To meet the needs of a growing and diverse membership, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has evolved its approach to temple construction and design over the years. This brief article examines major design phases of Latter-Day Saint temple construction.
The first temples of the modern Church were built as places of instruction and traditional worship, which featured large assembly and instruction halls. When the endowment ceremony was introduced, partitions were used to create the various stages of the endowment. These temples include the Kirtland Temple (1836), which fell out of Church ownership, and is now owned by the Community of Christ; the Nauvoo Temple (1846), which was destroyed by arson fire and rebuilt over 150 years later as the Nauvoo Illinois Temple (2002); and the St. George Utah Temple (1877), which has been remodeled inside to function as temples do today.
To better function for the presentation of the endowment, temples built by the Utah pioneers featured progressive-style muraled endowment rooms where instruction was given by live presenters. Large priesthood assembly rooms remained a feature in these temples, located above the endowment rooms. East and west towers represented the priesthood while battlements along the north and south walls gave the appearance of a castle fortified against the forces of evil. These temples include the Logan Utah Temple (1884), Manti Utah Temple (1888), and Salt Lake Temple (1893).
Mormon Settlement Temples
After the turn of the century, the Church recognized the growth of its membership in more distant settlements by building a temple for the first time outside the state where Church headquarters was located. This temple, the Laie Hawaii Temple (1919), was based on a design for a temple already under construction in Alberta, which retained progressive-style muraled endowment rooms but was much smaller, having no assembly hall nor any spires. Temple dedications followed the Hawaiian dedication for the Cardston Alberta Temple (1923), Mesa Arizona Temple (1927), and Idaho Falls Idaho Temple (1945). The Idaho Falls temple did feature a tower, which was patterned after an ancient Nephite temple beheld by the architect in vision.
Taking a temple to Europe brought a special challenge, as the staff and training required to present the endowment in various languages would be too difficult in an area where Latter-days Saints were few and scattered. Gordon B. Hinckley was given the challenge to overcome this obstacle, which he did through inspiration, conceiving the idea of using film to present the endowment in a single assembly-style endowment room. The idea was first realized in the Bern Switzerland Temple (1955) and then followed in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple (1958) and London England Temple (1958). These temples have since been remodeled to include multiple stationary endowment rooms.
In the late 1960s, it was clear that Utah's historic temples were operating above capacity, and Church members east of the Rockies still had to come west to attend the temple. This burden was lightened with three new Utah temples and a temple on east coast, each featuring escalators (since removed) and an unprecedented six endowment rooms: the Ogden Utah Temple (1972), Provo Utah Temple (1972), Washington D.C. Temple (1974), and Jordan River Utah Temple (1981).
Growth of the Church in the Pacific was recognized in the late 1970s, prompting the announcement of the Samoa Temple, which would serve as a regional temple for the Pacific Islands. After reconsideration, plans for this temple were replaced with plans for three smaller temples for the region: the Apia Samoa Temple (1983), Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple (1983), and Papeete Tahiti Temple (1983). This design was also taken to the east and west sides of the Pacific for the Santiago Chile Temple (1983) and Sydney Australia Temple (1984). The temple in Samoa has since been rebuilt, following a fire that destroyed the original building.
President Spencer W. Kimball initiated an aggressive international temple building program in the mid-1980s using a detached six-spire, sloping roof design that brought temples to all habitable continents of the world for the first time. These temples include the Boise Idaho Temple (1984), Manila Philippines Temple (1984), Dallas Texas Temple (1984), Taipei Taiwan Temple (1984), Guatemala City Guatemala Temple (1984), Stockholm Sweden Temple (1985), Chicago Illinois Temple (1985), Johannesburg South Africa Temple (1985), Seoul Korea Temple (1985), Lima Peru Temple (1986), Buenos Aires Argentina Temple (1986), and Frankfurt Germany Temple (1987), which features a single detached spire only.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, some of the most architecturally stunning temples of the Church were designed, which have become high-profile landmarks in the locations where they were constructed. These regional temples would serve many members and were built accordingly. They include the Portland Oregon Temple (1989), Las Vegas Nevada Temple (1989), Toronto Ontario Temple (1990), San Diego California Temple (1993), Orlando Florida Temple (1994), Bountiful Utah Temple (1995), Hong Kong China Temple (1996), Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple (1996), St. Louis Missouri Temple (1997), Preston England Temple (1998), Madrid Spain Temple (1999), Bogotá Colombia Temple (1999), Guayaquil Ecuador Temple (1999), Billings Montana Temple (1999), Albuquerque New Mexico Temple (2000), Cochabamba Bolivia Temple (2000), Houston Texas Temple (2000), Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple (2000), Boston Massachusetts Temple (2000), Recife Brazil Temple (2000), and Campinas Brazil Temple (2002).
Smaller and Remote-Area Temples
After President Gordon B. Hinckley's announcement of his "smaller and remote-area" temple concept in the late 1990s, the 6,800-square-foot Monticello Utah Temple (1998) was constructed with one endowment room, one sealing room, and a white fiberglass angel Moroni statue. Similarly designed buildings were built including the Anchorage Alaska Temple (1999) and Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Mexico Temple (1999). The Monticello and Anchorage temples have since been enlarged to two endowment rooms, and white angel was replaced with a gold-leafed statue.
While remodeling the narrow Uintah Stake Tabernacle into the Vernal Utah Temple (1997) where plans for side-by-side endowment rooms had to be rethought, the idea of in-line, progressive-style endowment rooms was introduced as an efficient layout for limited-space temples. This concept was incorporated into a 10,700-square-foot temple design with two progressive endowment rooms and two sealing rooms, which became a standard plan that was built the world over in 44 locations. Church-owned property next to an existing meetinghouse was often selected, allowing parking to be shared and limiting the size of the temple grounds. Three temples were built as a two-story adaptation including the Caracas Venezuela Temple (2000), Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple (2001), and Snowflake Arizona Temple (2002). Many of these temples have since been remodeled to alter the exterior appearance and update the interior.
The new millenium brought an enlargement to the standard plan of about 7,000 square feet, and customized approach to design was adopted at this time. Temple exteriors reflected the hertiage of the region and featured impressive spires. Murals were brought back to endowment rooms, and distinct art glass was created for each building. This design is seen in the Columbia River Washington Temple (2001), Lubbock Texas Temple (2002), Monterrey Mexico Temple (2002), Redlands California Temple (2003), Accra Ghana Temple (2004), San Antonio Texas Temple(2005), Newport Beach California Temple (2005), Sacramento California Temple (2006), and Helsinki Finland Temple (2006).
Having embraced the idea of customized exteriors and interiors, the late 2000s and 2010s became a veritable renaissance of temple design that broke away from the standardized temples of the past. Bold designs were devised to reflect the local architecture, and floor plans of varying square footage were developed to accommodate the number of Church members in each area. Small plans were used for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple (2016) and Durban South Africa Temple (2020) while large plans were created for the Gilbert Arizona Temple (2014) and Payson Utah Temple (2015).
A stunning double-towered design is seen in the Kansas City Missouri Temple (2012), Brigham City Utah Temple (2012), Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple (2016), and Rome Italy Temple (2019). Several single-level temples were constructed in the United States including an end-spire floor plan for the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple (2014), Indianapolis Indiana Temple(2015), and Hartford Connecticut Temple (2016) and a larger center-tower plan for the Fort Collins Colorado Temple (2016) and Tuscon Arizona Temple (2017). Spanish Colonial architecture was embraced for Latin American temples including single-level, center-tower designs for the Córdoba Argentina Temple (2015) and Trujillo Peru Temple (2015); two-story, center-tower designs for the Tijuana Mexico Temple (2015), Concepción Chile Temple (2018), and Arequipa Peru Temple (2019); and a two-story, end-spire design for the Barranquilla Colombia Temple (2018). Other end-spire designs were devised for the Curitiba Brazil Temple (2008) and Vancouver British Columbia Temple (2010) and for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple (2008) and Manaus Brazil Temple (2012).