Saturday was a historic day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Central Utah who were excited to hear that Sanpete County will be getting a new LDS Temple in Ephraim and the artwork in the Manti Temple will be preserved.
The two big decisions were announced in a special gathering at the Manti Tabernacle. In a broadcast played on a projector at the event and streamed to members of the Manti Temple District in several counties, President Russell M. Nelson said the plan would allow the church to preserve the historic artwork and craftsmanship in the Manti LDS Temple, while increasing the church’s capacity and availability to serve members in the area.
Showing visible emotion, President Nelson told the crowd, “We have been giving much prayerful thought to the hardy pioneers who labored and sacrificed to make it possible for faithful members of the church to receive their blessings in the Manti Utah Temple.
New temple in Ephraim
“Over time countless craftsmen, artists and laborers have created this unique treasure. We have also given prayerful foresight to the growing number of faithful members of the church who now live or will yet live in this central sector of Utah. In addition, we have considered the thousands of students who come to Snow College in pursuit of their education. We care about their well being and their future.”
Nelson said it was these considerations that brought about a revelation to build a temple in Ephraim while restoring and preserving the pioneer-era craftsmanship of the Manti Temple.
President Nelson himself is a descendent of pioneer settlers of Sanpete County. He talked about his heritage during a presentation at the Scandinavian Heritage Festival in 2013.
His great-grandfather, Niels Anderson, was one of the early Scandinavian settlers in Ephraim. Niels Anderson “built his home inside the fort,” according to an obituary. “He took an active part in the Black Hawk War, and in 1864, was called to Circleville to assist the settlers. There he built a home and had a farm, and just as he was commencing to prosper, he was driven out by the Indians, compelled to leave all.
“He returned to Ephraim” and made his home there for the rest of his life. He was a member of the high council from the time the local stake was organized until his death. Later in life, he also served a mission to Sweden, his home country.
Three out of four of Nelson’s grandparents were born in Ephraim. Nelson’s father, Marion Clavar Nelson, was born in Manti, and his mother, Floss Edna Anderson, was born in Ephraim.
This will be the first time since the 2008 announcement of the Trujillo Peru Temple that a temple was not announced in general conference.
Attending in person for the announcement was Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also a descendent of Sanpete County pioneers. He called it a “day of rejoicing,” and said the decisions were divine and revelatory.
According to Elder Rasband, Manti Temple endowment sessions will still be converted to film presentations, as other temples have now, with a room-to-room approach that will also allow people to view the endowment in 90 different languages.
The proposed Ephraim Temple, which will be the 252nd LDS temple and the 27th in Utah, will be an efficient and modern temple, similar in size to the Brigham City Temple, which is 36,000-square-feet. It will have four endowment rooms capable of seating 30 in each room. It will have three sealing rooms and one baptismal font.
Construction will take approximately two years, although the site has not yet been chosen, said Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the church’s presiding bishopric.
“Our hope is that many members of the church, including many students at Snow College, will live within walking distance,” Waddell said.
Waddell said work on the Manti Temple could take up to two years. The historic murals will be restored to their original beauty. Brent Roberts, director of special projects for the church, said the temple foundation would be upgraded along with upgrades to other “mechanical” systems, such as the water and electrical systems.
“These decisions will expand future opportunities for members in this temple district to participate in sacred temple ordinances, and at the same time allow us to preserve the classical characteristics and useful life of the historic Manti Utah Temple,” President Nelson said.
Following the announcement, social media lit up like a Christmas tree as members of the church in Sanpete County rejoiced at the news.
On March 12, the church had announced that historic murals in both the Salt Lake Temple and Manti Temple would be removed during ongoing renovation. This included a mural in the Manti Temple painted by renowned artist Minerva Teichert.
There were pleas from preservationists, art enthusiasts, historians and other church members to save the murals in the Manti Temple. There was even a petition drive and a march in downtown Provo to preserve the artwork.