Looking back on the rich history of the Jordan River Temple

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

A crowd gathers on the 15-acre plot at 10200 S. 13th west to see the Jordan River Temple cornerstone sealed in Dec. 1981.

Deseret News Archive

Related list: A complete list of Mormon temples

The Jordan River Utah Temple was intended to be a workhorse.

Covering 153,000 square feet and 15 acres of property at its dedication in 1981, the new house of the Lord was designed to have the largest capacity of any temple at that point (25 percent larger than the Ogden and Provo temples).

In a symbolic gesture during the 1979 groundbreaking, President Spencer W. Kimball departed from the traditional shovel method in favor of a hard hat and construction machinery.

“You will notice the large power-scoop shovel,” said President N. Eldon Tanner, who conducted the groundbreaking service. “It will be operated by President Kimball, in keeping with his oft-quoted counsel to ‘lengthen our stride.’”

Following its dedication, the Jordan River Temple quickly became one of the busiest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even with the Salt Lake Temple less than 15 miles away.

Three decades after its dedication, the Jordan River Temple, the 20th temple worldwide and seventh built in Utah and the second in the Salt Lake Valley, continues to be a workhorse in an era of accelerated temple work. Here is a look back at its rich history.

“There is a particularly warm feeling about the Jordan River Temple,” said Janet Kruckenberg, secretary to current temple president Robert P. Haight. “Prior to moving to Utah, we came to the Jordan River Temple from time to time. There was always such a welcoming feeling there.”

A new temple

With attendance at the Salt Lake, Ogden and Provo temples at all-time highs in 1977, President Kimball announced plans for the Jordan River Utah Temple at a news conference in the Church Office Building on Feb. 3, 1978. At that time, temples were also under construction in Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Seattle, Mexico City and American Samoa.

After formally acquiring the property, a twist came when church leaders learned the temple straddled two areas with different zoning laws. It was fortunate that the part of the temple in the section with more restrictive regulations for height did not include the tallest parts of the building. There were no height restrictions in the zone where the 200-foot-tall tower and statue of the angel Moroni would be built, sparing architects the challenge of designing new blueprints. As for the gold statue of Moroni and his trumpet, it’s interesting to note that the Jordan River Temple is one of five temples featuring Moroni holding the gold plates.

Tear drops are an architectural theme found in the fence and spire.

The campaign

Jordan River was the first temple whose construction and maintenance costs for many years were funded entirely by monetary donations from local members. The temple site was also a gift to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1978, a large fund-raising campaign was started in the temple district, which included 122 stakes. When the campaign ended just over a year later, the members had contributed $14.5 million — 110 percent of the original goal, according to a 1981 Church News article. The temple site was also gifted to the church.

Of the thousands who sacrificed to contribute, a few stories are recorded in Chad S. Hawkins’ book “Holy Places.” One woman with cataracts was saving money for an operation to restore her sight. She emptied her entire account and gave everything to the temple.

Another woman struggling to give up smoking committed to her bishop to not only give up her habit, but to donate to the temple fund what she had been spending on cigarettes.

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