Preparing to paint murals on the walls of ordinance rooms in the new Nauvoo Illinois Temple, artists visited the natural gardens and forest areas of Florida, walked the beaches of Oregon and viewed the universe through the Hubble Telescope. Others traced historic Church sites — from Joseph Smith's birthplace in Vermont to the Rocky Mountains — wanting to learn about the world early Church members may have known while building the temple.
The murals — in the Creation Room, Garden Room and World Room of the temple — as well as decorative glass, needlework, and 54 original paintings — now grace the temple's interior.
Created in the artistic styles, patterns or designs prominent during the Nauvoo period, the works add unique detail to the new temple, said Bruce R. Finlinson, manager of interior design for the Nauvoo temple in the Temple Construction Department.
From conception to completion, the murals were painted in 18 months, said artist Frank Magleby. With artists James C. Christensen, Chris Young, Robert Marshall, Douglas Fryer and Gary Smith, Brother Magleby created the murals at the Church's Motion Picture Studio in Provo.
Crews there constructed a scale replica of the temple ordinance rooms — with exact lighting — for the project. "We could see how they were going to look on the walls," said Brother Magelby, noting that the time frame didn't allow artists to work in the Nauvoo Temple after its completion.
Tom Holdman, a stained glass artist, also created a replica of a temple wall and lighting to assist him while making the 9-foot-by-6-foot decorative glass panel that hangs in the baptistry, depicting the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
To be as authentic as possible, during the project Brother Holdman used only glass that was available in the 1840s. In fact, much of the 3,000 individual glass pieces in the panel were cut from glass that was handmade in Europe.
Christ's open hand in the panel symbolizes the scriptural invitation to "Come Unto Me," and olive branches around the border link together in a continuous chain, like ancestry and posterity, said Brother Holdman.
He also created a domed 8-foot octagon window for the ceiling of the Celestial Room.
Brother Finlinson said a team of decorative painters, led by Dale Jolley, created intricate patterns (such as gold-leaf line work) and design work — typical of the mid-19th century — on the walls of the Celestial Room.