Temple Trivia: Salt Lake

Below: Me next to an Salt Lake Temple Earth Stone. Those puppies are huge!

(Taken roughly where Claude went after the dance his last night in the city, at least in my funky writer brain that has no grip on reality and thinks it really happened.)

One of my favorite pieces of trivia about the Salt Lake Temple is that Brigham Young originally wanted to build it out of . . . adobe.

Seriously. He even lobbied in general conference for it. He argued that adobe would outlast stone. (Wha-ha?)

When I first read that, I was confused. How in the world could he have assumed that the magnificent structure he saw in vision was made out of dried mud? Of course it was gray granite!

At first sandstone won out. It was relatively lightweight and close to the Temple Block. Work moved right along until, due to Johnston's Army, they buried the foundation to protect it and fled the city. As many people know, once the foundation was uncovered some years later, it was cracked and had to be replaced.

That is when the gray granite we know and love was chosen for the stone. Spires of Stone goes into some of the difficulties in transporting the stone and how long it took to bring ONE stone to the temple compared to the sandstone (4 days round trip for one stone versus a couple of stones per day with sandstone). The work basically came to a standstill.

More on the transportation problem in a minute.

So the temple was going to be built out of gray granite after all. But I still couldn't figure out why Brigham Young had ever thought it should have been adobe. He'd seen the temple in vision! Couldn't he tell?

Then I came across a quote from a captain in Johnston's Army, describing what Salt Lake City looked like as they marched through. Many of the homes and other buildings were made from adobe.

Which he described as looking like cut, gray stone.


My opinion is that Brigham Young thought what he saw in vision was the same substance he saw around him all day long. Adobe is what he was familiar with, and it makes sense to me that his mind would have gone there first instead of assuming the grand, gray building was made of granite (which probably wouldn't have even occurred to him).

Back to the stone-hauling issue: So eventually they determined to use the granite up Little Cottonwood Canyon. But as I said, it was seriously heavy and far away.

Leaders tried to come up with all kinds of solutions to the transportation problem, because at the rate they were going, it probably would have taken a century or more to build instead of 40 years. My favorite (because it's just so out there) was building a canal from Big Cottonwood Creek and floating the stones to the Temple Block.

They basically built the canal (quite a feat, considering all the ravines and obstacles it had to get through). It was twenty feet wide at the base, gradually widening at the top, and was four feet deep.

But it didn't work; it wouldn't hold water. W. C. A. Smoot said the soil across an area in Parley's Canyon was loam, which acted like a sieve for the water. It drained about as fast as it came in.

You kind of need water for a canal to work. So the canal idea was abandoned.

They tried a wooden railroad, but it didn't work, either. Wasn't strong enough. They eventually halted work at the quarry and built a commercial railroad that could take dozens of stones to the Temple Block in a day. And that is when the work finally picked up.

In the end, it was a good thing that the Salt Lake Temple took four decades to complete. By the 1893, science and technology had improved to the point where the temple had better heating, hygiene, lighting, plumbing, and more than it possibly could have had even a decade before.

This temple—by far the largest ever built even yet—would serve the people better (and safer) than it could have otherwise. It could immediately handle more people and reach its potential, whereas before it would have been too big to manage such a feat.

I think the Lord knew that.

Today's tour stops:
Dunhaven Place (In which Tower of Strength becomes Tower of Terror.)
Temporary? Insanity


Kristina P. said…
And this is why I love your blog. LIttle pieces of information that I never knew.

It always astounds me when I think of all the work that went into building the SL temple.
Laura said…
Wow! Cool stuff! I would have lived my whole life and never known that Brigham Young thought they should use adobe.
Technology was something the Lord put on the earth for his Saints. I really believe it. And even though everyone is involved in its production and evolution, it is only here because the Lord was ready for us to have it, and we were ready to "roll the stone" forward for Him.
Heatherlyn said…
That was so very interesting. I love that Brigham Young lobbied for the adobe. I'm always impressed with how many mistakes even very good inspired people will make, and that God lets them make. Life certainly can't be all about getting it right the first time. (Although, woudln't that be nice?) :) Amazing.
SO said…
I had no idea that BY wanted adobe! Very interesting. Love the info I get coming here.
Lara said…
Totally fascinating! And, I completely agree that the Lord knew what he was doing when it took so very long to build the Salt Lake Temple.
in time out said…
VERY wonderful. I took my daughter there to do baptisms for her first, and second, and third, and on an on ...

anyhow, she couldn't stop touching the doornobs, so precious. and beautiful.

Keep ENJOYING. hugs.
LexiconLuvr said…
That's fascinating! I'm captivated by the "earth stone." Boy, I wish I could just sit down with you and talk all things research (and language. *sigh*)
I'm always impressed by the foresight and vision in building the SL Temple. When I'm there, I can just stare for hours.
Heidi Ashworth said…
Please just ignore me! I'm not myself today. . . .
Chas Hathaway said…
That's really interesting.

I've heard that soon the Salt Lake temple will go through some major renovations to bring it up to modern seismic codes.

What a fascinating building!

- Chas
Melanie J said…
I never knew that! That is seriously cool. I knew some of the other stuff from reading Spires of Stone, but...adobe? Wow.
Kaylynn said…
The Lion House and Beehive House are made from Adobe--I love those places!
Kimberly said…
That is so fascinating! There's so much in that era of church history that I know little about except what little we touched on in Seminary.
Jami said…
I love the Salt Lake temple. I can't even imagine it in adobe.

You have so many little nuggets of absolutely golden trivia. Thanks for sharing them with us.
Becky said…
So interesting. I may have to use these tidbits...
wonder woman said…
Spires of Adobe just doesn't have the same ring to it. Not quite as regal. For your sake, I'm glad the miscommunication was taken care of!
Very cool details. You gotta love researching for novels!

I'm glad you posted this. I love trivia.
wendy said…
How did you find out all that information --but I guess that is what you do. You write, you learn, you check it all out. I am amazed. Thanks,
Julie Wright said…
Amazing! I had no idea ANY of this stuff. I feel so much smarter.
MommyJ said…
Very cool stuff. I laughed when you commented at the first about the picture... about it being somewhere that Claude went...

just the other night, my husband and I were talking about conversion. He had a friend that has been asking a lot of questions about the Gospel... my husband made the comment that he wasn't sure this person was ready to change their life. Then I said that the spirit works in wonderful ways. And then I used one of my characters in my current manuscript as an example. My husband just looked at me... shaking his head. But seriously... in my brain, it really DID happen!
Summer said…
These little bits of information you share are so interesting!
LisAway said…
This is just so interesting. Thanks so much for sharing these excellent bits of trivia with us. I really need to get Spires of Stone.
Jenna Consolo said…
I love this part of the SL Temple story. The whole feat is so mind boggling to me I marvel at the fact that it happened at all. What a beautiful edifice it is, though, and even more holy because of the labor and sacrifice that went into its construction. Nicely written, as always.
Luisa Perkins said…
Cute photo!

That story about Brigham Young has always cracked me up. It's good to know that he wasn't totally out to lunch.

(Yes, lightning should be striking me any second now.)

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