ST. GEORGE — A day anticipated by Latter-day Saints the region over for the last four years finally came to pass Sunday with the rededication of the St. George Utah Temple.

Acting President Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with his son, Elder Matthew S. Holland in front of the St. George Temple prior to receiving a tour of the temple on the eve its rededication, St. George, Utah, Dec. 9, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., St. George News

In addition to the temple being rededicated and subsequently reopened, the rededication was handled by one of St. George’s native sons for whom the temple holds personal significance.

President Jeffery R. Holland, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared what the temple meant to him.

“This is special to me because it’s the temple I grew up with as a child,” Holland said. “It’s where I was baptized, it’s where I was endowed, it’s where my wife and I were sealed … I love all the temples, but there is something special about the St. George Temple.”

The rededication of the St. George Temple took place over two sessions on Sunday within the temple itself and was also broadcast to select LDS chapels. Holland conducted the rededication ceremony from the temple’s assembly room with several other rooms inside the temple packed with attendees.

“I’m old enough that I don’t know how many crowning moments I have left, but this is surely a special experience,” the 83-year-old Holland said of being able to rededicate his hometown’s temple. “Unanticipated, not expected, but dearly deeply appreciated.”

The St. George Utah Temple, St. George Utah Temple, August 2023 | Photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., St. George News

The general public was unable to take part in the rededication as Latter-day Saint temples are accessible only to church members considered to be in good standing by local church leaders. Each temple is also seen by the church as a “House of the Lord” where the spirit of God dwells and church members can go to feel closer to God while also seeking spiritual inspiration and peace.

“We go there to be like him (God),” Holland said. “We go there to feel what he was and what he would have us be and that’s why we go to his house.”

Unique to the St. George Temple are the murals painted in the temple’s endowment room. They reflect the geology and landscape of the region with one of the rooms featuring a landscape of desert, sagebrush and red rocks that one may see on a drive through Snow Canyon, while another room highlights the verdant meadows and forests of the Pine Valley area.

While these murals are unique to the St. George Temple, the practice of having temple endowment rooms painted to reflect the natural features of where they are built is not.

Latter-day Saints await the St. George Utah Temple rededication. Acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Jeffrey R. Holland presided and offered the dedicatory prayer, St. George, Utah, Dec. 10, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., St. George News

In addition to the murals, there are over 230 pieces of art throughout the temple’s interior. The art often portrays scenes from The Book of Mormon and Bible, church history and various portraits of Jesus Christ.

“Most of the artwork we have in the temple points to the Savior Jesus Christ and what he has done for us,” Enrich Kopischke, an assistant executive director of the church’s temple department, told media during a tour of the temple in early September.

The St. George Temple is one of a handful of Utah pioneer-era temples – including the Salt Lake and Manti temples – that were closed in 2019 for renovations. This was the second major renovation for the historic St. George Temple that was originally conceived by church president Brigham Young in 1871.

“It was Brigham Young who was meeting with some of the local priesthood leaders in January of 1871 when he casually raised the idea of building a temple in St. George, which was kind of a shock to them because this was really an outpost of the church at that time,” former church historian and St. George native Steven E. Snow said.

The second round of renovations to the temple saw to the replacement of the temple’s mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems while also strengthening the foundation. It also included the demolition of the temple’s western end and north annex, which were rebuilt to match the overall architecture of the building.

St. George Temple with taller tower and annex, circa 1900 | Photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., St. George News

One of the purposes of the renovation was to restore much of the exterior and interior to how it looked in the 1870s and 1880s.

As for the temple grounds, there are “new plazas that improve access to temple entrances and provide gathering spaces for families and friends,” the church stated in a press release following the rededication. “The street on the north side of the temple is now a pedestrian plaza with gardens, seating and a water feature. From the east side of the temple, visitors can sit in an additional landscaped plaza and admire the temple’s front façade.”

The temple grounds are also more water-efficient now and have a more “park-like feel” to them, said Andy Kirby, director of the church’s historic temple renovations.

“We reduced the total amount of lawn area and increased the amount of plant area and used plants that are appropriate for this arid climate,” Kirby said. “And we planted several areas early so they could mature by the time the temple is open and dedicated. And it’s beautiful. I’m really excited for people to experience the grounds of the St. George Temple.”

Among local residents who have ancestral ties to the St. George Tempe is Dana Moody, who along with her husband Russ helped coordinate the temple’s open house and rededication. She had a great-great-grandfather named George Brooks who was one of the temple’s original stone carvers.

The St. George Utah Temple on the day of its rededication, St. George, Utah, Dec. 10, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., St. George News

“It is a great honor and a privilege to be a decedent of George Brooks,” she said, adding that being able to go to the temple has helped her learn more about God and make the same promises and covenants in the temple that her ancestors have.

“I’m then connected to my ancestors in a very special way,” Moody said.

Latter-day Saint temples are considered “Houses of the Lord” for members of the faith and are among their most sacred places of worship.

A primary purpose of temples is for faithful church members to participate in ceremonies related to marriage as well as proxy baptisms and other ordinances on behalf of deceased ancestors.

Temples also are central to the church’s longstanding doctrine related to the “eternal nature of the family,” which teaches a family unit can be “sealed” together for eternity in the afterlife. The eternal binding of the family can extend back through the generations, which is why Latter-day Saints place heavy emphasis on genealogical research. It allows them to find ancestors whose names they can take to a temple where proxy ceremonies on behalf of that ancestor can be performed.

The temples also are considered a place Latter-day Saints can go to find peace and comfort in the face of difficult times or trying decisions as they seek to connect with the Almighty.

Photo Gallery

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.