I have been consolidating some of my collected stuff on various temples, and have been reading and researching more as a result. I recently got caught up in an excellent article about The Saint George Utah Temple spire.
I am sure You have all heard the story: Upon completion of the temple, Brigham Young was not completely satisfied with the tower and dome, stating that it looked too short and squatty. He suggested(Or demanded, depending on the version of the story) having it rebuilt taller, but the Saints were so excited to have the temple (Or tired from the work, again, check your story version)that The saints in Saint George refused and or Brigham Young did not push the issue.
About a year after Brigham Young’s death, on October 16, 1878, a large storm rolled through St. George and a lightening bolt struck the tower of the temple, making it necessary to reconstruct the tower and dome and/or burning the spire down to the stone tower, depending on your story version. Brigham Young’s feelings about the tower were well known and a new design was made for the tower, making it taller.
It’s a fantastic story that simultaneously points out the Saints overall love for the Prophet Brigham, Brigham Young’s reported personality traits and an instance of Divine Intervention.
It’s Also not true.
The article I linked describes all the details, so I have selected just a few points here.
- Brigham Young, who was apparently Utah’s first snowbird, was Chief Architect and Project Manager every winter when he came down to St. George. The workmen always followed his direction every time he was in town, and he spent nearly every day at the temple site.
- There is reason to believe that at some point early in the process, the drawings of the temple by Truman O. Angel were changed from the original steeple to show the short spire. Brigham would have been familiar with the drawings, but never objected to Truman about the design. The original design Brother Angel submitted was this one:
- There is no record of Brigham Young ever complaining publicly about the temple design. His son, Brigham Young Junior, records him objecting to the design, but only once, after it was built, 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. Note, while Brigham Young wished he had requested the spire be taller, he was wishing for 12-18 feet more, not the significant increase that was eventually added.
- 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 replacement 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 mentioned in Brigham Young Juniors private journal came to the attention of researchers.
So that’s it. You can see why I was so bold as to presume the story untrue. Thanks for reading. Here are some other images I made for you to enjoy.
First, here is the temple shortly after the new spire was built. Between the lighting strike and the new spire they also built the first annex for the temple.
Here is an interesting bit, notice that the top of the tower, around the spire, has battlements. sometime between the new tower and a fire that destroyed the annex the battlements were replaced with the railing we know now:
Also notice that the crenelations were their natural sandstone at this point. In about 1930 the annex you see here burned down when a furnace malfunctioned. A new Annex was built 2 decades later in 1950. The exterior was also stripped and re plastered, top to bottom.
I believe the Inscription, “The House Of The Lord, Holiness To The Lord.” was added about this time too, I believe. The next big change was the major remodel in 1974. It brings us to the modern temple.
The new addition to the temple brought more ordinance space and accessibility to patrons who would otherwise have difficulty getting around the large temple.
Hope you enjoyed the history trip!