In 1833, Joseph Smith and the First Presidency created the plat for the City of Zion, the city to which Latter-day Saints would gather in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This city was structured around a complex of 24 temples. The plat explained that these structures would be used for congregational worship, Church administration, and education and would provide space for the various quorums and organizations within the Church. The city and its temples were never constructed but remained an early model for a headquarters for the Church.
Between 1830 and 1847, as the Church’s first two presidents, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, moved from place to place, the cities in which they made their homes served as headquarters for the Church. With the Saints’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, plans were made to build a temple, and Brigham Young soon constructed an office for the Church President adjacent to his home in Salt Lake City, one block east of the temple site.
Over the years, the area surrounding the temple block has served as the Church’s headquarters, evolving to meet the needs of a growing worldwide organization. These few blocks in Salt Lake City have been the site of spaces for worship, administration, education, public events, and other purposes. The following maps show the area surrounding Temple Square at three moments during its history. The accompanying photographs show many of the most prominent buildings.
Mid to Late 19th Century
1867 map of Church headquarters
foundation of Salt Lake Temple
Construction site of the Salt Lake Temple. Shortly after Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young selected the site for the temple. Construction began in February 1853, and the temple was completed and dedicated in 1893.
The first major structure built on the Temple Square site was the original Tabernacle, later called the “Old Tabernacle” for being a precursor to the modern Tabernacle nearby. It was constructed between 1851 and 1852 where the Assembly Hall now stands. Truman O. Angell, the architect, designed the Old Tabernacle with low adobe walls, a gabled roof, and a floor below ground level. The building accommodated roughly 2,500 people.
Salt Lake Tabernacle
Cornerstones for a new Tabernacle to replace the Old Tabernacle were laid in July 1864. William H. Folsom designed the building, Henry Grow superintended its construction, and Truman O. Angell designed the balcony after the building was complete. The Tabernacle hosted regular meetings beginning in 1867 and was dedicated in October 1875.
The Endowment House was dedicated on May 5, 1855, by Heber C. Kimball for endowments for the living. Brigham Young named it the House of the Lord and regarded it as a temporary temple. For 34 years, while other temples were under construction, the Endowment House served thousands of Latter-day Saints. It was decommissioned and demolished in 1889.
The Council House served as the governmental headquarters of Utah Territory throughout the 1850s and as an administration building for the Church between 1850 and 1883. It was last used in 1888 before being demolished. Over 2,000 Latter-day Saints received the endowment in the upper floor of the building between 1851 and 1855.
Deseret News Building
The Deseret News Building was first constructed in 1870 on the site of the present-day Joseph Smith Memorial Building and housed the newsroom, offices, and printing presses of the
Deseret News, the oldest newspaper in Utah. The Church’s first broadcast was relayed in 1922 from a tin shack and radio transmitter mounted on this building’s roof.
The Bishops’ Storehouse and Tithing Yard served as the central collection point for tithing, which Latter-day Saints at the time generally supplied with in-kind donations of agricultural goods. Several additions were made between 1860 and 1902, including housing for destitute immigrants. After 1909, these structures were converted into campus buildings for Latter-day Saints University.
The Beehive House was first built in 1855 as Brigham Young’s primary residence in Salt Lake City and also served as the home of the President of the Church from 1898 to 1918. Between 1920 and 1959, the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association utilized it as a dormitory for young women, and in 1961 it was converted into a museum. The Lion House was constructed in 1856 as a home for Brigham Young’s wives and later used for administration, education, and dormitory accommodations. The Administrative Offices, or President’s Offices, were used by Church leaders and employees from 1853 to 1917.
Early to Mid-20th–Century
1925 map of Church headquarters
Construction on the Assembly Hall began in 1877 as a tabernacle for the Salt Lake Stake. When finished in 1882, it served as a gathering place for Church, social, and educational events.
The Temple Annex was built in 1893 to provide temple patrons with waiting areas. In the 1960s, its various wings were replaced by a new annex structure.
The Bureau of Information was first built in 1904 to serve tourists visiting Temple Square. It was expanded to include the Deseret Museum and was replaced by the South Visitors’ Center in 1978.
Originally founded as the Salt Lake Academy in 1886, Latter-day Saints College—later Latter-day Saints University—moved through various locations until settling on the Temple Square campus in 1901. When the institution was relocated in the 1930s and renamed LDS Business College, the Church used the rooms as offices. These buildings were demolished in 1962 to make room for the Church Office Building.
The Bishop’s Building provided office space for the Presiding Bishop, Relief Society General Presidency, and other Church leaders from 1910 to 1962.
The Deseret Gymnasium provided recreational facilities from 1910 to 1962.
The Hotel Utah was built on the Tithing Yard grounds in 1911 and served as Salt Lake City’s premier hotel into the 1980s. Most of the building was converted in 1993 into administrative offices of the Church and renamed the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Many of its restaurants and dining halls continued as community venues.
Church Administration Building
The Church Administration Building was built in 1917 and housed the offices of the President of the Church and other senior leaders. It was constructed of the same granite as the Salt Lake Temple and Conference Center buildings.
The Missionary Home accommodated up to a hundred missionaries for a weeklong orientation and training program. It was closed in the 1960s as language training for missionaries increased at Church-sponsored universities.
Early 21st Century
early 21st century map of Church headquarters
Joseph Smith Memorial Building
The Church remodeled the Hotel Utah into the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, an office building with amenities for visitors and tourists, including reception halls, dining services, and a cinema theater.
Relief Society Building
The Relief Society Building was constructed in 1956 to provide offices for auxiliary organizations, and in the 1970s it supported a resource center for women throughout the world. The General Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary Presidencies continued to use the building into the 21st century.
Church Office Building
The 28-story Church Office Building was constructed in 1972 and dedicated in 1975 for supporting a growing number of Church departments and staff.
After its dedication in 2000, the Conference Center replaced the Salt Lake Tabernacle as the primary venue for general conference. For a time, it supported the largest fan-shaped indoor auditorium in the world, with seating for over 21,000 people.
Church History Museum
Originally built as the Museum of Church History and Art in 1984, the Church History Museum houses and exhibits rare and original Latter-day Saint artifacts and artworks.
Family History Library
Built in 1985, the Family History Library provides genealogical research services and records for the general public.
The following publications provide further information about this topic. By referring or linking you to these resources, we do not endorse or guarantee the content or the views of the authors.
Ronald O. Barney and W. Randall Dixon, “Church Headquarters,” in Brandon S. Plewe, ed.,
Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 2012), 114–17.
Joseph Don Carlos Young, “The Latter-day Saints Church Office Building,”
Juvenile Instructor, vol. 51, no. 3 (Mar. 1916), 146–50.
Thomas K. Hafen, “City of Saints, City of Sinners: The Development of Salt Lake City as a Tourist Attraction, 1869–1900,”
Western Historical Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 3 (Autumn 1997), 342–78.
Related Topics: Salt Lake Valley, Salt Lake Temple, Endowment House, Public Relations, Broadcast Media