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7 things to see in the Conference Center while Temple Square is under construction

Since renovations on the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square began several years ago, our family’s visits to downtown Salt Lake City have been few and far between—often driven more by our toddler’s love of construction vehicles than our desire to navigate temporary walkways and construction sites. But recently when we were trying to find a last-minute fun-but-inexpensive family outing, we decided to give the Conference Center a try.

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I had heard that there were some exhibits related to the Salt Lake Temple, but I was not expecting some of the exciting artifacts displayed on several floors of the Conference Center. Here are just a few of the artifacts you can find, as well as the history behind them.

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A replica of the Tabernacle pulpit
1st floor, east side

Before the Conference Center was completed in 2000, general conferences of the Church were held in the Tabernacle. A replica of the 19th-century pulpit that was used in the Tabernacle can be found on the main floor of the Conference Center, and it’s a great photo op with a backdrop of the famous Tabernacle organ behind it. The Tabernacle is one of only a few buildings still open for visitors on Temple Square.

Click here to learn more about the history of general conference.

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An early microphone used for Church recordings and performances
1st floor, west side

Check out one of the microphones that hung from the ceiling in the Tabernacle to record both general conferences and performances by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. A large photo covering the wall behind the microphone points out where these microphones were placed, hanging from the ceiling!

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Stereoscopic photos of the construction of the Salt Lake Temple
1st floor, west side

Before the days of 3D imaging, stereoscopic photos were the closest a person could get to seeing lifelike photos. Take a close look at the 3D scene made by the double image, and see if you can spot some neat historic details in the background as well.

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Key to the Salt Lake Temple’s front door
3rd floor, east side

I love picturing the early Latter-day Saints bringing this massive key to unlock the front doors of the Salt Lake Temple!

Bonus: Check out the modern keyhole on the door handle displayed across the room to see the evolution of locks on the temple’s front door.

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Original wood table from the Hawaiian Saints for the Salt Lake Temple
3rd floor, east side

When I saw this table on display, I recognized it from its mention in the second volume of Saints:

“The Saints in Laie had sent a small table inlaid with Hawaiian hardwood for the temple, and two poles decorated with the feathers of Hawaiian birds were on display in one corner of the celestial room. Women in Hawaiian Relief Societies had crafted the poles, called kāhili, which symbolized royalty and spiritual protection.”

The table is absolutely beautiful in person, and I was excited to notice that the enlarged photo on the back of the display clearly shows this work of faith and art displayed in the original Salt Lake Temple celestial room.

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Temple Altar
3rd floor, east side

Don’t miss this beautiful original Salt Lake Temple altar, which is smaller than the traditional sealing room altars we see today. It was used—according to its description—for prayer by Church leadership. A look at the blown-up photo on the back of the altar’s display case reveals the altar on the far right of what appears to be one of the leadership council rooms.

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Replica Christus
1st floor, west side

With the demolition of the North Visitors’ Center and the removal of the familiar Thorvaldsen Christus statue it housed, a smaller 8-foot replica installed in the Conference Center in 2019 might be a good alternative to visit. Though there aren’t as many benches surrounding the sculpture as there were in the North Visitors’ Center, there is still a feeling of quiet peace reflected in the surrounding glass windows and railings.

These are only a few of the many things to see in the Conference Center—you can also take a tour of the auditorium and the roof gardens, see more artifacts from Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple, stroll through galleries featuring Arnold Friberg’s Book of Mormon paintings and temple art, stop to look at other sculptures and art placed throughout the hallways and alcoves, or step out on the upper balcony to survey the construction work surrounding the temple.

Maps and locations of displays are found at the main entrances, or you can ask the sister missionaries stationed throughout the building if you are looking for something specific. Also note that with the construction work around Temple Square, it is easiest to park under the Conference Center (there is an entrance on West Temple) and then ask the sister missionaries for parking validation before you head out. I hope you will take the time to see some of these unique displays and share your favorite parts!


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