Time for the next set of temple fun! That means we're moving on to the Salt Lake Temple.
But first, to answer the trivia question from last time:
Who served as the first St. George Temple president?
A. Lorenzo Snow
B. Orson Pratt
C. George Albert Smith
D. Wilford Woodruff
The answer: D-Wilford Woodruff (Very good, Brillig!)
During his time as temple president, Wilford Woodruff had the famous vision of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (and other early prominent Americans, including their wives) asking for their temple work to be done.
Years later, he was the prophet who got the Salt Lake Temple finished, pushing the Saints to raise the funds necessary and work their hardest so it could be dedicated at the 40-year mark. The capstone celebration took place at the 39-year mark, and it was then that he urged Church members to push hard to get the interior of the temple done within the next year. It was a close call (in fact, some of the murals inside weren't quite completed by the dedication), but it's thanks to him that they had the dedication when they did. He was also the one who dedicated the Salt Lake Temple.
So he's a fitting segue to move from the St. George temple to the Salt Lake one. (Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri)
1) One of the biggest reasons for the exceedingly long construction period was a simple transportation problem. Once the original sandstone foundation cracked and was removed, leaders decided to switch to granite, which was much farther away than the sandstone (3-4 miles versus about 20) and much heavier. Instead of getting a couple of loads a day, it now took 4 days to bring one stone from the quarry.
Church leaders tried several things to speed up the transportation process, including digging canals to float the stones to the construction site and a wooden railroad. Nothing worked until Brigham Young decided that a standard, commercial railroad would be the only way. He closed the quarry (which upset some people) so efforts could be focused on getting a real railroad. The line took several years to complete, but when it was done in 1873, they could deliver two dozen stones to the lot in a single day. Finally, real progress on the temple could be achieved!
2) On the first day of dedication, a large storm with intense winds kicked up. Many felt it was the Adversary's way of showing his displeasure with the completion of the temple. During the storm, a flock of seagulls hovered around the spires. If the wind drew them away, they'd immediately fly back to the temple.
3) While attending the second day of dedication, Emma Bennett of Provo went into labor. She was moved from the Assembly Room to a smaller one and gave birth to a son near the close of the evening service. Apostle James E. Talmage wrote of this event in his journal: "Some sects would hold that such an event desecrated the holy place; but the Latter-day Saints will take a directly opposite view."
4) By the time the temple was complete, so many modern innovations were available that weren't when it was begun. Some felt that perhaps the temple needed to have such things, and that's one reason why it took so long to complete. These items included electricity (even getting the temple its own generator), interior heating, and the ability to have better plumbing and boilers for sanitary purposes (the science of which grew in leaps and bounds during those 40 years).
The Deseret Weekly commented on this, saying, "Every hindrance ultimately tends to show that there is an overruling hand, and that in the order of God, through his servants, the house, finally completed, will be more worthy of its Divine character" (quoted in Every Stone a Sermon by Holzapfel).
There's a ton more I've learned about the temple, and much more that's included in Spires of Stone, including information about some of my personal favorite parts: the Earth stones. Watch for the book when it comes out in September to read more. I'll also be adding more about the temple to my website in future weeks.
Now for the Salt Lake Temple trivia question:
When debating before construction began over what to build the temple out of, what material did Brigham Young lobby in General Conference for?
D. Stucco-covered Sandstone
Up next: The Manti Temple.
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