Those saved Minerva Teichert murals can now be savored.

“It literally takes your breath away,” says daughter-in-law of famed artist.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Ordinance room in the Manti Temple displays the brightened Minerva Teichert murals.

Manti • The treasured Manti Temple, one of the architectural jewels of pioneer-era Utah, and its cherished murals are back — retooled, restored, renovated and ready to greet guests.

News media representatives took a tour Monday in advance of a public open house, which begins Thursday and runs through April 5. The temple then will be rededicated April 21, thereafter admitting only devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Today we celebrate the open house of a holy place, the House of the Lord here in Manti,” President Camille Johnson, worldwide leader of women’s Relief Society, said during a Monday news conference. " ... It is here because of the dedication and consecration of faithful Saints, people who live in Sanpete County and the surrounding area. It is a spiritual meeting place where families can be united together through sacred ordinances. Having temples on Earth is a witness of God’s love for us.”

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Latter-day Saint General Relief Society President Camille Johnson talks about the Manti Temple renovation in Manti on Monday, March 11, 2024.

On Saturday, hundreds of Minerva Teichert descendants traveled from states near and far to gather in tiny Manti (population 3,500) for an early tour of the spruced-up temple and to see the restored murals of their famous relative. They were escorted in groups of 80 through the sacred space to see how the building had been renovated and reconstructed.

“It literally takes your breath away when you walk in the room,” said Dorothy Teichert, Minerva’s 90-year-old daughter-in-law. The murals were “brighter and cleaner. The church did a beautiful job of restoring the majestic paintings.”

Even young children, not typically included in temple worship, were “thrilled to be there,” Dorothy said. “They will never forget what a choice experience it was for them.”

Married to Minerva’s son John, Dorothy lived close to the petite painter in Cokeville, Wyo.

“I knew Mother Teichert very well,” she said Sunday. “She was absolutely one of the greatest women who have lived on the Earth — brilliant, humble and so giving and caring.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Ordinance room in the renovated Manti Temple displays the restored and brightened Minerva Teichert murals.

Dorothy’s son, Tim Teichert, was the executor of Minerva’s estate, which is suing the church, Deseret Book, Brigham Young University and others, accusing them of illegally reproducing and profiting off of her art.

At the heart of the matter is the question of who owns the copyrights to many of the late painter’s best-known works, including multiple depictions of Jesus Christ, Queen Esther and Mormon pioneers.

Two cases — a copyright lawsuit in California and a second one in Wyoming to return paintings removed from the Cokeville chapel where they had hung for decades — are moving forward slowly.

The family, meanwhile, is “grateful,” Dorothy said, “that her work is still being recognized and appreciated.”

Saving the murals

The planned Manti Temple renovations initially sparked a public outcry after the church revealed plans to tear down the original murals. After nearly two weeks of petitions, protests and phone calls arguing passionately against destroying the art, the church announced that the murals might be preserved and displayed to the public at some point.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The renovated Manti Temple.

Weeks later, the governing First Presidency changed course again, declaring that the murals would remain in the Manti Temple and that another temple would be built in nearby Ephraim, where construction is underway.

“As we have continued to seek the direction of the Lord on this matter,” church President Russell M. Nelson said at the time, “we have been impressed to modify our earlier plans for the Manti Utah Temple so that the pioneer craftsmanship, artwork and character will be preserved, including the painted murals loved by so many. We will leave those murals where they are located now — inside the Manti Utah Temple.”

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) The Ephraim Temple is under construction on Monday, March 11, 2024.

Scott and Janice Hintze, coordinators of the Manti Temple open house, were serving as mission leaders in Argentina when they heard the possibility of gutting “their temple.”

They were heartsick. “We didn’t write letters,” Scott recalled Monday, “but it was hard.”

They were thrilled when they heard the revised plan to preserve the beloved building and its artwork.

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Scott and Janice Hintze, longtime Manti residents, are helping with the open house at the newly renovated Manti Temple. Their farm is seen in the distance above and to the left in Manti on Monday, March 11, 2024

Janice has lived her whole life in Manti, and Scott moved there after marrying her. They ran a turkey farm but now raise alfalfa.

“This building is lit up so bright,” Scott said, “that I can turn my tractor lights off and bale hay.”

The temple on the hill is “such a part of our community,” he added. “Farm life can be so busy. It’s so restful to take off your work clothes, put on white clothing [worn by Latter-day Saints in their temples], and leave the world behind.”

Seeing the beautified temple felt like “coming home,” Janice said. “There was such a sense of peace.”

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Latter-day Saint general authority Seventy Hugo E. Martinez and his wife, Nuria Alvarez de Martinez, at the entrance of the Manti Temple in Manti on Monday, March 11, 2024.

“It is a significant temple,” said general authority Seventy Hugo Martinez, first counselor in the Utah Area Presidency, who is originally from Puerto Rico but has lived and served the church in the Caribbean, West Africa and Guatemala. Coming to Manti, he was moved to see “all the sacrifices that were made as the settlers settled in.”

On this auspicious occasion, he said, “I share my joy in being in the temple.”

Not a museum

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) An ordinance room in the Manti Temple.

Of the finished product, general authority Seventy Jonathan S. Schmitt said “every detail is intricate, and it’s beautiful. You’ll find that there is a needlepoint in cushions and chairs that were made by the great and wonderful Saints in this valley. Yet this isn’t a museum of architecture and design. … You’ll see beyond the artwork, beyond the furnishings and see into the hearts of these pioneer Saints. I believe that you will feel of their spirit today.”

The temple showcases the devotion of early Sanpete County Latter-day Saints, Johnson said, “who kept the covenants of consecration and sacrifice.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A staircase in the Manti Temple.

They gave “their very best,” added Emily Utt, one of the church’s conservation experts who worked on the temple. Everything was cleaned and preserved. Only the drapes and curtains were replaced.

Walking through the historic hallways, visitors are struck by the art. “There are 15 original works,” Utt said, “and five new pieces.”

Among the main attractions are the murals in the “instruction rooms,” which guides described as the “creation, garden, world and terrestrial” spaces.

Participants move from room to room up sculptured steps, which, Schmitt explained, lift them closer to heaven — as symbolized in the Celestial Room.

Murals in the Creation Room — which include a dinosaur depiction — were painted by C.C.A. Christensen in 1886. The famed artist painted directly on the plaster, making the three-month restoration process “painstaking,” Utt reported, but worthwhile. “It is the oldest mural in the church.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Celestial Room in the Manti Temple.

The Teichert murals

It took 23 working days in 1947 for Teichert to paint an epic panorama of human history.

On the left side of the oblong room, is the biblical “gathering of Israel,” Utt said. “On the right side is the gathering of gentiles.”

They meet in the middle, behind an altar, in the giant figure of a Native American in full traditional headdress and clothing.

Not everyone loves Teichert’s vision. Some have commented that it plays to a white colonial culture. To this critique, Utt said, the artistic image is open to interpretation.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Ordinance room in the Manti Temple displays the brightened Minerva Teichert murals.

The figure “represents God’s holy city,” she said. “He is a Native American welcoming everyone to his home, which is God’s new home.”

His arms are outstretched in a pose similar to the global faith’s symbol of the renowned Christus statue.

Residents and artists “are extremely pleased and happy the church decided to preserve the Teichert paintings in the Manti Temple,” said Kathleen Peterson, a Latter-day Saint artist in nearby Spring City. “They represent not only the work of a great Mormon woman artist but also the dedication and history of the early pioneers.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The assembly room in the Manti Temple.

There are currently 16 temples operating in Utah — Bountiful, Brigham City, Cedar City, Draper, Jordan River (South Jordan), Logan, Monticello, Mount Timpanogos (American Fork), Ogden, Orem, Oquirrh Mountain (South Jordan), Payson, Provo City Center (converted from the former Provo Tabernacle), Saratoga Springs (dedicated in August), St. George and Vernal.

The Space Age Provo Temple shut down Feb. 24 to be demolished and rebuilt. It will reopen with a new look and a new name: Provo Rock Canyon Temple.

After the Red Cliffs Temple (the second in St. George) is dedicated March 24 and Manti’s rededication the following month, two other new Utah temples are scheduled to be dedicated in June — the Taylorsville Temple on June 2; and the Layton Temple on June 16.

The iconic Salt Lake Temple is undergoing renovation and expected to reopen in 2026.

Six more — Deseret Peak (Tooele), Ephraim, Heber Valley, Lindon, Smithfield and Syracuse — are either under construction or in planning stages.

Latter-day Saints view temples as houses of the Lord, places where faithful members participate in their religion’s highest rites necessary to return to live with God after this life.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The baptistry in the Manti Temple.