Presentation of the Endowment: Murals
Updated: Dec 30, 2022
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 sometimes in the celestial rooms (BYU: A Study of the Effect of Color in the Utah Temple Murals). The first eight temples plus Los Angeles California still have murals except the Logan Utah Temple which had murals in these rooms and its celestial room before the Church rebuilt it in 1977 (135 years ago, the Logan Utah Temple was dedicated. Here are some fun facts you might not know about it and BYU: A Study of the Effect of Color in the Utah Temple Murals). The Church is removing the murals from the Salt Lake Temple and adding two new rooms without murals as part of its current renovation (A First Presidency Update on Historic Temple Renovations).
The human figure is mostly absent from temple murals with the following exceptions:
The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple’s world room mural, painted by Joseph A. F. Everett depicts pioneer scenes including the miracle of the gulls and a couple plowing together. This temple’s celestial room mural, painted by Lee Greene Richards, depicts people dressed in white in a heavenly landscape and John The Revelator seeing a vision of the New Jerusalem descending from the sky (Journal of Mormon History: Mormon Moderne: Latter-day Saint Architecture, 1925-1945 pg. 81-82 and Public Open House to Begin at Idaho Falls Idaho Temple [to see the murals be sure to watch the video]).
The Los Angeles California Temple’s world room mural, painted by Robert L. Shepherd includes Adam and Eve entering a desert landscape (Improvement Era: Los Angeles Temple Murals).
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).
For a while in the Oakland California Temple the Church used slide projectors to project a series of “murals” onto the walls of its stationary instruction rooms (BYU: The Oakland Temple: Portal to Eternity: Appendix E: Architectural Features of the Oakland Temple, The Evolution of Sacred Space: The Changing Environment of the Endowment and Dialogue Journal: The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony pg. 112).
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:
Vernal Utah Temple? (I have heard rumors that the Church recently added murals to this temple).
Palmyra New York Temple? (I have heard rumors that the Church recently added murals to this temple).
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:
Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple (visited in 2015 before its renovation)
Raleigh North Carolina Temple (visited in 2015 before its renovation)
The Hague Netherlands Temple (visited in 2017)
Veracruz Mexico Temple (visited in 2018)
Tampico Mexico Temple (visited in 2018)
Merida Mexico Temple (visited in 2018)
Villahermosa Mexico Temple (visited in 2018)
Tuxtla Gutiérrez Mexico Temple (visited in 2018)
Guadalajara México Temple (visited in 2018)
Bogota Colombia Temple (visited in 2018)
San Jose Costa Rica Temple (visited in 2018)
Ciudad Juárez Mexico Temple (visited in 2020)
Port-Au-Prince Haiti Temple Instruction Room
The Port-Au-Prince Haiti Temple has a mural in its stationary instruction room. The Hong Kong China Temple’s instruction room includes a traditional Chinese landscape silhouette on the walls, making Port-au-Prince and Hong Kong the only temples with murals in their stationary instruction rooms (Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple and Hong Kong Temple to Reopen photo 2/4).