Rising from ashes
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For more than 100 years the Provo Tabernacle stood as a monument to the sacrifice and dedication of pioneering Latter-day Saints who settled what is now Utah County, Utah.
The building hosted stake conferences and worship services of all kinds — devotionals, funerals, lectures, concerts and graduation services.
Then, on Dec. 17, 2010, the tabernacle caught fire. Originally built between 1883 and 1898 on University Avenue between Center Street and 100 South in Provo, the historic landmark burned. Only a shell of the building — beloved by the generations who had worshipped there — remained.
As word spread, many were disheartened by news of the destruction. The building had been a religious center of strength for the community. Some questioned why the Lord would let such a beautiful building burn.
Then 10-months later, during the October 2011 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced that a temple would rise from the tabernacle’s ashes.
“No church-built facility is more important than a temple,” said President Monson after announcing the temple would be built in the shell of the historic tabernacle. “Temples are places where relationships are sealed together to last through the eternities. We are grateful for all the many temples across the world and for the blessing they are in the lives of our members.”
Latter-day Saints with ties to Provo rejoiced. As did the psalmist they proclaimed, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
It is a lesson that has relevance for each of us who experience trials that ultimately become blessings.
The Lord promises: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
“For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:3-4).
President Monson said in the April 2009 general conference that none of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges — and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. “After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. ...
“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
Sister Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said the Lord did not cause the fire in the tabernacle — just as He does not cause individual trials and tribulations. But, she added, He also did not stop the fire.
“He saw the tabernacle as a magnificent temple — a permanent home for making sacred, eternal covenants,” she said in the October 2013 Relief Society general meeting. “The Lord allows us to be tried and tested, sometimes to our maximum capacity. We have seen the lives of loved ones, and maybe our own, figuratively burned to the ground and have wondered why a loving and caring Heavenly Father would allow such things to happen. But He doesn’t leave us in the ashes; He stands with open arms, eagerly inviting us to come to Him. He is building our lives into magnificent temples where His spirit can dwell eternally.”
She said the Lord is all-knowing and all-loving and is eager to help and comfort all who honor their covenants and rely on Him and the power of His Atonement.
“The trials and tribulation that we experience may be the very thing that guide us to come unto Him and cling to our covenants so that we might return to His presence and receive all that the Father hath,” she said.
President Wilford Woodruff taught that if we are faithful and obedient in times of trial, the Lord will strengthen us and use adversity to help us prepare for celestial glory.
“I want to bear my testimony to the Latter-day Saints,” President Woodruff said. “God is with this people. He is shaping our course, and will continue to do so if we will only hearken to His voice, and He will continue to give unto us sufficient grace to withstand the day of trial and trouble” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, (2011), 216–24).
At the dedication of the site for the new Provo City Center Temple, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recounted the significance of the Provo Tabernacle. “It has heard the voice of at least one president of the United States, William Howard Taft, and, by my count, at least 12 presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No other public space in Provo has ever had such valued and varied use, and no other structure in this country has been such an integral part of the religious and civic life here” (Deseret News, “Rising from ashes: Ground is broken for LDS Church’s 2nd temple in Provo,” May 12, 2012).
Just as with the lives of His children, the Lord had something better in mind for the tabernacle. During the prayer on the site of the future temple, Elder Holland dedicated “already sacred ground for an even more sacred purpose.”