Announced: Feb. 13, 1994.
Location: The temple is the remodeled 1905 Tabernacle at 170 So. 400 West; Vernal, UT 84078-2536; phone (435) 789-3220.
Site: 1.6 acres.
Exterior finish: Face brick.
Temple design: Adaptation of Uintah Stake Tabernacle.
Architects: FFKR Architects of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Project manager: Lloyd Hess.
Contractor: McCullough Engineering and Construction.
Rooms: Baptistry, celestial room, two ordinance rooms, three sealing rooms.
Total floor area: 33,400 square feet.
Dimensions: 175 feet by 210 feet.
District: Nine stakes in East central Utah, three in Colorado and two in Wyoming.
Groundbreaking, site dedication: May 13, 1995, by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Dedication: Nov. 2-4, 1997, by President Gordon B. Hinckley; 11 sessions.
Done by President Gordon B. Hinckley
O God our Eternal Father, Thou who rules in the heavens and the earth, with thankful hearts we come unto Thee in reverence as we dedicate this sacred house.
We are grateful for this beautiful new structure which utilizes the historic tabernacle built by Thy people nearly a century ago. The original tabernacle came of a great spirit of faith and sacrifice on the part of those Saints who settled in this area. It was built as an offering unto Thee, and was held in the affections of the people long after it was used as a house of worship.
Now that old and much-loved building has become the centerpiece of a new and beautiful House of the Lord. It has a quiet luster all its own. We thank Thee for the use to which it has been put.As Thine appointed servants, acting in the authority of the Holy Priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, we dedicate unto Thee and unto Thy Beloved Son this the Vernal Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We pray that Thou wilt accept it as the offering of Thy thankful people. We pray that Thou wilt visit it, and may Thy Holy Spirit dwell here to sanctify it and make it holy unto all who will enter its portals.We are profoundly grateful for the sacred ordinances which will be administered here. The initiatory ordinances, the endowments, the sealings are all eternal in their very nature. Here, for both the living and the dead, these ordinances will be reverently administered. Here Thy faithful sons and daughters, including their children, will come to be baptized in behalf of the dead. Those who serve as proxies will be greatly blessed in this unselfish work as they lose themselves in the service of others. Prison doors will be opened for those beyond the veil of death. Within these sacred walls the dividing line between the living and the dead will soften as Thy glorious work is carried forward.
This house has been made most attractive. The woodwork, the colors of the walls and ceilings, the paintings, the windows, and the furniture all blend together to create a feeling of peace and beauty as becomes the house of the Lord.
We thank Thee for this sacred structure, and for all who have worked on it. We thank Thee for every temple throughout the world where a great and sacred labor is going forward. We thank Thee for the faith of our people which brings them to these holy houses. We thank Thee for their consecrated means, their tithes and offerings, which have made this and other sacred structures possible.
We thank Thee for the restoration of the keys of the eternal priesthood, and for the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children and of the children to their fathers that the earth may not be wasted at the coming of the Lord. We thank Thee for Thy Church and Kingdom restored to the earth, with all of the keys, powers, and blessings of previous dispensations. We thank Thee for the great and wondrous vision of Thee and Thy Son given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and for all of the marvelous events which followed. We thank Thee for the growth of Thy work throughout the earth, and for the need and the desire to build yet many more of these sacred structures that Thy faithful Saints everywhere may enjoy every privilege offered under the restoration of Thy divine gospel.Now, dear Father, bless this Thy holy house. Preserve it from evil hands, from those who would violate it in any way. Preserve it against the storms of nature. Bless every feature of this house, from the footings to the figure of Moroni. May it be looked upon by all who see it as a place of holiness unto Thee the Lord.
Touch the hearts of Thy people with a great desire to come here frequently and serve in a singular work of dedication. Bless the faithful Saints of this area. Open the windows of heaven and shower down bounteous blessings upon them. May there come about a reconciliation of feelings between the descendants of Lehi and those who have come to reside in these valleys. May old animosities be dispelled, and may there come a renewed spirit of brotherhood and love and respect.Bless Thy Church and Kingdom wherever it may be established. Watch over and go before Thy messengers of eternal truth throughout the world. Open the doors of the nations to the preaching of the gospel. Touch the hearts of kings and rulers and those in high places of government that our missionaries may be protected and blessed in their sacred work. May Thy Kingdom spread across the earth, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." (D&C 109:73.)
Now, our Eternal Father, we pray unto Thee with thanksgiving on this historic occasion. Accept of our gratitude. Hear our pleas, accept our faith, and our expressions of great love for Thee and for Thy Beloved Son.
We ask it all humbly and gratefully, acknowledging Thee as the Giver of all good, our Father and our God, Thou great Elohim, all of which we do in the sacred name of Thy Divine Son, our Redeemer and our Lord, even Jesus Christ, amen.
Temple in Vernal is a unique blessing
Woman married for eternity in what was once a stake tabernacle in her hometown
By Greg Hill
Church News staff writer
VERNAL, Utah — When Sandra Stewart was growing up in Vernal, she probably never dreamed she would be married in the old red-brick building just off the main thoroughfare through this relatively isolated eastern Utah community. The Uintah Stake Tabernacle had been dedicated in 1907 by President Joseph F. Smith, but had fallen out of use during most of her life.
But on Saturday, May 8, she became Alan Howell's wife in a ceremony in that building, sealed for time and all eternity in what is now the Vernal Utah Temple.
The Howells are among nearly 40,000 Church members in 14 stakes from Utah, Wyoming and Colorado who enjoy the blessings of the Church's first temple to be built from an existing building. After it was restored for its new function, it was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Nov. 2, 1997, 90 years after its dedication as a tabernacle.
Sandra's hometown temple was a nice gathering place for Alan's family living in the Denver, Colo., area and for other relatives who traveled from Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Utah's Wasatch Front.
The Howells and their party had the grounds of the temple to themselves for visiting and taking photos after the ceremony. They moved around the building of century-old red brick topped by two towers, a statue of Angel Moroni standing on the east tower.
Because of employment, Sister Howell's family moved to Pocatello, Idaho, when she was still at Uintah High School in Vernal, according to her father, Lee. She stayed behind to finish school and to care for her grandfather for many years. She is employed at Vernal's hospital. It was a happy homecoming for her father and mother, Chris, to see their daughter's temple marriage. Brother Howell's mother, Joyce, whose husband passed away a few years earlier, was also bright and cheerful amidst the green lawns and colorful tulips under a sunny blue sky on the temple grounds.
Brother Howell's sister, Barbara, found the trip from her home in Southern California to the temple in Vernal particularly meaningful. After the meetinghouse of her Hollywood Ward was damaged by the Northridge earthquake of 1994, it was scheduled to be demolished. A striking stained-glass window in the building was removed and put in storage. That window, Barbara pointed out, is now in place on the front wall of the temple.
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Vernal temple doors open to public
By R. Scott Lloyd
Church News staff writer
Converted and expanded from a pioneer-era tabernacle, the newest temple of the Lord is a brick-and-mortar reminder of Malachi's prophecy that in the last days the hearts of the children would turn to their fathers. (See Mal. 4:5-6; D&C 2.)
The first temple in the Church to be built from an existing structure, the Vernal Utah Temple is a monument to the dedication of Latter-day Saints who built the Uintah Tabernacle from 1900 to 1907, as well as being a sacred edifice where ordinances of salvation will be performed for the living and the dead.A pre-dedication open house at what will be the Church's 51st operating temple, located in the heart of this eastern Utah city of 7,900, commenced Oct. 9 with a series of guided tours for news media representatives, government officials, business and education leaders and area clergy.
The weather was clear and sunny that day but had turned blustery and rainy before Saturday, Oct. 11, the first day of general public tours. Even so, more than 15,000 visitors toured the new edifice through the day. Covered by a protective awning, a serpentine line of people stretched from the adjacent Vernal Utah Glines Stake Center to the temple entrance until the last tour at 9:30 p.m.
Open house tours continue through Oct. 25 except Sundays. Gayle McKeachnie, vice chairman of the dedication and open house committee, said 120,000 tickets had been requested as of the opening date and that Saturday tours were full, but tickets were still available for weekdays. They may be obtained by calling 781-1611 in the Vernal area and 1-888-216-5844 outside the area.
Beginning in the stake center, open house visitors view an exhibit and watch a film about the purpose of temples. They then proceed to the temple, where they see the baptistry, laundry, dressing rooms, administrative offices, two ordinance rooms (temple patrons will progress from one ordinance room to the other for each endowment session), three sealing rooms, a bride's room and the celestial room, all comprising 33,000 square feet of floor space in a basement and two above-ground levels.
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.
"The building . . . was a wonderful meeting place . . . for all types of events that were held here in the valley," Elder Banks said. "But then eventually when this [the Glines] stake center was built, the tabernacle was not as widely used. And as time went on it became even less used and was largely abandoned. Then in the 1980s, it was determined the structure of the building was not safe . . . and it started to deteriorate very badly. But a decision was made by the First Presidency that the building should be made into a temple for the Saints out here in the Unitah Basin."
Accordingly, ground was broken for the project May 13, 1995.
The temple district includes 14 stakes: four in Vernal; three in Roosevelt, Utah; two in Grand Junction, Colo.; and one each in Duchesne and Altamont, Utah; Green River, Wyo.; Rock Springs, Wyo.; and Meeker, Colo.
Vice chairman McKeachnie said more than 25,000 Church members from the temple district are assisting as volunteers with the open house. That is more than three times the population of Vernal, Sister Irving noted.
Brother McKeachnie said the temple has been well received in the community. He quoted Vernal Mayor Leonard E. Heeney, who is not a member of the Church, as saying, "One thing about it: those 100,000-plus people coming to see the temple will all be good people."
Temple Pres. Alva C. Snow, whose wife Jean Olsen Snow will serve with him as temple matron, said he has interviewed many prospective temple workers. "I can think of probably a dozen families who are either moving here or who have just recently moved here primarily because of the temple. And I think that's just a drop in the bucket."
The temple will be dedicated Nov. 2-4 in 11 dedicatory sessions.