7 things to see at the Convention Center while Temple Square is under construction

Since renovations to the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square began several years ago, our family’s visits to downtown Salt Lake City have been rare, often prompted more by our little ones’ love for construction vehicles as per our desire to roam 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.

I had heard there were exhibits related to the Salt Lake Temple, but I hadn’t expected some of the exciting artifacts displayed on several floors of the conference center. Here are some of the artifacts you can find, along with the story behind them.

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

Prior to the completion of the conference center 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 sits on the ground floor of the conference center, and it’s a great photo op with the Tabernacle’s famous organ behind it as a backdrop. The Tabernacle is one of the few buildings still open to visitors on Temple Square.

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

► You may also like: 25 things you didn’t know about the Tabernacle

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

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

► You might also like: Listen to the very first recording of the Tabernacle Choir on the occasion of the Choir’s 170th anniversary (+ watch their most watched videos of all time)

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Stereoscopic photos of the construction of the Salt Lake Temple
1st and 3rd floors, east side

Before the days of 3D imaging, stereoscopic photos were the closest a person came to seeing realistic photos. Take a close look at the 3D scene created by the dual image and see if you can spot any neat historical details in the background as well.

► You might also like: 4 Photos of the Original Construction of the Salt Lake Temple You May Not Have Seen

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

I love to imagine the early Latter-day Saints bringing that huge key to unlock the front doors of the Salt Lake Temple!

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

► You may also like: Take a photo walk through the changes in Temple Square from 1855 to today

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Original wooden table of Hawaiian saints for the Salt Lake Temple
3rd floor, east side

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

“The Laie Saints had sent a small table inlaid with Hawaiian hardwood for the temple, and two poles decorated with Hawaiian bird feathers were displayed in a corner of the celestial room. The women of Hawaiian relief societies had made the poles, called kāhili, which symbolized royalty and spiritual protection.

The table is absolutely stunning in person, and I was delighted to notice that the enlarged photo on the back of the screen clearly shows this work of faith and art on display in the original Celestial Hall of the Salt Lake Temple.

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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. According to its description, it was used for prayer by Church leaders. A look at the enlarged photo on the back of the altar display case reveals the altar on the far right of what appears to be one of the Ruling Council rooms.

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Replica Jesus
1st floor, west side

With the demolition of the North Visitor Center and the removal of the familiar Thorvaldsen Jesus statue it housed, a smaller 8ft replica installed in the conference center in 2019 might be a good alternative to visit. Although there aren’t as many benches around the sculpture as there were in the northern visitor center, there is still a sense of quiet peace reflected in the surrounding glass windows and railings.

These are just a few of the many things to see in the conference center – you can also take a tour of the auditorium and roof gardens, see more temple square artifacts and the salt lake templewander through galleries displaying Arnold Friberg’s Book of Mormon paintings and temple art, stop to view other carvings and artwork placed in hallways and alcoves, or step out onto the upper balcony to observe the construction work surrounding the temple.

Maps and display locations can be found at the main entrances, or you can ask the Missionary Sisters stationed throughout the building if you are looking for something specific. Also note that with the construction work around Temple Square, it is easier to park under the conference center (there is an entrance on West Temple) and then ask the sister missionaries to clear parking before leaving. I hope you take the time to see some of these unique displays and share your favorite pieces!


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