On a clear February day 150 years ago, the 40-year task of building the Salt Lake Temple began with the groundbreaking by President Brigham Young as a multitude looked on. President Young's first counselor, President Heber C. Kimball, dedicated the site on the same day.
"The people, men, women, and children, began to assemble on the Temple Block, about 10 a.m., Monday, February 14th, 1853," the Deseret News reported in its Feb. 19, 1853, edition, "as clear and lovely a day as the sun ever shone on G.S.L. City, with from one to three inches of snow on the ground, in some places, and others quite bare; with some six inches of frost in the earth, though the thaw was mild through the day."
It was noted in the article that Jesse W. Fox, under the supervision of architect Truman O. Angell, surveyed the site of the temple that morning, finishing at about 11 o'clock.
At that time, the article stated, "Marshal Little, assisted by the Police, pointed out the various lines to the great multitude, consisting of several thousands, who formed around it a hollow square, and retained that position while the President addressed them in the most thrilling speech of about thirty minutes, so as to be heard distinctly in all parts of the vast assembly."
In breaking the ground on the southeast corner of the temple site, the article continued, President Young "took the lump about one foot square upon his spade, and lifted it high up, and said 'get out of my way for I am going to throw this,' and there he held it, about one minute, before he could get room to lay it down, from off the Temple site, so dense were the multitude around.
"The President then addressed the multitude, and declared the ground broken for the Temple, blessed the people in the name of the Lord, and dismissed the assembly, and all said amen. Some went home and some went to work, to prepare for laying the foundation of the House, and much earth was removed that afternoon, for it was a general turnout of the saints, and those who could, had their tools ready."
The saints labored from that time until the completion of the temple, dedicated by President Wilford Woodruff on April 6-24, 1893, in 31 sessions, as noted in the Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac.
President Young, in the company of seven other of the apostles, "designated the site for the temple block between the forks of City Creek, and on motion of Orson Pratt it was unanimously voted that the temple be built upon the site designated," on July 28, 1847, as recorded in A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts. In its report of the general conference session on April 6, 1851, the Deseret News states: "The motion to build a Temple to the name of the Lord our God in G.S.L. City, was carried by acclamation.
"A committee of one, viz. Daniel H. Wells, was appointed to superintend the building of the Temple, and the public works."
The cornerstones were laid on April 6, 1853, according to A Comprehensive History of the Church.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, as reported in the Deseret News, President Young began by recounting the history and persecutions of the Church.
It continued paraphrasing the Church leader: "No one need be discouraged because they have not had all the privilege that many of the older members have had, of being robbed, and driven, and mobbed, and plundered of everything they had on earth, for he would promise all who would remain faithful that they should have as much as they wanted, in some form or other; for they should be proved in all things. Neither was it required of the saints now, to sacrifice all they possessed, and deprive themselves of the comforts and necessities of life, to build a Temple, as it was in Kirtland, if the saints would pay their tithing, for that would be an abundance, and all that would be needed.
"Neither did he want any one to pay tithing who did not wish to, who did not do it cheerfully; for the Lord had no need of it."
Following President Young's address, President Kimball offered the consecrating prayer, from the same small buggy from which President Young spoke.
The article notes an anecdote from the time of groundbreaking: "The presidency soon repaired to the south east corner of the Temple site, where they soon succeeded in picking around a piece of earth, about one foot square, assisted by the Twelve, J.M. Grant, mayor of the city, and others, but while doing this, a one dollar silver piece, fell on the square foot no one knowing from whence it came. President Kimball prophesied that it was a good token, and means would not be wanted to build the Temple."
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