First of an era / Ogden ushered in a new direction of temple building for the LDS Church with an emphasis on ordinance work

Apr 3 2010 - 12:36am

Images

(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) The Ogden Temple had an Angel Moroni statue added in 2002. The steeple of the temple was also changed from gold to white.
David O. McKay. The LDS president from 1951-1970 announced in 1967 that a temple would be built in Ogden. He was a native of Huntsville.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) The Ogden Tabernacle steeple will be taken down as part of the temple restoration.
(Courtesy photo) The old Ogden Tabernacle at the corner of 22nd Street and Washington Boulevard was torn down during construction of the temple.
(Utah Historical Society) Emil Fetzer was the lead architect for the Ogden and Provo temples. He died in November at age 93.
(LDS.org) The Ogden Temple and Tabernacle are shown the way they will look after renovation.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) The Ogden Temple had an Angel Moroni statue added in 2002. The steeple of the temple was also changed from gold to white.
David O. McKay. The LDS president from 1951-1970 announced in 1967 that a temple would be built in Ogden. He was a native of Huntsville.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) The Ogden Tabernacle steeple will be taken down as part of the temple restoration.
(Courtesy photo) The old Ogden Tabernacle at the corner of 22nd Street and Washington Boulevard was torn down during construction of the temple.
(Utah Historical Society) Emil Fetzer was the lead architect for the Ogden and Provo temples. He died in November at age 93.
(LDS.org) The Ogden Temple and Tabernacle are shown the way they will look after renovation.

Read more on our LDS General Conference page

OGDEN -- For 89 years, there was only one temple along the Wasatch Front for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- Salt Lake City.

It was the announcement of temples for Ogden and Provo in 1967 that would usher in a building push for temples that in the next 43 years would see 116 more built around the world and nine more in Utah, with temples in Payson and Brigham City now in the planning stage.

Before Ogden was dedicated in January 1972, Utah had just the four pioneer-era or 19th-century temples -- St. George, Logan, Manti and Salt Lake City. Ogden was also the first temple dedicated when Utah was a state, not a territory.

The LDS Church did build nine other temples during those years, scattered between two world wars and when circumstances and church finances would allow. They were, in order: Laie, Hawaii (1919); Cardston Alberta, Canada (1923); Mesa, Ariz. (1927); Idaho Falls (1945); Bern, Switzerland (1955); Los Angeles (1956); Hamilton, New Zealand (1958); London (1958); and Oakland, Calif. (1964).

Former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley described the purpose of temples this way.

"For the most part, temple work is concerned with the family, with each of us as members of God's eternal family and with each of us as members of earthly families," he said. "It is concerned with the sanctity and eternal nature of the marriage covenant and family relationships."

The possibility of additional temples along the Wasatch Front began to be discussed in the 1950s, according to the book "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism" by Gregory Prince. The book reports that the scope of temple building changed with the 1967 announcement of a temple for Ogden and a sister temple in Provo from McKay, a Huntsville native, who was then president of the LDS Church.

Prince quoted from then-church architect Emil Fetzer that McKay told him to design "functional and economical" temples where members of the church could do more "efficient" temple work.

Temple work for members of the LDS Church is first done for themselves and they then return to the temple to do the work for those who have died.

A few paragraphs later in the book on McKay, Fetzer describes his nervousness in showing the design to the First Presidency at the time.

"I took the perspective of the building and put it up on the easel," Fetzer is quoted as saying in the book. "You know how Ogden and Provo are, they are a little bit different than anything else."

He recalls hearing a gasp in the room and McKay being asked, "Does this design offend you?" Prince continues that Fetzer immediately wondered how he could make the buildings look like Salt Lake's?

McKay then said he liked the design and they were built -- "functionally and economically" -- for just more than $4 million each. It was estimated at the time that to build another temple to the scope of the one in Los Angeles would have cost $12 million. McKay, 96, didn't live to see the Ogden and Provo temples finished.

He died four months after ground was broken for the Ogden temple in September 1969.

The two temples were dedicated by McKay's successor as president, Joseph Fielding Smith.

Fetzer, who died in November 2009 at age 93, was also part of the design team for the Washington, D.C., temple and designed the Jordan River, Mexico City and other temples.

LaMar Buckner, 87, who served as president of the Ogden temple from 1987-90, recalled enthusiasm, no matter the look.

"There was a great excitement to think there would be a temple right here. We recognized it was different than any other temple to that point," he said. "But we would have welcomed any designed temple."

Ogden is one of only four LDS temples with six endowment rooms.

Prince pointed out that, in the first month of operation, Ogden had 75,000 endowments completed compared to 50,000 for Salt Lake. Provo, dedicated a month later, also bettered Salt Lake's numbers.

Since the LDS Church changed from live to film-based temple sessions, most LDS temples have been built with that concept of the endowment rooms being accessible to the celestial room.

The Ogden temple is built on a downtown parcel of land, known for years as Tabernacle Square.

The current tabernacle, north of the temple, was finished in 1956. There was also an old tabernacle at the southeast corner dedicated in 1859 that was torn down during construction of the temple. Sherman Willard, of Harrisville, remembers many "were sad to see it go."

He reflected that the tabernacle was so close to the street that one step and you were on the "sidewalk of 22nd Street."

Willard remembered if you were in the back of the building and called to come to the front during a meeting, many would exit out the back door, walk down the street and go in the front door.

"Many people were surprised that it (the tabernacle) was taken down so quickly," Buckner said. "But it was."

The temple was updated eight years ago with a Moroni statue and the steeple color was switched from gold to white. A similar change was made in Provo.

A new era for the temple was announced in February when plans were shown to do a major update of the exterior, which will look similar to temples such as Draper.

Elder William R. Walker, of the Quorum of the Seventy, says the cost of the change will be similar to that of building a new temple. The main entrance to the temple will be switched from the west to east side and there will be new landscaping. The steeple on the tabernacle will also be removed.

"The Ogden Utah Temple has been a beacon of faith in downtown Ogden for nearly 40 years and has blessed those who have served and worshipped within its walls," Walker said. "We hope these improvements will not only better serve church members, but also add to the beauty of downtown Ogden for all to enjoy."

He went on to say that the current exterior was seen by the current First Presidency as "somewhat dated," but that no plans were in the work to do a similar refurbishing on the Provo Temple.

The announcement hasn't been without questions.

"As the church's 14th and 15th operating temples, and two of four built in the 1970s, these (Ogden and Provo temples) were designed for ordinance work, and not as places of refuge and communion for the faithful adherents ..." wrote Salt Lake City architect Steven Cornell on his blog at Utah-rchitecture.com.

"As the sense of urgency for temple work increased, 26 temples were constructed in the 1980's, 24 in the 1990's, and 61 in the first decade of the 21st century. The update to the Ogden facade represents a rejection of the history associated with these specific temples."

Cornell, who works for Cooper Roberts Simonsen Associates with an emphasis in preservation, added later in a phone interview that architecture should be more than personal likes or dislikes.

"Whether you like or dislike the architecture of a building is a superficial way to look at it," he said. "You need to look at the history, culture and context in which it was built."

Buckner, still a temple worker in Ogden, took a more optimistic approach.

"I'm excited for the changes," he said. "It will be a great addition to downtown."

The timing of the announcement also raised other questions about the future of temples in the Top of Utah.

Some people have wondered why the Brigham City temple announced at October's conference won't be finished before Ogden's is closed for 18 to 24 months.

Some people have thought that maybe Brigham City will be built at the same time as the subsequently announced Payson temple, similar to the timetables of Ogden and Provo temples and the recently completed Oquirrh Mountain and Draper temples.

A request to LDS Church public affairs for official answers to those questions and others about the temple-building program of the church wasn't approved.

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