“The Desert Shall Rejoice, and Bloom as the Rose”

Lesson 36 – Our Heritage, pgs. 81-96


When you look at the Salt Lake Temple, you don’t see deep into the ground where a strong foundation of stone blocks provides support for the temple walls.  That stone foundation has supported the temple for the last 150 years.  Just as the temple needs a strong, deep foundation, so do our lives.  This lesson will not only discuss the building of the Salt Lake Temple, but it will also present principles upon which the pioneers built their lives—a good example for us to follow.


The Salt Lake Temple Site

Just four days after their entry into the Salt Lake Valley, President Young chose the site of the Salt Lake Temple.  Sticking his cane on the ground, he said, “Right here will stand the temple of our God” (Deseret Evening News, 25 July 1888, 2).  Then, the sacrifices required and the attendant blessings of constructing a third temple began.  Less than a week later, surveys for the new city layout commenced, centering the city on the planned temple.


Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “The pioneers were hungry and weary; they needed food and rest; a hostile desert looked them in the face; yet in the midst of such physical requirements they turned first to the building of temples and to the spiritual food and strength that the temples provide” (Conf. Rpt., Apr. 1943, 38).


The temple should be more central to our lives.  President Howard W. Hunter taught: “We…emphasize the personal blessings of temple worship and the sanctity and safety that are provided within those hallowed walls.  It is the house of the Lord, a place of revelation and of peace.  As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience… May you let the meaning and beauty and peace of the temple come into your everyday life more directly” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 87-88).


After thousands of hours of excavation—done laboriously by hand—the cornerstones of the large foundation were laid on 6 April 1853.  Years of foundation preparation and construction were halted for a while because of problems with the U.S. government.  Motivated by reports that the Mormons were rebelling, the President sent army troops to the Salt Lake Valley.  The Saints covered the temple’s foundation during that time so that the temple site appeared to be an ordinary field.  Later, when the sandstone foundation was unearthed, cracks had appeared in the foundation, so President Young had the foundation replaced with solid granite blocks—consistent with Pres. Young’s insistence that only the best be incorporated into the House of the Lord.  He said: “I want to see the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium.  This is not the only temple we shall build; there will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord…and when the Millennium is over,… I want that temple still to stand as a proud monument of the faith, perseverance and industry of the Saints of God in the mountains, in the nineteenth century” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 395).


During the many years of quarrying, transporting, and shaping the granite for the temple, the Saints struggled for survival.  They suffered crop losses, were called to serve foreign missions, and left home to establish colonies in remote areas of the west.  Despite the constant challenges, their perseverance and the Lord’s assistance let them win the battle.  Dedicated in 1893, it had taken some 40 years to build the temple after the cornerstones had been laid. There’s a lesson there!  Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU President, compared building our lives to the temple’s building effort: “The prestigious Scientific American referred to [the Salt Lake Temple] as a ‘monument to Mormon perseverance.’  And so it was.  Blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The best things are always worth finishing.  ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?’ (1 Corinthians 3:16)  Most assuredly we are.  As long and laborious as the effort may seem, we must keep shaping and setting the stones that will make our accomplishments ‘a grand and imposing spectacle.’  We must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow, dream dreams and see visions, work toward their realization, wait patiently when we have no other choice, lean on our sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again…We are laying the foundation of a great work—our own inestimable future” (However Long and Hard the Road [1985], 127).


Obedient Saints settled and colonized the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding territory

See Our Heritage, pages 82-84, “The First Year in the Valley” and “Explorations”.  From these stories we learn the characteristics which helped overcome great difficulties in the first years in the valley.  We also learn how the Saints were blessed while enduring adversities.


See “Callings to Colonize”, Our Heritage, pages 86-89.  The stories of Charles Lowell Walker and Charles C. Rich teach valuable principles—including the tremendous value of obedience.  Our Church history and the scriptures teach the value and blessings of obedience to the Lord and His servants.  Think about what each of these passages teaches about this principle:

·        D&C 58:2-4. We will be “crowned with much glory” for keeping the commandments and faithfully obeying the Lord’s direction

·        D&C 64:33-34. The willing and obedient in Zion reap blessings in the last days

·        D&C 82:10. The Lord will assuredly bless us when we obey the commandments

·        D&C 93:1. The repentant who come to the Savior and keep the commandments will see Him

·        D&C 130:19-21. Knowledge and intelligence gained here through diligent obedience will give us an advantage in the eternal life we seek after mortality.


Sacrifices were willingly made by missionaries as they went to teach the gospel throughout the world

With a responsibility to preach the gospel to the world, President Young wasted no time in calling missionaries to serve in North America and throughout the world.  See Our Heritage, pages 84-86, Missionaries Answer the Call”.   In these accounts we see the areas of the world in which the gospel was preached; the sacrifices required of the early Saints to support the work; and how the faith and prayers of Elder Lorenzo Snow helped open the hearts of the people in Italy to the gospel.


For some 33 years, President Young presided over the Church. Following his death in 1877, he was succeeded by John Taylor, President of the Twelve. After three years, President Taylor was sustained as the third President of the Church in 1880 at October Conference.  President Taylor continued to send missionaries across the globe to preach and teach—see “Missionary Work”, Our Heritage, pages 93-96.  Be prepared for class discuss on the following items from your reading:


·        More areas of the world were opened while President Taylor directed the work. 

·        Milton Trejo was guided through his life to be able to participate in building the kingdom.

·        We can learn from the stories of Elder Thomas Biesinger, Elders Kimo Pelio and Sameula Manoa, Elder and Sister Dean, and Jonathan and Kitty Napela.


In the Salt Lake Valley, a strong foundation for the temple was complemented by building a strong foundation for the lives of the Saints.  Are we following that example of faith, perseverance, diligence, obedience, willingness to share the gospel, and enduring to the end?


Lessons may be found on the Internet at www.neumanninstitute.org