We visited on a Sunday, which is not the best day to visit because a few of the buildings are closed on weekends. I’ll mention them below. The first thing we noticed when we entered the grounds of Temple Square was the gorgeous landscaping and peaceful atmosphere. The second thing we noticed was how friendly everyone was. Missionaries were on hand to greet visitors and answer all questions about the LDS Church. We didn’t feel a religious push from anyone at all.
North Visitors’ Center
The first building we visited was the North Visitors’ Center, which is open daily from 9am to 9pm. On the main floor, there’s a scale model of Jerusalem in 33 AD. Upstairs is a replica of Christus by Bertel Thorvaldsen. The original is in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Downstairs I found an exhibit on the prophets of the LDS Church, including church founder Joseph Smith. There was also an exhibit on the church’s wonderful program of giving to the poor and sick all over the world.
Next, we walked past the Tabernacle. It was constructed in 1875 and is one of the most acoustically perfect buildings in the world. The Tabernacle is home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which often gives performances in the building, and the Orchestra. There was an organ recital during our visit. It’s open daily from 9am to 9pm. Click here for a virtual tour.
A few steps away is Assembly Hall. It was built in 1875 to replace an older tabernacle after the current one was completed. The building is used as a place of worship and also holds concerts, lectures, and recitals. It’s open daily from 9am to 9pm.
In front of Assembly Hall is a monument to the Mormon handcart pioneers who braved harsh conditions and trekked all the way to Salt Lake City from the east. Fewer than 10% of the Mormons who made their way west used handcarts, but they are an important symbol of the sacrifice and determination of the pioneer generation.
Salt Lake Temple
The large building at the heart of Temple Square is the Salt Lake Temple. It took 40 years to complete and was finally finished in 1893. It’s not open for tours and only Mormons can enter, but visitors are able to admire the impressive structure from the outside.
South Visitors’ Center
To get a good understanding about what went into building the Salt Lake Temple, we went to the South Visitors’ Center. We were able to see a scale model of the temple with details of what each room looks like. There was also an exhibit on the construction of the temple.
A small park with a fountain in the center sits between the South Visitors’ Center and the Salt Lake Temple. Around it are statues of church founders and some important moments in the history of the Mormon Church.
The skyscraper on the northeast corner of the square is the LDS Office Building. It’s possible to visit the observation deck on the 26th floor. This can be done from Monday through Friday between 9am and 10:45am and again from 1pm to 3:30pm.
The smaller Church Administration Building is where the offices of the president of the LDS Church are located. It was completed in 1917 and used to hold all of the offices for the church. The building is closed to the public.
Joseph Smith Memorial Building
The large building near the south gate to Temple Square was completed in 1911 and served as the Hotel Utah until 1987. It reopened in 1993 as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Inside there are two restaurants, a café, a banquet hall, the Family Search Center, and theatre. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm. Unfortunately, there was some construction going on during my visit and nearly the entire building was covered.
Next to the building are two monuments. First is a statue dedicated to Brigham Young and the pioneers who made the journey west with him. Second is the Base and Meridian marker. All streets were numbered from this spot on August 3, 1847. The coordinates are marked 0 in each direction, meaning it is the exact center of Salt Lake City.
To the east of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is the Beehive House, which served as Brigham Young’s home and office, and the Lion House. Click here to read about my visit.
To the West
West of Temple Square are two important buildings. One is the Family History Library, which is the largest genealogical library in the world. Visitors are able to search records and learn about their ancestry. The other is the Church History Museum, which chronicles the history of the LDS Church. Both buildings are closed on Sundays.
LDS Conference Center
North of Temple Square is the LDS Conference Center, which opened in 2000. The semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is held there in April and October. It’s attended by church members from all over the world. It’s open daily from 9am to 9pm and tours are available. My favorite part of the building is the fountain in front. There’s also a rooftop terrace with views of Temple Square.
Church History Library
Finally, across the street from the conference center is the Church History Library. It opened in 2009 to hold church records from 1830 until the present. It’s closed on Sundays.