(This is an excerpt from All that was Promised by Blaine M. Yorgason.
Monday, 6 November 1871, was initially set for the dedication of the temple site, but it rained that day and the survey had not yet been completed. On Wednesday, 8 November, the survey had been completed and corner stakes were set... The site dedication took place Thursday, 9 November, Elder Snow’s birthday. Charles Walker wrote that the day was “clear, bright and p[l]easant.” Some “40 carriages and wagons and a large concourse of People congregated on the southeast corner of the site.” George Staheli’s band from Santa Clara played for the ceremonies, pouring “forth its strains of melodious harmony, and John M. Macfarlane’s excellent St. George Choir was there to sing its sacred anthems” while Brigham Young raised the first shovel full of earth from the site. President George A. Smith, counselor in the First Presidency, “made remarks appropriate to the occasion.” Then, called upon by Brigham, George A. offered the following dedicatory prayer:
“Our Father who art in Heaven, we thank Thee for the privilege of meeting at this time for the purpose of dedicating this piece of ground on which we desire to build a Temple to Thy most Holy name. We Thank Thee, O our Father, for this desert land and that we are permitted to shelter ourselves from the enemies of Thy cause. We thank Thee for restoring the Gospel through Thy servant Joseph Smith and that Thou hast conferred upon him the Holy Priesthood to give to thy Church, and that when the Prophet and Patriarch were taken from our midst that Thou didst raise up a wise leader in Thy Servant Brigham. “We thank Thee that Thy servants have reclaimed this desert ground. We thank Thee for this City. We thank Thee that this piece of ground has been surveyed and chosen as a place on which to build a Temple to thy most holy name, in which we may attend to the ordinances thou hast given for the benefit of the living and the dead. May thy servants be united in building this house, that in it thy laws may be revealed, that the ordinance of marriage may be administered according to the Laws of Heaven, and that the sealings may be according to the laws of Heaven.
“Our Father, we pray thee to look in mercy upon thy Servant Brigham; preserve him from all his enemies; grant that he may live long to minister for Zion; bless his wives and his children and his substance; grant that peace may rest upon him, and success attend all his labors in thy Church. Wilt thou look in mercy upon his Counselors, and bless them with the same blessings in their labors; bless their wives and children and all their interests. Do thou bless thy servant brother Daniel H. Wells, by giving him wisdom and power to attend to the affairs in Salt Lake City; deliver him from all his enemies; and from the bonds now held over him.
“Our Father, bless thy servants the Twelve; endow them with thy Spirit; bless their labors for the good of Israel. We pray thee to bless thy servants the Presidents, and Bishops and the Teachers, and all who officiate in thy name. Our Father do thou avenge the wrongs of thy people upon their enemies, pour out upon them the wrath which thou hast in store for them in thine own due time if they will not repent. Hasten the redemption of the Center Stake of Zion on this land; overrule the discovery of minerals in this land for the good of thy people; put hooks in the jaws of the enemies of Zion, and turn them from their wicked purposes.
“May thy peace be upon the pioneers of this desert, and upon all those who have labored to reclaim the same; may eternal blessings rest upon them and their posterity forever. Yes, bless all thy servants who have done this great work, bless their wives, their children, their substance, and do thou bless them in all their labors. “We thank thee, O God, for these barren hills, and for the shelter of these rugged rocks and deserts as peaceful dwelling places for thy Saints. Bless this land that it may be sacred as an abode of peace and safety, and happy homes for thy people. Bless this ground on which the Temple is to be erected, that it may be held sacred for this purpose; yea, do thou grant that this Temple ground may never be under the dominion or control of the wicked.
“Our Father, do thou bless our brother Erastus Snow, impart unto him wisdom and power to minister to thy people in this region. Do thou bless the President of this Stake of Zion, and his Counselors, that they may minister for the benefit and blessing of thy people. Bless the Bishops in this land; and do thou bless the people who shall be engaged in building a Temple upon this ground. Grant that the walls of that Temple may be laid in truth, and the top stone laid with shouts of Hosannah to God and the Lamb. Cause that thy power may be in the house; that angels may enter therein and minister to thy servants. “Bless the Bishop of thy Church in the discharge of all his duties. Bless thy Elders who are abroad preaching thy Gospel. Cause thy power to attend their labors, shield them from the influences of the wicked. Do thou shield all thy servants from the wiles of the wicked. Thou hast known, O Lord, that thy servants have tried to obey thy celestial law of marriage, and that the wicked strive to bring evil upon thy people, and to take away their liberty in this thing. Grant thy protections and blessing to thy people, that they may continue to obey the law.
“Our Father, do Thou bless this land. Cause that it may be fruitful, bringing forth blessings for the sustenance of Thy people. Cause the remnants of Jacob to come to the truth, and the children of Judah to gather to their ancient inheritance, and rebuild Jerusalem. All these blessings, our Father, we feel to ask at thy hand. Hear, O hear our prayer, and grant us our petitions. “We dedicate this site unto Thee. We dedicate ourselves, our wives and our children and all our sustenance unto Thee and now our Father, with all the faithful, save us in thy glorious kingdom, which we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” Following the dedicatory prayer and a choir number, President Young added appropriate comments: “We want a concentration of the labors of the people to build this temple.
The idea may arise that this is a hard land to get a living in. I am glad of it. I am thankful. I purpose that the Bishops of this City, Santa Clara and Washington apportion labor among their members to excavate, haul rock, sand, and clay, with Brother Erastus Snow and his help. If the brethren undertake to do this with one heart and with one mind, we shall be blessed exceedingly and prospered. If the people present are one with the First Presidency in this work and will unite, let the brethren and sisters manifest it by the uplifted hand.” The response was unanimous. The prophet next instructed the bishops of the wards to “apportion the labor of excavation and transportation of rock, sand, and clay among the people in order that the work might get underway at once.”
Then, taking a shovel in his hand, the prophet began the groundbreaking, explaining that the first stone should always be laid at the southeast corner of a building because the first light of day shines upon it when the sun rises in the east.
Brigham had evidently been taught by the Prophet Joseph the proper order of laying the cornerstones. This was indicated when he arranged the cornerstones for the Manti Temple. On that occasion he said that the first stone is to “be laid at the southeast corner, the point of greatest light, and at high noon there is the most sunlight. All that is to remind us, we would assume, that the temple is indeed a house of light where the heavenly and earthly combine.”
All That Was Promised, Blaine M. Yorgason, pp. 90-4.