1. Which temple was struck by lightning shortly after it was built?
2. Which temple was the first completed after Nauvoo?
3. Wilford Woodruff was the first president of which temple?
4. In which temple were the first endowments for the dead performed?
5. Of the temples designed by Truman Angell, which was the first completed?
6. In which temple did Wilford Woodruff do the work for the founding fathers?
7. Which temple was the only one in the west to be finished while Brigham Young was still alive?
Well, the answer to each of these questions is the St. George, Utah temple.
Photo from LDSTemples.org
Although St. George is an awesome place today, popular with both vacationers and retirees, J. Golden Kimball said that if he had a house in hell and a house in St. George, he’d rent out the one in St. George. Settling St. George before the days of air conditioning was an incredible trial, as the temperature is frequently over 100 degrees in the summer, so why was it chosen for the first temple?
HISTORY OF THE ST. GEORGE TEMPLE
In 1855 while traveling through Southern Utah, Heber C. Kimball declared that a wagon road would be made from Harmony over the Black Ridge, and a temple would be built in the vicinity of the Rio Virgin. No LDS people lived in the vicinity. (New Harmony is just on the other side of the Dixie National Forest from St. George, about 30 miles north, and the Virgin River flows out of Zion National Park, right through St. George and into Arizona.) The first LDS colonists were sent to the Dixie mission in 1861. It was a very hard mission call. From the diary of one of those called:
Well, here I have worked for the last seven years through heat and cold, hunger and adverse circumstances, and at last have got me a home, a lot with fruit trees just beginning to bear and look pretty. Well, I must leave it and go and do the will of my Father in Heaven, who overrules all for the good of them that love and fear him. I pray God to give me strength to accomplish that which is required of me in an acceptable manner before him.
-Charles Lowell Walker, quoted in Our History, p. 88
The St. George Temple was announced by Brigham Young in a letter in 1871; it was begun in November of that year.
Although the Salt Lake Temple had been started in 1853, 18 years earlier, it was less than halfway built. President Young wanted to see another temple completed before he died. Despite Utah's "Dixie" being very small in population, and nearly destitute as well, St. George was chosen for several reasons:
- The warmer climate allowed year-round construction (which was causing a lot of delay on the Salt Lake Temple)
- The location was far removed from government intervention (which was causing a lot of delay on the Salt Lake Temple)
- John Taylor later said, “There was a people living here who were more worthy than any others…God inspired President Young to build a temple here because of the fidelity and self-abnegation of the people.”(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, p. 14)
CHOOSING THE SITEI am 82 years old tomorrow. I am the only living person, so far as I know, who heard and saw what I am about to relate. At the time of which we shall speak, I was a lad of 11 years, all-seeing and all-hearing, and drove a team hitched to a scraper.
President Brigham Young had written to Robert Gardner, president of the stake high council. In this letter he expressed a wish that a Temple be built in St. George. Also, that Brother Gardner select a few leading brethren, and, as a group, visit sites where it might be best to build the Temple. This they did, visiting spots each thought might be best. They could not agree, and so informed President Young.
President Young, arriving later, somewhat impatiently chided them, and at the same time asked them to get into their wagons, or whatever else they had, and with him find a location.
To the south they finally stopped.
“But, Brother Young,” protested the men, “This land is boggy. After a storm, and for several months of the year, no one can drive across the land without horses and wagons sinking way down. There is no place to build a foundation.”
“We will make a foundation,” said President Young.
Later on while plowing and scraping where the foundation was to be, my horse’s leg broke through the ground into a spring of water. The brethren then wanted to move the foundation line 12 feet to the south, so that the spring of water would be on the outside of the temple.
“Not so,” replied President Young. “We will wall it up and leave it here for some future use. But we cannot move the foundation. This spot was dedicated by the Nephites. They could not build it, but we can and will build it for them.”
To this day the water from that very spring is running through a drain properly built.
I make this statement of my own free will and choice, and without any fear of misgiving.
[signed] E. Ernest Bramwell, 85 C St., Salt Lake City, Utah
Quoted in Janice F. DeMille, The St. George Temple: First 100 Years, p. 20-21)
EXCAVATION FOR FOUNDATION (Begun November 9, 1871)
The groundbreaking ceremony was November 9, 1871. The brethren began the excavation that very afternoon.
In digging[,] the greater part we found to be very wet and soft, so much so that it was necessary to dig a frame around the outside within 12 feet of building a little east of square tower. It was so soft in places that a fences pole could be pressed in from 12 to 15 feet with ease. This caused considerably anxiety as to the best way of making it substantial enough to sustain the enormous weight of the building.
--Edward Perry, Chief Mason (DeMille, p. 26)
In the end, 17,000 tons of rock was used in the construction of the temple.
Photo from www.dostgeorge.com
BUILDING THE FOUDNATION (Completed February 21, 1874—2 years and 3 months)
Since the temple site did not furnish a solid foundation, it was necessary to make a firm foundation on which to build. Once the excavation was completed, it was necessary to fill it in with rock. For this purpose they had to use some type of rock which would not decay; the action of minerals in the soil would decay both sandstone and limestone.
The problem was solved by using black volcanic rock from a long, black ridge west of St. George. First they had to build a dugway, in order to quarry the rock. The size of the rocks varied from small pieces to boulders weighing several tons.
Next arose the problem of getting the rock pounded into the ground solidly enough to provide a firm foundation. Once again, these pioneers invented a way to accomplish a task which seemed impossible. They made a pile driver from a cannon brought back from California with the Mormon Battalion. They filled it full of lead; it weighed 800-1,000 pounds. William Carter constructed a device by which they could lift the cannon 30 feet into the air by horse power, and then drop it. In this way, the volcanic rock was driven deep into the soft ground.
The pile-driver crew asked Charles L. Walker, Dixie’s “poet laureate,” to write a poem about their task. He wrote the following poem, which served as a great morale booster. They sang it to the tune of “Cork Leg.”
Pounding Rock Into the Temple Foundation
Now, I pray you be still and all hush your noise,
While I sing about Carter and the Founder and boys.
How the old hammer climbed and went toward the skies,
And made such a thump that you’d shut both your eyes.
“Go ahead now, hold hard, now snatch it again,”
Down comes the old fun, the rocks fly like rain;
Now start up that team, we work not in vain,
With a rattle and clatter, and do it again.
Slack up on the south, the north guy make tight
Take a turn around the post, now be sure you are right;
Now stick in your pars and drive your dogs tight,
Slap dope in the grooves, go ahead, all is right.
Now, right on the frame sat the giant Jimmy Ide,
Like a brave engineer, with the rope by his side,
“Go ahead, and just raise it,” he lustily cried,
“I run this machine and Carter beside!”
I must not forget to mention our Rob,
Who stuck to it faithful and finished the job;
The time it fell down and nearly played hob,
He n’er made a whimper, not even a sob.
Here’s good will to Carter, the Pounder and tools,
Here’s good will to Gardner, the driver and mules,
Here’s good will to the boys, for they’ve had a hard tug.
Here’s good will to us all and the ‘little brown jug.’
(DeMille, p. 28-29)
At Pioneer celebration, the St. George Choir sang a song written by Charles L. Walker. Later it was sung throughout the state as a rally-rouser to raise funds for the temple.
Lo! A temple, long expected, in St. George shall stand;
By God’s faithful saints erected, here in Dixieland.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Let Hosannas ring,
Heaven shall echo back our praises, Christ shall reign as king.
The noble task we hailed with pleasure—coming from our head—
Brings salvation—life eternal, for our kindred dead.
Holy and eternal Father, give us strength we pray,
To thy name to build this temple, in the latter day.
Oh! How anxious friends are waiting, watching every move,
Made by us for their redemption, with a holy love.
Long they’ve hoped thru weary ages, for the present time;
For the everlasting gospel with its truths sublime.
Lo, the prison doors are open, millions hail the day;
Praying, hoping for baptism, in the appointed way.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Let the structure rise,
Rear aloft these noble towers pointing to the skies.
Robert Gardner, a Scottish convert, was in charge of finding lumber. Most of the lumber came from Mt. Trumbull, in northern Arizona, 70 miles away. Its elevation (8,028 feet) is over 5,000 feet higher than St. George (2,880 feet). First they had to build a road, of course. Most of the lumber used in the temple came from Mt. Trumbull, sometimes only 2 large logs on one wagon.
One of the most dangerous parts of the road was down the Hurricane Hill which borders the present site of the town. Before assaying the steep descent, the drivers tightened the binding on the loads and the rough-locked the rear wheels to act as a brake on the freighters’ wagons. Even with rough-lock the heavily laden running gears came down the hill too rapidly for comfort.
--A. Karl Larson
(DeMille, p. 38)
PLASTERING THE RED SANDSTONE
While plastering, John Burt fell from a scaffold 70 feet high. Some of the workers administered to him. It was considered a miracle that he lived.
The Deseret Evening News reported that Thomas Crane undertook to come down from the top of the building by one of the ropes, but halfway down his arms gave out, and he fell about 30 feet. He was seriously injured, but lived.
BAPTISMAL FONT (Dedicated August 11, 1875)
The font was made in sections in Salt Lake City, and assembled and bronzed in the temple after shipment. It was oval shaped. The Deseret News reported that the bottom piece weighed about 2,900 pounds, and the sides one ton.
56 years ago this month I was one of a company of young men who delivered the baptismal font for the St. George temple…
We were instructed to guard our loads carefully and not to exhibit them to anybody except the bishops of the wards along the way, and people the bishops might permit to see them.
My load contained the bottom of the font…
We traveled along with soldiers going to Beaver on foot. We passed and repassed them often and almost had to fight to keep them from snooping in our wagons. Some of them believed we were loaded with cannon. The John D. Lee trial was on at the time and there was a great deal of excitement and many wild rumors. But we held to our course and carried out our instructions…
Some of the way it was so hot that we traveled at night for the benefit of our oxen. It reached 119 degrees in the shade. Our oxen nearly died. Every time they heard a stream of water we had all we could do to keep them from stampeding.
We did not leave for the return trip till we saw the font safely in place. As fast as they unloaded us, the pieces were put in place and bolted together. Apostle Orson Hyde went in and saw the font in place and came out weeping with joy. He thanked God that he had lived to see another font in place in a temple of the Lord. He said this people would never be driven from the Rocky Mountains. I believed him, for I had heard prophecy before.
Respectfully, C. L. Christensen, Moab, Utah
(Demille, p. 40)
ENDOWMENT ROOMS DEDICATED January 1, 1877
January 9 baptisms for the dead were begun, and January 11, endowments for the dead were performed for the first time in this dispensation in any temple.
HELP FROM OTHERS
Letter sent from the General Tithing Office, April 3, 1874 to Brother Smoot in Utah County
…You will doubtless rejoice with us to learn that the temple in St. George is progressing very satisfactorily…No mission since the organization of the Church has had so many natural barriers to overcome, so much costly labor to perform, nor such a length drain on the faith, perseverance, and pockets of the people, than the one usually called the “Dixie Mission.” The last and heaviest drain upon their resources is the building of the temple, and never was a call made that met with a more universal and happy response, but their utter inability to complete such a gigantic labour with the means they had at command, necessitated a call for help from their Northern Neighbors. Hence we in this city have had the privilege of raising several thousand dollars through the various wards for that purpose, and should the members of your county feel desirous of enjoying the same privilege that [all] may share in the blessings of that temple when completed, we hereby extend to all such a cordial invitation to participate; let neither the rich nor the poor be slighted, but everyone in your entire district have a chance to donate something towards the first erected temple in Utah Territory, not even refusing the widows of 5 or 10 cents, which in the sight of God is equal to the rich man’s $50 or $100. Those who have no money might wish to turn in some grain or stock…
[signed] Ed W. Hunter, L.W. Hardy, J.A. Little (Presiding Bishopric)
(DeMille, p. 43-44)
At General Conference, the First Presidency would call for volunteers from the rest of the state to go to Dixie and work on the Temple for 3 months or so at a time. Hundreds went each year, some on their way to settle Arizona. Special housing and a bakery had to be provided for them.
As the St. George Temple was being built, in addition to monetary donations, wagons would go through the wards in the state accepting food, furniture, cloth, chickens, whatever. A group of men would go through announcing the drive, and in a few days, the wagons would come for the donations.
The temple cost an estimated $800,000 to build.
DEDICATION, April 6, 1877, in conjunction with General Conference.
Very few photos depict the St. George Temple
with its original tower.
The temple was originally designed as depicted above. Brigham Young didn’t like the short and squatty tower (really--who would?), and asked the saints to change it to be taller. They were so disheartened after all their sacrifice, that they didn’t do it. President Young died 5 months after the dedication, at age 76. Not long afterwards, a bolt of lightning struck the tower during a thunderstorm and burned it to its base, miraculously leaving the rest of the temple without damage. The feeling among the saints was that President Young was getting the final word. Accordingly, they rebuilt the tower the way he had wanted it.
BECOMING THE TEMPLE OF GOD
When Howard W. Hunter became the president of the Church, he asked us to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of [our] membership.” (Oct. 94 Ensign, p. 2) He said the temple was the “supreme mortal experience.” (Feb. 95 Ensign, p. 5) Why? (Class answers. Put into two columns on board; add category headings afterwards.)
WHY GO TO THE TEMPLE
Covenants Peace—something that you make
Service Love—your own main role in life
Learn Joy—your ultimate purpose
Seek comfort Hope—in achieving Celestial Kingdom
Purify self, etc.
(Use whichever of the following quotes are applicable to class members’ ideas.)
Armed with Power
We ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them.
Earth joined with Heaven
It is in the temple that things of the earth are joined with the things of heaven.
--President Hunter, Oct 94 Ensign, p. 2
It is a place of peace where minds can be centered upon things of the spirit and the worries of the world can be laid aside.
--President Hunter, Oct 94 Ensign, p. 2
Sanctity and Safety
We should go not only for our kindred dead but also for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety that are within those hallowed and consecrated walls.
--President Hunter, Feb 95 Ensign, p. 5
As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
--President Hunter, Feb 94 Ensign, p. 5
All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial…
--President Hunter, General Conference, April 1922
When the saints built the Nauvoo temple, completion was their goal. Once they achieved that goal, they had to abandon the temple, and the Lord was satisfied. But that was the last time that building the temple was the end goal. With the St. George temple, and every one of the 100+ since, we have been allowed to keep our temples; now we may use the temples, not only to build our eternal families, but to build ourselves.
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
--1 Corinthians 6:19-20
And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.
If we could make our souls (body and spirit) as holy as a temple, we could experience these products of the spirit [refer to chart] more of the time, and they would be a great blessing to us, as they are so essential to our purpose. In addition, our experiences when we attend the temple will be greatly magnified, since the only thing that restrains the spirit in the temple is our own selves—either our sins, or our own states of mind—and we would gain greater power there. How can we do this? Just like they built te St. George Temple. (Post wordstrips.)
- DESIRE. Be eager. Begin immediately. In St. George, they began to build the temple the very afternoon of the ground-breaking, with very little idea how to proceed and very few resources.
- START WHERE YOU ARE. We have to go with what we have, but we can learn from St. George that a sure foundation can be laid anywhere.
- BUILD ON THE ROCK, despite the obstacles. Physical disability, mental illness, childhood abuse, sin, divorce, whatever the bog or mire, it is possible to resolve these problems and build a sure foundation on Christ. No one is hopeless.
- WORK AND SACRIFICE. Expect that it will take considerable and continual effort.
- MAGNIFY YOUR STRENGTHS. Use your own talents, spiritual gifts, and physical body to their best. The St. George saints only had red rock, but they plastered and painted it.
- SEEK/ACCEPT HELP. There is strength in church membership; we are all blessed by helping each other.
- DEDICATE YOURSELF NOW. They dedicated and used one room at a time in these early temples. You don’t need to wait until you are perfect and complete to serve. As you grow and develop in your abilities, you can contribute more.
- CHANGE COURSE AS ADVISED. No matter how much effort you have put into the direction you are going, if the prophet says you should change, do it.
- KEEP WATCH. The St. George Temple is the longest continuously operating temple. Remember Samuel Rolfe, the assistant doorkeeper? When the Saints left the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples, and no longer monitored the entrances, they became just buildings. If we are going to be a temple people, we need doorkeepers to our souls to watch what we allow in physically (Word of Wisdom), mentally (media), and emotionally.
[Satan] would have us become involved in a million and one things in this life—probably none of which are very important in the long run—to keep us from concentrating on the things that are really important…
--Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Oct 92 CR
We are half-hearted creatures…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea…We are far too easily pleased.
--C. S. Lewis, A Mind Awake, p. 168
We are at a time in the history of the world and the growth of the Church when we must think more of holy things and act more like the Savior would expect his disciples to act… May you let the meaning and beauty and peace of the temple come into your everyday life more directly…