Salt Lake Temple centennial: Temple leader's faith -- 'it can, must be done'

"It can be done and it must be done."

Often repeating this statement, Bishop John R. Winder, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, effectively administrated the herculean task of completing most of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple during the final year of construction.As the final year began, many architects and professional builders frankly doubted that the ambitious project would be completed by the April 6, 1893, deadline.

So Bishop Winder, who was appointed in April 1892, found that one of his main duties was to infuse the workers with his attitude. When faced with a problem, he often said, "This must not happen again. There must be no lack of material or labor."

Bishop Winder, in his 72nd year, was well-prepared for this responsibility. He had a penchant for being involved in key positions. He served as colonel in the Army during the Black Hawk Indian War, as Salt Lake City assessor and collector, and as watermaster. He had been called as second counselor to Presiding Bishop William B. Preston in 1887.

In 1887, the federal government was exerting extreme pressure on the Church through a supplemental law to the Edmunds-Tucker Act. (Among features of the law was the disincorporation of the Church.) To preserve the temple from federal seizure, the First Presidency deeded the temple block to the safekeeping of the Presiding Bishopric.

In speaking of his assignment to complete the interior of the temple in a 12-month period, Bishop Winder said, "I never had a doubt in my mind but that it would be accomplished."

"I remember one occasion - I had heard that some of the brethren at work here said it couldn't be done; so I called them together. There were 250 men. I told them if there was a man among them that felt this work could not be accomplished, let him please get his pay and go work somewhere else.

"I did not know that President [WilfordT Woodruff was in the house, but it appears that he stood behind a curtain that was up there and heard what I said. Throwing aside the curtain, he said, `That's right; the work has got to be done and if there is anybody here that thinks it can't be done, let him leave!' "

As the year progressed, occasionally "the work would hitch through some mistake of the workmen or through a lack of seasoned lumber or some other material," noted Seymour B. Young. Whenever that happened, Bishop Winder was right there to work for a solution.

However, the most serious problem was raising money to pay for the construction. At the October conference, which the woodcarvers worked right on through, pleas were made for contributions. Bishop Winder, Moses Thatcher George Romney, Heber J. Grant, and John R. Murdock each donated $1,500, each sponsoring the completion of one of five large windows.

In a commemorative issue on the temple published in 1893, the Contributor stated: "The rapidity with which the work progressed was nothing short of marvelous. Obstacles in the way of obtaining materials and accomplishing tasks that it had appeared impossible to overcome one with great difficulty and delay, were swept away as if by magic. It was evident to all who took note of the proceedings, that the affairs were being shaped by more than human hands."

On April 5, 1893, Bishop Winder met with President Woodruff and reported that the great temple was ready for dedication. Nearly 80,000 people attended the dedication proceedings that continued the following two weeks.

Bishop Winder was to continue to be involved in key positions. He served as counselor in the temple presiency, and, in 1901, at age 79, he was called as first counselor to President Joseph F. Smith where he served until his death in 1910. - Harlan L. Bangerter

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