Recently, many Saints attended one of twelve dedication services for the Draper Utah Temple, the one hundred twenty-ninth operating temple, held March 20–22. Additionally, tens of thousands participated in the Sunday afternoon session through a satellite broadcast to meetinghouses and stake centers throughout Utah. For many, it was a red-letter day full of excitement, gratitude, and great spiritual renewal.
An important feature of temple dedications is the sacred Hosanna Shout, first given at the Kirtland Temple on March 27, 1836 (tomorrow is the anniversary of it’s dedication). This powerful expression of praise and worship has been repeated at all temple dedications, including the Draper temple.
Some years ago I did some research on the history the Salt Lake Temple. I discovered that the sacred Hosanna Shout was given first on April 6, 1892, at the capstone-laying ceremony, and second, at the many formal dedication services beginning on April 6, 1893.
At the capstone ceremony, President George Q. Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency, said “that there may be no misunderstanding about the manner in which the shout of Hosanna should be given when the capstone should be laid, Pres. Lorenzo Snow would drill the congregation in the shout.” Then President Snow said, “This is no ordinary order, but is—and we wish it to be distinctly understood—a sacred shout, and employed only on extraordinary occasions like the one now before us.” He urged them with these words: “We wish the Saints to feel when they pronounce this shout that it comes from their hearts. Let your hearts be filled with thanksgiving,” adding, “Now when we go before the temple and this shout goes forth, we want every man and every woman to shout these words to the very extent of their voice, so that every house in this city may tremble, the people in every portion of this city hear it and it may reach to the eternal worlds.” He finally told the congregation that the sacred shout “was given in the heavens when ‘all the sons of God shouted for joy’ [Job 38:7].”
B. H. Roberts wrote concerning this shout, “When voiced by thousands and sometimes tens of thousands in unison, and at their utmost strength, it is most impressive and inspiring. It is impossible to stand unmoved on such an occasion. It seems to fill [the site] with mighty waves of sound; and the shout of men going into battle cannot be more stirring. It gives wonderful vent to religious emotions, and is followed by a feeling of reverential awe—a sense of oneness with God.”
Some fifty thousand people were reportedly in attendance at this special occasion on the Temple Block, with thousands more watching from adjoining rooftops, windows, and even power poles. The streets near the temple were filled with those seeking to witness the exercises of that day. “There was such a jam of humanity, however, that everyone was nearly crushed,” Joseph Dean noted. “The whole block was one mass of humanity. After the people had gotten in place as well as they could the ceremonies began.” It was the largest gathering in Utah history, a record unchallenged for several decades.
When this highest granite block of the temple was in place, President Snow led the Saints in shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! to God and the Lamb! Amen! Amen! Amen!” This heartfelt thanksgiving praise was repeated three times with increasing force as the participants waved white handkerchiefs. “The spectacle and effect of this united demonstration,” wrote one witness, “was grand beyond description, the emotions of the multitude being stirred up by it to the greatest intensity of devotion and enthusiasm.”
John Lingren, a visitor from Idaho Falls, recalled, “The scene . . . [was] beyond the power of language to describe. . . . The eyes of thousands were moistened with tears in the fullness of their joy. The ground seemed to tremble with the volume of the sound which sent forth its echoes to the surrounding hills.” Another eyewitness wrote, “Everyone shouted as loud as they possibly could waving their handkerchiefs, the effect was indescribable.”
A year later, on April 6, 1893, the Church held the first of the formal dedication services. “When the great song, ‘The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning’ was sung by the united audience,” well-known Utah photographer and Tabernacle Choir member Charles R. Savage wrote, “a different feeling thrilled through me from any one I have ever experienced. The hosanna shout was something long to be remembered and one I never expect to hear again during my life.”
The service included the dedicatory prayer offered by President Woodruff, talks by the First Presidency, and the rendering of the awe-inspiring sacred Hosanna Shout with “the entire audience standing upon their feet and waving white handkerchiefs in concert,” Francis Hammond wrote. For Brother Hammond, “it seemed the heavenly host had come down to mingle with us.” Emmeline B. Wells noted: “This shout of Hosanna thrilled the hearts of the vast multitude, and echoed grandly through the magnificent building; so exultant and enraptured were the saints in their rejoicing that their faces beamed with gladness, and the whole place seemed glorified and sanctified in recognition of the consecration made on that momentous and never-to-be forgotten occasion.”
L. John Nuttal wrote that the shout was “rendered with a hearty good will, my heart and soul were so full of the spirit of the Lord, that I could scarcely contain myself.” At the conclusion of the soul-stirring shout, the choir immediately began singing a specially composed hymn. Choir member Thomas Griggs wrote, “Choir sang Brother Evan Stephen’s ‘Hosannah Chorus,’ the congregation joining in the latter part with the ‘Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.’”
We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!
The combined effect of some twenty-five hundred people standing together in the upper assembly room of the temple, all joining together in the sacred shout and singing the dedication hymn, was overpowering. Many participants wept uncontrollably; others could not finish the hymn as they were so overcome by the spirit of the occasion.
James Bunting said, “It would be in vain for me to attempt a description of the interior of the Temple or to describe the heavenly feeling that pervaded all the exercises.” One account simply stated, “Each must see and hear and feel for himself.”
President Woodruff later told a congregation of Saints that “the Heavenly Host were in attendance at the [first] dedication [service] . . . and if the eyes of the congregation could be opened they would [have] seen Joseph and Hyrum [Smith], Brigham Young, John Taylor and all the good men who had lived in this dispensation assembled with us, as also Esaias, Jeremiah, and all the Holy Prophets and Apostles who had prophesied of the latter day work.” President Woodruff continued, “They were rejoicing with us in this building which had been accepted of the Lord and [when] the [Hosanna] shout had reached the throne of the Almighty,” they too had joined in the joyous shout.
As new temples are built, more and more Latter-day Saints will be in a position to participate in a temple dedication service, allowing them to shout praise to the Lord!