“As much time was required to build the structure on paper as was needed to build it with concrete and stone,” said Edward O. Anderson, temple architect. Actually, it took fifteen years between the time that the site was acquired in 1937 and August 1952 when construction actually began; not quite four years later, the building was dedicated on 11–14 March 1956. The church is the sixteenth owner of the site; the first recorded owner was Carlos I of Spain in 1592; and the problem of acquiring the land caused the first of many delays caused by World War II, zoning problems, and changes in the temple plans when President David O. McKay, looking into the future, asked that the designs be changed to accommodate an unprecedented three hundred people per session.
President McKay had personally presided at the groundbreaking ceremony on 22 September 1951, at the laying of the cornerstone on 11 December 1953, and at its dedication; his keen personal interest in this project, the eleventh temple for the Church, can be seen in just one detail; it is by his instructions that the Angel Moroni faces due east, even though the building itself faces southeast. And that involved turning the statue after it had already been fixed in place.
In 1920, local Church leaders, hungry for the blessing of a temple in their area, had already expressed their desires; and General Authorities, including President Heber J. Grant, inspected a proposed site that winter. When these hopes were realized seventeen years later—President Grant had made the final selection of the site himself—the members of the Church put themselves joyously into the project.
President McKay asked the local Saints to raise a million dollars. (The final cost of the temple’s construction was estimated at $4 million.) Stake presidencies, high councilors, bishoprics, patriarchs, and their wives met on 1 February 1952 to accept the challenge. At April conference, barely two months later, stake presidents reported to the First Presidency that the members’ gifts and pledges had met the commitment and exceeded it by more than $600,000. “It was,” said President McKay, “the largest contribution ever made by members in a temple area.” President Noble Waite of the South Los Angeles Stake, speaking at the dedication, assured President McKay that it had been “no sacrifice,” but rather “a glorious opportunity.”
The Los Angeles Temple stands a shade over 257 feet high from tower to ground; the gold-leafed angel looms an additional 15 feet, 5 1/2 inches high. Its square footage amounts to 4 1/2 acres.
The temple is a monument to this dispensation’s earlier prophets. Brigham Young in July of 1846, one month after the Prophet’s martyrdom, had recorded: “I could prophesy that the time would come when some of the Twelve or a High Priest would come up and say, can we not build a Temple … in California.” Thirteen months later he wrote to the Saints in the Mormon Battalion: “In the process of time the shores of the Pacific may yet be overlooked from the temple of the Lord.”
President McKay, mindful of the heritage of the Los Angeles Temple, honored those men of vision in his dedicatory address: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are “rejoicing” over this day’s proceedings, he said.
Editor’s note: In the April issue we mistakenly mentioned Edward Anderson as the Oakland Temple architect. The designer of the Oakland Temple was Harold Burton, Church architect from 1955 to 1965. Brother Burton was also co-designer of the Hawaii and Alberta temples.