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St. George Utah Temple

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The St. George Utah Temple was the first temple built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. Located in the city of St. George, Utah, it was the first LDS temple built in the Rocky Mountains. It was designed by Truman O. Angell who also worked on the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples and designed the Salt Lake Temple.

The announcement to build the St. George temple was given on November 9, 1871 and a groundbreaking ceremony was held that same day. Brigham Young, the Prophet and President of the Church at the time, personally chose a six-acre plot as the site for the temple. The afternoon of the groundbreaking ceremony the Saints immediately began construction for their new temple. Unfortunately, the Saints soon discovered that the site was swampy with numerous underground streams. They asked Brigham Young if perhaps they should move the site, but he remained firm that this was the site for the temple.

The Saints overcame the problem of a swampy site is an ingenious way. They decided to bring lava rock to the site then made drains to get rid of much of the water. They then crushed the lava rock and used it to create a dry foundation to build the temple on. The only problem was how to crush the rock. Someone suggested using the old canon that the city had acquired. This old canon itself, had an interesting history. It was made in France and used by Napoleon when he laid siege on Moscow. During Napoleon’s hasty retreat the canon had been left behind. It was later dragged to Siberia, then to Alaska, and finally it ended up at a fort in California. Members of the Mormon Battalion acquired the canon, had it mounted on wheels, and brought it to Utah. The Saints rigged a pulley system and used the canon as a pile driver to create a good foundation. Today, the old canon is displayed on the temple grounds.

After finishing the foundation, work finally began on the structure itself. The walls of the temple were actually made out of the red sandstone so prevalent in the area and then plastered over so that the temple would be white. The Saints worked tirelessly over five and a half years to complete the temple. By the time it was finished the Saints had used a million feet of lumber, which had been hand chopped and hauled between forty and eighty miles. They also used seventeen thousand tons of volcanic rock and sandstone, which had to be hand cut and hauled by mule teams.

When the temple was completed, Brigham Young was not completely satisfied with the tower and dome, stating that it looked too short and squatty. He suggested having it fixed, but the Saints were so excited to have the temple finished that Brigham Young did not push the suggestion. The dedication ceremony took place on April 6, 1877 with Brigham Young presiding and Daniel H. Wells, his second counselor, offering the dedicatory prayer. The dedication of the St. George Temple was an important event in Brigham Young’s presidency, because it was the only temple completed during his presidency. Shortly after the dedication, Brigham Young went home to Salt Lake and passed away on August 29, 1877. He was 76 years old.

About a year after Brigham Young's death, on October 16, 1878, a large storm rolled through St. George and a lightening bolt struck the tower of the temple, making it necessary to reconstruct the tower and dome. Brigham Young's feelings about the tower were well known and a new design was made for the tower, making it taller.

The St. George temple is the oldest temple still in operation by the Church. In the 1970s the temple was closed and underwent extensive remodeling. Spencer W. Kimball rededicated it in 1975. The temple is designed in a Gothic style, and is 110,000 square feet. It has three ordinance rooms and eighteen sealing rooms. This beautiful temple is in the center of St. George and stands as a beautiful reminder of the hard work and dedication that was required by the Saints for its building.


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Other Temples in Utah

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