History of Mormon Temples
The temples of the Mormon Church are one of its most unique and distinguishing characteristics and a fruition of Mormon beliefs in the afterlife and in the purpose of our lives here on earth. Since earliest Mormon history, the prophets and members of the Mormon Church have sacrificed to build and worship in these sacred buildings. In comparison to most other Christian churches, Mormonism stands virtually alone in affirming the importance and centrality of proper authority and the use of this authority, called Priesthood, to guide Christ’s Church and build and operate Temples for the salvation of the living and the dead. In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord Jesus Christ declared, “my people are always commanded to build [temples] unto my holy name” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:39).
Since the first Mormon temple was dedicated in 1836, 124 temples have been built, though the first two, the Kirtland Temple and the Nauvoo Temple were lost as the Mormons fled persecution. Since the Mormons settled in Utah, they have continued building temples wherever there are sufficient members, and those in outlying areas are encouraged to attend the Mormon temple at least once in their life. The building of temples signifies the maturity of the Mormon Church in a particular region, as can seen in Japan, Ghana, Switzerland, or Mexico. Since the 1970s, over 100 temples have been built, with most of those in the period between 1997 and 2004 during the great building expansion program of Prophet and President Gordon B. Hinckley. The following traces the history of Mormon temples from 1830 to 2006.
As early as 1830, Joseph Smith received revelations indicating that God would require the young Mormon Church to build a temple. Even earlier, the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith had translated from the records of an ancient people who lived in the Americas, taught that God had commanded this people to build temples, just as God had commanded the ancient Israelites. … (read more)
In Ohio, the Mormons were building their community in Kirtland, a small community southeast of Cleveland. In May of 1833, at the same time the Mormons in Missouri were being driven from their homes, Joseph Smith received a revelation commanding the Mormons to build a House of the Lord in Kirtland to be “dedicated unto the Lord for the work of the presidency”…(read more)
After the abortive attempts to build temples in Missouri, both in Jackson County and later in Far West, Daviess County, the Mormons built their first true temple in Nauvoo, Illinois. In late 1838, the Mormons had been forcibly expelled from Missouri by the infamous Extermination Order which decreed that all Mormons who would not flee the state would be murdered… (read more)
On July 24, 1847, the first group of Mormon pioneers, led by Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve reached the Salt Lake Valley. Four days later, Brigham Young marked the spot for the building of their next temple which would serve as the center of their new city, Salt Lake City…(read more)
After most of the turbulence of the nineteenth century, which witnessed much persecution against the Mormons, the Mormon Church began to grow worldwide in the twentieth century. In 1915, President Joseph F. Smith announced the construction of the Laie Hawaii Temple, the first temple outside the continental United States…(read more)
Under President David O. McKay, who was president and prophet of the Mormon Church from 1951 to 1971, the Mormon Church once again concentrated itself on missionary work. Under President McKay, every worthy young man was asked to serve as a Mormon missionary, and the number of Mormon missionaries grew from a few thousand in the 1951 to tens of thousands by the 1970s…(read more)
In 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley became President and Prophet of the Mormon Church. Perhaps no person in Mormonism since Joseph Smith has had such an impact on Mormon temples and the presentation of Mormon temple ceremonies. After World War II, he helped oversee the project to transition Mormon temple instructional material to film to ease translation into foreign languages…(read more)
By 2006, there were 122 operating temples with 12 either in the planning or construction phase. President Hinckley said that the pace will slow from tremendous surge seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but will continue until there are temples to dot the earth and to bless all of God’s children. Currently there are Mormon Temples in dozens on countries….(read more)