The grounds around the Provo City Center Temple were bustling Saturday night as the last of the open house tours came to a close.

The public response to the new temple was overwhelmingly positive with many people curious to see how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints transformed the old, burnt out tabernacle into a "House of the Lord."

According to numbers released March 9 by the LDS church on mormonnewsroom.org, more than 800,000 people toured the temple during its open house between Jan. 15 and March 5. 

According to Kristen Howey with LDS Church Public Affairs, by Feb. 17, just over a month into the open house, 500,000 had toured the temple.

The excitement and Victorian beauty of the new temple also pegged it as a great place for weddings because of the potential photography options. Approximately 600 brides have now scheduled their weddings at the Provo City Center Temple, according to Julie Markham who has been cataloging through photography the entire construction of the new temple. Markham also has an internationally popular blog site, “New Temple in Provo.”

As for downtown Provo and its merchants, all seem to  have survived and many thrived on the additional business.

“The general response has been positive,” said Wayne Parker, Provo’s CAO and chairman of the city’s temple committee during a phone interview. “It hasn’t consumed parking spaces. I think things have gone really well.”

Parker noted the LDS Church’s local temple open house committee, with the help of NuSkin, did a good job with having those touring the temple right on site for much of the parking and gathering, and they did not have to cross University Avenue more than expected.

Mayor John Curtis was very happy how the city of Provo represented itself. 

"I'd like to give a shout out to Wayne (Parker) and his team who organized and considered every contingency. Everything went smoothly," Curtis said. 

"We are very happy with the way it turned out," said Lt. Brandon Post, police spokesman. "There were not big problems. There were some protesters but they were there to share their message and they did it peacefully. 

“We’ve been so busy,” said Lisa Witham, owner of Los Hermanos Mexican restaurant. “We’re thrilled seeing families in Sunday dress coming to the restaurant. The city and church have done a great job.”

Witham said her sales are up between 25 to 32 percent. The restaurant was constantly busy, and they had to put up heated tents outside to hold people waiting to be served.

Some of the other restaurants reported some of the same upticks in their business as well. Some retailers saw dips in regular customer business, but most of that was expected.

Nearly everyone who attended or had part in the open house came away with their own feelings and story. For those who worked at the event it has been described as exhaustive but rewarding.

Committee member Diane B. Christensen said on her Facebook page, “How I have loved taking people for tours of the Provo City Center Temple for the past nine weeks. This morning I got to introduce the temple to students from a world religion class. They were from three different countries. I am blessed.”

For many of those volunteers the cold winter conditions, standing for hours and helping thousands find their way, was overshadowed by the feelings they took away with them.

“Last night, the Provo City Center Temple open house ended,” said Stan Lockhart, an open house committee member on his Facebook page. “Organizing and leading tours profoundly affected me. My relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ deepened. My love and appreciation for Him is heightened. His teachings, His gospel, His parables, His miracles, His love and compassion, His scriptures, His Atonement, His death and resurrection all speak to me more powerfully as a result of this experience. He is there to help me through the daily trials and challenges of life healing me, forgiving me, and blessing me.”

With the tours now closed, the temple is being prepared for the dedication services. Any repairs, painting, carpet cleaning, marble shining and window washing will be done during the next two weeks as part of the preparations. The makeshift theaters used during the open house are also being torn down in the underground parking.

In the meantime, 4,700 youth from the temple district are preparing to participate in the traditional cultural celebration. The theme of the Provo City Center Temple celebration is "To give unto them beauty for ashes."
 
The event will be held Saturday, March 19 at 7 p.m. at the BYU Marriott Center. 

Tickets are limited. Each participating youth will receive two tickets, distributed by their ward or stake Cultural Celebration Coordinator. Stake Presidencies, bishoprics and YM/YW presidencies will receive the other tickets. Because the Marriott Center has limited seating, tickets will not be obtainable for the general public. 

People can watch the Cultural Celebration at their stake centers where it will be broadcast in real time. There will also be live streaming; the link will be announced later.

On Sunday, March 20, three separate dedication services will be held at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. The services will be shown in local ward and stake centers throughout Utah. 

The Provo City Center Temple will be open for regular temple sessions and weddings Tuesday, March 22.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801)344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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