Today in Bountiful there are many places of worship for various religious congregations. However, there is one building that has been around for nearly 150 years located on Main Street, in the center of town since 1863. This year marks the sesquicentennial of the Bountiful Tabernacle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, which was built and dedicated on March 14, 1863. It has not only been a place of worship for Latter-day Saints, but it has been used for holding city council meetings, state and county political functions and local celebrations, dances and gatherings for many years.
The Bountiful Tabernacle is the oldest chapel in the LDS Church that has been in continuous use since the day it was built and dedicated. Every LDS prophet in this dispensation has spoken from its pulpit, with the exception of the Joseph Smith.
I recall attending my kindergarten classes in the tabernacle because so many “war babies” filled the Stoker School next door during the early 1950s. My grandparents Ephraim and Phebe Tolman left for their mission to the Liberty Jail in Missouri in 1948 from this Tabernacle. Many folks still living in Bountiful were baptized in this special building. It has a very rich and fascinating history; following are some facts:
Additions to the building started in 1925 and included a cultural hall and classrooms. In 1957, a new Aaronic Priesthood/Scout room, Relief Society room, kitchen, bishop’s offices, restrooms and mechanical upgrades were added. In 1906, one of our famous east winds blew the spires off the Tabernacle. They were not replaced until 1955, nearly 50 years later.
The years passed; the building was used and loved. Many prayers were offered, many sermons were preached, many babies were blessed, but time inevitably brings change. The Tabernacle was getting old and more room for worship was needed.
In 1974, rumors were going around that the Tabernacle would be torn down to make room for a new and more efficient structure. The old Tabernacle in Coalville, Utah had just been demolished. Public outcry and many hours of deliberation finally convinced the church building committee to preserve the tabernacle portion while enhancing auxiliary facilities around it. So, on March 13, 1976, nearly 113 years to the day after the Tabernacle was originally dedicated, ground breaking took place for yet another careful restoration and renewal. Another dedication took place on November 6, 1977, by LDS President Spencer W. Kimball. The ceremony mirrored a memorable dedication by President Heber C. Kimball (President Spencer W. Kimball’s grandfather) on March 14, 1863.
In preparation for the sesquicentennial this year, I am looking for stories and photos from the community I can use to tell the 150-year story of this historical building. Please contact Tom at 801-292-1981, or email me at Tomsgrafix@aol.com. I attend church in this tabernacle and have been asked by my Stake President to help tell the story of this beautiful building. Please submit stories and photos as soon as possible.