Chapter 6 Section C
Laying of the Capstone
The sixth day of April, 1892, was determined upon as the date for placing in position the capstone of the Temple, and the announcement was hailed with joy in every ward and branch of the Church, and in every household of the Saints.
The day marked the close of the annual Conference, and was hallowed by all the observances of solemn assembly. As a preliminary to the principal ceremony, a vast congregation had assembled in the Tabernacle at an early hour, and in this the several organizations of the Priesthood occupied distinctive places on the main floor while the galleries were reserved for the accommodation of the general public. At the close of an impressive service, the multitude proceeded in formal procession to the open space on the south side of the Temple, where a temporary platform had been erected with the flag of the nation waving above. An adjoining stand accommodated the choir, which numbered over two hundred singers. There was band music of the highest order, and every essential element of fervent worship combined with joyous celebration had been provided.
Over forty thousand people were gathered within the confines of Temple Block; and other thousands, unable to find a place in the great square, stood in the streets or looked down from roofs and windows of adjoining buildings. It is of record unchallenged that this assembly was the largest ever known in Utah. At high noon the special service was begun. The music of both band and choir, the marches, and anthems, and hymns, had been specially composed for the joyous occasion. The prayer was offered by President Joseph F. Smith, of the First Presidency, and the great “Amen” was echoed by two score thousand throats. A hymn followed; and then the venerable President of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, stepped to the front and announced that the auspicious moment, so long awaited, had arrived. These were his ringing words:
“Attention all ye house of Israel, and all ye nations of the earth! We will now lay the top-stone of the Temple of our God, the foundation of which was laid and dedicated by the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Brigham Young.”
At this juncture the president closed an electric circuit on the stand, and the granite hemisphere, forming the highest block of the great Temple, slowly descended into position. Then followed a scene the like of which is never enacted by this people except on occasions of extraordinary solemnity, namely, the rendering of the sacred Hosanna shout. Led by Lorenzo Snow, President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, the forty thousand Saints shouted as with the voice of one:
“Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! to God and the Lamb! Amen! Amen! Amen!”
This was repeated thrice, each shout accompanied by the waving of white kerchiefs.
From the roof of the building came the voice of the architect-in-charge, J. Don Carlos Young, declaring that the capstone was duly laid, and choir and congregation broke forth in triumphant song:
“The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.
We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever; Amen and Amen!”
Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Council of the Twelve then proposed the adoption of the resolution presented below:
“Believing that the instruction of President Woodruff, respecting the early completion of the Salt Lake Temple, is the word of the Lord unto us, I propose that this assemblage pledge themselves, collectively and individually, to furnish, as fast as it may be needed, all the money that may be required to complete the Temple at the earliest time possible, so that the dedication may take place on April 6th, 1893.”
The adoption was manifested by a deafening shout from the assembled multitude, accompanied by the raising of hands. The final anthem was the glorious “Song of the Redeemed”-particularly appropriate to the hour; and the benediction was pronounced by President George Q. Cannon.
The topstone and the granite block upon which it immediately rests form a sphere. Within the lower half a cavity had been prepared; and in this were placed certain books and other articles, so that, as the capstone was laid, it formed a secure and massive lid to this stone receptacle. The stone contains a copy of the Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Voice of Warning, Spencer’s Letters, Key to Theology, Hymn Book, Compendium, Pearl of Great Price, and some other books; also photographs of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith, a photograph of the Temple as it appeared at the time; and, in addition, an engraved tablet of copper setting forth the principal dates in the history of the building and bearing the names of the general authorities of the Church as they stood April 6, 1853, and as constituted at the time of the capstone ceremony, April 6, 1892.
Later in the day, the top-stone was surmounted by the great statue-a figure intended to represent Moroni, the heavenly messenger who ministered to the youthful prophet, Joseph Smith, in 1823. The figure, over twelve feet in height, is of copper heavily gilded. It is in the form of a herald with a trumpet at his lips.
Completion of the Building and Its Dedication
The adoption of a plan or the formal passing of a resolution by vote is an easy matter, compared with which the working out of that plan, the achieving of what was provided for by the vote, may be a gigantic task. Such was the contrast between the action of the assembled multitude on the 6th of April, 1892, and the work accomplished in the year that followed.
When the capstone of the Temple was laid, the scene inside the walls was that of chaos and confusion. To finish the interior within a year appeared a practical impossibility. The task the people had taken upon themselves was almost superhuman. Nevertheless, they considered the instruction to complete the building within the specified time to be verily the word of the Lord unto them, and they remembered the utterance of the ancient prophet, “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” The Saints regarded their act of voting to be equivalent to the affixing of their individual signatures to a note of promise. As to how well they met their obligation and kept their promise, let the achievement of the year speak.
The people had pledged themselves “collectively and individually to furnish as fast as it may be needed, all the money that may be required to complete the Temple at as early a time as possible, so that the dedication may take place on April 6, 1893.” The pledge was met in full. Under date of April 21, 1892, the First Presidency issued a general epistle addressed to the Latter-day Saints in Zion and throughout the world, directing that the people gather in their places of worship on Sunday, the first day of May, and devote the day to solemn fasting and prayer. To this call the people responded faithfully. Mingled with their thanksgiving for the manifold blessings of the past, were fervent supplications for success in the work of completing the Lord’s House within the time prescribed.
In the work of finishing the Temple, it was all-important that there be a competent, responsible man in charge, who should be invested with executive authority in every department of the labor. While the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve retained in their hands the directing power, they needed an agent who could be trusted to act with promptness, decision, and authority on every question that should arise. The choice of the presiding authorities for a man to fill this responsible position fell upon John R. Winder, who was at that time Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and who afterward became First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. At the time of his appointment to the responsible position of General Superintendent of Temple Work, April 16, 1892, President Winder was in his seventy-second year, yet he possessed the energy and activity of youth, combined with the wisdom and discretion that age alone can give. Under his efficient supervision, work on the interior of the Temple progressed at a rate that surprised even the workers. Laborers of all classes, mechanics, masons, plasterers, carpenters, glaziers, plumbers, painters, decorators, artisans and artificers of every kind, were put to work. The people verily believed that a power above that of man was operating to assist them in their great undertaking. Material, much of which was of special manufacture, came in from the east and the west, with few of the usual delays of transit.
Heating and lighting systems were installed; and this installation necessitated the erection of a boiler house, with all accessories of equipment. Moreover, the Annex had to be built. At this point it may be well to explain that each of the Temples in Utah is connected with a separate structure, known as the Annex,-in the nature of an ante-building,-in which preliminary services are held, and wherein record is made of the ordinance work to be done by the parties present, before they are permitted to enter the Temple on the day of service. The Annex to the Temple in Salt Lake City stands about one hundred feet north from the main structure.
Even as late as one month prior to the date set for the dedication, there was so much yet to be done, as to make many feel that for once at least, the people had been mistaken in their belief that the Lord had spoken, and that the completion of the work by the time set, was a physical impossibility. On the 18th of March, 1893, the First Presidency issued the following epistle:
“To the Officers and Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
“The near approach of the date for the dedication of the Temple of our God moves us to express with some degree of fullness our feelings to our brethren, the officers of the Church, who with us bear the Priesthood of the Son of God, and to the Latter-day Saints generally; to the end that in entering that holy building we may all be found acceptable ourselves, with our households, and that the building which we shall dedicate may also be acceptable unto the Lord.
“The Latter-day Saints have used their means freely to erect other Temples in these valleys, and our Father has blessed us in our efforts. Today we enjoy the great happiness of having three of these sacred structures completed, dedicated to and accepted of the Lord, wherein the Saints can enter and attend to those ordinances which He, in His infinite goodness and kindness, has revealed. But for forty years the hopes, desires, and anticipations of the entire Church have been centered upon the completion of this edifice in the principal city of Zion. Its foundation was laid in the early days of our settlement in these mountains; and from that day until the present, the eyes of the members of the Church in every land have been lovingly directed toward it. Looking upon it as the Temple of temples, the people during all these years have labored with unceasing toil, undiminished patience, and ungrudging expenditure of means to bring it to its present condition of completion; and now that the toils and the sacrifices of forty years are crowned so successfully and happily, now that the great building is at last finished and ready to be used for divine purposes, need we say that we draw near an event whose consummation is to us as a people momentous in the highest degree? Far-reaching in its consequence, as that occasion is certain to be, what remains for us to say in order to impress the entire Church with a sense of its tremendous importance?
“On this point, surely nothing; yet may we offer a few words upon a phase that directly touches it. No member of the Church who would be deemed worthy to enter that sacred house can be considered ignorant of the principles of the Gospel. It is not too much to presume that every one knows what his duty is to God and to his fellowman. None is so forgetful as to have lost sight of the admonition that we must be filled with love for and charity toward our brethren. And hence none can for a moment doubt the supreme importance of every member of the congregation being at peace with all his or her brethren and sisters, and at peace with God. How else can we hope to gain the blessings He has promised save by complying with the requirements for which those blessings are the reward?
“Can men and women who are violating a law of God, or those who are derelict in yielding obedience to His commands, expect that the mere going into His holy house and taking part in its dedication will render them worthy to receive, and cause them to receive, His blessing?
“Do they think that repentance and turning away from sin may be so lightly dispensed with?
“Do they dare, even in thought, thus to accuse our Father of injustice and partiality, and attribute to Him carelessness in the fulfilment of His own words?