Sunday, March 20, 2011

LDS Temple Murals - Pt 1 - The Beginnings of Temple Murals

Many LDS temples have murals painted on the walls of the endowment rooms and occasionally in other areas of the temple such as the baptistery.  I'm going to discuss the development of temple murals in a series of posts, beginning with this one.

The first Mormon temples didn't have murals.  The Kirtland Ohio Temple was mainly a place for revelation to be received and heavenly messengers (angels and Jesus Christ) to come and give instruction and priesthood keys necessary for future temple ordinances.  The Nauvoo Temple was the first temple where the endowment ceremony was performed.  In this temple, endowments were performed in the attic level partly because as the structure was built members didn't know the endowment was going to be performed there.  To administer the endowment, the room on the top floor was divided using curtains.  Each divided off room section was then used to represent the various parts of life - creation, the Garden of Eden, the current world, the terrestrial world, and finally the Celestial Kingdom of God (Heaven).  Potted plants may have been used to give the rooms some connection to what they were to represent.  The rebuilt Nauvoo Temple contains murals as a tribute to what the early saints may have eventually added if they had stayed in Nauvoo.

When the saints arrived in Utah they started building temples.  While these were under construction, the endowment was given in several places.  The council house (now across the street from the Utah State Capitol Building) was used with curtains dividing a room into endowment areas.  Then the Endowment House was built on temple square and it included potted plants and murals in various rooms.

The next temple built was the St. George Utah Temple in 1877.  It lacked endowment rooms.  One of the two assembly rooms was simply divided into the various rooms for the presentation of the endowment.  In 1881 proper walls were added and murals were painted.
St. George Utah Temple Garden Room

St. George Utah Temple World Room
The first temple with true planned endowment rooms with murals was the Logan Utah Temple.  The Logan Temple was planned with progressive endowment rooms with a lot of movement from room to room during the endowment ceremony.  This movement strengthened the teachings of the endowment.  Patrons would see murals depicting the various parts of the endowment and would move higher and higher in the temple as they moved through the endowment ceremony.  Unfortunately this also meant there were a lot of stairs in the Logan Temple and this partly led to the temple being completely gutted and rebuilt in the 1970s.  This remodeling destroyed (or sometimes simply removed) intricate pioneer craftsmanship, fine detailing, the pioneer murals, and the progressive setup of the endowment rooms.  The Logan Temple inspired the use of progressive endowment rooms with murals in the Manti and Salt Lake Temples, as well as many more temples until the 1950s when presenting the endowment on film temporarily ended the use of endowment room murals.  It is extremely sad that the Logan Temple remodel didn't include progressive endowment rooms or murals in the new endowment rooms currently being used.  Hopefully it will someday be re-remodeled with progressive endowment rooms, murals, and fine detailing - even if the exact room layout cannot be restored.
Original Logan Temple Creation Room
Original Logan Temple Garden Room
Original Logan Temple World Room
Original Logan Temple Terrestrial Room
The murals in these early temples were painted by the pioneers.  Many of these had experience and training from their native countries.  In a future posting I will talk about how the church encouraged the development of better murals and art in temples through the Paris Arts Mission.

Please comment and let us know what you think.

This is an addition to the original post:
The Logan Temple original celestial room also had murals painted on either end of the room.  One was of Joseph Smith going to the Hill Cumorah to receive the gold plates the Book of Mormon was translated from.  The other mural shows Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist.  These murals were added to the room in 1929. (See The Logan Temple The First 100 Years by Nolan P. Olsen).  They weren't wrap around murals, and were essentially just huge paintings, but they are still murals and added to this temple.
Original Logan Temple Celestial Room With Mural


The Tolmans said...

I noticed in a earlier post you talked about how the garden room in the slc temple not having a mural cause of the green house. Also the world room in the Manti temple was panted by Minerva Teichert in the 1940s. So did some of the early temple endowment room have murals but not all?And where are you getting your sources for all this info?

Scott said...

The Salt Lake Temple always had garden room murals, but it also originally had a greenhouse that has since been removed. Sorry if that was not clear in the earlier post. My source is The Salt Lake Temple : A Monument to a People Centennial 1893 - 1993 and the photo I linked to, although I've read that elsewhere as well.

The Salt Lake Temple creation room originally didn't have murals. See The Salt Lake Temple : A Monument to a People Centennial 1893 - 1993 or The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern by James E Talmage. These are common Salt Lake Temple sources for me, although I have read a lot from all over. Sometimes my info comes from The Ensign or other official church publications. I also generally do a quick search before I write taking what I know and trying to figure out where it came from or verify it (I can't always remember the source) and sometimes to find more information.

As for the Manti Temple, I plan to talk about that in my next murals posting. In that temple the original murals in the garden and world room decayed to the point where they couldn't be saved. That is when Minerva Teichert painted the world room murals. I'll link to the article I got that information from when I post about the Manti Temple murals.

Jon said...

Not to be a nit-picker, but you might want to change the double-g in your title to a double-n.

Scott said...

Done. Thanks for the catch. Sometimes I proof read these, other times I don't. Google usually has a spell checker, but it apparently doesn't apply to post titles.

Travis Brinton said...

Thank you for finding these photos of the Logan Temple from before the 1977 reconstruction. I had looked for such photos and was unsuccessful.

Now that I've seen them, I'm not quite as choked up about the loss of the original. It doesn't look like the Logan Temple featured craftsmanship on par with Manti or Salt Lake. But maybe that's partially because some had already been lost in the 1949 remodel. It's clear that some features in these photos aren't original pioneer vintage--the chairs, for instance, and it also looks like the ceilings had been dropped.

Scott said...

Seeing these pictures had the opposite effect on me. It made me mad that they destroyed this. Yes, ceilings had been dropped and needed to be raised; however, the art was great. I also love all the staircases (which made it hard for old people, but looked cool and made for excellent progression). I really like the world room staircase. I think the craftsmanship was on par with Salt Lake and Manti, although I have also seen the whole set of pictures. The craftsmanship is also evident in details such as in the gold room where the intricate gold pattern was applied directly to the plaster walls with a hot iron. The doorknobs are also very detailed. Look at the stairs and railing craftsmanship which is detailed and involved.
If you want to see the whole set, go to the Church History Library and look at the booklet The Logan Temple 1884-1984 it is by the centennial committee and is about 30 pages long. It is unfortunately out of print.

Brett said...

Excellent photos of the Logan Temple...what a terrible terrible shame to have lost all of that for 1970's kitsch. What a travesty...those photos show an beautiful temple with nice variances to the the others from that period.

D1Warbler said...

One of the most fun parts of the early Logan Temple Endowment was the star shaped holes cut in the ceiling of the Creation room. At the appropriate time in the Endowment, those "stars" were illuminated from behind. (One of the few things I remember from my Own Endowment experience other than the fact that I thought the Temple was amazing and I could hardly wait to go back!)

D1Warbler said...


From one who saw the murals in the Logan Temple pre-remodel -- they were beautiful! Just because the photos you have seen don't show them in their best light, that doesn't mean that they were in any way inferior to those in the Salt Lake Temple.

Will said...

Don F. Covlin provides an excellent description of the interior of the original Nauvoo temple in his "Nauvoo Temple: A Story of Faith". Quoting Heber C. Kimbell's "On the Potter's Wheel," Covlin relates that along with his son Kimball had picked up "about 25 or thirty Flower Pots with Ever greens in them to adorn our garden." Covlin then proceeds to explain that "these evergreens, latter referred to as cedar trees, had been kept indoors during the cold weather in various houses throughout the city. They had been collected by Hiram Kimball at his home and were now available for use in the decorating the temple" (Covlin 220). As it pertains to other furnishings used in the attic of the Nauvoo Temple, Covlin relates the following also based on Kimball's record: "The eastern one-third of the large central main room (as it was partitioned off) became known as the celestial room of the temple. Dimensions of this area were about 27 by 28 feet. It was described as a 'very large and spacious room, perfectly light, all nicely furnished' with 'splendid tables and four splendid sofas.' Also placed around the room were chairs and a marble clock. Hung on the walls were mirrors, maps, painted portraits, and landscapes. This celestial room area was described a visitor as 'handsomely and even elegantly furnished.'" (Covlin 220)