April 13, 2022

Winter Quarters Temple Windows

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Winter Quarters Windows Artist

The Windows at the Winter Quarters Temple are eye catching works of art. The time and the effort that went into these beautiful windows is incalculable. These magnificent windows were made for all to remember the sacrifices of our pioneer ancestors. The Winter Quarters Temple windows were done with nods to the thousands of Pioneers who passed through Winter Quarters looking for a better future, free of persecution.

The windows at the Winter Quarters Temple were done by Tom Holdman, the same artist that did the windows in the Palmyra Temple, New York and Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

Tom Holdman studied and learned about the Pioneer Stories and integrated these wonderful and empowering stories into the windows.

In an interview about his work on the Winter Quarters Temple Tom Holdman said:

“I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity with the Palmyra temple and Winter Quarters to be that tool and work on these historic temples and to create artwork that tells the story of the early Saints and all that they have gone through. And all the people that have had a chance to go to these temples, especially Winter Quarters, there’s this wall that has like 12 scenes of what happened out there. How did the early Saints make it through and live and survive and come this far? What I have learned is that if you have a strong enough conviction; you can handle any afflictions.”

Tom Holdman went on to say:

“How can I apply that to my life? I feel like my conviction is to inspire people through art. Am I going to let this speech impediment slow me down? Am I going to let that affliction stop me from reaching my conviction? I can’t, I can’t, even though there are times I wish I could.”

The Baptistry

The symbolism throughout the temples help temple patrons to look for deeper meanings. Each piece of the Temple was chosen for a specific reason, and recognizing Christ through the symbolism can be a faith promoting experience. In the Winter Quarters Temple the Baptistry windows are magnificent, and looking closely even more symbolism comes through.

Some of the stained-glass themes throughout the Winter Quarters Temple go along with the designs on the Salt Lake Temple. In one of the dressing rooms there is a representation of the North Star and the Big Dipper constellations in the exact orientation that they would have to each other on April 6, 1830, the day the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was legally organized. The stars were formed by holes drilled in the glass, which makes them appear to twinkle.

The stained-glass windows in the baptistry in the Winter Quarters Temples are done in quilt-like patterns, a log cabin patter and a crown of thorns. These patterns were chosen by the artist to represent the pioneers who had to wrap the bodies of their loved ones in quilts before they buried them.

The Church News said this about the stained-glass in the baptistry:

“Moreover, the scene alludes to Revelation 22:1-2, "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits. . . ."

Brother Holdman used pulverized crystal to form the river, symbolic of the use of the word crystal in the scriptural passage. That also signifies the sacrifice of the early Church members who crushed their china and silver to mix with mortar in the walls of the Kirtland Temple to make it shimmer.

In a report done by the church news they said: ”The river of life, in fact, is a unifying motif, flowing down through the window images, beginning at the Celestial Room, alluding to Ezekiel 37, which speaks of living waters issuing from the House of the Lord. In the baptistry, the river appears to flow into the baptismal font.”

Lobby Windows

Pic Credit: Holdman Studios

Here is a list of what is depicted in the stained-glass windows:

Brigham Young
The Kanesville Tabernacle
Winter Quarter's Grist Mill
The Pioneer Roadometer (the odometer was invented by the pioneers)
William Clayton writing the hymn "Come, Come, Ye Saints"
Pioneers building cabins.
Brigham Young signing papers to enlist the Mormon Battalion
The chief of the Omaha Indians who was kind to the saints and let them stay at winter quarters.
Pioneers crossing a river.
Handcart pioneers.
A mother and a father burying a child.

The Church News explained the last window pane:

“A father and mother are shown in winter walking away from the grave where they have buried a loved one, he supporting her in their mutual grief. The shovel he carries points toward the grave site. Near the grave grows a tree, laden with fruit. Yes, it is an unseasonable element in a winter scene, but intended so: It depicts the tree of life, symbolizing the hope of exaltation and eternal life for those who die in the Lord.”

When Bro. Holdman was making the stained glass window of William Clayton writing ”Come, come ye Saints” He had that song playing on repeat in the background. The Church News said this: “Thus inspired, he was able to portray Elder Clayton with a pleasant countenance, "happy to be a Saint." Indeed, Brother Clayton was jubilant, having learned that morning of the birth of his son back in Nauvoo.”

Symbolism Throughout The Winter Quarters Temple

Throughout the temple on art-glass windows patrons are able to see the state flowers of the five states through which pioneers trekked — Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah. In the Celestial Room is the sego lily, designated as the state flower of Utah because its roots provided sustenance for the Pioneers during their first winter. It was as manna from heaven for them, Brother Holdman noted. Thus the presence of the flower in the celestial room represents the completion of their journey to the promised land and alludes to Revelation 2:7 and 17 "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. . . . To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna."

Even at the entrance of the Temple the windows have symbolic meaning, the Church news said: ”The scriptural allusion in the temple's windows is present immediately as one enters. The window behind the recommend desk features a river with seven trees adjacent to it, symbolic of seven gospel dispensations in the history of the world. The river alludes to Psalm 1:3, which speaks of a righteous man who is "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall also not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."

Winter Quarters Temple Windows Conclusion

The sacredness of the land in Winter Quarters is worth the drive alone. The area of Winter Quarters feels peaceful and special taking time to pay tributes to the people who went before. It is a very special area.

This sacred place, where so many pioneers sacrificed their lives for a hope of a better future is an important stop for anyone interested in Church History. There are many miracles from the building of the Winter Quarters Temple and Tom Holdman said one of the biggest miracles he say while doing the windows is that time it took to finish them. Normally windows as intricate as these would take at least two years, but these windows only took him 8 months, it was a miracle.

More Blogs Posts:

Winter Quarters Temple Quotes

10 Interesting Facts about the Winter Quarters Temple

Mary Fielding Smith, things everyone should know!

“Miracle of the Quail”

Get to know Prophet Joseph F. Smith





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