The Salt Lake Temple is a worldwide icon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church. The massive granite, six-spire edifice was constructed in a neo-gothic style over the course of an astounding 40-year period between 1853 and 1893; the pioneers who settled the valley sacrificed both time and material goods to the building of the temple, which stands as a testament to their faith and devotion.
Inscribed on the facade of the temple in gold lettering is the phrase "The House of the Lord." Mormons believe that the temple is literally that: a place where they can go to be especially close to their God. Perhaps most significantly, they believe that if they remain faithful to sacred promises made in the Church's temples, their family relationships can be eternal, extending beyond death. This helps explain why building the temple was a top priority once they reached the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
The Mormon pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley were known for their resourcefulness. But when it came to designing and building Temple Square, they spared no effort or expense; for example, Brigham Young sent architect Truman Angell to Europe to study the great cathedrals and religious structures of the Renaissance so that the temple would compare in majesty to those historic structures. Craftsmen, stonemasons, and team drivers, and laborers of all strengths and skill levels gave whatever time they could spare to the project. Because Mormons believe that the temple is a special, sacred place, they willingly offered all that they could to further its construction and its beauty.
Pioneers began construction on the temple in 1853 using oxen to haul mammoth blocks of granite 15 miles down a canyon and across the valley to the building site. This process was slow and difficult, and limited progress on the temple. Building was halted briefly in 1858 when Johnston's Army made an expedition to Utah. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 meant that granite could soon be taken to the temple site by rail. This greatly sped up the construction process. The fact that it would still be another 23 years before the temple's exterior was completed teaches about the awesome magnitude of this project for the pioneers.
Finally, 39 years after starting construction began, the capstone of this magnificent structure was put in place in 1892. Following the completion of the temple exterior, work on the temple only intensified. Carpenters, artists, glassblowers, seamstresses, and others worked almost constantly to create a beautiful, sublime interior to match the majestic exterior. The plush and ornate interior was completed just 12 months later.
The pioneers who sacrificed so greatly to build this temple rejoiced at its completion, and saw it as a symbol of the legacy of faith that they sought to leave behind for their posterity. Mormon president Wilford Woodruff offered the temple to the Lord in the dedicatory prayer, saying, "We come before Thee with joy and thanksgiving, with spirits jubilant and hearts filled with praise, that Thou hast permitted us to see this day for which, during these forty years, we have hoped, and toiled, and prayed, when we can dedicate unto Thee this house which we have built to Thy most glorious name."
The temple, which cost a total of $3.5 million to build, boasts foundation walls 16 feet thick and 16 feet deep. The walls that rise from the foundation are nine feet thick at the base tapering to six feet at the top. Particularly noteworthy is the temple's highest spire, reaching 210 feet, which is topped by the famous 12½-foot statue of the Angel Moroni made of hammered copper thickly overlaid with gold leaf and designed by renowned American sculptor Cyrus Dallin.
In visiting the Salt Lake Temple, please be aware that only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are permitted to enter the temple, but all visitors are welcome to peruse the grounds and admire the stunning workmanship of the building and the serene beauty of its immediate surroundings.
Some information courtesy the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.