Burned Provo Tabernacle to become a Temple

I remember how my heart sank on hearing the news of the Provo Tabernacle burning. Such a beautiful building, so full of history from generations past. I even had a little bittersweet history of my own there. Seeing the damage some weeks later, I teared up over the destruction and loss, never imagining for a moment what the Lord had in mind.

To quote a few news reports:

Most of the brick facade on the lower portion of the building was still standing as of 9 a.m. as well as the pinnacles of the building, but many fear the historic structure will be a complete loss.

“We’re all really devastated,” said Provo Mayor John R. Curtis. “Everyone in Provo has significant memories of concerts, plays, church meetings. It’s an extremely vital part of my community. It’s really a fabric of the community.”

Schofield said crews will not be able to determine the status of the building until they can get a look inside.

“We don’t know for sure, but it’s hard to imagine we haven’t lost the building,” said Curtis.(reported at KSL.com, Dec. 17, 2010)

A report on the cause of fire was released months later. Tragically, it could have been stopped. As ABC News 4 Utah reported on March 31, 2011:

“[Shofield said] There was a alarm that was recognized at 1:10 — a local alarm to the building only,” That alarm sounded well before the fire burned out of control through the rafters, but it was not understood. Schofield continued, “The security officer followed his training. His training was to look for an intruder.”

When no intruder was found, the security guard first consulted building managers and then tried to reset the alarm. When It would not reset, he silenced it.

The guard did not understand that the alarm was sounding for a fire, not a burglar.

When firefighters were finally called, it was too late.

I was sad then, but really considered the old building a lost cause. So President Monson’s announcement today caught me completely by surprise.

. . .

Later, my kids asked how the Lord can see the future without forcing us to do something.

“Well, how do I know you just asked that question?” I retorted.

“Because I already asked it!” Ethan laughed.

“Hm, the fact that I know you asked it — does that mean I MADE you ask it?”

“No! You just heard me ask it.”

I explained that, at least by my understanding, the Lord isn’t limited by time the same way we are. In this example, it’s like the question was already asked – so it’s not like we were forced to that destiny. It’s just He knew it would happen because for Him, it already did. Does that make sense? And I recalled a scripture from Abraham that had stuck with me in a particularly trying time:

“My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.” (Abraham 2:7)

Likewise He already knew this tabernacle would be burned, and already had bigger plans for it. He already knew how I would feel at this stage in my life, too. What plans does he have for me? He’s seen it all. He knows what’s coming, and he’s ready to help us as we have faith. Even when all seems like a total loss from our perspective, He knows the grand scheme of things. He knows the end from the beginning.

Provo Tabernacle Fire by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Surely I can’t be the only one who has ever felt a bit like that old Provo Tabernacle, severely damaged by the ravages of the world, held together by scaffolding and braces, wondering why we didn’t respond to earlier warnings, wondering whether we can be saved, and frankly, wondering whether we would even be worth so great a cost.

The Lord didn’t start that fire, but He was aware it would happen, and had His great purposes in mind all along.

Likewise, while I know the Lord doesn’t cause the problems in our lives, and while we may be able to avoid some of our own self-destruction if we’d better interpret the alarm system we’ve been given, we are still of great worth. The Lord has purposes in mind that we might not understand right now, but He still knows the end from the beginning, and is mighty to save.

Anyway, I hope I’ll get a chance to tidy up these thoughts sometime soon, but in the meantime, in spite of the weakness of my language 🙂 … I don’t want to forget how I felt then, and I hope those thoughts will help someone out there going through their own personal renovations of sorts. If that’s you, hang in there. ❤


  1. Austin

    Very insightful! It was a sad day for me too . We watched it burning throughout the day from my office. So glad that it is being restored! I was there Saturday for about an hour admiring the engineering feat that is being pulled off as they rebuild…


    1. Velda

      Wow, that would have been fun. You’re lucky you’re so near it. I got to take a look a few weeks ago and yeah — what they’re doing now really is a marvel.

      And thanks. I’m glad you liked this 🙂


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