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In 1847, when Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young selected a 10-acre plot of ground that was designated for the Salt Lake Temple. This plot became known as Temple Square. It also became the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Today, on the thirty-five acres in Salt Lake City that make up Temple Square, there are 13 buildings that provide many interesting historical and modern day wonders. The oldest building there is the Tabernacle that has, since 1867, housed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, sharing with the world the finest musical programs. It was built with a seating capacity of 6,000. In subsequent years other buildings have been built to house important interests of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Temple, which is the building of most importance to the members of the Church, was built over a period of 40 years and finally completed in 1892. On the original Temple Square there are three other buildings: the North Visitor Center (which houses a replica of a statue by artist Bertel Thorvaldsen called the Christus), the South Visitor Center (which houses many interactive displays that tell about Jesus Christ and teachings of the Church), and the Assembly Hall (which is host to many concerts during the year and is one of the older buildings of the entire square, attesting to the fine workmanship of the men who labored to build it).
As the Church has grown, several new buildings have been built and have expanded the headquarters into the surrounding blocks.Relief Society Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Lion House, and the Beehive House, each with their own histories. The Administration Building and the Church Office Building contain offices for the Apostles and other leaders. In 1995, the Hotel Utah was remodeled and renamed the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. It now houses additional offices, a distribution center, event rooms, two restaurants, and a theater. The theater is used to show specially-made Church films such as Legacy and The Testaments. Currently showing is a film about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Located on the block just west of Temple Square are the Family History Library, with the largest genealogical record collection in the world and the Museum of Church History and Art. In 2000, the Church completed a new 21,000-seat Conference Center just north of the temple. The main purpose of this building is for the semi-annual general conferences of the Church, during which members may gather to hear the prophet and the apostles of the Church and other General Authorities. It also houses a theater where productions of the highest caliber are given. It is also used by the community for plays, concerts, conferences, and lectures.
Green design is implemented at the new Church History Library, which opened in June 2009. The library uses innovative design and construction to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings. “More natural light in work areas improves the job satisfaction for employees and missionaries,” said Brent Thompson, director of Records Preservation for the Church History Department. “The community also benefits from a well-designed building that looks good in the urban setting while having less harmful impact on the environment.” In this unique space, patrons will be able to access journals, artifacts and even photographs detailing the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Temple Square has become a popular tourist attraction, with five million visitors annually, more than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. In fact, Salt Lake City is tied with Israel as the most attractive spot for faith-based travel, according to a survey of 1,600 tour operators.  Temple Square was recently recognized by Forbes magazine (2009) as the 16th most visited attraction in America. The 35-acre area draws visitors from all over the world because of its renowned research libraries, cultural activities, and historic buildings—most notably the Salt Lake Temple, at the center of Temple Square. In 1995, Temple Square became officially an LDS Church mission of its own called the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. It is the smallest mission in the Church geographically, but also the most international one. Missionaries and volunteers work throughout the Temple Square area to help with record searches, historical facts and questions about the Church. Some of these missionaries include young women who have 18-month assignments to host visitors at Temple Square. They come from 51 nations and speak more than 30 languages to accommodate foreign guests.
The grounds are appointed with beautiful gardens and hold musical concerts and other such things on a regular basis. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir practices on Thursday evenings, and these rehearsals are open to the public. During the Christmas holiday season, thousands of lights sparkle from trees and shrubs around the square. The lighting of this event is so popular that it is attended by thousands each year.
- To take a 3-D tour of Temple Square, click here.
- To take a 3-D tour of the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle, click here.
- To take a 3-D tour of the Assembly Hall at Temple Square, click here.
- To see the Christmas Lights of Temple Square, click here.