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Gutting Pioneer Temple History (Part 7 of 8)

Recently the LDS Church announced the seismic improvements and removal of the beautiful murals in the Salt Lake Temple.  Steve Pynakker is the evangelical host of Mormon Book Reviews and he asked me what I thought about the announcement.  To say I’m disappointed in the removal of these pioneer-era murals in an understatement.

Steve:  It was interesting, too, one of the things that I witnessed was this massive reconstructing of the temple where they’re doing all this refurbishing, and I’m looking and it just seems like, as an outsider, based on what I’m seeing, and some of the photographs people are taking, they’re actually taking off some of the symbols that were on there. It seems like it’s kind of a whitewashing.

GT:  On the outside?

Steve:  Yeah.

GT:  Oh, maybe you’ve been paying more attention than I have? I hope not.

Steve:  Yeah, somebody pointed out that one of the symbols that was originally carved in there was taken out, they took a picture of that.  It just seems like they’re really radically changing the Salt Lake temple.  What are they trying to do, modernize it for the 21st century?

GT:  I know, to some degree, they were trying to make it more earthquake proof. I have no problem with that. But I’m appalled that we’re getting rid of the beautiful murals that are inside.  They have a model, you can see, hopefully.  They’re redoing the whole Temple Square. But there used to be a model of the Salt Lake temple where you could see scale versions of those murals and to have those removed is a travesty, in my opinion.  President Nelson wants to make it efficient. There’s more of this world than everything needs to be efficient and to lose the history and the symbols for the sake of efficiency, I think is bad, terrible.

Steve:  I just remember when we were on that very first phone call, the news flashed right when it happened, and you were not a happy camper.

GT:  No.  I’ve tried to be pretty low key about it. But yeah, I’m extremely bothered by it.

Steve:  Well, and just as the historian…

GT:  The one thing that I will say, Manti, they wanted to they want to do the same thing to the Manti temple, because Manti is a pioneer temple as well. The thing that bothers me about Salt Lake, they did this without any input from the people and then when they said “We’re going to do the same thing to Manti,” the people in Manti were like, “No.”  They’ve already done this to the Logan Temple, and they’ve done it at the St. George Temple. It’s like, no, those were pioneer era temples. They need to be pioneer era temples. I’m so grateful for President Hinckley for rebuilding the Nauvoo Temple, but in my mind, I wish that they would they would have [restored it like it was originally built.] The exterior looks the same, but the interior is completely different. In the original Nauvoo Temple, they had two ballrooms, essentially.  They danced.  They literally held dances in the temple, and now they’ve replaced it with endowments stuff and that’s great, that’s fine. But, the original Nauvoo Temple also had a weathervane on top of it, and instead of an upright Moroni, it was a flying angel with a trumpet, like in [the Book of] Revelation.  It would turn with the wind. I wish we had the flying angel on the Nauvoo Temple. President Hinckley said, “Well, I like the standing one better.” And he’s paying the money. So he [gets] to do his choice, but I wish that we had restored the Nauvoo Temple, the way it was originally built.

Check out our conversation….

The Salt Lake Temple is undergoing major renovations.



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Swimsuits, Gold Medals, & Blacks (Part 3 of 9)

Did you know there was an official swimsuit of the Los Angeles Temple?

Casey:  The temple swimsuit, which like I said, those two things seem a little incongruent. This is the temple swimsuit, for those of you that are out there. There was a lady named Rose Marie Reid, who was a member of the Church. She grew up in Idaho, and moved to Southern California, married a guy who was Jewish, and became the top swimsuit designer in the world and she ran this business where she…

GT:  This was in the 50’s, probably.

Casey:  This was in the 40’s and 50’s, yeah.  So, she designed swimsuits for Hollywood stars for high profile people, and was very, very well known.

GT:  Marilyn Monroe would have been one of them.

Casey:  Yeah, and, basically, in the early 1950s, they’re raising funds for the Los Angeles temple. Rose Marie designed the swimsuit, specifically to raise money for the temple. For whatever reason, it became known by the name the temple swimsuit. Apparently, this was so popular that someone stole a version of it and got caught and there was a whole scandal in the news relating to it because her swimsuits were so desirable. But Rose Marie Reid, eventually, she had the Relief Society women in her ward sew the sequins on the on the suits that they sold to raise funds for it.

Did you know that the first pioneers that entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 received a gold medal, including a black man in the company of Brigham Young?

Casey:  This is an object that’s in this book that’s never been photographed before. But everybody that was in the vanguard pioneer company of 1847, they rounded up in 1897, the 50th anniversary and gave them a gold medal, basically, to say, “This person was part of the vanguard company, and we want to recognize and honor them.” Well, in the middle of those celebrations, a guy shows up at the Deseret News office, a black guy and said, “Hey, I was part of the vanguard company, too. His name was Green Flake. They gave Green Flake a medal and honored him as part of the vanguard company.

GT:  He was the one that drove Brigham Young’s wagon, right?

Casey:  Yeah, Green’s background is fascinating. When you dive into it, like I said, it kind of shows the complexities linked to race and the Church in the 19th century. For instance, Green is a slave owned by the Flake family, the Isaac Flake family that owns a plantation in Mississippi. Missionaries come, they convert the Flakes, and there’s variants in the sources, but the general story that’s told is that when the Flakes converted. They decided to migrate to Nauvoo, and they freed their slaves. But Green is 16 years old at the time, and he elects to stay with the Flakes. At that point, there’s some question as to, is he a family friend or is he a slave?

At that point, Brigham Young intervenes and says, “Look, Green has a wife and Green has kids. He can’t just pick up his life and move down there because you guys need him to,” which suggests that in Brigham Young’s mind, Green was not a slave. This is all in the 1850’s before slavery is outlawed, but it kind of does show that Brigham Young’s attitudes towards slavery, servitude and black members of the Church was more complex now than we depict it.

Dr. Casey Griffiths, author of 50 Relics of the Restoration, will tell us more about some of these relics of the restoration.  Check out our conversation….

The LA Temple had a fundrasier designed by Hollywood’s best.
Sequins were sewn on by the Relief Society!

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Casey!

520: Recycling Hofmann Forgeries

519: Mormon Interfaith Council

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Darren’s Relationship to Bear River Massacre (Part 9 of 9)

In our final conversation with author Darren Parry of the Bear River Massacre, we’ll tie up some loose ends and trace his family history back to Chief Sagwitch.  We’ll also talk about the first non-English sermon in General Conference.

GT:  So Yeager was there for the massacre. Your grandmother Mae heard about the massacre directly from him.

Darren:  From him, her grandfather, Yeager.

GT:  Her grandfather.

Darren:  He lived to be really old. In fact, one thing a lot of people don’t know about Yeager, he was called out of the audience in the 1918, General Conference, and was asked to bear his testimony from the pulpit.

GT:  Wow.

Darren:  In conference, and he went up there, and he spoke Shoshone. His Bishop was the translator. The funny thing is, when I met with the Presiding Bishop earlier last year, to talk about the massacre and our Interpretive Center, the Church Historian, was there, Elder Snow.

GT:  Steven Snow.

Darren:  Yeah. So Steven Snow was there. He said, “I’ll bet you can’t tell me what was the first language spoken from the pulpit, at general conference, other than English?”  I said, “I know what it was.”  The Presiding Bishop didn’t know, nobody knew. A lot of them thought it was probably a Scandinavian, because a lot of those people join the church. I said, “I know what it was. It was Shoshone.”  He said, “You’re right. How did you know?”  I said, “Well, it was my great-grandfather that gave the talk, gave his testimony.

Darren:  One thing he said in his testimony that I just think is funny–I’ve got a copy of this talk and his testimony, but he said one thing, “The gospel has changed my life in a way that I no longer have a desire to kill the white man.”

GT:  (Chuckling)

Darren:  I thought that was awesome. I thought, “I can just see farmer Joe on the first row of the tabernacle being, half asleep, hearing that from the pulpit.” I thought, “That’s awesome. That’s classic.”

To hear the rest of our conversation, sign up for our free newsletter at ….

Photo courtesy Darren Parry of his great-great grandfather, Yeager Timbimboo, survivor of Bear River Massacre.

Don’t miss our previus conversations with Darren!

487: Why Indian Headdress shouldn’t be Sports Mascots

486: Monument in Killing Fields

485: Turning Massacre into Model for Peace

484: Idaho Monument to Shoshone Massacre

483: How a Battle Changed to Massacre

482: How Mormon Pioneers Changed Native Life

481: Native Life Before Pioneers

480: Darren Parry for Congress