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Church will try to preserve Manti Temple’s Minerva Teichert murals

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.
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. The church will preserve the Minerva Teichert murals inside the temple.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As part of a planned renovation of the Manti Utah Temple in the coming months and years, The Church of Jesus Christ is planning to preserve murals painted by artist Minerva Teichert.

There’s just one catch: It won’t be easy to separate the canvases from the temple’s walls.

Teichert’s artworks are “valued not only for their beauty, but also as a treasured remembrance of the faith, talent and dedication of the artist,” according to a church statement issued Wednesday.

Douglas Barton, a longtime resident and Manti temple ordinance worker whose ancestor C.C.A Christensen painted the room depicting the world’s creation, appreciated hearing the news Wednesday.

“Anything they can preserve would be wonderful,” he said. “There hasn’t been as much pushback as I thought there might be. ... For the most part, people are saying, ‘Well, if that’s what they feel we need to do, then that’s what we’ll do.’ But I think the announcement that they’re going to preserve as much as they can, that helped a lot. ... I think that will do an awful a lot.”

Teichert painted the murals on canvas in 1947, and workers adhered them to the plaster walls in the temple’s world room. The church now hopes to separate the canvas or portions of the canvas from the plaster and preserve the murals for future restoration.

Her murals depict God’s hand in the sweep of human history from the tower of babel to what Latter-day Saints believe is the establishment of Zion in the American west, according to a BYU Studies article by Doris Dant.

The murals cover nearly 4,000 square feet and wrap around doors and under windows and around doors. Teichert did the bulk of the work in one month, according to Dant.

Teichert was a Latter-day Saint whose work is treasured by many in the church. She died in 1976.

The church hopes to display Teichert’s recovered Manti Temple murals publicly after they are removed and preserved.

“We are seeking the advice of international experts in the field of art preservation during this process,” the statement said.

A view of the Manti Utah Temple. The pioneer-era temple will begin a multiyear renovation later this year. The church will do its best to preserve the historic murals and artwork.
A view of the Manti Utah Temple. The pioneer-era temple will begin a multiyear renovation later this year. The church will do its best to preserve the historic murals and artwork.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The church announced the removal of the murals as few weeks ago as part of an announcement to change from having a live presentation of the endowment in various rooms to single-room film presentations in multiple languages. This has caused some concern and sadness among those familiar with the pioneer-era temple.

The Salt Lake Temple is undergoing similar changes as part of its renovation.

The First Presidency addressed the challenge of preserving these historic but aging murals in the Salt Lake temple with the following statement:

“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.”