“Temple Square Gives Visitors a Gospel Overview,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 67
Temple Square in Salt Lake City has long been known as a focal point for visitors interested in learning more about the Church. To learn about its effect on missionary work, the Ensign visited with Joseph Horne, director of Temple Square.
Q.: Temple Square always seems to be busy. How many people visit it each year?
A.: Temple Square is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the western United States. In 1987, more than 3.4 million people came. By comparison, Yellowstone National Park drew 1.2 million visitors last year. This year, we anticipate that between 3.6 and 4 million people will visit Temple Square.
Q.: What draws so many people?
A.: Many come to learn about the Latter-day Saints and their beliefs. Others enjoy the peaceful feeling and spiritual uplift that is so prevalent on the square.
Q.: What purpose does Temple Square serve?
A.: There are really five purposes: (1) To prepare nonmembers for the missionaries by helping them have a spiritual experience; (2) To obtain self-referrals from people who would like to have the missionaries teach them more about the Church; (3) To strengthen members’ testimonies; (4) To help members fulfill their missionary responsibilities; (5) To build a positive image for the Church.
Q.: How many people ask to learn more about the Church?
A.: Last year we had five thousand self-referrals.
Temple Square also is an excellent place for members to bring non-LDS friends for an introduction to the gospel. Many nonmembers become interested in the Church after such a visit.
Q.: What do you do to ensure that visitors have a positive experience?
A.: We offer seven different guided tours of Temple Square. Five focus on Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, the purpose of temples, and other scriptural themes. The other two tours are historical, focusing on the pioneers or on the Tabernacle. We also have a variety of films and exhibits.
Our guides are encouraged to respect visitors’ beliefs and not to pressure them about the gospel. Rather, they invite visitors to learn more if they wish. We honor requests for guided tours with no proselyting involved. We also teach our guides to respect the time limitations of those who are here on tightly scheduled tours.
Q.: Do many tour groups visit?
A.: This year, we expect that people on four thousand motor-coach tours will visit Temple Square. Quite a few visitors come from abroad. Many come from Europe; this summer, we also had a Chinese tour scheduled every day. Many of our visitors from abroad know about Temple Square because they have listened to Tabernacle Choir broadcasts or recordings or they have heard about it from friends. Frequently, our visitors from overseas have made Temple Square a “must-see” priority when they planned their trip to the United States.
Q.: What if they don’t speak English?
A.: We have 350 multilingual guides who speak a total of nineteen languages.
Q.: How many guides work on Temple Square?
A.: There are 1,350 people—all recommended by their bishops—who work here on different shifts during the week.
Q.: Can the approaches to missionary work that are used on Temple Square be applied by mission leaders and members in other areas?
A.: Certainly. There are many special or historic occasions that members can use for local missionary opportunities. A special program could be presented, to which nonmembers could be invited. Showing a Church audiovisual presentation like Our Heavenly Father’s Plan or Together Forever can often culminate the program.
Church historic sites can also provide fine settings for special events. In some areas, local media outlets have printed or broadcast material about the Church that has provided opportunities for missionary work. In Tallahassee, Florida, for example, a Christmas lighting display at the stake center drew media attention, and thousands drove by to see it. The display focused attention on our belief in Christ.
Organizers of local missionary programs have access to most of the same Church audiovisual and printed materials that we have. For example, some local leaders have shown the film Together Forever and have received all the missionary referrals they could handle. We could all have greater missionary success if we use all the tools available.