In the early morning of December 17, 2010, the sky in downtown Provo, Utah lit up with sparks, flame, and falling ash. The Provo Tabernacle, a historical landmark to the local Saints and those throughout the world, was ablaze. Soon, the entire interior of the building was reduced to nothing but ash as it's charred, skeletal walls stood in sections.
The building was gutted and decimated, with very little remaining.
Of course, the new Provo City Center temple hosts a few priceless gems saved from the fire. For instance, the pulpit in the temple's chapel escaped the flames because it had been removed from the tabernacle in preparation for a concert which was to be held there. But, most everything else, besides a handful of artifacts, was completely lost to the flames.
Image from Mormon Newsroom.
For six months following the fire, Emily Utt, a historic sites curator with the LDS Church History Department, sifted through 14 tons of charred debris looking for architectural details of the building and remaining artifacts, according to Utah Valley 360.
The new temple that stands on that ground today and the sacrifice that went into building it all pays homage to those Saints who worshiped within its walls.
"In the end we care so much about this building and we have spent so much time on this building because of the stories of the people who worshiped here,” Utt told Utah Valley 360. “Many of the people who built this building and who used this building have gone down in history as anonymous and nameless, but as we preserve their building and preserve the artifacts they left behind, they are not forgotten. The bricks speak of the stories of the people who built it.”
Within the ashes of the tabernacle, these artifacts were found—many of which seem haphazard or inconsequential, but combined speak of so many years of history and use:
Wallpaper preserved behind plastered walls.
Image from Mormon Newsroom.
Just beneath the dark, mahogany moldings in the bride's room of the new temple is a painted green and pink ribbon ornamentation. The design for this pattern comes from the original tabernacle itself. After the destruction of the tabernacle, while fire crews were cleaning the debris, this design was discovered beneath a layer of plaster severely damaged by the fire. It appears this original design had been covered and forgotten quite some time ago.
Painting of the Second Coming, miraculously preserved.
Image from Daily Herald.
Though smoke blackened and charred most of the painting, a light hallow surrounds the image of the Savior in this well-known and loved image of the Second Coming. That picture, miraculous in itself, provided a symbol of hope and comfort to Latter-day Saints who had just lost a cherished landmark. Little did they know that that very image would stand as a symbol for the building of a new temple that rose "like a phoenix out of the ashes," as Elder Holland so eloquently stated. It's comforting to know that because of the Savior, depicted so sweetly in that picture, we too can rise again in glory, purified and strengthened as holy temples.
Everyday items scattered in the tabernacle.
Among the beautiful designs and enlightening pictures rescued from the ashes were also several commonplace items that tell of the daily lives of the people who worshiped in the tabernacle. Some of these items included a baseball, tickets, stake conference programs, a Cracker Jack box, and a woman's shoe, Utah Valley 360 reports.