A Holy Temple in St. George 1871-1877 A Miracle of its Time.

Early pioneers who were part of the St. George settlement in 1871 faced a life of unusual hardship. They feared the scorching summer months and the heavy spring rains followed by frequent flooding of the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers. They were a people struggling, fighting poverty and only ten years from the time of settlement. And yet, through their strong faith and trust in God and under the direction of a prophet they chose to erect a building of grand magnitude and proportion on the frontier, and within just a five and one half year period.

Outlined by the brilliant red hills of Dixie, this Temple stands today. It's pristine, white beauty reflects the sacrifice of a people whose basic belief in God was foremost in their lives.

Creating a Temple in the Wilderness How Did They Do It ?

Brigham Young, second prophet and president of the Church was at his winter home in St. George when he asked the members if they would be willing to build a Temple. The settlers gave a resounding approval and under the able leadership of President Erastus Snow, the plans were set in motion.

It seemed an impossible project at the time but this faithful people knew the blessings that would come from having a House of the Lord in their midst.

After preliminary surveys to determine where rock, lime and lumber could be obtained, the ground breaking for the Temple was held November 9, 1871. Brigham Young, church leaders and members of the settlement began the ceremony at the very place chosen by Brigham Young. The site proved to be inspired. Standing alone when built, the Temple today is in the center of St. George.

Forming The Foundation By The Cannon Method. So enthusiastic were the members about their new Temple that by three o'clock on the very afternoon of the ground-breaking day, men and teams had started the excavation of the basement and foundation. Along the north edge of the site a limestone ledge was found and it made the base of the foundation on that side. On the other three sides underground springs created a bog. Some thought the site should be changed, but Brigham Young did not waver. This was the spot for the Temple.

They began in earnest the tedious task of bringing tons of volcanic rock from the ridges above the town to the temple site. Load after load of hard black rock, hauled onto the marshy spot. The next step was to crush the rock, but how ? The pioneers came up with an ingenious plan. Why not pound down the foundation footings with their historic town cannon.


[ one old story is that the cannon was manufactured in France, was taken by Napoleon in his siege of Moscow. Napoleon abandoned the cannon as he retreated from the burning city, and from there it was dragged to Siberia and thence to Alaska, finally landing at Fort Ross California. Members of the Mormon Battalion returning from their historic March of 1846, obtained the cannon mounted on wheels and hauled it homeward. This instrument of war would have one last assignment, a higher calling.]

The above story sounds good but was found not to be true. The true story is that in 1860, Erastus Snow requested Jesse W. Crosby to buy a cannon while he was on a trip to California and bring it back to St. George. He said that he would be paid for it out of the militia funds then the territorial legislature appropriated money. Jessie Crosby paid for the cannon and hauled it back from California, but the governor of the territory refused to sign a bill appropriating any money, so Jesse Crosby didnít get paid.

When Jesse W. Crosby didnít get his pay he had no use for the cannon but he let them go on and use it for an artillery company in St. George. Later when the territorial militia wasnít meeting in St. George any more, Jesse Crosby took the cannon back. When the boggy ground was found on the site of the St. George Temple, they had no pile driver to drive rocks down into the bog so they borrowed Jesse Crosbyís cannon. The saints brought black volcanic rock from the ridge around the valley. The cannon barrel was filled with lead, and weighed close to a thousand pounds and it was lifted up 30 ft and dropped

With a system of pulleys rigged to teams of horses and fastened to the old cannon, now filled with lead, the pioneer workmen crafted their only "power tool". Over and over they hoisted, then dropped the heavy hammer, until with relentless pounding solid foundation footings were formed.

After then were finished with the Cannon, it was left near the temple. In 1883 Jessie Crosby melted the lead out of the cannon. After that the people in St. George took it up above the town and fired it on the 4th and the 24th of July. That practice continued for many years. Today the proud old cannon, mounted on the Temple grounds, has earned a place of peace and honor.

As the volcanic rock was made firm the masons laid up great slabs of sandstone and the foundation began to take shape. The cannon method had worked. The Temple was underway. As the building progressed, seldom were there any less than 100 workers a day at the site. The faithful came from all over, leaving homes before daybreak and walking, sometimes many miles, to work on their beloved Temple.

After an amazingly short period of five and a half years, and much back-breaking effort, the Temple was completed and ready for dedication.

Brigham Young, himself a builder by trade, set the standards at the beginning. He first called Truman Angell, Church Architect, to draw up plans. His next step was to find just the right person who could guide the whole building process and keep up the morale of the workers as well. Miles P. Romney, respected master-builder was Brigham's choice.

Others prominent in the work were James Andrus, Edward M. Brown, Thomas Judd and Daniel D. McArthur, who with their mule teams hauled most of the seventeen thousand tons of black volcanic rock and sandstone. Over a million feet of lumber was used in constructing the building. Much of it was hand-hewn, then hauled from Mt. Trumbull, 80 miles away, or from Pine Valley Mountains, a distance of 37 miles north of St. George . Some lumber came from as far as the Buckskin Mountains on the Kaibab Forest. The overall massive removal was supervised by Robert Gardner and other faithful members.

George Jarvis had charge of all scaffold making and hoisting devices at the quarries and at the Temple, while Albert Foremaster and Ed Wilbank supervised the production and delivery of lime.

As the Temple began to take form and shape, every detail was considered. William Burt was in charge of plastering and David Milne supervised painting and decorating.

This pattern continued for the five years and one half years the Temple was under construction. The people mentioned here are few among many who sacrificed that a Temple might stand today in St. George.

The Temple Is Dedicated April 6, 1877

Built in record time of 5 1/2 years Brigham Young points out a flaw.

From his winter home in St. George Brigham Young watched with great satisfaction the progress of the Temple. This stately building rising in the valley was an inspiring sight. The people were relieved to see the Temple nearing its completion and looked forward to its final dedication, April 6, 1877.

As the time drew near and the finishing touches were added, Brigham Young realized something was not right. The tower and dome, just added, simply did not compliment the temple. In his own words, "They are too short and squatty." He suggested an immediate change but the people, worn out after their non-stop effort to build the Temple resisted. Brigham Young, sympathetic, relented. Church leaders and members hailed the Temple as a great monument of its time, praising Brigham Young for his insight as a Prophet and the stalwart people of St. George for their dedication and hard work. Following the dedication Brigham Young returned to his home in Salt Lake City, where he died August 29th 1877 at the age of 76. His objection to the tower and dome was forgotten, as the people began to enjoy their beautiful temple.

All was peaceful in St. George until the night of October 16th 1878. History records a terrible storm of crashing thunder, rain and flashing lightning. Without warning, a tremendous bolt struck and destroyed the Temple tower and dome that Brigham Young had so disliked. When things calmed down the unanimous feeling was that even in death, Brigham Young had his way. The people made the observation out of deepest respect for their late prophet and immediately designed and replaced the tower and dome with a tall, handsome steeple that stands today.

A Mormon Temple, The House of the Lord

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, ( the word Saints meaning members) the most important and sacred building on earth is the Temple.

To members of the Church in good standing, the Temple is a place of holiness and peace, apart from the daily world, where members worship and learn and serve. The glad message of the restored Gospel and the Temple is that family relationships can continue forever.

The blessings of the Temple are restricted to no privileged class. Every member of the church may have admission with the right to participate if he or she lives a worthy life.

New temples are continually being planned and constructed throughout the world. As each is completed, the public is invited on special guided tours. Following dedication, the new Temple is open only to members in good standing who live their lives according to God's commandments.

Simply stated, the Temple is built to honor the Lord. To Mormons it is the most sacred place on earth.

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