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  • Writer's pictureNathan Augustine

Presentation of the Endowment: Murals

Updated: Mar 1

Does the temple you most often visit have murals on the walls of its instruction rooms? In this post I will discuss the murals found in the instruction rooms of the early temples and in many of the more recent temples. One thing to note of is that the Church has used different terms to refer to the rooms used in the endowment ceremony. For the early four stage progressive temples these rooms are most commonly but unofficially known as the creation, garden, world and terrestrial rooms. The rooms in stationary and two stage progressive temples are sometimes called endowment, ordinance or instruction rooms by the Church. Most recently it appears that the official term is instruction room and that is how I will most often refer to them. Though I refer to the second instruction room in two stage progressive temples as the terrestrial room to differentiate it from the first instruction room.

Salt Lake World Room

To provide a setting for the live endowment ceremony the Church painted murals in the creation, garden and world rooms of early temples and once in a celestial room (BYU: A Study of the Effect of Color in the Utah Temple Murals). The first eight temples plus Los Angeles California had murals, and with the exceptions below still do.

The human figure is mostly absent from temple murals with the following exceptions:

Redlands California Temple

Only the Cardston Alberta (Paintings from the Alberta Temple) and Redlands California temples have murals in their terrestrial rooms. In Redlands the mural is of the sky and is only on the arched ceiling (See image here).

Three temples have murals on the walls in their celestial rooms, they are the Idaho Falls Idaho, Los Angeles California and Hamilton New Zealand temples. As mentioned above the Idaho Falls celestial room the mural is similar to other murals in that temple, it is a full color landscape and includes figures. In both Los Angeles and Hamilton the celestial room murals are only silhouettes of the landscape. Hamilton is the only temple to have a mural in its celestial room but not in its instruction rooms (The Trumpet Stone: Celestial Room Murals). Before the Church rebuilt it in 1977 the Logan Utah Temple had murals on two walls in its celestial room. Several temples have paintings in their celestial rooms but not murals (I define murals as filling all or most of a wall).

London England Temple

After their renovations in 1992 the Church painted the ceiling of the Bern Switzerland and London England celestial rooms with a mural of a blue sky with white clouds (Getty Images: Mormon Temple Visitors).

When the Church built the Nauvoo Illinois Temple they not only wanted the exterior to match the original temple but they wanted the interior to refer to the pioneer era temples. Therefore they built a temple with an assembly room and the traditional four instruction rooms. They also decided that the instruction rooms would have murals (Meridian Magazine: The Artists Who Painted the Nauvoo Murals and Daily Herald: LDS Artists Team Up to Paint Murals for Temple).

After deciding to include murals in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple the Church decided to include murals in the instruction rooms of other temples then under construction, starting with the Columbia River Washington Temple (Church News: Temple Inspires Public). Since then the Church has included murals in most, possibly all, of the recent temples that have two stage progression but only in the instruction room, not the terrestrial room (Murals in Provo City Center Temple prove to be a sacred endeavor). They have also added murals to the following renovated temples:

Almost all temples with murals have two or four stage progression (see last paragraph below), however, even though most temples the church dedicated from St. Louis to Perth Australia (56 temples) use two stage progression most of them do not have murals since the Church built them before they started using murals again.

The Hague Netherlands Temple

However, in addition to the renovated temples mentioned above the Church has added murals to many two stage progression temples, especially many of the small standardized temples that follow the pattern of the Monticello Utah Temple. On the Our Love for the Temples blog the authors describe visits to many temples. While they don't always say if a temple has a mural or not they mention murals in many of them that didn't have murals when the temple was dedicated:

Port-Au-Prince Haiti Temple Instruction Room

Previously only temples with two and four stage progression had murals in their instruction rooms. In these temples the final room (the terrestrial room or the one with the veil) typically does not have murals. Recently the Church has included murals in a few temples with stationary instruction rooms. So far these are the Port-Au-Prince Haiti, Lisbon Portugal and Praia Cape Verde temples. The Hong Kong China Temple’s instruction room includes a traditional Chinese landscape on the walls. So far, these are the only temples with murals in their stationary instruction rooms (Port-au-Prince Haiti, Lisbon Portugal, Praia Cape Verde and Hong Kong Temple to Reopen photo 2/4).

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Esteban J. Corzo
Esteban J. Corzo
Jan 05

I can tell you that the original murals in Bogotá Colombia Temple's first instruction rooms ("garden rooms"?) originally had a design akin to a beach, having the "ocean" in the back wall and selvatic/rain forest-like scenery that and it included a couple birds here and there in the lateral walls and part of the front wall, therefore implying the progression element as a literal way away from the sea and into a mainland. In a personal note, such mural was kinda weird, given that it was meant to represent the Garden of Even, yet such sacred place is never depicted as being near any sea nor ocean, but the Scriptures described it as surrounded by mountains and having four rivers…

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