The First Presidency announced Friday both the end of an era and the beginning of a new one for temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The church will end the practice of having ordinance workers make a live presentation of the endowment — a temple ceremony depicting the Creation, Fall and Atonement of Jesus Christ — at the Salt Lake Temple when its renovation is complete. The live presentation also will be discontinued at the Manti Temple later this year. Afterward, endowment ceremonies in those two temples will proceed with films, as is done in every other temple.

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The decision also means an end to the historic, century-old frescoes painted on the walls of the multiple rooms that have been used for the progressive, room-to-room, live endowment, the First Presidency said.

A photo of the Garden Room in the Salt Lake Temple shortly before the frescoes painted on the walls in 1892-93 were removed as part of the ongoing temple renovation project. The walls and their murals were photographed and portions were catalogued and preserved. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Meanwhile, for the first time, a temple will have two baptistries.

The Salt Lake Temple renovation is being adjusted to include the addition of a second baptistry. Some have speculated about such a move in recent years because of the large numbers of Latter-day Saint youth who want to perform baptisms by proxy for their ancestors.

The First Presidency also made several other announcements in its statement, including that the Manti Temple renovation, first signaled by President Russell M. Nelson in April 2019, will begin later this year.

The Salt Lake Temple’s capacity will more than double with the changes, according to Friday’s release.

The end of the live-presentation endowment

From the beginning of the endowment ceremony in the 1840s, volunteer ordinance workers were used to depict the Plan of Salvation as temple patrons moved through four stages starting in the Creation room and moving to a Garden of Eden room, another representing the post-fall world, the Terrestrial Room and, finally, to the Celestial Room.

Pioneer-era endowment ceremonies lasted the better part of a day, according to Church leaders have streamlined the ceremony over the years.

In 1927, the First Presidency said it would not at that time render the endowment to film, but in 1953, church President David O. McKay commissioned a future church president, Gordon B. Hinckley, to adapt the endowment for the Bern Switzerland Temple, which needed, as the first outside the United States, to provide the ceremony in multiple languages.

The result was a 16mm film used solely in the temple during the endowment. The church had nine temples when the Bern Temple opened. Temple volunteers depicting the ceremony continued to be used everywhere but Bern, but after a 10th temple in Los Angeles was built, all future temples were outfitted for film.

For the past few decades, live presentations have continued only in the Salt Lake and Manti temples. The Salt Lake Temple closed for renovation at the end of 2019. Leaders initially said the temple would reopen with both filmed endowments and live presentations.

The Manti Temple closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has resumed live-presentation endowments for living persons but is not yet available for proxy endowment ceremonies performed on behalf of deceased ancestors. It appears possible those could resume before the renovation begins, as Utah’s COVID-19 case numbers are dropping and all adults in the state are eligible for vaccines beginning April 1.

The Manti Utah Temple is pictured prior to a dress rehearsal for the Mormon Miracle Pageant on the temple grounds on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Manti, Utah. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

No date was given for the start of the Manti Temple renovation later this year.

Removal of the Salt Lake Temple frescoes

Church leaders initially planned to retain and preserve the Salt Lake Temple frescoes. The First Presidency noted Friday that the significant seismic and accessibility upgrades combined with the new decision to add two instruction rooms for single-room endowment presentations by film required the removal or repainting of murals painted on the walls of the endowment rooms in 1892-3 and 1915.

The fresco painted on the wall of the Creation Room in the Salt Lake Temple in 1915 by Frithjof Weberg is captured in a recent photograph before the walls were removed and portions of the murals preserved and archived during the temple’s ongoing renovation. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“It was impossible to know whether the murals could be preserved during such a move,” Friday’s statement said. “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.”

The church financed training in France for the artists who painted the original murals, which can be seen here.

The world room in the Salt Lake Temple, photographed before workers removed the walls with their frescoes and murals as part of the temple’s ongoing renovation in 2021. Portions of the walls were archived. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The two added instruction rooms, additional sealing ordinance rooms and the second baptistry will expand capacity and the number of temple ordinances performed, the First Presidency said. While the moves will make way for more endowment sessions, starting more frequently, they also will allow the temple to offer the endowment ceremonies in 80 languages instead of only in English.

The First Presidency also said it had decided to remove the Salt Lake Temple cafeteria. Its space will be used for facilities to support the temple’s increased capacity.

The three members of the First Presidency said they look forward to the renovation’s completion, scheduled in 2024, and to hosting an open house.

“We look forward to the day when the renovation is complete and we can welcome friends from around the world to tour the temple prior to its dedication, and then for members to once again worship in this beautiful house of the Lord,” they said.

Manti Temple renovation

President Nelson announced in April 2019 that the church would renovate all of its pioneer-era temples, in Salt Lake City, St. George, Manti and Logan.

Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talks to media outside the unfinished entrance of the St. George Temple on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in St. George, Utah. The new entrance replaces an older one built in the 1970s and reflects the aesthetic of the original temple. The historic temple is undergoing renovations that are expected to be completed in 2022. | Nick Adams, for the Deseret News

The St. George renovation launched in November 2019 and Salt Lake’s began as 2020 opened, work in Manti and Logan had not been scheduled.

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“Beginning later this year,” the First Presidency said Friday, “the Manti Temple will begin a multi-year renovation that will include mechanical updates and other changes to prepare the temple to serve for generations.”

Murals in the Manti Temple ordinance rooms also will be photographed, documented and removed, the statement said, to make way for single-room endowment presentations by film.

It also said the renovations in both Manti and Salt Lake would preserve their historic staircases.

Latter-day Saint temple worship occurs in 168 dedicated temples around the world. LDS temple worship differs from regular Sunday worship services held by over 30,000 congregations in buildings called chapels or meetinghouses.

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