On March 11, 1956, the Los Angeles California Temple was dedicated by Church President David O. McKay. The Church News coverage of the historic occasion — the first temple to be built on the West Coast — termed it an “epochal event.”
President McKay conducted, spoke and offered the dedicatory prayer at each of the eight dedicatory sessions held over four days. In the opening session, he stated, “This is one of the most memorable dedicatory services, if not, in many respects, the most memorable temple dedicatory service, ever held in the Church.”
Here’s a look back at Los Angeles temple’s construction, dedication and service through the years in honor of its anniversary.
- It was the Church’s 12th temple and the first in California. Today there are seven temples within the Golden State, with one more temple under construction.
- All of the General Authorities and general officers attended the dedication except one, whose wife was ill.
- An estimated 50,000 Latter-day Saints witnessed and participated in the eight dedicatory sessions.
- At more than 190,000 square feet, it was the Church’s largest temple ever built — until additions to the Salt Lake Temple allowed it to regain that designation.
- More than 650,000 attended the open house.
- It was announced in 1937 by President Heber J. Grant, but the onset of the Great Depression and World War II delayed construction until the groundbreaking in 1951.
- In the days where Church members within the temple district donated the entire cost of the temple, the Los Angeles temple required the largest ever contribution of about $1.6 million. According to the inflation calculator, that translates to roughly $15.4 million in today’s currency.
- In the dedicatory prayer, President McKay pleaded, “O Father, may the American people not forget Thee! Help us to see the greatness of this country and to minimize its weaknesses. We express gratitude for the right of the people to resort to the ballot, and for freedom to meet in legislative halls to settle problems and disputes without fear of coercion of dictators, secret police, or slave camps. Help people everywhere to sense more clearly that government exists for the protection of the individual — not the individual for the government.”
- The Los Angeles California Temple closed for 10 weeks in 1981 — its 25th anniversary — for remodeling and refurbishment. Then in November 2005, it closed for a seismic overhaul and renovation of the baptistry. It reopened in July 2006, the year of its 50th anniversary.
- The 13-acre site of the temple — located in the Westwood district of Los Angeles atop a small hill — is adorned with a variety of plants such as Canary Island Pine trees, palm trees, Bird of Paradise trees, olive trees and even Chinese Ginkgo trees. There are also two fountains and a reflection pool.
- Lighting the Los Angeles Temple grounds for Christmas has been an annual event since 1979.