In a solemn ceremony on April 6, 1853, President Brigham Young laid the cornerstones of the Salt Lake Temple. In the years that followed this sacred ceremony, he insisted that only the best materials and craftsmanship be used in the temple’s construction.
For four decades, early Latter-day Saints labored on the temple site.
During the April 1892 general conference, President Wilford Woodruff directed the laying of the capstone. The largest audience to ever assemble in the Church — some 50,000 Latter-day Saints — filled Temple Square and adjoining streets. The Tabernacle Choir performed a special temple anthem. President Joseph F. Smith offered a prayer and the choir then sang, “Grant Us Peace.” Then, as President Woodruff lowered the capstone into position, the congregation waved white handkerchiefs and shouted: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb. Amen, amen, amen” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, Chapter 34: “An Era of Reconciliation”).
During his April 1993 general conference address President Gordon B. Hinckley described the importance of this historic moment: “The shout was an expression of worship,” he said. “It was an expression of gratitude. This was an unequaled day of thanksgiving. This was a day of which these people had dreamed for almost 40 years.”
The greatest dream of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley was centered on Temple Square, he said. “By April of 1892 the exterior walls, steeples, and roof had been completed. Small wonder that the people shouted hosanna. A generation and more had passed since the work had commenced.”
During the next year “a mighty work of consecrated effort” was undertaken to finish the interior and the temple was dedicated — with an additional shout of “Hosanna.”
Hosanna means “save now” and is taken from Psalm 118. “The chanting of this psalm was connected at the Feast of Tabernacles with the waving of palm branches; hence the use of the word by the multitudes at our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem” (Bible Dictionary, p. 704).
Today Latter-day Saints continue to join together in shouting “Hosanna” — a sacred celebration that began in 1836 with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple — as each new temple becomes a dedicated house of the Lord. Church members in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will participate in a similar sacred ceremony this weekend when the Church’s 152nd temple is dedicated.
“The ordinances that are administered in each of these temples are identical to and as efficacious as the ordinances administered in the Salt Lake Temple,” said President Hinckley during his 1993 general conference address.
“We have been criticized for the cost of these structures, a cost which results from the exceptional quality of the workmanship and the materials that go into them. Those who criticize do not understand that these houses are dedicated as the abode of Deity and, as Brigham Young stated, are to stand through the Millennium.”
President Thomas S. Monson said during his April 2011 general conference address that each temple stands “as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God, our Eternal Father, lives, that He desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless His sons and daughters of all generations.
“Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth.”
Temples, President Monson said, “are more than stone and mortar. They are filled with faith and fasting. They are built of trials and testimonies. They are sanctified by sacrifice and service.”
During his opening remarks of the October 1902 general conference, President Joseph F. Smith expressed hope that one day the Saints would “have temples built in the various parts of the [world] where they are needed for the convenience of the people.” Today most members of the Church live within a 200-mile distance of a temple.
In these temples, Church members who make themselves eligible can participate in the most exalted of the redeeming ordinances that have been revealed to mankind, said the late President Boyd K. Packer during his October 2010 general conference address.
“No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the family history research that supports it,” he said. “No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness.”
The Salt Lake Temple sparked the public’s curiosity in Utah and throughout the nation in the late 1800s. Prior to its dedication more than 1,000 government officials and prominent businessmen toured the temple. More than 75,000 people attended 44 dedicatory sessions, the first held April 6, 1893.
Dedication speakers stressed a common theme — unity (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, Chapter 34: “An Era of Reconciliation”)
Temples continue to unite members of the Church across the globe today.
“For Latter-day Saints, no building is more sacred than a dedicated temple of God,” President Henry B. Eyring said at the groundbreaking and site dedication for the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple on Sept. 17, 2011.“Only in them can the precious bonds of family in mortality be extended for all eternity. …
“The work done in these sacred buildings becomes the crowning element of our religious worship.”
That is the reason Latter-day Saints in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple district will — as early Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City did in 1892 — give thanks this weekend for their newly dedicated temple with a single, sacred word: “Hosanna.”