Temple Square supervisor Dene Hinton had an idea who the visitors were at the north gate of the Square, but he wasn't sure, so he welcomed them and asked where they were from.
"When they said, ‘Georgia,' that clinched it," Hinton told a Deseret News reporter in a copyrighted story. The visitors were former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
The 39th president and his wife, accompanied by a Secret Service agent, reportedly had an hour layover at the Salt Lake International Airport July 19 and wanted to spend it at Temple Square. His visit was a surprise to Temple Square officials.
At that moment, Carter was conspicuously absent from a gathering of all the other men still living who have occupied the White House Oval Office. President George Bush and former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were at the opening of the Nixon presidential library in Yorba Linda, Calif.
According to Reed L. Clegg, associate director of the Temple Square Visitors Center, Carter said he had been to Montana, Ethiopia and Texas, and was on his way back to Georgia.
It was the second visit to Temple Square for Carter. As president, he came in 1978 and spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Pam Misbach, a full-time missionary from Antioch, Calif., had the privilege of showing the Carters around the Square.
She said she was glad Hinton introduced the former president to her because she might not have recognized him otherwise.
"He looks a little older now," she told the Deseret News. "But he was very nice, very personable. Even though he only had a half hour and he wanted to see the most that he could, he would stop and have his picture taken with people. I thought that was really admirable because who knows when he will get here again."
Sister Misbach said she probably got only about 10 minutes of information in during the 30-minute tour because so many visitors — and missionaries — stopped to talk to the Carters.
Even so, there was time for a shortened performance of "Come, Come Ye Saints" by Tabernacle organist Clay Christianson, and for questions.
Carter asked about the significance of temple marriage, and his wife inquired about the Book of Mormon.
Sister Misbach said Carter already knew what the Book of Mormon is, and has a copy.
The former president received gifts of a Mormon Tabernacle Choir cassette tape and a copy of a book on Temple Square by Quig Nielsen.
As he left, Carter graciously kissed Sister Misbach on the cheek. "When it was all over and everyone was coming up to me, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you took around Jimmy Carter.’ I was still pretty casual about the whole thing," she said. "But it was exciting."