Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple

The Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple (in a suburb of Omaha) is a wonderful temple that I'd like to highlight today.

Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple
The temple is one of the first style of small temples with some notable differences.  It is two stories tall and is built into a hill.  It actually shares a floor plan with the Snowflake Arizona Temple.  In this case, the hill is actually the pioneer cemetery.  Winter Quarters was one location where the saints spent the winter after being driven from Nauvoo, Illinois and before reaching Utah.  Many died there and have hallowed the ground.  Now the temple adds to the sacredness of the location.  I like that because the temple is built into the hill, the baptistry is at the same level as the interred dead providing wonderful symbolism.

Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple Celestial Room Windows
Okay, I'll briefly address the architectural weaknesses of the building.  It is one of the early small temples; consequently, it looks similar to a lot of temples.  It also has a spire that looks more like a chimney.  From the outside, the temple is nice, but not very grand.  This isn't all bad.  Because the temple isn't huge it doesn't distract from the cemetery.  In fact, from the cemetery you can only really see the Celestial Room windows that are a stained glass representation of the Tree of Life.  I think this maintains (and enhances) the peace in the cemetery and enhances the temple at the same time.

Winter Quarters Temple Entry
Now I'll move onto the many positive aspects of this temple.  As you enter the temple, you will notice that the doors are very unique.  The entry glass is covered in (brass?) metal grill work covered in metal grapes with a floral depiction on the glass doors (olive?).  Grapes and olives are found throughout the temple.  Once inside, you see the recommend desk with a stained glass window of a trail going through trees.  The LDS Church News reported:
The window behind the recommend desk features a river with seven trees adjacent to it, symbolic of seven gospel dispensations in the history of the world. The river alludes to Psalm 1:3, which speaks of a righteous man who is "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall also not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
The leaf in this passage Brother Holdman interprets as representing the posterity of God's righteous children, and he has shown the leaves on the tree linked together, as righteous posterity are linked in an endless chain.
Moreover, the scene alludes to Revelation 22:1-2, "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits. . . ."
Thus, Brother Holdman used pulverized crystal to form the river, symbolic of the use of the word crystal in the scriptural passage. That also signifies the sacrifice of the early Church members who crushed their china and silver to mix with mortar in the walls of the Kirtland Temple to make it shimmer.  The river of life, in fact, is a unifying motif, flowing down through the window images, beginning at the Celestial Room, alluding to Ezekiel 37, which speaks of living waters issuing from the House of the Lord. In the baptistry, the river appears to flow into the baptismal font.
Winter Quarters Temple Font
The baptismal font is on the other side of the glass.  The baptistry has a chapel (unique in this size of temple).  Three art glass windows go between the chapel and the font.  One window has an olive branch bearing olives, another has a fig branch bearing figs, the last has an almond branch bearing fruit and flowers representing the rod of Aaron that blossomed and bore fruit and was kept in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the ancient Tabernacle.   This is a symbol of the Aaronic Priesthood and therefore fitting for a temple baptistry.  The LDS Church News article further states:

Windows in the baptistry are bordered with quilt patterns from that era, a log-cabin pattern and crown-of-thorns pattern, signifying the sacrifices of the pioneers who wrapped the bodies of their departed loved ones in quilts before burial.
Some of the stained-glass themes hearken to designs on the Salt Lake Temple. And in one of the dressing rooms is a representation of the North Star and the Big Dipper constellations in the exact orientation that they would have to each other on April 6 . . . in 1830. (The stars are formed by holes drilled in the glass, which makes them appear to twinkle.)
Beneath the temple's spire there are six windows, three are in the men's dressing room on the top floor.  See July 2003 Ensign.  It describes the windows as follows:
Each panel contains a mariner’s compass. In the center of each compass are stars and the moon, representing the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms. The glowing rays of the sun make up the outer ring of each compass, representing the celestial kingdom. The bottom three panels depict a river, rolling hills, and wildflowers.
When you go upstairs, you might also notice the windows in the lobby directly above the recommend desk.  This lobby has a window with 12 images from Church history relating to Winter Quarters.   The images are:

Brigham Young
The Kanesville Tabernacle
Winter Quarter's Grist Mill
The Pioneer Roadometer (the odometer was invented by the pioneers)
William Clayton writing the hymn "Come, Come, Ye Saints"
Pioneers building cabins
Brigham Young signing papers to enlist the Mormon Battalion
The chief of the Omaha Indians who was kind to the saints and let them stay at winter quarters
Pioneers crossing a river
Handcart pioneers
A mother and a father burying a child.

The church news explained about this last pane:
A father and mother are shown in winter walking away from the grave where they have buried a loved one, he supporting her in their mutual grief. The shovel he carries points toward the grave site. Near the grave grows a tree, laden with fruit. Yes, it is an unseasonable element in a winter scene, but intended so: It depicts the tree of life, symbolizing the hope of exaltation and eternal life for those who die in the Lord.
If you read the article you will notice other small details that are hidden in the art.  When I visited the temple, the workers pointed out that in the lobby there are thistles painted on the ceiling.  They suggested that the thistle could represent trials.  I can see this, but I also know that it is a royal flower (shown with a crown when representing Scotland).  The purple flower is a royal color.  I also read that the pioneers ate thistles to keep from starving (in addition to the Sego Lily, also represented in this temple).

Winter Quarters Temple Creation/Garden/World Room
The endowment rooms don't have murals, but the first does have two fitting paintings.  The first is of the Missouri River (continuing the river theme) and the second is of Chimney Rock in Nebraska.  This was a landmark on the pioneer trail.  It also has special temple significance as reported in the institute manual Church History in the Fullness of Times:
On 26 May the company passed Chimney Rock—a principal landmark in Wyoming—which was considered the halfway mark by emigrating Saints. It was near Chimney Rock that Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball expressed concern over the lightmindedness and profanity of some camp members who were holding mock trials and elections, gambling, and playing cards. Late one evening the two senior Apostles, moved by the Spirit, discussed calling the camp to repentance. The next day Brigham Young spoke to the men plainly.
William Clayton recalled Brigham saying, “Give me the man of prayers, give me the man of faith, give me the man of meditation, a sober-minded man, and I would far rather go amongst the savages with six or eight such men than to trust myself with the whole of this camp with the spirit they now possess. . . . Do we suppose that we are going to look out a home for the Saints, a resting place, a place of peace where they can build up the kingdom and bid the nations welcome, with a low, mean, dirty, trifling, covetous, wicked spirit dwelling in our bosoms? It is vain!” He concluded with a call to repentance: “If they [the brethren] will not enter into a covenant to put away their iniquity and turn to the Lord and serve Him and acknowledge and honor His name, I want them to take their wagons and retreat back, for I shall go no farther under such a state of things. If we don’t repent and quit our wickedness we will have more hinderances than we have had, and worse storms to encounter.”
The following day, Sunday, Brigham Young convened a special meeting of the leaders. They went out on the bluffs, clothed themselves in their temple robes, and held a prayer circle. William Clayton said they “offered up prayer to God for ourselves, this camp and all pertaining to it, the brethren in the army, our families and all the Saints.” Thereafter a more saintly atmosphere prevailed in the camp.
Winter Quarters Temple Terrestrial Room
The design of these two endowment rooms is essentially the same as the other first small temples, but they are decorated a little differently and are beautifully done.  I really like the sconces, chairs, and railings which are intentionally designed to match 1840s decor.

The celestial room is stunning.  Throughout the temple there are depictions of the state flowers from the five states that the pioneers traveled through on their way to Utah.  In the Celestial Room there is the aforementioned stained glass window of the tree of life.  The window also contains state flowers including the Sego Lily.  The Church News explained:
Throughout the temple on art-glass windows are represented the state flowers of the five states through which pioneers trekked — Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah. In the Celestial Room is the sego lily, designated as the state flower of Utah because its roots provided sustenance for the Pioneers during their first winter. It was as manna from heaven for them, Brother Holdman noted. Thus the presence of the flower in the celestial room represents the completion of their journey to the promised land and alludes to Revelation 2:7,17, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. . . . To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna."
Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple Celestial Room

The Celestial Room is also unique with details such as a chandelier in a style fitting with the pioneer period instead of the standard modern chandelier used in other temples of this style.

Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple Sealing Room Detail
The sealing rooms again use art glass.  An image of parents with children is in the center pane.  The center top pane also has a crown at the top.

I love the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple.  It has been finely built and filled with symbols and beauty.  It works with the sacredness of the site and enhances it.  This temple effectively honors and remembers the pioneers and their sacrifice while bringing us closer to God.

Please comment and tell us what you think about the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple.


His Image in Our Countenance said...

Thank you, I love the symbolism contained in this building!

Anonymous said...

I love this temple. It is very near and dear to my heart. My whole family was sealed for time and all eternity.

When I think of the Winter Quarters Temple I think of my eternal family. :)

seashmore said...

In October 1997, there was a terrible snowstorm that left downed tree branches all over the place. Much of the Omaha metro area was without power for days. The Saints in the region (relatively disproportionate to the general population) got together and went to work. The City of Omaha was grateful, and remembered the service when the Church looked into purchasing the land for the temple.

Another neat design bit is the carpet. It's a vine in sage green, and is currently laid so that each leaf is connected to every other leaf, even as the vine travels up the stairs, symbolic of how all of us are connected to the same family tree.

All of the door handles on the level of the baptistry are brass, while all the ones upstairs are gold.

Something I recently learned is that the circle is symbolic of heaven/eternity (among the Native American tribes local to the area, I believe), and a square is symbolic of the four corners of the earth. Many places in the Winter Quarters temple feature a circle inside of a square, or heaven on earth, such as those worked into the borders of the art glass in the baptistry and sealing rooms.

Anonymous said...

To build on seashmore's comment, I heard a story that some of the land for the temple was sold by the Catholic Church to the LDS church for $1 because of the Saints' service after the storm. Any confirmation whether this is true? I've looked around online and haven't found anything so I am assuming that part of the story is just Mormon folklore