Sunday, May 13, 2012

Which Mormon Temple is the Ugliest?

To me, Provo and Mormonism go hand in hand.  BYU has a huge impact on the town, as does the Missionary Training Center (the MTC, where most Mormon missionaries go before they actually leave to go on what is termed their "mission"), which technically is part of BYU.  Just up the hill from the MTC is the Provo temple.  Here is a picture of it from 1972 and what it looks like today:

 Courtesy of the Lee Library University Archives, Brigham Young University

The best information regarding the Provo temple is found from the Wikipedia article that follows:

"The Provo Utah Temple was the 17th constructed of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

"Since Provo's early years, a hill just northeast of downtown Provo was known as "Temple Hill."  Instead of a temple, however, the Maeser Building was built on the hill in 1911 as a part of Brigham Young University campus.  A 17-acre block of property at the base of Rock Canyon was chosen as the site for the Provo Temple.

"The LDS temple in Provo was announced on August 14, 1967, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 15, 1969 with construction beginning soon thereafter.  Emil B. Fetzer, the architect for the Ogden and Provo temples, was asked to create a functional design with efficiency, convenience,and reasonable cost as key factors.

"The Provo Temple is one of the busiest temples the LDS Church operates.  Because of its location, the temple is frequented by students attending the nearby Church-owned Brigham Young University.  The temple also receives many missionary patrons since an LDS Missionary Training Center is just across the street.

"The exterior design of the Provo Temple (along with the original design of its sister temple in Ogden, Utah) has its roots in scriptural imagery.  The broad base and narrow spire represents the cloudy pillory and the fiery pillar (respectively) that the Lord used to guide the Israelites through the wilderness under Moses."

The main reason that I wanted to include the Provo temple is because of the controversy surrounding the architecture of the building.  The Ogden and Provo temple are essentially identical (you can tell the difference in photos because the Provo has larger mountains in most of its photos).  As was stated in the Wikipedia article, the temple was designed to symbolize a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.  However, it is generally considered among Mormon circles to be the ugliest of all temples.  In fact, many people joke that it looks like a birthday cake (which it does) or a rocket ship.  Although it is one of the busiest temples in the world, rarely does anyone actually get married there because it is considered so "ugly".  Mormon couples often prefer to travel to other temples, such as one in American Fork or the Salt Lake Temple.

I bring this up for two reasons.  The first is because the temple has been in the news a lot lately, due to the construction of a new temple in Provo.  It was decided that the tabernacle which burnt down a year and a half ago is going to be restored into a temple.  The tabernacle will be renamed the Provo City Center Temple and I have yet to find out if the original Provo temple will be renamed.  I am torn that the tabernacle will be turned into a temple, mainly because it used to be such an important part of the community.  Members from several churches used it from time to time.  As a temple, it will only be available for Mormon members with a recommend.  That being said, I prefer that the tabernacle, which is a beautiful building, be restored than what would likely occur in most situations, which is that it would be demolished and replaced with an ugly building.  I am glad that the tabernacle will remain to be a beautiful reminder of the Provo's history, and as a result I prefer it being turned into a temple rather than demolished.  Also, my sister told me that when the tabernacle is restored, the LDS church is going to attempt to replicate a lot of the pioneer era craftsmanship that existed in the original building.

The second reason that I discuss the Provo temple is because of a possible renovation which is has been rumored that will occur at the Provo Temple.  Currently, the Ogden temple is undergoing an extensive renovation (they essentially demolished the entire building except for the skeleton and are reconstructing it).  Here is what it will look like when completed (and remember, originally it looked exactly like the Provo temple, minus the mountains):

I find it extremely interested that the Ogden temple is currently undergoing renovation because although it was not stated, I assume that it is because of how "ugly" it is.  Some believe that the Provo temple will undergo a similar renovation as well (here is one of many discussions about it), and I would assume that it would look just like the Ogden one.  I am guessing that this renovation would occur once the tabernacle restoration is completed, so that there is at least one temple in Provo at all times.  However, the LDS church stated in 2010 that the Provo temple will not be renovated (although it will be interesting to see if they hold firm to that statement). I am very happy (as is this columnist) that it isn't being renovated.  I agree that it may be ugly, but it has character.  I like the ugliness and want it kept that way.  I don't mind them changing the Ogden temple, but I don't think that they should get rid of both of the birthday cakes.  I feel like it is a little slice of history, albeit ugly, similar to how the Provo tabernacle is a slice of history of when it was constructed.

I have to add one final thing about the temple.  Just up the road from it is Rock Canyon, which may be my favorite place in Provo.  It is a beautiful canyon with some nice hiking and running trails.  Also, it is a great place to go rock climbing.  If you have a chance, I recommend going and checking it out.  It also has some of the best views of Utah Valley that I have ever seen.


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  2. We would agree that the grounds of the Provo Temple are beautiful and despite it looking like a birthday cake, the flower garden in the back are heavenly. That pic of the Ogden temple is beautiful! I would be surprised if they changed the Provo temple to look like the Ogden one, but only time will tell. Good pictures. It is the temple where Cherie and Chris were sealed, so that makes it a beautiful temple to me! That was one of the most beautiful days of my life. I loved your article!

  3. Those who don't care for the Provo Temple typically don't understand or appreciate modern architecture. I was mad when they painted the steeple white from it's original gold. It's my favorite temple and I hope that they never change it.

    1. Totally Agree, I think the more you look at the building the more you appreciate it.

  4. Provo and Ogden temples have been regarded by many as architecturally ugly, while others say it doesn't matter what it looks like because what goes on in side is far more important. I was thrilled to hear that the were totally changing the Ogden Temple, and the city is revitalizing the are too. The streets around the temple looked derelict and ugly. The church's idea to remodel the Ogden Temple was part of the revitalization of the City of Ogden - It has improved with many more revitalization beautification projects in action. I hope that once the amazing Provo City Center is completed, they start remodeling the Provo building to give it a more CLASSIC look instead of the "MOD" look it currently has. There is so much property that they could make something really spectacular with underground parking, wide stairs leading up to the front of the temple with fountains and beautiful trees. I am thinking of a LONG walkway/stair to the temple similar to that of the Hawaiian temple. From what I am told of the inside, the Provo Temple needs a desperate makeover.

  5. The sooner the Provo Temple is demolished replaced with something that looks like a house of worship rather than a drive-in bank, the better. It is a complete waste of a stunning location.

  6. Back in 1976, my wife and I were married in the Provo Temple. We like it very much, with the exception that they painted the steeple white. I don't believe it looks mod or is dated because I've never seen a building of that period that looks like it.

    Originally it had gold/copper steeple that was supposed to represent the pillar of fire by night, and the rest the cloud by day during the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. This interpretation was lost when they repainted the steeple.

    The Ogden Temple is now a boxy look which I don't care for.

    As for the comments about it looking like a cake, I can assure you that is true. It looked exactly like my wedding cake, which was a miniature Provo Temple.

    Lastly, lots of people still get married there, and most of the time when I go by I see wedding parties there. People seem to be projecting their attitude about the temple rather than the facts.