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Valentine's Day and the history of the Salt Lake Temple

Published: Monday, Feb. 14 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

To mine the granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon, hundreds of would men would dangled their friends over the side of the mountain. Those who were dangling over the edge would pound wedges into the side of the canyon wall every few inches.

Then when everyone was ready, they would pound and shout together – almost like with rap music — and when they heard a crack, they new the face of the mountain would fall down.

When they heard the crack, they would yell “pull” and the people holding the ropes would hopefully lift them before they were hit by the falling granite.

They were mostly successful with pulling them up, Black said. However, in one case, the face of the mountain took off Brother Livingston’s arm.

His arm was later found, but it left him in a quandary, which he wrote about in his journal: What should he do with the arm? Bury it and hope that he’s buried with it when he dies? Or, should there be a funeral for the arm?

In end it was pickled, Black said.

“When Brother Livingston was buried, his detached arm was placed across his body so they would be together,” she added.

Once the face of the mountain fell, it was cut into relatively smaller blocks. One of the pieces of granite was cut into 2,500 blocks.

“They were absolutely huge,” Black said.

With oxen teams and ropes to hold them in place, the granite blocks were slowly brought down the canyon to Temple Square.

As the teams with these huge blocks passed, farmers in the fields would put down tools and come to side of the road and sing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning," and housewives, schoolchildren, shopkeepers and others would sing as the stones wheeled past their homes, schools (every stone meant recess) and businesses.

At Temple Square, the stonecutters would dress the stones and make them ready for the masons.

“They were perfectionists,” Black said of the stonecutters, many of whom had come from England and had worked on the palace or other impressive buildings. “They didn’t like every stone that was brought to Temple Square.”

So what did they do with those stones? They, like the sandstone, couldn’t leave Temple Square.

Later, the Assembly Hall on Temple Square was made of the “undressed” or rough stones that were brought in for the temple, Black said.

Black’s ancestors worked on the temple.

“They weren’t stonecutters, but they knew how to carry rocks,” she said.

Building the temple

“Brigham Young had planned for the temple to be as decorative as the Nauvoo Temple,” Black said. “Meaning, there would be faces in the sunstones.”

The granite was very laborious to carve, but a consistent decorative element was needed.

Scientist and mathematician Orson Pratt was asked to draw the phases of the moon in the month of April and those were used on the outside of the temple.

President Young eventually died as did President John Taylor but, “The temple continues to rise,” Black said.

In 1892 and Wilford Woodruff was the president of the LDS Church. It had been 39 years since that Valentine’s Day when President Young turned over the shovel. The spires were there, but the interior was completely unfinished.

“It’s this amazing shell of a building,” Black said.

Angel Moroni

President Woodruff wanted a statue of Angel Moroni on the tallest tower, but he didn't want one like the weather-vane style one like on the Nauvoo Temple.

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