At the tail end of my Alaska adventure & Northwestern US roadtrip, I had about a half-day to spend in Salt Lake City before departing on the red eye out of SLC. I didn’t want to stray too far from the airport, so visiting Temple Square, home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, seemed like the perfect few-hour activity.
Before arriving at Temple Square I admittedly did not know much about the mormon faith, but I did grow up listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s holiday album – practically on repeat for two months straight – as my mom was always a huge fan. I also knew the building was a spectacular sight for an architecture-lover like myself, so was excited to learn more about the temple.
After parking in a public lot – plenty are available within a few-block radius – I entered the Visitor’s Center and was told that guided-tours depart every hour on the hour. I was about 45 minutes away from the next guided tour so I had decided to wander for a bit when two sisters approached me and asked if I’d like a private tour. (Of course I said “yes!”) A family of four from Japan was also wandering, so the sisters approached them as well and off we went!
Sister Brooks from California and Sister Madeiros from Brazil were wonderful guides. In the midst of their mission in Salt Lake City – generally an 18-month period in which they dedicate themselves wholly to the church – the sisters carry out many duties, one of which is giving tours. Visitors are not allowed in the Salt Lake Temple, the main temple, but we were able to visit the Assembly Hall and the Tabernacle and tour the beautiful gardens.
The Assembly Hall replaced an older tabernacle that was no longer needed after the current Tabernacle was completed in 1875. In addition to its function as a place of worship, the Assembly Hall is also used for lectures, recitals, and weekend concerts.
Strolling by the Salt Lake Temple was a breathtaking experience. While admiring the intricacy of the temple’s details, it was easy to imagine why it took 40 years to construct. A magnificent granite structure, the walls at the base of the temple are nine feet thick, six feet thick toward the top. Gracing the top of the temple is the Angel Moroni, a prophet from the Book of Mormon.
Seeing inside the Tabernacle, home of the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was quite a treat! While no rehearsing took place during my visit, the Tabernacle does stay open during most choir, organ (11,623 pipe organ!) and handbell rehearsals. (What an experience that would be!) And the sisters did play a recording of a hymn, to give us an idea of the acoustics in the Tabernacle, which was very cool.
During the tour, I learned that the dome-shaped auditorium is so acoustically sensitive that a pin dropped at the pulpit can be clearly heard at the back of the hall, 170 feet away. (Whoa nelly!)
After parting ways with Sister Brooks and Sister Madeiros, I admired the tranquil gardens before heading to the airport. Featuring over 700 varieties of plants from all over the world, the gardens are redesigned every 6 months.
During the tour, the sisters did share information about the mormon faith, however it didn’t ever feel “preachy.” I didn’t pass a single donation box, nor was there a fee or suggested donation for the guided tour. It was just a lovely and informational hour, filled with beautiful sights and sounds.
Easily accessible to anyone visiting Salt Lake City by car, folks with a two-hour or more layover at Salt Lake City Airport may hop a shuttle for a free tour of Temple Square, departing SLC every 30-minutes in the summer and every hour during the rest of the year. More information and schedules may be obtained at the airport information desks in Terminals 1 & 2. (Does it get any easier than that?)
Have YOU visited Salt Lake City’s Temple Square? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!