“Ground Broken for Assembly Building,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 72–73
“We break the earth this day as our forebears first broke the earth with their plows in this valley 150 years ago,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in his dedicatory prayer at a groundbreaking ceremony held 24 July 1997 on the future site of the Church’s new assembly building. Announced by President Hinckley during the April 1996 general conference, the assembly building will seat 21,000 people, more than three times the capacity of the Tabernacle. Designed to be built in harmony with the slope of the block north of Temple Square, the building is expected to be completed in time for general conference in April 2000.
“We don’t know yet what to call it,” President Hinckley remarked at the groundbreaking. “But we will get a name, and that name will come to be known across the world by our people not only in this land but in distant lands of the earth. … We have never seen anything like it in the history of the Church, and I don’t suppose there will be any need for anything larger in the years that follow us.”
The new assembly building will be used for general conferences, religious pageants and theatrical productions, other Church conferences, and appropriate cultural performances and events. While the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square will continue to serve as the primary venue for Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, recordings, and other undertakings, the new assembly building will house a pipe organ for musical performances. With three levels of seats arranged in a semicircle, the main hall will feature a stage with a 400-seat choir section and 144 seats for leaders. The assembly building will also include a 1,000-seat theater, underground parking, a 120-foot bell tower, and terraced roof landscaping.
Among those also participating in the ceremony were President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; members of the Seventy; and others.
“I know that the idea has been in the mind of President Gordon B. Hinckley for a number of years,” said President Monson at the ceremony. “I envision pageants. I envision festivals. I envision individuals from far and near performing for a very large audience.”
Discussing the purposes of the new assembly building, President Faust spoke of Church leaders’ concern for members who come to general conference “from far corners of the earth without a realistic expectation of being able to worship together and be [with] the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and other General Authorities of the Church.”
In his remarks, President Hinckley said: “I hope we will be prudent and wise and careful and that the outcome of all this will be a structure of which we can be proud and of which I believe our Heavenly Father will be proud. His name will be spoken frequently within this hall. His name will be worshiped, as will the name of His Beloved Son, our Savior and our Redeemer. And the voices which speak in this hall, this enlarged hall, will be carried across the world to the nations of the earth as this Church goes on and continues to grow from its present membership of 10 million, scattered in more than 160 nations, to numbers beyond our ability to calculate and to places beyond our ability to guess at this time.”