Please Preserve Minerva Teichert’s Priceless Treasure—The Manti Temple Murals

Margaret Tarkington is a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in the Cincinnati stake.

On March 12, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the Manti Temple murals would be “photographed, documented, and removed.” I respectfully implore the Church and any involved to reconsider this decision, especially as to the Minerva Teichert World Room murals. Teichert is a renowned artist and was the first woman to be commissioned to paint a mural in an LDS temple.[1] Her World Room murals are a masterpiece and a crowning accomplishment of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman. No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which are vast in conception, scope, vision, and size (the room is 28 feet tall, 50 feet long, and 25 feet wide). The murals cover nearly 4000 square feet. Unlike prior World Room murals depicting fighting animals, Teichert portrayed the pageant of human history in a fallen world. Beginning with the Tower of Babel portrayed in the back of the room, she painted the history of the Gentiles and Israelites on opposing side walls (including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, the crusaders, Columbus, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower) culminating in the gathering of the early Latter-day Saints to the North American Continent and their efforts to build Zion, portrayed on the front wall. All human history marches towards the restoration, the gathering of the Saints, and ultimately the establishment of Zion. To remove these murals is akin to painting over the Sistine Chapel—in terms of LDS art, history, and women’s contributions and achievement. Most importantly, the decision is irreversible if the murals are destroyed.

The rationale given for the decisions to update the Manti and Salt Lake Temples makes a great deal of sense for the Salt Lake Temple. There is likely a need for more rooms where the presentation can be made in 80 languages in Salt Lake City, with a metropolitan population, as well as where general authorities visit in large groups from around the world. But these reasons make little sense for Manti (with a relatively non-diverse population of 3,500 people in a county of 29,000 people). Many of the Manti Temple’s patrons travel to Manti specifically to experience its history and Teichert’s murals. If the Church turns the Manti Temple into a temple indistinguishable from other modern temples, Manti’s patronage will likely decline substantially. Further, the assertion that because the paintings were painted directly on plaster walls and thus cannot be preserved seems unlikely given the ability to preserve paintings on plaster walls by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Further, the Teichert murals were painted in 1947, after the original pioneer-era walls were deteriorating. Teichert painted on walls that had been replastered in 1946 with “high quality sail canvas applied to the walls.”

If the Church believes there is a need to have a temple with beautiful, but cookie-cutter, rooms like other modern temples, they should build one of those modern temples in one of the towns in Sanpete county where people could go for that experience. If funding for such a project is a concern or constraint, or if funding for preservation costs for the Teichert murals is a constraint, then fundraising should be invited and allowed prior to destruction of such a priceless treasure. If the murals can be removed without destroying them, then the Church should so clarify and have them moved to a museum or otherwise exhibit the murals so people can see and be inspired by them rather than preserving portions that are placed in the Church Archives where they will not be seen and experienced, as was apparently done with the Salt Lake Temple murals.

Further, the Manti Temple murals can inspire future patrons and could be incorporated into a film presentation of the endowment. As an example, endowment film sessions could be shown in the enormous World Room itself with a ceiling projector and a retractable screen hung in the front of the room, with patrons then moving to the Terrestrial Room (a magnificent piece of architecture in its own right) for the non-film portion, and concluding in the Celestial Room. This would allow for two concurrently running sessions. My temple in Louisville, Kentucky, is broken up that way, as are many of the modern temples. This is not the only solution—it is just an example of how even the elimination of live endowments does not require removal or destruction of Teichert’s World Room murals. (Even using a portable television on a roller cart to show the film in the World Room would be preferable to removing the murals.)

At the very least, if the Church is going to remove and/or destroy Teichert’s masterpiece, could they at least “undedicate” the temple for a period of time before the renovation/construction begins and allow the general public to see Teichert’s work in its original setting and design? Given its location in Manti and the need to have a current temple recommend to see it, many people have never had the opportunity to experience Teichert’s visionary masterpiece.

Strong, talented, hard-working, and faith-filled LDS women have long since seen themselves reflected in Teichert’s work, which often celebrates the faith, strength, and contributions of women—from pioneers shouting “Hosanna” to Queen Esther. Even though women are not the specific focus of her World Room’s breathtaking portrayal of human history, women see their own worth reflected in Teichert’s greatest accomplishment and masterful expression of her faith.

[1] For more information on these murals, as well as black-and-white photos of them, read Doris R. Dant, “Minerva Teichert’s Manti Temple Murals,” BYU Studies, Vol. 38.3,


  1. Thank you. I agree with every word. This travesty must be stopped.

  2. Is there any petition that is circulating that we can sign? This is truly a tragedy. How thoughtless to destroy these treasures.

  3. Truckers Atlas says:

    The Draper-ization of every temple. I want the SL Temple cafeteria replaced with a Cafe Rio.

  4. Marianne Eileen Wardle says:

    These are salvagable and removeable by trained conservators. The church needs to spend the money to save this artistically and historically important work.

  5. To meems and others — there is a group putting together letter writing, a petition, and a preservation event on General Conference weekend:

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this. I especially agree that, while I can understand the changes for Salt Lake, I have a hard time grasping the necessity for these changes in Manti. Even if they want to do away with live endowments entirely, that would not requires the destruction of the murals.

  7. Well said, Dr. Tarkington; thank you!

  8. We have every reason to believe that there are adequate – practically infinite – resources to preserve the art AND build a modern, efficient temple for the same temple district. Also, this is not like the November proclamation, where if they realize, “Oops, that didn’t turn out like we hoped,” they can just undo it. When the murals are gone and the temple is redesigned to serve 25,000 patrons a year, but actual patronage declines from 10,000 to 4,000, there is no “do over.” (Numbers are pulled out of thin air as an example.)

  9. Thelma S. Scudders says:

    My favorite temple of late is the Provo city center location. The murals on the instruction room walls are magnificent! There is a juxtaposition of the animals portrayed, as the familiar scene of the Wasatch mountains glows in the background. Brother Christensen took great liberties with these scenes, and I hope they continue to be valued. That said, there must be a reason to eliminate the aforementioned murals, and I would be curious to know what it is.

  10. Left Field says:

    I mostly agree with all this, but I feel the need to push back on a couple of points.

    The visual art of the murals is part of a context with the dramatic art of the live endowment. Preservation should include both aspects. For me, preserving the Manti World Room murals without preserving sacred space around it and without preserving the live endowment would be like preserving the murals on the north wall and destroying the murals on the south wall. Sure, *something* of value is saved, but without the context in which the artists consecrated the best of their talents in fulfillment of their own covenants in these rooms.

    To me, the reasons given for Salt Lake do not stand up to scrutiny any better than they do in Manti. The original plans for the Salt Lake renovations included beautiful restorations of the ordinance rooms with the woodwork restored to the original stain, in place of the white paint that was applied in the 1960s. The announced plan was to introduce filmed sessions, but as an addition to the live endowment sessions. I’m not sure if they had planned new endowment rooms for the filmed sessions or if they planned to present the filmed sessions in the original rooms at different times than the live sessions. Either might have been feasible. The original plan would have accommodated languages, expanded capacity, and accommodated both those who prefer live sessions and those who prefer filmed sessions…and preserved the sacred rooms and the murals. If space is an issue, I’m sure any number of creative solutions could have been devised–perhaps expand the temple into a new structure for the filmed endowment on an adjacent block.

    I don’t have any idea what led to the change in plans. I don’t think it was to accommodate general authorities traveling to Salt Lake. Nearly all general authorities already live in the Salt Lake area, and as far as I know, they all speak English, or at least they do in general conference. Other church leaders travel to Salt Lake for conference and other events, but the original plan would have accommodated those who don’t speak English.

    I don’t think the proposed plan will do anything to increase the rate of vicarious ordinances, either in Salt Lake or Manti. I’m not by any means a regular patron in Salt Lake, but I’ve been to quite a few sessions over the years. My experience (such as it is) is that sessions are rarely at capacity. A recent interview with a Salt Lake temple worker indicates that is still the case, except sometimes in Saturday sessions. The limiting factor does not seem to be the capacity of the temple, but the number of patrons coming to the Salt Lake Temple when so many others are nearby. And I would be surprised if the demand for a seat in a Salt Lake temple session will increase after the presentation and setting of the endowment is made to be just like all the other temples. Many of other temples have murals and ordinance rooms that provide a more inspiring setting than the green wallpaper and projection-screen rooms that will now be installed in Salt Lake.

  11. Full-tilt/steamroller Correlation: as in so many other venues, not a good thing. The destruction of these murals is a moral crime.

  12. JManning says:

    Agree 100% with Left Field. The art is important but is only a small portion of the total loss

  13. never forget says:

    I’ll add my two cents as firm as a believer as possible in the Restoration: I’m terribly sad to see them go and it doesn’t make sense to me. It really is destroying a piece of art created for the worship of the Lord. If they could preserve them in the Los Angeles Temple, my personal favorite, then they can do them here.

  14. Left Field and I were both residents of midwestern states north of the Mason Dixon Line, with beautiful temples in two different countries to choose from to get married in. We chose to get married in the middle of nowhere in the Utah desert for a reason. We could have married in Washington DC or Toronto (our own temple districts) or Logan, closer to his parents. But he had always wanted to marry at Manti, because the temple there was unique. And now it will be like all the others, and there is really no reason for a pilgrimage.

  15. nobody, really says:

    All these arguments make two assumptions, and I don’t think there’s evidence supporting these assumptions.

    1) General Authorities care what people think.

    2) General Authorities care about historic and artistic value.

    If they start acting like the efforts and sacrifices of Teichert are important and valuable, they might have to start pretending that the sacrifices of all Latter-day Saints are important and valuable. We musn’t have that.

  16. Nibley Saw it coming:

    if management must reflect the corporate image in tasteless, trendy new buildings, down come the fine old pioneer monuments.

    Hugh Nibley
    Leaders and Managers August 19, 1983

  17. John Mansfield says:

    Like Ann and Left Field, my wife and I wed in the Manti Temple. One of the many nice things about doing so there was that the sealing room was off the celestial room, so those present all wore white, and most of them had participated as a company in a session of the endowment with me and my bride before entering the sealing room. In considering why the president of the church has made this decision which we mourn, one reason that hadn’t occurred to me prior to the various blog posts on the topic is that a cult of Minerva has come to overshadow everything else about the temple.

  18. Sam Gappmayer says:

    It is highly likely that these murals could be removed to another location. See this article for one example: Here is a link to the leading organization in the US on advising and supporting efforts like this: This is like a punch in the gut.

  19. stephenchardy says:

    Man oh man how our church sometimes drives me crazy. We spend so much time/energy/money trying to build good will with our neighbors. So much good could come from these murals. A nice museum or visitors center next to the temple or somewhere in Manti could be built around these murals. Explanations can follow. It could be used to encourage people to see the church and its legacy in a friendly manner; in this case in a way that shows our pride in what our female artists have accomplished. Why doesn’t our church leadership understand that the good will that can come from the preservations of such things? It makes us look monstrous. Again.

  20. This lesson was taught in Logan some 40 years ago. Present leadership missed the class.

  21. Ann Gappmayer says:

    Many years ago the Church felt the need to up date the Logan temple and removed the murals there in. That was a travesty and should never have happened. We have so many cookie cutter vanilla temples that look similar. They are beautiful in their own right but It is beautiful and refreshing to be able to go to a temple and view the artistry and talent of artists who express their testimonies through their work. This is especially true of Minerva’s work. I would think the church, whose focus sometimes is preserving or recreating experiences in recreations of historical places would understand the need to preserve original art work when possible. I am referring to the recreation of historic sites in Palmyra, Nauvoo, Kirtland, and others. The church has gone to great lengths to recreate places of historical significance. It would be a shame to take down these murals in the name of progress or renovation. We should preserve and retain them instead in situ as they were intended.

  22. Sam Gappmayer says:

    Is having an image of Christopher Columbus in the temple a trigger for anyone?

  23. Two comments on this:

    1. Do we believe that art is one of the ways to find spirituality in worship? The answer nowadays seems to be “Maybe a little, but not really.” We put painted pictures on the walls of our meetinghouses and our temples, but we make sure they’re generic, bland, and in reproduced form. If a piece of art speaks with a distinctive voice or provokes us to feel more intensely, it becomes suspect.

    The murals in many other temples have been preserved at least in part during renovations. The Church’s descriptions of these older temples invariably mention murals as a distinctive feature. So what makes the murals in Salt Lake City and Manti removable? This really puzzles me. At the very least, it suggests to me that we don’t think of this art as important or even useful in the experience of worship. The substance of the art and architecture does not seem to matter. What we care about is creating the general impression of something expensive and elegant, as if that is the necessary condition for an attitude of reverence.

    2. The filming of the endowment ceremony is one of the most significant and far-reaching transformations of anything in Mormonism. Changes in the language of the endowment are important, but they haven’t changed the essential character of the endowment. The films have done that.

    The endowment used to be personal, immediate, and participatory. It invited us to live—to really live—inside a myth that pointed us beyond this world and into eternity. This powerful ritual has been lost. Now we simply watch movies that have the artistic sensibility of popular cinema. The visual effects, the music, the design, and the acting are all in the mold of filmic realism, more separated from abstract ritual with each new version of the film.

    Another way of putting this is that the films represent a genre mistake. The endowment was a primitive participatory ritual. It has become something more similar to a Hollywood fantasy tale.

    This transformation in the way we experience the endowment makes the murals seem more expendable.

  24. The thought of losing or even moving these fantastic murals out of their sacred space produces a similar emotion for me as when I heard about the Taliban destroying statues of Buddha. A world treasure would be lost and/or displaced. Please please please please please leave them alone. I cannot enter the temple again due to my transgender status, but I am sobbing at the thought of these treasures being lost.

  25. James Stephens says:

    It’s quite perplexing. They’re restoring murals and the progressive endowment in St. George and Mesa, but they’re taking them away from Salt Lake and Manti. I don’t buy the “need for greater capacity” argument. That is like a mission president who cares more about numbers than true conversion. The reason why St. George and Mesa were able to restore the progressive endowment was that larger temples were built nearby to ease the demand (Red Cliffs near St. George and Gilbert near Mesa). Even in Salt Lake City, the new temples in Taylorsville and Tooele would have cut down the numbers for the Salt Lake Temple.

    The way LDS Newsroom handled this was abysmal. It went from “we’ll honor the contributions of our predecessors” in 2019 to “oops nevermind change of plans” at the drop of a hat and before we had time to process all of this, we’re made out to be the bad guys for questioning this jarring reversal. What’s worse was that they announced this AFTER they took down everything in the Salt Lake Temple. It’s almost as if they knew that this was going to get significant pushback and they quickly removed the murals as an excuse to not revisit the issue. Over 130 years of craftsmanship thrown out for the sake of numbers……….how cruel. I know many people have said “the Lord is in the details” throughout my life, but in this case, I don’t see him in this……at all.

  26. MelindaSGraves says:

    A slightly different issue, but remember back in 1971 when the Coalville Tabernacle–which was on the National Register of Historic places–was demolished in the middle of the night despite efforts by lots of people to preserve it? Seems like if something has been placed on the butcher block, nothing can save it.

  27. This is just bizzare to me. The church spent untold millions restoring the quirky and historically significant Art-deco style Idaho Falls temple (considered the last of the “Pioneer” temples) a few years ago. This included a meticulous restoration of the stunning art nouveau inspired murals in the various rooms. The open house before the rededication was extremely well attended by both members and non-members who appreciated both the spiritual and historical/cultural significance of the building to the community. I realize the temple in question is much older, but why not do the same for Manti?

  28. Was Nibley ever a manager or a leader?

  29. Allan Garber says:

    President Hinckley would never have allowed this travesty to happen. He treasured the history of the Church and was instrumental in helping to preserve it.

  30. Mortimer says:

    Melinda S Graves,
    The old pioneer Ogden Tabernacle was also bulldozed in the middle of the night. So many pioneer chapels and tabernacles were destroyed around the same time. LDS and non-LDS preservationists were horrified.

    None of the GAs that decided to demolish the murals and ditch performing art are professional artists, or craftsmen, or historians. They are all businessmen and scientists who see the world through eyes of synergy, machinery, and efficiency. None of the brethren live in historic homes, they all live in new construction homes or apartments, of zero architectural interest.

    None of the GAs that made this decision are female, or are feminists, so a rare female contribution (Minerva’s art) probably didn’t mean a lot to them.

    Lastly, none of the GAs value the contributions of rank and file saints, be it pioneer craftsmanship or our performance/participation/art in a live endowment. Our contributions are obstacles to efficiency and precision, relics of the past. We’re no longer respected partners in building Zion shoulder to shoulder, we are the children who should sit down and passively watch the movie. Our hands aren’t needed to build temples (a big non-LDS company contracts for most of not all US temples). We are cogs to be produced, not co-travelers whose spiritual light is noticed or needed. How are we supposed to usher in the millennium and second coming, if the brethren see us as mere children to be handled as opposed to trusted partners with unique and vital roles to play? Hint: we’re not a team, and we don’t trust one another.

  31. Bruce T. Forbes says:

    Beautifully stated. The loss of the Manti temple’s World Room murals cannot even be estimated. It was the only World Room whose murals actually showed the lone and dreary world that Mankind found themselves in. She was a genius in her design as well as in the execution. It IS her greatest work. To loose this art is unthinkable. And to announce it while the Mesa Temple and the St George temple, both of which had been robbed of their murals in the 1970’s, are being restored to their muraled beauty, is a mystery I cannot understand.

  32. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I’m positive that these murals, in each temple, served as inspiration for those who imagined the scenes in the films. They would have provided a starting point for envisioning the imagery in the films, and continued to inspire the many versions. This erases a history of inspiration.

  33. If you would like to express your feelings about the Manti Temple renovation, there are a number of things you can do:
    Sign the petition at
    Call the LDS Church switchboard at 801.240.1000. Ask for Tom Owen.
    Write a letter to the General Relief Society President, Jean Bingham, who has direct access to the First Presidency.
    Jean Bingham
    General Relief Society President
    50 East North Temple Street
    Salt Lake City, UT 84150

    The most effective outreach will express respect and love for the temple and the art therein.

  34. says:

    This must be stopped. How can we spend
    Millions to rebuild the Nauvoo temple and
    turn around and destroy the Manti temple?

  35. Anonymous says:

    The church is now wanting advice on how to preserve these murals, so it seems someone was listening and wants to know how to figure this out

  36. Left Field says:

    Unfortunately, “preservation” means they are looking for ways to *remove* the murals, which is far from ideal.

  37. I haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if I’m being repetitive, but wouldn’t it be possible to turn the Manti temple into a museum – with murals – and build another temple somewhere in the area? There’s just nothing good about destroying the Teichert murals, or anybody else’s loving handiwork either.

  38. The poor church can’t even remodel a temple without angry feminists getting lathered up. Geez Margaret, give it a rest.

  39. The extravagantly rich church can’t even change their mind and decide that perhaps they should indeed work to preserve said historical artifacts by women without some angry misogynist getting lathered up about it. Geez, Fred, give it a rest.

  40. Cheri Lemons says:

    Two things that I think are incredibly significant with regard to Mantai and the murals: First, that Brigham Young said in his dedicatory prayer that the site had been previously dedicated by Moroni. Second, the murals, and specifically the mural of Chief Joseph, I did some research into Chief Joseph to determine what significance there might be to his depiction. I learned about Chief Joseph and his Assyrian tablet which to me is further evidence to the Book of Mormon. These important murals should be preserved and stay in the Mantai Temple which is such a sacred place for so many reasons.

  41. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Just a side note on logistics and the larger abandonment of live endowments:
    The switch from a live endowment to film doesn’t necessitate a full remodel or even the discontinuing of attendees moving from room to room. That’s what happens in the Idaho Falls temple now; it used to be one of the few live endowment temples; now you just watch portions of the film in each room but still move from room to room.

  42. Does this decision relate to the new “Murder Among the Mormons” series, in that there is an increased reluctance to create historical “relics” that may be seen as a monetarily valuable?

  43. Jason Marr says:

    The Manti murals are the high point of LDS culture. It is not just the art. It is entering those great rooms and see how they interact with the architecture. There is so much meaning, insight, and true embodied in them. The same is true with the Salt Lake temple. Changing them would be a tragedy of greatest proportions. Metaphorically so much is done in a cookie cutter, fast food style. The murals are such an important counterpoint. When people consider the fruits of the church what are will we point to, to compare with other churches. It speaks so poorly for the church and generations will condemn this decision if it is not reversed.

  44. it's a series of tubes says:

    The Church is casting their about-face on this as a “divine, revelatory decision”. Hard to listen to that with a straight face.

  45. Wondering says:

    Well, Tubes, the news report makes that characterization Elder Rasband’s. Maybe it’s akin to RMN’s January 2016 claim about the November 2015 policy. The current news report also quotes RMN’s announcement which acknowledges (though it could be more explicit) other influences, continued prayer, and an “impression.” I don’t think it’s unusual in Church history for a prophet’s prayerful inquiry to be prompted by other people’s concerns.
    But I’m with you on what seems to have been a broadening, if not cheapening, concept of “revelation” in talk from various leaders.

  46. MrShorty says:

    The thing that stood out to me was how similar this feels to the reversal of Nov 2015 exclusion policy. In his Sep 2019 remarks at BYU, Pres. Nelson said, “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have continued to seek the Lord’s guidance and to plead with Him in behalf of His children who were affected by the 2015 policy.” He then goes on to talk about how many at the grassroots were impacted by the policy, which led to the leadership seeking additional guidance until the original policy was reversed.

    To riff off of this blog’s name, IMO, this illustrates the informal way that we do common consent in the Church. I know that we are very resistant to the very ideas of “bottom up revelation” or “turning the Kingdom of God into a democracy”, but it seems to me that there is some kind of interplay between top down edicts and bottom up discomfort with those edicts that works together to reveal the will of God. IMO, our fear of becoming a democracy or acknowledging bottom up revelation is preventing us from really understanding how God reveals His will to the Church, which seems to sit at the heart of many of the controversial issues in the Church.

  47. Aussie Mormon says:

    “I know that we are very resistant to the very ideas of “bottom up revelation””

    Because many people still seem to think that revelation is only for big grand answers to questions rather than also covering every-day aspects of running the church after a lot of preliminary legwork has been put in prior to asking a question.


  1. […] of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman,” Margaret Tarkington wrote on the By Common Consent blog. “No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which […]

  2. […] of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman,” Margaret Tarkington wrote on the By Common Consent blog. “No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which […]

  3. […] of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman,” Margaret Tarkington wrote on the By Common Consent blog. “No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which […]

  4. […] Margaret Tarkington, professora da Universidade de […]

  5. […] presumably in response to the outcry from many members, it promised that it would try to preserve portions of the murals and put them on display for the […]

  6. […] of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman,” Margaret Tarkington wrote in late March on the By Common Consent blog. “No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which […]

  7. […] of her profession. They’re arguably the only best inventive achievement by an LDS lady,” Margaret Tarkington wrote in late March on the By Widespread Consent weblog. “No quantity of photographing can exchange truly experiencing Teichert’s murals, that […]

  8. […] of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman,” Margaret Tarkington wrote in late March on the By Common Consent blog. “No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which […]

  9. […] of her career. They are arguably the single greatest artistic achievement by an LDS woman,” Margaret Tarkington wrote in late March on the By Common Consent blog. “No amount of photographing can replace actually experiencing Teichert’s murals, which […]

  10. […] entirely or removed and preserved elsewhere. This was great news for all the many people who raised their voices in opposition when the Church’s plans to remove the murals as part of the […]

%d bloggers like this: