From U.S. presidents to inspirational figures, the Salt Lake Tabernacle has hosted a variety of famous speakers over the years. Here are just a few.
1. John F. Kennedy
On September 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived in Salt Lake City and gave a historic speech in the Tabernacle on Temple Square as the President of the United States.
Though he had also spoken in that historic building three years earlier as a presidential candidate, referencing Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and LDS scripture, during his 1963 visit, the president spoke powerfully of creating a united nation and a united world. In some of his opening lines, he shared:
“Of all the stories of American pioneers and settlers, none is more inspiring than the Mormon trail. The qualities of the founders of this community are the qualities that we seek in America, the qualities which we like to feel this country has, courage, patience, faith, self-reliance, perseverance, and, above all, an unflagging determination to see the right prevail.”
He later stated, “As the Mormons succeeded, so America can succeed, if we will not give up or turn back.” Just shy of two months later, President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
And while his speech is still remembered today, he was not the first famous visitor to share memorable words from the podium of the trademark Latter-day Saint building. Here are a handful of other famous people, from United States Presidents to airplane pilots, who have spoken at the celebrated Salt Lake Tabernacle.
2. Susan B. Anthony
Photo from the Library of Congress
Susan B. Anthony, one of the leaders of the nation's women’s suffrage movement, visited Salt Lake City several times. The first time was in June 1871, when she came with her contemporary and friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The two conducted a five-hour meeting with an audience full of Latter-day Saint women in the “Old Tabernacle,” which stood where the Assembly Hall on Temple Square stands today. Anthony, who later wrote about the event, expressed that they “were very thankful for the privilege granted us of speaking to the women alone in the smaller Tabernacle. Our meeting opened at two o'clock and lasted until seven, giving us five hours of uninterrupted conversation.”
May 12, 1895
Many years later, Anthony came again to Salt Lake City, at the time when Utah was finally about to be granted statehood and when the right for women to vote was added to the constitution of the new state. This time, Anthony spoke in the large Tabernacle familiar to Latter-day Saints today.
The Woman’s Exponent, run at the time by the General Relief Society President and a friend of Anthony, Emmeline B. Wells, included the text from Anthony’s speech in one of their issues. Amidst her praise of the territory’s decision to allow women equal voting rights, she also gave this glowing praise of the Tabernacle:
“It is just about twenty-four years ago that I was present in this great Tabernacle on the day upon which you dedicated it to the service of the Lord, and every nook and corner, of this great building was packed on the occasion with people from every part of the Territory, many being unable to gain admittance. It was the most magnificent gathering I ever saw, and it was brought together in the midst of the greatest trouble that any people who were seeking to do right could go through” (Vol. 24, pg. 2).
Photo from the U.S. Post Office, courtesy of Ronald L. Fox
In a note in Eliza R. Snow's autograph book a few days after her 1895 visit, Anthony also said of the women of Utah:
"Political Equality is but the stepping stone—to civil, industrial, educational, and religious equality; The Ballot which the women of Utah will possess after the next election is but the weapon with which they may bring themselves and their children all good things."