Chapters 10 Section A
Other Utah Temples
Of the sanctuaries reared by the Latter-day Saints, the great Temple at Salt Lake City has been the first to be considered specifically and in detail in these pages. This course has been followed because of the fact that among modern Temples the one at Salt Lake City is the largest, the costliest, and by far the most generally known; and moreover, as already stated, of the four Temples thus far erected in Utah this was the first begun and the last finished. While it was in course of construction three other Temples were proposed, planned, built, dedicated, and opened to sacred ordinance service. These are known from their locations as the St. George Temple, the Logan Temple, and the Manti Temple. The sequence in which they are named is the order in which they were completed and opened; it will be convenient to follow this order in further considering them.
Each of the three is constructed on the same general plan, and for similar specific purposes. While they are of varying richness, and each is smaller and less elaborate than the great Temple at Salt Lake City, their appointments and equipment are essentially the same. No detailed description of internal arrangements or furnishings will be attempted, as such would be little more than a reiteration in part of what has been said.
The St. George Temple
The city of St. George, the county seat of Washington county, Utah, is situated near the southwesterly corner of the State, about two hundred and seventy miles from Salt Lake City in a direct line, and three hundred and thirty as the road runs. Before the walls of the Temple at Salt Lake City had been carried above the basement story, the erection of a Temple in the southern part of the Territory of Utah had been fully determined. The site for the St. George Temple when selected by President Brigham Young lay in the suburbs of the city. The grounds comprise an entire city block of six acres.
On Thursday, November 9th, 1871, President Brigham Young and his First Counselor, George A. Smith, together with Erastus Snow, then President of the Southern Mission, Joseph W. Young, then President of the St. George Stake of Zion, a goodly number of other bearers of the Priesthood, and the general public, dedicated the site and broke ground preparatory to laying the foundation of the building. After the prayer, which was offered by Elder George A. Smith, President Brigham Young addressed the people. From the report of his remarks the following excerpts are taken, as they furnish an illustration of the earnestness with which the commission to build Temples was regarded, and of the practical nature of what the people considered to be their duties as members of the Church. The President urged a concentration of effort on the part of the people in the work, and continued:
“The idea may arise that this is a hard land in which to get a living. Now I am very thankful for the land just as it is. I am glad that it is just as it is. It is a splendid country to rear Saints in. Among our other duties we have to build a temple here. I advise that the Bishop of this city, the Bishop of Santa Clara, and the Bishop of Washington, apportion labor among the members of their respective wards to excavate the ground for the foundation of the temple, and to haul rock, sand, clay and other material. If the brethren undertake to do this work with one heart and mind, we shall be blessed exceedingly, and prospered of the Lord in our earthly substance. Now, if the people present are one with the First Presidency in this work, and will unite with them to prosecute the labor of building this temple, by faith, prayers and good works, let all, brethren and sisters, manifest it by the uplifted hand.”
The people with one accord raised their hands. The official record continues as follows:
“President Young took a shovel in his hand and said, pointing to the stake which had previously been driven in the south-east corner of the building site: ‘Immediately under this stake and in the foundation will be placed a stone containing sacred records, and immediately over this stake, when the building is completed, will be placed another stone containing records of the temple’ He then said, suiting the action to the word: ‘I now commence by moving this dirt in the name of Israel’s God.’ All the people said ‘Amen.”’
An address was delivered by Elder Erastus Snow in which he called to mind the promises and prophecies made ten years before, relative to the prosperity that would attend the people in the southern region, and furthermore he pointed out the fulfilment of many of the predictions. Then followed the solemn Hosanna shout.
Work on the excavation began immediately; on the afternoon of the very day of dedication, plows and scrapers were put in action. As announced at the time of the dedication of the site, the following specifications as to dimensions and construction had been decided upon:
“Outside measurement, 142 feet long by 96 feet wide, including the buttresses, and 80 feet high to the top of the parapet. It will be built of stone, plastered outside and inside. There will be a tower in the center of the east end, and on the extreme corners of the same end, right and left of the tower, are cylindrical staircases; one side of the stairs rests in the cylinder, the other side in a newel in the center of the cylinder. The roof will be flat, and covered with roofing similar to that on the New Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The building will consist of two stories and a basement. The two main rooms or halls, one over the other, will each be 100 feet by 80 feet. The ceiling of these will be arched, resting upon columns, and so constructed as to admit of sixteen rooms for council and other purposes in each of those two main stories. The height of the main ceiling in the centre is 27 feet; the height of the other ceilings about 9 feet. The basement will contain the font, and will be used for ceremonial purposes.”
A record-stone was placed at the south-east corner of the building, and therein were deposited, on March 31, 1873, a metallic box containing copies of the scriptures and other publications of the Church, together with a silver plate bearing the following inscription:
“Holiness to the Lord.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, on the sixth of April, 1830. Which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jr., who was called of God, and ordained an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first Elder in the Church.
“Joseph Smith, Jr., President, with his brother Hyrum, Patriarch of the whole Church, suffered martyrdom in Carthage, Illinois, June 27th, 1844, and the Church was driven into the wilderness in 1846.”
Then followed the names of all the general authorities of the Church as at that time constituted.
To the specifications given in the foregoing it is necessary to add only the following to make the description fairly complete. The tower is thirty-one feet square; the vane on the tower is one hundred and seventy-five feet from the ground. The foundation of the entire basement story consists of a black basaltic lava, a rock occurring abundantly in the region and well adapted to the purpose. The soil of the place is sandy and heavily impregnated with alkaline mineral salts; and no rock that readily undergoes disintegration, either through abrasion or as the result of a solution of cementing material, is suitable for foundation work in this soil. The foundation of the building extends below the ground-level ten feet. About two-thirds of the east end and a portion of the northerly side rest on bed-rock in place; throughout the rest of its extent the foundation is laid on a thick layer of broken volcanic rock firmly compacted under the blows of a nine-hundred-pound pile driver. A capacious drain encircles the building and connects with a yet larger drain fifty feet easterly from the square tower. The foundation is twelve feet wide at the bottom, and the walls are gradually diminished in width so that at the level of the basement window sills they have a thickness of three feet eight inches. Above the basement story the building is constructed of the fine red sandstone of the region, from quarries specifically located and opened for this work. Timber and lumber had to be hauled by team from distances of from seventy to ninety miles.
The Temple stands in the open plain on but a slight elevation, practically devoid of all the prominence that belongs to a commanding position of altitude. The ground on which the building rests, as well as the region for miles round about, is of a prevailing dark-red color; and this, too, is the color of the sandstone of which the Temple is built. Naturally, the building as a whole would blend with its surroundings, so as to be practically invisible from even a moderate distance. A contrast has been afforded by whitening the walls; and as a result the structure has become a striking feature of the landscape.
As to the interior it may be sufficient to say that all the ordinance work connected with baptism, ordination, endowment, and sealing, as performed in the Temple at Salt Lake City, is administered in a similar manner in this Temple, and provision therefore is made. For all the sacred ordinances there is ample equipment of rooms and furnishings. The basement floor is divided into fourteen rooms of which the baptistry or font-room, thirty-five by forty feet, is one of the largest and most important. As is usual, the baptistry is situated below the general level of the assembly rooms. Also as in the other temples, the baptismal font rests upon twelve oxen of cast iron, which occupy a depression slightly below the floor. The font, oxen, iron stairs, and all accessories, weighing in all over eighteen thousand pounds, were cast in Salt Lake City and were hauled by team thence to St. George. The entire baptistry equipment was the personal gift of President Brigham Young.
Above the basement there are two stories. In each of these there is one main room ninety-nine by seventy-eight feet inside measurement, with an arched or elliptical ceiling twenty-seven feet from the floor in the center. Flanking this main apartment on either side are a number of smaller rooms used for ordinance work and as assembly rooms for councils of the Priesthood. The large room on the middle floor corresponds in use to the splendid Celestial Room already described as a prominent feature of the Temple at Salt Lake City. In the same way the large room on the upper floor corresponds to the main assembly room on the fourth floor of the Salt Lake City Temple, and is provided with pulpits at both east and west ends, the former devoted to the use of the Higher or Melchisedek Priesthood, the latter reserved for the officials of the Lesser or Aaronic order of Priesthood.
Adjoining the main building is an accessory structure known as the Annex; this is seventy-four feet long by twenty-four feet wide, exclusive of a “lean-to” on the east side, which is forty-three feet by nine feet. The Annex was built in 1882. It contains boiler and engine rooms, apartments for the guard, a refectory for the accommodation of workers, recorder’s offices, etc.
The St. George Temple was built by free-will offerings and by appropriations from the tithings of the people. In one year, specifically the year 1875, over one hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars were expended in the work, and the total cost of the completed building was considerably more than five hundred thousand dollars. The structure was practically finished by the close of 1876. Some parts were dedicated on January 1, 1877, so as to permit of certain ordinance work to be done before the dedication of the building as a whole, which event occurred on the sixth of April following. At the preliminary dedicatory service, January 1, 1877, twelve hundred and thirty persons were in attendance. Music, some of which had been specially composed for the occasion, was rendered by the choir, and dedicatory prayers were offered by members of the Council of the Twelve as follows: by Elder Wilford Woodruff in the basement story; by Elder Erastus Snow in the main room of the story next above the basement; by Elder Brigham Young, Jr., in the room designated as the sealing room. Addresses were delivered by Elders Erastus Snow, Wilford Woodruff, and by President Brigham Young.
Baptisms for the dead were first administered in the St. George Temple on January 9, 1877; and endowments for the dead were begun two days later.
Proceedings incident to the dedication of the Temple as a whole began on the 4th of April, 1877, and terminated on the sixth, the last day’s assembly being held in connection with the annual conference of the Church, which conference had been appointed to be held at St. George, in view of the dedication. On the fourth and fifth of the month general assemblies were held in the Temple during both forenoon and afternoon, each session marked by the rendition of special music and by inspired addresses from the Church leaders. At ten in the morning on Friday, April 6th, the general conference was opened in the Temple. The presiding officers of the several quorums occupied the stands exclusively allotted. There was but little in the way of special addresses, two days having been devoted to the work of instruction and preliminary preparation. The dedicatory prayer was offered by Daniel H. Wells, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church.