We 'll sing and we 'll shout with the armies of heaven, Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb! -W. W. Phelps, Hymns (), #2
Traffic in suburban Boston was snarled. Barriers blocked access to roads. Guides at the intersections directed cars to a huge parking lot near the Alewife subway station where drivers parked and boarded special buses to be shuttled a mile up a hill and back again. By the end of the day, eighty busloads had carried nearly 17,000 people to the structure crowning the summit. Crowds of "temple-worthy" Mormons had gathered from the northeastern United States to enter the stately new granite building on a hilltop in Belmont, Massachusetts. What was going on? The Mormons were dedicating their Boston Temple.
Four dedicatory sessions, ninety minutes each, were scheduled. Of the huge crowd, only 3,400 members held tickets for the 850 chairs set up in the temple. Others went to a nearby LDS chapel where television monitors showed the live ceremony. Each scheduled group entered the temple as the previous group exited. As the lines moved toward the door, each person was shod in little plastic overshoes to protect the carpets. The rented folding chairs had been similarly shod in little crocheted footlets held on with threaded elastic.
The session itself, similar to other church meetings, included opening and closing prayers, several anthems from a well-prepared volunteer choir from Maine, and talks.What set the session apart from regular Sunday meetings was the location itself, a dedicatory prayer, and the "Hosanna Shout." The dedicatory prayers, much alike from temple to temple, refer to the building's future uses, but a portion of President Gordon B. Hinckley's dedicatory prayer for the Boston Massachusetts Temple reflected the contentious process of getting town approval. The final issue, the height of the steeple, had still not been settled by dedication time, and the building was dedicated without a steeple. The temple looked a little stumpy, as if it had been struck by lightning and lost its upper reaches. The prayer, in part, said: We are assembled to dedicate this Thy holy house. . . .We extend our gratitude to all who have labored so faithfully and diligently, often in the face of serious opposition, to bring to pass the miracle of the completion of this temple. . . .
We pray that Thou wilt bless it with the presence of Thy Holy Spirit. May it ever be sacred unto Thy people. May even those not of our faith look upon it as a hallowed structure, and do so with respect. . . . We pray that those who have been bitterly opposed may experience a change of feeling. . . .
The building has no steeple. We dedicate it as being complete, but pray that the way may be opened for the placement of a steeple with the crowning figure of Moroni, Thine ancient prophet. We pray that Thy people in this temple district may make themselves worthy of every blessing to be found here. May they come, pure in heart and clean in hand, to the House of the Lord with gratitude in their hearts for the marvelous blessings to be gained here. May they be endowed with power from on high and be granted a knowledge of things sacred and divine. May the covenants which they make be binding upon them. Keep them always in the way they should walk. May they sense the wonders of the blessings of eternity to be gained here and here alone.
After the prayer, President Boyd K. Packer, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, led the congregation in the Hosanna Shout, used at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple on March 27, 1836, when the congregation shouted "hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb" three times sealing it with "amen," "amen," and "amen." The waving of white handkerchiefs began with the Salt Lake temple dedication in 1893. President Packer said this action was in similitude of waving palm fronds during the Biblical Feast of the Tabernacles. After the shout, the choir sang "The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning," composed by W. W. Phelps for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and the antiphonal "Hosanna Anthem," added to the hymn for the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple.
Mormons are exhilarated by these dedications. They praise the beautiful buildings, the stirring talks, and the music. In the dedicatory services of LDS temples across the world, Mormons feel "reverential awe, a sense of oneness [with] God." They see temples as an enduring material symbol of God's relationship to His people. Temples connect Mormons with the Old Testament and underscore LDS' claims to restoring ancient religion. In temples, a covenant people occupy sacred space and time and transcend daily life, symbolically encountering divine powers. President Howard W. Hunter, speaking in 1994, urged members to make the temple the center of their membership. He told families to emphasize their temple work. "Secure and honor your priesthood and temple covenants; encourage your family to do the same."
Joseph Smith, who translated his visionary impulses into finite structures, planned and built his first temple from 1833 to 1836 in the frontier crossroads community of Kirtland, Ohio. His vision far exceeded his resources. For three years the people devoted their means, time, and energies to building a temple used only briefly before the Saints were forced to leave. Smith planned temples in Independence and Far West, Missouri, but could not even begin construction before the Mormons were forced out. Smith's final temple rose in Nauvoo, Illinois. In each case, the temple was to center a planned city, ordering a theocratic community. In the Doctrine and Covenants a temple is described as "a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God."
The outside walls of the Nauvoo Temple, dedicated in 1846, were only partially completed when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed in 1844. Knowing that they would have to leave Nauvoo and the temple, the people worked harder to complete it. By December 1845, the rooms were ready for temple ceremonies. During the next eight weeks, 5,500 members participated, day and night, before leaving for the West. They built the temple, used it briefly, and abandoned it, leaving Nauvoo beginning on February 4, 1846.
Once in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young, following Joseph Smith's example, planned Salt Lake City on a grid pattern centered on a temple. Four days after arriving in 1847, he marked the temple site. He did not live to see the structure completed, so massive was the undertaking. The Salt Lake Temple was dedicated in 1893, forty years after construction began.