On Friday, April 4th, we knew we had only one day left to see Salt Lake City. And what is Salt Lake City most famous for? For being the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka, LDS Church, aka “The Mormons”). Although our family doesn’t prescribe to the tenets of the LDS faith, we reasoned that NOT seeing the Temple Square while in Salt Lake City would be like NOT seeing the Vatican while in Rome. After all, nearly 2/3 of the population of Utah is Mormon, and nearly 15 million people worldwide belong to that denomination. So after lunch we jumped into the car and drove the half-hour away to downtown Salt Lake City and to Temple Square.
Along the way we passed right in front of the Utah State Capital Building, so we pulled over and snapped a picture. As with most state capital buildings, it’s impressive and beautiful.
Upon arriving at Temple Square, we found a couple of the “LDS Sisters” who offer free guided tours of the square. The two church sisters were very friendly and open about their faith without being too overbearing. In the LDS faith, young believers are highly encouraged to spend a couple of years as missionaries for their church upon graduating from high school. From what I understand, pairs of young men go out into the world to evangelize, and young women serve at the Temple Square or do humanitarian aid. (I could be wrong about the details of this missionary service, but I think that’s the basic gist of it.)
First we were told about and shown THE TEMPLE. Yes, there are LDS temples in other cities, but this is *THE* temple. This is the holiest of holy places for the LDS faithful. It was here in Salt Lake City that the church leader Brigham Young led his people to establish a new settlement after their founder Joseph Smith was murdered and followers were expelled from Nauvoo, Illinois. While only LDS members who are in good standing with their church are allowed entrance to the Temple, non-Mormons aren’t allowed entry at all, even for a guided tour (which I can respect). We had to be content to see the temple from the outside, and to see a miniature model at the visitor center. The temple was built between 1853 and 1893, and it is in its walls that sacred ordinances such as baptisms and marriages take place. As a matter of fact, we saw no fewer than ten different brides while we were there!
Next we went to the Assembly Hall. This meeting hall was built in 1882. It has white spires and stained-glass windows and is used today for free concerts and recitals.
Next we went inside the Tabernacle. This is the home of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I was so hoping to be able to hear them practicing, but they only practice from late May until early September, and again in December. This beautiful structure was built so 10,000 people could hear the voice of one speaker back in the days before the invention of the microphone. Our tour guides demonstrated the amazing acoustical quality of the building by ripping a piece of paper and dropping pins at the front of the stage. And yes, we could hear it clearly without straining our ears! The structure is domed, and it was built without the use of nails.
Our last stop on our tour was the north visitor center where we were able to enjoy the imposing 11-foot marble Christus statue, along with two art galleries, and interactive map of Jerusalem, and other exhibits.
As our tour concluded, we walked back outside and wandered around the Temple Square because there were so many more areas to explore. In all, there are sixteen buildings in the square, including the family genealogy library, historic home of Brigham Young, and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building into which we stopped to see the gorgeous lobby.
The 35 downtown acres of Temple Square are beautifully kept and quite impressive, and the LDS sisters give a persuasive introduction to their faith. However, even though I’m fairly confident that our family won’t be following this faith, it is interesting to see a little bit of the history of the people that settled and established the state of Utah.