The capstone of the Salt Lake Temple – the granite sphere upon which rests the statue of the Angel Moroni – was laid in place 100 years ago.
The ceremony for placing the capstone, also called the top stone, signified the completion of construction of the temple. The capstone ceremony was held at noon on Wednesday, April 6, 1892, in conjunction with the 62nd Annual General Conference of the Church.In that day's Deseret Evening News, an article about the event was published above the name of John Nicholson, clerk of the conference.
The News reported that before the ceremony to lay the capstone commenced, Church leaders addressed a massive congregation assembled in the Tabernacle during the morning session of the fourth day of conference.
President Lorenzo Snow of the Council of the Twelve "instructed the congregation as to the order of ceremony at the laying of the capstone of the temple." His instructions included the proper procedure for those gathered on the temple block to respond by shouting "Hosanna" after the stone was placed to indicate their hearts were "full of thanksgiving to the God of heaven" upon the completion of the temple.
President Wilford Woodruff told the conference assembly: "If there is any scene on the face of this earth that will attract the attention of the God of heaven and the heavenly host, it is the one before me today – the assembling of this people, the shout of `Hosanna,' the laying of the top stone of this temple in honor of our God."
The actual capstone ceremony got underway as President Woodruff, and his counselors, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, led a procession from the Tabernacle to the south side of the temple. The music of a band accompanied the procession. The News listed the order of the procession: the First Presidency, Twelve Apostles, the presiding patriarch and patriarchs, First Seven Presidents of the Seventies; presidents of stakes, their counselors and high councilors; seventies, high priests, elders, presiding bishops, bishops and counselors, priests, teachers and deacons.
In History of the Church, 6:232, Elder B.H. Roberts wrote: "The day was fair and beautiful, with a gentle, warm breeze occasionally passing over the assembled multitudes. There were anthems by the [TabernacleT Choir and old-time hymns in which the great audience joined. The house tops and windows of nearby buildings were crowded by the people."
The News reported that President Joseph F. Smith of the First Presidency offered the prayer dedicating the capstone. In that prayer, President Smith mentioned that President Woodruff would lay the stone "by the instrumentality of electricity, that great agency, the discovery of which has been granted unto the people of this generation."
It was reported in the News article that after the prayer, Don Carlos Young, one of the architects, "shouted from the top of the temple:
The capstone is now ready to be laid.' President Woodruff stepped to the front of the platform [located on the ground south of the templeT and said:Attention, all ye house of Israel and all ye nations of the earth. We will now lay the top stone of the Temple of our God, the foundation of which was laid and dedicated by the Prophet, Seer and Revelator Brigham Young.'
"President Woodruff then pressed the button, thus opening an electric current to a contrivance connected with the capstone, the latter thus released and placed in position.
"The immense concourse of people, led by President Lorenzo Snow, shouted the hosanna in concert. . . . The spectacle and effect of the shout was grand beyond description, the emotions of the multitude being stirred up in the greatest intensity of devotion and enthusiasm. . . .
"The number of people who attended the ceremonies and who were on the grounds was probably about 40,000, besides many thousands more who crowded the adjoining streets and covered every building in the vicinity from which a view of the interior of the Temple Block could be obtained. The entire scene was imposing, presenting a spectacle that has not been duplicated on this continent in modern times. It must have made an impression on the people who witnessed – especially the participants in the ceremonies – that they will never be effaced from their memory."
In the Tabernacle before the capstone ceremony commenced, President George Q. Cannon exhibited to the congregation a polished brass plate, inscribed "Holiness to the Lord." Also inscribed on it were the dates of the temple's groundbreaking (Feb. 14, 1853), the laying of the cornerstones (April 6, 1853), and the capstone ceremony. Also on the metal plate were the names of the General Church Authorities of the Church as they were at the time the ground was broken and at the time of the capstone ceremony.
The names of the temple's architects, Truman O. Angell and Joseph Don Carlos Young, also were inscribed on the plate.
President Cannon announced that the plate would be placed in the capstone with many other items. [In 1912, Elder James E. Talmage explained: "The top stone and the granite block upon which it immediately rests form a sphere. Within the lower half a cavity had been prepared; and in this were placed certain . . . articles, so that, as the capstone was laid, it formed a secure and massive lid to this stone receptacle." (In House of the Lord, p. 126.)T
Among the items placed in the receptacle were the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. Also, there were two books by Elder Parley P. Pratt: Voice of Warning and Key to Theology; and a book by Orson Spencer containing correspondence explaining the Church's most prominent doctrines, Spencer's Letters.
Other items placed in the receptacle included photographs of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith. A photograph of the temple as it appeared at the time also was placed in the box.
(Preliminary research by the Church News produced no reports indicating that the items have been removed from the capstone.)
The News reported that later in the day (April 6, 1892), the capstone was surmounted "with the figure representing the Angel Moroni. . . .This figure is of gigantic proportions, being twelve feet five and a half inches in height. The ideas conveyed by the statue is that of a herald, or messenger, in the act of blowing a trumpet, an embodiment of the fact of Moroni bringing the Gospel to the earth in this latter-day dispensation. It is made of 24 hammered copper. . . . It is gilded with pure gold leaf, and surrounding its crown is an incandescent lamp of one hundred candle-power. It was placed in position and was unveiled at ten minutes past 3 o'clock. Its effect is beautiful."