Thursday, September 1, 2011

The St. George Utah Temple

Today I'd like to write a little about the St. George Utah Temple.

St. George Utah Temple (see original)
This temple was the first completed after the Nauvoo Temple (the Salt Lake Temple was started before, but took 40 years to complete) making this the oldest temple owned by the LDS church (Kirtland is older but not owned by the LDS church and the Nauvoo Temple was rebuilt in 2002).

The Exterior
The temple sits on an entire city block, giving it its own temple square including a visitor's center and nice grounds which have Christmas lights in the winter.  The temple is very similar to the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, but shows some new temple characteristics.  The most prominent new features are the crenelations, buttresses, and other castle architecture.  During this pioneer time period the temples used this architecture to represent the literal Kingdom of God on Earth and the protection that our temple covenants and ordinances give us.  The temple is bright white.  This is actually a stucco over red sandstone.  The Logan Temple originally had a similar white finish, but the church let the Logan Temple's finish wear off so now you just see the dark stone.

The exterior has few symbols, but it does have the following:
Beehives on the St. George Utah Temple staircases (original photo)
  • Beehives appear on each side of the two front door staircases.  These are a symbol of industry, cooperation, community, Zion, Utah, etc.
  • The aforementioned castle architectural features are symbolically used.
  • The tower has 16 five-pointed stars along the top, just below the dome.
  • The tower also has a weather vane on top.  This was used for practical reasons (like Nauvoo's clock tower with bell) but it can also symbolize how the temple helps us understand life and how to move through life (overcoming storms, knowing which way to go, foreseeing dangers). 
St. George Utah Temple Tower (original photo)
The exterior of the St. George Temple has changed through the years.  Originally it had a short, squatty, poorly proportioned spire that Brigham Young complained about.  Because the temple was already completed he begrudgingly let the spire remain that way.  Several months later Brigham Young died, then the tower was struck by lightning and burned to the base of the spire.  The saints decided that Brigham Young had got his way in the end and rebuilt the spire much taller.  The original temple also had an odd looking round turret towards the back that has obviously been removed at some point.
The St. George Utah Temple shortly after completion
Original plans for the temple called for a different "Holiness to the LORD, The House of the LORD" inscription than the one currently used.  The inscription was supposed to be around the small circular window at the top of the square portion of the tower.  The word "Holiness" would have been written along the top half of the circle and the rest of the inscription, dates, etc. would have filled up the space beneath the window.  So in shape the inscription stone would have resembled the one on the Salt Lake Temple but with a small window where the words "to the" appear.  Instead the inscription looks like this.  I like the original design much better.  If the church is ever redoing the stucco and thinks about moving the inscription, I hope they move it to where it was originally planned.  You can see the original inscription plan in the visitor's center.

The Interior
The interior of the St. George Temple is very nice, but it has changed throughout the years.  Originally it was laid out like the Nauvoo Temple, so it was just two assembly halls, one on top of the other, sealing rooms, and a baptistry.  Later, (1881) one hall was divided into endowment rooms with murals using solid partitions and not the curtains originally used.  In 1937-38 these changes were made permanent.  Other changes due to painting, remodeling, and adding a staircase and annex building have changed the temple.  For the most part it retains its historical feel.

The baptistry used to look like this.

St. George Utah Temple Baptistry
The current baptistry is very similar.  The font is very similar, although the decorative grillwork on the steps appears to have been lost.  A mural of Christ has also been added as well as some chandeliers.  A picture of the current baptistry can be seen here or in the visitor's center.  One nice thing to look at in this baptistry, is the doorknobs to the font room.  They are original to the temple and very ornate brass (or something similar).  They remind me of the original Logan, Manti, and Salt Lake Temple doorknobs.  I don't know if there are other original doorknobs in the temple.  The confirmation rooms weren't anything special and could be improved upon in my opinion, but in general I really like this baptistry.  There is also a model of the temple in the waiting room for some reason.

The endowment rooms have nice murals.  The current murals date to 1937-38 when the lower hall was formally partitioned off into the current endowment room layout (although some division of rooms had been completed in 1881).  The rooms were further altered in the 1975 remodel that changed from the live actor format with progression (moving from room to room) to staying in a single room and watching the acted portions of the endowment on a movie screen.  In my opinion, this lessons the effect of the temple as you only see one mural of the three intended.  It also doesn't make the temple any more efficient.  You could still use film and move from room to room with the same temple capacity as the current setup.  I hope they restore the movement.  I don't have a picture of the Creation room (and have not been in it).  Here are pictures of the Garden and World endowment rooms:
St. George Utah Temple Garden Room
St. George Utah Temple World Room
Currently you stay in one room until the end and then move into the Terrestrial Room for the last part of the ceremony.  The room can be seen below.  It is stunning in person.  The columns are cluster columns and their shape in plan looks like the cross shaped pattern on the exterior of the temple (which is also along the top of this room and the Celestial Room).  There are also five-pointed stars running along the top of this room and the Celestial Room.  The front of the room is semicircular.  Desert pinks and pretty blues color the room in an elegant southwest color scheme.  This is one of my favorite Terrestrial rooms (and the picture doesn't do it any justice).
St. George Utah Temple Terrestrial Room
The Celestial Room is also well done with the aforementioned stars.  It also has cluster columns matching those in the Terrestrial Room.  These are painted to look like stone.  There is a small staircase leading to a sealing room in the tower pictured below.  The ceiling also arches elliptically.  It is a fine example of pioneer architecture, although quite a bit plainer than the Manti or Salt Lake Temples (which isn't a bad thing).
St. George Utah Temple Celestial Room
St. George Utah Temple Sealing Room
 Just outside the Celestial Room there is a staircase that takes you back to the dressing rooms.
St. George Utah Temple Staircase
There are also spiral staircases in the two corners on either side of the tower.  I asked to see these and was shown them.  They have central supports and were fairly simple spiral staircases.  They were also extremely hot.  Apparently they don't bother to air condition them because they aren't used often.

If you go upstairs you can see the original sealing rooms.  Most of these are along the north end of the temple where the middle row of circular windows is.  Many of the rooms are small with a single circular window opposite the door and a beautifully carved altar in the center.  As you walk to the sealing office you might notice that the walls are incredibly thick as you walk through an archway.  There is also a waiting room in the tower.  According to the temple workers, the other half of the sealing room floor is largely empty unfinished rooms.  I guess they have some space to expand.

The top floor of the temple houses the Priesthood Assembly Hall.  This assembly hall is used for special meetings and is similar to those in the Kirtland, Nauvoo, Logan, Manti, Salt Lake, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. Temples.  There are pulpits on each end of the room representing the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.  You can read more in the link.  This room has cluster columns like those in the Terrestrial and Celestial Rooms and gives you an idea of how the endowment and celestial rooms used to look before they were formally divided.  The same stars and other patterns are also in this room.  There are also stars on the pulpits.
St. George Utah Temple Assembly Hall
St. George Utah Temple Assembly Hall Pulpits
I like the St. George Utah Temple.  It has great pioneer style and fine craftsmanship.  I would restore the endowment room progression, replace doorknobs with replicas of the original doorknobs, redo the confirmation rooms, and redo the inscription on the temple's exterior.  Otherwise I love this temple and am glad we have it.

Please comment and let us know what you think about this temple, how it has changed, and how it is today.


Clark Herlin said...

I always love your posts. Where did you find the picture of the close-up of the pulpits? I am wondering if I can steal it and put it with my blog. Is that ok?

Scott said...

I found it somewhere online so you can use it. I try to link to the image source or state where I got an image from if I think there is a copyright issue.

Brett said...

I read somewhere(probably on here) that there were small bedrooms where newly weds could lodge for the night. Do you know what happened to those rooms?

Anonymous said...

The mentioned "round turret" actually wasn't connected to the Temple. You can see that this turret is not attached from another camera angle in this photograph:

Scott said...

That other photo is interesting because it shows the back without the stair addition.

As for small rooms, I have no idea if they existed or where. I don't know if they were in the temple or in an adjacent building.

Slim said...

Behind the Manti temple terrestrial room, the St George is my next favorite. The beauty is amazing and I love the round front of the room.

I also think they should change the temple back to a progression endowment where you move room to room.

Eva Hunter said...

I'm interested in the St. George Temple baptismal font. I'd like to know when it was updated from the picture of the original you have in your blog. I'm a writer, and I need this for research. Also, were the original oxen and the font made of copper/copper covered? I was there for a baptism for the dead in the early 60s and that's the way I remember it.

KirbyLue said...

The St. George temple is my favorite, so I just HAD to find out what the round turret was on the side, 'cause I had never heard of it before. So I did some asking around town... temple workers, older st. george residents, the vistors center missionaries... finally, someone gave me an answer as to what the turret was: a water tower that was used to fill up the baptismal font. Do you think that's right? It seems like it could be, but why not put it on the other side of the building if that was the case?

Scott said...

This could be the case; however, I seem to recall the St. George Temple being built on a spring that would already fill the font. I had assumed that the round turret was a smoke stack for a furnace in the annex, although it seems too large for that purpose. It likely was a water tank.

SMR said...

I have only been to this temple once but it has a really nice spirit about it. It does really need some restoration work done to it. Also the assembly room in this temple is unusable due to structural problems with this temple. I was told by a temple engineer they never let more that 20 people on the upper floors. Also the thing with the bedrooms was true but it was not just newly weds it was anyone traveling to the temple from afar. You have to remember this temple was the first after Nauvoo and really the fist of its kind. Because of that there also was no age limit on who could enter. I was told by a sister in the visitor center that children used to play in they upper floors, where the apartments were, as their parents received their endowments.

Brian said...

I am an ordinance worker in the St. George temple. I wanted to point out that the picture you have of the world room is not the world room.  Though the murals make it look like it would be a good world room.  It is in fact the creation room.  This creation room was not painted to be like chaos in space as some others are. It was painted to look like the world during the placing of animals and planting of seeds etc. without the carnivorous beasts.  This is the room that is on the north most side of the temple.
The large Turret is in fact a water tank not a furnace. As far as the stability of the temple,  there was an earthquake in 1994 which caused concern for the structure, though the engineers will always tell you that no meeting are held up there,  the truth is the floor is perfectly stable and sound and they have had a couple of larger sized (unknown to the public) meetings in the priesthood room (assembly hall) since the quake.

Brian said...

As for the upper rooms as apartments, there were some rooms on the 5th floor that were used for a variety of reasons, so if you here a story of a room or multiple rooms used for xyz reason during such and such time, it's probably true. Now all of he north side 5th floor rooms are used as overflow sealing rooms (quite antiquated and beautiful) except for the west most room which has a commercial AC unit in it. The south end 5th floor room are the same however they are only used as storage rooms and you can see the original old wood floors, however the floors are horrible looking.  The 5th floor has another interesting feature, that is the Holy of Holies.  In what is called "the power column" of the temple (which are the middle rooms between the large outside staircases going from bottom to top) up on the 5th floor of the power column was the original Holy of Holies.  Since there can only be one temple with a permanent Holy of Holies that room was reassign for another purpose after the completion of the Salt Lake temple.  That room is now a small locker room for the temple sealers.  Now, regional temples have temporary Holy of Holies which are just an assigned sealing room which must be connected to the celestial room (not all temples have a designated temporary Holy of Holies). However the picture in this post of the sealing room is called sealing room #6.  It is one of two sealing rooms connected to the celestial room and is the temporary Holy of Holies for that temple.  I confirmed this with one of the presidents.  The other sealing room is sealing room #5 and is grander and more beautiful and is coveted by many a brides, if they only new the sacredness of room #6.  These temporary Holy of Holies of course are used only on occasions where the highest of sacred ordinance are performed by an assigned general authority commissioned by the prophet to perform these rare ordinances.

Brian ( said...

One last thing.  Not sure if anyone is interested but I know the meaning of the gilded letters on the pulpits of the priesthood room in the st. George temple.  They are designed after the nauvoo temple but not exactly the same.  On the Aaronic side starting with the lowest pulpits.

PDQ - Presidents (not presidency) of the Deacons Quorums (not Quorum) (only presidents not counsilors)

PTQ - Presidents of the Teachers Quorums (only presidents not counsilors)

PPQ - Presidents of the Priests Quorums (this is where bishops sit) (not counsilors)

PAP - Presidents of the Aaronic Priesthood (this is where the presiding bishopric would sit) all three members of the presiding bishopric sit here because in this case, all three members of this bishopric are actually ordained to the office of a bishop and all three are equal presidents presiding over the entire Aaronic priesthood.

On the Melchizedek side are the following.

PEQ - Presidents of the Elders Quorums (presidents only not counsilors)

PHPQ - Presidents of the High Priests Quorums (presidents only no counsilors).( This would be where stake presidents would sit)

PSZ - Presidents of the Seventies in Zion. (this is where presidents of the seventies would sit in their rightful place above the high priest)

PMPMH - Presidents of the Melchizedek priesthood of the most high. ( this is where the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost would sit. In their stead is the first presidency.  All three are equal presidents over this priesthood.  The quorum of the 12 apostles did not sit here as they are presidents of nothing and hold no presiding keys, but work on assignment from the first presidency similar to that of a stake high councilor working on assignment from the stake president.

Brian said...

Correction: I hadn't been in the priesthood room for a while so I wanted to verify the gilded letters on the pulpits. I went up to the room again and verified All were correct except for the last one. PMPH - Presidents of the Melchizedek Priesthood of the Highest.

Also, I was looking through my 1960 temple pamphlet which highlights the st. George temple. The reason why people think that the image above is the world room is because of a mistake made in the editing of the pamphlet. It says it is the world room when it clearly is the creation room (door of chaos) as that is the room that has the chairs face west which was the case only for the creation room, all other endowment rooms chairs faced east.

I also had the great opportunity to view the arched ceiling over the garden room, currently there is a flat ceiling over the garden room, but above it is the old arched ceiling that extends to the terrestrial and celestial rooms. This ceiling area also had the old star and cloud symbols along the crown moulding.

Brian said...

One other thing I found interesting as I went to the priesthood room the other day was the image above of the priesthood room shows two things that are different now. The first one is that the beautiful three arch glass window behind the aronic pulpits doesn't seem to exist anymore because the back annex was installed so I assumed it was taken out, however I went into the annex directly behind where the window would be and in the ceiling is a small latch that opens up for access to pipes and wire etc. and low and behold I saw that beautiful old three arched window with the original panes of glass (some broken) from what would be the outside of the temple. I was told that when they built the annex they simply dry walled over it and painted. The two shorter long window on either side of that window has been taken out and turn into modern doors with no arch.
The other alteration from the picture above is the black symbols along the moulding that you can see every 10 feet or so. If you go in now you will see the same star and cloud symbols as seen in the celestial room in order as star cloud star cloud and so on, however, years ago some of the cloud symbols were actually large open wholes that we're open through to the 5th floor sealing rooms above and the old round windows in the sealing rooms would pivot open. This served a vital function in hot st. George summers. As the heat would rise to the priesthood room those large wholes (cloud symbols) would evacuate the the hot air sending it quickly into the sealing rooms and out the round windows. once the hvac was installed this was no longer needed so they have been covered, thus now they look white instead of black. If you are ever in the 5th floor sealing room hallways You will see an 18 in by 18 in plank of wood painted white up against the wall right along the floor about every 10 feet or so. These are the covers that were installed to block the wholes which made the cloud symbols in the priesthood appear to be white now instead of black.
The symbols were in the following order starting at the aronic priesthood end.
Star, open cloud,star, cloud, star, coud, star, open cloud, and so on in that order, you may notice that the open clouds are directly between each pilar, each open cloud shows you where a sealing room is on the fifth floor (though not all the sealing rooms are actually being used as sealing rooms and don't have alters in them).

GenGenie said...

Thank you for putting this site together with the historic temple photos. I love seeing many of the things of the temple as it was prior to the 1977 re-modeling. My minds eye often reminds me of what was there before the changes. I have missed the beautiful murals. The building itself is such an important part of my family's family history that I love to share it's history with all of my family members. To realize how much sacrifice and hard work went into its construction fills my heart. Thank you so much.

Jake said...

I was recently going through the Church History Library's catalog, and found an interesting entry.

It was for an item entitled "Saint George Utah Temple architectural design guide, 2012" The description says it was produced by the Special Projects Department and includes photos, floor plans, a history, and design vision for the temple. It was created for architects if "needing to remodel or otherwise alter the temple"

I live in Southern Utah and after the announcement of the Cedar City Utah Temple this past general conference (April 2013) there's been speculation that part of the reason for the Cedar City Temple was so the St. George Temple could be remodeled.

While this is all speculation perhaps this newly written report shows at least some in the Church think it's time for a remodel more appropriate for a history building and this is a step in that process.

Here's the URL for the catalog entry:

Braden said...

I was sealed in the st George temple and the temple worker told us the same thing that could use to stay. Also, to get to the sealing room we were sealed in you have to go through the celestial room so all attending have to be in white. Very unique a and different from other sealing rooms