The Salt Lake Tabernacle was not dedicated until 1875, but it was first used in the October 1867 conference. A transcription of that meeting’s remarks by President Brigham Young was recently transcribed and made available. Imagine my excitement! A chance to read the first words ever given over the pulpit in the beloved Tabernacle – a building that not only means so much to members of the church and historians alike, but also the place I spend so many of my hours and days each week rehearsing and singing.
The Tabernacle was completed in approximately 6 years. By contrast, the Salt Lake Temple was currently under construction a few feet to the East a project that would take 40 years total, and at the time of the first sermon in the tabernacle, the temple would not be completed for another 26 years (April 1893).
On October 6, 1867, Brigham Young stood in front of a packed audience inside the newly constructed Tabernacle and began to speak:
“It will be a [satisfying] reflection to myself if there is a spirit in the Latter-day Saints of Israel to forward the temple as we have this tabernacle.”
- There were only 100,000 members of the Church residing in four stakes and ten missions at the time. By contrast, today there are over 15.4 Million members, 29,621 congregations and 406 missions.
Historical records from October 1867 state that members voted to extend the conference to last 4 days instead of 2. The famed Tabernacle organ was still under construction, and only in its infancy from what it is today.
President Young addressed that topic first:
I wish to make a little apology to the people for the unfinished state of our organ. We have commenced one that I think will do credit to the wilderness we inhabit when it is complete. There is not over I suppose one third of the pipes now up in cases, and around it we have thrown … [a veil] to cover its nakedness, shall I say. … When it is completed, the height of it will be more than once again than the height of its present appearance. It is now built about fifteen feet tall. [It will] be, when completed, in the neighborhood of thirty-five feet in height. We have done the best we could with it. Brother Ridges has been faithful, and the hands [that have] been assisting him. It is in the best order as could be under present circumstances.
Eliza R. Snow composed a special hymn for the occasion (I am still trying to find out what hymn that was), Joseph J. Daynes played the not yet fully completed tabernacle organ, and the music for the conference was furnished by the combined Springville and Spanish Fork choirs (many future “Tabernacle Choir” members).
President Young offered an opening prayer during this meeting – a bit like like a dedication of the General Conference. I was particularly struck by this passage of the prayer.
Bless those that sing. Bless him that plays the organ and all that assist in singing, our brethren [and sisters who] come from distant [lands]. Inspire them to seek [the] power of thy holy spirit and help each one of us so to conduct ourselves so that we may be inspired from on high and have the gift of revelation, that we may speak thereby, pray thereby, sing thereby, [and] hear thereby, that we may be perfected.
From the very beginnings of the Tabernacle, it was meant to be a place of inspiration and to be filled with music. All those who play and sing inside it’s walls have truly been consecrated and blessed by the early prophet, President Brigham Young.
LDS pioneer George D. Watt captured hundreds of sermons in shorthand (then known as “phonography”) given by Brigham Young and other church leaders. He did this for nearly twenty years between the 1850’s-1870’s. Many of these sermons have remained unknown and unpublished until recently.
Don’t miss watching this fascinating video!
You can read all of the latest transcriptions from the George Watt archive on this web page. I highly recommend it! – MoSop
When did tours officially begin on temple square? What are some of the history of the tours on temple square?
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Hi Stout, really great question! I did a little research and here is what I found;
In 1875 Charles J. Thomas was appointed as the first official Temple Square Guide. During the following year he personally greeted over 4,000 visitors to Temple Square. From then on, there were tours happening in one form or another. In 1894 the Family History Library was built, which drew even more visitors to the city and required more tour guides and volunteers. In 1902 the very first visitor’s Center was built on Temple Square. It was called the “Bureau of Information.”
Learn more fun historical facts at these new Temple Square pages:
1. Building Temple Square Part I (1800s)
2. Building Temple Square Part II (1900-today)
At this last conference one of the songs the Choir sang was “Israel Israel GOD is Calling” in one of the vrs it states “Come to Zion ere HIS floods of anger flow” What does that mean?
Hi Deward, great question, and great observation! To be honest, that’s a poetic fragment I’ve sung all my life and I’ve never really thought about it.
My completely off the cuff answer: the lyrics focus on preparing for the second coming, and for gathering to not only a physical “Zion” (Utah, in pioneer times) but also gathering to any place physically or spiritually where God dwells. In terms of the “ere His floods of anger flow” part, that might be referencing how God cleansed the earth with a flood of water in ancient days and those who gathered to the Ark (a symbolic ‘zion’) were saved, and now in modern days as evil sweeps the land again, God can only save those who gather to His sacred, covenant-filled places.
What are your thoughts?
Amazing insight you’ve given. As I think about your answer it becomes clear that GOD will protect us yea even by His anger upon the wicked if needs be. Thank you.
I have another song that I have been trying to find the answer to and haven’t found it yet. A few decades ago I was invited to sing In the choir at general priesthood conference. It was a marvelous experience. We sang the song Come, O Thou King of Kings. In the 4th verse we sing. “Thrice welcome to thy throne!” I have allays wondered what that means. Thrice means 3 when Christ comes again that will be His 2nd comming. Yet brother Parley says it will be His 3rd time. Why the difference? I understand His first time when He was born and ministry there. His 2nd time we are waiting for. Where does the 3rd come from? If you can help me with this I would appreciate it.
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That’s an intriguing question. I LOVE pondering hymn lyrics!
Here are some thoughts:
1. There are always several interpretations and “layers” of meaning in good poetry. And, the poetry of hymns have an added layer of depth because we consider them to be additional scripture.
We have been promised that as we read, study and ponder any scripture we can be enlightened and receive “line upon line”.
So, as we ponder the line of this hymn – “Thrice welcome to Thy throne” – we can ask ourselves who is being welcome?
The Savior, or us (mankind)? Or, both?
Is the meaning of the word “welcome” as in “given” or “welcome” as in “welcomed – greeted”?
2. After Jesus Christ came to earth for his mortal ministry, he was welcome(d) to his throne as a resurrected being. Certainly he will be welcome(d) to his throne at the ‘Second Coming’. But, could we not also count his welcome after appearing in the Latter-Days to Joseph Smith and others during the great Restoration?
3. We will also be welcome(d) “thrice” to his throne, after death, and at our resurrection. But, could the third instance be during the pre-existence when we gathered to the throne and sustained him as our Savior? Or, could the third instance refer to when we accepted higher covenants at the throne of his temple, and each time we enter in? Or, the third time could refer to when we will be welcome to his throne when we receive an exaltation and throne of our own like him?
4. Perhaps “thrice welcome” to his throne can also imply being welcome(d) by the three beings of the Godhead when we return to our heavenly home?
Ahhh… so much fun to ponder the hymns! Keep on singing and pondering! – MoSop
In the hymn Ye Elders of Israel. The Chorus states “We’re going to the Mountains of Ephraim to dwell”. We can find The mount of Ephraim in the Holy Land on a map. And also Babylon in the Old World. I understand leaving modern day Babylon behind. What about the Mountain of Ephraim. Is that a term that the early leaders of the Church used about gathering to Utah? Where the “Lords House is established in the tops of the mountains” as spoken by the prophet Isaiah?
Deward, I think that sounds like a good theory to explore! I love how the hymns can be studied in-depth just like scriptures, and have multiple layers of meanings.