Building the St George Temple

Building the St George Temple

Building the St George Temple

witnessed the Saints having to leave behind multiple temples all through the early years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ history. Most painfully, Brigham Young led the Saints out of Nauvoo in 1846, abandoning the Nauvoo temple that they had spent so much time and expense erecting over the preceding years. Brigham Young was determined to build another temple when he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. One that would be long-lasting.

Brigham Young dedicated the Salt Lake Temple construction site in 1853. “What are we here for this day to lay the foundation of a temple to the Most High God so that his son may have a place where he can lay his head and not only spend a night or a day but find a place of peace.

When the Saints first began construction, they laid the first cornerstone with much fanfare. I believe there were some unrealistic expectations that the temple would be finished fast, but construction was hampered by a number of issues. After 20 years, the temple was still below ground, which I’m sure was quite irritating for Brigham Young.

Brigham Young had access to information and keys that only he could pass on as president of the church. Brigham realized he wouldn’t live to see the Salt Lake Temple completed by 1870, so he wanted to find a community of saints who could help him finish the temple so he could pass on the keys of salvation.

Brigham Young considered erecting another temple in the deserts of southern Utah, far from Salt Lake. It may occur to you that this is a difficult land to make a livelihood in, but it is a wonderful place to raise Saints. Brigham Young announced the construction of a temple at St. George in 1871. Church members were able to draw on their previous experience while knowing the effort would be difficult. Brigham Young commissioned the Saints in the area to establish a public gathering space—a tabernacle—shortly after St. George was built. They began construction in 1863 and learned how to build in St. George by studying the tabernacle.

They found out where the stone came from, where the lime for the plaster and mortar came from, and where the wood had to come from. It became standard procedure at the temple. The temple’s blueprints were drawn out by Truman Angel. On November 9th, 1871, Brigham Young dedicated the site. Soon, he was spending his winters there, supervising building. Because the St. George temple was built partly on a marsh, the first stage in laying the foundation was to stabilize the earth.

So they hauled the black volcanic rock from a bluff near the temple and drove it into the ground with a piledriver made from a cannon. They realized the base was stable enough to lay the foundation on top of when the piledriver bounced three times. The foundation was completed in February 1874. Workers began bringing in red stone from a nearby quarry and lumber from Mount Trumbull to construct the walls.

The construction of a temple in nineteenth-century Utah engaged the entire community. You would have had some relationship to that building if you lived in St. George or the surrounding area. You gave something if you lived in St. George, no matter how poor you were. We’ve heard instances about church members donating $1 since it was all they had. Others stitched carpets, fed the workers, created garments for them, or simply stood by and cheered them on.

One thing that is right in front of our eyes may be lost on you. That is, the United Order ideas are being used to construct the temple at St. George. We can do anything when we stop being selfish and focus on establishing God’s Kingdom on earth.

Workers plastered the temple’s sandstone dressing in white after the red sandstone walls were finished. Brigham Young dedicated the temple for use in 1877 after each section was completed. He stated that the April general conference will be held in St. George as the work neared completion. Brigham Young was greeted by massive banners and throngs as he arrived in St. George.

“Brigham Young, our principal builder,” read the banner. This group was ecstatic about the temple! They were overjoyed that their prophet had come to consecrate this temple to them. Brigham Young would have been relieved to learn that the St. George temple had been completed. The Saints would be able to receive ordinances, covenants, and benefits that many of them had never expected to see. Some of them had gone to their temple in Nauvoo.

Orson Hyde recalls leaving the temple weeping as he saw the font being installed because he didn’t think about who or what transpired after the St. George temple was dedicated. Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff sat down and wrote down and recorded those priceless temple ordinances, assuring that they would be preserved for future generations of Saints.

Brigham Young’s final General Conference was held at St. George in April 1877. He died that summer, but he left the first temple to the Saints.

They were able to maintain the first temple, which allowed them to perform endowments for both the living and the dead. What do you think the fathers would say if they had the ability to communicate with the dead? If they had the ability to whisper in our ears? The very thunders of heaven would be in our ears if they had the strength. All the angels in heaven are looking at this small group of people and encouraging them to save the human family if we could comprehend the gravity of what we’re doing.

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