Temple Square is the site of Salt Lake Temple, where Brigham Young through divine inspiration designated the construction of a temple four days after arriving at Salt Lake from Nauvoo, Illinois. Salt Lake Temple is a beautiful piece of architecture built by Mormon pioneers over 40 years from 1853 and 1893.
Arriving at Temple Square on a Sunday morning was kind of special as church let out and crowds of worshipers exited the Tabernacle dressed in their Sunday finest clothes.
As the congregation let out, a circle of 12 young women holding signs introduced themselves one by one to the crowd. They were tour guides for a 75-minute tour of the 35 acre grounds of Temple Square in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. Their signs showed the language they spoke. I counted eleven different languages for the morning tours. The Temple Square brochure states tours are offered in 30 languages.
The crowd participated in morning greetings as each woman introduced herself. I planned to take a guided tour and went to snap a couple of photos as the women rotated twice through 24 greetings before assembling into tour groups. Then, I returned a few minutes later and they had already left.
I guided myself around Temple Square.
There are two visitor centers in Temple Square with North Visitors’ Center and South Visitors’ Center.
Two features of the North Visitors’ Center attracted my attention. The first was a large diorama showing Jerusalem 33AD with images detailing the life of Christ and lights to show the different locations from his life events.
The second feature of the Temple Square North Visitors’ Center I enjoyed viewing is a mural seen along a spiral walkway.
The Temple Square Conference Center fountain caught my eye, which was the distraction that caused me to miss the guided tours.
Temple Square conference center holds 21,000 people.
As a Californian and a public elementary school teacher for several years in 5th grade, the westward movement is an area of history I studied. While the movement of Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake is well-known to many Americans, the role of Mormons in California’s settlement is less publicized in American history. Many of the trails across the Sierra Nevada mountain range to reach the gold fields of California in 1849 had been established by Mormon pioneers. Mormons played a significant military role in California during the Mexican-American War 1846-48.
The first site in Temple Square I examined was Nauvoo Bell. This is the bell that hung in the Mormon temple of their colony in Nauvoo, Illinois in the 1840s. Mormon pioneers carried the bell across the west after departing Nauvoo, Illinois due to religious persecution. I was startled when the bell rung. The bell is rung hourly.
Temple Square South Visitors’ Center offers more historical exhibits describing the building of the Salt Lake Temple. Quarried granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon was the construction material. The heavy stones were initially hauled 20 miles by oxen and yoke to the site of Salt Lake Temple. Mormons who worked on the transcontinental railroad, completed in 1869, used their skills to construct a narrow gauge railroad opened in 1873 between the Little Cottonwood Canyon quarry and Salt Lake.
The historical aspect of 19th century pioneering, settlement of Salt Lake Valley and construction of the Salt Lake Temple fascinated me.
The Christians meet the Pagan
Religion is something I rarely discuss with anyone. Before yesterday, I don’t recall the last time someone asked me if I am a Christian. I am not.
I prefer to find common ground in social interactions through other areas of thought.
Pagan – a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.
I might be a pagan. I don’t mean Wicca or any kind of organized pagan religion. I find spiritual power in my surroundings. Animals, rocks, water, air, fire are all spiritual forces for me. I might be defined as an animist.
My childhood was Christian-based in both Catholicism and Protestantism. I knew I was not a Christian by the time I was ten years old. I defined myself as an atheist when I was 12. An argument with my 7th grade teacher who berated me in front of the class when I said I was an atheist resulted in corporal punishment in a Virginia public school. She argued I was too young to know if I was an atheist. Perhaps she was correct in her argument. Forty years of experiential learning and some psychedelic education moved me towards a belief in animism.
Defining my belief system does not concern me.
I’ll still hold hands at the table with Christian family members and friends who pray. Dar Williams expresses my Christmas holiday sentiments in her song The Christians and the Pagans.
Being asked about my religious beliefs yesterday by a young female Mormon missionary from Australia while in the Visitors’ Center of Temple Square is the reason I am writing about my spiritual beliefs on Loyalty Traveler. Our conversation about travel was the common ground that initially engaged me. Mormons tend to be world travelers.
Once the talk turned to religion, I politely excused myself and left Temple Square. I had an appointment at SLC airport for a Global Entry interview anyway.
It might seem ironic that the first place this pagan-animist-atheist chose to visit in Salt Lake City was Temple Square. Beauty and passion inspire me. Temple Square is a place of beauty filled with passionate missionaries.