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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

In the early days of the Church, our first temples were built by the donated and consecrated labor of its members. However, somewhere along the line the Church stopped asking its members to work on the temples, and started contracting the work out to non-member construction companies. Often to people who had no regard for the holiness of our temples, and who would not give the same level of consecrated attention to detail. Do you know why the Church took this blessing away from the members? And what temple was the first one built solely with Gentile labor? Your thoughts are always appreciated.

Robert

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Answer

 

Dear Robert,

Church members who possess the appropriate skills, do have the opportunity to take part in the construction of modern temples.  A 2013 article detailing the construction of the Philadelphia temple points out that the Church’s contract with the relevant labor unions required the unions to give hiring preference to church members.  That same article notes that measures were taken with the predominately non-LDS construction crew to reinforce the sacred nature of the building, including banning certain conduct, language, etc. on the labor site.  The article also notes that Church officials are constantly on-site to ensure the quality of the workmanship.  I have no reason to believe that the Church offers less oversight in the construction of other temples, than it did in Philadelphia.

It might be worth noting that even Solomon had to subcontract out much of the construction of his temple to Phoenecian craftsmen (see 1 Kings 5).  Thus, this was the first temple built by gentile hands that we know of.  In that situation–as with the construction of modern temples–the issue wasn’t that Solomon, or the modern Church leadership, are deliberately withholding a blessing from the believers.  Rather, it is that within a given area the believers themselves were simply unprepared by lack of the requisite skills, or else just plain unwilling, to build a House of the Lord to the standard that the Lord requires without getting some outside assistance.  Even so we know that the Lord, in His mercy, accepted that temple as a suitable offering to Himself.

In this dispensation, the first non-member built temple was the Hawaiian temple.  It was contracted to The Spalding Construction Company owned by a non-member named Walter Spalding.  It was not actually contracted to Ralph Wolley, as is commonly cited, for he was the chief engineer for the project.  Mr. Spalding was a friend of the Saints of Hawaii and had the means, the skills, and the reputation that pleased Church leaders as well as the Lord.  In that instance, the people of Hawaii were numerous enough to require a local temple.  But their numbers were not great enough to provide the skills and means to build a temple themselves.

They were crippled (the word used by Church authorities of the time) by the expense of coming to the mainland for their endowments.  And to relocate enough saints to Hawaii to help build it (as was the case with the Alberta temple which was built concurrently) was more than was financially feasible.  Even so, as many Saints as could lend a hand were able to help in the construction.

I agree with you that the Church’s apparent inability to construct temples without the assistance of non-LDS laborers is not an ideal situation (though it does provide a number of novel missionary opportunities).  But I would also suggest that the responsibility to fix this particular issue lies with the Church membership, not the leadership.  The receipt of any blessing is usually conditioned on our being prepared to receive it.

 

Gramps

 

 

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