The Hands That Shape Temple Square
*Please note the Temple will close on December 29, 2019 and will remain closed for approximately four years while undergoing a major structural and seismic renovation. It is expected to reopen in 2024. For more information on the renovation and which attractions and buildings will remain open, click here.
Six spires of pristine quartz monzonite reach for the sky. A vertical emphasis and fortress-like appearance make a strong statement amid the softer features of the broader park-like grounds.
Over the course of some 40 years, the Salt Lake Temple's architects crafted the immaculate and ornate structure from blocks of stone weighing in between one and three tons quarried in Little Cottonwood Canyon, 20 miles to the south. In the 19th century, it was no small feat getting the quarried stone to its final position. Today, the neo-Gothic and Romanesque temple stands as the iconic centerpiece of downtown Salt Lake City's Temple Square, which serves as the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Millions of people visit Temple Square to admire its majestic architecture and colorful gardens. While visitors may not enter the Temple, the grounds and buildings are dynamic works of art, manifesting creativity in the placement of every brick, the carving of every statue, and the planting of every flower. The walls are built to be timeless but decorations inside and out breathe with seasons and years, given life by the vibrant spirits of many people working behind the scenes.
Visitors see the fruit of this labor in rotating museum exhibits, inspiring artwork, ever-changing gardens, events and performances, and festive decorations that imbue local history and heritage — every trip to Temple Square is different. Though the masters behind such displays are pleased to work in anonymity, they deserve to be recognized as the hands that shape Temple Square.
Creative Soul and Master Gardening
Temple Square's creative soul is vocalized by The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), renowned for their performances that tour all over the world (Read the story: The Geographic and Musical Heart of Salt Lake City). 360 men and women volunteer their talent to the choir and another 110 to the orchestra, which put on free public performances every week in Temple Square's Great Tabernacle. Music Director Mack Wilberg is the full-time genius behind the choir's new arrangements of popular melodies. Wilberg, along with Associate Director Ryan Murphy, are the modern leaders, though they stand on the shoulders of a long legacy of illustrious directors, dating back to the choir's formation in 1849.
Another expression of Temple Square's vitality are the vibrant gardens. Groundskeepers carefully maintain hundreds of thousand of plants: grassess, flowers, shrubs, and trees that coalesce into a curated ecology of color. The inspiration behind the gardens is one of “skeleton, tendon, and flesh,” a technique pioneered by the late Master Gardener Peter Lassig. The “skeleton” is a core arrangement of sturdy, well-established shrubs or trees. These are linked by “tendons” of hardy shrubs, and filled out with the “flesh” of flowers. This system allows for natural sharing of space and flow of nutrients, which is healthy for the plants and pleasing to the eye. Since its development in Temple Square, this system has been emulated in gardens around the world. It’s definitely something you should add to your Salt Lake City itinerary.
Present grounds manager Eldon Cannon and his team today carry on Lassig's innovative designs, and the result is a natural attraction that captivates visitors.
Eldon Cannon is also in charge of the annual Christmas light display and life-size nativity scene, which transform the Square each season into a glistening winter wonderland. After dusk, the walkways swell with bundled-up visitors enchanted by the ambiance — truly one of the finest displays in the state. Cannon and others have been planning the production for months already and will soon begin a carefully orchestrated process of hanging thousands of lights just before Thanksgiving.
Every night between the hours of 5:30pm and 10:00pm, the Square will be aglow with lights and alive with carolers, choirs, orchestras, and bands. Different performances are scheduled for each day, so there is always reason to return. The light display undergoes some evolution each year as well, so every visit to this festive location is a unique experience. When you admire the Christmas lights this season, you will feel imbued with holiday spirit, shared by the dedicated staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to make Utah's most impressive light display.
The choir, gardens, and Christmas lights are just a few of many lively expressions of Temple Square. Everyone finds individual favorite treasures among the numerous works of art, historical buildings, and museums. Come visit Temple Square and enjoy for yourself the good work of many helpful hands that have shaped this place. See how, nearly 200 years after the laying of the first stones, the heart of Salt Lake City continues to thrive and inspire.
Temple Square is a 35-acre area of downtown Salt Lake City that contains sights and attractions devoted to the Mormon faith. Explore now!
Visiting Temple Square
Temple Square is open daily 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Admission to free. Holidays may affect some hours.
There are a variety of dining options on Temple Square. Please note that Temple Square hospitality does not serve alcohol.