"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
January 13, 2016
Books Tell Story of Tabernacle-turned-Temple
by Laurie Williams Sowby

I remember getting an urgent email on Dec. 17, 2010, as we were preparing to return home from an East Coast mission saying the Provo Tabernacle was in flames. Once the roof had collapsed and the fire was out, photos of the damage started hitting the news. Many whose lives had been touched by the Provo Tabernacle grieved.

I was one of them, as it was the place where each of our five children had heard their first concert; the Utah Valley Symphony had made the Provo Tabernacle its home for decades, and thousands upon thousands of concert-goers as well as Church members had sat in the pews crafted by pioneers.

It was wonderful news to multitudes of folks who feel a personal connection to the Provo Tabernacle when President Monson announced in October 2011 that the burned-out building—a sturdy symbol of hard work and craftsmanship and a landmark since its dedication in 1898--would be saved and become a temple.

With the Provo City Center Temple open house in progress now through March 5 (dedication is set for March 20), two new books on the topic are both timely and valuable.

A commemorative edition of The Story of the Provo City Center Tabernacle is authored by Susan Easton Black, Glenn Rawson, and Dennis Lyman as part of the History of the Saints series from Covenant (2015, 42 pages in soft cover, $8.99). The team brings together interesting facts, historic photos, and quotes by LDS leaders of another era, along with documentation and compelling images of the fire and its effects and the process of constructing the new temple. (Who knew that this was actually the second tabernacle built in Provo by pioneers, or that President Taft spoke there when running for reelection in 1909?)

Details of engineering work, structural necessities, and support facilities such as an underground parking garage beneath a park-like landscape with fountain and gazebo are included—surroundings which re-invented University Avenue between Center Street and Second South. (The huge Angel Moroni-topped tower placed between the four corner towers can be seen for miles.)

Anyone with emotional or historical ties to the old Provo Tabernacle should appreciate this book.

The second one, written on a child’s level, has more universal appeal as it focuses on feeling the Spirit.

Judy Fletcher Davis, who played violin many times in the Provo Tabernacle, presents the story of the building, fire, and rebuilding in Out of the Ashes: From Tabernacle to Temple (Covenant 2015, 32 pages in hard cover, $15.99). Nicely illustrated by BYU art graduate Wilson J. Ong, the book recalls how a deaf carpenter felt the Spirit of the Lord during the dedication; how his son met his future wife while attending a meeting there; how their son listened to a patriotic concert there as he returned from World War II; and how the soldier’s daughter performed violin concertos in the same place. Of course, the carpenter in this true story was the author’s great-great-grandfather.

Relevant quotes from scriptures can be found on each page of text alongside a full-page color illustration, including one which depicts a framed painting firemen recovered—burned everywhere but on the image of Christ, underscoring the author’s theme of peace and comfort that can rise “out of the ashes.”


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About Laurie Williams Sowby

Laurie Williams Sowby has been writing since second grade and getting paid for it since high school. Her byline ("all three names, please") has appeared on more than 6,000 freelance articles published in newspapers, magazines, and online.

A graduate of BYU and a writing instructor at Utah Valley University for many years, she proudly claims all five children and their spouses as college grads.

She and husband, Steve, have served three full-time missions together, beginning in 2005 in Chile, followed by Washington D.C. South, then Washington D.C. North, both times as young adult Institute teachers. They are currently serving in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs

During her years of missionary service, Laurie has continued to write about significant Church events, including the rededication of the Santiago Temple by President Hinckley and the groundbreaking for the Philadelphia Temple by President Eyring. She also was a Church Service Missionary, working as a news editor at Church Magazines, between full-time missions.

Laurie has traveled to all 50 states and at least 45 countries (so far). While home is American Fork, Utah, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have provided a comfortable second home.

Laurie is currently serving a fourth full-time mission with her husband in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs. The two previously served with a branch presidency at the Provo Missionary Training Center. The oldest of 18 grandchildren have been called to serve missions in New Hampshire and Brisbane, Australia.

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