First look: Provo Latter-day Saint temple will have dramatic new design

For half a century, some people have compared the exterior of the Provo Utah Temple to a wedding cake.

Those days are numbered.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released renderings Wednesday for a major rebuild of the original Provo temple, which call for an extreme makeover of the temple’s exterior.

The renovation will continue the parallels between the Provo and Ogden temples. Built as lookalike temples, they were completed and dedicated back to back in January and February 1972, Ogden first, then Provo. The architect for the two temples gave them the same exterior, designed to look like the Lord going before the children of Israel as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

The Ogden temple exterior was completely overhauled in 2014. The rendering released Wednesday show the Provo Utah Temple now will look different from its sister temple, though it now will have a much more vertical design like the one adopted in Ogden.

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President Russell M. Nelson announced the “reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple after the Orem Utah Temple is dedicated” during his closing address at the church’s international general conference on Oct. 3.

The Orem temple groundbreaking was held in September 2020. Construction is expected to be complete by late 2022 or early 2023.

The Provo and Ogden temples are two of four temples in the world with six ordinance rooms, which is where endowment sessions are held. The other temples with six ordinance rooms are the Washington D.C. and Jordan River temples.

“I don’t know who designed the temple, but they designed it extremely well,” said Bruce Woolley, who serves as a sealer in the Provo Utah Temple. “Most temples have two to four ordinance rooms. This has six ordinance rooms and they are designed so that work flows seamlessly through the temple. I hope the rebuild can maintain that functionality.”

Woolley noted that reconstruction won’t start for a while.

“They say a temple usually is ready for dedication a year after the exterior looks done,” he said. “I drive by the Orem temple site every week, and the exterior is not done yet.”

The new look certainly will change the old comments about the wedding cake design. Some Latter-day Saints over the years have said they chose to be married in other temples in Salt Lake City or American Fork rather than in the flat, round Provo or Ogden temples.

Temple marriages increased in the Ogden temple after its redesign.

“A lot of people have said over the decades that they don’t like the wedding cake look,” Woolley said. “I’ve always said, ‘If you’re going to get married, why not get married in a wedding cake?’”

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Church leaders have noted plans to address seismic concerns with the Provo Utah Temple over the past decade and have said they have been working toward replacing inefficient mechanical systems.

When the Ogden temple rebuild was complete, area church members said that most people preferred the new design over the previous rounder look.

“It’s stunning,” former Ogden Mayor Matt Godfrey said of the 2014 Ogden temple redesign. “It surpassed my wildest expectation, and the inside is an absolute marvel. This is a tremendous gift to the community.”

A statue of Angel Moroni is added to the Provo Utah Temple on May 12, 2003, 31 years after it was dedicated on Feb. 9, 1972. | Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

The Ogden temple was stripped of its pre-cast “skin.” In its place was a more vertical exterior of new stone with more glass. Church officials called it a major renovation that made it look like a brand-new temple.

Both Provo and Ogden were designed to have Angel Moroni statues on top of a spire. But those plans were scrubbed at first, and they were dedicated without the statues.

The Angel Moroni was added 31 years later. The statue sits atop the renovated Ogden temple. Wednesday’s rendering showed the statue will not be a part of the redesigned Provo temple exterior.

Emil Fetzer designed both the Provo and Ogden temples. In Provo, he surrounded the six ordinance rooms and 12 sealing rooms with a circular hallway for a temple with a total of 128,325 square feet.

The Provo Utah Temple currently has an exterior of white cast stone with gold anodized aluminum grills, bronze glass panels and single painted spire.

The Provo and Ogden temples were built after a 1966 study showed that 52 percent of the church’s temple ordinances were being done at three of the what then were 13 operating temples — Salt Lake, Logan and Manti.

Leaders have noted regularly that the Provo Utah Temple, which sits adjacent to Brigham Young University and across the street from the Missionary Training Center, has been one of the busiest in the church. In fact, the church opened a second temple in the city, the Provo City Center Temple, in 2016.

Correction: This story originally said the rendering of the redesigned exterior of the Provo Utah Temple included a statue of the Angel Moroni. It does not.