Sacred Grove, Sacred Light


The stained glass windows of the Palmyra New York Temple remind us of the glorious light of the First Vision.

Few ever forget the reverence they feel when visiting the Sacred Grove. Here, young Joseph Smith knelt in prayer on “the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty” and “saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above [him] in the air. One of them … said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:14, 17).

Now a temple stands near the sacred site of the First Vision. Inside the temple, the stained glass windows help create a feeling of being in the Sacred Grove surrounded by beauty and light, as was the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The front doors of the temple

The front doors of the temple.

Tom Holdman, creator of the windows, remembers when he sought the Lord’s help and inspiration. “My mind was flooded with an image of all 108 windows of the temple filled with stained glass trees.” In all, 12 employees worked full time on the 17,000-piece project. In four months, they were finished. “Toward the end,” remembers Brother Holdman, “I did not want to and could not stop working.”

Skylight in the Baptistry

A person being baptized can look up into the skylight with its artistry of overhanging branches and be reminded of the view seen by the Prophet Joseph as he looked upward during the First Vision.

At the temple dedication on 6 April 2000, President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said of the stained glass windows: “The stained glass windows representing the Sacred Grove brought to my mind the statement in the Doctrine and Covenants [124:26] where the Lord said, ‘Send ye swift messengers, … and say unto them: Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones, and with all your antiquities; and with all who have knowledge of antiquities, that will come, may come, and bring the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth.’”

A detail of young Joseph Smith

A detail of young Joseph Smith from a 1,400-piece stained glass mural of the First Vision.

Brother Holdman and his wife, Gayle, remember walking quietly into the celestial room of the Palmyra temple for the dedication. “Everyone was telling me how beautiful the windows were,” says Tom, “but the Spirit whispering acceptance of the work was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.”

Stained glass windows in the celestial room

These stained glass windows in the celestial room feature the tree of life in the center panel.

[photos] Photos by Willie Holdman

[photo] Above: Palmyra New York Temple.