New release: “The House of the Lord” by Talmage

The House of the Lord is the definitive work on temples; our ebook is based on the first edition (1912) and includes the original images of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple. Turns out it was written in response to an attempt to blackmail the Church; I’ll talk a bit about that and about its contents.

According to a helpful article from the Maxwell Institute, the Salt Lake Temple underwent renovations in 1911, and during that time photographs were secretly taken of the interior. The individuals responsible attempted to blackmail the Church, requiring $100,000 to not publicize the photos. When word of this got out, Talmage (then acting president of the University of Utah, but not yet an apostle) wrote to the First Presidency and proposed that they should pre-empt the blackmail attempt by releasing a book containing high-quality photos as well as a discussion of what goes on inside the Temple. Talmage was ordained an Apostle while he was writing the book, and the title page says it was “Published by the Church,” making it pretty authoritative.

Skipping to the end first, the appendix of pictures is probably the coolest part of the book; it includes pictures of the Celestial Room, which apparently used to have rocking chairs; the Holy of Holies, which to my knowledge has never been pictured before or since; the various council rooms on the third floor; the lecture halls; etc. Anyone who has been to the Salt Lake Temple in the last few decades will note that a handful of things have been re-arranged, but much has also stayed the same. It’s worth checking out the list of plates (link to that point in the online html version of the ebook) and scrolling through them.

The eleven chapters discuss the history of temples, their modern necessity, temple ordinances, the Salt Lake Temple (including chapters on its history, interior, and exterior), and the other pre-1912 modern temples. To this day, quotes from Talmage’s text are widely used in other Church temple literature; he essentially provided what is still the canonical method and framework for non-temple discussion of temples.

Some works that MTP has done are basically just fun stuff for Church history buffs or faith-promoting material for those who’ve already read widely. The House of the Lord is not one of those works; it’s an enduring, foundational classic. If you haven’t read it, you should. Now it’s free, so no excuses.

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