PROVO — When Nani Bendixen was a small girl, she loved visiting her grandfather in the Sanpete Valley.
He would often take her on bumpy rides around his farm and point out a white building in the distance on a hill.
"See that building way out there," he'd say. "That's the Manti
Temple. Your great-grandparents were married there. Your grandmother
and I were married there. Your parents were married there."
It's a beautiful building now on a green and grassy hill, he explained but it wasn't always so.
The site Brigham Young said was dedicated to be a temple site by the
Book of Mormon prophet Moroni, was solid gray rock. Known as the Manti
stone quarry, it was actually abundant in a cream-colored stone known
as Manti oolite, used for the building's exterior.
To make way for a temple building, the early Saints would tunnel
back about 20-30 feet, then dig two 10-foot wings at the end. They
would then fill the cavity with several hundred pounds of gunpowder and
explode the rock, dislodging 2,500 tons of rock, dirt and trees each
"It worked great except for the rubble it created," said Bendixen,
who presented a paper on the temple's history at the Eleventh Annual
Religious Education Student Symposium at Brigham Young University
The rocks from that rubble can be seen today in the foundations of many of the homes in the Manti area.
The master mason for the temple, Edward Parry, tells a story about
the pair of mules he used to pull loaded wagons to the site and back.
When one day he couldn't find them, he became distraught only to
discover them already at the site eager to get to work.
He insisted on quality stone, once rebuking a worker for attempting
to put a piece of cracked stone on the inside of the building where it
"That is not quite right," he said. "You will know it, I will know
it and the Lord will know it. Now remove the stone and replace it with
one without flaws."
The timber for the temple came from four sawmills in the area, the
best cut down from the nearby woods known as Hell's Kitchen. The timber
grew so straight they could cut poles 60-75-feet long.
"So they used lumber from Hell's Kitichen to build God's temple," said Bendixen.
Workmanship on the temple was largely done by Scandanavian carpenters more used to building boats than buildings.
To create the ceiling, they relied on skills they were comfortable
with so, for instance, the temple's interior ceiling is a boat bottom
built upside-down by a Norwegian saint.
The walls are so completely true that you can put your face against the side and see if there's a fly down the way.
The two open-center circular stairways inside the west tower are two
of only five such stairways in the world, two of the three in the
United States, built without central support. The two 151-step tower
staircases are widely acknowledged to be an engineering marvel.
Many of the workers at the time joked that all they used in the construction was a "spirit level."
In the 11 years of temple construction, not one person died of
injuries incurred while working on it. In fact, Parry dreamt one night
of a worker falling to his death so he arose and went to check on the
scaffolding. He found a loose rope which he tightened thus preventing
One unique feature is the carpet in the temple's Celestial Room, which has 27 different colors woven into the design.
Another is the symbolism in the door catches, hinges and knobs
created by John Patrick Reid — later interpreted by his grandson, Hugh
W. Nibley to represent, among other things, eternal life.
There are many aspects of the Manti Temple that are unlike any of
the other temples in existence. It used to be said that "the Manti
Temple is the only temple you can go through without a recommend"
because there was a large tunnel constructed under the east tower. One
could actually come from either the south or the north and drive past
both temple walls, thus going "through" the temple.
The temple's water source is also noteworthy. Originally, all the
water came from a small spring near the temple. Through the years, as
the need for water has increased, the spring's production has also
Another temple story involved a 15-year-old boy, Lewis Anderson,
who, while in bed waiting for broken bones to heal, dreamed in detail
of a white building. Years later, that boy became the temple president
of the Manti Temple, serving 27 years in that role. He recognized the
building when he saw it for the first time after he was grown, married
and returned from two missions.