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Scott G. Winterton, Dnews
Draper Utah Temple in September 2008

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Temple — with its angel Moroni statue atop the central-east spire — is perhaps the world's most iconic Mormon image.

But most individuals outside the LDS faith would incorrectly consider it to be the inaugural temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Not only is the Salt Lake Temple not the oldest in LDS history, it's not even the oldest in Utah.

The first LDS temple was built and dedicated in 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio. The edifice, used for meetings and instruction rather than the type of ordinances currently performed by temple patrons, still stands, but it is no longer owned by the church.

The original Nauvoo Temple was completed in 1846, two years after the martyrdom of church founder Joseph Smith and shortly before the Latter-day Saints were forced from the city and began their exodus to the Salt Lake Valley. It was destroyed by arson.

The Salt Lake Temple was the first temple started in Utah Territory, with construction beginning in 1853. But three other temples were finished before the April 6, 1893, dedication date — in St. George (1877), Logan (1884) and Manti (1888).

Those four Utah temples are Nos. 1 through 4 of the church's list of 132 operating temples worldwide, with another 20 either under construction or having been announced by church leaders.

The next LDS temple — built in Laie, Hawaii, in 1919 — was the first outside the North American continent.

The LDS Church constructed only 11 temples over the next six decades, highlighted by late-1950s temples in Bern, Switzerland; Hamilton, New Zealand; and London; as well as the lookalikes in Ogden and Provo in the early 1970s and subsequent temples in Washington, D.C., and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

During the 1980s, the number of LDS temples more than doubled — 17 of the 26 dedicated that decade came between 1983 and 1985. Besides placing temples in the likes of Tokyo, Mexico City and Sydney, the church built its first temples in Africa (Johannesburg, South Africa) and behind the Iron Curtain (Freiberg, Germany).

Another 25 temples were dedicated during the 1990s — 15 alone in 1999. The LDS Church's 50th operating temple was dedicated in St. Louis in 1997; other temples from the '90s were found in Hong Kong; Madrid; Toronto; and Bogota, Colombia.

The church's most prolific year in temple dedications came in 2000, with the rush to meet — and exceed — then-President Gordon B. Hinckley's goal of having 100 operating temples by the end of the calendar year.

The Boston Massachusetts Temple earned the No. 100 honor in October 2000, with two Brazilian additions — in Recife and Porto Alegre — pushing the final count to 102 to close out the year.

Since then, 30 additional temples have been dedicated in locations ranging from Manhattan in New York to Aba, Nigeria, and from Snowflake, Ariz., to Perth, Australia.

President Thomas S. Monson has dedicated eight temples in his tenure of nearly two and a half years as head of the LDS faith, including the Draper Utah and Oquirrh Mountain Utah temples last year and the Gila Valley Arizona and Vancouver British Columbia temples this year.

In October 2009 general conference, President Monson said 83 percent of the LDS Church's nearly 14 million members live within 200 miles of a temple.

Two more temples will dedicated soon — in Cebu City, Philippines, next month and Kyiv, Ukraine, in August. The other 18 under construction include temples in Rome; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Sapporo, Japan; and Concepcion, Chile.

e-mail: taylor@desnews.com