The historic Provo Tabernacle was heavily damaged overnight by a four-alarm fire that is believed to have begun in the building’s second story. Firefighters responded to the fire after it was reported at 2:43 a.m., but the intensity of the fire made it impossible for them to fight it from inside the building.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement this morning regarding the fire:
“The fire at the Provo Tabernacle is tragic. The building not only serves our members and the community, but is a reminder of the pioneering spirit that built Utah. The damage appears severe, and until we make a structural assessment we won’t know whether this historic treasure will be able to be saved.”
Dozens of tabernacles were built in the early days of the Church. Tabernacles embody the deep and abiding faith that pioneer Saints felt for Jesus Christ and His gospel. The more than 80 buildings that remain from earlier eras stand as edifying symbols to modern-day Saints.
Historically, tabernacles have ranged from simple log cabins (Kanesville, Iowa, constructed in 1847) or adobe (mud brick) buildings (the first tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah, 1852) to classically inspired templelike structures (Bountiful, Utah, 1857–63), picturesque Victorian halls (Bear Lake, Idaho, 1884–89, and Provo, Utah, 1883–98), and buildings that hark back to the American colonies (Boise, Idaho, 1924–25). The last tabernacle built by the Church was the Ogden Tabernacle. Made of steel and concrete, it features modern international architecture (1952–56). The Provo Tabernacle featured Gothic-style stained glass windows and a steep roof and corner turrets that gave the exterior a distinctive look. A pipe organ provided a stunning backdrop to the elaborate, hand-carved rostrum.
Tabernacles are larger than the tens of thousands of regular Mormon meetinghouses (or chapels) where Latter-day Saints meet weekly for Sunday services. They also differ from temples, which are sacred buildings reserved for Latter-day Saints to worship and perform sacred ordinances. Tabernacles are typically used today for meetings with several congregations combined.