A Peek Inside the Temple

Temple model 1

On May 28, a press conference was held in the South Visitors’ Center on Temple Square to unveil a new public exhibit: a cut-away scale model showing the interior architecture and layout of the Salt Lake Temple. The LDS Newsroom and Deseret News posted detailed stories with additional images; in this post I just want to toss out a few ideas for discussion.

First, why didn’t someone think of this thirty years ago? That reaction, of course, just highlights how informative and helpful the exhibit is. All good ideas have a we-should-have-thought-of-this-before quality. For visitors, the exhibit dispels the natural misconception that the interior of the temple is similar to the interior of most Christian cathedrals: a large, open, dimly lit chamber furnished with wooden pews and marble statues. The exhibit shows how different is the interior of an LDS temple. Even Mormons who often frequent the Salt Lake Temple will find the exhibit interesting, as it shows areas and rooms not generally seen, such as the large assembly room on the upper floor.

On the other hand, I’m not sure this would have been an acceptable Visitors’ Center exhibit thirty years ago. While I doubt this exhibit is in direct response to the Big Love depiction of the interior of an LDS temple, it certainly reflects a more open and public discussion of LDS doctrine and practice than was the norm a couple of generations ago.

Temple model 3

Two General Authorities spoke at the press conference, Elder Hinckley, the executive director of the Missionary Department, and Elder Walker, the executive director of the Church’s Temple Department. That’s a subtle reminder that every LDS-operated historical site is staffed and operated by missionaries. As door-to-door tracting and street contacting become less welcome and less productive, alternative approaches (member referrals, interactive online discussion, historical sites) become more valuable as missionary outreach tools.

15 comments for “A Peek Inside the Temple

  1. Robert
    June 11, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Does it show ALL the rooms, like the Holy of Holies?

  2. bryanP
    June 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

    This is great. I worked at the Salt Lake Temple when I lived in Salt Lake in the late 80s and early 90s. Looking at this model brings back memories of working in one of the most beautiful places. I am grateful that the church is finding creative ways of reaching out to the world with the message of Christ.

  3. JimD
    June 11, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Robert – No; if they included it it would have obstructed the view into the Celestial Room. (Similarly, the depicted World Room blocks any view of the Terrestrial Room). The Council Room for the 1st Presidency/Quorum of the 12, however, is shown.

    Dave, I hang out on a couple of ship modeling sites, and a highly detailed ship model this size can easily go for thousands of dollars. I wouldn’t be surprised if this particular model cost the church over twenty thousand dollars.

  4. bryanP
    June 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Response to JimD #3

    Hello Jim, I was noticing the detail in the assembly room. It goes to show you when the church does something, it goes all out.

  5. Bfabbi
    June 11, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I have seen this model, and the depictions are amazing. I particularly loved the assembly room, the council room, and the Talmage room. Some rooms weren’t shown, like the Terrestrial and Creation rooms. However, it doesn’t detract from the experience of it. The video consoles at the exibit are amazing. They have real video and pictrues of the interior.
    I would love to see these at temple open houses and the visitor centers.

  6. June 11, 2010 at 11:58 am


    I’m wondering the same thing. :-) But my guess is probably not. I would love to go see it sometime. It sounds awesome.

  7. Left Field
    June 11, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Actually, I did have this idea a couple of decades ago, when they had that full-sized baptismal font in the Visitors’ Center. I thought the font was a terrible idea, and thought a model would be a much better way of showing what’s in the temple.

    That’s the Council Room of the 12 that’s visible on the south side, not the Council Room of the FP/12. The Council Room of the First Presidency and 12 is across the hall on the north side of that floor. The original sealing rooms, the Holy of Holies, the Creation Room, the Terrestrial Room, the Dome Room, the Elder’s (aka Prayer) Room, the Seventies’ Council Room, and the High Council Room are all notable rooms not visible, either because they are cut away to show rooms behind, or because rooms in front are blocking them. I wonder why they didn’t cut away portions of the north wall to reveal those rooms, though. Perhaps it would have compromised the structure of the model.

    In the corridor on the third (council room) level between the northeast and east-center tower, there is a fairly large pair of arched doors going west. Any clue where those go? I would think that would open up into an attic-like space in the curved portion of the celestial room ceiling, but those are pretty fancy doors for just an attic. I suppose there could be a narrow walkway through that space into the dome room, but I’ve never read of anything like that described. So I’m stumped.

  8. Bryan H.
    June 11, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I would love to have a higher-resolution picture of that first cutaway to show my temple prep class. The one from the newsroom site is only 21K and I searched all over but couldn’t find a better one. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next visit to SLC and take one for myself.

  9. June 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    They should consider creating a virtual model online that allows people to walk through the temple.

    I have seen this current model and I think it is a fantastic addition to the visitors center.

  10. June 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I think that would be a fabulous idea! how can we make the suggestion to Church Headquarters? :-)

  11. Nate
    June 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I think that the church would’ve been willing to do this a couple generations ago considering they had Elder Talmadge create The House of the Lord, a book with photos of many of the rooms including the Holy of Holies and a detailed description of the interior.

    Left Field: As for the mystery door, I guess I’m stumped as well. The door would lead right to where the curved ceiling of the Celestial room meets the wall. I don’t think it could lead to the Dome Room since its north wall is mostly taken up by three windows and there would be no room for a door. I’m guessing that it may lead to storage or electrical stuff.

  12. Left Field
    June 12, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    You’re right; it doesn’t seem like there’d be room for even a small door on the north side of the dome room. I never really knew until I saw the photographs of the model, how the semicircular stained-glass windows on the north side of the celestial room line up with the oval windows on the outside that presumably provide them with natural light. Based on the model, the stained-glass windows are set just a bit below the outside windows, and the ceiling curves in from the granite shell of the temple along there, so there must be a bit of space between the outside windows and the celestial room ceiling. I would assume they would need to be able to get in there for cleaning and maintenance, etc., so I guess that’s where the mystery door would have to lead. It just seems like the door is quite a bit overdone for something that just leads into what would basically be a crawl space. And it’s not like that relatively obscure corridor is in a place where they would need to have a door just for show. Then again, maybe it’s an error in the model. And what’s that gray rectangle in the center tower room on the same level?

  13. Left Field
    June 12, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I retract what I said: you CAN see in the model all the way across the hall into the council room of the FP/12.

    Regarding the Holy of Holies, even if it were visible in the model, it wouldn’t really show anything that the church hasn’t had in the public domain for 100 years or so. Talmage published very detailed descriptions and photographs.

  14. Matt Stevens
    June 12, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    For those like me who had never seen the aforementioned photograph from Elder Talmage’s book, here is a link to the b&w photograph of the Holy of Holies (early 1900s):


  15. Left Field
    June 18, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Another thought regarding the mystery door: The possibilities are (1) It simply opens into the attic space above the celestial room (though it looks like a more elaborate door than you would expect for such a purpose); or (2) It leads to a walkway to either the dome room or the council room of the FP/12 (seems unlikely for reasons already discussed).

    A third possibility is that the door opens to a stairway leading to the assembly room, and opening under the east podium. Of course, there is another stairway going the same place, right there in the NE tower, and three others in the corner towers that provide access to the assembly room from the council room floor. However, it seems plausible that when the interior was constructed in the late 19th century, the architects envisioned large crowds of people coming up the corner stairways to the assembly room, and so might have provided a separate stairway for general authorities to have easier access from the council room floor. The Nauvoo Temple had a staircase in a vaguely similar location, providing direct access to the attic from one of the mezzanine rooms below.

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