Temple finished; hearts purified

The procession from the Tabernacle to the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple has been compared, wrote Elder James E. Talmage, to Joshua leading Israel into the promised land.

"On the morning of the 6th of April, 1893," Elder Talmage wrote in The House of the Lord, "Wilford Woodruff, President of the Church, led the way through the south-west door into the sacred precincts. . . . The venerable President was followed by the rest of the general authorities of the Church, and these in turn by other Church officials and such members as had been specially designated to take part in the first dedication service."The comparison to ancient Israel is apt. The Israelites' entry into the promised land was awaited 40 years. In a remarkable parallel, the "great temple," as it often has been called, was exactly 40 years under construction, from cornerstone-laying to dedication.

In the previous year alone, it had been a herculean struggle to get the temple ready for dedication 40 years to the day since the cornerstone laying on April 6, 1853, and 63 years after the Church's organization on April 6, 1830.

Exactly one year earlier, on April 6, 1892, the capstone was placed as an estimated 40,000-60,000 people crowded shoulder-to-shoulder on the "temple block" gazed upward.

On that occasion, the people shouted their assent to a resolution presented by the Council of the Twelve that they "pledge themselves, collectively and individually, to furnish as fast as it may be needed, all the money that may be required to complete the Temple at the earliest time possible, so that the dedication may take place on April 6th, 1893."

Wrote James H. Anderson in The Contributor of April 1893: "The task which the Saints had set themselves seemed to the natural eye beyond their power to accomplish. Practical, experienced men declared that three years, or two at least, was the limit of time in which it would be possible to perform the work that had been undertaken."

On one occasion, President Woodruff, having heard that some of the workmen believed the temple could not possibly be completed on time, went to the construction site to talk to them. One witness quoted him as saying: "Some of you may be sick and weak. Some of you may give out at night, but you will be here in the morning if you are faithful." He told them they were "not here by accident. You were ordained in the Eternal World to perform this work. Brethren, I will be here April 6th to dedicate this building."

Elder Talmage wrote: "Even as late as one month prior to the date set for the dedication, there was so much yet to be done, as to make many feel that for once at least, the people had been mistaken in their belief that the Lord had spoken and that the completion of the work by the time set, was a physical impossibility."

The First Presidency, in a general epistle to members of the Church dated March 18, 1893, set aside Saturday, March 25, as a day of fasting and prayer, admonishing them to meet together on that day, confess their sins one to another, and expel all feelings of anger, distrust or unfriendliness "so that entire confidence may then and there be restored and love from this time prevail through all the congregations of the Saints."

Thus, both the temple and the hearts of the people were prepared for the scheduled dedication.

Finishing touches to the interior were applied late in the afternoon of April 5, and on the eve of the dedication, the structure was opened for general inspection, not just by Church members, but by other honorable men and women.

"All who attended the dedicatory services on the morning of the 6th of April, 1893, remember the impressiveness of the day," Elder Talmage wrote. "The sky was overcast and lowering, and shortly before the hour of beginning, a strong wind set in from the north-west. This wind increased to a veritable hurricane and throughout the morning session, it seemed indeed, that the prince of the air was in full control; but the peace and serenity of the assembly was rendered the more impressive by contrast with the turmoil and storm without."

In the April 15 and May 1 editions of Woman's Exponent, editor Emmeline B. Wells wrote that the addresses were full of charity, long-suffering, forbearance and forgiveness. She added: "The choir which consisted of three hundred voices (the ladies all in white), under the leadership of Prof. Evan Stephens, rendered the most excellent music, but the most striking feature of the dedicatory exercises was the "Hosanna Shout," three times by the entire congregation who rose to their feet and remained standing during the time."

From April 6 through 18, and again on April 23 and 24, dedicatory sessions were held in the sacred edifice, twice a day except for April 7, when an evening session was added. Sunday School children under the age of baptism were invited to special sessions April 21 and 22.

Admission was by "recommend" signed by one's bishop and stake president. Attendance at a given session was assigned according to the stake to which one belonged.

The dedicatory prayer, prepared in advance, was offered by President Woodruff at the opening session, and read at each subsequent session. It expressed thanks to God for the restoration of the gospel and priesthood keys, invoked divine blessings individually on each portion of the temple structure, and asked His blessings and spirit on the officers, members and organizations of the Church.

The immense growth in subsequent years of family history research and ordinance work for the dead was foreshadowed in the dedicatory prayer, in which it was asked that "the spirit of Elijah" be confirmed upon the saints.

"Wilt thou also permit holy messengers to visit us within these sacred walls and make known unto us with regard to the work we should perform in behalf of our dead. And, as thou hast inclined the hearts of many who have not yet entered into the covenant with thee to search out their progenitors, and in so doing they have traced the ancestry of many of thy Saints, we pray thee that thou wilt increase this desire in their bosoms, that they may in this way aid in the accomplishment of their work. Bless them, we pray thee, in their labors, that they may not fall into errors in preparing their genealogies; and furthermore, we ask thee to open before them new avenues of information, and place in their hands the records of the past that their work may not only be correct but complete also."

It was the first temple on which construction was commenced following the Saints' exodus from Nauvoo, but the Salt Lake Temple was not the first to be completed. Already, temples were operating in Manti, St. George and Logan.

"But for 40 years," The First Presidency wrote in its March 18, 1893, epistle, "the hopes, desires and anticipations of the entire Church have been centered upon the completion of this edifice in the principal city of Zion. Looking upon it as the Temple of temples, the people during all these years have labored with unceasing toil, undiminished patience, and ungrudging expenditure of means to bring it to its present condition of completion . . . ."

As the centennial of the dedication approaches, there are 44 operating temples throughout the Church. The Salt Lake Temple still stands as the "Temple of temples," its distinctive spires being the most recognizable symbol of the Church among both members and non-members. And it represents, perhaps, the most literal fulfillment of the prophecies in Isaiah 2:2-3 and Micah 4:1-2 about the mountain of the Lord's house being established in the top of the mountains.

Speaking for the Utah Central Area Presidency, Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy said: "We think this occasion [the centennialT would be a marvelous time for all with recommends to come to the temple. Come worthily, but come to the temple. Particularly those who have not taken the opportunity for some years but were married in the temple should come to the temple."

(Additional information)

Centennial events

A major exhibit on the building of the temple that will open in the Museum of Church History and Art March 27.

A film, "The Mountain of the Lord," depicting the building of the temple, will be shown over the Church satellite system between sessions of general conference on Saturday, April 3, and on television.

A special program in the Tabernacle Choir's weekly broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" on Sunday, April 4.

Placement of an original Salt Lake Temple mural, "Christ Among the Nephites," painted by William Armitage about the time the temple was dedicated, in the Salt Lake Temple. The painting, which had been misplaced, was located last year in storage at BYU, and has since been restored.

A plaque to be placed at the temple quarry site in Little Cottonwood Canyon by the Utah Parks and Recreation Division, and a nature trail in the area will be created.

Sources: House of the Lord by James E. Talmage; Every Stone a Sermon by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel; The Contributor magazine of April 1893; Woman's Exponent of April 15 and May 1, 1893; A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts; The Deseret Evening News of April 5, 1893.

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