The Hands That Shape Temple Square

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 Mormon Tabernacle Choir, renowned for their performances that tour all over the world. 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.

Christmas Lights

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 Hospitality

Temple Square Hospitality is a Deseret Management Company that provides hospitality services for all Temple Square guests. Its history traces back to the prestigious Hotel Utah, which was built in 1911. After 76 years as a hotel, the building closed for renovations and reopened in 1993 as a social center. In remodeling the building, the beloved attributes of service, hospitality and quality that graced the hotel were lovingly preserved in The Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

In 1988, Temple Square Hospitality was organized to service the dining needs of those visiting Temple Square and Salt Lake City. Since then, it has grown into three catering facilities (including off-site catering), four restaurants, a bakery and a full-service floral department. Known as the Hospitality Host at Temple Square, over 700,000 meals are served each year. Our goal is to honor our heritage by providing guests with a tradition of exceptional service and hospitality.

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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.

Schedule a free tour or self-guide.

See the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Family History Library
Monday: 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Tuesday to Friday: 8:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

Church History Museum
Monday through Friday: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: Closed

Assembly Hall
Sunday–Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

North and South Visitor Centers, Tabernacle and Conference Center
Sunday–Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Learn more about visiting Temple Square.