As I’ve thought about the announcement of a new temple in Ephraim and a revision to the Manti temple renovation plans, my mind keeps reflecting on a truth echoed by Church leaders at the press conference: the decision was an answer to prayer.
News of the Manti Utah Temple renovation first reached Latter-day Saints during the April 2019 general conference, when its renovation was announced alongside other pioneer temples. Then in March 2021, some details were released regarding what were then the plans for the temple renovation, including single-room presentations by film and the removal and preservation of the murals.
The May 1 announcement changed those plans dramatically. Though the presentation will still move to film, the progressive room-to-room presentation will continue and the murals will remain in the temple.
So what brought the change in plans? Continuing revelation.
President Russell M. Nelson repeatedly mentioned prayer in his prerecorded video message which was broadcast during the press conference. He spoke of how Church leaders have given “much prayerful thought to the hardy pioneers,” how they have given “prayerful foresight to the growing number of faithful members,” and how they have “continued to seek the direction of the Lord on this matter.”
Right before he announced the new temple via video, President Nelson once again repeated how prayer had been a part of the process. “After much study and prayer, and with our deep gratitude for the Lord’s responding to our pleadings, I am pleased to announce that we have been impressed to build a new temple in Ephraim, Utah,” he said.
Church leaders present at the press conference also spoke on the theme of revelation. Elder Ronald A. Rasband called the announcement a revelation and referenced Amos 3:7, saying it reflected the “mind, will, and direction of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy quoted the ninth article of faith. He taught, “Revelation from God does come line upon line or in other words, step by step. And what we have witnessed this morning in this historic announcement by President Nelson is continual evidence of this continuing revelation.”
I had the opportunity to ask Bishop W. Christopher Waddell about the announcement after the meeting, and he said the announcement of the Ephraim temple came not as a solution to the Manti preservation question, but as the will of the Lord for the area. Once that was decided, the new Manti preservation plan became clear.
“The announcement for Ephraim had nothing to do specifically with the murals in the Manti temple,” Bishop Waddell said mentioning that the announcement of the Ephraim temple allows Manti to be preserved. “Ephraim first, Manti second; not Manti first, Ephraim second.”
Bishop Waddell testified that the Lord directed His prophet. He described a meeting with President Nelson, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presiding Bishopric, and representatives of the Special Projects Department.
“We went back and brought forth [on] a variety of different options,” Bishop Waddell said. “And it was clear in sitting in that room with everyone that the option was build Ephraim and preserve Manti. It was revelatory.”
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Bishop Waddell noted that the original plan was to preserve the murals in a place where everyone could see them, especially the Minerva Teichert murals. Though the murals weren’t part of the original temple (they were painted in 1947), Bishop Waddell said they wanted to preserve what the pioneers did while making the temple more accessible to those in the area.
“The answer was we can build a temple in Ephraim, and that resolved it,” Bishop Waddell said. “[It was] a simple solution that no one had ever considered before, but it became very clear that it was the right thing to do.”
When it comes to receiving revelation, Bishop Waddell observed that the process is sometimes indirect.
“[The Lord] doesn’t always take you from point A to point B in a direct line,” he said. “He’ll move you from different places and different ways to get there, but in His way.”
The prayers that were answered weren’t just those of Church leaders. Elder Rasband shared that people in that part of Utah had been praying to accept the will of the Lord in regard to their beloved Manti temple.
“Heavenly Father heard and answered those prayers,” Elder Rasband testified.
Ever since President Nelson’s 2020 invitation to ponder, “How do you hear Him?” I find myself noticing ways Church leaders hear Him. A personal takeaway for me with the Manti temple renovation plans is to realize that our plans can change. As we strive to align our will with His, sometimes we have to take an indirect path to go from point A to point B like Bishop Waddell said.
Another takeaway is opening our minds to the will of the Lord. The idea of a temple in Ephraim, just seven miles away from Manti, may not have been the first idea that came to mind. In fact, Bishop Waddell even noted that no one had considered that solution. But as they sought to hear the voice of the Lord, He revealed His plans.
When I think about how I hear Him, I’m often drawn to revelation I’ve received in the House of the Lord. For me, to think about how in just a few years the Saints in Sanpete County will be blessed with more temple worship and service than ever before is thrilling. As Elder Rasband said, it is an announcement of “joy and rejoicing.”