The St. George Utah Temple is a holy place. It is holy because of the devotion of those who built it and because of the work that takes place inside it. It is holy because it is a house of the Lord. At the temple’s dedication in 1877, Daniel H. Wells prayed, “Accept, O God, of this tribute of our hearts, and let Thy peace and blessing dwell and abide here in this Holy Temple, which we now, with uplifted hearts and hands, present and consecrate and dedicate entire as a sacred offering unto Thee for Thine acceptance.”1
Construction of the St. George Utah Temple was a critical step in Latter-day Saint temple design. Temple builders took lessons from the Nauvoo Temple and paved the way for more temples that would eventually dot the earth. The temple represents the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the full implementation of temple ordinances and blessings. Here are five additional things you should know about the St. George Utah Temple.
1. The St. George Utah Temple was the first temple where Saints could receive all temple ordinances for the dead.
While baptisms for the dead had been performed in Nauvoo and at the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, most other ordinances were performed only for the living. Shortly after the St. George Utah Temple was dedicated, Elder Wilford Woodruff began performing sealings and other ordinances for the dead. Acting as temple president, Elder Woodruff called additional sealers and workers to aid him in this effort. He also called temple recorders to keep ordinance records, and he encouraged all Church members to keep family records. In the St. George Utah Temple, he performed temple ordinances on behalf of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and other influential historical figures.2 Much of the work that Latter-day Saints do in temples today benefited from the early temple work in St. George.
2. The St. George Utah Temple was the first temple completed since the Nauvoo Temple.
Members of the Church waited almost 30 years to worship in a temple after they left Nauvoo. In 1871, when construction of the St. George Utah Temple began, the walls of the Salt Lake Temple were only a few feet aboveground. After the St. George Utah Temple’s completion in 1877, Church members came to the area in large numbers to participate in temple work. One Church member recalled that “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.”3
3. Brigham Young oversaw almost every aspect of temple construction.
After announcing that a temple would be built in St. George, Brigham Young purchased a home in the city. He visited St. George every year and visited the temple site as often as possible. When he was in Salt Lake City, frequent telegrams and letters kept him connected to the temple project. When a design problem came up, local leaders contacted President Young for direction. When the project ran out of nails or food or other supplies, President Young would find more. Brigham personally paid for the baptismal font—after haggling over the price with the foundry. Shortly before the temple was completed, Brigham built a small office next to his home. Evidence suggests that he used this private office to work on preparing the temple ceremonies for consistent presentation in the temple. Despite ill health and having to be carried from room to room, Brigham attended the temple dedication and gave several sermons.
4. Many Saints outside southern Utah contributed to the construction of the St. George Utah Temple.
St. George was a relatively small community when construction of the temple began in 1871. There were not enough people to build a monumental building in a short amount of time. Construction workers traveled from Latter-day Saint communities throughout Utah to aid in temple construction. Food for those building the temple was donated by people living as far away as Sanpete County, a distance of about 240 miles (386 kilometers). Cash donations came from all over the Church. Church leaders and many other members traveled to St. George in April 1877 for the dedication of the temple—a special session of the Church’s semiannual general conference that year.
5. Most building materials came from the local area.
Most materials required to build the St. George Utah Temple came from areas near St. George. The volcanic rock foundation and sandstone walls came from quarries a few miles from the temple site. Wood for trusses and finishes came from Pine Valley or Mount Trumbull. Windows, nails, paint, and the baptismal font came from locations outside the St. George area. St. George residents were familiar with the local building materials. They had built the St. George Tabernacle just a few years earlier using stone and wood from the same locations.