Beliefnet
Mormon Inquiry

While in Salt Lake City this afternoon, I managed to fit in a visit to Temple Square for a couple of hours. It’s always fun to visit the center place of Mormonism (which is a rather different category than “sacred ground” or “holy site”). I browsed through the South Visitors Center and its exhibits showing how massive granite blocks were hammered, drilled, and blasted out of Little Cottonwood Canyon, then transported twenty miles by wagon (later, railroad) to the site of the LDS temple. Just across the street, the Museum of Church History and Art has a temporary exhibit showing the details of the construction of the Tabernacle, which went through several architectural upgrades before attaining the fine sound quality offered by the rounded dome design.

The temple itself is now surrounded by taller and larger buildings: the new Conference Center to the north, the Church Office Building and LDS campus to the east, commercial buildings to south. But I think it is fair to say that it still manages to be the focal building for the area. The Main Street Plaza gives the building more visibility than it previously had.

For those not familiar with the history of LDS temples, while the Salt Lake temple gets most of the media attention, it was not the first LDS temple. The first was in Kirtland, Ohio (still standing, but owned and operated by the Community of Christ, not the LDS Church); the second was in Nauvoo, Illinois (burned by vandals after Mormons were forced to flee Nauvoo in early 1846); the third was in St. George, Utah, completed and dedicated in 1877. The Salt Lake temple was not completed until 1893.