Nine years saw the completion of temples in Hawaii (1919), Alberta (1923), and Arizona (1927), the first since the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple over twenty years earlier in 1893. After these three temples came a wait of twelve years before work began on the Idaho Falls Temple in 1939. These three temples were modern in design and feeling, looking forward to the challenge of the twentieth century with optimism and confidence. And in constructing them, the Church was “offering the best it had at that time—the taste and skill and accomplishments of the finest and most talented people of that generation.” 1
In the Arizona Temple, last of the three, this offering took the form of a concerted search for the most creative architects and artists in the Church, beginning when President Heber J. Grant invited leading architectural firms of Salt Lake City to submit designs in 1920. The winning architects were Don Carlos Young, Jr., and Ramm Hansen, who presented a strongly symmetrical design, the horizontal lines of which echoed the desert horizon. That design, at least in part, symbolized our progress through mortality toward our eternal goal. A person entered the building through a portal in the center, then left the vestibule by a second portal. From there he could see up a broad staircase to a magnificent door, lighted by a skylight. After this glimpse, he clothed himself in white, then ascended the stairs to the main level and turned aside partway up to enter the first ordinance room.
Before the temple was remodeled in 1974 to accommodate the temple film, the temple patron would pass through five ordinance rooms in succession, each higher than the one before, finally emerging in the celestial room at the top of the stairs and leaving it by the magnificent door he had first seen. Thus his “progress” through the temple also symbolized his progress through different states of knowledge in mortality.
The same kind of care to reach excellence was shown in the temple furnishings and decorations. The artists involved included Torlief Knaphus, J. Leo Fairbanks, A. B. Wright, Fritzoff Weberg, and LeConte Stewart. All of them, except Weberg, an artist from Norway, had worked on the Alberta or Hawaii temples as well. Lee Greene Richards painted a mural depicting Joseph Smith preaching to the Lamanites, since many Lamanite members of the Church would come to the Arizona Temple. Navajo sisters wove an enormous rug for the foyer in muted grays, reds, and natural black and white wool, using the trunks of living trees for loom supports. Ancient petroglyphs and other Indian relics were carefully made part of the garden landscaping.
The Temple was dedicated by President Grant on October 23, 1927, and again, after remodeling, by President Spencer W. Kimball on April 15–16, 1975, first of the Church’s temples to be rededicated.
Paul L. Anderson, “The First Twentieth-Century Temples,” typescript, LDS Church Curator’s Office. Other material is taken from his “Temple Architecture,” Church Historical Library.