“Assembly Hall Is Rededicated,” Ensign, May 1983, 86–87
While heavy spring snows blanketed Temple Square, the mood inside the Assembly Hall was warm and reminiscent on the evening of Sunday, April 3, as several hundred invited guests gathered for a rededication of the century-old building. The three-year renovation project had come to an end only days earlier when installation of the building’s magnificent new 3,500-pipe organ was declared complete.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the services and offered the dedicatory prayer. Speakers included President Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Elder G. Homer Durham, a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and current Church Historian. Music for the occasion was furnished by the Mormon Youth Chorus under the direction of Robert C. Bowden, with Tabernacle organist Roy M. Darley at the organ.
Midway through the meeting, Tabernacle organist Robert Cundick performed a specially arranged medley of hymns (“Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning,” “An Angel from on High,” “The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee,” “Praise to the Man”) on the new organ, demonstrating the instrument’s remarkable range of tone and intensity. Organ designer/builder Robert L. Sipe and his wife Susan were honored guests at the rededication.
Before offering the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley voiced his admiration for the work done on the building during its restoration. He expressed appreciation “to those who have been so thorough in strengthening the building for the future while preserving the integrity of the design of the past.”
His prayer acknowledged that “for many years this has been a house of worship, a place of assembly, a hall to accommodate the expression of the arts. Now it has been restored and renovated. … We thank thee for the means made available by the faithful Saints to do this work of restoration. We thank thee that it has been so well accomplished. It is beautiful to behold, and will serve great purposes.
“Wilt thou, holy Father, accept of it in its renewed condition. We pray that thy holy Spirit may abide here, that all who enter may recognize it as a sacred place. May it again serve as a house of worship, where faith will be taught and strengthened, where thy word will be declared with persuasive conviction, and where thy name and the name of thy Son will be honored and glorified, and testimony borne of thee and of thy beloved Son, our Redeemer.
“May this building provide a fitting hall for the finest expression of musical arts. May it serve every other beneficent use to which it may be put, always in a spirit of reverence and respect, for we dedicate it to thee as the abode of thy holy Spirit.”
A call to personal rededication was issued by President Benson. After giving a brief history of the site where the Assembly Hall now stands—the construction of one of the old boweries “where the early Saints met to worship and hear the word of the Lord,” later replaced by the tabernacle, where President Brigham Young and other General Authorities “addressed the Saints and raised their voices in testimony”—President Benson spoke of an address delivered in the hall by Heber C. Kimball. In his sermon, Elder Kimball compared mankind to clay in the hands of the Master Potter, who shapes and molds every willing man and woman until they are fashioned in the likeness of the Son of God. “We all stand in need of change and reformation,” said President Benson. “I’ve thought of that as we rededicate this glorious building.”
Elder Petersen reflected that “this building has been a part of my life for virtually all my life.” He recalled having heard many of the Church’s “greats” speak from the Assembly Hall’s pulpit—Elders Reed Smoot, James E. Talmage, Melvin J. Ballard, Anthony W. Ivins, and John A. Widtsoe, and Presidents Joseph Fielding Smith and George Albert Smith, among others. “I heard these brethren testify as to the truth of the work,” he said, and commented that he still feels the strength of their testimonies when he comes to the hall.
He spoke fondly of the organ installed in the hall in 1913. Many great organists, he recalled, played that organ.
Elder Durham reviewed the Assembly Hall’s distinguished history from its groundbreaking in 1877 and dedication in January 1882 to the present day. But “above and beyond all these historic details,” he said, “is the spirit of this great building.” He said the building was originally built as a place for the Salt Lake Stake to meet for stake conference and other gatherings. Elder Durham noted that the building has been used for such community and Church functions as funerals, educational and cultural affairs, organ recitals, and symphony and choral concerts. Among the lectures given in the building were a series of lectures by Elder James E. Talmage which became his book The Articles of Faith, Elder Durham said. The Assembly Hall “has been a place for worship, for instruction, for the general edification of all those who have entered its doors,” commented Elder Durham. “And it now serves an expanding future; its destiny and service lie ahead.”
As the new home of the Temple Square Concert Series, the Assembly Hall will host two gala inaugural concerts on May 20 and 21. Subsequently, concerts will be presented weekly featuring outstanding Latter-day Saint musicians.