The Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, the Church’s 152nd temple in operation, was dedicated two years ago today by President Henry B. Eyring, then-first counselor in the First Presidency. This temple is a symbolic culmination of American history and Church history.
Upon the principles of religious freedom, William Penn — an advocate of democracy — founded the City of Philadelphia as a “Holy Experiment” in the 17th century.
A little over a century later, on Sept. 17, 1787, delegates gathered in this city to sign the U.S. Constitution. President Eyring said that these men, “under the inspiration of God,” created a governmental structure that allowed for religious freedom.
The first missionaries of the Church arrived in Philadelphia 50 years later. Don Carlos Smith, Joseph Smith’s younger brother, and Jedediah Grant, who later served in the First Presidency, preached in Philadelphia with great success. By 1838, the city was home to more than 100 Latter-day Saints. The next year, in 1839, Joseph Smith organized Philadelphia’s first branch on his 34th birthday.
Turn the calendars ahead nearly another century. The first Church meetinghouse in Philadelphia was built and dedicated in 1938. In this chapel, President Henry B. Eyring was baptized. “That is where so much began,” he said of the building.
The Church in this area “was so small then,” he told the Church News. “Yet now we have a temple of God in one of the most prominent places in Philadelphia.”
In 2008, President Thomas S. Monson announced that a temple would be built in the City of Brotherly Love. The groundbreaking for the temple was held on Sept. 17, 2011. Then five years later, the temple was dedicated.
The 61,000-square-foot temple features classic Georgian architecture designed to blend with historic Philadelphia. It serves more than 40,000 Latter-day Saints in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and all of Delaware. The temple is located near Philadelphia City Hall, where a statue of William Penn stands prominently.
“Somehow it feels a little special,” President Eyring said, “to know you are in a place where the Lord had His hand in the forming of this nation.”