A life-size version of Israel’s traveling tabernacle is touring Utah. Here are some tips for getting the most out of a visit with children.
A replica of ancient Israel’s traveling tabernacle is moving to different locations in Utah and offering a unique opportunity for youth and young adults to serve as guides and teachers while learning more about ancient and modern temple work themselves along the way. In each city, guests are invited to come and learn “insights into the tabernacle and the rich symbolism used within its structure to point the ancient Israelites to the Messiah and their return to our Heavenly Father,” the same way our own modern-day temples can point us to Christ today.
Taking a tour of a tabernacle replica is a great opportunity to bring our Come, Follow Me study to life this year by learning about the symbolism and temple worship traditions that Christ and those who lived in His time would have been familiar with.
My husband and I recently took another tour of the tabernacle replica with some friends and four little kids. While we learned a lot and it was a great experience, we weren’t exactly sure how it was going to be set up and might have prepared a little differently if we had. So if you are like me and want a little more information to plan ahead, here is my outline of how the tour works and a few ideas on how you could prepare your children in particular to benefit from this experience.
What to Expect
First stop: The Welcome Center
The tour starts with a welcome center. In the first room there is a film about the history of temples and the Biblical tabernacle,* then there are two more rooms with guides that talk about the Camp of Israel and the story of the Brazen Serpent before you make your way to the replica, so be prepared for some sitting and listening and answering questions.
*If you are not able to attend in person or if you want to view the video in Spanish or Portuguese instead, you can also watch it at any time on the website created for the traveling tabernacle
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Second Stop: The Replica
As you make your way through the replica, there will be several stations to stop at, including the Gate, the Altar of Sacrifice, the Laver of Water, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. This part of the tour requires standing and walking.
Find information about each of these locations on tabernacleutah.com.
Third Stop: The Visitors’ Center
The last part of the tour goes through a visitors’ center area where you can find displays about tabernacle ceremonial clothing, some of the temple rituals and symbolism you just learned about, ancient prophets, and modern temples. There is also a reflection area with a small Christus replica. Many of the informational signs are presented in both English and Spanish.
See more pictures of the tour and the visitors’ center displays on tabernacleutah.com.
Things to Consider While Visiting with Children
1. A stroller could be useful but isn’t necessary. We took a stroller for our two kids to ride on. Since we ended up going on our tour close to our kids’ nap times, it was nice to have the stroller for walking through the replica and visitors’ center portions of the tour. It can be a bit of a tight fit in some of the areas depending on the size of the group you are with and the size of your stroller however. So if your kids are old enough to handle some walking or small enough that you don’t mind carrying them if they get tired, you probably don’t need one.
2. The entire experience can last up to an hour and a half depending on how many people are visiting at that time and how long you spend in the visitors’ center, so be prepared with snacks! While the website discourages food on the tour, there are some outdoor areas between stations that can be used for a snack break for excited, hungry, or tired kiddos.
3. You can let your kids explore a little. Several of the items in the replica, such as the altar, laver, and the ark of the covenant can be looked inside or even touched. If you aren’t sure what’s OK to touch, just ask one of the guides! There are also a few videos in the visitors’ area that kids might enjoy, including a temple timeline video* mapping every temple dedicated, under construction, or announced around the world up to April 2023. (You can also watch this video at home if you can’t find it or want to re-watch it later.)
4. To help older children stay interested and not become overwhelmed with all the information, you could try using a scavenger hunt of specific things for them to watch or listen for along the way that you can talk about together later. Here are some items I noticed that could be used, but you can come up with your items own using the resources on tabernacleutah.com:
- A picture of a tent (found in the welcome center when learning about the Camp of Israel)
- A brazen serpent replica (found in the welcome center while learning the story of Moses and the brass serpent)
- The color blue (found in the gate to the outer courtyard)
- A horn (found on the four corners of the altar, or there is also a ram’s horn with the laver of water)
- Shewbread or candlesticks (both found in the Holy Place, inside the tabernacle)
- A pot of manna or the Ten Commandments (both found in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies)
- Badger’s skin (found at the entrance to the visitors’ center with examples of tabernacle coverings)
- A breastplate with 12 stones (found on the replica of High Priest clothing in the visitors’ center)
- The covenant path (there is a beautiful depiction of the covenant path created specifically for this experience found near the Christus in the visitors’ center)
Tabernacleutah.com also has a couple of coloring pages to help engage children in the experience that you could print off.
5. In addition to the suggestions above, my husband and I also found it helpful to talk to our 3-year-old a little bit about our modern temples and tabernacles in the scriptures to help him make a connection to something he was already familiar with. Because we had talked about it, he got excited whenever he recognized someone say the word “tabernacle.” Perhaps you could sing the verse about Samuel from the Primary song “Follow the Prophet” and talk about the tabernacle Samuel served in or discuss this information in another way that makes sense for your family and kids.
No matter how much or how little you already know or want to do to prepare to go, this can be a great family activity to learn about the Savior and temple symbolism or a wonderful experience to share with friends and neighbors of other faiths. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!
The Tabernacle Experience can be found in several places in Utah and one location in Wyoming throughout April and May. Visit the website to find the list of locations and ticket reservations, if required at that location. Don’t live near one of those locations? Access the written information and video resources being used by the tour guides as well as view pictures of the experience on tabernacleutah.com.
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