Another longtime Latter-day Saint tradition ends at temple dedications

First Presidency announces that cornerstone ceremonies no longer will take place.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf helps a young Latter-day Saint girl place mortar securing the cornerstone of the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple in March 2013.

New temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to be announced, sited, designed and built at a dizzying pace. Ceremonial groundbreakings officially launch on-site construction. And these sacred edifices are still dedicated upon completion so devout members can participate in their religion’s holiest rites.

But the symbolic “cornerstone” ceremonies are no more.

On Saturday, the Utah-based faith’s governing First Presidency announced an end to the traditional practice of white-suited top church leaders exiting the services on dedication days and, with trowels in hand, applying mortar to a cornerstone — often with the assistance of young children.

“Construction techniques have advanced to the point that cornerstones are no longer included in large buildings,” President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring, stated in a two-sentence, 28-word news release. “Therefore, temple cornerstone ceremonies will no longer be part of temple dedications.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, left, placed mortar around the cornerstone of the temple in Meridian, Idaho, in 2017 with the help of a young girl and her father.

That means that the dedication later Sunday of the Helena Temple by apostle Gary E. Stevenson took place without a cornerstone observance.

“This temple dedication,” he said in a news release, “serves as a testament of the strength and devotion of the Saints who reside in this beautiful region of Montana.”

The single-spired, nearly 10,000-square-foot temple — the faith’s first “modular” one, constructed in dozens of pieces in Alabama and then assembled on-site in Montana — will be the Treasure State’s second Latter-day Saint temple.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) From left, Kevin R. Duncan, general authority Seventy and Temple Department executive director, and his wife, Nancy Duncan; apostle Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Lesa Stevenson; Randall K. Bennett, general authority Seventy and counselor in the North America Central Area Presidency, and his wife, Shelley Bennett; and Michael Suhaka, managing director of the Temple Department, and his wife, Sheri Suhaka, on June 18, 2023, for the dedication of the Helena Temple.

The first one went up in Billings, and a third was announced in April 2022 for Missoula.

Latter-day Saints view a temple as a House of the Lord, a structure where the faithful participate in their religion’s highest ordinances, including eternal marriage.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The cornerstone marking the dedication year of the Helena Montana Temple is seen on Sunday, June 18, 2023, in Helena, Mont. Under the faith's new directive, no cornerstone ceremony was held as part of the temple dedication.

In 2018, the church also stopped staging youth cultural celebrations before temple dedications. Instead, visiting leaders speak to young members at devotionals before these seminal moments.

At the last temple dedication to include a cornerstone event — in Richmond, Va., on May 7 — Oaks invited kids from Virginia, Maryland and Georgia to help put mortar around the cornerstone.

“The most important idea about a cornerstone is that Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone, setting the direction for the building at the key position in the foundation,” Oaks said at the time in a news release. “So it is with this temple.”

While that metaphorical sentiment may live on for members at Latter-day Saint temples, the symbolic ceremony will cease.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A ceremonial trowel set used for the cornerstone ceremony of the Richmond Virginia Temple on May 7, 2023.