The Gem State’s First Temple Welcomes Guests Following Renovation

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 10 May 2017

Byron and Karen Williams celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary with their children and grandchildren at the open house of the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. They were married in Idaho’s first temple.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO

There are many ways Byron and Karen Williams could have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on May 1: A quiet dinner. An afternoon on the golf course. Maybe even a vacation to warmer climes.

Instead, the couple spent the day with their children and grandchildren at the place where, well, it all began—the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

“We invited our family to come and be with us and spend this time together at our temple for our anniversary,” said Sister Williams. “The temple is beautiful—just as it was 59 years ago on the day we were married here.”

Many participating in the ongoing open house of the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple are walking through its peaceful, beautifully designed halls and rooms for the first time. But for the Williams family and many others, attending the open house is like reuniting with a beloved friend. Following its two-year closure for renovation, the temple will soon be open again.

“I recognized each of the rooms; they haven’t changed much,” said Brother Williams, who still calls Idaho Falls home. “The Church has done an amazing job.”

Built on the banks of the Snake River in southeast Idaho, the temple has defined the city’s skyline for more than seven decades. Closed in March of 2015, it will be rededicated and open for religious worship in about a month. Until then, the general public is enjoying a rare opportunity to tour the temple interior during the ongoing open house period.

The temple was closed to allow for mechanical and electrical systems upgrades and to make seismic improvements on the 72-year-old structure.

The renovation also provided a much-needed opportunity to restore the temple’s iconic and beloved murals.

“These murals were painted by the leading LDS artists in the 1930s and ’40s,” said Emily Utt, historic sites curator for the Church History Department, in a news release.

Meticulous care was exercised to restore the murals to their original condition. Conservators removed much of the past damage caused by well-meaning people.

“And then there [were] the repairs that needed to happen because of 70 years of grime and just gunk that [builds] up on the murals,” added Utt.

Many open house visitors have marveled at the deep, rich colors and details found in the massive murals adorning the temple’s grand hall, the baptistry, the creation room, the Garden of Eden room, the world room, and the celestial room.

The extensive interior improvements include new glass, stone, wood, and metal work that is consistent with the geometric, square designs prominent in the building’s exterior.

Even the statue of the angel Moroni, which was attached to the temple’s steeple in 1983, stands polished and new. The statue was removed for a short time so a craftsman could apply a fresh layer of gold leaf.

But for many here in eastern Idaho, the temple is far more than a beautifully furnished and designed building. It’s the place where lives were changed and families became eternal.

Fifty-five years ago, Ronald and Marianne Stamm and their two young children traveled from their home in Cody, Wyoming, to the Idaho Falls Temple to be sealed. Brother Stamm remembers well his joy when his little ones, dressed in white, joined him and his wife at the altar of the temple. His thoughts returned to that defining moment as he toured the renovated temple.

Marianne and Ronald Stamm stand outside the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. The Stamms and their children were sealed in the temple 55 years ago. Photo by Jason Swensen.

The Stamms said they marveled at the improvements that will keep the temple operating for decades to come. But they also appreciate that the temple has retained its historical design and appearance.

“I was so pleased to see all the murals once again,” said Sister Stamm.

The couple, who serve in the Layton, Utah, Family Search Center, are eager to return to Idaho Falls on June 4 for the rededication ceremony and, aptly, the 55th anniversary of their sealing.

Idaho Falls resident Doyle Batt, who chairs the local open house committee, said he’s witnessed miracles during the open house period. Each day he hears folks of all backgrounds speak of the peaceful spirit they felt inside the temple. They comment on the elegant murals and the exterior gardens.

“For me personally, it’s just so wonderful to be back in this temple,” he said. “It has reminded me again of the promises I’ve made to my Heavenly Father to be a better person.”

Dedicated on September 23, 1945, by President George Albert Smith, the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple was the Gem State’s first LDS temple. Since then, Idaho temples have been opened in Twin Falls, Boise, and Rexburg, and a fifth temple is under construction in Meridian. President Monson also announced in April general conference plans to build in nearby Pocatello.

The open house will continue through May 20, except on Sundays. Free reservations for tours can be made at templeopenhouse.lds.org.

The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple will be formally rededicated in three sessions on June 4. Local youth will present a cultural celebration on the eve of the dedication in Pocatello.

The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple was the first temple built in Idaho and is located on the picturesque banks of the Snake River on 1000 Memorial Drive. President George Albert Smith announced plans to build the temple on March 3, 1937, and it was dedicated on September 23, 1945.

The stained glass featured in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Renovations in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple, which has been closed for more than two years, include updated furnishings. The temple will be rededicated June 4, 2017.

The garden room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

An instruction room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

The chandelier in the celestial room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

A mural in the celestial room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

A mural in the garden room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

A sealing room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

The celestial room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

The creation room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Baptistry in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Garden room of the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Brides’ room in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Renovations in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple, which has been closed for more than two years, include updated furnishings. The temple will be rededicated June 4, 2017.

Part of the grand staircase in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple features a painting of Jesus Christ instructing His disciples.

Instruction room in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Reception desk in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.

Reception desk in the newly renovated Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.