February 2, 2023

St. George Tabernacle- “The Jewel of the Desert”

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The St. George settlement was not an easy place to live for the early settlers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Brigham Young asking the members there to build a tabernacle, would have added to the challenges.

George Albert Smith described St. George as “the most wretched, barren, God-forsaken country
in the world.”

When Brigham Young asked the settlers of St. George to build a tabernacle, he had a specific vision in mind he said he wanted a building that “will be not only useful but also an ornament to your city and a credit to your energy and enterprise.”

Full quote from Brigham Young:

"As I have already informed you, I wish you and the brethren to build, as speedily as
possible, a good substantial, commodious, well finished meeting house, one large
enough to comfortably seat at least 2000 persons and that will be not only useful but
also an ornament to your city and a credit to your energy and enterprise. I hereby place
at your disposal, expressly to aid in building the aforesaid meeting-house, the labor,
molasses, vegetable and grain tithing of Cedar City and of all places and persons south
of that city. I hope you will begin the building at the earliest practicable date; and be
able with the aid herein given to speedily prosecute the work to completion."

The Saints of St. George were asked to build the Tabernacle within the year their arriving, this meant that Brigham Young intended St. George to be a permanent settlement for the Saints.

The Tabernacle was intended to work as a church and a courthouse for the people of St. George.

Brigham Young was the first architect of the Tabernacle.

When building the St. George Tabernacle the workers were living in tents and sleeping on the ground while also trying to get their own houses, farms and businesses up and going.

Brigham Young was very involved in the planning and construction of the Tabernacle. In his correspondence with Erastus Snow, they decided that limestone would be the rock used to build the tabernacle, to match the red cliffs around St. George.

The sandstone walls of the tabernacle were hand cut from limestone and you can see the individual cut marks in the bricks today.

The basement walls of the tabernacle are three feet thick.

Roof trusses were hand-hewn and the twin spiral staircases with balustrades were also hand-carved.

The ceiling and cornice work were locally cast, but the beautiful 4-faced clock on the spire of the tabernacle was made in London.

The Tabernacle was started in 1863, the building was completed in 1871. It was dedicated by Brigham Young Jr.

The St. George Tabernacle had many amazing meetings, but one of the most famous is when Lorenzo Snow came to the St. George Tabernacle and promised the Saints that if they paid their tithings "the windows of heaven would open". You can read more about this account here.

More places to visit:

St. George Temple

Jacob Hamblin Home

Brigham Young’s Summer Home

More Blog Posts:

Windows of Heaven, Tithing with Lorenzo Snow

Renovations to the St. George Temple

Founding Fathers and the St. George Temple

St. George Temple Foundation

History of the St. George Temple Spire


St. George Tabernacle


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