The Salt Lake Temple is the most iconic LDS temple in the world. Located right in the heart of Salt Lake City and Temple Square, the beautiful Salt Lake Temple was announced in 1847, only four days after the pioneers arrived in the valley. The construction of the temple started in 1853 taking 40 years to complete and it stands today as a reminder of the labor of love of the pioneers. Check out these interesting facts about the construction and design of the Salt Lake Temple!
Heber C. Kimball discussed the construction of the temple with the Saints
In 1852, under the direction of LDS Church president Brigham Young and as the first counselor in the first presidency, president Heber C. Kimball spoke to the congregation at general conference. He discussed what types of materials they could use to build the temple and how they were going to work together to get it done, always reminding them of the importance and eternal purpose of the temple.
The initial discussion pointed out several options as they were still finding out what was available to them here. “(…) Whether we shall build it of the stone that is got in the Red Butte Canyon, or of adobies, or of the best stone we can find in these mountains. For instance—at Sanpete there is some splendid stone; and inasmuch as we intend to build a house unto the Lord for Him to accept, for His angels to come to as ministers to give instructions, I can feel, myself, as though we are perfectly able to build one, of the best kind of materials, from the foundation to the tip top. We are able, and we have strength and union, and we have bone, and marrow, and muscle, and we are able to commence it next year.” – Heber C. Kimball (Materials for the Temple – The Clay and the Potter). Later on they found the best stone to use was granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon, located 20 miles southeast from the temple site.
Truman O. Angell was the architect of the Salt Lake Temple
Appointed by Brigham Young, Angell was the temple architect from 1847 until his death in 1887. He had previous temple construction experience from having worked in the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. Because his experience was mainly with wooden structures, he was assigned an assistant skilled in stone construction, William Ward. In 1856, he was sent on a mission to Europe for missionary and temple design purposes. By the time of Angell’s passing, although the stone work for the temple was completed, the towers were not. He never saw the temple finished before he died.
Before Angell left on his mission, president Brigham Young gave him a blessing, part of which said “you shall have power and means to go from place to place, from country to country and view the various specimens of architecture that you may desire to see, and you will wonder at the works of the ancients and marvel to see what they have done; and you will be quick to comprehend the architectural designs of men in various ages, and you will rejoice all the time, and take drafts of valuable work of architecture and be better qualified to continue your work and you will increase in knowledge upon the temple and other buildings and many will wonder at the knowledge you possess.”
The foundation of the temple was replaced in 1862
The original cornerstones were made of firestone from Red Butte Garden and were placed in 1853. In 1857, ten years after the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, news broke that a potential hostile United States army was coming to Utah. Brigham Young had the temple foundation covered with dirt to hide the construction of temple. The army set camp near Utah Lake, about thirty miles south from the site and only left when the American Civil War started in 1861. When the foundation was uncovered, Brigham Young noticed that the cornerstones were flawed and concluded they wouldn’t be able to support the weight of the temple. He then decided that the foundation should be made entirely of granite, with sixteen feet thick footings.
Even though the temple was necessary, Brigham Young wasn’t rushing the construction – he wanted it to be built right. “There are more advanced ordinances that cannot be administered there [endowment house]; we would, therefore, like a Temple, but I am willing to wait a few years for it. I want to see the Temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium.”
Learn more about the construction of the Salt Lake Temple by visiting the South Visitors’ Center at Temple Square. Even though the temple is not open to the public for visitation, at the South Visitors’ Center you can see a cross sectional model of the temple.