St. George Utah Temple

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St. George Utah Temple. The first of four pioneer-era temples.

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 9 November 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 6 April 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 29 August 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 lightning 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. Other pioneer-era temples followed the St. George Utah Temple dedication, including the Logan Utah Temple dedication in 1884, the Manti Utah Temple dedication in 1888, and the Salt Lake Temple dedication in 1893.

St. George Utah Temple Closes for Renovations

According to the Church's Newsroom site, the St. George Utah Temple, the first of four pioneer-era temples, closed on Monday, 4 November 2019, to undergo "extensive structural, mechanical, electrical, finish and plumbing work." In a news release earlier this year, Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church's special projects department, said, "This is one of the beautiful, premier temples in the church. Latter-day Saints have worshiped here for almost 150 years. However, the building has worn out over time, and it is once again time for us to refresh and strengthen this historic structure for future generations to enjoy."

The project is expected to be completed in 2022. The Salt Lake Tribune reports, "The three-year overhaul will include 'limited seismic upgrades' to the iconic white-plastered temple, with steel being added to the structure’s original wooden trusses, along with installation of new heating and cooling systems, and partial demolition and rebuilding of the temple annex." Following a public open house, the temple will be rededicated. Ralph Atkin, director of public affairs in St. George, said he has heard drawings for the renovation are complete or nearly complete, and some of the changes "may surprise some people." He continued, "There is an extensive modification on the exterior of the building. Of course, the original temple will be maintained."

In announcing 12 new temples at the October 2018 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson also said that the Salt Lake Temple and other pioneer-era temples will be renovated. He said, "With the passage of time, temples are inevitably in need of refreshing and renewal. To that end, plans are now being made to renovate and update the Salt Lake Temple and other pioneer generation temples. Details on these projects will be shared as they are developed." Another landmark building, the St. George Tabernacle, was reopened last summer after two years of renovation work.

According to Newsroom, more information on the renovation will be made available later this year.

The temple serves LDS church communities in southwestern Utah and parts of Arizona and Nevada. Despite the closure, temple-going Latter-day Saints will be able to continue attending temple services at the Cedar City Utah Temple. After Cedar City, the nearest LDS temple is the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.

Two other historic Utah temples — in Logan and Manti will also be renovated, though details have yet to be announced.

Church Releases Detailed Plans for Closure and Renovation of St. George Utah Temple

At a news conference in the St. George Temple Visitors' Center on Wednesday, 22 May 2019, detailed plans for the upcoming closure and renovation of the St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were released. Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, commented, "This is one of the beautiful, premier temples in the Church. Latter-day Saints have worshipped here for almost 150 years. However, the building has worn out over time, and it is once again time for us to refresh and strengthen this historic structure for future generations to enjoy." At the news conference, Church representatives shared interior and exterior project renderings and site plans.

According to LDS, "The entire temple block will be improved with new walkways, landscaping, water features, and additional shade trees. A new brides' exit and plaza will be added to the east side of the annex, and a new baptistry entrance and exit will be added on the temple's south side."

The upper portion of the existing annex will also be demolished and replaced with a design that will complement the historic structure. Additionally, limited seismic upgrades will be made by adding steel to the temple’s original wood trusses. Excavation around the temple's foundation will also be required to install new mechanical heating and cooling systems.

Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations, stated, "This renovation will be carried out with the finest materials and workmanship available. The finished product will become a cherished part of the community and further add to the rich history of this magnificent temple in southern Utah."

Jason Cobb, an on-site foreman for Grant Mackay Demolition Company, has been doing this type of construction work for 14 years, but this job is different. As a member of the Church, he said working on the temple allows him to be a part of history. He said, "It feels amazing to me to have the opportunity to be able to work on temples. . . to be able to feel the love that the Lord has for His house and for each one of us."

Eric Jamison, project manager, said, "One of the aspects of this project is preserving the original building. The structure of the building is in fantastic condition given its age. Despite its age, the temple has endured very well."

Crews will work to preserve as much of the original craftsmanship as possible. Emily Utt, the curator of the historic site with the Church History Department, added, "The St. George Temple represents the devotion, sacrifice, and faith of early members of the Church. This temple was built by hand in the desert as an expression of their faith. We believe the current plans to preserve, restore and renovate this sacred place will honor those who came before while also improving the temple’s safety and function for patrons." She also stated that dozens of small details have been found to help historians better understand the history of the temple. She said, "So, for the first time in 100 years, we're able to see where the original door openings were in this building, what the floor plan was, what the paint colors were."

The St. George Utah Temple serves Latter-day Saints in southwestern Utah and parts of Nevada and Arizona. During the renovation, patrons are invited to attend other nearby temples in Cedar City, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The project will impact some aspects of the temple block. Some public access will be restricted, and some sidewalks will be closed. Additionally, some roads will be temporarily closed for utility construction. The Temple Visitors’ Center will remain open during construction, but there will be no access to the temple site during that time. And the annual Christmas light display will not take place during construction.

Videos of the St. George Utah Temple

External links

Other Temples in Utah