“ Address: Temple Square / Salt Lake City / Utah 84150 / Tel: 801 240 1706 „
THE CONFERENCE CENTER:
This enormous rather square building is the newest on the block and as we entered we were offered a guided tour which we accepted. I don't think you had to be guided but I'm glad we opted for the guide as she was lovely and I found out even more weird and 'wonderful?' things about the religion by listening to her. I do know that if you want to visit the roof top garden then you can only go with a guide. I was very disappointed that they were closed on the day we visited because of the heavy rain.
This building is HUGE and can seat 21,000 people in the main auditorium and another 850 in a smaller theatre. Besides these two rooms there are a number of conference rooms and huge galleries with paintings and statues on show. I really can't think of any way to get across to you the immense size of the place. We were in there well over an hour and a half and only saw a few areas, walked at great speed and went up and down several escalators. We were ready for our lunch after our tour and needed a sit down.
The auditorium is huge and seating is on two levels but there are no pillars to obstruct the view and EVERY seat has a perfect view of the stage. Anyone can use the auditorium for performances but our guide did say although it did not have to be a religious performance it was unlikely that there would ever be a rock concert there. I am always in awe of people clever enough to design places like this - the balcony sort of floats above the lower level but is held up by radial trusses and apparently this allows the balcony to sink 16 mm under full capacity - scary!
The building was completed in the year 2000 so a fitting celebration of the start of the new millennium as it is believed to be the largest theater-style auditorium ever built. According to our guide you could fit a 747 inside the auditorium. At the back of the stage which has all the latest features back stage and is large enough to seat the entire Tabernacle choir, is yet another impressive organ with 7,667-pipes.
Under the building they have sensibly thought about visitors arriving by car and there is a car park for 1400 cars. So still some visitors will have to park elsewhere or share their transport if the auditorium is full to capacity. Behind the seating there was the usual lighting and sound booths but there was also a huge room for interpreters and I believe our guide said something about well over 100 languages could be interpreted at the same time.
Moving away from the auditorium we walked at a pace to see the, three-story chandelier which was very modern and rather larger than your average chandelier. Outside you can see a 28 m glass spire on the roof to show that it is in fact a religious building. A 20 m waterfall descends from the spire down the side of the building which uses water from a natural spring under which was found during construction. The water is collected on the roof too with the roof garden and this water is recycled and used for the plants.
The paintings in one area told the story of the how the Mormon testament came to be. I thought I knew quite a bit about the Mormon religion but this was a new enlightenment. All the people we met were intelligent sensible people. On the plane I overheard on a conversation between two passengers who obviously hadn't seen each other in years and they were both lawyers. One spent his 'mission' time working voluntarily on the genocide trials in Rwanda and the other had been doing something similar in Eastern Europe. My point is that these were highly intelligent people and yet they still believe these incredible stories.
Apparently Moroni ( I believe) was told by God to build an ark, he had two sons, one agreed with father and the other was against the idea. Anyway the boat got built and the family sailed to America, the first non natives to come. The two sons ended up fighting with armies and eventually Moroni felt he had to safeguard the religious tablets from all this war and so he buried these on Joseph Smith's property which was very fortunate as he was the person chosen by God to be the leader of this new religion so many centuries later.
Joseph Smith was trying to decide which church he wanted to belong to when he was about 17 one day an angel from God, Moroni, came to him and told him of ancient writings engraved on gold plates buried nearby in Wayne County, New York. The writings told of people sent by God from Jerusalem to the America 600 years before Jesus was born. Moroni told Joseph Smith to meet at the hill annually on September 22 to receive further instructions and after 4 years in 1827 Smith was told to take the plates and translate them to English which fortunately he was able to do.
From this the Church of the Latter day Saints or Mormon religion was born. Joseph was the first 'President' and Brigham Young the second. One room in the Conference Center had bronze busts of all the Presidents from Joseph Smith up the present day leader. There are then 12 apostles and these men (they are all men and chosen by God) make all the decisions with regard to the running of the Church. The next president is also chosen by God but does not become leader until the death of the present incumbent.
We went through many other interesting corridors and rooms so these are just highlights that really grabbed my attention. I asked lots of questions but remained straight faced and looked interested rather than stunned and shocked throughout the entire tour. Our guide was delightful and explained everything in great detail answering all my questions patiently.
Our last place to see was up on the roof. We had to be taken up there and there was another volunteer on the roof, who turned out to be our guide's husband and we had a nice friendly chat with them about the awful weather etc. We were not able to go out onto the roof prairie garden but we were shown a film about the garden and how it changed through the seasons which gave us a glimpse of what lay beyond the part we could see from the glass doors. I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't get out to the garden but it was interesting to see the film and it gave us a chance to sit and rest our weary legs.
The Conference Center is open daily from 9am to 9pm and as with all the other buildings it is free and if you choose to have a tour, this too is free of charge and no tip is expected either.