MANTI, Utah — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will build a new temple in Ephraim, Utah, and restore the historic, pioneer-era Manti Temple beginning about Oct. 1, President Russell M. Nelson announced in a video message Saturday to church members in central Utah.
The twin decisions will enable the church to keep and preserve the historic murals in the Manti Temple, President Nelson said. The murals were painted by the late, treasured Latter-day Saint artist Minerva Teichert.
"These decisions will expand future opportunities for members in this temple district to participate in sacred temple ordinances, and at the same time allow us to preserve the classical characteristics and useful life of the historic Manti Utah Temple," the church president said.
He called the temple "a unique treasure."
Saturday's announcement marked the first time in 13 years that a church leader had announced a temple outside of general conference. In December 2008, the First Presidency announced the Trujillo Peru Temple in a letter to church leaders.
Tears came to the already beaming eyes of Manti native and brand-new bride Breanna Hedelius Coberly on Saturday morning when she heard the news about the two temples after walking out of the Manti Temple to cheers from family and friends following her temple wedding and sealing to Clark Coberly.
"Are you serious? I'm so happy," said Breanna, a 21-year-old BYU nursing major. "That's incredible. It's going to be wonderful for the people here. Having a temple in Ephraim will allow more people to attend the temple while the Manti Temple can remain its historic self."
The Manti Temple was dedicated in 1888 and is the third-oldest Latter-day Saint temple in operation. Church leaders had announced in March that what will be the temple's second renovation would end the live presentation of the endowment ordinance, which required moving between rooms and taking stairs, and the preservation and removal of the Teichert murals.
The goal was to make the temple more accessible.
Saturday's announcements were made in a special broadcast for church members in 27 stakes in the Manti Temple District in central Utah. The broadcast originated from the Manti Tabernacle. President Nelson's video message was prerecorded at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
In the Manti Tabernacle, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called Saturday's announcement a divine, revelatory decision, saying he was with President Nelson soon after the church leader received the impression to build the temple in Ephraim, which is named for the Old Testament prophet.
Elder Rasband said the Manti Temple will be retrofitted to show the endowment by film rather than live performance, but the ordinance will continue to be progressive, moving temple-goers from room to room. The film will allow people to view the endowment in 90 languages.
The Ephraim Utah Temple will be a modern, accessible temple similar in size to the 36,000-square-foot temple in Brigham City, Utah. It will have four endowment rooms with 30 seats in each room, and will have three sealing rooms and one baptismal font, said Elder Kevin R. Duncan, executive director of the Temple Department.
"You could have blown us away when they announced the Ephraim Temple," said Christy Larsen, who watched the meeting live on the Internet with her husband Wayne in nearby Mount Pleasant, Utah. "It makes sense because it will make it easier for so many people here to attend the temple. We have older people in our ward who drive to the Payson Temple (more than an hour away) because they can't climb the stairs in the Manti Temple."
The Ephraim temple will be the 252nd Latter-day Saint temple in operation, under construction or announced, and the 27th in the state of Utah, said Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the church's Presiding Bishopric. Construction will take about two years, though no site has yet been selected.
"Our hope is that many members of the church, including many students at Snow College, will live within walking distance," he said.
The two temples will serve a region that is experiencing rapid growth, Wayne Larsen said. The Larsens said they never thought there would be two temples in Sanpete County, which was founded in 1849 when Brigham Young complied with the request of Ute chiefs Walkara and Sowiette to settle the area, which originally was named for Ute chief Sanpitch.
The first Latter-day Saint settlers dug shelters into the south side of the hill upon which the Manti Temple now towers above the valley. Manti is named for a city in the Book of Mormon.
Renovation work on the 133-year-old Manti Temple will take 18 months to two years to complete, Bishop Waddell said. It took 13 years to build after Brigham Young announced its construction in 1875. Ground was broken in 1877. The temple was renovated and rededicated in 1985.
Teichert's artworks featured in the temple are "valued not only for their beauty, but also as a treasured remembrance of the faith, talent and dedication of the artist," church leaders said last month when they announced the temple renovation.
Teichert painted the murals on canvas in 1947, and workers adhered them to the plaster walls in the temple's world room. The murals cover nearly 4,000 square feet and wrap around doors and under windows. Teichert did the bulk of the work in one month, according to a BYU Studies article by Doris Dant.
The murals depict God's hand in the sweep of human history from the tower of babel to what Latter-day Saints believe is the establishment of Zion in the American West.
The church had hoped to separate the canvas or portions of the canvas from the plaster with the help of international experts and preserve the murals for future restoration.
Now, the murals will remain in place and will be cleaned and preserved as the temple undergoes a renovation that will upgrade the foundation, the water table on the grounds, electrical systems and more, said Brent Roberts, director of special projects for the church.
Here is a transcript of President Nelson's message:
We have been giving much prayerful thought to the hardy pioneers who labored and sacrificed to make it possible for faithful members of the church to receive their blessings in the Manti Utah Temple. Over time countless craftsmen, artists and laborers have created this unique treasure.
We have also given prayerful foresight to the growing number of faithful members of the church who now live or will yet live in this central sector of Utah. In addition, we have considered the thousands of students who come to Snow College in pursuit of their education. We care about their well being and their future.
In the April 2019 general conference, we announced that the Manti Utah Temple would need renovation. This pioneer temple needs mechanical upgrades and other changes to keep it useful and safe. It also needs to be revised to offer the revealed ordinances and covenants to members who speak languages other than English. That will be made possible by filmed presentations, as in other temples. To begin this multi-year project, we will close the Manti Utah Temple around next Oct. 1.
We have continued to seek the direction of the Lord on this matter. We have been impressed to modify our earlier plans for the Manti Utah Temple so that the pioneer craftsmanship, artwork and character will be preserved, including the painted murals loved by so many. We will leave those murals where they are located now, inside the Manti Utah Temple.
Now may we turn our attention to Manti's neighboring city, Ephraim. After much study and prayer, and with our deep gratitude for the Lord's respondings to our pleadings, I'm pleased to announce that we have been impressed to build a new temple in Ephraim, Utah.
These decisions will expand future opportunities for members in this temple district to participate in sacred temple ordinances and, at the same time, allow us to preserve the unique, classical character and useful life of the historic Manti Utah Temple.
As you can imagine, many details remain for later decisions. I haveCa asked selected church leaders to meet with you today to respond to any questions you may have. I'm most grateful for their help. Now, on behalf of the First Presidency, may I take this opportunity to thank all of you for your faithful devotion to the work of the Lord. You comprise a stalwart part of the Lord's vineyard. I express my love for you and my testimony that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God. Jesus is the Christ. This is his church. We are his servants. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.