One of the nice things about living in Eastern Idaho is that all my old haunts in Utah are just a few hours away. When a good friend of mine was getting married in the Salt Lake Temple, I was excited to make the trip down to support her. The deal was sweetened by the fact that Sarah, my roommate from my Freshman year at BYU, was also going to be in Salt Lake for a wedding. We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years, so our visit was long overdue. We had a few hours between weddings and receptions to visit, and since she had her three kiddos with her, we decided to explore Temple Square and the Conference Center.
Salt Lake Temple
Something you don’t realize until you visit Temple Square is just how big the Salt Lake Temple is. It’s hard to imagine that this impressive edifice was constructed without the modern tools and technology that we have today, and easy to imagine how it took the early Saints 40 years to build it. It is the largest temple in the Church by floor area, but not by height. That honor goes to the Washingon, DC, Temple.
The temple grounds take up 10 acres, and they’re full of beautiful gardens and other historic buildings. I especially liked all the statues celebrating the pioneer heritage of Salt Lake. Sarah’s kids even found some elusive Pokémon on the grounds, which I find hilarious. It was a gorgeous day, so we really enjoyed the sunshine as we explored the grounds and admired the temple.
North Visitor’s Center
One of my favorite spots on Temple Square is the top floor of the North Visitor’s Center, where a replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s incredible Christus statue looks out across Temple Square through massive windows. I love the way the walls are painted to look like space, reinforcing the idea that Christ is the center of the universe. Everything exists because of Him, and it’s a simultaneously humbling and inspiring experience to sit at the foot of that statue and think of all He’s done for us. That statue never fails to fill me with awe and gratitude.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle
Temple Square is also home to the Salt Lake Tabernacle, home of General Conference from 1867 to 2000. While it’s no longer used for the semiannual conference (other than as overflow seating), it is still used for concerts featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square. We took a tour led by a pair of sweet young sister missionaries, and they had us stand at the back while they dropped a pin on the podium to demonstrate how the building’s impressive acoustics allowed an entire congregation to hear a speaker long before microphones were available. They also taught us that the architect knew using columns for support would block the congregants’ view, so they used bridge-building techniques to support the domed roof.
The Assembly Hall
We also took a tour of the Assembly Hall, which was built as a regular place of worship out of pieces of stone leftover from the construction of the temple. It’s still used for worship today, as well as for hosting lectures, recitals, and weekend concerts. Check out the Temple Square event calendar here.
The Conference Center
Our last stop was the Conference Center, which was constructed to host General Conference after regular attendance grew too large for the Tabernacle to support. The Conference Center was completed in 2000, and it can seat 21,000 people, and when it’s full, the Mezzanine sinks by a whole 1/4 inch because of the weight of all those people! When it’s not being used for Conference, it also holds cultural and civic events. Our tour guide showed us the theater, the art galleries on the upper floors, and the rooftop, which boasts water features and gardens. The building is truly an engineering marvel, and the rooftop gardens made my urban gardening fan girl heart go all pitter patter. I had been to the Conference Center a few times, but I had never seen so much of it or learned so much about its history. Taking a tour is well worth your time next time you’re in Salt Lake City.
Plan Your Trip
[pricing_column_name comment=”Salt Lake City, UT”]Temple Square[/pricing_column_name]
[line]Price: Free [/line]
[price comment=”Rating”] (5 / 5)[/price]
Other Things to See Nearby
- Brigham Young’s Beehive House
- Church History Library
- Church History Museum
- Church Office Building
- Family Search Center
- Family History Library
- Joseph Smith Memorial Building
- Relief Society Building
- South Visitor’s Center
Parking is available in several lots around Temple Square, and street parking is available. The area is very busy, however, and does fill up quickly. You can also park at UTA Trax and Bus stations and take public transportation to Temple Square. For more parking information, see Visiting Temple Square.
Have you been to Temple Square? What were your favorite Things to see?
If you haven’t, be sure to save this post for your next adventure!
 Wikipedia: Salt Lake Tabernacle