Do you think our temple architects have been inspired?
May 1974

“Do you think our temple architects have been inspired?” New Era, May 1974, 31–32

“Do you think our temple architects have been inspired? Have fasting and prayer played important roles in their callings?”

Answer/Brother Dan Farr

During his meeting with the Lord on Mount Sinai, Moses was directed to collect a special offering from the children of Israel for the purpose of constructing a sanctuary.

“And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass,

“And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair,

“And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood,

“Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,

“Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.” (Ex. 25:3–7.)

Then Moses was given a special knowledge and understanding of how these materials were to be assembled and used. “According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” (Ex. 25:9.)

This process has been repeated in our own time. On January 19, 1841, Joseph Smith received a revelation commanding the Saints to erect a temple wherein the keys of the priesthood might be restored and salvation for the living and the dead secured. Special messengers were to call the Saints, saying, “… Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones … the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth;

“And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc … and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.” (D&C 124:26, 27.)

The Prophet Joseph was allowed to see the Nauvoo Temple in vision. Concerning its appearance, he recorded this experience: “In the afternoon, Elder William Weeks (whom I had employed as architect of the Temple), came in for instruction. I instructed him in relation to the circular windows designed to light the offices in the dead work of the arch between stories. He said that round windows in the broad side of a building were a violation of all the known rules of architecture, and contended that they should be semicircular—that the building was too low for round windows. I told him I would have the circles, if I had to make the Temple ten feet higher than it was originally calculated; that one light at the centre of each circular window would be sufficient to light the whole room; that when the whole building was thus illuminated, the effect would be remarkably grand. ‘I wish you to carry out my designs. I have seen in vision the splendid appearance of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.’” (N. B. Lundwall, Temples of the Most High [Lundwall, 1941], pp. 51–52.)

To other prophets of this latter-day dispensation the Lord has revealed his will concerning the design of his holy temples. These words of President Brigham Young are recorded in the Journal of Discourses:

“… five years ago last July I was here, and saw in the Spirit the [Salt Lake] Temple not ten feet from where we have laid the Chief Corner Stone. I have not inquired what kind of a Temple we should build. Why? Because it was represented before me. I have never looked upon that ground, but the vision of it was there. I see it as plainly as if it was in reality before me.” (JD, vol. 1, p. 133.)

I am certain that future instructions from the Lord relative to the construction of temples will continue to come through his living oracles, the prophets. This is not to say, however, that those who have been selected and called to aid in the implementation of the Lord’s plan are not deserving of divine guidance in the faithful fulfillment of their assigned tasks. Just as stake presidents, bishops, teachers, and parents are entitled to counsel from the Lord in their desire to magnify their callings, so may those who participate in activities associated with temple design be justified in seeking similar direction. As always, this influence comes only to those who seek in righteousness and who temper their endeavors with fasting and prayer.

The selection of a site for the New Zealand Temple illustrates this point. President Wendell B. Mendenhall of the San Joaquin Stake was assigned by President David O. McKay to investigate possible temple sites in the lands of the South Seas. He investigated potential locations in Auckland, New Zealand, where the mission headquarters are located but felt no satisfaction.

“Then one day I felt I should go to Hamilton to visit the college. While in the car on the way, the whole thing came to me in an instant: The temple should be there by the college. The Church facilities for construction were already there, and that was the center of the population of the mission. Then, in my mind, I could see the area even before I arrived, and I could envision the hill where the temple should stand. As soon as I arrived at the college and drove over the top of the hill, my vision was confirmed. In my heart I felt that the Lord had especially made this hill for his temple, everything about it was so majestic and beautiful.” (Allie Howe, “A Temple in the South Pacific,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1955, p. 811.)

Our temples are unique, and many have been recognized and acknowledged as outstanding examples of religious architecture. Although I am unaware of any such recorded testimony, surely their architects were inspired by the Lord.

  • Architect, High Councilor, Alaska Stake