OGDEN -- For those who don't believe a regular Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house could be ornate or remarkable, the Ogden Fourth Ward meeting house, now home to the Ogden Utah stake offices, at 2125 Jefferson Ave., is a sight to behold.
The building, constructed with volunteer labor by ward members during the Depression, may just be the most decorated ward house in the state.
"It gave people something to work on," said Ilene Smith. "It gave them hope."
Smith, who is the daughter of Edward T. Saunders, the bishop who oversaw the building's nearly eight-year construction, said that at the time the congregation voted unanimously to build an extra-special ward house, families were going without.
But, she said, working on the extensive project made them forget their troubles.
And those who have an interest in the building are hoping to share their treasure with the public at an open house from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 7.
The Ogden Fourth Ward meeting house, originally dedicated in October 1937, has just undergone a renovation from a retuning of its pipe organ, a relic that once entertained visitors at the White City Ballroom, to an addition of much-needed upstairs bathrooms.
Area members look forward to next Saturday's display of the building's many unique characteristics, which include richly detailed molding, stained-glass windows throughout and a secluded "tower" room once used for sacred temple ceremonies before Ogden had its own temple.
Following the event will be a rededication from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8, which also is open to the public.
Smith calls the building a miracle.
"My father believed Gothic architecture lent itself to more of a spiritual nature," Smith said, explaining the themes in the design of the building.
Jeremy Peterson, a member of the Ogden stake high counsel and a member of the rededication committee, said he had heard that the Ogden 4th Ward could not get official approval for its elaborate designs decades ago from church headquarters but went about building the church of their dreams anyway.
In a tour of the building this week, Peterson pointed out the efforts to include only the very best in the building at the time, as well as efforts of ward members to be frugal.
The building cost $1 million to construct, which he said, if calculated for today's inflation rates would be the equivalent of spending nearly $13 million today.
Peterson said the stained-glass windows were imported from Italy.
But he said the infrastructure of the building was made largely of bricks salvaged from the ward's previous building.
Evidence of members' efforts to salvage what they could is in a large safe inside the building.
The etching of the words "LDS Meeting Church 1888" can be read on the back wall of the safe.
Peterson believes the words came from a sign that formerly adorned the ward's original building.
Smith said skilled craftsmen, who were members of the ward, gave all they could in adorning their church.
She said Castle Murphy was a master craftsman who was responsible for much of the extensive woodworking in the building.
And there were others.
"It was just a complete cooperative effort," Smith said. "It was paid for with the sweat, blood and devotion of the Saints."
But she said there were those of financial means who did not hold back, either.
She said her father told her about business owners in the ward who were generous donors, saying the building would not have been possible without their support.
Smith said all the members at that time played huge roles in getting the building completed. She said her father, who was a professional contractor, could not have erected the building without everyone's help.
James Martin, who was Saunders' counselor for the entire 19 years he was bishop, Smith said, worked tirelessly to do what he could for the building.
And Smith said Heavenly Father blessed Martin for his efforts.
She said many in the ward retold of a miracle involving a turkey.
As the story went, Smith said, Martin told her father that he wasn't going to be able to assist him on a day of digging trenches for the church's utilities.
Martin had secured a job for that day, and he said he was going to earn enough money to be able to purchase a turkey for his family for Thanksgiving.
"My father said 'Jim, if you come and help me, I promise you your family will have a turkey for Thanksgiving,'" Smith said. "My father didn't know why he said that. He didn't even have a turkey for his own family."
So Martin was faithful and went about helping Saunders on the day in question.
And when they were done, they found a live turkey that had wandered into the church.
Smith said later as the turkey miracle news spread through the congregation, a woman remembered seeing a truck full of live turkeys on 21st Street that day.
Smith believes one of the turkeys must have fallen off that truck only to wander into the church to answer the promise her dad had made.
But even without knowing such stories, there are those who recognize the miracle of the church being built during a time of much need. Peterson said:
"Boyd K. Packer visited this church five years ago. He said, 'Don't let anybody demolish this building.'"