Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

LDS photographer takes pictures of every Utah Mormon temple in each of the seasons

By Alison Moore, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Jan. 24 8:30 p.m. MST

 Tulips contrast spring clouds at the Brigham City LDS Temple during spring.

Tulips contrast spring clouds at the Brigham City LDS Temple during spring.

(Phill Monson)

It doesn’t take much for a Salt Lake City photographer to realize the LDS temple photography scene has already been covered.

Phillip Monson is one of these local photographers and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many members of the religion, and even many who are not members, he finds a special beauty in Mormon temples.

But Monson knew that simply blending his love of photography and his love of temples wasn’t a new idea. He wanted something fresh and different.

"A lot of people take photos of the temples, and I really wanted to make something different and stand out," Monson said. "So I had this idea that it would be cool to do a project where I take photos of all the temples in Utah in all four seasons and then put it together."

After talking to people about the idea and looking into self-publishing, he found a project he thought would inspire people in a new way: get a picture of each Utah temple during each season and compile them into a book by the end of the year. He’s preparing for the book now with a calendar featuring a seasonal temple photo for each month.

The seasonal aspect gives an added layer of symbolism, according to Monson. He said he was in part inspired by Ecclesiastes 3 that begins with the scripture, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Monson said the fact that temples weather the storm of any season, rain or shine, teaches a profound lesson.

"No matter what the weather is doing or (how) the times are changing, these buildings are always going to be standing the test of time and are going to be there," he said. "I thought that just resonated with people. People have ups and downs. They have different seasons of their lives. But something that we can always look to is the temple."

Monson has to find time for the project on top of being with his family and working full time. Working on the project isn’t easy and requires commitment, but it’s this very life outside of photography that helps him meet his goals.

He credits his family, work and friends for their support.

"Thankfully I’ve got an incredibly supportive wife who also feels strongly about the project," he said. "It’s a big time commitment, but it’s been interesting. I’ve kind of really felt that I’ve been inspired to know when to go and what time’s right and everything just lines up right. Either my wife not having anything going on or work (has) been great with some time off, so it’s been really interesting to see just how things line up and make the time that it takes to do. It’s all worked out."

Monson even has help on some of his trips from his 4-year-old daughter, whom he called his “little photo assistant.”

Comparing landscape photography to temple photos, Monson said some things are the same and some things are not. The rules of photography — dynamic lighting, good composition, the right angles — are similar, but Monson said he feels more pressure for his temple pictures.

"I feel like I have a real responsibility to capture (the temple) in its best light. If it’s just a landscape photography trip, if I don’t get anything I like, then it’s not a big deal. I can just go back or whatever. But with these there’s a little bit more pressure to do it, especially since I’ve put myself out there. Saying this is my project. This is what I’m doing. People are kind of expecting some big things."

The photographer uses social media to share and promote his photos, leading to missionary experiences. Some of his photos have received hundreds of Facebook "likes" and have been shared with people around the world.

“A lot of these photos have been shared a couple hundred or multiple times and people can put them on their pages and say, 'Hey, this is a really important, sacred building to me and my religion. Ask me questions about it,'” he said.

The project not only has the potential to strengthen other people’s testimonies, but it has also strengthened the photographer. He said seeing the temples, being on the grounds and researching the sacrifices made for the temples have all benefited him.

Other experiences he’s had have also touched him and made him feel as though someone has guided him. He mentioned a large snowstorm that hit St. George late last year.

“When they get a snowstorm where they haven’t had that much snow in 60-plus years, I kind of have to believe it’s more than coincidence,” he said. “Heavenly Father knows I’m out doing this project and wanting to get it done in a certain amount of time, and I can’t help but know I was definitely blessed with that opportunity to get down there and get that winter photo."

Monson feels blessed and lucky to live so close to so many temples, but he also hopes to expand further someday. If he can, Monson would like to continue the idea of “to everything there is season” beyond Utah to temples throughout the U.S. and even the world.

“However big it would let me go. I think it’d be a cool thing to see,” he said.

Click here to see more of Monson's photos.

Alison Moore is a writer for the Faith and Family sections at DeseretNews.com. She is working toward a bachelor's degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism and a minor in editing at Brigham Young University.

Related Stories
1. Zaruski
Jan. 24, 2014

It is so silly of the LDS church not to let non believers in. I've always been fascinated by churches and I had the chance to visit the Oquir Mountain temple open house, and it was a great experience.

The Vatican still lets people into the Sistine chapel. I've been there. It's a zoo during tour hours. The whole Vatican museum is. I really don't see what would be so sacrilegious to let visitors in LDS temples too. If you are worried about people being disrespectful, then just do tours by appointment. It's not like the entire world is traveling to see it. It's not like they have one of the most famous pieces of art in the world inside.

Organizing tours of 20 or so, by appointment, with strict behavior enforcement by the tour guides really can't be that hard...

2. IdahoGirl
Pocatello, ID,
Jan. 24, 2014


From mormon.org:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 100 operating temples around the world. Visitors are welcome to visit the temple grounds at all of these temples and attend open houses prior to dedication. However, only baptized members who are qualified and prepared are allowed to enter a temple after it is dedicated.

In temples, Church members participate in ordinances designed to unite their families together forever and help them return to God. In the temple, members:

Learn eternal truths.
Receive sacred ordinances, including those that bind husband and wife together for eternity, as well as join children and parents (Malachi 4:5-6).
Provide ordinances such as baptism for those who have died without the opportunity to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:29; 1 Peter 4:6)

Please go to the website, click on "Chat" for more information. God Bless.

3. idahojohn
Nampa, ID,
Jan. 25, 2014

The Church does allow visitors to Open Houses. Once a temple is dedicated, it is not only too busy with patrons and ordinance workers performing ordinances but the sacred nature of that work would be violated by those who would not be prepared to comprehend its significance at the time.

4. Dr. G
Bountiful, UT,
Jan. 25, 2014


An LDS friend of mine attended the Washington DC temple. While he was there he wanted to "look around", so he went to the temple president's office to ask he he could conduct a self-guided tour. The president, in a very kindly way, informed him that temples are "working" buildings, with hundreds, if not thousands, of ordinances going on all throughout the building. Every space is utilized for that purpose.

Temples are not museums filled with religious artifacts. They aren't meant as places to display a religious point of view, but instead have a divine purpose in the work of salvation. These are reverent, spiritual oasis to be sure filled with quiet reflection, but they are also very busy places. A tour would be like conducting curious on-lookers through the oval office in the middle of important meetings. You'd never get anything done.

5. truth in all its forms
henderson, NV,
Jan. 25, 2014

I really enjoyed the pictures of nature that were included. Nature is my temple and where I feel closest to god and the universe.