The most prominent and historically significant structure in southern Utah is the massive St. George Mormon Temple, which was dedicated in 1877, making it the oldest in continuous use for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The description from the 1940 WPA Guide to Utah is still an accurate depiction:
Mormon Temple (not open to non-Mormons), resting on a slight elevation, is visible for miles around. The squarely built white stucco temple has three tiers of round-arched windows, surmounted by a row of oval windows. It has a well-proportioned cupola with a weather vane, and covers nearly an acre within a ten-acre tract. Spacious green lawns, bordered with a profusion of colorful plants, accent the snowy exterior of the structure and tend to magnify its size. At night, floodlights on the building produce a cameo-like effect.
The book Temple Manifestations (1974) tells how the particular site was chosen by then church president Brigham Young, who owned a winter home in St. George. President Young first encouraged the pioneer settlers to construct a temple and then chose the ground where it was to be built. Local church leaders had wanted to build on a higher more prominent site near the town's rocky bluffs but Young directed them instead to a lower swampier site south of the town center. He reportedly stated that Moroni, a prophet from the Book of Mormon, had actually dedicated the exact same site in ancient times but had been unable to bring his hopes to a full fruition.
It required months of concerted effort to drain the swamp, by using a homemade machine resembling a well-drilling apparatus, and then the pioneers had to drive tons of volcanic rock deep down into the boggy soil to prepare a suitable foundation. Today this beautiful relic of 19th century Mormon architecture still dominates the St. George skyline with its eclectic mixture of religious, secular and Masonic elements. A soaring white holy temple topped by a weather vane is indeed a uniquely inspiring sight to behold.
The temple grounds are just a few minutes from the freeway via the Bluff Street exit (#6) and everyone is welcome to tour the Visitor Center which is open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.