Temple Square is a thirty-five-acre plot located in the center of Salt Lake City, Utah. It was no accident that the city was built around Temple Square. When members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) arrived in 1847, Brigham Young wanted the Saints to put the focus of their lives on the temple. He set aside a plot of land for the temple built the city up with the temple at its center. Today, Salt Lake City roads are built on a grid system with Temple Square at the center. From there, roads branch out as 100 N, 100 S, 100 W, and 100 E.
The fourteen buildings which are housed on Temple Square today include the:
- North Visitor Center
- South Visitor Center
- Assembly Hall
- Beehive House
- Lion House
- Joseph Smith Memorial Building
- Relief Society Building
- Church History Library
- Church History Museum
- Church Office Building
- Conference Center
- Family History Library
- and, of course, the Salt Lake Temple.
The Tabernacle, completed in 1867, was home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for scores of years, and served as the location of the LDS Church’s General Conferences for more than 130 years. The North Visitor Center houses a replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture the Christus, and the South Visitor Center has many interactive displays about Jesus Christ and the history of the LDS Church. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building (the remodelled Hotel Utah) is home to two restaurants, several Church offices, special-event rooms, a theater (used for Church-made informational and inspirational films), and a distribution center for Church materials. The Family History Library contains the world’s largest collection of genealogical records, which is available for public use, as well as the Museum of Church History and Art.
The Conference Center, completed in 2000, seats 21,000 (compared to the 6,000 seating capacity of the Tabernacle), and is used for General Conferences as well as high-quality community performances such as plays, concerts, and lectures.
The new Church History Library, which opened in June 2009, used special design and construction to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings. This building houses a unique collection of journals, artifacts, photographs, and other records which pertain to the history of the Latter-day Saints and the Mormon Church.
Temple Square is a popular tourist attraction and with 5 million annual visitors, is more visited than either the Grand Cany0n or Yellowstone National Parks. In 2009, Forbes listed Temple Square as the 16th-most visited attraction in the United States.
Temple Square is now even its own geographical mission in the Mormon Church, with missionaries from 51 countries speaking 30 different languages to greet guests and share with them more about the Mormon Church. This is due to the wide variety of attractions for different interests as well as its beauty. The grounds at Temple Square are breathtaking. The landscaping is beautiful, and the Christmas lights and programs at Temple Square are legendary.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearses in the Tabernacle every Thursday, and these rehearsals are generally open to the public. All museums and centers on Temple Square are open free to the public.
See Temple Square in a virtual 3-D tour!
The 150 temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) dotting all four corners of the earth are all equal in magnificence and power. However, the most popular is the Salt Lake Temple with its distinctive spires and overall appearance which stands as a symbol of the Church. Spanning an area of 253,000 square feet ― it is the largest Mormon Temple in the world. Its Romanesque/Gothic architectural design, which is similar to the great castles in Europe, has amazed millions of temple goers and visitors from across the globe. For more than a century since its construction, it has stood as a symbol of the faith, dedication, and sacrifice of the early Mormon pioneers, who consecrated all that they possessed for the furtherance of the Lord’s work.
After a long and tedious march from Nauvoo, Illinois, and Winter Quarters, Nebraska, the Mormons entered the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847 under the leadership of a Mormon prophet, Brigham young, who succeeded Joseph Smith as President of the Church. Most of them were afflicted by mountain fever, including Brigham Young himself. Four days after they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young walked a short distance with some members of the company to survey the area. When they reached the spot he saw in a vision, he planted his walking stick on the ground and declared, “Here we will build the temple of our God.” Six years later, on 14 February 1853, he presided over the groundbreaking for the new temple, and the cornerstone was laid on April 6th of the same year.
Building the House of the Lord
Due to insufficient funds and difficulty in obtaining materials for construction, the building of the Salt Lake Temple was slow, and frequently encountered interruptions. The foundation and footings were composed of sandstone from nearby Red Butte Canyon, while the walls were made from huge blocks of granite from a vast mountain deposit in little Cottonwood Canyon, some twenty miles from the temple site. As many as 150 men worked on the temple at any given time, consecrating their time, effort, talent, and money for the building of the sacred edifice.
Transporting granite to the temple site was done using teams of oxen, a four-day round trip, which proved to be a real challenge for the workers. The arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 solved the transportation problem, which significantly sped up the construction work. In 1855, the entire foundation was completed.
However, in 1858, the construction was stopped temporarily due to the arrival of Federal troops during the Utah War. Brigham young advised the saints to completely evacuate their houses and abandon the unfinished temple. Before they left, they filled their houses with hay and dry leaves, and buried the entire temple foundation, making it to appear like unto a farmer’s plowing field to avoid unwanted attention.
The saints returned to the construction site when the tension dissipated. When the foundation was uncovered, huge cracks were found, making it apparently insufficient to support the weight of a granite temple. After much prayer and meditation, Brigham Young ordered the Latter-day Saints to tear down the foundation, which had taken them 9 years to build, and replace it with Quartz monzonite (similar to granite) from Little Cottonwood Canyon, 20 miles southeast from the temple site.
Laying the Capstone
The lengthy construction of the external part of Salt Lake Temple finally reached its completion with the laying of the capstone on 6 April 1892. Soon after, the 12.5 feet high, gold-leafed copper statue was placed on top of the center eastern spire of the temple.
The statue represents an angel named Moroni, who appeared to Joseph Smith and directed him to the gold plates containing sacred records of some early inhabitants of Ancient America, which he (Joseph Smith) translated by the power of God, and published as the Book of Mormon. The same statue can be found atop each Latter-day Saints Temple nowadays, representing both a messenger of the restoration of the gospel, and a herald for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Around fifty thousand Mormon Church members occupied Temple Square and the adjoining streets on the day of the Capstone Ceremony. Within one year, the interior of the House of the Lord was completed through the spirit of unity among members of the Church, who consecrated all that they could offer. Both men and women gifted with talents and skills in wood and stone carving, painting, designing, sewing, and embroidery were brought into service, while others outside the temple were busy preparing food and drinks to sustain the workers inside.
On April 6, 1893, exactly 40 years after the laying of the cornerstone, the Salt Lake City Utah Mormon Temple was dedicated amidst rejoicing and tremendous spiritual outpourings. President Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of the Church offered the dedicatory prayer. The first of twenty-three dedicatory sessions was attended by more than 2,200 Latter-day Saints, filling the large assembly room on the fourth floor of the temple.
The Salt Lake City temple is the fourth operating Mormon temple and the sixth temple built by the Church. During its construction, 3 more temples were started and completed: the St. George Utah Temple, Logan Utah Temple, and Manti Utah Temple. The dedication, faith, and sacrifices of the early Mormons who participated in the construction of this sacred structure are a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 2:2:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” (Isaiah 2:2, KJV)
The Salt Lake City Temple holds a special place in the hearts of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormons. The Mormons had been driven out forcibly from Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. They had walked hundreds of miles across treacherous territories and seen their loved ones die. When they finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they built it into a their home, one far away from the dangers that had followed them for so long.
Within only four days of arriving in Salt Lake, the Salt Lake Temple was announced. It was over forty years and countless trials later before the building was complete. Today it stands in the center of Salt Lake, and at the administrative center of the church. It has come to symbolize a holy sanctuary where men and women can find peace and rest.
This website is devoted to helping others understand the Salt Lake Temple, as well as temples in general. Because of the sacredness of the nature of temples, they are seldom discussed by members of the Mormon church, and thus they become easy prey to gossip, slander, and lies. This site attempts to bring understanding to all about what exactly is done inside of temples in a way that is clear and easy to understand. It also hopes to show why the Salt Lake Temple is often the image that comes to people’s minds when they hear the words “Mormon Temple.”
We invite submissions of articles and images centered on the Salt Lake Mormon Temple. Send in your work to email@example.com.