Vernal Utah Temple

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Vernal Utah Mormon Temple
Vernal Utah Temple

The Vernal Utah Temple is the 51st operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On February 13, 1994, the First Presidency of the Church announced that a temple would be built in Vernal, Utah. The Vernal Temple is the 10th temple in Utah.

A groundbreaking ceremony and site dedication were held on May 13, 1995. Then-president of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, presided at the meeting and gave the dedicatory prayer.

Brief History of the Building

The Vernal Utah Temple is unique because it was the first temple to be built from an existing structure. (Others followed, including the Copenhagen Denmark Temple, which was made from an existing chapel and dedicated in 2004.) The temple was adapted from the Uintah Stake tabernacle building. The original building was constructed from 1899 to 1907. The foundation was made of sandstone and the walls were made of brick fired from local clay. The building was constructed mostly by volunteers. President of the Church at the time, Joseph F. Smith, dedicated the tabernacle on August 24, 1907.

In 1948 a stake center was built near the tabernacle and the tabernacle was only used irregularly. In 1984 the Church closed the tabernacle. In 1989, the leaders of the Church decided to turn the building into a temple, but the plans were not announced until 1994.

From Tabernacle to Temple

R. Scott Lloyd of the Church News wrote: "Unprecedented as it is, converting an existing structure into a temple presented significant challenges to architects and builders. The entire tabernacle interior was removed and ground beneath it excavated to make way for the characteristic features of a temple.

"The building literally was just four walls by the time construction started," observed Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy, who serves as temple committee chairman and president of the Utah South Area.
"That's right," agreed Roger Jackson, chief architect with FFKR in Salt Lake City, the firm that designed the new temple. "The walls are four bricks thick. We actually took off the inside layer of brick and did some reinforcing to the entire building and left just the four walls and part of the roof. The original roof was made of hand-sawn, thick, huge, timber trusses. We thought we could save them, so the roof trusses stayed, but the rest of the roof came down, and then we built on to the roof trusses. So basically, we kept the outside and built a new building inside."
Compliance with specifications for room size and arrangement required some give and take, he noted. "That's why there's an addition on the east of the building, new construction to help make everything fit."
The project included additional brick, some dating from the time of the tabernacle's construction, and some manufactured to match the original.
Some of the period brick came from a house in the community that belonged to Nick Megher (pronounced "Marr"), not a member of the Church. He donated the house, vacant at the time, for use in the temple's construction, but unfortunately died before it was completed.
"From samples, it was determined fairly accurately that the brick in this house came from the same kiln as the brick used to build the tabernacle, Abner N. Swain Brickworks," said Kathi Irving, Vernal Temple historian. "The brick was made from local red clay. The amazing thing is that back then it took 100 cords of wood to keep the kiln at peak heat for the three days it took to bake the adobes into bricks."
Sister Irving said 1,128 people donated more than 5,000 hours to dismantle the house and salvage 16,000 bricks for the temple. "We had members of the Church from all over the place involved, including a youth group from Salt Lake," she said.
Some of the salvaged brick was used in a gate on the west end of the temple, the historic entrance to the tabernacle. Some was used to replace cracked and chipped bricks on the temple facade.
The theme of adaptive re-use seems to pervade the temple's construction and fixtures. The characteristic 12 sculpted oxen that bear the temple's baptismal font on their backs were part of an exhibit in the South Visitors' Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The oxen had been in storage since the visitors center was remodeled three years ago.
Some of the benches from the old tabernacle were refurbished for use in the temple's chapel.
And a stained-glass window on the east wall of the temple, depicting the Savior surrounded by a flock of sheep and holding a lamb, has a history of its own. Sister Irving said it was made originally for the Mt. Olivet Methodist Episcopal Church of Hollywood, Calif., in the 1920s. The LDS Church bought the building in 1937 and used it as a meetinghouse until the early 1990s. The window had been in storage since the building was demolished.
The tabernacle originally had a window on the east side, but it had been bricked in. The brick was removed for placement of the stained-glass window. Sister Irving said artist Willie Littig created an 11-piece art-glass frame that complements the window and is consistent with art glass elsewhere in the temple.
Other distinctive features of the temple:
Furniture built in the style of the early 1900s, when the tabernacle was constructed.
Walls in several rooms are hand-painted with decorative patterns appropriate to the area, such as sego lillies and wheat stocks.
Original paintings by artists Valoy Eaton, David Ahrnsbrak, A.D. Shaw, Richard Murray, and Chad Hawkins depict scenes in the area.
Two domed towers on opposite ends of the building, the top of the west tower being 80 feet from the ground, the east 98 feet with a gold-leafed statue of the angel Moroni. The towers replicate the tabernacle's original tower, which has been placed as a gazebo-like ornament in a nearby park.
Original trees on the property complemented with new vegetation and a wrought-iron fence featuring brick pilasters.
"Latter-day Saints have lived in eastern Utah's Ashley Valley, which includes Vernal, since 1877, the first ones having been sent there by President John Taylor at the behest of Thomas Bingham, whose family became the vanguard for other settlers. The Uintah Stake was created in 1886, and in 1900, work commenced on the tabernacle, taking seven years to complete.
"When President Joseph F. Smith dedicated the tabernacle in August 1907, he said he "would not be surprised if a temple were built here some day." Conversion of the tabernacle into a temple is a remarkable fulfillment of his prophecy."[1]

One of the spires was made taller, and an angel Moroni was placed on top of the spire.

Open House and Dedication

An open house was held to allow the public to take tours of the interior of the temple from October 11th through the 25th in 1997. More than 120,000 people toured the temple during the open house.

Gordon B. Hinckley officially dedicated the Vernal Utah Temple on November 2-4, 1997.

The Vernal Utah Temple has a total of 38,771 square feet, two ordinance rooms, and three sealing rooms.

External Links

Temples in Utah