Salt Lake City is the home of the Mormon Church. The Mormons own a 35 acre complex in the heart of the downtown, known as Temple Square. The most impressive buildings in the Square are the Temple, the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, the Church Office Building, the Conference Center and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. We spent Saturday afternoon touring the Square and the buildings.
The Convention Center has a large collection of paintings that were commissioned by the Church, depicting events leading to its establishment. The Mormon Church now has congregations and temples in over 130 countries around the world.
The Mormons, a christian sect, believe that one of the 12 tribes of Israel crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the South American continent many years before the birth of Jesus, where the members of the tribe established themselves among the native population. Here’s a painting depicting the landing in the Americas.
They believe that, years later, Jesus Christ appeared in the presence of the tribe in America, as prophesied by the tribe’s prophet, and that, later, an angel, Moroni, came to them and told them that the other tribes of Israel were not correctly interpreting God’s Word. Moroni gave them another Scripture from God, which was printed on gold plates, and directed them to follow its teachings and interpretations of the earlier Testament.
Eventually, members of the tribe supposedly migrated to the North American continent, taking the gold plates with them, where they ultimately settled in a place that, many years later, became known as Palmyra, New York. Here are the last leaders of the tribe with the gold plates in an artist’s rendition. The leaders buried the gold plates in the ground before they passed on to the heavenly kingdom.
Centuries later, in the early 1800s, a man named Joseph Smith was searching for spiritual guidance as he prayed in the woods near Palmyra, New York, when God and Jesus appeared to him and guided him to the burial place of the gold plates. Smith dug the plates up and through divine inspiration was able to translate and transcribe the new Word of God into english, which became the Book of Mormon. The bust on the right in this picture is Joseph Smith.
Somehow, the gold plates soon disappeared, but Smith’s transcription survived and he developed a following. These Mormon followers ultimately migrated to the midwest, where they settled for a time, but they were persecuted by the locals.
A new leader emerged by the name of Brigham Young; his is the bust on the left, above. Young led the Mormons west over the Rocky Mountains where they finally and permanently settled in what is now Salt Lake City, Utah.
Soon after settling in Utah, the Mormons set about the task of building their church buildings, the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Temple was our first stop in Temple Square.