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  • Writer's pictureAmyanne rigby

Lessons learned from the building of the St. George Temple-

(The following was a talk I gave in Sacrament meeting in early March. Now that all temples have closed, I find comfort in the things I learned and felt while both giving and preparing this talk- want to know more read "All that was Promised" by Blaine M. Yorgason.

On April 6, 2013, I was in Delta Utah watching our oldest son Seleck compete in a track meet. It was also General Conference weekend. Rumors had been circulating for months that perhaps a temple might be built in Cedar City. I kept cautious eye on President Callister who was also at the track meet that day. When I noticed him hurrying to his car, I did the same.

Gathering my children, we huddled in our suburban and listened as the announcement was made By President Thomas S. Monson…. “Temples to be built in the following cities…. Cedar City Utah.” I remember getting out of the suburban and doing a little dance right there on the street. And then I called my dad… I knew he would share my enthusiasm. Since I was a little girl, my parents had taken me to the temple in whatever city we were visiting. At an early age, I fell in love with the temple.

I recorded in my journal that evening the events of the day and then wrote, “I pray in some way I will have an opportunity to be a part of this historic event.” Heavenly Father heard my prayers as I was able to serve with in Young Women’s during this sacred time. In preparation for this event the young women in our ward prepared temple capsules and participated in the Cultural Celebration. I was also asked by Brother Yardley to oversee the temple newsletter in preparation for the dedication of the temple. It was a marvelous opportunity for me- and a direct answer to prayer. When the day of the temple dedication came, my husband and I sat in the temple – witnessing the dedication receiving a wave from President Monson, and President Eyring as they passed by---- It was moment I will forever cherish and I pray our children will as well.

While the Cedar City Utah temple’s architecture echoes that of other pioneer temple including the St. George, Utah temple, its story of construction vary drastically. The building of the Cedar City Temple occurred on Saturday, April 6, 2013- the groundbreaking took place on Saturday, August 5, 2015. The temple was dedicated on Sunday December 10, 2017. It became the 17th temple in Utah and the 170th worldwide.

My personal sacrifice to be a part of this historic event was not monumental- My husband did not have to leave our family to go cut timber, gather rock, or give of his carpentry skill (however, I am sure he would have gladly done). As a ward and stake, we were not asked to donate food and clothing to sustain the workers, and for all intents and purposes most of us probably went about our daily routines during the 5year process of the building of our new temple without much thought.

In stark contrast, the St. George Utah temple required the time, labor and sacrifice of all the saints in some capacity reaching from the Salt Lake Valley to those building the temple in St George. Saints from as far north as the Cache and Sanpete valleys sacrificed too. Local men were required to donate one day in 10 to the building of the temple, the women spun silk, made rugs for the temple interior, and provided food and clothing for those laboring on the temple. While there is no official record of the expenditures required to build the temple- the nearest estimate comes to well over $800,000 – no small amount for pioneer settlement ravaged by the desert terrain, ghastly heat, and periods of famine. But yet the pioneer spirit prevailed.

President Brigham Young wrote, “… the people in Dixie were better able to build the temple than were the saints of Kirtland and Nauvoo… I was there,” he continued. “ I knew the circumstances of the Church and the building of the temple and Kirtland and Nauvoo and I know the circumstances of the people of St. George… We want to build a temple here and I know we can do this. When the people set their hearts, there you will find their hands busy to accomplish what the will dictates.”

Following the dedication of the temple site in 1871 it took two years of constant labor for the excavation and laying of the basement footing and the creation of the drain- during the excavation process an underwater spring was discovered which intensified the excavation process. This process required 7, 475 pounds of lava rock

Photo of Utah's Dixie

President Brigham Young announced the building of the St. George temple. Coming on the heels of exile of the Mormon people driven from two previous completed temples- Kirtland and Nauvoo.

James E Faust shared from President Brigham Young’s Diary the following in reference to the Exodus of Nauvoo

On February 3, 1846, it was a bitter cold day in Nauvoo, Illinois. That day, President Brigham Young recorded in his diary:

“Notwithstanding that I had announced that we would not attend to the administration of the ordinances, the House of the Lord was thronged all day. … I also informed the brethren that I was going to get my wagons started and be off. I walked some distance from the Temple supposing the crowd would disperse, but on returning I found the house filled to overflowing.

“Looking upon the multitude and knowing their anxiety, as they were thirsting and hungering for the word, we continued at work diligently in the House of the Lord.”1

And so the temple work continued until 1:30 A.M.

The first two names that appear on the fourth company of the Nauvoo Temple register for that very day, February 3, 1846, are John and Jane Akerley, who received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple that evening. They were humble, new converts to the Church, without wealth or position. Their temple work was their final concern as they were leaving their homes in Nauvoo to come west. It was fortunate that President Young granted the wish of the Saints to receive their temple blessings because John Akerley died at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. He, along with over 4,000 others, never made it to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains.2 William Clayton’s classic Mormon hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” captures well their faith: “And should we die before our journey’s through, happy day! All is well!”3

As the saints were driven from their homes in Nauvoo, it was their temple blessings that strengthened them for that which lay ahead.

When the Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, two days later on July 26, 1847 Brigham Young announced, “Here we will build the temple of our God.”

The progress of the Salt Lake Temple was long and arduous- it was a feat that would require 40 years to complete. Twenty four years later, The prophet sensing his mortal mission on earth was drawing to a close looked south to Utah’s Dixie in hopes of building temple, he marked the spot in the desert ground with his cane- A temple where he could continue the mission of temple building as instructed by his predecessor Joseph smith to “building Temples to the Most High”

President James E. Faust posed the following questions: Why were all of these temples built at such cost and sacrifice? Why are they still being built at an ever-increasing pace? It is because the deepest questions of our existence are answered in the temple. These answers tell us where we came from, why we are here, where we may go, and how we may cope with the matter of death. This life makes no logical sense unless we think in terms of the eternities. The transcendent blessings of life and eternity are received within the sacred walls of the temple. The Savior’s supernal gift to mankind gave us the opportunity for eternal life, but eternal life without our loved ones would be bleak.

Like the temples in ancient times, The St. George Temple more fully directed the heart and minds of the people to Jesus Christ. At the funeral of his Father, Joseph Smith Sr., the prophet Joseph Smith said the following of his father,

“To dwell in the house of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple, was his daily delight; and in it he enjoyed many blessings, and spent many hours in sweet communion with his heavenly Father. He has trod its sacred aisles, solitary and alone from mankind. … In its holy enclosures have the visions of heaven been opened to his mind, and his soul has feasted on the riches of eternity; and there under his teachings have the meek and humble been instructed, while the widow and the orphan have received his patriarchal blessings.”8

Like Joseph Smith Senior, we too can be blessed by sweet communion with our father in Heaven and his son Jesus Christ.

Temples point us to Jesus Christ. The purposes of temples anciently were the following: first, they were places of revelation. And secondly, they were places where ordinances were performed. In the Book of Mormon, it is recorded that the first temple to built upon this continent was constructed by Nephi after he and his followers separated from their unrighteous brethren. Joseph Smith asked, “How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah.”

Brigham understood Joseph’s constant reference to temple. God’s people have been gathered throughout history to “ to build unto the Lord an house whereby he could reveal unto his people the ordinance of his house and glories of his kingdom and teach the people the ways of salvation for there are certain ordinances and principles that when they are taught and practiced must be done in a place prepared for that purpose.”

The building of the St. George Temple was an answer to the Prophet Joseph’s call under the direction of his successor, the Prophet Brigham Young.

The Building of the St George Temple was a fulfillment of that prophecy and commandment. The St George temple is a holy place- holy because of the work that take place therein and holy because of the people who built it. It represents the devotion, faith, and sacrifice of the pioneers of dixie and of the early settlers of Utah. Construction of the St. George Utah Temple was a critical step in Latter-day Saint temple design. Temple builders took lessons from the Nauvoo Temple and paved the way for more temples that would eventually dot the earth. The temple represents the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the full implementation of temple ordinances and blessings.

Five Things to know about the St. George temple include the following:

l. 1. The St. George Utah Temple was the first temple where Saints could receive all temple ordinances for the dead. In Nauvoo Saints were issued only ordinances for the living.

2. The St. George Utah Temple was the first temple completed since the Nauvoo Temple. The Saints waited 30 years to have temple again

3. Brigham Young oversaw almost every aspect of temple construction. After announcing that a temple would be built in St. George, Brigham Young purchased a home in the city. He visited St. George every year and visited the temple site as often as possible. When he was in Salt Lake City, frequent telegrams and letters kept him connected to the temple project. When a design problem came up, local leaders contacted President Young for direction. When the project ran out of nails or food or other supplies, President Young would find more. Brigham personally paid for the baptismal font—after haggling over the price with the foundry. Shortly before the temple was completed, Brigham built a small office next to his home. Evidence suggests that he used this private office to work on preparing the temple ceremonies for consistent presentation in the temple. Despite ill health and having to be carried from room to room, Brigham attended the temple dedication and gave several sermons.

4. Many Saints outside southern Utah contributed to the construction of the St. George Utah Temple.

5. Most building materials came from the local area. The volcanic rock for the foundation and sandstone for the walls came from neighboring quarries both processes required two years, wood for the rough carpentry came from Mount Trumball nearly 80 miles away on some of the toughest terrain. Timber for the finish carpentry came from the Pine Valley mountain

It is helpful to remember that just as the Lord reveals to us line upon line, he also revealed to his prophets “line upon line” in reference to temple ordinances and family history.

So why did the Saints of Dixie give all that they had in a valley of heat and flood, and Indians to build a temple? Simply put- to draw both themselves and their ancestors to God.

A day laborer who worked on the St. George temple upkeep in 1995 recorded the following story

"The St. George temple was completed on April 6, 1877 for General Conference which was to be held in St. George that year. On August 29, 1877 the Prophet Brigham Young died. But he died knowing the angels were watching over the people of Dixie and its temple.

Elder J Golden Kimball said this in reference to pioneer temples “When I think about [the temple], every stone in it is a sermon to me. It tells of suffering, it tells of sacrifice, it preaches —every rock in it, preaches a discourse. When it was dedicated, it seemed to me that it was the greatest sermon that has ever been preached since the Sermon on the Mount. … Every window, every steeple, everything about the Temple speaks of the things of God, and gives evidence of the faith of the people who built it.”14

Manti, Utah Temple

President James E. Faust issued the following challenge, “I urge all who have not yet received these greatest of all blessings within the walls of the temple to do whatever may be necessary to qualify to receive them. To those who have received these blessings, I invite you to prepare yourselves to savor again the experience of being within the sacred premises of the holy temples of God and have the visions of life eternal open again to your hearts, minds, and souls.”

Salt Lake City, Utah Temple with my parents Janet and Kimball Weaver

In 1977, a morning fire struck a small mobile home in Price, Utah. Inside were my Aunt Betty and her three children- two daughters and one son. Her husband was away working at the neighboring coal mine. My Aunt quickly grabbed her nearby son and pulled him outside to safety and then quickly returned inside to rescue her daughters. She did not return.

As a young Laurel, I gathered my family records and prepared the necessary temple papers in order to perform by proxy the baptism of one of those two cousins- she had just recently turned 8 and had not yet been baptized. I went to the St. George Utah temple to be baptized for her. My older sister who was just newly married received her endowment by proxy.

On July 29, 1995, Travis and I were sealed in the St. George Temple for time and all Eternity. I remember the sanctity of that day as many of our aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings joined us for that beautiful day. And on the 18th of January of this year, Travis and I once again gathered in the temple- but this time the Cedar City temple as our son Seleck kneeled across the altar from his beautiful bride Leydi. While many of those present at our sealing have now passed, I felt their presence there, and the presence of ancestors from far reaching generations.

I noted the faces of my siblings and their spouses, nieces, nephews, and of our parents. It was a glorious day. A day which I hope to take part of at least four more times as our four other children enter the temple.

For me the temple is deeply personal- it is more that bricks and mortar- it contains stories of people past and present who have experienced hardship and adversity, the atonement and forgiveness. It is where I go to be healed. It is where I go to feel peace. It is where I go to experience the companionship of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ- it is where I go to feel the Holy Ghost.

Logan, Utah temple, photo taken by my grandfather, Max Dickson Weaver

In conclusion I wish to share one last personal story which strengthened my testimony in temple attendance. In the spring of 2009 following my husband’s stroke, I was left burdened and overwhelmed with the trial which lay before us. I was tired and discouraged. I was constantly praying for strength and I mean constantly- at this time I felt compelled to attend the temple, driven you might say. In particular, I felt the urgency to attend a family sealing in the Mt. Timpanogas Temple, with five young children in tote I knew this would be an extraordinary feat. But with an ever-persistent prompting, I loaded the kids in the care and headed 3 hours north to the temple. My only option- 10 -year- old Seleck would watch over his four siblings in the car while I went in the temple.

I remember the quiet hush that fell upon me as I entered the temple, and the urgent desire to free myself of the casual conversations in the waiting room. Upon entering the sealing room, a quiet peace prevailed. Interestingly enough, the first words from the sealer were this, “the prayer for strength is the only prayer that is always answered.” Tears fell from my eyes instantly.

I knew God was aware of me. I knew it was he who had been carrying me and who continued to carry me. And even to this day as those five children have now grown to the ages of 21, 19, 17, 15, and 11 I know he is still carrying me. I know that the prayer for strength is always answered. It was answered for the pioneers as they received their endowment in the Nauvoo temple even as they were driven from their homes, it was answered as the Saints left the SLC valley and came south to Utah’s Dixie, it was answered as they built the St. George in an unforgiving land, and I know the prayers for strength will be granted as each of us attend the temple and come unto Jesus Christ. I say these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Cedar City, Utah Temple


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