Salt Lake Temple Frescoes: Thank You & Goodbye

Salt Lake Temple Frescoes: Thank You & Goodbye March 21, 2021

The night I heard about the Salt Lake Temple’s frescoes being removed during the temple’s renovation I laid awake carefully reviewing each fresco in my mind.  I’ve spent hours studying them during endowment sessions or while working in the temple.

My most memorable interaction with the frescoes happened during a session.  Anthony and I had just decided to move back to Hawaii from Salt Lake City.  He felt so giddy about the decision.  And while I felt happy to return to Hawaii, I was pretty much living my dream life living two blocks north of Temple Square, employed at the Salt Lake Temple, and in the closest proximity to my family I’d ever been.

I’d also moved soooooo many times (61 times at that point) and really craved the proximal stability with the roots that stability seemed to promise.

Century-years-old Frescoes and Brushstrokes

I sat in the Creation Room by the wall, and as the session began, I fixated on the individual brushstrokes of the fresco right next to me. Hundreds of blue, and sand, and gray, and black, and white-colored brushstrokes ran parallel in the masterpiece I studied.

Then I noticed a stark brushstroke cutting vertically and perpendicularly across the uniformity of those horizontal parallel lines. That line provided the contrast needed to create a shape. Compared to the hundreds of horizontal brush strokes, the vertical line seemed small and insignificant, but necessary.

frescoes Salt Lake Temple
“The fresco painted on the wall of the Creation Room in the Salt Lake Temple in 1915 by Frithjof Weberg is captured in a recent photograph before the walls were removed and portions of the murals preserved and archived during the temple’s ongoing renovation. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”

Suddenly, I saw the horizontal brushstrokes as the amazing people whose lives had impacted me so much.  They grew where they were planted, establishing generationally cohesive families with deep roots and ever-expanding branches. They grew together, experiencing life together.

I saw myself as that vertical line crossing the paths of those hundreds of horizontal brushstrokes — each connection impactful, meaningful, and needful for my own growth. I felt the sadness, then joy, of moving from each spot on a horizontal line to the next. Because of my wanderings, I met people I could not do life without, even though our paths crossed for only a moment.  The most impactful example of this is meeting Anthony while living in a place for only six weeks. By the time I left, I knew I would marry him someday.  Others are forever friends who saw and strengthened me, and hopefully I them, through various life struggles.

People I’ve met, sometimes just briefly, also brought information into my life that helped my understanding increase. For example, a woman I worked with for a few months casually mentioned a mathematical principle I’d never heard of before that answered a question on my long-term unanswered Gospel question shelf.  No one before or since has ever said those words to me. Other teachers appeared as I moved vertically across the brushstrokes.

God Is in the Details

I felt a profound sense of gratitude as I realized that God is in the details of our lives! As I stared at that painting, memories of people and places flooded my mind.  This life is but a speck on an eternal timeline, and I knew that each experience had helped me grow in needed ways.

I embraced the paradoxes in my feelings. Happiness and sadness could coexist. I could miss people desperately while meeting the next person who would change my life.  The Holy Ghost taught me that if I left my heart and mind open, each spot along my vertical pathway would yield rich harvests. And He was right.

Grieving a Place

I never ever expected that my experience with those amazing frescoes would become a horizontal spot on my vertical path. Admittedly, I assumed I could experience them any time I returned to the Salt Lake Temple.  I’ve watched with mixed emotion as the places I worked and served in that temple were reduced to rubble and then totally cleared leaving no evidence they ever existed in the first place. With word that the murals would be replaced, it seemed that almost every decorative trace of the temple I love so much would change.

Salt Lake Temple
All traces of the Temple Annex are totally gone

As I laid awake musing on that thought, I felt a surge of hope bursting from those remembered plastered walls — Creation, Garden, World, and Glories.

Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth?

All things declare He is the God of my salvation.  And I will rejoice in all of those things.

Salt Lake Temple mirrored in the reflecting pool

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