St. George Utah Temple: Exploring the History of the Latter-Day SaintsOctober 13, 2011 No Comments
When we travel, Dad and I try to move beyond the glossy tourist attractions and dig deeper into the local culture. We love to learn the history of each place that we visit, from the geological records to the human events. While in Utah, one of our goals was to learn a bit about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), originally known as the Mormon Church. We knew that the church was instrumental in founding portions of Utah, including the town of St. George, so we decided to pay a visit to the St. George Utah Temple.
About the Temple
Although the temple in Salt Lake City was begun first, the St. George Utah Temple was the first to be completed in Utah. It was dedicated in 1877, and was the only temple completed during Brigham Young’s 30-year presidency of the church.
The highly ornate temple has undergone renovations several times, although much of the original look was retained. The first renovation began just a year after the temple opened, when the tower was badly damaged in a lightning storm. It was replaced with a taller and more majestic tower. The annex was destroyed in a fire in 1928, although all records and furnishings were saved. A new annex opened in the 1950s. Extensive renovations took place in 1937 and again in 1975, nearly doubling the size of the temple.
The temple is not open to the public, although visiting members of the church are always welcome. Instead, the church operates a large visitor center on the site. Admission is free, and the visitor center is open from 9 to 9 daily.
Dad and I arrived in the early afternoon, after spending the morning at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site. We read some informational signs on the early history of the temple and took a few photos from the road before entering the visitor center.
The center was staffed with friendly and welcoming church volunteers. After a bit of small talk, one of the volunteers offered to show us around. The center was packed with religious artwork, photos of various church leaders and displays related to both the temple and LDS life. Dad was particularly enthralled by the large display of copies of the Book of Mormon translated into numerous languages. There was no Hebrew translation, but there was an Arabic version. It was quite interesting to see how many languages were available.
The temple was visible through a large plate-glass window. Beneath the window was a set of photographs and descriptions of the various temple rooms. It was wonderful to see depictions of the interior. Everything was elegant, yet tasteful.
During our tour, our guide asked if we were members of the church. We explained that we are not, but that we are curious. She was happy to answer our questions and share details of both historic and modern LDS life. Dad even asked the hard questions regarding divorce and other controversial topics, and she was ready with simple, honest answers.
At the end of the visit, we were offered a Book of Mormon and invited to make an appointment with a missionary. At no time did we feel pressured or proselytized to, only welcomed as visitors and invited to learn as much as we cared to.
Tips for Parents
The visitor center is a wonderful place to visit, regardless of your own religious affiliation. Utah was largely settled by Mormon pioneers, and a trip to the visitor center adds perspective to the state’s history. The church volunteers are quite helpful, whether your interest lies primarily in historical research or modern LDS life.
Kids are welcome, and the volunteers go out of their way to make them feel comfortable. There is a lot to look at, and children’s questions are answered honestly and thoughtfully. Of course, how long you spend will largely depend on your children’s attention span.
It is entirely up to you whether you accept a Book of Mormon or make arrangements to meet with a church representative. Although the offer is made, there is no pressure. As we understand it, the visitor center is meant to be a repository of information rather than any sort of “conversion center.” We ended up spending close to an hour asking detailed questions, but you could easily see the center in 30 minutes or so.