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Sunday, December 19, 2010

LDS Temples and their Priesthood Assembly Rooms

There are 8 temples built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that have Assembly Rooms, and 7 temples whose Assembly Room is used at least once a year.  Temples with Assembly Rooms of some kind are located, in order of construction: Kirtland, Ohio; Nauvoo, Illinois; St. George, Utah; Logan, Utah; Manti, Utah; Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and Washington D.C.

KIRTLAND TEMPLE: Kirland, Ohio (1833-1836)

The Kirtland Temple was constructed from the Summer of 1833 to Spring 1836.  It is the first temple to have Assembly Halls of any kind in this dispensation.  One was on the bottom floor, used for worship services.  The second was on the top floor, used for educational classes.  The lower court is pictured above.

The west pulpits are for the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the east for the Aaronic Priesthood.  This is the same in all other LDS Temples.  The lettering* on the west pulpits is as follows, reading from the top pulpits to the bottom:

M.P.C. (Melchizedek Presiding Council) – First Presidency of the Church or Stake Presidency
P.M.H. (Presiding Melchizedek High Priesthood) – Quorum of Twelve Apostles or Stake High Council
M.H.P. (Melchizedek High Priesthood) – High Priests Quorum
P.E.M. (Presiding or Presidency Elders Melchizedek) – Elders Quorum Presidency

The lettering* on the east side is thus, also from the top pulpits to the bottom:

B.P.A. (Bishop Presiding over Aaronic Priesthood) – Presiding Bishopric or local Bishopric
P.A.P. (Presiding or Presidency Aaronic Priests) – Priest’s Quorum Reps
P.T.A. (Presiding or Presidency Teachers Aaronic Priesthood) – Teachers Quorum Presidency
P.D.A. (Presiding or Presidency Deacons Aaronic Priesthood) – Deacons Quorum Presidency

*The information on the lettering were found here:  Backman Jr., Milton Vaughn, The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983, 160; Black, Harry, Kirtland Temple, Independence, Mo.: Herald House, 1958, 17–18; Cowan, Richard O., Temples to Dot the Earth, Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort Incorporated, 1997, 21–35; and Fields, Clarence L., “History of the Kirtland Temple,” master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1963, 28.

NAUVOO ILLINOIS TEMPLE: Nauvoo, Illinois (1999-2002)
The second temple built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lies in a town on the banks of the Mississippi River in Western Illinois.

The Nauvoo Temple originally had two large assembly halls, one above another.  General Conference was held in the Assembly Hall on the first floor in October 1845.  This is the first of only three occurrences in which a General Conference was held in a temple.  This temple was gutted by an arson fire in 1848, and then the remaining walls were destroyed by a tornado in 1850.  The temple has since been rebuilt (2002), and the first floor has an assembly hall, albeit on a smaller scale as that found in the original.  The new Assembly Room holds500 people, including in the pulpits.  

Many have wondered what the lettering on the original pulpits stated.  We have two completely different sources giving the answer.  One is J. H. Buckingham, who apparently was a non-Mormon.  He lists the following letters and meanings when he toured the Nauvoo Temple in the late 1840s (Buckingham, Papers in Illinois History and Transactions, 1937; "Illinois as Lincoln Knew It", Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield, Illinois, p. 172).  On the east end of the hall stood the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits, which had, set in gilded letters, written (from the highest pulpit to the lowest):

P.H.P. - President of the High Priesthood (First Presidency of the Church)
P.S.Z. - President of the Seventies in Zion
P.H.Q. - President of the High Priests Quorum (Stake Presidency)
P.E.Q. - President of the Elders Quorum.  

The second source for the meanings of the gilded lettering of the original Nauvoo Temple pulpits comes from a Latter-day Saint who happened to be in the Temple on 1 May 1846, when it was publicly dedicated.  His testimony agrees with Mr. Buckingham.  The Mormon spoken of was James A. Scott.  He wrote in his journal the meaning of the letters (Journal of James A. Scott, p. 4, LDS Church Archives). 

Above these pulpits, in gilded letters, were the words, The Lord Has Seen Our Sacrifice - Come After Us.

The pulpits on the west were for the Aaronic Priesthood.  The lettering thereon was, according to

P.A.P - President of the Aaronic Priesthood (President Bishopric)
P.P.Q - President of the Priest's Quorum (local Bishopric)
P.T.Q - President of the Teacher's Quorum
P.D.Q - President of the Deacon's Quorum

These initial do not appear in the current Assembly Room's pulpits, unfortunately.  When the temple was dedicated on 27 June 2002 Presidents Hinckley and Monson sat on the brown bench at the lowest West (Aaronic) pulpits, which are the pulpits closest to the reader in the below picture. (Lisle Brown, "Dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple",

ST. GEORGE UTAH TEMPLE: St. George, Utah (1871-1877)
This temple was built from 1871 to 1877.  It was here in 1877 that a second General Conference of the Church was held in a temple, where on 6 April 1877 it was dedicated by President Daniel H. Wells of the First Presidency.
Aaronic Priesthood Pulpits

LOGAN UTAH TEMPLE: Logan, Utah (1877-1884)

This temple was constructed from 1877 to 1884.  There have been numerous Solemn Assemblies held in this Assembly Room.  In one such Assembly, President David O. McKay developed "Every Member a Missionary!", his trademark phrase.  The Solemn Assembly was given on 21 September 1953.  Also present at this Solemn Assembly were: 1,500 Melchizedek Priesthood holders, Presidents Stephen L. Richards, and Clark; and Elders Joseph Fielding Smith, Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Petersen, Cowley, Moyle, Stapley, Romney, LeGrand Richards, Bennion, Morris, Evans, and McConkie (The Logan Temple: The First 100 Years, p. 196-197).

Two more Solemn Assemblies of note took place in this House of the Lord.  On 4 May 1967 all Returned Missionaries attending Utah State University and then-Weber State College met in the Assembly Room and were instructed by then-Elder Thomas S. Monson and Elder Hugh B. Brown (Ibid.).

The final Solemn Assembly held in the Logan Temple was on 6 December 1975, wherein 1,340 Priesthood leaders in the Logan Temple District heard sermons from Presidents Kimball, Tanner, and Romney, as well as from Elders Benson and Petersen (Ibid.).

I also have a friend who served in the Utah Ogden Mission in the early 2000s.  He told me that he had the opportunity of having two Zone Conferences in the Assembly Room of the Logan Temple, during which all the missionaries sang "The Spirit of God".

MANTI UTAH TEMPLE: Manti, Utah (1877-1888)
The House of the Lord at Manti was announced in 1875.  I went through this temple for the first time in the summer of 2008.  While there, I asked a temple worker how often they use the Assembly Room.  She told me that the Assembly Room is used at least once a year for a devotional with all the temple workers.

SALT LAKE TEMPLE: Salt Lake City, Utah (1853-1893)
The flagship temple in the LDS Church, the Salt Lake Temple was built between 1853 to 1893, being dedicated by President Wilford Woodruff on 6 April 1893.  From, we read, "July 2 [1899] — A solemn assembly was held in the Salt Lake Temple, attended by the Church's 26 General Authorities, presidencies of the 40 stakes, and bishops of the 478 wards of the Church. The assembly accepted the resolution that tithing is the 'word and will of the Lord unto us.'"  During the April General Conference of 1942, "Conference sessions were held in . . . the assembly room of the Salt Lake Temple."  Also, when my father was in the Mission Home in Salt Lake City in 1973, he was instructed by President Spencer W. Kimball in this Assembly Room.  Also, semi-annually, a devotional occurs in this room for all the temple workers.  All General Authorities meet in this room monthly.

LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA TEMPLE: Los Angeles, California (1951-1956)
Built from 1951 to 1956, the Los Angeles California Temple was the first temple in California, and the tenth in the Church.  Originally it was the largest temple in the Church, but the Salt Lake Temple has had additions that make the LA Temple now number two in size.

WASHINGTON D.C. TEMPLE: Washington D.C (1968-1974)
The temple in which I was endowed, this massive temple is the tallest in the Church, standing 306 feet tall to the top of the Angel Moroni, which Angel Moroni is 18 feet tall.  It is one of five Angel Moroni statues holding the Gold Plates.  It is the last temple in the Church to have an Assembly Room.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the priesthood pulpits, you have a contradiction. In reference to the former Kirtland temple you state the west pulpits were for the Melchezedic Priesthood, but in reference to the new Nauvoo temple you call the west pulpits the Aaronic Priesthood side.

Clark Herlin said...

It is not a contradiction. The Kirtland Temple pulpits were on the west side of the building, as evidenced on page 411 of the second volume of the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Herein Joseph the Prophet meticulously states who sat where on the day of dedication on 27 March 1836.

Also, the Nauvoo Temple's pulpits are correct in having the East be for the Melchizedek Priesthood. One must remember that the fulness of the Endowment ceremony that we now have was not revealed fully until the Nauvoo period, thus fully putting the Priesthood in order, with the Higher on the East, and the Lesser on the West.

Jonathan said...

In 2006, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its dedication, the LA Temple hosted a weekly devotional for a different Stake in the Temple district each week throughout the summer. The meetings were held in the Assembly room, and the Temple Presidencies and Stake Presidencies spoke. I was in awe of how big that room is; it's amazing to think of these giant meeting rooms sitting in these older Temples that hardly ever get used.