The Salt Lake Temple, built of gray granite and featuring six spires, is an internationally recognized symbol of the Mormon faith. Brigham Young announced plans to construct the temple on July 28, 1847, shortly after the first Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Construction began in 1853, with a groundbreaking ceremony on February 14th and a cornerstone laying ceremony on April 6th. Forty years later, after much toil, sacrifice and opposition, the temple was complete. On April 6, 1893 the temple was dedicated by Wilford Woodruff at the conclusion of the Church’s multi-day General Conference.
A description of that morning’s weather offers insight into the great spiritual significance with which the Latter-day Saints viewed the dedicatory services:
“When the sixth of April, 1893, was ushered in, the sky was overcast with lowering clouds, through which there were occasional glimpses of sunshine. A strong breeze from the northwest gradually increased in violence until by ten o’clock the wind was blowing a perfect hurricane. From that hour until noon it seemed as if the ‘prince of the power of the air’ was giving vent to his fiercest wrath. Then there was a slight fall of rain and snow, and the wind softened to a gentle breeze. But the atmospheric disturbance did not deter any who were privileged to attend the opening dedication service” (The Contributor, 292).
President Woodruff, in his journal entry for the day, documented the joy and spiritual outpouring that accompanied the dedication of the temple:
“The dedication of the Temple Commenced at 10 oclock [sic]. Near 3,000 Assembled at the upper room. I attended the Dedication of the Temple. The spirit & Power of God rested upon us. The spirit of Prophesy [sic] & Revelation was upon us & the Hearts of the People were Melted and many thing wer [sic] unfolded to us. We Met in the Afternoon at 2 oclk [sic] & we had a glorious time. W Woodruff & G Q Cannon & J F Smith occupied most of the time. W Woodruff offered up the prayer in the forenoon & G Q Cannon in the Afternoon” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9:246).
The joy the Latter-day Saints felt at the completion and dedication of the Salt Lake Temple is due, in part, to their conviction that they were fulfilling prophecy:
“Ages agone, in far-off Judea, the Prophet Micah predicted that ‘in the last days’ the mountain of the house of the Lord should be ‘established in the top of the mountains,’ and be ‘exalted above the hills.” Forty-four years ago, the Prophet Brigham, standing on a desert spot in a mountain valley, where all around seemed hopeless desolation, declared, ‘Here will be the Temple of our God!’ Today, the thousands of dwellers in these mountain vales are witnesses to the fulfillment of the ancient and modern prophecy” (The Contributor, 243).
The Salt Lake Temple dedicatory prayer was written by Wilford Woodruff with some input from George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, his counsellors in the First Presidency. In his journal entry for March 17, 1893, President Woodruff wrote, “We read over the Dedicatory Prayer and made some Aditions [sic] to it.” On the following day President Woodruff “wrote some addition to the Prayer” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9:244). The dedicatory prayer is chiastic, featuring chiasms and parallelisms throughout that shed light on different aspects and purposes of the temple. Chiasms in the dedicatory prayer are predominantly complementary, with the full meaning obtained by integrating the meanings of comparable statements. Complementary chiastic comparisons may be less apparent than equivalent or contrasting comparisons. (For further information on types of chiasms see our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.)
This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of one particular chiasm that focuses on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Afterward, diagrams of several additional chiasms and parallelisms are presented, but are given a less-detailed treatment.
[Note: For an excellent history of the construction and dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, read the April 1893 issue of The Contributor (a Church magazine from that time) that has been referenced in this introduction.]
Diagram and Analysis:
A: O Lord, we regard with intense and indescribable feelings the completion of this sacred house.
B: Deign to accept this the fourth temple which Thy covenant children have been assisted by Thee in erecting in these mountains.
C: In past ages Thou didst inspire with Thy Holy Spirit Thy servants, the prophets, to speak of the time in the latter days when
D: the mountain of the Lord’s house should be established in the tops of the mountains,
D: and should be exalted above the hills.
C: We thank Thee that we have had the glorious opportunity of contributing to the fulfillment of these visions of Thine ancient seers,
B: and that Thou hast condescended to permit us to take part in the great work.
A: And as this portion of Thy servants’ words has thus so marvelously been brought to pass, we pray Thee, with increased faith and renewed hope, that all their words with regard to Thy great work in gathering Thine Israel and building up Thy kingdom on earth in the last days may be as amply fulfilled, and that, O Lord, speedily.
A=A: “[T]he completion of this sacred house” complements “this portion of Thy servants’ words has thus so marvelously been brought to pass.” The completion of the Salt Lake Temple is the fulfillment of prophecy. Recognizing this increased their faith and renewed their hope that all prophecies — specifically, the gathering of Israel and the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth — would also be fulfilled. Each fulfillment of prophecy, if recognized, should have this same effect.
B=B: “Thy covenant children have been assisted by Thee” is complemented by “Thou hast condescended to permit us to take part.” In their forty years of laboring to construct the Salt Lake Temple, they were “assisted by Thee” who “condescended to permit us to take part.” The Latter-day Saints viewed their sacrifice in time, talent, and means as a privilege rather than a burden.
C=C: “In past ages Thou didst inspire with Thy Holy Spirit Thy servants, thy prophets, to speak of the time in the latter days” is complemented by “fulfillment of these visions of Thine ancient seers.” Multiple ancient prophets had foreseen and foretold the construction of the Salt Lake Temple.
D=D: “[S]hould be established in the tops of the mountains” is equivalent to “should be exalted above the hills.” These are the words of the prophets Micah and Isaiah in the Old Testament. Nephi also quotes these words in the Book of Mormon. (For further discussion of this prophecy, refer to Chapter 2 of Isaiah: The Times of Fulfillment, a Verse-By-Verse Commentary by Ivan D. Sanderson)
#1: Chiasmus in the opening and closing paragraphs of the dedicatory prayer show these paragraphs to be nearly identical in substance. Both declare the glory of God and humbly seek for Him to “hear these our humble petitions” and to “grant that the blessings which we seek may be bestowed upon us.”
A: Our Father in heaven, Thou has created the heavens and the earth, and all things that are therein; Thou most glorious One, perfect in mercy, love, and truth,
B: we, Thy children, come this day before Thee, and in this house which we have built to Thy most holy name, humbly plead the atoning blood of Thine Only Begotten Son, that our sins may be remembered no more against us forever,
C: but that our prayers may ascend unto Thee and have free access to Thy throne, that we may be heard in Thy holy habitation.
C: And may it graciously please Thee to hearken unto our petitions, answer them according to Thine infinite wisdom and love,
B: and grant that the blessings which we seek may be bestowed upon us, even a hundred fold, inasmuch as we seek with purity of heart and fullness of purpose to do Thy will
A: and glorify Thy name.
A: And now, our Father, we bless Thee, we praise Thee, we glorify Thee, we worship Thee, day by day we magnify Thee, and give Thee thanks for Thy great goodness towards us, Thy children,
B: and we pray Thee, in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ, our Savior, to hear these our humble petitions,
B: and answer us from heaven, Thy holy dwelling place,
A: where Thou sittest enthroned in glory, might, majesty, and dominion, and with an infinitude of power which we, Thy mortal creatures, cannot imagine, much less comprehend. Amen and Amen.
#2: This chiasm describes the purpose for dedicating the temple — “that Thy glory may rest upon it: that Thy holy presence may be continually in it.” Three categories of visitors to the temple are then listed: First, “Thy Well-Beloved Son, our Savior,” who would make his “abode” in the temple; second, “the angels who stand before Thy face,” who would act as “hallowed messengers … bearing to us Thy wishes and Thy will;” and third, “all people who may enter upon the threshold of this, Thine house.” As a “sanctified and consecrated” building, the power of God would be felt here.
A: that Thy glory may rest upon it; that Thy holy presence may be continually in it;
B: that it may be the abode of Thy Well-Beloved Son, our Savior; that the angels who stand before Thy face may be the hallowed messengers who shall visit it, bearing to us Thy wishes and Thy will,
C: that it may be sanctified and consecrated in all its parts holy unto Thee, the God of Israel,
C: the Almighty Ruler of Mankind.
B: And we pray Thee that all people who may enter upon the threshold of this, Thine house,
A: may feel Thy power and be constrained to acknowledge that Thou hast sanctified it, that it is Thy house, a place of Thy holiness.
#3: The following two chiasms emphasize the primary importance of preserving the records of temple ordinances. Hence, only “perfect” accuracy in performing and recording the ordinances is “acceptable unto Thee.”
A: We pray Thee, Heavenly Father, to accept this building in all its parts from foundation to capstone, with the statue that is on the latter placed, and all the finals and other ornaments that adorn its exterior.
B: We pray Thee to bless, that they decay not, all the walls, partitions, floors, ceilings, roofs and bridging, the elevators, stairways, railings and steps, the frames, doors, windows, and other openings, all things connected with the lighting, heating, and sanitary apparatus, the boilers, engines, and dynamos, the connecting pipes and wires, the lamps and burners,
C: and all utensils, furniture and articles used in or connected with the holy ordinances administered in this house, the veils and the altars, the baptismal font and the oxen on which it rests, and all that pertains thereto, the baths, washstands and basins.
D: Also the safes and vaults in which the records are preserved, with the records themselves, and all books, documents, and papers appertaining to the office of the recorder,
D: likewise the library with all the books, maps, instruments, etc., that may belong thereto.
C: We also present before Thee, for Thine acceptance, all the additions and buildings not forming a part of the main edifice, but being appendages thereto; and we pray Thee to bless all the furniture, seats, cushions, curtains, hangings, locks, and fastenings, and multitudinous other appliances and appurtenances found in and belonging to this Temple and its annexes with all the work or ornamentation thereon, the painting and plastering, the gilding and bronzing, the fine work in wood and metal of every kind, the embroidery and needlework, the pictures and statuary, the carved work and canopies.
B: Also the materials of which the buildings and their contents are made or composed—the rock, lime, mortar and plaster, the timbers and lath, the wood of various trees, the gold and silver, the brass and iron, and all other metals, the silk, wool, and cotton, the skins and furs, the glass, china, and precious stones,
A: all these and all else herein we humbly present for Thine acceptance and sanctifying blessing.
A: Bless, we pray Thee, Heavenly Father, all who may be workers in this house. Remember continually Thy servant who shall be appointed to preside within its walls; endow him richly with wisdom of the Holy Ones, with the spirit of his calling, with the power of his Priesthood, and with the gift of discernment.
B: Bless, according to their calling, his assistants and all who are associated with him in the performance of the ordinances—baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, sealings, endowments, and ordinations which are performed herein, that all that is done may be holy and acceptable unto Thee, Thou God of our salvation.
B: Bless the recorders and copyists, that the records of the Temple may be kept perfect, and without omission and errors, and that they may also be accepted of Thee.
A: Bless, in their several positions, the engineers, watchmen, guards, and all others who have duties to perform in connection with the house, that they may perform them unto Thee with an eye single to Thy glory.
#4: This chiasm addresses the altars where the sealing ordinances are performed and the sealing blessings pronounced. In doing so, it emphasizes the dynamics of the covenant relationship between God and his “servants and handmaidens.” As we treat the altars with reverence, the Lord will “sanctify” them, and as we “realize the sacredness of the covenants,” the Lord will “accept” our efforts and grant “all the blessings pronounced.” The Holy Ghost plays a major role in helping us develop this reverential attitude and in helping us sacredly keep our covenants.
A: Our Father in heaven, we present before Thee the altars
B: which we have prepared for Thy servants and handmaidens
C: to receive their sealing blessings.
D: We dedicate them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, unto Thy most holy name, and we ask Thee to sanctify these altars,
E: that those who come unto them may feel the power of the Holy Ghost resting upon them,
F: and realize the sacredness of the covenants they enter into.
F: And we pray that our covenants and contracts which we make with Thee and with each other
E: may be directed by Thy holy Spirit,
D: be sacredly kept by us, and accepted by Thee,
C: and that all the blessings pronounced
B: may be realized by all Thy Saints
A: who come to these altars, in the morning of the resurrection of the just.
#5: In addition to dedicating the temple building, the dedicatory prayer also applies to Temple Square, or “the whole of this block or piece of ground.” This chiasm shows that the “surrounding walls and fences, the walks, paths and ornamental beds” along with the “trees, plants, flowers and shrubbery” contribute greatly to making Temple Square “a place of rest and peace, for holy meditation and inspired thought.”
A: O Lord, we pray Thee to bless and sanctify the whole of this block or piece of ground on which these buildings stand,
B: with the surrounding walls and fences, the walks, paths and ornamental beds,
B: also the trees, plants, flowers and shrubbery that grow in its soil; may they bloom and blossom and become exceedingly beautiful and fragrant;
A: and may Thy Spirit dwell in the midst thereof, that this plot of ground may be a place of rest and peace, for holy meditation and inspired thought.
#6: Extending beyond Temple Square, this parallelism describes how the dedicatory prayer applies to anyone within eyesight of the temple and those who turn their heart toward their temple covenants. Such would find a listening ear and “mercy and tender compassion” from Heavenly Father in all their difficulties.
A: Heavenly Father, when Thy people shall not have the opportunity of entering this holy house to offer their supplications unto Thee, and they are oppressed and in trouble, surrounded by difficulties or assailed by temptation
B: and shall turn their faces towards this Thy holy house and ask Thee for deliverance, for help, for Thy power to be extended in their behalf,
C: we beseech Thee, to look down from Thy holy habitation in mercy and tender compassion upon them, and listen to their cries.
A: Or when the children of Thy people, in years to come, shall be separated, through any cause, from this place,
B: and their hearts shall turn in remembrance of Thy promises to this holy Temple, and they shall cry unto Thee from the depths of their affliction and sorrow to extend relief and deliverance to them,
C: we humbly entreat Thee to Turn Thine ear in mercy to them; hearken to their cries, and grant unto them the blessings for which they ask.
#7: The “perfect hurricane” raging around the temple at the moment the dedicatory prayer was given provides a vivid demonstration of the preserving power of God described in this chiasm.
A: Preserve these buildings, we beseech Thee,
B: from injury or destruction by flood or fire; from the rage of the elements,
C: the shafts of the vivid lightning,
C: the overwhelming blasts of the hurricane,
B: the flames of consuming fire, and the upheavals of the earth-quake,
A: O Lord, protect them.
#8: The sealing power by which the ordinances of the temple are made valid was restored to the earth by Elijah the prophet on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland Ohio Temple (see D&C 110:13-15). This chiasm explains the function and ultimate purpose of the sealing power.
A: O Thou God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose God Thou delightest to be called, we thank Thee with all the fervor of overflowing gratitude that Thou hast revealed the powers by which the hearts of the children are being turned to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children, that the sons of men, in all their generations can be made partakers of the glories and joys of the kingdom of heaven.
B: Confirm upon us the spirit of Elijah, we pray Thee, that we may thus redeem our dead and also connect ourselves with our fathers who have passed behind the veil, and furthermore seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection, that we who dwell on the earth may be bound to those who dwell in heaven.
B: We thank Thee for their sake who have finished their work in mortality, as well as for our own, that the prison doors have been opened, that deliverance has been proclaimed to the captive, and the bonds have been loosened from those who were bound.
A: We praise Thee that our fathers, from last to first, from now, back to the beginning, can be united with us in indissoluble links, welded by the Holy Priesthood, and that as one great family united in Thee and cemented by Thy power we shall together stand before Thee, and by the power of the atoning blood of Thy Son be delivered from all evil, be saved and sanctified, exalted and glorified.
#9: This chiasm addresses the massive work of searching out the records of the dead, much of which is accomplished by those “who have not yet entered into covenant with Thee.” These would be blessed with an increased “desire in their bosoms” to “search out their progenitors” and would have opened before them “new avenues of information.” In this way, they would “aid in the accomplishment of Thy work.” Endowed with greater power, the Latter-day Saints would be permitted to receive visits from “holy messengers” who would “make known unto us with regard to the work we should perform on behalf of our dead.”
A: Wilt Thou also permit holy messengers to visit us within these sacred walls and make known unto us with regard to the work we should perform in behalf of our dead.
B: And, as Thou has inclined the hearts of many who have not yet entered into covenant with Thee to search out their progenitors, and in so doing they have traced the ancestry of many of Thy Saints,
B: we pray Thee that Thou wilt increase this desire in their bosoms, that they may in this way aid in the accomplishment of Thy work.
A: Bless them, we pray Thee, in their labors, that they may not fall into errors in preparing their genealogies; and furthermore, we ask Thee to open before them new avenues of information, and place in their hands the records of the past, that their work may not only be correct but complete also.
#10: This chiasm describes the Constitution’s role in protecting religious freedom and celebrates the “softening [of] hearts” that allowed the Latter-day Saints to be treated “as fellow citizens, and not as enemies.” Additionally, it describes the responsibility the Latter-day Saints have to “do everything in our power to maintain Constitutional rights and the freedom of all within the confines of this great Republic.”
A: We thank Thee, O God of Israel, that Thou didst raise up patriotic men to lay the foundation of this great American government.
B: Thou didst inspire them to frame a good constitution and laws which guarantee to all of the inhabitants of the land equal rights and privileges to worship Thee according to the dictates of their own consciences.
C: Bless the officers, both judicial and executive. Confer abundant favors upon the President, his Cabinet, and Congress. Enlightened and guided by Thy Spirit may they maintain and uphold the glorious principles of human liberty.
D: Our hearts are filled with gratitude to Thee, our Father in heaven, for Thy kindness unto us in softening the hearts of our fellow citizens, the people of this nation, toward us.
E: That which Thou hast done has been marvelous in our eyes.
E: We thank Thee that Thou didst move upon the heart of the President of our nation to issue a general amnesty.
D: Thou hast removed prejudice and misunderstanding from the minds of many of the people concerning us and our purposes, and they are disposed to treat us as fellow citizens, and not as enemies.
C: In this holy house we feel to give Thee glory therefore, and we humbly ask Thee to increase this feeling in their hearts. Enable them to see us in our true light. Show unto them that we are their friends, that we love liberty,
B: that we will join with them in upholding the rights of the people, the Constitution and laws of our country;
A: and give unto us and our children an increased disposition to always be loyal, and to do everything in our power to maintain Constitutional rights and the freedom of all within the confines of this great Republic.
#11: In this chiasm, the softening of hearts toward the Latter-day Saints that occurred in the United States is expanded worldwide. As the nations of the earth come to accept the testimony of the apostles, “oppression [will] cease, the yoke of the tyrant broken, and every despotic form of government overthrown.” This spread of liberty will help usher in the “reign of righteousness and truth.”
A: Remember in mercy, O Lord, the kings, the princes, the nobles the rulers, and governors and the great ones of the earth, and likewise all the poor, the afflicted and the oppressed, and indeed, all people,
B: that their hearts may be softened when Thy servants go forth to bear testimony of Thy name, that their prejudices may give way before the truth, and Thy people find favor in their eyes.
C: So control the affairs of the nations of the earth, that the way be prepared for the ushering in of a reign of righteousness and truth.
C: We desire to see liberty spread throughout the earth,
B: to see oppression cease, the yoke of the tyrant broken, and every despotic form of government overthrown
A: by which Thy children are degraded and crushed, and prevented from enjoying their share of the blessings of the earth, which Thou hast created for their habitation.
#12: As citizens of the United States the Latter-day Saints had “joined the two great national parties” and participated in the election process. In the fulfillment of their public duties the Latter-day Saints are to “avoid bitterness and strife, and to refrain from words and acts in political discussions that shall create feeling and grieve Thy Holy Spirit.” They are to “cultivate that spirit of affection and love which Thou art desirous that all the children of men should entertain one for another, and which Thy Saints, above all others, should cherish.”
A: O God, the Eternal Father, Thou knowest all things. Thou seest the course Thy people have been led to take in political matters. They have, in many instances, joined the two great national parties. Campaigns have been entered upon, elections have been held, and much party feeling has been engendered.
B: Many things have been said and done which have wounded the feelings of the humble and the meek, and which have been a cause of offense.
C: We beseech Thee, in Thine infinite mercy and goodness, to forgive Thy people wherein they have sinned in this direction.
C: Show them, O Father, their faults and their errors, that they may see the same in the light of Thy Holy Spirit, and repent truly and sincerely,
B: and cultivate that spirit of affection and love which Thou art desirous that all the children of men should entertain one for another, and which Thy Saints, above all others, should cherish.
A: Enable Thy people hereafter to avoid bitterness and strife, and to refrain from words and acts in political discussions that shall create feeling and grieve Thy Holy Spirit.
A study of chiasmus in the Salt Lake Temple dedicatory prayer draws our attention to different aspects and purposes of the temple. For example, temples are houses of God and places of revelation, where the glory of God can be felt and visitations from the Savior and the angels of God can occur; temples are sanctified by God in response to the reverence shown to them by Church members; accuracy in performing and recording sacred ordinance work is of primary importance; God blesses the efforts of non-Mormons who conduct family history research, since their findings support ordinance work for the dead that occurs inside temples; and the protecting power of God extended in the dedicatory prayer not only applies to the temple and its grounds, but to those who keep their temple covenants, wherever they may be. This fuller understanding of temples will strengthen our faith and deepen our worship.