The key purpose of constructing the building was to allow Latter-day Saints to gather and hear the word of the Lord. From 1867 to 2000, the Church’s twice-yearly general conferences were held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. At these conferences, Latter-day Saints listen to the counsel of Church leaders under the guidance of the prophet and President of the Church.
Brigham Young, who was the Church President at the time of construction, proposed the original design idea of a large dome building with no columns to interfere with the line of sight to the podium. Bridge builder Henry Grow used a lattice truss design so the Tabernacle roof was able to span its 150-foot width without center supports. The exterior of the completed building is 150 feet wide, 250 feet long, and 80 feet high. The building was constructed by hand and almost entirely with local materials. Only the window glass, nails, bolts, and other metal parts were imported. The columns and balcony trim are faux-painted wood. The benches were hand-painted to look like oak, which was similar to what early Latter-day Saints had in their homes before coming to the Salt Lake Valley, rather than the available Utah pine. A balcony was later added to the Tabernacle in 1875.
Since microphones were not available in the 1860s, Brigham Young also wanted to build the structure so speakers could be heard from a long distance. The building’s acoustics allow a pin drop to be heard from 170 feet away. The unique design helped the Church achieve its goals of allowing a large congregation to hear the prophet and other Church leaders speak. Thousands of meetings, concerts, lectures, and other public events have taken place in the Tabernacle. Twelve presidents of the United States have spoken from the Tabernacle’s pulpit, as well as leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony, trans-Atlantic pilot Charles Lindbergh, and many other prominent people. The Tabernacle was the first building in the United States to be designated as a National Historic Civic Engineering Landmark.
The Tabernacle is still frequently used for meetings and concerts. It is now primarily used as the home of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for its weekly rehearsals and performances of Music & the Spoken Word. It is also used for other concert programs as well as for daily organ recitals.
The Tabernacle was closed from 2005 to 2007 for a major seismic upgrade and complete renovation of the structure and interior.
Features and Attractions
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square Rehearsal—On most Thursday nights, visitors are welcome to watch the Choir rehearse in the Tabernacle at 7:30 p.m. Note: During the summer, the Choir rehearses and performs Music & the Spoken Word in the Conference Center.
Music & the Spoken Word Performances—Since 1929, the Choir has run its weekly program, Music & the Spoken Word. Visitors can watch the recording of this famous international broadcast at 9:30 a.m. in the Tabernacle.* Note: During the summer, the Choir rehearses and performs Music & the Spoken Word in the Conference Center.
The Pipe Organ—See the 11,623-pipe organ, which is part of the signature sound of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
Organ Recitals—Hear live organ recitals on Temple Square, including from the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ, the Conference Center organ, and the Salt Lake Assembly Hall organ. The recitals take place each Monday through Saturday at 12:00 noon and each Sunday at 2 p.m. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, a second daily recital takes place each Monday through Saturday at 2:00 p.m. on the Conference Center organ.