The temple had a full basement, which was used as the baptistery. The arched stone pillars supported the floor above and formed six rooms on either side. The flooring was herringbone-patterned in brick and sloped toward the center for drainage. The fire red flooring and the angel white walls created a dramatic contrast to the cavernous room. Dominating the center was a sixteen by twelve foot limestone baptismal font supported by twelve life-size oxen crafted from pine. A staircase, centered between the oxen, rose seven feet to the font’s rim.
Inside and amazed by the temple’s magnitude, Naamah moved with head up, feeling dwarfed. She stepped from the propelling crowd to turn slowly and take in more. Light streamed in to enchant her and to create a warm ambiance. She inhaled, and her awe gave way to admiration. Joseph’s vision has finally come to pass.
Four years earlier, Joseph broke ground for the temple. As Prophet, he decreed neither sacred endowments nor general conferences would occur until the temple was completed. While finishing details were still needed, the windows were in place, the flooring had been laid, and seating was adequate to accommodate the congregation.
Naamah sat next to Amelia and among sisters, many of whom were from Peterborough. As usual recently, Aunt Susan was not near, so Naamah scanned hoping to spot her. She ceased when President Young arose and the clamor quieted.
He moved like a lion surveying his domain. When Naamah clutched Amelia’s forearm, she twitched and turned to Naamah with a quizzical look. Naamah forced a meek smile and released her grip. A hush came.
Brigham bowed his head and uttered inaudible words before slowly raising it while tightening his podium grip. With a roar powerful enough to rattle the windows he said, “Lord, today we dedicate this house.” He flung his arms toward the heavens, “We dedicate this monument of the Saints, and we dedicate ourselves unto thee.” He paused as amen followed.
As he continued, Naamah was riveted. When he paused for a moment, she surveyed the sisters around her. They were captivated, too. She turned to the podium and thought, Such a powerful man, and a mere step from the Prophet. She glanced at Amelia and thought of her earlier comment. Being near him, like Sister Emily, does have advantages, she thought.
Brigham opened his arms and raised them skyward “On this Sabbath, I hereby decree the temple’s motto for eternity to be,” and he paused before roaring, “holiness unto the Lord.”
As he strode from the podium, Naamah sensed her cheeks had flushed. She placed her right hand near her bosom, an instinctive effort to quell a fluttering heart. Amen, President Young, amen. She was unsure if she said it aloud or whether it arose out of her soul.
Others speakers followed, but lacking Brigham’s vigor, Naamah’s attention waned. Her eyes drifted, hoping to spot Aunt Susan. Her search became methodical as her hopes faded into worry. I pray the killing frost kills her ague, too.
Elder John Taylor, still with the musket ball in his left knee that he received during the martyrdom fifteen months earlier, limped toward the podium. He appeared sage-like with a thick mane of greying, unruly hair that extended into his sideburns to mask his ears. He clutched the podium, but unlike President Young, to steady himself. As he talked about the Saints completing the temple and leaving in the spring, Naamah thought, I pray Aunt Susan will be among us. She continued to wonder about the exodus until Taylor elevated his voice and stood erect.
With fists clenched and renewed vigor, Taylor said, “I shall rejoice on the day we are beyond the bounds of these so-called Christians.” He patted the lump in his coat pocket and smiled broadly as his eyes opened farther, seemingly in delight. “For then, I will need not my six-shooter to fend against those blood suckers who tried in vain to drain life from me in that Carthage Jail.”
“Amen,” roared the crowd in unison.