Temple Square and the History of Salt Lake City

Temple Square is not only the geographic center of Salt Lake City it is also the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormons arrived here on July 24, 1847, led by Church President Brigham Young, after being forced away from the East Coast by their religious believes. Within 4 days Brigham Young has chosen the site for the Salt Lake Temple, which took 40 years to build, and designed the city’s grid layout.

Temple Square is full of history and it is a must see place when you visit Salt Lake City no matter what religion you are from or if you believe at all. It’s as much as the history of the city as the history of the Mormons. Everyone is welcome at this grounds. Three of the buildings at Temple Square were built by the original pioneers . This buildings are the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle and the Assembly Hall. The area grew over the years as well as the number of church members grew.

Everything here is for free and you can enter all the buildings and take tours except the Temple. Because of its beauty, this site is often used for weddings.

There are two visitor centers on site, one is called the North Visitor Center and the other one the South Visitor Center. Enter the North Visitor Center and meet one of the sisters doing their mission here on Temple Square. They are more than happy to arrange a free tour for you. If there are not to many visitors, you will get your own private tour. During peak season they will gather people together in bigger groups to accommodate everyone.

Sister Kaiser from Switzerland and Sister Villar from the Philippines were my tour guides and brought me on an interactive tour throughout Temple Square. Every tour is different and you will get to see different parts. Just ask the sisters what you would like to see. Our tour started out inside the North Visitor Center were the sisters showed me the 11-foot replica of Thorvaldsen’s Christus. After that we went to the Assembly Hall and heard all the history and stories behind this building and we ended our tour at the South Visitor Center were you could see a model of the Salt Lake Temple and whats inside. At the end I got my free copy of “The Book of Mormon”. The german version had a hard cover and is slightly bigger than the english version, because it’s printed in a bigger font size.

Size Comparsion between English and German Version

Size Comparison between English and German Version

I spend a lot of time to discover all the buildings and places around Temple Square and want to give you a small overview here.

North Visitor Center

It shows part of the history of the church, and art gallery interactive exhibits and highlight is the 11-foot Christus statue upstairs. Downstairs is a movie theatre were you can watch the movie “Meet the Mormons” every day at 7:30 p.m.

Building Hours: 

Sunday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

Thorvaldsen's Christus Statue

Thorvaldsen’s Christus Statue

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

North Visitor Center

Assembly Hall

The building has a seating capacity for about 1,400 people and construction began in 1877 and was completed five years later in 1882. The Assembly Hall was mostly built out of discarded granite from the ongoing construction of the Temple. The structure has been modified several times since completion and the biggest renovation occurred from 1979 to 1983 to correct structural weaknesses in the building.  The Assembly Hall hosts occasional free weekend music concerts.

The small monument situated immediately in front of the Salt Lake Assembly Hall is called the Seagull Monument and commemorates the “Miracle of the Gulls”.

Building Hours:

Sunday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall by Night

Assembly Hall by Night

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall

 

Tabernacle

The Tabernacle was built between 1864 and 1867 to house meetings for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). It is located on the west center-line axis of the Salt Lake Temple and is one of the original three buildings still remaining on Temple Square. The Tabernacle was home of the semi-annual general conference for 132 years. In 2000 the Church opened the LDS Conference Center just north of the North Visitor Center. Today it is the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Tabernacle Organ with 11,623 pipes. This makes the Tabernacle Organ one of the biggest in the world.

Building Hours:

Sunday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Tabernacle by Night

Tabernacle by Night

Salt Lake Tabernacle

 

Salt Lake Temple

It took 40 years to complete the temple and its dedication was in 1893. This is the centerpiece of the Temple Square and the largest temple by floor area. The grounds of the temple were marked by second president of the church Brigham Young, just four days after the arrival of the pioneers in this area. The temple is not open to the public but you can get a glimpse of what is inside by visiting the South Visitor Center.

There are a 15 feet high wall around the 10-acre temple site which is now known as Temple Square. Immediately outside of the walls to the east is a reflection pond. The temple reflects itself inside this pool and it makes a good spot for photos.

Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple by Night

Salt Lake Temple by Night

Salt Lake Temple by Night

Salt Lake Temple by Night

Salt Lake Temple by Night

Salt Lake Temple by Night

 

South Visitor Center

It shows the importance of family and the modern prophet as well as the history of building the temple. In the center of the building is a big glass front viewing directly at the Salt Lake Temple and inside is a model of the temple which lets you see what’s inside the temple.

Building Hours:

Sunday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple – View from the South Visitor Center

Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple Model with the real Temple in the Background

 

Church History Museum

It tells the story from the beginning of the Mormons up to today. It brings you closer to what the people went through and why the came here. It is full of exhibits on 2 floors. Entrance is for free. The museum is located to the west of the temple and just outside the wall, across the street.

Building Hours:

Sunday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Church History Museum

Church History Museum

Church History Museum

Inside the Church History Museum

Church History Museum

Inside the Church History Museum

Church History Museum

Inside the Church History Museum

Pioneer Log Home

 

Family History Library

Located just south of the Church History Museum, it is largest genealogy library in the world. The Mormons started in 2894 to gather genealogical records to help members trace their family history. Everyone is welcome to enter and use the resources of the library free of charge. More than 300 computers are available in this five-floor building. Resources here include birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, census returns, property, probate and cemetery records among many others. The only catch is that the collection focuses on persons who lived before 1930. The LDS Church is also serious about preserving its genealogy records. All originals are kept at the Granite Records Vault in the mountains near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Digital copies are available to everyone (familysearch.org).

If you want to research your family history, I recommend you to go to the Family Search Center in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

Hours of Operation:

Mondays: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Joseph Smith Memorial Building

As mentioned before if you are new to family research, check out the Family Search Center here. You get one-on-one help from a family history expert. They also offer hands-on activities for kids and teens.

The Building is east of the temple and with its ten-stories visible from pretty much everywhere around Temple Square. Previously named Hotel Utah and operated as a hotel it was reopened in 1993 as a social center for the church. The hotel itself opened for business in 1911.

The top floor offers an amazing view of Temple Square and the city. There are two restaurants on the top floor with the same great view of the city and temple square. Definitely, a place to check out for an exquisite dining experience.

Building Hours:

Monday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Temple Square - View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Temple Square – View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

 

Church Office Building

This 28-story tall building houses the administrative staff of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The building is 420 ft (128 m) tall and is located east of the Salt Lake Temple on North Temple and State Street. There is an observation deck on the 26th floor and it’s open to the public free of charge. The observation deck provides a great view of Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake to the northwest, the Wasatch Mountains to the north and east, the skyline of the city to the south, the Oquirrh Mountains to the west, and of course the Temple Square to the immediate west.

The observation deck is one of the less known spots around Temple Square and nobody pointed it out to me during my visit.

Building Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

Church Office Building

Church Office Building

 

Beehive House and Lion House

Brigham Young, who led the Mormon pioneers across the plains of Utah, lived in both buildings with 27 wifes and 56 children. Young died in the Lion House in 1877 and it is been designated as a National Historic Landmark since 1964. The Lion House is home to the Lion House Pantry with good food options. Enjoy your meal inside in the Victorian dining room or outside on the patio.

There is a tour available for the Beehive House. Follow the signs to the Beehive House and enter through the front door. Two sisters will take you on a tour throughout the building and explain you more detailed the history of the building and the different rooms inside.

Building Hours:

Sunday – Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Lion House

Lion House

Bee Hive House

Bee Hive House

 

Inside the Bee Hive House

Inside the Bee Hive House

Inside the Bee Hive House

Inside the Bee Hive House

Inside the Bee Hive House

Inside the Bee Hive House

 

LDS Conference Center

In 2000 the first semi-annual global conference was held here. This building is a masterpiece of engineering. The building features a 21.000 seat auditorium, 7.667 pipe organ, and a 900 seat theatre. The building is open to the public by free tours. The conference center contains portraits of the current and passed away apostles as well as original paintings including the Book of Mormon gallery by Arnold Friberg. There is a waterfall on the south side of the building, which utilizes water from an underground spring found during construction.

The rooftop is one gigantic garden with 3 acres (12,000 m²) of grass and hundreds of trees. Since 9/11 the rooftop garden is only accessible with a tour guide and is closed during the winter month (November until March). The tours are available year-round but during and just before events, the conference center is closed to the public.

Building Hours:

Every day: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Convention Center

Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Inside the Convention Center

Temple Square - View from the Convention Center

Temple Square – View from the Convention Center

 

Bottom Line

It was a great experience to see all the history here and meet people from all over the world doing their mission here. There are only female missionaries working on Temple Square. I asked why, but nobody seems to know, that is just how it always was.

 

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