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The Provo Utah Temple is now 50 years old. Learn more about its history and future


On Feb. 9, the Provo Utah Temple celebrates its 50th anniversary. The temple has undergone a few changes since it was dedicated, and soon will undergo major reconstruction and redesign.

History of the Provo Utah Temple

According to the book “Provo’s Two Temples,” by Richard O. Cowan and Justin R. Bray (BYU Religious Studies Center in cooperation with Deseret Book, 2015), the idea of a temple in Provo dates back to pioneer times. In the 1860s, Brigham Young and Abraham O. Smoot, the president of the Utah Stake and mayor of Provo, both spoke about a temple in Utah Valley.

When Cowan, now an emeritus religion professor, moved to Provo in 1961 to begin teaching at Brigham Young University, only the four pioneer-era temples existed in Utah — the Logan, Salt Lake, Manti and St. George temples.

“We needed to drive to Salt Lake in order to attend the temple — and this was before there were any freeways,” he told the Church News this week. “That meant we had to drive along the main street in one town after another, stopping at countless traffic lights.” 

From the archives: The Provo Utah Temple — Four decades of service

Pres. Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency, left, Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Gordon B. Hinckley break ground for the Provo Temple Sept. 15, 1969.

Pres. Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency, left, Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Gordon B. Hinckley break ground for the Provo Temple Sept. 15, 1969.

Credit: University Archives, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University

Through the 1960s, BYU enrollment expanded and Church membership grew. The Logan, Manti and Salt Lake City temples were overcrowded — around 52% of all temple ordinances were performed in those three temples. BYU students were traveling to Manti in great numbers.  Cowan and his wife, Dawn, were called to serve in a BYU campus stake and began riding with student groups to Manti.

He said the round trip and temple session took about seven hours: “I remember thinking that if there were a temple in Provo, we could do three sessions in the time it took us to go to Manti and do just one.”

In 1967, the First Presidency announced two new temples in Ogden and Provo, and a property was chosen in Provo on the east bench, at the mouth of Rock Canyon, overlooking the city and BYU campus. Church architect Emil B. Fetzer designed both the Provo and Ogden temples under the same basic plan for efficiency and convenience and to expedite and economize construction.

Dedication

The groundbreaking for the Provo Temple — as it was first named, until the Church revised its temple naming convention in 1999 and was renamed the Provo Utah Temple — was held Sept. 15, 1969. The cornerstone was laid May 21, 1971, while the temple was still being built. The public open house was held in January 1972, and the temple dedicated Feb. 9, 1972

Several thousand people attend a ceremony May 21, 1971, to place the symbolic cornerstone of the Provo Temple while it was still being built. On Feb. 9, 1972, Pres. Harold B. Lee of the First Presidency read the dedicatory prayer written by Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith.

Several thousand people attend a ceremony May 21, 1971, to place the symbolic cornerstone of the Provo Temple while it was still being built. On Feb. 9, 1972, Pres. Harold B. Lee of the First Presidency read the dedicatory prayer written by Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith.

Credit: University Archives, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University

While the Ogden temple had six dedicatory sessions in January 1972, Cowan said Provo had two sessions because the large auditoriums on the BYU campus could accommodate overflow with closed-circuit television. More than 70,000 people attended the services. Cowan was assigned to attend the first dedicatory session in one of the temple’s six ordinance rooms.

“It was a moving experience,” he said. “As the choir concluded Evan Stephens’ ‘Hosanna Anthem,’ we in the congregation were invited to sing ‘The Spirit of God.’ I was so choked with emotion that I couldn’t sing. In fact, as the session ended, we didn’t even feel like talking until we were outside.”

He said those attending in the newly built 23,000-seat Marriott Center recalled how unique it was to see that huge arena in reverent silence. Cowan later attended the second session on campus and felt similar feelings.

The Provo Utah Temple will be redesigned. Here’s what it will look like

In operation

The Provo Temple grew to serve not only the stakes in its district, but also thousands of college students and missionaries at the Provo Missionary Training Center, which was dedicated in 1976. Cowan and Bray wrote in their book that the temple became known as the “working temple,” becoming the busiest in the Church, with 50 endowment sessions a day beginning at 5:30 a.m. and closing at 10:30 or 11 p.m. It broke a record in 1976 with 76,000 endowments being completed in a single month.

“Bidding for construction of the Language Training Mission opened July 2 1974. By November 1, the foundations of several buildings were above ground.” — This is the caption information found on the frame plaque accompany this photo, one nearly dozen historical photos showing the development of the Language Training Mission and Missionary Training Center facilities in Provo since the 1960s.

“Bidding for construction of the Language Training Mission opened July 2 1974. By November 1, the foundations of several buildings were above ground.” — This is the caption information found on the frame plaque accompany this photo, one nearly dozen historical photos showing the development of the Language Training Mission and Missionary Training Center facilities in Provo since the 1960s.

Credit: Provided by Provo Missionary Training Center

Even Latter-day Saints in the eastern part of Utah were driving to Provo, until the Vernal Utah Temple was dedicated in 1997.  The Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple also opened in 1997, allowing more of the growing Latter-day Saint population in the Utah Valley a place to go. 

In 1974, special sessions for the hearing-impaired were held. Sessions in Spanish began that year as well, with Portuguese, German, Japanese, Mandarin and other languages following later. Now patrons can use earphones to receive ordinances in 82 languages.

Read the dedicatory prayer for the Provo Utah Temple

More youth and young adults started attending the temple to perform baptisms for the dead in the closing decade of the 20th century and the opening years of the 21st. Wait times became particularly long. In interviews conducted for the book, young people spoke about how there was no other place they wanted to be than in the temple, in order to receive spiritual strength and participate in the work of the gospel.

Cowan said it seemed like the Provo temple needed a second baptistry to handle demand. However, the Payson Utah Temple was dedicated in June 2015 and the Provo City Center Temple dedicated in March 2016, allowing even more temple work to be done.

And when driving today from Provo and its two temples to the Salt Lake Temple, one can see four other operating temples — Mount Timpanogos, Draper, Oquirrh Mountain and Jordan River — with another four temples between Provo and Salt Lake City either under construction or announced, in Orem, Lindon, Saratoga Springs and Taylorsville.

The future of the Provo Utah Temple

In October 2021 general conference, after announcing 13 locations for new temples, President Russell M. Nelson spoke of the “reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple after the Orem Utah Temple is dedicated.”

The exterior rendering of the redesigned Provo Utah Temple.

The exterior rendering of the redesigned Provo Utah Temple.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church released the exterior rendering for the redesigned Provo Utah Temple on Nov. 24, 2021. The new design and changes are similar to those of the Ogden Utah Temple. It underwent a major renovation and architectural change over a period of three and a half years. But the Church has not yet announced when the Provo temple will close nor how long the renovation will take.

When it does close however, Utah Valley is expected to have six dedicated temples — the Orem, Provo, Provo City Center, Payson, Mount Timpanogos and Saratoga Springs temples. Construction in Saratoga Springs began in October 2019, and construction in Orem began in September 2020. A temple has also been announced for Lindon, Utah, which is still in the planning and design stages and also located in Utah Valley.

Cowan said he and his wife plan to commemorate the Provo Utah Temple’s 50th anniversary on Wednesday by being in the temple, attending an endowment session and participating in sealings. 

“This temple has contributed to our spiritual life now for a half century,” he said. “We resonate with President Russell M. Nelson’s insisting that spending time in the temple will change our lives.”

The Provo Utah Temple at a glance

Announced: Aug. 14, 1967.

Location: At the entrance of Rock Canyon on the east bench of Provo; 2200 Temple Hill Drive, Provo, UT 84604; phone; (801) 375-5775.

Site: 17 acres.

Exterior finish: White cast stone, gold anodized aluminum grills, bronze glass panels, and single spire.

Temple design: Modern and functional.

Architect: Emil B. Fetzer, Church architect.

Construction chairman: Mark B. Garff, with Fred A. Baker, vice chairman.

Construction supervisor: Hogan and Tingey, general contractors.

Rooms: Baptistry, celestial room, six ordinance rooms, 12 sealing rooms.

Total floor area: 130,825 square feet.

Dimensions: 200 feet by 184 feet; 175 feet high with a 118-foot spire on top of the building.

Groundbreaking, site dedication: Sept. 15, 1969, ground broken by President Hugh B. Brown.

Dedication: Feb. 9, 1972; dedicatory prayer written by President Joseph Fielding Smith and read by President Harold B. Lee; two sessions.

Source: Church News archives.

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