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Carvers translate images into stone

Keith P. MacKay and his wife, Karma, were among the first Church missionaries called to work on the new temple that President Gordon B. Hinckley proclaimed "will stand as a memorial to those who built the first such structure there on the banks of the Mississippi." (April 1999 general conference.)

Through their 46-year-old, Utah-based business, State Stone, Elder MacKay engaged craftsmen in Canada, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Idaho as well as Utah to replicate the distinctive architectural features that characterized the exterior of the 1840s temple, as well as the baptismal font with its 12 oxen.

"And they're the finest carvers in the United States and Canada, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "People that work on stone are a high-class group, because they have to love it, or they wouldn't work that hard."

Translating the images in stone from the past into present-day reality was the task of LaVar Wallgren and his Salt Lake City-based 3D Art Inc. It was an endeavor approached with resourcefulness and helped along by blessings.

"People would come forward and say they had this or that item and maybe it would help," Elder MacKay said. For example, one man furnished a large piece of a sun stone he had acquired earlier from an antique dealer, which still had the intricate ornamentation of trumpets above the sun's face. Working from photographs and using clay, designers sculpted out the missing portion of the sun stone, including the nose that had been broken off. Then, 28 coats of latex were poured over the finished piece and peeled away when it was cooled, forming a mold from which fiberglass models could be made.

Such small miracles — and others, such as being able to find craftsmen who would do hand work using small chisels and hand-held, air-driven, chipping hammers as opposed to machine fabrication — combined to make the new temple a faithful monument to the House of the Lord built in the 1840s by the Lord's covenant people. — R. Scott Lloyd

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