On Friday, Provo City lost a beloved, historic icon when fire consumed the Provo Tabernacle. Residents were left reeling from this devastating loss. Within hours, a group calling itself Rebuild Provo Tabernacle appeared on Facebook. The group immediately began soliciting donations to rebuild the structure, stating that it is:
“A group dedicated to helping Provo raise money to rebuild the Tabernacle or at least help and encourage the LDS Church.”
and that its mission is to:
“Raise Money to help rebuild the Provo Tabernacle or build something that will continue in that same mold of being a great resource for the Community.”
According to the Facebook page, the group was launched by the Provo City Mayor, Deputy Mayor, several City Council members, and a few other politically connected businessmen. Here’s the complete list:
Corey Norman, Provo Foundation
Mayor John Curtis, Provo City
Taylor Oldroyd, CEO Ut Co Association of Realtors
Brian Chapman, BCR Political
Kelly Ward, Zion’s Bank
Chris Nichols, Pres Ut Co Association of Realtors
Steve Turley, Provo City Council
Sterlinng Beck, Provo City Council
Laura Cabanilla, Provo City Council
Gary Winterton, Provo Business Owner
Something just doesn’t sound right here. The Provo Tabernacle is owned by the LDS Church, which surely has sufficient insurance and funds to rebuild the historic icon if it so chooses. Indeed, Provo Mayor John Curtis made it clear in a press conference that rebuilding will be the responsibility of the LDS Church, not Provo City. So why are city officials soliciting funds to rebuild the Tabernacle? It seems imprudent – even improper – to solicit funds for rebuilding when:
- Rebuilding is not the city’s responsibility;
- Insufficient time has elapsed for the LDS Church to assess damages and plan its future intentions for the building;
- No one knows if and/or when the building will ever be reconstructed.
It turns out that although several Provo City officials are listed as launching Rebuild Provo Tabernacle (including Councilman Steve Turley, who is already under fire for a questionable mix of political and business dealings), Mayor Curtis and Deputy Mayor Norman insist that the group is not sponsored by Provo City. However, it seems questionable whether donors will be able to discern that distinction without questioning group members.
Rebuild Provo Tabernacle is listed as a subsidiary of The Provo Foundation, which is also headed by Mayor Curtis and Deputy Mayor Norman. The Provo Foundation distributes donations to several programs throughout the city. However, those listed on the Facebook site as members of Rebuild Provo Tabernacle are not all members of the Provo Foundation. What part do they play and what benefit do they receive from this fund-raising drive?
In an email, Norman stated that “The Provo Foundation which is a separate entity from Provo City has set up an account where residents may, if they wish, contribute to a fund set up specifically to respond to the Church if and when that time comes. At this point we have not been given any word of when that might be.”
Futher, Norman stated to the Daily Herald regarding the fund-raising effort, “…perhaps this effort will help support the Church in whatever direction it decides to go while providing residents a chance and mechanism to heal from this great loss.” Perhaps? It seems like such uncertainty, lack of information, and lack of direction form a rather shaky foundation for soliciting funds.
Why are Provo City officials soliciting money from city residents who are suffering emotionally immediately following a local disaster — for a building that may or may not ever be rebuilt? Why are they soliciting funds to rebuild a building that is not Provo’s responsibility to rebuild? Would it not be prudent to wait to see what the LDS Church plans to do before asking residents to donate? If the LDS Church does not need contributions from Provo City, what will become of residents’ donations?
There is no doubt that Provo residents will rise to the occasion if and when they are called upon to assist in any way with the rebuilding of the Provo Tabernacle. However, at this time, soliciting donations that may or may not be used for a building that may or may not be built sounds neither prudent nor proper.