“Temple Square: ‘All Nations Shall Flow unto It’” Ensign, Mar. 1998, 78–79
Question: What is the smallest mission geographically in the Church?
Answer: The three-year-old Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission, which takes in only 10 acres and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building across the street. Temple Square was formerly part of the Salt Lake City mission, but the high number of missionaries needed to staff Temple Square justified a separate mission.
“Temple Square seems to be an unusually fruitful place to do missionary work,” says Lowell Snow, president of the Temple Square mission since February 1997. “It’s often been a fruitful place to give tours, but it is proving to be an exceptional place to teach people who come of their own accord and their own desire to learn more.”
President Snow often refers to 2 Nephi 12:2–3 [2 Ne. 12:2–3], which applies in part to this mission: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.
“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”
“That is exactly what we are seeing happening more and more,” says President Snow. “The people of the world are coming here and saying, Teach us of your ways, tell us who you are, tell us what you believe. In the year I’ve been here we’re seeing interest increase almost monthly.”
The grounds and two visitors’ centers of Temple Square are staffed by 8 Church-service couples and about 180 full-time sister missionaries from all over the world—but not by any full-time elders. The Square receives some five million visitors a year, including about 3,000 bus tours. “If you’re from Germany, for instance, and you’re on a tour bus in Las Vegas and you’re going to Yellowstone, you will likely stop at Temple Square,” says President Snow. “It’s enough of a destination that if you’re anywhere in the area, you’ll make a special effort to visit.” More than half the bus tours bring visitors who speak a language other than English—and they are greeted by missionaries who together are able to speak as many as 30 languages.
“More and more we are teaching people the gospel, not just conducting tours and giving historical highlights,” says President Snow. “We will often teach principles from the first discussion here to those who agree to have missionaries come visit them when they go home. We do that as a means of deepening their spiritual experience prior to having the missionaries visit. We are also sharing a lot of information about the Book of Mormon, the temple, and families.”
Although most missionaries called to serve on Temple Square consider it a great privilege, they do make unusual sacrifices. “It takes a great deal of faith to work here,” says President Snow, “because you seldom see the fruit that results from the seed that is planted. Aside from occasional phone calls, letters, and later visits, the missionaries here do not know how visitors respond to the rest of the gospel as they learn it from the missionaries who visit them at home.”
Sisters called to Temple Square and other visitors’ centers in North America spend an extra week in the Provo Missionary Training Center receiving special training. As they serve on Temple Square, missionaries may greet visitors, conduct tours, run information desks, teach visitors how to use family history software, or usher at the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Like full-time missionaries everywhere, Temple Square sisters give community service. At some point during their 18-month missions to Temple Square, all sisters spend about four months enhancing their proselyting experience in various other North American missions.
One recent success at Temple Square has been a program that brings travelers passing through nearby Salt Lake International Airport downtown to see Temple Square and other sights. “Each day we get a number of people from the airport,” President Snow says. “They uniformly have a terrific experience. They are very appreciative that the Church and the community and the airport would give them a way to avoid a lengthy layover and take in the sights of the city and have a special experience on Temple Square.”
People from all over the world flow into Temple Square. “Every day we open the gates and the people of the world flood in to find out more not just about our history but about who we are and what we believe,” says President Snow. “As awareness of the Church increases, people want to know a little bit more about what makes us tick. And this is a comfortable, nonthreatening, accessible place to come look.”