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The choice by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remove historic wall murals from its iconic Salt Lake and Manti temples has introduced new consideration not solely to the preservation of non secular artwork but in addition to the artwork of non secular preservation.
So The Salt Lake Tribune sat down lately with a trailblazer in that discipline. Allen Roberts — a retired Utah architect who specialised in preservation, together with work on Latter-day Saint chapels, tabernacles and temples — has spent his skilled profession urging the powers that be to behave within the current to guard the previous for future generations.
Apart from lamenting the lack of the murals, Roberts additionally spoke on the origins of Mormon structure, the religion’s utilitarian method to preservation and the usage of non secular symbolism in church buildings. He additionally referred to as for extra inspiring designs for Latter-day Saint meetinghouses.
This question-and-answer interview has been edited for size and readability:
What was your response to latest information the church had determined to not protect the historic murals contained in the Salt Lake and Manti temples? [After this interview, the church announced an effort to try to preserve the Manti paintings.]
I’m disillusioned, though I perceive why they’re being eliminated. Temple attendance has been lowering for years and many individuals, particularly youthful ones, suppose the previous temple endowment is archaic and outdated in comprehensiveness and relevance. The endowment ritual itself has been modified in response and now the intent is to make use of a contemporary audiovisual presentation with members staying in a single theater room, relatively than transferring from room to room in a progressive ceremony. This eliminates the necessity for the historic murals, which have been designed to be thematically in step with the perform of the room they have been in. Additionally, by eliminating touring from room to room, the prevailing rooms might be transformed to theater rooms, growing the variety of members who can expertise the endowment on the identical time.
I examine the Mormon state of affairs with the painted murals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and in church buildings and cathedrals constructed and utilized by the Catholic Church. Nobody would think about eradicating these murals to realize higher performance within the rooms they occupy. The distinction is these rooms aren’t being modified functionally.
Every of the murals was designed to convey sure concepts and elicit sure emotions from the viewers. When the murals disappear, do these concepts and emotions vanish with them? Does a film endowment present the identical mental, religious and emotional energy because the extra participatory one, supported by its murals?
I would favor that not less than one temple, the Salt Lake Temple, retain the historic endowment and the related murals. Then I hope that the murals faraway from different temples could possibly be preserved and proven, maybe within the church museum or one other museum constructed for that objective. [The church later announced that it intends to preserve Minerva Teichert’s beloved Manti murals, which were painted on canvas and then adhered to the plaster walls, and put them “on display in a public setting.”] I understand that some murals have been painted straight on the plastered partitions relatively than on canvas adhered to the partitions. This makes their intact removing far more tough, however I feel it has been carried out efficiently in non-LDS buildings, particularly in Europe. If it can’t be carried out, then rigorously and completely doc the historic murals photographically and dimensionally [something top church leaders have said is being done] in order that maybe giclée replicas could possibly be made and displayed elsewhere.
I respect and revere our pioneer and later artists and artisans and want to see their works stay for our training, enjoyment and religious edification. But when the murals have to be eliminated, I hope they are going to be retained, replicated if vital, and displayed elsewhere in order that our historic mural custom could stay on.
What received you concerned in historic preservation?
From the time I used to be a small baby, I’ve been inquisitive about artwork and historical past. I began drawing after I was about 4 and after I was 12, I received a scholarship to an artwork institute in Milwaukee, and I studied artwork in highschool. I received an artwork diploma from Brigham Younger College and, parallel to that, I’ve all the time been inquisitive about magnificence usually, whether or not it’s superb artwork, sculpture, structure and historical past. Plus, I lived in historic locations like Milwaukee and different cities the place the colleges I went to, the church buildings, the homes have been historic buildings. I appear to have been surrounded by these by way of a whole lot of my youth.
Frankly, rising up within the ’50s and ’60s, I discovered historic buildings extra attention-grabbing, extra lovely and extra charming than most trendy structure.
If there was a single occasion that received me most on this discipline, it’s when the [LDS] Church determined to demolish the Coalville Tabernacle. I used to be a pupil at BYU on the time and the demolition actually struck a dissonant chord with me. It was a spectacular constructing and designed from the identical set of plans because the Meeting Corridor on Temple Sq.. It’s a Gothic Revival constructing and as a substitute of being all stone just like the one on Temple Sq., this one was a mix of stone and brick. It had spires, a tower, unbelievable home windows, an enormous vaulted ceiling within the chapel, oil work of the assorted church presidents on the ceiling. It was actually a shocking piece of structure and actually probably the most important constructing in Coalville by a protracted shot. They usually tore it down.
So I made a decision to do an intensive survey of current Mormon structure in Utah, and it will definitely expanded into Arizona and Idaho, the Mormon hall. I purchased a ’67 Volkswagen Beetle and spent the subsequent 5 years — weekends, holidays, early within the morning, after work, at evening — driving to each single, city, village or rural crossroads with three buildings on the nook. I went in every single place in Utah searching for Mormon structure.
I realized there weren’t solely meetinghouses and church buildings, however there have been additionally these tabernacles, which have been Nineteenth-century stake facilities — and so they have been spectacular. I discovered tithing workplaces. There have been Aid Society halls. There have been bishop’s storehouses and varied auxiliary buildings, every constructed individually. It wasn’t like at the moment the place every thing is underneath one roof, in a single constructing. In a typical city like, say, Paris, Idaho, or Spring Metropolis, Utah, you’d have possibly a tabernacle and possibly one other meetinghouse or two — if the city was large enough — and also you’d have tithing workplaces and bishop’s storehouses and all these different buildings scattered round by way of the city.
I took footage of the buildings and wrote up descriptions. After which I spent the remainder of my free time within the LDS Church archives, the state historic archives, college archives, libraries, anyplace that had metropolis histories, county histories, state histories, and tried to fill within the knowledge that went together with every constructing.
Leonard Arrington, who was church historian on the time, finally organized to present me a grant to put in writing up my analysis. It grew to become a doc referred to as “A Survey of LDS Structure in Utah: 1840-1930” — a written quantity accompanied by 4 volumes of pictures.
Does your being a pioneer in your discipline additionally inform us one thing concerning the LDS Church as an establishment, that this consciousness wasn’t there from the get-go, because it have been?
It does. There was Nauvoo [in Illinois] and there was curiosity in that, however even that started off as a personal challenge. J. LeRoy Kimball started Nauvoo Restoration Inc. as a result of he was a descendant of [former church leader] Heber C. Kimball and wished to protect household heritage at Nauvoo after which received inquisitive about the entire city. Then the church took an interest and got here in later and took that over.
However they’d even thought-about tearing down the Lion Home and Beehive Home [in Salt Lake City] within the ’60s. It took a grassroots outcry from some members, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Sons of Utah Pioneers, others. There was such an outcry they determined to not tear these buildings down, however there was a plan to take action at one level. We’ve misplaced many, many lots of of great items of Mormon structure by way of the years.
The late historian Paul Anderson and I made a presentation to a bunch of basic authorities within the late ’70s, possibly early ’80s and it was sort of a preservation plan.
We took my survey of Mormon structure and different data from different states moreover Utah, and we got here up with a rating of Mormon buildings primarily based on letters A, B, C, D, E. The A buildings have been the actually, actually, actually necessary architecturally and traditionally important buildings. There have been 19 of these. Some have been temples, some have been tabernacles, some have been meetinghouses. After which we had a B record, and many others.
The entire premise was to suggest that the upper ranked a constructing is, the higher effort the church ought to prolong to protect, restore and preserve that constructing. The B buildings have been very important buildings, and there have been much more of these. The C’s and the D’s have been much less important. Perhaps they’d been altered or had dangerous additions. Perhaps the church didn’t even personal them anymore. These we have been much less involved about, however the A’s and B’s we thought ought to be preserved and saved.
After which, we had a coverage, too. We introduced it — and one of many basic authorities, whom I cannot title, received indignant at us. On our An inventory, we had the Park First Ward. It was a wonderful Prairie-style constructing in [Salt Lake City’s] Central Metropolis, constructed round 1912. And the architects have been [Hyrum] Pope and [Harold] Burton, who had designed the Prairie-style Cardston Alberta Temple. It was only a great piece of structure.
Nicely, we didn’t understand it, however apparently the church had made an settlement to permit that constructing to be offered and destroyed and changed with, I feel, tennis courts or one thing. This specific basic authority was indignant that we had that on a listing, and he thought it made our entire effort much less credible. We simply stated, “Look, this isn’t a political record. It is a record of assets and what’s important. You’re the decision-makers. You get to determine what to do with these buildings.”
Nonetheless, for probably the most half, they accepted our coverage however didn’t settle for our rating record verbatim.
Why, in your view, is the preservation of historic LDS constructions necessary?
What I’ve discovered is that church members have a whole lot of fondness, love, respect and excessive regard for being related to bodily reminders of their pioneer previous and of their religious historical past. I’ve seen city after city the place the persons are brokenhearted when their meetinghouses are torn down.
For instance, I co-wrote a historical past of Summit County and whereas writing a chapter on architectural historical past, I went to Coalville and began asking folks what they thought-about to be an important historic occasion that’s ever occurred within the city. Each individual, no matter age or anything, stated, “It was after they tore down our tabernacle.”
Individuals like to see that bodily remnant of the efforts of their pioneer ancestors. The religious evolution of people takes place in these buildings, and so they love the buildings due to that. So after they disappear, it’s as if their pioneer homestead was torn down.
That’s why we now have historic societies and Daughters of Utah Pioneers and historical past books by the hundreds. Mormons have this nice affection for household historical past, family tree, and that is all tied collectively. They’re not solely very acutely aware of historical past, however they’re the present extensions of an important historical past that has performed out over the many years. It’s an ethos that runs by way of Utah tradition and even extends to non-Mormons, and saving important non-LDS buildings has a spot in all of this, too.
How would you describe the LDS Church’s method to historic preservation?
What we’ve come to grasp is that the church has three main missions or international objectives and something that they do, any expense of funds, has to help these objectives. And the everyday purpose that’s related to historic websites is the missionary program. So, they’re not inquisitive about preservation, per se, or historical past for its personal sake, artwork for its personal sake. They’re inquisitive about these issues if they are often introduced into the service of the church and its missions.
So you could have buildings like Cove Fort, the rock fort about three hours south of Salt Lake [City] that was constructed to guard the pioneers towards the Indians. You will have Chesterfield, the Mormon ghost city in Idaho, that has seen preservation efforts. You will have the Brigham Younger winter residence in St George; the Paris [Idaho] Tabernacle; Nauvoo.
You will have these historic websites that the church owns and maintains and the explanation they do that’s they’ve missionaries there, even at Cove Fort. The church has carried out a whole lot of preservation, but it surely’s within the context of telling the story of the church, its historical past, and it’s a proselytizing instrument.
So, the utilitarian perform of church buildings has not solely guided design but in addition preservation efforts.
That’s true and it’s extra true of the twentieth century than the Nineteenth century. Each ward was chargeable for designing and constructing its personal buildings. So that you had this wealthy range of kinds and qualities of buildings. There wasn’t the usual system that took place later. So that you had some spectacular items of structure. A whole lot of it was by-product of different Christian structure however modified for regional traits. In Panguitch, they’d this lovely brick tabernacle. Different locations had different supplies and influences. The Provo Tabernacle that [William] Folsom designed — it’s now a temple — the concept there was to design it after a Presbyterian constructing that any person had been keen on again East.
So every ward had that accountability and a few rose to the event. However there have been additionally some fairly mediocre and even badly constructed or badly designed buildings. There was one down in La Verkin that’s gone now. However the ward constructed this constructing to appear like a Nationwide Guard armory. It didn’t have any ecclesiastical character in any respect. It was type of a humiliation.
Beginning in about 1905, the church began doing commonplace plans for tithing workplaces and bishop’s storehouses. In Sanpete County, there are 5, and 4 of them are constructed off the identical plan, then one in Manti constructed on a distinct plan.
Then within the early ’20s, they began doing the usual plan meetinghouses, and so they have been sort of Colonial Revival in fashion initially as a result of the church architect had that background. The ground plans have been U-shaped and L-shaped. They’re referred to as the alphabet plan, constructed from the early to late ’20s, even into the ’30s, lots of of them.
Immediately the meetinghouses are commonplace plan, although they range by ward measurement, tithe-paying members, temple attendance. There’s a system. And albeit the temples are additionally commonplace plans, related to the scale of the inhabitants, context.
How would you describe the present state of LDS architectural design?
You need to have a look at it in classes. One is meetinghouses; one other is temples.
And, in fact, the church additionally builds varied secular buildings. The Conference Center [in downtown Salt Lake City] is a huge constructing, seats 21,000, and it has like the most important clear-spanning open room, one of many largest within the nation. Very spectacular structure. It was additionally very costly.
Buildings mirror the values of the homeowners, of the those who construct them. Generally it’s the bodily builders, the architects. However actually, they’re responding to the acknowledged worth program of the consumer. And so what does any constructing say about its homeowners, its builders, its shoppers? We will speak about church buildings or 7-Elevens or McDonald’s or the state Capitol. We will speak about this precept making use of nearly universally.
So what do Mormon buildings say concerning the church at any given time? You’ll be able to ask that query concerning the Nauvoo Temple, the early temples. You’ll be able to ask concerning the early Greek Revival interval meetinghouses in Utah. You’ll be able to ask it concerning the Victorian interval. You’ll be able to ask it about at the moment or the Nineteen Twenties. You’ll be able to ask that very same query. And people buildings from any of these intervals mirror the values at these instances.
However there’s one other query. How can structure be a sort of translation, the place it’s a bodily embodiment of the core values, beliefs of the church? Can that even be carried out in structure? Is that asking an excessive amount of? Are you able to do it in artwork? Are you able to do it in music? Varied folks have tried.
So when it comes to symbols, for Mormon structure, that’s a tough, difficult state of affairs.
The early Nineteenth-century buildings had a whole lot of visible symbols that have been within the structure. The Salt Lake Temple has the Huge Dipper, [the constellation] Ursa Main on one aspect. It’s received all-seeing eyes and clasped fingers. The unique drawings for the temple confirmed that it had far more symbolism that by no means received placed on the constructing.
The reason being, it’s an issue.
The symbols that the Mormons were using came from Freemasonry. Some folks will say, “Oh, they didn’t come from that.” The primary temple in-built Nauvoo was the Masonic Temple, and the non secular temple was completed later.
These symbols have been on a whole lot of the buildings. Should you have a look at an image of [Salt Lake City’s] Primary Road when the ZCMI group was fashioned within the 1860s, a whole lot of the shops had all-seeing eyes and “Holiness to the Lord” [inscriptions] and all of this symbolism that was overt. It was in every single place — on stationery, on plates, dishes and cups; on barrels of products. However now the church desires to disassociate any reference to Freemasonry.
Immediately, you’ve received the Church Workplace Constructing and on the entrance of it, sort of a bas-relief of the world. The entire thought is, it’s a worldwide church. That’s a logo that is sensible. However there are different symbols from the Bible and even from the Ebook of Mormon that might have been used, just like the Liahona. It’s a tool that supposedly helped [guide] the Nephites. That’d be an important image — should you’re righteous and you’ve got this compass, it’ll information you to the correct place.
Nicely, you don’t discover any photos of Liahonas that come proper out of Mormon scripture. The fashionable Mormon structure just about stays away from symbols. That’s to say, visible symbols.
I advocate the concept extra structure ought to attempt to mirror its beliefs and its values, its ideas. And I don’t know if the meetinghouses do an important job of that proper now.
They’re well-built. They’re purposeful, utilitarian. However after I consider nice Christian structure by way of lots of of years, a number of the primary traits are that the worship areas are tall and heaven-reaching. Not that each Mormon meetinghouse ought to appear like a cathedral. That might be overdoing it. However a whole lot of the tabernacles within the Nineteenth century had these traits.
A second attribute moreover the inside top and heaven-reaching ceiling that evokes awe, is pure gentle. You already know, the cathedrals with the clerestory lights — the sunshine got here from above.
Immediately’s Mormon meetinghouse chapels principally don’t have home windows. Those constructed within the final couple of many years have fluorescent lights. They’re not inspiring. That’s possibly why they name them meetinghouses as a substitute of church buildings.
By way of non secular symbolism, what are a number of the recurring themes in temple design over, say, the previous 20 years?
Temples within the final 20 years, the imaginative and prescient of the church structure division has had a whole lot of change. As varied folks come into energy — the final authorities assigned to cope with structure, the architects, the executive folks — they go in a sure path. Years later, he’s changed by any person else whose precedence is one thing else. A number of the temples received to be very costly and maybe overly constructed and costing an excessive amount of. There’d be a response after which they have been simplified. There’s a bent now to construct extra of them and construct them smaller, as a substitute of constructing fewer of the nice large $70 million ones. There may be an financial issue that’s all the time proper upfront. There’s a purposeful issue. They actually must perform for the needs for which they’re constructed. These are very particular.
What about art work?
Going again to meetinghouses, the church has had some insurance policies that I feel have been unlucky. One was they didn’t really need art work within the meetinghouses. So some meetinghouses, just like the Garden Park Ward, had some niches on the inside for items of artwork. Then, due to this coverage, they have been taken away after which members needed to struggle to attempt to get them again.
There’s an iconographic controversy, the place Catholics worship artwork, statues of Jesus and Mary and crosses. I feel Mormons wish to keep very away from something that approaches that. However possibly not wanting art in buildings is an overreaction.
One other coverage some time again was that each meetinghouse ought to have a steeple. A whole lot of the architectural kinds didn’t embody steeples. The Prairie-style Cardston Temple is an instance of that. So the church has a provider of those steel and fiberglass steeples which can be completely different dimensions and shapes and designs, and so they decide them out of those catalogs and simply plant them on buildings whatever the fashion. I had a constructing that I designed, a brand new stake middle in Logan, and it was designed with out steeples. It’s a wonderful, lovely constructing, particularly on the within. At some point, I drove by and there’s this nice large brown steel steeple on the roof that wasn’t appropriate with the structure in any respect.
The thought was most likely properly meant, that these must learn as non secular buildings. A number of the Prairie-style buildings look as very like libraries or faculties as they did church buildings. However there was sort of a scarcity of respect for the unique design of the constructing.
One other coverage that I’ve lengthy questioned about is, what occurs when a constructing turns into unneeded or redundant. Let’s say a pleasant chapel was in-built a spot that’s now grow to be urbanized such that the members have moved away, and it’s now commercial-industrial. And also you’ve received this constructing that folks don’t attend anymore. They should do away with it. The coverage is to tear the constructing down and promote the vacant lot relatively than promoting the lot with the constructing nonetheless there. And I do know why that was carried out. It’s as a result of they offered some buildings that ended up being transformed to different makes use of that have been antithetical to, if not offensive to, the unique church perform of that constructing. Members who have been nonetheless left within the space have been harm when their church was turned to different makes use of.
Many many years in the past in Monroe, there was a stone constructing and the church offered it. The chapel was became an auto restore place and there have been hubcaps lining the wall and vehicles and a wing of it grew to become a state liquor depot. Think about how offensive that might be to the members who thought that was their religious centerpiece.
Are there different large losses that marked turning factors in consciousness on historic preservation? And what are a number of the remaining gems?
There are lots of of historic Mormon buildings of architectural significance which have been torn down over time. I accomplished my survey in 1976. About 20 years in the past, I checked out that survey once more and counted up how most of the buildings had been torn down. Greater than half of them have been gone. I’m guessing by now, most likely two-thirds of them are gone. So rather a lot have been misplaced.
One which was torn down lately that was not owned by the church anymore was the Murray First Ward. That was most likely probably the most distinguished and architecturally important constructing in Murray. It was in-built 1907. It had a four-story tower. It had a really attention-grabbing chapel, sort of a T-shaped plan. Stained glass. It had a recreation corridor that had been added within the ’20s.
There have been historic buildings round it, flats and homes and there was a historic Carnegie library simply to the west of the neighboring property. However the library and the church have each been torn down.
Generally these townspeople are so enthusiastic about their need to maintain the buildings, they’re in a position to persuade church leaders to do it. One instance within the ’70s was the Heber Metropolis Tabernacle. It’s a very important piece of structure constructed within the Eighteen Eighties.
One other one which was offered and nearly torn down after which saved on the final minute, with the church’s assist by the way in which, was the BYU Academy in Provo. That’s now the town library. So there are some good tales like that. However there are absolutely a whole lot of buildings that we’ve misplaced all up and down the state.
So, when it comes to gems, the St. George Tabernacle is a spectacular 1860s piece of structure. I feel that the church will most likely by no means wish to tear that down.
In Pine Valley, there’s a lovely wood-frame home in-built 1860 by way of Eighteen Eighties. That’s actually a particular constructing. In Parowan, there may be the Parowan Rock Church that was constructed within the 1860s. It’s among the best pioneer-period buildings left. On the identical block is a Nineteen Twenties-built church and a 1912ish Prairie-style constructing. So that they have three generations of Mormon meetinghouses on the identical block. That’s fairly uncommon.
The Bountiful Tabernacle. I used to be concerned with that. The church was going to tear it down. The stake priesthood voted to tear it down, reluctantly, as a result of the church architect didn’t wish to reserve it. It’s an adobe constructing. It was constructed between 1857 and 1863. It’s the oldest repeatedly used Mormon constructing on the planet. All of the church presidents have preached there. It had a mural of Joseph Smith on the entrance wall. It’s the most effective piece of Greek Revival structure in all of Utah. They usually have been contemplating tearing it down. I came upon about it and wrote a letter to [church] President [Spencer] Kimball and met with [women’s leader] Florence Jacobsen, who was accountable for historic websites on the time, and helped to influence President Kimball to reverse the choice of the stake and to avoid wasting that constructing. They usually did reserve it. It’s nonetheless there.