The St. George Temple in southern Utah was the first temple to be completed after the Saints moved to the west; the Salt Lake Temple was a much larger and more involved project, and since the warmer southern Utah weather allowed year-round work, construction proceeded more rapidly. Brigham Young was eager to see the completion of the temple, so he could assure that the ordinances were correctly established.
The site was dedicated and construction begun in 1871. By the beginning of 1877, the temple was approaching completion. Brigham was not in good health, suffering from rheumatism; and had spent the winter in St. George, watching the construction. The Saints were so eager to receive the temple blessings that sections of the new temple were dedicated and put to use as they were completed, starting with the baptismal area in January.
However, Brigham expressed displeasure about one aspect of the new temple. He felt the tower of the temple was too short for the building, that it should be higher and more dignified. But the people declined to make the change at that late date, and worked to finish the construction with the tower staying as it was.
The temple was completed and the dedication took place in April 1877, in connection with a general conference which was held in St. George. Brigham soon left and returned to Salt Lake City, where he passed away in August of that same year.
In October 1878, a severe thunder storm passed through St. George, and the temple was struck by lightning. The tower and dome were almost completely destroyed by the strike; miraculously, the damage from lightning and subsequent fire did not spread to the roof and the rest of the building.
After the damage was assessed, it was decided that the tower needed to be rebuilt. This time, it was made higher, giving the temple "a more majestic appearance." Not a few of the people remembered Brigham's objection to the earlier design of the temple, and commented that even though Brigham didn't get his way during his life, he managed to have the change occur from beyond the grave!
(See "Brigham Got His Way," _Color Country Spectrum_, April 13, 1977; quoted in DeMille, _The St. George Temple, First 100 Years_, pp. 87-88. Also Black and Porter, _Lion of the Lord_ and Arrington, _Brigham Young, American Moses_)
Copyright 1998, David Kenison and LDS-Gems, firstname.lastname@example.org