News Story

Summer Travel Series: Temple Square

Every year, millions of tourists visit Temple Square at the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. At this beautiful 35-acre destination, visitors can learn more about Mormon history and beliefs through free tours that are available in 30 languages by native-speaking guides. The number one tourist destination in Utah, Temple Square is known for its excellent research libraries, cultural activities and activities for people of all ages and all faiths.


Temple Square has been the center of Salt Lake City since the city’s founding by Mormon pioneers in 1847. Just a few days after their arrival, Church president Brigham Young designated a spot to build a temple. The block surrounding that location became known as Temple Square, a designation that has expanded over the years to include several surrounding blocks.

This unique history is one of the major reasons people visit Temple Square, according to Scott Beck, the president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“One of biggest motivators for travel is to see something you don’t have in your own community. You want to visit a place that is endemic, authentic and organic to that area,” Beck said. “Clearly our state and city were founded by the Mormon pioneers. That is part of our identity and culture, part of who we are, and nothing is more emblematic of that commitment to this valley than Temple Square.”

Beck said the historical significance of Temple Square is compelling even for those with no connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s the same thing as if you were to visit Rome and were excited about going to see the Vatican,” Beck said. “There is such a sense of awe and beauty even if I’m not Catholic.”

What to See and Do

Temple Square is open every day of the year from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Visitors can wander the grounds on their own or take a free tour in any one of 30 languages from native-speaking young missionaries.

“Those coming to Temple Square will get more out of their visit by taking a tour,” said President Michael Holmes, who oversees the Temple Square missionaries. “These dynamic young women share the history of the area and provide background on some basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This will help visitors better understand what they are seeing and why these sites are important to Latter-day Saints.”

The centerpiece of Temple Square is the majestic Salt Lake Temple, which was finished in 1893 after 40 years of construction. While the temple is not open to the public, visitors can see an accurate scale model of the interior of the temple in the South Visitors’ Center.

Immediately west of the temple is the Salt Lake Tabernacle, built in 1867. Ninni Bisson from South Africa said the Tabernacle was her favorite part of her recent visit.

“The atmosphere and the organ were just beautiful,” she said. “Everything is very beautiful and impressive and the people were very friendly.”

The Tabernacle seats 2,900 people and hosts a variety of religious and community events, including its role as the home of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The choir’s weekly performance of Music and the Spoken Word is held each Sunday morning from 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. and is free and open to the public. Visitors can attend the choir’s rehearsals, which are usually held on Thursday evenings.

“If possible, any visitor to Temple Square should not miss the opportunity to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” Michael Holmes said. “No matter your religious background, you feel an amazing spirit when the choir sings. This is always an unforgettable experience for our visitors.”

In addition, there are free organ concerts held in the Tabernacle every day. Free musical performances are also offered regularly at the nearby Assembly Hall, which is a charming Gothic-style building with beautiful stained-glass windows.

Temple Square’s architecture and gardens are always a favorite of visitors, Scott Beck said.

“One of the things that is most intriguing to people is the whole environment that is Temple Square,” Beck said. “It is such a place of beauty. There is really a sense of sereneness there.”

There are two visitors’ centers on Temple Square where people can learn more about Latter-day Saint beliefs. Exhibits at the South Visitors’ Center include interactive information on the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, providing a unique glimpse of this historic building. The North Visitors’ Center features an 11-foot replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue. There are also several films about the beginnings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient Americans.

Debra Shannon, a Mormon from Carson Valley, Nevada, who recently visited Temple Square with her family, said the exhibits help teach visitors about the central role of Jesus Christ in the lives of Church members.

“It reinforces the truth of who we are and clarifies misconceptions,” she said. “The exhibits also give a full worldwide picture of who we really are, that this is not just a Utah church.”

Located on the block just west of Temple Square, the Church History Museum tells the history of the worldwide Church through educational exhibits and programs. There are several interactive exhibits geared toward children, as well as diverse Mormon artwork from around the globe. Those interested in learning more about Mormon history may also visit the Church History Library, which is located northeast of Temple Square. This state-of-the-art 2009 building safeguards documents, books and photos that tell the story of the Church’s growth and founding. Members of the public can access many of these materials to learn more about Mormons and the history of the American West.

A recent Temple Square visitor from Texas enjoyed the “great presentation on the diverse city of Salt Lake and contribution the Mormons have made.”

People interested in learning more about genealogy flock to the Family History Library, the largest library of its kind in the world. At this world-famous facility, both experienced family historians and curious novices can get free expert help finding information about their ancestors. Even kids can get in on the action with scavenger hunts and other activities for the whole family.

To the east of Temple Square is the 28-story Church Office Building, which was built in 1972. This is the tallest building in Salt Lake City and, for no charge, visitors can go up to the observation deck for a beautiful view of the valley and the majestic Wasatch Mountains.

A favorite with visitors is the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which was formerly the Hotel Utah. This grand old building, which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2011, welcomes the public to its three restaurants and multiple banquet rooms and provides office space for Church employees. Visitors can also enjoy a free film entitled Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration, about the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

North of Temple Square sits the 21,000-seat Conference Center, which is one of the largest religious auditoriums in the world. This building, finished in 2000, is used for the Church’s general conference, which is held twice a year and broadcast worldwide. Free guided tours of the Conference Center are available and include the unique rooftop garden.

A recent visitor from China said the Conference Center was impressive. “The majesty and beautiful architecture enchanted me. I am extremely grateful for our tour guide’s detailed and enthusiastic explanations,” he said.

During June, July and August, outdoor Concerts in the Park are held at the beautiful Brigham Young Park to the east of Temple Square. Summer visitors can also take guided tours of the beautiful gardens, which include 250 flower beds, more than 165,000 bedding plants and over 700 varieties of plants from all over the world. Free one-hour garden tours may be scheduled by calling 801-240-5916.

Temple Square visitors can also step back in time at two nearby homes built in the mid-1800s for Church president Brigham Young and his family. Free tours are offered at the Beehive House, while a restaurant in the Lion House serves up home-style cooking.

Of course, Temple Square is not an island and there are plenty of other restaurant and shopping options nearby. Scott Beck from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau says Temple Square has a significant impact on the local economy.

“Temple Square brings people from outside in,” Beck said. “It creates demand, a reason for people to come here. It is definitely an economic engine for Salt Lake City.”

For those traveling somewhere else this summer who have a layover at the Salt Lake International Airport, free shuttles are available to Temple Square for a brief tour between flights.

All of these options add up to an exceptional experience, according to Neil Wilkinson of the Temple Square Hospitality Corporation.

“We feel that what we offer here on the 35 acres of Temple Square is unique to Utah and to all the world,” Wilkinson said. “Whether people are coming on their own or with a tour group, we know they will have a wonderful time on Temple Square."

For media and bloggers: downloadable b-roll of Temple Square is available upon request.


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