The Salt Lake LDS Temple is an Iconic Structure and Landmark

Nothing Says "Mormon" More Than the Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple
The iconic Salt Lake Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Photo courtesy of the Mormon Newsroom © All rights reserved.

Nothing seems to say Mormon more than the Salt Lake Temple. This magnificent, unique structure towered over Salt Lake City for many decades. It defined the skyline. Even though other structures now tower over it, the temple remains iconic and the most recognized building in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Spot Selection and Construction

In July of 1847, the first company of Latter-day Saint pioneers stepped foot into the Salt Lake Valley.

On July 28, Brigham Young, announced that the new temple would be built on a particular spot. Plans for construction started soon thereafter.

Young broke ground for the temple in 1853. Forty years later in 1893, and after Young's death, the Salt Lake Temple was finally finished under Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff was the fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (LDS/Mormon). The temple finally was dedicated unto the Lord as a sacred house of worship.

Since that time, Mormons have built many temples. However, none resemble the Salt Lake Temple in any significant way. Its spires and symbolism remain unique, even in Mormondom.

What Temples Mean to Mormons

To the pioneers who settled in the Salt Lake Valley, the temple was more than just a building. Besides being a symbol of the LDS faith, it signified our devotion to Heavenly Father and the covenants we make with Him. 

All the necessary covenants and ordinances to return and live with Heavenly Father after our deaths take place in the temple. These covenants and ordinances help bind families together for eternity. Temples are not used for regular Sunday worship. Regular worship takes place in meetinghouses built for that purpose.

The Salt Lake Temple is the Heart of Mormondom

Although the St. George and Logan temples were constructed and dedicated more quickly than the Salt Lake Temple, the Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City. It was the first location settled in what would finally be the Saints' permanent home.

The temple stands on a 10 acre plot of ground in the literal center of the city. This plot is known as Temple Square. Surveyors were instructed to plot the city in a grid system and square as the compass.

Every street and address is a reflection of where it is located in relation to the temple. For example, 600 South is six blocks south of Temple Square; 300 West is three blocks to the west. Most other Mormon settlements also used a grid system.

The Temple Was Always Intended to Last For Eternity

Although the temple was built from scratch by impoverished pioneers trying to eke out an existence in the new land, Brigham Young insisted on the highest quality materials and workmanship.

Young told the laborers that the temple would not just be for today or tomorrow, but for all eternity. Naturally, a temple of this magnitude and quality took time to construct

The early Saints sacrificed their time, their skills, their resources and much else in constructing this marvel.

It will continue to stand in the heart of the city and in the hearts of the LDS people.

Explore the History of the Salt Lake Temple

Updated by Krista Cook.

Learn some of the history of the Salt Lake Temple with these interesting facts.

  • On 28 July 1847, merely days after the arrival of the first wagons of Latter-day Saint settlers in the Great Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young, the Church’s second president, drove a cane in the hard, dry ground and announced that at that precise location they would build a temple.
  • Surveyors were instructed to lay out city blocks on a grid pattern with the temple literally at the heart of the city. Streets were named, and continue to be known, for their distance and direction from Temple Square.
  • The temple was begun in 1853. It was finished in 1893. It took 40 years.
  • Brigham Young broke ground for the temple. Heber C. Kimball dedicated the site. At the time, he was the first counselor in the First Presidency.
  • President Wilford Woodruff dedicated the temple in 1853 in 31 separate dedicatory sessions. The sessions took place in the large assembly room on the temple's fourth floor. It took about three weeks to complete the sessions.
  • Brigham Young died before the temple was completed.
  • Work on the temple was halted and the entire foundation was buried to hide it from Johnston's army. The army was sent by President Buchanan to occupy the Utah territory.
  • Skilled craftsman who had joined the Church worked on the temple, while simultaneously trying to eke out a living in Utah. Many of the craftsman came from England, Wales, Scotland, Scandinavia and the eastern United States of America.
  • The temple has 170 rooms. This includes four sealing rooms and one ordinance room.
  • The walls of the temple are 9 feet (2.7 meters) thick at the base and 6 feet (1.8 meters) thick at the top.
  • Each granite block of the walls weighs between 2,500 and 5,600 pounds (1,134 to 2,540 kilograms).
  • The granite was hauled by oxen, and later by railroad, from a granite quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Temple Square.
  • Little Cottonwood Canyon is the home of Alta and Snowbird ski resorts.
  • There was a permanent Church camp at the granite quarry. It could handle 30-40 men working 10-hour days, six days a week.
  • The stones were hauled by wagon from the quarry to the temple site along a road that was riddled with hills and gullies, streams and sandpits. Three or four yoke of oxen and full-time teamsters were required to make the four-day round-trip journey from the quarry to the temple block.
  • Expert stone cutters carved the granite blocks to fit perfectly into place at the temple site.
  • It could take weeks to cut and dress an individual stone.
  • At one stage of construction, workers discovered large cracks in the temple foundation walls. Workers removed all the stones and began again with higher quality stones.
  • The temple is approximately 119 feet by 181 feet, and has over 253,000 square feet of floor area. The Salt Lake Temple has six spires towering above its main area; the center spire on the east end is the highest — reaching 210 feet in the air.
  • This spire is topped by a 12½-foot statue depicting an ancient American prophet from the Book of Mormon named Moroni. The three-ton statue was hammered out of copper and overlaid with 22-karat gold leaf.
  • A heavy weight is attached to the statue's feet and suspended inside the spire so the statue can sway slightly in the wind without breaking.

Updated by Krista Cook.