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New BYU exhibition teaches souls can be constructed, rebuilt and improved — just like the Provo City Center Temple

PROVO, Utah — Fire gutted the historic Provo Tabernacle in the final month of 2010, leaving many to wonder if the iconic structure would forever remain history’s claim.

But then the miracle occurred.

Working under the direction of inspired leaders, a group of contractors, builders and designers took the charred remains of a decimated building and transformed it into something more beautiful and essential than ever before — the Provo City Center Temple.

And so it is in our own lives. Through the grace of a Master Builder, even the most damaged bodies and souls can be purified and rebuilt into something precious and new.

As Paul taught: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

A visitor to the Education in Zion Gallery at Brigham Young University takes in the "Constructing a Soul" exhibition that will be on display until the summer of 2022.
A visitor to the Education in Zion Gallery at Brigham Young University takes in the "Constructing a Soul" exhibition that will be on display until the summer of 2022. Photo: Education in Zion Gallery/BYU

A new exhibition at the Brigham Young University entitled “Constructing a Soul” celebrates the miracle of divine rebuilding promised to all who invite the Savior into their lives.

Located in the Education in Zion Gallery in the Joseph F. Smith Building, the exhibition explores four key principles elemental to engineers and building contractors: Pre-building, building, improving and rebuilding.

By utilizing scriptures and the words of latter-day leaders, the colorful, kid-friendly display taps parallels between the building and improving of a physical structure and the eternal, divine work of building and improving a soul.

Guest curators Clifton Farnsworth and Paul Richards are quick to note they are neophytes in pulling together museum exhibitions. Both are engineering professors at the Church-owned school.

The outside walls are some of the remains of the LDS Provo Tabernacle after a fire destroyed the building in Provo, Utah, Dec. 28, 2010.
The outside walls are some of the remains of the LDS Provo Tabernacle after a fire destroyed the building in Provo, Utah, Dec. 28, 2010. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Curating museum exhibits “is well outside my wheelhouse, as far as scholarly ventures go,” said Farnsworth, laughing.

Still, Farnsworth recognized the potential for a construction-themed religious exhibition several years ago after visiting the “Bodies Filled with Light” exhibition on display at the time in the Education in Zion Gallery. He was inspired by the many references to the human body found in scripture.

“A light bulb clicked that there are also many [gospel] references to construction and building,” he said.

BYU faculty members are challenged to integrate their academic teaching with the gospel. So he reached out to Education in Zion Curator Heather Seferovich. The two agreed a building-themed exhibit was a good fit for the campus. A short time later, Richards was brought into the project.

The recently-opened "Constructing a Soul" exhibition at Brigham Young University explores the many parallels between constructing and maintaining a building -- and "rebuilding" an improving one's own life.
The recently-opened "Constructing a Soul" exhibition at Brigham Young University explores the many parallels between constructing and maintaining a building -- and "rebuilding" an improving one's own life. Photo: Education in Zion Gallery/BYU

“I have always tried to look for parallels between the gospel and my occupation,” said Richards. “I’ve found many connections between engineering and building and our own personal development as sons and daughters of God.”

Both engineers/curators were especially drawn to the exhibition elements that explore the Christ-driven act of rebuilding.

Just as the ruins of an incinerated Utah County tabernacle were once rebuilt into a sacred temple, “we can do similar things in our own lives as we rely upon the Savior,” said Farnsworth.

“Constructing a Soul” will be on display through the summer of 2022. Admission is free.

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