Religion, as a whole, has always fascinated me. And although I do not consider myself religious, I do find the historical and contemporary aspects of all sorts of religion very interesting. I’ve spent much time over the past ten years reading about some interesting topics: The politics behind the election of the the Pope, all sorts of things about Islam, the day-to-day operations of the business that is the Vatican and, of course, a lot intriguing stuff about Mormonism.
I went to college with a girl who was a fallen Mormon and the first to introduce me to some of the peculiarities behind this religion that most people know so very little about. She lived the first twenty years of her life without alcohol, cigarettes or coffee. She wore “magic Mormon underwear” (her words, not mine – Google it for more details). She talked about the secret activities in the opulent temples which, once dedicated by the Church, are not open to the public (Note: the Mormons go out of their way to make the distinction between “secret” and “sacred” – the Church insists that nothing is secret, it is merely sacred enough that it cannot be shared with non-members). I was easily hooked. How could you not be?
The Mormons – more precisely, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day (LDS) are generally good people. I admire their moral fabric. I highly praise the Church’s charitable endeavors. I am amazed how the Church can move and organize its members quickly and en-mass. What does not impress me, however, is the Church’s long-standing discriminatory views. For many years, blacks were second-class citizens within the Church until, magically, they changed their docterine when the government threatened to revoke their tax-exempt status. Their relentless backing of California’s Proposition 8, is a more recent example. But, regardless of your views about the LDS Church, the grounds of the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City is impressive, to say the least. Modern, well organized, impeccably clean and well-planned, the entire complex is much like the religion itself.
The centerpiece of Temple Square is the magnificent Salt Lake Temple, whose cornerstone was laid by Brigham Young himself:
The LDS Church Office Building sits just outside of Temple Square, next to the Salt Lake Temple. It is the second tallest building in Utah (missing it only be a meter), but actually sits on a higher elevation than the tallest building, so it does appear to be the tallest.
The modern Conference Center, completed in 2000, is one of the more amazing indoor structures that I have ever seen. This picture, as well as any I’ve seen on the web, simply do not do it justice. It is the largest indoor auditorium in the world, with 21,000 seats. The balconies are not supported by any pillars, so there are no obstructed views anywhere in the facility. It is an architectural masterpiece. From WikiPedia:
The 1.4 million square foot (130,000 m2) Conference Center seats 21,200 people in its main auditorium. This includes the rostrum behind the pulpit facing the audience, which provides seating at general conference for 158 general authorities and general officers of the church and the 360-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The auditorium is large enough to hold two Boeing 747s inside. All seats in the audience have an unobstructed view of the pulpit because the balcony is held up by radial trusses. This construction method allows the balcony to sink a full 6 inches (150 mm) under full capacity. Behind the podium is a 7,667-pipe and 130-rank Schoenstein pipe organ. Underground is a parking garage that can hold 1400 cars. A modernist, three-story chandelier hangs in a skylight in the interior of the building.
The Mormon Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, is one of the most acoustically perfect auditoriums in the world, despite being built way back in 1867.
This gigantic, white statue of Jesus Christ isn’t noticeable from a distance during the day, but peers down on you in a spooky fashion through the glass-sided North Visitor’s Center at night.
A full set of photos are available via my Flickr.