11 February 2015
Surrounded by mature trees against the backdrop of the blue Atlanta sky, the Atlanta Georgia Temple is the first temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be built in Georgia and in the southeastern United States. The 34,500-square-foot building is a landmark on Barfield Road in the Sandy Springs community, and the temple’s single spire rises over 9.6 acres of manicured lawn and gardens.
The first Mormon missionaries arrived in Georgia in 1843. In the 1840s and 1850s, people who converted to the Mormon faith left their homes to join other Church members in Nauvoo, Illinois, and later in Utah. Missionary work ceased throughout the South during the Civil War. During the 1870s, however, proselytizing resumed in Georgia, and many people living in the state converted to the Church and emigrated to Utah. In 1911, Church President Joseph F. Smith asked Church members to remain in their regions and establish local Latter-day Saint communities. From that time forward, Church membership has continued to grow in Georgia.
Indicative of the Church’s growth in this area are the approximately 10,000 people who attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the temple on March 7, 1981. Georgia Governor George Busbee and several local politicians also attended. At the ceremony, Governor Busbee remarked: “I wish more Georgians placed such importance in the moral aspects of this life, for only through a common responsibility for our neighbor’s well-being can we ensure that our state will be a better place for our children to live. And we are all taking a big step toward that goal on this beautiful hillside today as we break ground on what will soon be the first Mormon temple in the entire southern United States.”1
The Atlanta Georgia Temple was announced on April 2, 1980, and the completed temple was dedicated in 11 sessions from June 1 to 4, 1983, by President Gordon B. Hinckley of the Church’s First Presidency. Twenty-six years later, on July 1, 2009, after welcoming an estimated 2.5 million patrons through its doors, the temple was closed for two years for extensive renovations. The renovation included a complete interior remodel, exterior renovation and newly landscaped gardens incorporating drought-tolerant species and water conservation techniques.
For the remodeled temple, artisans crafted stonework using marble from Italy and Pakistan. Spanish fabrics beautify the furniture, rugs made of New Zealand wool and woven in Hong Kong adorn the floors, and sustainable plantations in Brazil provided the eucalyptus hardwood in the interior. Original oil paintings and murals grace the walls, and elevated ceilings allow more natural light in the rooms. The celestial room, a room symbolic of heaven, is crowned with a chandelier consisting of 40,000 Swarovski crystals. Local Church members who volunteered during the renovation hung each crystal by hand. The old chandelier is still part of the temple — its crystals were ground and used in the temple’s art glass.
On April 30, 2011, youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in a cultural celebration, called “Southern Lights,” in anticipation of the renovated temple’s rededication. The performance included 2,700 youth from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina. The participants highlighted events in United States history, as well as the history of Georgia, the Church and temple building, through music and dance. Nearly 3,000 people attended the performance in downtown Atlanta’s Civic Center, including Church President Thomas S. Monson, who pronounced a blessing on all the youth, promising that they would know of God’s love for them and would desire to serve Jesus Christ.2
President Thomas S. Monson rededicated the Atlanta Georgia Temple on May 1, 2011. In his dedicatory prayer, he said: “This beautiful temple has been a haven of peace. It has served well. Showing the effects of such service, it became necessary to improve and renovate it. We are grateful for this long-awaited day of rededication, when the renovations have been completed.”3
1 Matthew R. Lee, “Former Georgia Governor Busbee: ‘First Mormon Temple in the Entire Southern United States,’” Church News, April 12, 2011, http://www.ldschurchnewsarchive.com/articles/60775/Former-Georgia-Governor-Busbee--First-Mormon-temple-in-the-entire-southern-United-States.html
2 Gerry Avant, “Atlanta Georgia Temple: Youth Present ‘Southern Lights,’” Church News, May 2, 2011, http://www.ldschurchnewsarchive.com/articles/60861/Atlanta-Georgia-Temple-Youth-present-Southern-Lights.html
3 Atlanta Georgia Temple dedicatory prayer, in Church News, May 7, 2011, http://www.ldschurchnewsarchive.com/articles/60867/Atlanta-Georgia-Temple-A-haven-of-peace-.html