When the Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah, they had left behind 2 temples—one in Kirkland, Ohio, and one in Nauvoo, Illinois. Work began on a temple in Salt Lake City in 1853, but was delayed for various reasons. Desirous of having a temple built in the new Mormon territory before his death, Brigham Young chose St. George as the "site" where the goal could be accomplished. Work on this unique structure, located 3 blocks east and five blocks south of here, began in November 1871. The majestic white landmark was dedicated in April of 1877.
The project was a cooperative effort of all the communities of Southern Utah. Similar to a public works project, it served as employment for people when money and provisions were scarce. Workers (as many as 250 at one time) obtained food for their families in return for their labor. Those living farther away furnished food stuffs and other commodities as their contribution to the project.
Difficulties were encountered throughout the six years of construction. In spite of water and sink holes in gypsum soil, Brigham Young could not be persuaded to change his mind about the site. A major draining system was built and volcanic rock from the Black Ridge to the west was hauled in and tamped deep into the earth with 1,000 pound cannon dropped from a hoist. The buildings walls are of the same sandstone found in the Tabernacle one block south of here.
When it was built, the temple stood alone, a good distance south of town. It is said that Brigham Young declared the temple would one day stand in the center of the city, that day has long since come.