Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unique, out-of-the-box Latter-day Saint Temples

I like the traditional architectural styles seen in most temples built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Even so, some of my favorite temples don't follow traditional architectural styles and are very modern, contemporary, or are just different from your typical neo-classical / neo-gothic / traditional temples.  I want to talk about these truly unique temples.

Portland Oregon Temple
All of the 6 spire sloped roof temples stray from the normal neo-classical mold of temples - and I think they do it in a really good way.  I think the Portland Oregon Temple is the best of the 6 spire sloped roof temples and it definitely brings variety to its architecture.  This building feels different from other buildings, as I think a temple should.  It has translucent stone, triangular staircases, an elongated hexagonal floor plan, a multi-level celestial room, and very unique spires.  The spires use pointed arches in ways I've never seen before and fit perfectly in the densely wooded site.  This temple shows that a temple can be very different from the common idea of a temple and be even better because of that creativity and difference.

San Diego California Temple
Here is a temple that breaks the mold.  No other temple shares its floor plan (rumors are that the cost of the temple has led to no duplicates).  Yet here is a temple that is truly breath taking.  The immaculate white exterior speaks of holiness.  The soaring towers elevate our thoughts to God and heavenly things.  The stained glass shines and brings light filled with hidden symbols.  Each corner tower and the base is largely solid.  This gives the temple a feeling of strength and protection, while the stained glass windows give it a warm, airy, delicate feel at the same time.  The numerous angles pierce the sky like beautiful ice crystals in a snow flake.  People have complained that it looks like a Disney castle.  I think that is a bit of a stretch, but even so - who cares? It is beautiful, complex, interesting, inspiring, and blesses the lives of many people.  Unfortunately I have yet to visit this temple, but I look forward to eventually go there.

The Hague Netherlands Temple
The first style of small temples were all basically the same with only very minor variations in their floor plans.  The most unique of them was the The Hague Netherlands Temple.  This temple took the floor plan from the 2 endowment room first small temple style, and then changed the stone details to make the temple look like a dignified modern building instead of an identical twin to the other small temples.  Beautiful stained glass and metal elements were included that make this temple appear like a temple with 2000s architecture.  The temple even has a bridge leading to the front door.  I really like this temple.

Cardston Alberta Temple

The first temple started after the Salt Lake Temple was the Cardston Alberta Canada Temple.  I am a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style, and the Cardston Temple architects were as well.  The temple is done in his prairie style and in plan view is a Greek cross.  I like the dignity of this temple, its strength, and the uniqueness of the architecture.  While being fine and decorative, it is clearly not just a neo-classical temple.  The interior is filled with murals and fine woodwork.  The woodwork uses woods imported from around the world.  As one progresses through the temple the woodwork becomes more detailed and expensive with intricate inlays made out of rare woods.  This also means that the celestial room is covered in dark woods.  The sealing rooms are also covered in dark woods.  This may seem odd as celestial rooms and sealing rooms are usually very white or at least light colored.  Here, the finest woods and inlays are what makes these rooms the nicest, not just the color white.  The Laie Hawaii Temple is by the same architects and uses a smaller version of the same floor plan.  The Mesa Arizona Temple is also influenced by this temple's style.

Cardston Alberta Temple Sealing Room

Cardston Alberta Temple Celestial Room

Oakland California Temple
This temple has the distinction of being the only temple with 5 towers/spires (I actually think the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple has 5 towerss, but it is always listed as a 1 spire temple).  The Oakland Temple also is unique with what appear like Asian influences.  The spires have a beautiful laced gold design.  Also, decorative bas relief sculptures of Christ and a stylized tree of life design (seen in the spires link) are included in this unique temple.

Mexico City Mexico Temple
The Mexico City Temple is essentially a 4 endowment room version of the Provo, Ogden, and Jordan River Temples.  In this variation, ancient American architecture has been included in the precast concrete panels that cover the temple.  This is done very well and keeps the temple unique while having a definite connection to the area where it was built and still being ornate.

Washington D.C. Temple
The Washington D.C. Temple was meant to echo themes from the Salt Lake Temple while at the same time being its own building.  This temple is the tallest temple and the 3rd largest by square footage.  I think it is an excellent modern interpretation of the Salt Lake Temple with simplified brilliant translucent white stone, ornate symbolic doors, abstract stained glass, and a commanding presence.

Jordan River Utah Temple
This is the temple I first did baptisms for the dead in and was endowed in.  I was also a temple worker there and it is currently my temple (although I'm planning to move to Ogden soon).  I like how the exterior takes what is essentially a box and adds this swooping pattern and inverted arches (not circular arches, but parabolic or perhaps hyperbolic arches).  The abstract stained glass works as well.  This temple reaches to be different and makes the box not so objectionable.  The repeated vertical lines combine with the spire to give a vertical effect drawing your eyes and mind heavenward.  My only complaints are that you can smell the cafeteria from the baptistery (which is kind of gross mixed with chlorine smell), the confirmation rooms look like poorly maintained closets, and there are a few other minor issues.  Each of these could be fixed in a short 2 week closure or at most a month or two closure.

Provo Utah and Ogden Utah Temples
I'm including these temples on the list because they are definitely very non-traditional temples.  I don't think they achieve the goal of making a building unique and better for being unique.  Don't misunderstand, I like these temples, but they take some time to get used to.  They are meant to symbolize a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day guiding Israel.  Unfortunately they make most people think of a spaceship or a birthday cake complete with candle.  The attempt was interesting, but I'm glad that the Ogden Temple is being remodeled (which is also for seismic reasons).  I think the Provo Temple should also be upgraded.  I wouldn't be opposed to the upgrade keeping the same basic look but using stone panels instead of cast stone and changing other details.  If you could get it to work then that is fine by me.  I also wouldn't mind leaving the look of Provo the same and just upgrading structural problems which I assume exist.  I actually really like the Ogden and Provo temples' interiors for the most part.  They are modern and sleek in a good way.  I think the baptisteries could use slight improvements, but otherwise I think the interiors work.

The Bern Switzerland, Hamilton New Zealand, and London England Temples
I'd better add a few words about these temples as well.  They are modern, despite having the shape of chapels with front spires.  Exterior ornamentation is nearly non-existent.  This takes a while to get used to.  I served my mission in the England London Mission and got to go to the London England Temple 3 times.  I like the temple, but understand that the exterior is plain and takes some time to get used to.  For this reason I don't think these 3 temples are entirely successful in their architecture.  Still, the London Temple is special to me and I like it.  I also like the Bern and Hamilton Temples.  The London Temple's interior was really nice.  I also noticed that the London Temple's architecture doesn't try to compete with the ornate European architecture and perhaps this is good because it is hard to compare to old cathedrals.  In this case, the temples end up unique at the expense of being plain.

Those are the temples I wanted to discuss.  I could have talked about the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple - but it is similar to many central spire temples.  I do like it a lot and enjoyed the inside.  I could have discussed the L.A. temple, but I haven't been there and the exterior is a bit different.  There are probably other temples I could have discussed, but then you as a reader wouldn't have anything to comment on.  So please comment and tell us about unique, truly different temples that break from the traditional temple styles and architecture.  Or comment on some of the temples I've discussed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Small Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

My brother who is currently on a mission just attended the Montreal Quebec Canada Temple.  Prior to this he had only been to full and medium sized temples.  It got me thinking about the small temples.

President Hinckley announced that small temples would be built to meet the needs of members of the church worldwide.  While this seemed like a new thing to most people (including myself) it actually wasn't the first attempt to build small temples.  Here is a little history:

The first real small temples were built in Bern Switzerland, Hamilton New Zealand, and London England.  These 3 temples were built internationally to be close to the members.  They were minor variations of the same floor plan.  They were also smaller than previous temples with only a single endowment room.  Recording the portions of the endowment that were performed by actors and then playing that performance on a video screen allowed the temples to be built small.  Gordon B. Hinckley (later President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was heavily involved in this process.  He seems to have been involved a lot in smaller temple design throughout the decades.

The next push for small temples came in the 1970s and 1980s with President Spencer W. Kimball building many temples simultaneously.  This is when the church built the 6 spire sloped roof design of temples.  While these often had multiple rooms, they were fairly small temples (and identified as small temples in talks and articles of the time).  Similarly, Polynesian temples and the Sydney Australia Temple were built using really similar floor plans, little space, and some cut backs.  For example, many temples built in this time period didn't have oxen supporting the baptismal fonts.  This was mainly done to save money because, despite popular perception, the church does not have infinite resources.  Bringing the blessings of the temple to the people was more important that the temples have sculpted oxen.  While I'm glad that many (if not all) of these temples have since had oxen added to the baptisteries, I am glad that we have and had leadership in the church that understood that getting the people temple blessings was more important than waiting until we had money to intricately furnish them.  I'm also glad that we have a lot better financial means to furnish temples today.  Had I been in charge I probably would have pushed for a lot of fancy details and would have ended up with 1 or 2 less temples and many people lacking temple blessings.

So prior to President Hinckley's announcement in the late 1990s that smaller temples would be built, some attempts at building small temples had been done.  These utilized smaller size and similar floor plans to make the temples financially viable and were built worldwide to reach out to members of the church everywhere.

President Hinckely's small temple designs were very good.  I have been in the St. Paul Minnesota Temple, Palmyra New York Temple, Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple, Monticello Utah Temple, Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple, and Twin Falls Idaho Temple, in addition to the Vernal Utah Temple and Manhattan New York Temple, both of which are small temples, but made out of existing buildings.  They are each very nice wonderful temples.

The first Hinckley small temples were built in Anchorage Alaska, Colonia Juarez Mexico, and Monticello Utah.  Each of these were remote and very small with only 1 endowment room and 1 sealing room.  They were experimental with the locations chosen so church leadership could easily visit and see what did and did not work.  They ended up being too small.  Within a few short years both the Alaska and Monticello temples were remodeled with additions adding a second endowment room and a second sealing room.

From then on, small temples have been built with 2 endowment rooms, a celestial room, 2 sealing rooms, and a baptistery.  The temples cut out unnecessary components such as laundry facilities, cafeterias, extra rooms, and in most cases chapels or waiting areas.  This has allowed the small temples to be very finely decorated while still being affordable to the church.  It is such a wonderful idea.

This second batch of small temples looked like the first but with the extra endowment and sealing rooms.  Several advantages of the floor plan were that:
1. Using a common floor plan and decorations reduced architect's and engineer's time and cost to design the temples.
2. The temples had a small footprint and were short, making them much easier to get construction approval in cities.  I like more prominent buildings, but had the church pushed for tall, prominent buildings, it would have taken much longer to construct these temples as many residents and cities would have had an easier time blocking construction.
3. The single story design made the temples easier to design (I'm saying this as a structural engineer) and less expensive to build.
4.  The small design and lack of cafeterias and laundry areas reduced operational costs such as cafeteria and and laundry costs and general heating and air conditioning costs.  Less volume = less utilities costs.
Several variations of this small temple design were built.  Two story versions were built in Winter Quarters Nebraska, Snowflake Arizona, and Fukuoka Japan.

After a few years we had a lot of essentially one style of temple.  Then the church began building a different style with some added height, new details, and a lot more variety to each temple.  Don't be fooled, these temples were still very much small temples in every good sense.  This style is seen in the Columbia River Washington, San Antonio Texas, Accra Ghana, and Newport Beach California Temples to name a few of the 9 temples of this style I count.

In the last few years several new small temple styles have emerged.  There is a central spire style seen in the Panama City Panama and Kyiv Ukraine Temples and several temples currently under construction (Tegucigalpa Honduras, Calgary Alberta, Quetzltenango Guatelmala, and San Salvador El Salvador).

Concurrently the church has been building several small temples with a single forward spire - for example, Vancouver B.C. Canada and Manaus Brazil.
Another style of small temple is the style used for the rebuilt Apia Samoa Temple and the Gila Valley Arizona Temple. Although these may be the same floor plan as another small temple style and appear to be a unique style.

Recently there appear to be two styles for new small temples.  The first is a two towered style seen in the Kansas City Missouri, Brigham City Utah, and Rome Italy temples.  I am fairly sure this is actually just an alteration of the Vancouver B.C. Temple style.  The second style is a shorter temple with a central spire seen in the new Phoenix Arizona Temple design and in the Cordoba Argentina Temple design.  I have actually seen some of the new temple designs that have yet to be released to the public.  Unfortunately I can't elaborate, but I can say that I like the designs I'm seeing the church do.

I like the small temples.  When I first saw the St. Paul Minnesota Temple I thought - that's really small! - but I also thought it looked really nice and fine and like a temple despite being small.  Inside it was finely detailed - more so than many of the large temples.  Making it small means that every detail can be intricately done without the final cost being excessive.  Many people complain about the temples being cookie cutter.  I can understand the argument, but don't think it is all that strong.  Yes, many are virtually the same building, but they are copies of the same really nice building - and are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart - so it is a little different than cookie cutter houses in a neighborhood.  Still, it is nice to see the variety of newer small temples.  The styles from the Columbia River Washington Temple on have used copies of various floor plans but with numerous variations in murals, moldings, height, carved elements, stained glass, etc.  Each temple has been unique while clearly coming from a shared floor plan.  Also, the church has slowed temple construction to 2-5 a year (which is still a lot, just not as many as the 15 built in 1999 or 34 built in 2000).  Those were exceptional years where we essentially caught up on building temples.  The current pace of around 5 temples a year allows for a lot more thought and individuality to go into the small temples.  This is giving some wonderful results.

Small temples are here to stay and that is a good thing.  Other temples are built medium sized and that is also a good thing.  We really do have inspired leaders who know how to bless us.
Please comment and share your opinion about or information on small Latter-day Saint temples.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Logan Temple - Then and Now

The Logan Utah Temple was the 2nd temple built in Utah, the first with progressive endowment rooms and multiple towers (there are 6, although the octagonal corner towers are usually overlooked making people think that there are only 2).  It is a beautiful temple.  I received my bachelors and masters degrees from Utah State University in Logan so I have spent a lot of time at the Logan Temple and enjoy it.  The one thing I don't like is how the church gutted the building from 1977-1979 and replaced all the intricate hand carved ornamentation with incredibly simple decorations that don't match the exterior.  In some cases the church removed original pieces and instead of returning them they simply replaced them with downgraded components.  This seems crazy to me.  I should note that Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet at the time.  He said he regretted having the temple gutted.  Interestingly, a few years later the Manti Temple, a fraternal twin of the Logan Temple, was carefully restored instead of gutted.  The gutting the Logan Temple at least saved the Manti Temple.

I am hoping for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to restore the Logan Temple's beauty.  At minimum they could add moldings, door handles, etc. that match the style of the original temple.  I think they should really go further and completely restore it, or as close as possible.  The Nauvoo Temple was restored in this way.  While it is technically not the same floor plan as the original (originally endowments were performed in the attic and an assembly hall was on the 2nd floor where endowment rooms now are) it is close and follows the spirit of the original structure and the architecture matches the original architecture.  The Logan Temple could similarly be restored.

Here are pictures of the original Logan Temple Interior:

Original Baptismal Font
 The original baptismal font was a lot more ornate than the current version.  It is sitting in the Church Museum of History and Art.  I think it should be returned to the temple.

The original Logan Temple endowment rooms featured murals by pioneer artists.  Some were destroyed during the remodel.  Others still exist
Original Logan Temple Creation Room

Original Logan Temple Garden Room

Original Logan Temple World Room

Original Logan Temple Terrestrial Room

Orig Logan Temple Terr. Room Painting

Original Celestial Room
 The original celestial room was also nice with elegant arches and windows!  Chandeliers and art also graced the room.  The endowment rooms also had murals (which couldn't be saved as some were painted directly on the walls and not on canvas).  The endowment rooms were progressive for the first time in this temple with patrons going from the creation room to the garden room to the world room to the terrestrial room and finally to the celestial room.  Previously the endowment had been acted out in a large room divided by curtains.

Assembly Room
The original assembly room (which I am 95% sure is still on the top floor) echoed the style of the Kirtland Temple.

The original sealing rooms were very ornate.
Original "President's" Sealing Room

Original "Gold" Sealing Room
The Gold room was also called the Holy of Holies and may have been one at one time.  That is real hand applied gold leaf on the walls and not a wallpaper design.  Several fires damaged the room, but each time the gold leaf was re-done.  The stained glass window behind the sealer's and witnesses' chairs is one of several stained glass windows that were originally in the Logan Temple.  Several are now in the Church Museum of History and Art.  The rest are in the Manti Temple cafeteria (at least I'm fairly sure they were the same windows when I ate there).
Original Tower Sealing Room
The towers also originally contained small sealing rooms.

Original Door Knob
The original door knobs were ornately sculpted brass similar to those in the St. George, Manti and Salt Lake Temples.  The photo is one I took in the Church Museum of History and Art.  Why can't we put these on at least some doors of the Logan Temple?  Or at least make replicas to place on the doors.  We have recently added very detailed sculpted door knobs to new temples so I think we should add them back to the Logan Temple.  The current temple door knobs are smaller and have no ornamentation whatsoever.  They are extremely plain and pale in comparison to the original door knobs.  I think the current temple door knobs are even plain when compared to other temples built at the same time as the remodel such as the Jordan River Utah Temple.

Temple Window Arch in Museum
The original window arch moldings were carefully saved by the church and added to the Church Museum of History and Art.  The current moldings do not match the temple.  I think these moldings could easily be replicated and added to the temple during a remodel.

Original Ceiling Medallion
The original ceilings had exquisite hand carved details similar to those found in the Salt Lake Temple.  Here is a detail showing fruit and flowers sculpted into the ceiling medallion above a chandelier.  Yes, replicating these would cost money, but we just added this kind of detail to the Manhattan New York Temple so it is clearly in the church's means.

So there you have it, that gives you an idea of what the Logan Temple used to look like.  It had ornate pioneer craftsmanship that was painstakingly and carefully placed as an offering to God.  Unfortunately, that craftsmanship was torn out and given to museums and replaced with very boring and simple downgraded replacements. I don't like that the new temple is less nice than the original.  I think we should always leave things better than we were given them.

Current Celestial Room
Current Baptismal Font
Here is what they replaced the original nice temple interior with - a late 70s Celestial Room (which I like, but not in this context) and a late 70s fiberglass baptismal font.  This makes me sad.  The historical architecture of the building has been lost.  The new interior lacks the sacrifice for the beauty of the temple that made the original building so grand.  The hard work of the pioneers who built this temple has largely been undone.

Current Logan Temple Sealing Room
The current sealing rooms are OK but nowhere near as nice.  Also the whole current sealing floor uses too much cream color for my taste and doesn't have windows.  It seems dark.  I don't know why the church doesn't put the original stained glass windows back in the sealing rooms.  The sealing room pictured is the nicest in the current temple, with the rest less detailed.

One of my biggest desires is to hear one day that the Logan Temple is going to be remodeled to restore its former beauty.  Precedents have been set for this.  The Nauvoo Temple was rebuilt and restored despite the lack of many drawings and the remoteness of the temple.  As I recall, someone donated the money for the church to build the temple.  I suppose if someone gave the church a few million dollars specifically to restore the Logan Temple they probably would.  Also recently we have seen remodels of numerous temple - Santiago Chile, Atlanta Georgia, Ogden Utah.  These remodel projects are taking temples from a period of time when the church struggled financially and replacing their original plain interiors with new ornate, nice, detailed, temple quality interiors (and exteriors).  The Logan Temple was built around the same time as many of the temples currently being remodeled so seeing its interior re-gutted and restored to its original glory is certainly possible.  I even think that it is likely in the next 10 years, especially as the economy recovers.

As a bit of trivia - the Logan Temple is currently made of exposed dark stone in a random pattern.  Originally the temple was painted white (with a little red in the paint so I guess really light pink).  So originally the Logan Temple would have looked similar to the St. George Temple in color.  Logan's weather took its toll on the exterior paint and within a few years the whole exterior was peeling and looked horrible.  A decision was made to just let the paint wear off and so that is why we have the current exterior.  The stones are randomly placed because they were intended to be covered and never seen.  Otherwise they would have been carefully placed like those on the Manti Temple and Salt Lake Temple.  I'm fine with the current brown exterior with white towers.  It is actually interesting.  This does show one of many changes to the original temple.  I'd love to see it coated in white, but think that the brown look is probably a better look (and easier to maintain).  This does make me wonder how it would be if we did more temples with dark colors and light accents.

I know from my experience that the Logan Temple is well used with endowment sessions frequently crowded.  The Brigham City Utah Temple is being built to handle this overcrowding.  Likely, other temples will be needed to handle the Logan Temple crowds.  As these other temples are constructed, it will allow the church to restore the Logan Temple (which would decrease its capacity) while still meeting the needs of the saints.  The Logan Temple was carefully made into a beautiful holy edifice with careful craftsmanship intended to inspire the souls of the patrons.  It really is time to have that inspiring interior re-built.  I will concede that it will probably occur when a remodel is needed for other reasons (which could easily be now) or when someone donates the money to have it re-done.

Of course the primary purpose of the temple is to provide a place to perform saving ordinances for the living and the dead and the current temple does that.  But architecture plays a role in conveying the ideals taught in the temple to the patrons and inspiring them to live those ideals.  The original temple did this in a great way and was a powerful force for good (more powerful in my opinion than the current) amplifying the teachings of the temple through architecture, murals, symbolism, and beauty.  Hopefully this will be restored to the Logan Temple some day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple Baptismal Font Styles

Salt Lake Temple font
I thought I'd use today's post to discuss Latter-day Saint temple baptismal fonts.  These are used for baptisms for the dead where people can be baptized in behalf of the dead who didn't get a chance to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in this life.  In this way the dead have the option of accepting baptism.  It is up to them if they want to accept the work and join Christ's church or to reject the baptism and stay as they are.

Temple baptismal fonts come in a variety of styles.

St. Louis Missouri Temple font
Fonts can have one or two entrances.  Most have you enter and exit at the same place (for example: Draper, Jordan River, London, San Diego).  Some have an entrance and separate exit.  This is actually how the first ones were.  The Nauvoo Temple was the first with a baptismal font and has an entrance and exit.  You enter the font on one end and then exit on the other (180 degrees from the entrance).  I looked through my font photos and only noticed these two variations.  I think a good variation would be to have a font with an entrance and an exit offset 90 degrees (Las Vegas might be this way, but I can't remember for sure).  Otherwise I really like the normal entrance and exit style, mainly because it isn't used as often.

Billings Montana Temple font
Font also vary in by what is on top of the oxen.  Fonts like the one in the Salt Lake Temple have seating around the bottom and the oxen are only supporting the actual font.  Others like the one in the Jordan River temple have seating behind the font at an upper level so the oxen only support the actual font.  Then there are fonts like the ones in the Bountiful Temple and Boston Massachusetts Temple where there is seating on top of the fonts - usually two rows of pews.  I have fond memories of sitting on top of the Bountiful Temple font reading scriptures while baptisms are performed feet away.  It really is a nice setup.

Mesa Arizona Temple font
Font materials vary quite a bit. Originally the Nauvoo font was made of wood.  Later it was upgraded.  Many temple have brass, bronze, or other metal oxen (Salt Lake, Hamilton New Zealand, Los Angeles).  The Mesa Arizona Temple uses terra cotta tile.  Most are made of fiberglass made to look like stone (and a few may actually be stone.)

Accra Ghana Temple font
Finally, the oxen used to support Latter-day Saint temple fonts have been done in many different ways.  Some have just the heads and two front legs sculpted.  In this case the oxen are typically made to appear as if coming out of reeds.  Other temples have the entire oxen sculpted.  When the entire oxen are present they come in several styles.  Sometimes they face 12 directions (so each is rotated 30 degrees from the previous).  A lot of times the oxen are facing 4 directions with 3 oxen facing each direction.  This follows the pattern of Numbers 2 where three tribes camped on each direction of the Tabernacle.  It also looks nice.  Sometimes oxen are also placed in an ellipse facing 12 directions.

Idaho Falls Temple font
The style of oxen also varies with some being vary realistic, most fairly realistic, and the Idaho Falls Temple oxen being very stylized (Art Deco).  I like the variety and even like the Idaho Falls Temple oxen for their uniqueness.  I would be interested to see a new style of oxen.  Some possibilities would be to have them be low relief sculptures, mosaics, stained glass, or painted on (although moisture could cause problems if they are painted).  I think these ideas would help make a temple unique.  I also wouldn't mind seeing a modern interpretation of oxen (the Idaho Falls Temple oxen are the only bold interpretation of temple oxen I've ever seen).

Seoul South Korea Temple font
Not every temple has been built with oxen supporting the font.  A blog reader informed me that the Santiago Chile Temple and some Pacific Island temples were originally built without oxen.  The oxen symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel and are traditional, but not necessary.  They are borrowed from the Temple of Solomon where twelve oxen supported the brazen sea.  The fact that the Tabernacle had the sea without oxen shows that they are optional.  I've read that some small temples were built with 6 oxen and mirrors to make the other 6 appear to be there.  This is an interesting way to save money.  I prefer to see 12 oxen supporting baptismal fonts, but find the exceptions to this interesting.  I know the church has added oxen to many, if not all, of the temples originally built without oxen.  If you know of any currently without oxen, please let us know in the comments.

Bern Switzerland Temple font
Finally, the baptistery rooms show variation.  I think the most interesting ones have full wall murals (Mesa Arizona Temple, Manhattan New York Temple, Copenhagen Denmark Temple).  Some have murals running along a border at the top of the room (Helsinki Finland Temple, Cardston Alberta Canada Temple).  Several have stained glass windows.  Others simply have pictures hanging.  A few don't have any pictures or murals.  When these rooms are ornately decorated enough this works, but a few are really plain and could really use improvements.  Art in baptisteries includes several common themes.  The most common depiction is the baptism of Jesus.  Other good scenes for temple baptisteries are the Jordan River, the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, and the baptism of Joseph Smith.  I think there is a lot of potential for font room art that hasn't yet been realized.

current Logan Temple font
original Logan Temple font

One baptistery that really disappoints me is the Logan Temple baptistery.  Originally it had an ornate font (which the church still owns).  For reasons unknown to anyone but the architect who didn't understand history or aesthetics, the original font was removed when the temple was gutted and it was replaced with a near replica of the Ogden, Provo, and Jordan River Temple fonts.  The style itself isn't bad, but it is a significant downgrade from the original font and clashes with the temple exterior design.  The church really should place the original Logan Temple font back in the temple instead of letting it sit in a museum.  Of course the church should really re-gut the Logan Temple and restore the original beauty and bring back the original door knobs, stained glass, molding, etc. which the church still has.  If the Nauvoo Temple can be rebuilt, then the Logan Temple should be able to be restored.  I guess that's a topic for another post.  Perhaps soon.

Latter-day Saint temple baptisteries have a great deal of variety that continues to expand.  Please comment about baptisteries you've been to or what you'd like to see in temple baptisteries.