MANTI—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced it will try to save at least some of the historic artwork inside the Manti LDS Temple in the process of the planned renovations.
The renovations, which are extensive in scope, initially called for the removal of the murals. When it was announced the murals were being taken down, the decision was controversial and many people called out for preservation of the artwork. Petitions to save the murals circulated around social media and a group of people even protested the matter publically on Sunday.
Last week, the Church announced it would be saving one of the most historically significant murals—a large artwork by Minerva Teichert, the first woman to ever paint a mural in an LDS Temple.
“The Church’s intent is to separate the canvas or portions of the canvas from the plaster and preserve the murals for future restoration and display in a public setting,” reads an official Church statement. “We are seeking the advice of international experts in the field of art preservation during this process.”
The announcement came on the heels of the discovery that the mural was actually painted on canvas, which was itself adhered to the wall. It had previously been thought to have been painted directly on the wall, making it an inconvenient prospect for preservation. Upon finding out about the mural’s canvas application, it was decided an attempt to save it was possible.
The Church’s statement expands on how the renovations to the Temple are ambitious and require a certain degree of sacrifice to the artwork inside the historic structure.
“As we make these significant changes for the future, many historic elements are being impacted,” the Church said. “For example, the addition of new instruction rooms, a new method of presentation, seismic strengthening, and changes to meet accessibility requirements meant that the murals in the temple would need to be moved and/or repainted. It was impossible to know whether the murals could be preserved during such a move. They were originally painted directly on lath and plaster walls, which had been repaired and repainted many times because of water damage and other deterioration.
Further, the change to a film presentation meant that the rooms would be reconfigured. For all these reasons, the murals were carefully photographed and documented before removal, and some of the original portions are being preserved in the Church’s archives. Many other historic features of the building have also been photographed, documented, replicated and in some cases, architecturally salvaged.”
The Church’s announcements have been met with some controversy and even mild protest. On Sunday in Provo, a group gathered for “Take Up Thy Bread and Walk,” a commemorative and performative art event meant as a response to the Church’s plans for the Temple artwork. Participants met and ate homemade bread together before walking as a group to the Provo LDS Temple to peacefully express their opposition to any Temple artwork not being preserved.
“Be mindful of the stories that are tied to this artwork,” Daniel Haas of Murray told the Messenger. “That’s why I am here, because I understand that losing religious spaces hurts.”
Hass isn’t LDS, but he is a member of an interfaith council that seeks to support religious practices of all kinds.
“Many tears have been shed over the potential loss of the Teichert murals,” said Laurie Lisonbee of Spanish Fork, who was also at the event in support of preservation.
Lisonbee, a painter herself, has ties to the Teichert family through her husband. The Teichert family had multiple members participating in the community effort.
“We do believe in preservation, about the mission of preserving our cultural icons, and the heritage and honoring the creative spirits who have created the Manti Temple,” artist and event organizer, Andi Pitcher Davis, stated in a press release for the event. “Rather than it being ‘an issue of controversy or friction,’ it is a ‘community gathering of believers and like-minded creatives with the same goal of preservation.’”
A petition circulating on the internet and social media has also garnered major support from people who want to see the Temple artwork, which also includes art by C.C.A. Christensen, John Hafen, J.B. Fairbanks and Dan Weggeland, preserved for future generations of Latter-day Saints. So far, the petition has more than 7,700 signatures and is still climbing.
“We implore the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to rethink their decision to remove these murals and ask that they be preserved and restored as was done in Idaho Falls, Cardston, and Saint George,” reads the petition.
“If funding is the issue, we ask that fundraising be allowed. We believe saving these murals would fit with the Thirteenth Article of Faith which states in part, ‘If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.’ ”