More than a century has passed since the public open house was held for the Salt Lake Temple, but an exhibit featuring a 1:32 scaled replica of the Mormon temple opened today that offers an open house experience of the magnificent building. Earlier this morning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled the 88-inch tall, near-identical replica of the temple in the South Visitors’ Center on Temple Square. The permanent exhibit will be open to the public starting at 1:30 p.m. today.
“This replica will show the millions of visitors who come to Temple Square the beauty and majesty of this sacred and historic building,” said Elder Richard G. Hinckley, executive director of the Missionary Department. “Like all temples, once the building is dedicated it is used for sacred Church purposes and not open to the general public, but this exhibit will provide the public with a glimpse of the interior and a feeling of the Spirit that is present there.”
The Salt Lake Temple is a landmark known throughout the world. When it was last open to the public in April of 1893, the local press reported that approximately 5,000 people, most of whom were not members of the Church, toured the temple before the dedication. The reports went on to say that “altogether the richness and elegant workmanship of the temple was a revelation of wonder to the visitors.”
Extensive open houses have been held prior to the dedication of newly constructed temples throughout the world and allow visitors to walk through and experience the sacred structures. Once dedicated, temples are in continual, even daily, use by members of the Church for religious purposes. While public open houses for new temples regularly draw tens and even hundreds of thousands of people, millions will likely see this model of the Salt Lake Temple over its lifetime.
“Many people think our temples are like great halls or cathedrals. Actually, they have a number of rooms designed for certain functions such as marriages, baptisms and instructional sessions,” said Elder William R. Walker, executive director of the Church’s Temple Department.
The model of the Salt Lake Temple sits in front of a giant window in the South Visitors’ Center facing the actual building that it replicates. The south and east walls of the replica have been cut away to show depictions of many of the rooms in the temple, including the large assembly hall and rooms where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet. The baptistery and other ordinance rooms are also depicted. Close attention is paid to detail, and even paintings, furniture and working chandeliers and lamps imitate those found in the actual temple.
Peter McCann Architectural Models of Toronto was commissioned to create the replica last August. Sixteen modelers with different expertise in various parts of the duplication process worked on the project for five months. (Click here for fact sheet, photos and audio sound bites about the creation process).
“Some of the detail is so fine that we had to find people that were capable of doing it at that scale,” said Josh Coulas, manager of the project for Peter McCann Architectural Models.
In addition to the scaled model, the new display in the South Visitors’ Center features new kiosks that show high-definition photos and video of the Salt Lake Temple interior rooms. A narrator gives an explanation of the purpose of the rooms and a diagram shows where they are located on the model. The presentation is very similar to what a person would experience during the public open house of a temple.
“This new display will give people another reason to visit Temple Square for the first time or for the hundredth time,” said Elder Hinckley. “Because of its history and spiritual significance, this temple is beloved by millions and recognized as an icon of Mormonism throughout the world.”
Brigham Young designated the location for the Salt Lake Temple just days after the first group of pioneers came into the Salt Lake Valley. Construction began on the building in 1853 and was completed in 1893.
More than just a structure with a beautiful and functional design, the temple was central to the faith of the pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley. Latter-day Saint temples are considered houses of God, a place of holiness and peace separate from the preoccupations of the world. They provide a place where Church members make formal promises and commitments to God. They are also the place where the highest sacraments of the faith occur — the marriage of couples and the “sealing” of families for eternity.
Anyone, regardless of religion, may enter a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse and attend services. However, because of the sacredness of temples as “houses of the Lord,” only members of the Church who are in good standing are allowed to enter the temples. A member must be observing the basic principles of the faith and attest to that fact to his or her local leaders once every two years in order to enter a temple.
The Salt Lake Temple was the sixth temple built by the Church. Today there are 132 operating temples throughout the world.