Saint George Utah

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Saint George Utah Temple


The Saint George Utah Temple in southwest Utah, is the first temple completed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the forced exodus of the church from Nauvoo, Illinois, after the death of its founder Joseph Smith.

It was designed by Truman O. Angell under the direction of Brigham Young. It is more similar in its design to the original Nauvoo Temple than to later LDS temples. The Saint George UtahTemple is the oldest temple still actively used by the LDS Church.

The Temple is designed in a Gothic style.



A temple was announced for Saint George on 9 November 1871 by Brigham Young and was dedicated on 6 April 1877. Even though the Salt Lake Temple had been announced and commenced years earlier (1847 and 1853), construction on that temple was not completed until 1893. The Temple was built to satisfy the church’s immediate need for an appropriate place for temple ceremonies and ordinances.[1]


Because of the pressing need, the building’s groundbreaking ceremony was held on the day the temple was announced. President George A. Smith of the First Presidency dedicated the site November 9, 1871.[2]


Brigham Young chose a 6-acre (24,000 m2) plot as the temple site. Builders soon discovered that the chosen site was swampy with numerous underground streams. Young was consulted on moving the site, but he remained firm in the idea that this was the site for the temple.[3] To deal with the swampy site, workers created drains to eliminate as much water as possible. Then they brought lava rock to the site and crushed it into a gravel to create a dry foundation for the temple. This led to a new problem: how to crush the rock. Someone suggested using an old cannon that the city had acquired. After creating a pulley system, the cannon was used as a pile driver to compact the lava rock and earth and create a firm foundation.

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 stabilizing the foundation, work began on the structure. The walls of the temple were built of the red sandstone common to the area and then plastered for a white finish. Members worked for over five and a half years to complete the temple. Historians James Allen and Glen Leonard made note of the dedication shown by the pioneers in Southern Utah. The workers opened new rock quarries, cut, hauled and planed timber, and donated one day in ten as tithing labor. Some members donated half their wages to the temple, while others gave food, clothing and other goods to aid those who were working full-time on the building. Women decorated the hallways with handmade rag carpets and produced fringe for the altars and pulpits from Utah-produced silk. At its completion, it contained 1,000,000 board feet (2,000 m3) of lumber, which had been hand-chopped and hauled between 40 and 80 miles (60 and 100 km). They also used 17,000 tons of volcanic rock and sandstone, hand-cut and hauled by mule teams.


St. George Utah 1877
St. George Utah as it would have looked in 1877

Complete portions of the temple were dedicated 1 January 1877, allowing use of the temple for some purposes as soon s the rooms were ready. However a formal dedication was held for the completed temple as well.

In honor of the completion of the temple, the church’s April 1877 General Conference was held there. The temple dedication ceremony took place on 6 April 1877. Young presided and Daniel H. Wells, his second counselor, gave the dedicatory prayer, during 6 Dedicatory Sessions. It was the third to be completed by the church and the first one in Utah. The dedication of the Saint 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 August 29, 1877. He was 76 years old.

Dedicatory Prayer

Dedicatory Count

There were no other temples in use when the Saint George Temple was dedicated. Saint George was the first in Utah and the first in consistent use in the Restoration.


Lightning struck and damaged the spire in 1878. This spire was repaired. However in 1883 the decision was made to add a taller spire, more complimentary to the size and shape of the temple.  removal and construction of the new spire took a couple of years.


In 1888 the need was found to add an annex to the temple. The new annex was added around the water tower to the temple’s north, and in replacement of one of the stairways into the basement.


Around the turn of the Century the water tower was removed, and the annex expanded.


Early in the 1900’s the upper parapets of the Temple were painted to look like sandstone.


The Annex on the temple burned down when a furnace malfunctioned. The annex burned down and had to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. The redesign took some time and the new annex was finished around 1950, 12 years later. At the same time, the interior of the temple was remodeled, the lower assembly hall being permanently partitioned into rooms for the presentation of the endowment in a progressive fashion, with live actors. The exterior of the temple was also stripped and re plastered, top to bottom. In 1938, the lower Assembly Hall was rebuilt with permanent walls dividing it into four ordinance rooms. It was originally designed with two large assembly halls like the earlier Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples, and the lower Assembly Hall was partitioned with curtains to provide the ordinance rooms for the Endowment Ceremony.


The full exterior remodel brought the white plaster to the whole temple top to bottom.A New annex, 2-3 times the size of the the one that was burned down was added at this time as well. The next big change was the major remodel in 1974. It brings us to the modern temple. at a later point, and prior to the 1970 remodel, the entryway on this annex was enclosed with glass walls.


On 2 March 1974 the temple was closed for extensive remodeling. The annex was removed and replaced with the current annex.  The four ordinance rooms were changed into the present three rooms, as the time the endowment ceremony was changed from a live presentation to one presented on film. The temple currently has three ordinance rooms and 18 sealing rooms, and a total floor area of 110,000 square feet (10,200 m2). The Inscription, “The House Of The Lord, Holiness To The Lord.” was added about this time too.

Open House

On open house was held for the Newly remodeled temple from 15-25 October 1975


President Spencer W. Kimball rededicated the temple on 11 November 1975 in 5 dedicatory sessions.[4]

Dedicatory Prayer

Dedicatory Count

There were 15 other temples in use when The Saint George Utah Temple was rededicated. This Temple brought the number up to 16


The Saint George Utah Temple is the first temple where endowments for the dead were performed. The Founding Fathers of the United States of America appeared twice to Wilford Woodruff in the Temple asking why their temple work had yet not been performed on their behalves. A striking painting depicting this singular event hangs in the temple lobby (That We May be Redeemed by Harold I. Hopkinson)


The Lightning Struck Tower

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.

About a year after Brigham Young’s death, on October 16, 1878, a large storm rolled through Saint George and a lightening 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.

A fun story, to be sure, but not true.[5]

  • Brigham young was Chief Architect and Project Manager every winter when he came down to winter in Saint George. The workmen always followed his direction every time he was in town, and he spent nearly every day at the temple site.
  • There at some point early in the process, the drawings of the temple by Truman O. Angel were updated to show the short spire. Brigham would have been familiar with the drawings, but never objected to Truman about the design. Prior to the change, the spire was a short steeple:
An Early spire proposal, a 40 foot steeple. This would eventually be replaced with the short spire and dome.
  • There is no public record of Brigham Young ever complaining about the tower design. His son records him objecting to the design, but only once, and privately between the two of them. He did complain about the size, but complained more about the poor workmanship of the spire construction, and vowed he would keep the door to it locked.
  • There is evidence that temporary repairs were done to the tower (which was severely damaged, but not burnt completely down) in 1878 (shortly after the lightning strike.) However, the tower was not made taller until 1883, 5 years after the strike.
  • News reports at the time of the spire remodel announcement and the construction of the taller tower made no mention at all of Brigham Young.
  • The Story of Brigham demanding a taller spire and the saints refusing to change it does not appear anywhere in print until 1977, sometime after the complaint in Brigham Young Juniors private journal came to light.
  • A non-member visiting Saint George during temple construction noted that anything Brigham asked his followers to do, they did. If Brigham had asked the saints to make the tower taller, they most likely would have.
  • Presidents 

    President Randy W. Wilkinson2016–
    President Dale H. Larkin2013–2016
    President Bruce C. Hafen2010–2013
    President Robert F. Orton2007–2010
    President Harold H. Hiskey2004–2007
    President L. David Muir2001–2004
    President Malcolm S. Jeppsen1998–2001
    President Kenneth R. Metcalf1995–1998
    President J. Thomas Fyans1992–1995
    President Conrad V. Hatch1989–1992
    President Thomas L. Esplin1986–1989
    President John M. Russon1981–1986
    President Grant M. Bowler1976–1981
    President Reed Whipple1970–1976
    President Rudger C. Atkin1963–1970
    President Harold S. Snow1937–1963
    President George F. Whitehead1932–1937
    President Edward H. Snow1926–1932
    President Thomas P. Cottam1925–1926
    President David H. Cannon1893–1924
    President John D. T. McAllister1884–1893
    President Wilford Woodruff1877–1884



    Physical Address250 E. 400 South, St. George, UT 84770-3699
    Mailing Address250 E. 400 South, St. George, UT 84770-3699
    City   St. George
    County   Washington
    State   Utah
    Country   United States


    Height 175 ft53.3 m
    Height Without Moroni – –
    Height to Shoulder 80 ft 24.4 m
    Width 249 ft75.9 m
    Length 282 ft86 m
    Area  110,000 ft2  10,219.0 m2
    Footprint 43,516 ft2 4042.8 m2
    Floors 4 
    Endowment Rooms  3 Stationary
    Sealing Rooms 18 
    Property17.42 acres 7.04 hectare
    Latitude 37.10
    Longitude -113.58
    Elevation 2673.32 ft 814.83 m
    Heading 90 East


    The cladding on the exterior of the St. George Utah Temple is white plaster over native red sandstone.


    The windows on theSt. George Utah Temple are tall arched multi pane windows with plain glass.



    There is one Inscription on the St. George Utah Temple. The letters are raised brass and areontheeastfaceof the original portion of the temple.



    Spires and Moroni


    Single spire, east center section of original temple.


    None – Weather vane only.


    Cafeteria   Yes
    Clothing Rental   Yes


    Personel and Companies

    Assignment Individual/Company
    Architect Truman O. Angell
    Superintendant of Construction Miles P. Romney
    Head Mason Edward L. Parry
    Primary Contractor Member Constructed

    Sources and Citations for the Saint George Utah Temple

     See Also

    External links


    1. [1] St.George Temple Visitor’s Center (accessdate= 2012-10-11)
    2. [2]“Latter-Day Temples,” Ensign, January 1972.
    3. [3]“Temple Site” St. George Temple Visitor’s Center. Accessed 27 April 2017.
    4. [4]St George Temple rededicated,” Ensign, January 1976.
    5. [5]Darrell E. Jones,The St. George Temple Tower: Evolution of a Design,Journal of Mormon History Vol. 34, No. 2 (Spring 2008), pp. 113-129. Retrieved 5 May 2016.

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