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Part 2: A historical look at temple dedications and the Church leaders who did them


Editor’s note: Second of a two-part series on temple dedications and rededications and senior Church leaders. The first part focused on current members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Russell M. Nelson’s pattern of involving members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in temple dedications and rededications over the past four-plus years is historic in that each leader has been assigned to do at least one. 

However, throughout the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, only a handful of leaders other than the President of the Church at the time — mostly First Presidency counselors and Apostles — have dedicated or rededicated some of the Church’s 170 operating temples.

President Nelson has assigned his two counselors and all 12 Apostles to each preside at at least one of the 14 temple dedications or 13 temple rededications that have occurred since January 2018 or scheduled through late 2022.

And that spread of assignments has been so successful that President Nelson has accounted for the lowest percentage of temple dedications done by any president of the Church since Brigham Young, who didn’t dedicate either of the two temples completed during his leadership tenure — the original Nauvoo Temple and the St. George Utah Temple. 

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Wendy Nelson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife Lesa Stevenson during the dedication of the LDS Concepcion Chili Temple in Concepcion, Chili on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018.

President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, during the dedication of the Concepcion Chile Temple in Concepcion, Chile, on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Of the 11 temples dedicated during his tenure and the three dedications scheduled over the next two months, President Nelson has done only two — the Concepción Chile and Rome Italy temples — or 14.3%.

Of other past Church presidents, seven presided at 100% of the temple dedications that happened during their tenures.

During the last half-century, President Gordon B. Hinckley presided at 81.8% of the temple dedications during his presidency, President Thomas S. Monson 40%, President Ezra Taft Benson 22.2% and President Spencer W. Kimball 19%.

Part 1: A historic first for temple dedications and rededications — and the senior Church leaders who do them

From Kirtland and Nauvoo to St. George and Manti

The first two Latter-day Saint temples — the Kirtland Temple and the original Nauvoo Temple — are not counted among the Church’s 170 operating temples, with the former now owned and overseen by the Community of Christ and the latter having been vandalized, damaged and ultimately destroyed after the Saints’ exodus west.

Joseph Smith presided at the Kirtland dedication, with his dedicatory prayer comprising Doctrine and Covenants 109. And the Nauvoo Temple was dedicated in portions as different areas of the temple were finished and became available for various ordinances.

Mesa Arizona Temple dedication on Oct. 17, 1927.

Mesa Arizona Temple dedication on Oct. 17, 1927.

Credit: Provided by Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

More than nine months after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and with Brigham Young the senior Apostle, Joseph Young, president of the Seventies quorum, dedicated the temple in a private ceremony on April 30, 1846, with Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles following in public dedications over the three following days.

As evidenced by the Nauvoo Temple, sometimes the difference between dedicating temples and presiding at temple dedications for the Church’s 170 operating temples can be a fine line.

Such an example is the oldest of the Church’s 170 operating temples — the St. George Utah Temple. Daniel H. Wells, a First Presidency counselor, offered the dedicatory prayer on April 6, 1877. Brigham Young was present and presiding at the dedication; he passed away later that year.

President David O. McKay, center, who dedicated the Oakland California Temple in 1964, is joined by other leaders.

President David O. McKay, center, who dedicated the Oakland California Temple in 1964, is joined by other leaders.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

And similar to the Nauvoo Temple, there wasn’t a Church president per se when the Manti Utah Temple was dedicated in 1888, since it came between the death of John Taylor and the ordination of Wilford Woodruff as the succeeding President. The latter, who was the senior Apostle, presided at a private dedication of the temple on May 17, 1888, and Lorenzo Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided and prayed at subsequent public dedications the following week.

From the late 19th century through the late 1960s, temple dedications were handled by the Church President at the respective times — Wilford Woodruff, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith and David O. McKay.

Issues of health and advanced age

President Joseph Fielding Smith and President N. Eldon Tanner, second counselor in the First Presidency, participate at the Ogden Utah Temple cornerstone ceremony on Sept. 7, 1970. In previous years, cornerstone ceremonies were done as part of the construction process and not at a temple’s dedication.

President Joseph Fielding Smith and President N. Eldon Tanner, second counselor in the First Presidency, participate at the Ogden Utah Temple cornerstone ceremony on Sept. 7, 1970. In previous years, cornerstone ceremonies were done as part of the construction process and not at a temple’s dedication.

Credit: Church History Library

Starting through the early 1970s and because of health issues and circumstances of the advanced ages of some of the subsequent Church presidents, First Presidency counselors started taking a more prominent role in dedicatory prayers and sometimes presiding at the temple dedications.

For example, President Joseph Fielding Smith presided at the February 1972 dedication of the Provo Utah Temple, but his first counselor, President Harold B. Lee, read the dedicatory prayer written by President Smith — and the latter is listed as having dedicated that temple. The 95-year-old President Smith passed away later that year.

After having dedicated four temples and rededicated four others from 1974 through 1980, President Spencer W. Kimball had been hospitalized leading up to the November 1981 dedication of the Jordan River Utah Temple. He unexpectedly arrived in a wheelchair at the start of the first session and attended one session each of the five days of the dedication. His second counselor, President Marion G. Romney, offered the dedicatory prayer.

President Spencer W. Kimball participates in the cornerstone ceremony of the Jordan River Utah Temple on Aug. 15, 1981. In previous years, cornerstone ceremonies were done as part of the construction process and not at a temple’s dedication.

President Spencer W. Kimball participates in the cornerstone ceremony of the Jordan River Utah Temple on Aug. 15, 1981. In previous years, cornerstone ceremonies were done as part of the construction process and not at a temple’s dedication.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A majority of the temples dedicated during the tenures of President Spencer W. Kimball and President Ezra Taft Benson were dedicated by their First Presidency counselors — one by President Romney, one by President Monson and 22 total by President Hinckley, the latter as a counselor to both Church presidents.

Add in the 63 temples that he dedicated later while leading as President of the Church, and President Hinckley has dedicated the most temples of any Latter-day Saint leader — 85 total, from the Atlanta Georgia Temple in June 1983 to the Helsinki Finland Temple in October 2006.

The First Presidency at the Portland Oregon Temple dedication in 1989: President Ezra Taft Benson, center, and his counselors President Gordon B. Hinckley, left, and President Thomas S. Monson.

The First Presidency at the Portland Oregon Temple dedication in 1989: President Ezra Taft Benson, center, and his counselors President Gordon B. Hinckley, left, and President Thomas S. Monson.

Credit: Gerry Avant

The push to 100 temples and scheduling overlaps

While he followed the pattern set by preceding Church presidents of presiding at temple dedications when healthy and able, President Hinckley still turned to others because of scheduling conflicts.

President Hinckley stops briefly to listen to choir during the dedication of the Monticello Utah Temple on July 26, 1998.

President Hinckley stops briefly to listen to choir during the dedication of the Monticello Utah Temple on July 26, 1998.

Credit: Ravell Call, Deseret News

In 1999, as the Church was making its push to realize President Hinckley’s challenge to have 100 operating temples by the end of the 20th century, President Boyd K. Packer, then the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, became the first Apostle in more than a century to dedicate a Latter-day Saint temple. He dedicated the Regina Saskatchewan Temple on Nov. 14, the same day President Hinckley was dedicating the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple.

The same-day dedications were the result of schedule changes because of nonthreatening airplane issues — President Hinckley was to dedicate both temples, one day after another, but he ended up doing the Halifax dedication a day later than planned and having President Packer do the Regina temple dedication.

Same-day dedications followed in 2000 — April 23 for the Memphis Tennessee and Reno Nevada temples, May 21 for the Nashville Tennessee and Villahermosa Mexico temples, and June 4 for the Montreal Quebec and San José Costa Rica temples. With 23 temples dedicated in the six months between early March and late August, First Presidency counselors President Monson and President James E. Faust were assigned multiple dedications — President Monson six and President Faust seven during that stretch.

Church President Thomas S. Monson pretends to lead the music as the choir sings at the close of the cornerstone ceremony. Also watching are President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve during the cornerstone ceremony at the Kyiv Ukraine Temple dedication services Sunday, Aug. 28, 2010, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Church President Thomas S. Monson pretends to lead the music as the choir sings at the close of the cornerstone ceremony. Also watching are President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve during the cornerstone ceremony at the Kyiv Ukraine Temple dedication services Sunday, Aug. 28, 2010, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Credit: Scott Taylor, Deseret News

Increased involvement during President Monson’s leadership

As President of the Church from 2008 to early 2018, President Monson himself handled 14 of 35 temple dedications — or 40% — during that time. He turned to his two counselors during that decade, with President Henry B. Eyring leading at seven dedications and then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf at 10 others.

President Monson also assigned four members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to dedicate temples during his tenure, including two who were serving as President of the quorum at the time — President Packer at the Brigham City Utah Temple in September 2012 and President Nelson at the Sapporo Japan Temple in August 2016. 

The other two Apostles dedicating temples were then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks at the Provo City Center Temple in March 2016 and Elder David A. Bednar at the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in October 2016.


Church presidents and temple dedications

Below is a list of the presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had temples dedicated during their tenures — including the number they performed versus the total number possible and resulting percentage. Also included are the names and dedication totals for others who were assigned to dedicate. Three scheduled dedications over the next two months are noted by asterisks (*).

Joseph Smith (1830-1844) — 1 / 1 — 100%

Brigham Young (1847-1877) — 0 / 2 — 0% ¹ 

  • Orson Hyde — 1
  • Daniel H. Wells — 1

John Taylor (1880-1887) — 1 / 1 – 100%

Wilford Woodruff (1889-1898) — 1 / 2 — 50%

  • Lorenzo Snow — 1 ²

President Heber J. Grant (1918-1945) — 3 / 3 — 100%

President George Albert Smith (1945-1951) — 1 / 1 – 100%

President David O. McKay (1951-1970) — 5 / 5 — 100%

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1970-1972) — 2 / 2 — 100%

President Spencer W. Kimball (1973-1985) — 4 / 21 — 19%

  • President Marion G. Romney — 1
  • President Gordon B. Hinckley — 16

President Ezra Taft Benson (1985-1994) 2 / 9 – 22.2%

  • President Gordon B. Hinckley — 6
  • President Thomas S. Monson — 1

President Howard W. Hunter (1994-1995)— 2 / 2 — 100%

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1995-2008) — 63 / 77 — 81.8%

  • President Thomas S. Monson — 6
  • President James E. Faust — 7
  • President Boyd K. Packer — 1

President Thomas S. Monson (2008-2018) — 14 / 35 – 40.0%

  • President Henry B. Eyring — 7
  • President Dieter F. Uchtdorf — 10
  • President Boyd K. Packer — 1
  • President Russell M. Nelson — 1
  • Elder Dallin H. Oaks — 1
  • Elder David A. Bednar — 1

President Russell M. Nelson (2018 to present) — 2 / 14 — 14.3%

  • President Dallin H. Oaks — 1
  • President M. Russell Ballard — 1
  • Elder David A. Bednar — 2 *
  • Elder Neil L. Andersen — 2 *
  • Elder Ronald A. Rasband — 1
  • Elder Gary E. Stevenson — 1 *
  • Elder Dale G. Renlund — 1
  • Elder Gerrit W. Gong — 1
  • Elder Ulisses Soares — 2

¹ — The original Nauvoo Temple was dedicated after the death of Joseph Smith but before Brigham Young became President of the Church.

² — The Manti Utah Temple was dedicated between the death of John Taylor and the ordination of Wilford Woodruff as the succeeding Church President. As the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he presided at a private dedication of the temple on May 17, 1888; Lorenzo Snow of the Twelve directed subsequent public dedications the following week and is most often recognized ³ 


Church leaders who have presided over the most temple dedications

As of June 2022, 10 leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints either have dedicated or will have dedicated three or more temples.

85 — President Gordon B. Hinckley

  • 63 as Church President
  • 22 as a First Presidency counselor

21 — President Thomas S. Monson

  • 14 as Church President
  • 7 as a First Presidency counselor

10 — Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

  • 10 as a First Presidency counselor

7 — President Henry B. Eyring

  • 7 as a First Presidency counselor

7 — President James E. Faust

  • 7 as a First Presidency counselor

5 — President David O. McKay

  • 5 as Church President

4 — President Spencer W. Kimball

  • 4 as Church President

3 — President Russell M. Nelson

  • 2 as Church President
  • 1 as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

3 — Elder David A. Bednar

  • 3 as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles *

3 — President Heber J. Grant

  • 3 as Church President

* — Includes the scheduled May 22, 2022, dedication of the Yigo Guam Temple

Temple dedications, dates and Church leaders offering dedicatory prayers

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