Sunday, September 30, 2012

LDS Temple Art - Restoration Themes

I wanted to highlight some art in LDS Temples that is related to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the last dispensation of the gospel (1820 to now).

Many temples depict the First Vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith.  Some notable examples are in the Salt Lake Temple Holy of Holies which has a stained glass window of the vision (top below), in the lobby of the Palmyra New York Temple (which is overlooking the actual grove of trees where the vision occurred (middle below), and in the entry of the Redlands California Temple which also has a stained glass window of the vision (bottom below).


Another popular restoration theme is of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood and of baptisms in modern times.  The Cardston Alberta Canada Temple has murals in its baptistry including ones of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood in May of 1829.  This event is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 13.  Copies of this mural are found in the Logan Utah Temple and the Helsinki Finland Temple (top below). The Mesa Arizona Temple has a mural of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery baptizing each other after having received the priesthood from the angel (middle below).  The Manti Utah Temple also has murals of baptisms (I believe of Joseph Smith and Oliver) that can be seen in the bottom photo below (although they are somewhat cut off).  There is also a depiction of these baptisms in the newly completed Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple.  I was pleased to see that the baptistry mural in the Brigham City Temple depicts baptisms in a stream near Brigham City, presumably during pioneer times.  There is also a painting at the back of the baptistry chapel of a Native American being ordained near Brigham City in pioneer times.

The Salt Lake Temple used to have a mural of Joseph Smith preaching to Native Americans.  Currently the  Mesa Arizona Temple includes a large mural of Joseph Smith and others preaching to the Native Americans in the 1830s.

The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple World Room mural has a depiction of pioneers arriving by wagons, a couple farming the land, and of seagulls coming to rescue the pioneers from the plague of crickets.
The Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple has many pioneer related items and art.  Most notable is a large window made like a quilt, but out of glass.  It contains images related to Winter Quarters and the Mormon migration such as the prophet Brigham Young, the Kanesville Tabernacle, pioneers burying a child, Brigham Young signing a treaty with the Native Americans, Native Americans who mercifully helped the saints, the odometer which was invented there, etc.
The Salt Lake Temple has several other restoration themed pieces of art.  One sealing room has a stained glass depiction of Joseph Smith receiving the plates that he translated into The Book of Mormon from the Angel Moroni.
In the downstairs portion of the main hallway in the Salt Lake Temple there are two prominent paintings on opposite sides of the hallway by Alfred Lambourne.  These are of The Hill Cumorah and Adam-Ondi-Ahman.  The painting of the Hill Cumorah (below) shows the hill where Joseph Smith received the plates that were translated into The Book of Mormon.  This hill in New York state may not be the same as the hill mentioned in The Book of Mormon and was not referred to as the Hill Cumorah until many years after Joseph Smith obtained the plates there, but it is often associated with the Hill Cumorah in The Book of Mormon where the Nephite nation was destroyed.  Lambourne played off of this.  The painting is both showing the Hill with its positive associations of the Nephite record, and it has an ominous tone reminding us that just as the Nephites were eventually destroyed for their wickedness, we need to remain righteous and keep our temple covenants if we are to keep receiving The LORD's blessings.  The painting of the valley of Adam-Ondi-Ahman shows the valley in Missouri where several notable events occurred and will occur.  The Doctrine and Covenants states that Adam and Eve went to this valley after leaving the Garden of Eden and that Adam gathered and blessed his posterity there.  A temple site was dedicated there in the 1830s, but the temple was never built.  Finally, the Doctrine and Covenants contains a prophecy that as part of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, HE will appear there and minister to the righteous.  This painting works with the Hill Cumorah painting.  Our obedience or disobedience to God and his covenants we make in the temple will determine if we end up like the Nephites, destroyed as at Cumorah, or if we end up with the faithful, gloriously greeted by the returning Messiah.  By the way, Lambourne made 2 copies of each painting.  One set is in the Salt Lake Temple.  The other set is on display on the first floor of the Church History Library in Salt Lake City so the general public can view these.
Finally, there are several temples with sculptures related to the restoration.  Most notably, the Laie Hawaii Temple has a sculpted frieze of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times (below) which depicts events from 1820 onward.  There is a bronze replica of this sculpture in the Church History Library on the first floor.  The Mesa Arizona Temple also has sculpted friezes showing the gathering of Israel from the four corners of the earth and depicts various groups joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with most immigrating to be with the church.  These can be seen in my post on sculpures here or in this article from The Ensign magazine.

There are many other examples of restoration themed art in LDS temples.  I noticed a painting of the heavenly visitations that occurred in the Kirtland Temple in the Manhattan New York and Brigham City Utah Temples.  Please comment and share what restoration themed art you have noticed in temples.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Brigham City Utah Temple

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Brigham City Utah Temple open house.  It was a wonderful experience and I'd like to share some of my impressions about this temple.

First, if you haven't already, you can go to the following link and download photos of the interior:
http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormon-brigham-city-utah-temple-opens-for-public-tours
That link will not stay up forever, so get the photos now if you want them.

I loved the detail in the Brigham City Temple.  The style is meant to tie back to the pioneer temples (Salt Lake, Logan, Manti and St George temples in Utah).  It does this through a number of features.  On the exterior, the two main towers with spires and four corner towers echo the pioneer temples.  On the interior, the neoclassical style feels similar to the ornate grandeur of the pioneer temples, particularly Salt Lake and Manti.

One detail I particularly liked was the use of a cast bronze font instead of the white fiberglass fonts that have been used in recent years.  I like that it makes it look more like the fonts used from pioneer times through about the 1950s.  I also like it because as much as I like white oxen, you need to occasionally do something different.  It feels fresh and I like that.

Brigham City Temple Baptistry
While you are admiring the photo of the font, make sure that you notice the original paintings in this room.  There are a lot  of new paintings in this temple.  I particularly want to point out the painting of baptisms being performed in a river in the Brigham City area seen in the photo, and a painting of a Native American being confirmed in pioneer times which is also in the baptistry.  I also noticed several paintings of people harvesting fruit.  One was a lady placing apples in a basket.  These tied into the history of Brigham City which is known for its orchards, and they tie into the temple and gospel themes of gathering, fruit, harvest, etc.  In the Matron's office, which leads into the Bride's Room, there are some paintings of birds that were painted by President Boyd K. Packer, current president of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles who was raised in Brigham City and who used to go to school on the site the temple was built on.  I'm not sure if President Packer's love of birds influenced the endowment room murals, but they are full of numerous birds.  Brigham City is also home to a bird sanctuary and many varieties of birds are in the area due to the very close proximity of the Great Salt Lake and its tributaries.  I enjoyed the endowment room murals.

Brigham City Utah Temple Endowment Room A
This temple has a lot of ornate decorations.  This is very apparent in the second endowment room, essentially the Terrestrial Room, which is ornate enough to pass for a Celestial Room in most temples.  I really enjoyed the room.  If you look at the photos, notice the unique wood carving above the curtain.  It is also in the Celestial Room and Sealing Rooms.  The wood carving is extremely impressive in this temple.  The wood was rough carved by machine and then all finished my hand.  The detail is spectacular, and you really do have to see it in person to realize just how incredible it is.

The Celestial Room has stunning detail.  You can look at the photos.  If I remember correctly there are gold peach branches on the ceiling of the room.  I also noticed that the cream on white "wallpaper" appeared to be hand painted stenciling and not wallpaper.  The sculpted peach blossoms in the carpet were also beautifully done.

Brigham City Temple Sealing Room
The sealing rooms were probably my favorite part of this temple.  The photos the church has provided unfortunately skip the best part.  The ceilings of the room have a circular section painted blue with peach branches in bloom running over the top.  So looking up from the altar it looks like you are laying under a peach tree looking through the white and pink blossoms towards a clear blue sky.  I used to have a peach tree and loved it in spring, so I really liked this detail.  Also, if I remember correctly, the peach branches on the ceiling were also in the Celestial Room, but only in the sealing room were they fully in bloom with colorful blossoms.  So I liked that symbolism.  The sealing rooms may be my favorite of any temple, although I'm not certain about that.  The detail is stunning.

There are many other aspects of this temple that I loved.  I liked the unifying peach blossom motif.  The intricate stone inlays were beautifully crafted.  Many colors were incorporated into the temple making it more interesting than the white and off white color schemes found in most temples, while still being light and inspiring.  The stained glass is really beautiful.  Also, the railings and woodwork are very nicely done and detailed.

I could go on, and perhaps I will later add some to this post.  For now, I'd like to hear what your thoughts are on this spectacularly done temple.  So please comment.

One final note, the detail in this temple makes me optimistic that someday they will restore the Logan Temple with this level of detail.  Clearly we can still build temples as ornate as the pioneers.