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Provo Tabernacle memories January 1, 2011

Posted by mom6 in Provo Ricks.
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Early in the morning of December 17, 2010, I learned that the Provo Tabernacle, a historical landmark, was on fire. The cause is still unknown, but those of us who have many memories of this building have shed some tears for this great loss.

Here is the building from the east side as I remember it, stately and beautiful.

Here is an even older photo showing the original tower in the middle that was removed in 1917 for fear it would cause the roof to collapse.

One of my earliest memories at the tabernacle was attending our stake conferences here. I loved going up the round staircases in the corners to reach the balcony. One Sunday I had with me a small booklet, which as I recall, was a special book about Jesus (I’m thinking it had the words that Jesus spoke in the New Testament). I had it in my hand as I held onto the outer curved rail and descended the staircase. Horrors—that precious little book slipped out of my hands and fell down, down into the window well, far beyond my reach.

For several conferences after that fateful day, I would go up that same stairwell and stare down at my book in the window well—until eventually someone cleaned out the accumulation of debris and it was gone forever.

The beautiful balcony around three sides of the tabernacle was a favorite place to sit. When I was 11 years old, I was part of a Primary chorus singing for our stake conference. Pres. Ben Lewis called on me to say the tenth article of faith in front of the congregation (and thanks to some review the night before from my mother—who knew what was coming—I was able to do myself proud).

Here is another view of the interior. I attended many concerts through the years here, many featuring the Utah Valley Symphony.

My father tells of attending a lyceum concert in the tabernacle in 1938 by the famed pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff. In the middle of one piece, he broke off when the clanging of the passing train gave competition to his music. He resumed when the train was gone. This historic visit is covered here.

Some years our family braved the cold and attended the live nativity on the north lawn outside the tabernacle.

And in later years, several of us even participated in the Adventsingen Christmas program sponsored by the German department. Rebecca, Jennifer, and I sang in the Frauenchor, and Meagan sang solos of German Christmas songs.

Those of our children who graduated from Meridian School had their commencement services at this grand building—Robert, Jennifer, and Jonathan. These intimate exercises featured the graduates marching up the aisle to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance”; each individual of the small graduating classes was honored.

On occasion funerals were also held at the tabernacle, specifically for those who were famous enough to attract a large audience. Here is the casket carrying the body of scholar Hugh Nibley, whose Collected Works I helped prepare for publication.

I also attended the funeral for Truman Madsen at the tabernacle.

And how can I forget the first funeral I attended at the Provo Tabernacle in 1963 for five Boy Scouts from our stake who were killed in a terrible accident (13 total died). But among the sadness of the day, those of us who attended will never forget the singing by injured friend Ron Clark of the song “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” . . . “’til we meet again.” To this day I weep when I hear this song. For a moving account, see here.

So with a lifetime of memories of this grand structure, it is not surprising that the residents of Provo are mourning its loss. The flames licked at the structure for hours and days.

This irreplaceable Minerva Teichert painting of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood was lost, as was at least a million dollars’ worth of musical equipment that was there for a planned performance later that day.

Here is Jennifer as junior marshal in front of the Teichert painting.

Even the fire hydrant appears to be weeping on this cold, dreary day.

The interior light shows off this beautiful stained glass window of the tabernacle. I hope that something as beautiful and functional can be built in its place to bring light to our community. Good-bye to the Provo Tabernacle as we knew it!

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