Temple Square, a ten acre complex located in the center of Salt Lake City, Utah, is owned by
headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). In recent
years, the name has gradually changed to include several other church facilities immediately
adjacent to Temple Square. Contained within Temple Square proper are the Salt Lake Temple,
Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the Seagull Monument and two visitors' centers.
In 1847, when Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Church president Brigham Young selected a plot of the desert ground and proclaimed, "Here we will build a temple to our God." When the city was surveyed, the block enclosing that location was designated for the temple, and became known as Temple Square. Temple Square is surrounded by a high wall that was built shortly after the block was designated for the building of the temple.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle, also known as the Mormon Tabernacle, is home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square. This facility was built between 1864 and 1867 to accommodate the General Conferences of the Church, with a seating capacity of 8,000. In March, 2007 the Tabernacle was rededicated after its extensive renovations and restorations were completed. Spacing between the pews was substantially increased, resulting in a reduced overall seating capacity.
The Tabernacle was rededicated at the Saturday Afternoon Session of the 177th Annual General Conference, in which the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve and other General Authorities and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, broadcast the session from within the Tabernacle rather than in the Conference Center. In addition to housing the choir, the tabernacle is also used for other religious and cultural events.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle was inspired by an attempt to build a Canvas Tabernacle in Nauvoo, Illinois in the 1840s. This tabernacle was to be situated just to the West of the Nauvoo Temple and was to be oval shaped, much the same as the Salt Lake Tabernacle. However, the Nauvoo edifice (never built) was to have amphitheater style or terraced seating, and was to have canvas roofing.
As the Church grew, its headquarters expanded into the surrounding area. In 1917, an administration building was built on the block east of the temple, to be followed in 1972 by the twenty-eight story LDS Church Office Building, which was, for many years, the tallest building in the state of Utah. The Hotel Utah, another building on this block, was remodeled in 1995 as additional office space and a large film theater and renamed the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
In 2000, the Church purchased the section of Main Street between this block and Temple Square and connected the two blocks with a plaza called the Main Street Plaza. In 2000, the Church completed a new, 21,000 seat Conference Center on the block north of Temple Square.
The Family History Library and the Church History Museum are located on the block west of Temple Square.
Today, Temple Square features two visitors' centers, called the North Visitors' Center and the South Visitors' Center. The North Visitors' Center was built first and features a replica of The Christus, a statue of Jesus Christ by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The Christus is located in a domed room with large windows, painted with clouds, stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies. If you look up at the ceiling, as you are climbing the stairs, it is though you are walking up into the heavens. Very impressive!
The visitors' centers and grounds are staffed by sister missionaries and senior missionary couples exclusively; no single male missionaries serve on Temple Square. The sister missionaries serving on Temple Square are from countries around the world, speaking enough languages to cater to the majority of visitors from around the world. Beginning with the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, sisters have been wearing tags with their national flags along with their missionary name tags.
The Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the smallest of the three assembly buildings, seats approximately 2,000 and is located on the southwest corner of Temple Square. The Assembly Hall is a Victorian Gothic congregation hall, with a cruciform layout of the interior that is complemented by Stars of David circumscribed high above each entrance. These symbolize the gathering of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (LDS perspective). Construction of the hall began on August 11, 1877 and was completed around 1882. Upon entering Temple Square from the South, the Assembly Hall can be seen to the left (west). The Assembly Hall hosts occasional free weekend music concerts and is filled as overflow for the Church's twice-a-year General Conferences.
The largest and most recently built assembly building is the LDS Conference Center. With a capacity of over 21,000, it is used primarily for the LDS Church's General Conference as well as for concerts and other cultural events. The Conference Center was completed in 2000. Attached on the northwest corner of the Conference Center is the Conference Center Theater, a comparatively smaller 850-seat theater for dramatic presentations, such as Savior of the World, as well as concerts and other events.
I enjoyed my visit to Temple Square and the Salt Lake City area. I was there in the spring and experienced "springtime in Utah" with its trees and flowers in full bloom.