In the latter part of July of 1847 the first group of pioneers arrived in this the Great Salt Lake Basin. Due to the fact that it was late in the season and they would have to sustain themselves through the winter, that was just a few months away, work started immediately to get crops planted. Also building of shelters was started to help sustain themselves in the coming months.
Even though there was an urgent need for the work of building shelters and planting crops on July 28, 1847, Brigham Young selected a 40 acre site for the Temple to be built on and from that site the city was to be laid out perfectly square, north, south, east and west. The Temple site was later reduced to 10 acres and now sits at the center of Salt Lake City.
Truman O. Angell was chosen as the architect in 1852 and the ground breaking for the new Temple was in 1853. The corner stones were laid for the Temple on April 6, 1853.
By the end of June of 1855 the foundation of Red Butte sandstone was nearly complete but troubles with crops and failures required most of the workmen to be pulled from the project.
Then on July 24, 1857, word was received of Johnston's Army coming to quell the supposed Mormon uprising and so the foundation and stone work was buried and the site plowed to make it look like a field for crops and then left that way until 1861 after the army had left.
When the foundation was uncovered it was found to be defective. There were cracks in the sandstone and some deterioration in parts of the foundation so it was decided that it needed to be torn out.
On discovering the problems Brigham Young had sent all the workers home and then he sat down on the foundation and then stated that he would sit there until the Lord revealed to him what to do to correct the problem. As he sat contemplating he was approached by Bishop Gardner, the Bishop of the Salt Lake Ward at the time who asked him what he was doing.
Brigham explained that he intended to sit there until the Lord told him what to do about the foundation and Bishop Gardner after looking at the foundation told Brigham that the mortar was the problem. The foundation needed to be torn out and a new foundation laid of granite but with no mortar. The blocks needed to cut and trued so that they would lay stone against stone.
Brigham arose from his seat on the foundation, slapped Bishop Gardner on the shoulder and said "I have my revelation."
The original sandstone foundation was 10 feet thick at the top and 16 feet thick at the bottom and was 8 feet in height. The top of the foundation sat 8 feet below the ground level on the east side of the site. This foundation was replaced with a granite foundation that is 16 feet thick and 8 feet in height.
The Granite Quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon had started operation in 1860, the granite was there and it was available but it was 22 miles from Salt Lake and the Temple site. For a good 15-18 years the granite was hauled to the Temple site on wagons pulled by oxen or mules. Some of the granite blocks were a good 4,000 to 5,000 pounds each and it would take four days to make a round trip with the wagons.
It took until 1867 for the first course of stone to rise above ground level. There were 600 granite blocks in each course of stonework and it would take 2-3 years to complete each course.
An interesting observation can be found by looking at the windows of the Temple. When walking around close to the outside walls it is noticeable that the windows are inset almost three feet into the wall. That is the same on the inside of the building. Those windows are set in the center of the walls. The thickness on those upper walls is 6 feet thick sitting on a foundation that is 16 feet by 8 feet of solid granite.
By 1877 when the Brigham Young died the walls were just up to the first story but with the coming of the railroad in 1869 things changed. Within just a few years after the linkup of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit there were rail lines laid south to Utah county and also from Sandy to the Granite Quarries.
That solved a major obstacle for the builders. Now the granite could be hauled by railroad and work on the Temple construction accelerated drastically. On April 6 1892 at a ceremony Wilford Woodruff set the capstone by using electricity. At that ceremony he called on the Saints to continue their effort and finish the interior of the Temple so that it could be dedicated the following year.
April 6, 1893, Wilford Woodruff dedicated the Salt Lake Temple. That day was 40 years to the day after the groundbreaking ceremonies in 1853. At the time of the dedication only 11 of the General Authorities and the workmen who attended the ground breaking were still living.
The Salt Lake Temple is truly a monument to the strength, courage, tenacity and faithfulness of those men and women who entered this Valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847.