Read the original St. George temple dedicatory prayer and why Brigham Young was not the one who gave it

Knowing its importance, did Brigham Young dedicate the St. George temple? The answer is complicated

There are parallels between the lives of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successor, President Brigham Young, in regards to temple building, noted Benjamin Pykles, director of the Church History Department’s Historic Sites Division.

Joseph Smith spent his entire prophetic ministry trying to build temples. Finally, in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Lord restored temple ordinances like those known by Latter-day Saints today. But then the Prophet Joseph was killed, and the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo and cut off from their temple. 

“From that moment on, Brigham Young knew that he was going to have to continue that prophetic purpose to build temples,” Pykles said.

Within a few months of arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, President Young located the temple site, but the construction of the Salt Lake Temple took a long time. By 1871 — when Brigham Young announced a temple to be built in St. George, Utah — the Prophet’s health was declining, and he was starting to realize the importance of passing on the information about ordinances and temples. But he needed a place to do it, explained Pykles.

An image of Brigham Young during his years as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
An image of Brigham Young during his years as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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Why the St. George temple holds ‘a special place in the hearts of Latter-day Saints’

As opposed to the 40 years needed to complete the Salt Lake Temple, the St. George Utah Temple was miraculously completed in just six years. 

It was the first temple completed in Utah as well as the first house of the Lord where the endowment and sealing ordinances were performed by proxy for deceased ancestors. It was also where, under the direction of President Young, Wilford Woodruff, the first president of the St. George temple who would later become the Prophet, made the first written record of the ordinances, ensuring their consistency and availability at future temples.

Knowing the St. George temple’s importance to both President Young and the Church, did the Prophet dedicate it?

The prayer to dedicate the entire structure was actually offered by President Daniel H. Wells, the second counselor in the First Presidency. But the St. George temple was dedicated in phases as the construction was completed. 

A photo of Daniel H. Wells.
A photo of Daniel H. Wells. |

“The Saints were so excited to begin temple work they didn’t want to wait a minute longer than necessary,” explained Emily Utt, historic sites curator for the Church. 

The first dedication was held Jan. 1, 1877, when Wilford Woodruff, then an Apostle, dedicated the font. Erastus Snow, the Apostle called to lead the southern Utah Saints, dedicated the assembly room, which was then used for the endowment ceremony. 

Brigham Young Jr., an Apostle and the Prophet’s son, dedicated the sealing room. While the Prophet participated in all the dedications, he did not offer any dedicatory prayers.

The first baptisms for the dead were performed Jan. 9, 1877; endowments began Jan. 11, 1877 — all while construction continued in other areas of the temple.

The entire temple was dedicated during the Church’s general conference on April 6, 1877. Following is the text of the prayer offered by President Wells to dedicate the temple and to convene the three-day conference.

Original dedicatory prayer of the St. George Utah Temple

“Almighty and Everlasting God, our Heavenly Father, Thou who are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Moses, of David, of Solomon; the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the God of Joseph and of Brigham, even the God of Israel; Thou who art the Father of our spirits; it is to Thee we approach this morning to worship and to offer up our dedicatory prayer, in thanksgiving and praise for this offering, even a Temple which Thou hast enabled Thy people to rear unto Thy most Holy Name. We realize, Our Father, that we are dependent upon Thee, and that, although we are shut out from Thy presence, inheriting many weaknesses and made subject to many temptations and sins, we are Thy children and as such, we come before Thee in the depths of humility, with broken hearts and contrite spirits, praying that Thine indulgence, Thy tender mercy and compassion may be extended toward us, and that Thou wilt forgive everything which thine all-seeing and searching eye hath held amiss in us.

“We thank Thee, O Lord, that Thy people whom Thou hast led to this distant land, and whom Thou hast preserved by Thine own right arm, have been permitted to establish themselves in the homes, which Thou hast given them, and that, through thy continued efforts and that through Thy continued blessings they have been enabled to gather together the materials of which this building is composed; to put together and erect the same, even a Temple, which we dedicate and now consecrate to Thee that it may be holy unto Thee the Lord our God, for sacred and holy purposes and that the blessing, even life for evermore, may be commanded here from heaven, even from Thy presence, and may flow through the ordinances which appertain unto Thy holy place, unto us Thy children. We pray that the blessings pertaining to our eternal salvation and to the establishing of Thy kingdom upon this, Thine earth, may be poured out upon Thy Holy Priesthood and Thy people, who shall worship and officiate in this Thy Holy House.

A photo of the exterior of the renovated St. George Utah Temple, which will be rededicated in December 2023.
A photo of the exterior of the renovated St. George Utah Temple, which will be rededicated in December 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“We dedicate and consecrate the foundation of this building upon which it stands. Cause, O Lord, that it may not give way nor yield in consequence of any destructive elements which may be in the soil, but may the nature of those elements be changed so as to become strengthening instead of weakening, that the same may always remain firm and sound.

“We dedicate and consecrate the lower and upper walls of the building and the buttresses which support the same and all the materials: the stone, the lime, and the sand which compose the mortar, and all that pertains thereunto, together with the flagging, the timbers, the joints, the floors, and the foundations upon which they rest, that the same may be protected and preserved, that none of the elements, either through storms, fire or earthquakes, may have power to destroy, disturb or injure this, Thy Holy House. We also dedicate and consecrate unto Thee, all the openings, entrances, doors and windows, and their fastenings of the basement story.

“We also present to Thee the Baptismal font in which is performed the ordinance of baptism for the living and for the dead, with the steps, the railings around and the oxen upon which it rests, the foundations, together with the connections and apparatus for furnishing, conveying, holding and heating, the water with all that pertains to it, dedicating and consecrating all unto Thee, the Lord, our Father and God, that they may be Holy unto Thy name.

“We pray that Thy blessing may attend those of Thy servants who administer and who may officiate in the ordinances that may be performed therein in behalf of Thy people, and in behalf of those our progenitors, our relatives and friends, who have gone before us to the spirit world, so far as we may be enabled and permitted to officiate for them. We dedicate also to Thee the rooms of this building in the first, second and third stories, with the pillars and supports thereof, including the side rooms, with the partition wall for the purposes for which they may be used, by the Priesthood, for prayer, for worship for councils or meetings, or for administering the Holy Ordinances of Thy house, that they may be holy unto Thee, the Lord our God. We also dedicate the roof and the tower with its dome, its covering and walls and the battlements around and above the roofs with the timbers and frames and supports upon which the roof and tower rest, and are made permanent, and the fastenings and all that appertain thereto and the materials of which they are composed.

St. George Temple with taller tower and annex, circa 1900.
St. George Utah Temple with taller tower and annex, circa 1900. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“We dedicate also the entrances, the steps and the circular stairs, with the railings and banisters thereunto attached. Grant, O Lord, that the roof which covers all, may shield and protect the building from the storms which may come upon it. We dedicate the pipes which convey the water from the room with their fastenings and the materials of which they are composed. We also dedicate the chimneys, flues, conduits, and sewers and openings for ventilation; also all the doors, windows and glass, the hinges and nails and screws, the door locks and handles, the windows, weights and cords and fastenings of every kind; and all the paint, putty, plaster, whitewash and all the ornamental work within and without, everything used in the construction and completion of the entire building, from the foundations unto the top thereof that all may be holy unto the Lord our God.

“Holy Father, we dedicate unto Thee the furniture and utensils used in the holy washing, anointings and ceremonies of this Thy Holy House; also the curtains and frames for partitions; together with the altars and their cushions and the tables and chairs, stools and desks that all may be sanctified for the use and purposes intended. We dedicate also the tower on the outside, containing the fountain, also the aqueduct and pipes conveying water thereunto.

“We dedicate the block of land upon which this Temple is situated and the fence which encloses it, with its opening and gates, the hinges, hangings and fastenings and the materials of which they are composed, also the roads and walks leading thereto and through the same.

“We dedicate and consecrate the pulpits with the cushions thereon, and the ornamental fringe around, together with the steps, railings and banisters and the seats, with the cushions on them; and the floors, and the foundations upon which they stand. May nothing unholy, impure ever enter here but may the same be Holy unto the Lord our God.

“Accept, O God, of this tribute of our hearts, and let Thy peace and blessing dwell and abide here in this Holy Temple, which we now, with uplifted hearts and hands, present and consecrate and dedicate entire as a sacred offering unto Thee for Thine acceptance.”

“Especially do we pray that Thy power may rest upon Thy servants who may occupy these pulpits when they shall minister by virtue of their holy calling, either in preaching, in counseling or in transacting business pertaining to the welfare of Thy Church and kingdom here upon earth. We implore Thy blessings upon the various congregations of Thy people who may assemble in this House from time to time, both in their incomings and outgoings and may Thy blessing and Thy spirit dwell herein and rest upon them for their comfort and edification, and abide richly in their hearts, that they may learn further of Thy ways and walk in Thy paths. We desire also to commend these Thy servants and people to Thy kind care and keeping, that they may be preserved unto Thee from the powers of the wicked and ungoldly, and from the powers of all evil and opposing influences, from whose grasp Thou hast heretofore delivered us in bringing us here to these valleys and the fastnesses of these mountains. We acknowledge Thee and the great deliverance Thou hast wrought out for us, and we pray Thee, O God, in the name of Jesus, to accept of these Thy servants and the people and preserve and keep us in Thy most holy keeping. Let the ministering angels from Thy presence attend us, and let Thy grace and power be upon us that we may walk in the paths of purity and holiness, and be enabled to bring forth Thy purposes and establish Thy kingdom in all its fullness, administering in all the ordinances pertaining to Thy House; and also send forth salvation to all the children of men, scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth, for their redemption from sin and bondage, even from gross darkness.

“We now ask, our Father, that we Thy servants and people may be acceptable unto Thee, praying Thee to grant that Thy Holy Spirit may pervade each heart before Thee, that our worship may be such as Thou delightest to behold and that the revelations of Thy mind and will may continue to be made manifest through Thy servant Brigham, and all of Thy servants upon whom Thou hast conferred the authority of the Holy Priesthood.

“We feel not to multiply words before Thee, for language is inadequate to express the fullness of the feelings and emotions of our souls in being thus privileged to meet before Thee in this sacred, this holy place.

“Accept, O God, of this tribute of our hearts, and let Thy peace and blessing dwell and abide here in this Holy Temple, which we now, with uplifted hearts and hands, present and consecrate and dedicate entire as a sacred offering unto Thee for Thine acceptance. May it stand as a monument of purity and holiness as long as the earth shall remain, commemorative of Thy great goodness toward us, Thy people, and Thy name shall have the honor, the praise and glory, for we ask all in Jesus’ name, and unto Thee and our blessed Lord and Savior, and to the Holy Spirit be all power, might and dominion worlds without end. Amen.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Brigham Young dedicated the sealing room of the temple. Apostle Brigham Young Jr. dedicated the sealing room.

Exterior image of the newly renovated St. George Utah Temple shows the new landscaping and quatrefoil-shaped fountain.
Exterior image of the newly renovated St. George Utah Temple, which will be dedicated December 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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