Temple Square is a 10-acre (4.0 ha) complex located in the center of Salt Lake City, Utah, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). In recent years, the usage of the name has gradually changed to include several other church facilities immediately adjacent to Temple Square. Contained within Temple Square proper are the Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the Seagull Monument and two visitors' centers.
In 1847, when Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, church president Brigham Young selected a plot of the desert ground and proclaimed, "Here we will build a temple to our God." When the city was surveyed, the block enclosing that location was designated for the temple, and became known as Temple Square. Temple Square is surrounded by a high wall that was built shortly after the block was designated for the building of the temple.
The square also became the headquarters of the LDS Church. Other buildings were built on the plot, including a tabernacle (prior to the one occupying Temple Square today) and Endowment House, both of which were later torn down. The Salt Lake Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was built in 1867 to accommodate the church's general conferences, with a seating capacity of 8,000. Another church building, called the Assembly Hall, was later built with a seating capacity of 2,000.
Attracting 3 million to 5 million visitors a year, Temple Square is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah, bringing in more visitors than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. By comparison, Utah's five National Parks —Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches— had a combined total of 5.3 million visitors in 2005.
The grounds, as well as the Gardens at Temple Square, often host concerts and other events. During the Christmas holiday season, hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights sparkle from trees and shrubs around Temple Square, but only until 9pm. The lighting of Temple Square time is a popular event, attended by tens of thousands.
Salt Lake Temple
The Salt Lake Temple is the largest and best-known of more than 140 operating LDS temples. It is the sixth temple built by the church overall, and the fourth operating temple built following the Mormon exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois.
North and South Visitors' Centers
Today, Temple Square features two visitors' centers, called the North Visitors' Center and the South Visitors' Center. The North Visitors' Center was built first and features a replica of the Christus, a statue of Jesus Christ by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The Christus is located in a domed room with large windows, painted with clouds, stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies.
The visitors' centers and grounds are staffed by sister missionaries and senior missionary couples exclusively; no single male missionaries are called to serve on Temple Square. The sister missionaries serving on Temple Square are called from North America as well as around the World, speaking enough languages to cater to the majority of visitors from around the world.