Tabernacle open house attracts 18,800 people in anticipation of temple

A total of 18,800 people from 18 states and several nations toured the Uintah Stake Tabernacle, which will be renovated and converted into the Vernal Utah Temple.

The tabernacle open house was held April 28-May 2.Local priesthood leaders received approval for the open house from the Utah South Area presidency and received help planning and conducting the event from the Church's Missionary and Temple departments. Elder Jack H Goaslind, second counselor in the area presidency, attended the open house during its first day.

"There was a genuine excitement at the open house among Church members and non-members alike," Elder Goaslind said. "There's a unique spirit in the tabernacle, and I believe those who were instrumental in its construction would be very pleased to know that it will become a temple in the near future. I think this is a meaningful event in the lives of people in the Uintah Basin."

He had praise for Vernal-area priesthood and auxiliary leaders who planned and carried out the open house, as well as for the other volunteers who assisted. "It was a wonderful event," he noted. "They had more people attend than they anticipated, and a videotape that was prepared for the open house was exceptional."

Pres. Laird M. Hartman of the Vernal Utah Glines Stake is the agent stake president in charge of the tabernacle, located in the Uintah Basin some 180 miles east of Salt Lake City.

"We felt at the time the First Presidency announced the temple that it would be appropriate to have an open house and give local residents an opportunity to see the tabernacle one more time before it was renovated," said Pres. Hartman. "There has been tremendous excitement in the community and the entire surrounding area." (See Church News, Feb. 19, 1994.)

For years, Pres. Hartman said, the tabernacle had the only baptismal font in Vernal. "Many of these older residents have come back to see where they were baptized."

A request for local members to serve as tour guides brought a response that surpassed expectations, he said. "We had 419 people show up to an orientation session; we had expected 30 or 40. They came from all over the basin. They've been very faithful. Every stake has provided tour guides."

Pres. Hartman said the Church produced a 28-minute video program giving a history of the tabernacle.

"It was a raving success," said Keith Foley, stake mission president in the Vernal Utah Glines Stake, of the video. "It really set the mood for the tour through the tabernacle. We suggested people see the film before they took the tour."

Pres. Foley said more than 1,000 people were involved in the open house in one capacity or another, including cleanup and providing background music during the tours.

"We gave the seminary students in the area the opportunity to clean up the tabernacle inside and out," Pres. Hartman said. "They turned out in mass numbers and did a wonderful job. They had a good time doing it and feel a part of it now."

Carla Cleavinger, stake music chairman said 98 people took part in providing constant background music for the entire 53 hours of the open house. They included pianists, a string quartet, and a recorder (a woodwind instrument) quartet. Musicians volunteered from each of the four stakes in Vernal.

"A group of young women from the Glines 1st Ward came through on a tour and asked if they could sing extemporaneously `I Am a Child of God,' " Sister Cleavinger said. "It was just beautiful."

A full-color brochure was given to visitors, Pres. Foley said. On the front cover was featured a painting by local artist David Ahrnsbrak depicting the occasion when the tabernacle was dedicated Aug. 24-26, 1907. On the back page was the architect's rendering of the Vernal Utah Temple by James Porter.

Visitors' comments included the following:

"The building is a monument to the faith and sacrifice of the saints when it was built and an emblem of hope and faith in the lives of future saints who live here."

"The people of this area are adding drops of oil to their lamps."

"When I came, I noticed how much love the guides have for the building."

A young boy said, "The tabernacle is very pretty; I can't wait until I'm old enough to do baptisms for the dead here in the temple."

Some children commented they wanted to be married in the Vernal Utah Temple.

A person not a member of the Church commented: "I thank my God that you had the good sense to keep this building, built by God-fearing and God-loving people and are planning to make a godly use of it. Good luck."

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