This Is the Place: The Building of the Salt Lake Temple

by DIANE HOLBROOK

Shortly after inhabiting the great Salt Lake Valley, a place was soon chosen where the Salt Lake City temple would be built. On February 14, 1853, there was not only a dedication and groundbreaking of this magnificent building, but a commencing of something being built of biblical proportions.

After members of the Latter-day Saints were persecuted and driven out of both Kirkland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois, they started their long and treacherous journey west. Temples were built in both of these locations because temples and work done in them are a very important part of the Mormon religion. The Saints knew they would end up in the West and they knew they would want another temple there as well.

They arrived July 28, 1847, in the Great Salt Lake Valley. Just four short days later, Brigham Young, then president of the church, declared where the temple was to be built. On February 19, 1853, the Deseret News reported about Young: “Only as he had learned by dreams and visions, and revelations, that there was a good place for the saints in the mountains, and that when he arrived on the spot where he then was, he declared that the place for a temple.” Mormons believe in revelations from God to guide them in the right direction. President Young was sure when he said that this is “the place.” Since most of the inhabitants of the Salt Lake Valley were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they were thrilled at the prospect of having yet another temple in their midst. Since their arrival in 1847, only six years had gone by until they commenced the building of the Salt Lake Temple.

The groundbreaking for the temple was held February 14, 1853. Prayers were said, hymns were sung, and the first shovel was dug in the ground. The spot where the temple was going to be built was dedicated as well. Many people showed up for this. As far as the eye could see there were Saints there to bear witness to the beginning of construction and to hear the voice of their Prophet.

In a book titled, The Salt Lake Temple: an Architectural Monograph, written by Charles Hamilton, it was said that the groundbreaking and the site of the temple was monumental because “President Young required the city be laid out from the temple plot.” (Hamilton, 33) Young wanted the temple to be the focal point of the valley. Because of this thought and plans for city plans, Salt Lake City is on a grid system, with the temple being at the center of everything. The temple plot is a total of ten acres. On this includes the temple, the tabernacle, the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, and two visitor centers. Hamilton also suggests that the Salt Lake Temple design was very influential of other temples. He says that “symbolically and ecclesiastically the [Salt Lake Temple was the] most important of the temples.” (Hamilton, 152) This temple certainly is the most widely known. Many tourists visit the temple and temple square daily. According to a Deseret News story by Aaron Falk, Temple Square receives about five million visitors per year, which actually makes it number 16 out of 25 for most visited sites in the United States.

Building this humongous temple was a feat to be had. It took 40 years to complete the development. It was a hard, seemingly impossible endeavor. Granite was brought in from Little Cottonwood Canyon, which was about 30 miles away, and tithing was used to pay for the temple, which wasn’t very easy for the people. On April 16, 1853, the Deseret News encouraged readers to “bring up to the Tithing House of the Lord your tithings and your consecrations; pay up what you owe ….” A lot of sweat, hard work, and sacrifices were made for this House of the Lord. It was very important to the members of the church that this temple be built and they were willing to do whatever it took for the completion of this great building. Talk of the building of this great temple was widespread. Harper’s Weekly even wrote a long story about the temple in its newspaper in the July 11, 1857, edition. There was a lot of information about the temple and even a picture of what it was to look like when completed. The temple was big news all over the country.

Upon completion in April 1893, the Deseret News published an article titled, “Word of Warning.” The article observed, “During … the temple dedication services, many hundreds of Latter-day Saints will visit this city for the first time, and many more who are not accustomed to the ways of the world as exhibited by those who are not of this faith.” The completion was a huge deal around the country. The temple’s completion was so newsworthy, the Deseret News felt it needed to warn people about the influx of tourists.

Twice a year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a General Conference going over certain religious topics and spreading word of the church’s work. On April 8, 1893, the Deseret News wrote about the completion and dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. In the article, titled “House of the Lord,” it makes mention of a speech by then President of the Church, Wilford Woodruff. During that speech, President Woodruff acknowledged the completion of the temple and how great it was now that they had it in their presence. In a Deseret News article titled “The Interior,” the reporter described the temple saying, “It amazes by its massive solidity and charms with its exquisite beauty; by the ingenuity and completeness of its appointments it delights the most practical, and in its perfection of taste and harmony it dazzles the most artistic and refined.”

America was aware of the atrocities the Mormons had endured before reaching the Salt Lake in 1847. The Salt Lake Temple was the sixth temple to be erected. It is however, one of the more popular temples to people around the world, whether they are members of the Mormon Church or not. To this day, the temple is still well talked about. Mormons are very religious people who are willing and waiting to do what God asks of them. The building of the Salt Lake Temple was just one of those things.

Diane Holbrook is a junior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication.

Sources

“A Word of Warning,” Deseret News, April 8, 1893, 6.

Deseret News, February 19, 1853.

Deseret News, April 16, 1853.

Charles Hamilton. The Salt Lake Temple: an Architectural Monograph. Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1979.

“New Temple to be built in Salt Lake City,” Harper’s Weekly, July 11, 1857.

Aaron Falk, “Temple Square Ranks 16th in Visitors,” Deseret News, March 11, 2009.

“The House of the Lord,” Deseret News, April 8, 1893, 19.

“The Interior,” Deseret News, April 8, 1893, 20.

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