The planned reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple, as announced last month by President Russell M. Nelson, will result in a major redesign and exterior overhaul to the temple just shy of its 50-year mark.
The temple’s changes are similar to those several years ago of its sister sacred edifice, the Ogden Utah Temple, which underwent a major renovation and architectural change unlike any other temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Church released the exterior rendering of the redesigned Provo Utah Temple on Wednesday, Nov. 24, along with the rendering for the new Smithfield Utah Temple.
After announcing 13 locations for new temples in his concluding remarks at the October 2021 general conference, President Nelson included mention of the “reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple after the Orem Utah Temple is dedicated.”
The Provo temple’s location will remain the same — at the mouth of Rock Canyon on Provo’s east bench, overlooking the Provo Missionary Training Center, the Brigham Young University campus, the Provo-Orem area and Utah Lake. Closure dates will be announced later.
Nearly 50 years ago, the near-identical Ogden and Provo temples were dedicated — on Jan. 18, 1972, and Feb. 9, 1972, respectively. The two appeared nearly identically with modernist, contemporary designs of a single spire rising from a drum sporting Gothic-like arch designs.
In February 2010, the Church announced remodel plans for the Ogden Utah Temple, with the extreme exterior makeover resulting in a “temple classical” design and appearance. It closed April 2, 2011, nearly 40 years after its opening, for an extensive renovation lasting three and a half years.
And soon, the Provo Utah Temple will go through a similar redesign and reconstruction process, resulting in a very different appearance from its present exterior.
Construction of the nearby Orem Utah Temple — consisting of three stories, 70,000 square feet and a single attached central spire — has continued since its Sept. 5, 2020, groundbreaking. No projected date of completion or dedication has been announced.
The Orem temple is located on a 15.39-acre tract at 1471 S. Geneva Road, 4.5 miles west of the Provo Utah Temple.
By the time the Provo temple is closed for renovations, Utah Valley will be home to six dedicated temples — the Orem, Provo, Provo City Center, Payson, Mount Timpanogos and Saratoga Springs temples. The latter is currently under construction, having started 11 months prior to Orem, and will likely be finished and dedicated well before the Orem temple.
A seventh temple has been announced for Lindon, Utah, north of Orem, and is in planning and design stages.
Design ‘secondary’ to temple’s purpose
In addition to the extensive overall exterior redesign, the renovated Provo temple will be without an angel Moroni statue. Originally built without, the temple had its current angel Moroni statue added atop the spire in 2003, three decades after dedication.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reaffirmed the primary purpose of its temples is to draw people closer to God and His Son Jesus Christ through worship, instruction and unifying sacred ordinances, with the temples’ exterior and interior designs and elements secondary to that purpose.
A Newsroom resource document titled “Angel Moroni Statues on Temples” states:
“A temple’s design, both internal and external, is secondary to its primary purpose, which is for people to draw closer to God and His Son, Jesus Christ by participating in sacred ceremonies that teach of God’s plan and unite families forever.”
And it adds the following about the angel Moroni statue: “While the angel Moroni statue occupies a prominent place on many temples throughout the world — symbolizing the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ — it is not a requirement of temple design. Some temples may include the statue, while others may not.”
A look back at the Provo, Ogden temples
In 1967, the First Presidency announced two new temples — for Provo and Ogden — the first temples in Utah in more than three-quarters of a century. At the time, 52% of all temple work worldwide was being done in three Utah temples: Salt Lake, Logan and Manti. Rather than enlarge the overcrowded temples, the Church opted to build two new ones.
The Provo and Ogden temples were designed by Church architect Emil B. Fetzer, who served from 1965 to 1986 and drafted more than 20 temples.
To expedite and economize construction, the two were built under the same basic plan. The interior layout — six ordinance rooms encircling a center celestial room — allowed instruction in various languages in a single room, with a new instruction session able to start every 20 minutes.
The Provo temple’s groundbreaking was held on Sept. 15, 1969, with the cornerstone laid May 21, 1971, while the temple was still being built. Cornerstone ceremonies have since become tied to the temple dedications.
The open house, held over three weeks in January 1972, drew nearly 250,000 visitors. The Feb. 9, 1972, dedication was conducted over just two sessions — unlike the three a month early in Ogden — since the dedication was broadcast by closed-circuit television to several large auditoriums on the BYU campus, including the then-new Marriott Center. As such, more than 70,000 attended the Provo temple’s dedication services.
In 2016, the Provo City Center Temple — rebuilt from the former Provo Tabernacle — was dedicated, becoming the second temple in the city of Provo.
Remodel of the Ogden temple
For the extensive Ogden temple renovations, the entire exterior was reshaped, featuring new granite and art glass. The entrance was moved from the west side to the east, facing Washington Boulevard. Also, major water features and underground parking were added.
Inside, the core building design remained, while some rooms were reconfigured. Old electrical, plumbing and heating systems were replaced with modern and more efficient equipment.
Following its finish, the new-look Ogden temple was unveiled to the public in an open house from early August to early September 2014 and rededicated on Sept. 21.