“Temple Dedications and Dedicatory Prayers,” Church History Topics
“Temple Dedications and Dedicatory Prayers”
The Bible contains detailed accounts of how ancient Israelites dedicated their tabernacles and temples to set them apart as sacred places.1 Latter-day Saints have likewise dedicated temples and other sacred spaces for use in the Lord’s work, beginning with the Kirtland Temple.
In addition to formal dedicatory services held in completed temples, early Latter-day Saints established a ceremonial pattern for consecrating temple sites. Notably, the early Saints held special ceremonies at the placement of cornerstones for temples in Independence, Missouri, in 1831; Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833; Far West, Missouri, in 1838; Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841; and Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1853.2 The ceremonies featured singing, sermons, processions, and prayers, and, in Nauvoo, a military honor guard and brass band. Beginning in Nauvoo, one of the cornerstones was hollowed out in order to hold a deposit of documents and other artifacts relating to the temple. This practice continues today, though elaborate cornerstone ceremonies are no longer held. For some temples, including those in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City, the placing of the capstone of the temple was also marked by ceremony, including music, prayer, and shouts of “Hosanna.”
Following construction, dedications prepare temples for their sacred purposes. The dedication of the House of the Lord in Kirtland on March 27, 1836, set a pattern for future temple dedications. The day-long ceremony included speeches, music, the administration of the sacrament, a dedicatory prayer, and the Hosanna Shout. Many Latter-day Saints who attended this first temple dedication recorded great spiritual manifestations, including the sound of a rushing mighty wind, speaking in tongues, visions, and the visitation of angels. Another dedicatory service four days later was held for those who could not gain admission to the crowded initial dedication. In Kirtland, the sessions were open to the public. In Nauvoo, both public and private dedicatory services were held. For later temples, only Church members who were issued tickets or recommends were admitted to dedicatory sessions. The practice of repeated temple dedicatory sessions has continued, allowing large numbers of members to participate.
Joseph Smith gave the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, reading from a prepared text. The inspired prayer was recorded by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and others the day before the dedication.3 For subsequent temples, inspired dedicatory prayers have been written by a presiding Church leader, each prepared for its own temple. The prayers ask the Lord to accept the offering of the temple and petition Him for the temple’s sanctification and protection. Often, especially in early temples, the prayers blessed the elements used in construction—rock, mortar, sand, plaster, or windows. Most dedicatory prayers have included the designation of specific rooms in the temple, highlighting their specific functions. These prayers invoke the Lord’s presence and designate the temple as His house, marking it as a place of connection with the divine.
Those who attend a temple dedication participate in the Hosanna Shout. This shout is reminiscent of the praise offered by followers of Jesus Christ at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.4 The congregation stands, waves white handkerchiefs, and unites in shouting three times the words, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to God and the Lamb.”5 The shout concludes with “Amen, Amen, and Amen.”6 At the Kirtland Temple, the prayer was followed by the singing of the hymn “Hosanna to God and the Lamb,” known today as “The Spirit of God.” This hymn has been sung at all temple dedications since.
Between 1999 and 2002, the dedicatory services of a few newly constructed temples in significant historic sites, including Palmyra, New York; Winter Quarters, Nebraska; and Nauvoo, Illinois, were broadcast over a secure satellite system, allowing members of the Church in remote locations to participate. This established a pattern of broadcasting temple dedications to local stake centers so that all worthy members in the temple district and sometimes the broader area can participate.
Latter-day Saints have likewise dedicated many other places for God’s work. These include tabernacles, meetinghouses, Relief Society halls, and homes. Countries or areas of the world are also dedicated for the preaching of the gospel.