Temple Square scenes

General conference and Temple Square. Say one, and the other automatically comes to mind. Every six months, thousands of people gather on Temple Square to attend sessions or soak up the atmosphere of general conferences.

While the main event this weekend on the famous 10-acre site in downtown Salt Lake City is general conference, the gates remain open to tourists. Many might have arrived anticipating a quiet afternoon stroll around the grounds, admiring the thousands of flowering plants but find instead hundreds of people standing in long lines or sitting on the grounds.Most tourists who come to Temple Square on Sunday mornings expect to attend the world-renowned Tabernacle Choir broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word." On any other Sunday, tourists practically fill the Tabernacle. However, during conference Sunday, only 150-200 tourists can be accommodated in the Tabernacle since seats are occupied by conference-goers.

Still, Temple Square remains a tourist highlight during conference weekends. During these weekends, a higher percentage of tourists are Latter-day Saints.

"Many people who come to conference have not had any experience with a tour on Temple Square," said Lowell M. Snow, president of the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. "Most might be familiar with the architecture and with the buildings, but they haven't had any experience here as guests.

"At conference time, hundreds have a chance to have a very personal experience on Temple Square. Some from abroad might be taken on tours of the Square by missionaries from their own countries, or who speak their own language. They'll have a chance to hear a full-time missionary talk about, among other things, how these buildings represent the faith of the Latter-day Saints, not only the faith of the pioneers, but the faith of Latter-day Saints today. That's really the gist of the message."

Whether long-time members, new converts or non-LDS tourists traveling through Salt Lake City, visitors usually have some knowledge of Temple Square. "They've heard about it, perhaps have seen pictures or videos. Now, they come here, to where `X' marks the spot," Pres. Snow said.

He said that missionaries serving on Temple Square look forward to taking visitors on tours during conference weekend. "While conference is in session, the non-LDS guests have a chance to experience the reality of prophets," he said. "Missionaries can say, `I told you about living prophets. One is speaking now. Would you like to hear what he has to say?' Then they can take their guests into one of the theaters in the North Visitors Center and let them listen to a talk or a whole session of conference."

Pres. Snow said that sometimes guests stand outside a doorway of the Tabernacle to hear Church leaders speak.

He described Temple Square as "the world's biggest flip-chart" for missionaries to teach about the Church. Instead of holding up a picture of President Gordon B. Hinckley as they talk about a living prophet, they can point out the Church leader at the Tabernacle podium or on the oversized screen in the theater.

"The spirit is very strong on Temple Square during conference weekend," Pres. Snow added. "Visitors will feel something different. Those who are able to attend the Tabernacle Choir broadcast will get the feeling of being in a packed Tabernacle.

"They will see President Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust, members of the Quorum of the Twelve and Quorums of the Seventy, all of whom will have taken their seats at the front of the Tabernacle prior to the broadcast. After the tourists are ushered out of the Tabernacle at the end of the broadcast, they will be met by missionaries who will take them on personal tours, in small groups, and will talk about the experience of conference and what will be happening during the next two hours. Those people will be full of questions."

Pres. Snow said that he and others serving on Temple Square have noticed that less-active members often come to the grounds during conference weekends as well as at other times.

"Some are a little bit on the fringe, members of the Church for whom the embers of their faith have cooled. They come here and experience a tour with a missionary. For those folks, this is a unique experience. Missionaries help them rekindle that flame of testimony in this marvelous environment.

"Every day we have referral cards that are sent to priesthood leaders around the world, where perhaps a less-active member has been here, gone on a personal tour and had an experience that causes him or her to say. I'd like to have someone visit me,' orI'd like for home teachers to come see me,' or I'd like to come back,' orI'd like to have the missionaries or my bishop come to my home and talk to me.' We send those to the priesthood leaders of the members.

"This conference, as in other conferences, there will be some less-active members, people who will be tagging along with active members, who will be coming for the peripheral experience that they'll get here. Many of them will have an experience with these missionaries that will turn them once again to the principles that are being discussed inside the Tabernacle by the General Authorities."

Pres. Snow said that non-LDS visitors are intrigued at the number of languages that are spoken on Temple Square during conference weekend. Serving on Temple Square are 175 sister missionaries representing 28 languages. In addition, conference proceedings are translated into 35 languages. "It provides a great opportunity for non-members to see the world-wide nature of the Church," Pres. Snow said.

Sister Tamara Ann Snow added, "Visitors are amazed to see people lined up to get into the Tabernacle. They ask, `Are these people waiting in line to go to Church?' They're astounded by that, particularly when they see the teenagers and young adults standing in line. On Sunday morning, most of the people waiting in line are young people. The non-LDS visitors are just agog that young people will stand in line to go to church."

Typical of visitors to Temple Square are Gunnar and Gudveig Myhr of Trondheim, Norway, who spent some time on a tour Sunday morning, Sept. 27, and who plan to return for conference weekend. "There's a nice, calm atmosphere here," Mr. Myhr said as he and his wife were taken on a tour by Sister Katrine Roesaker, a full-time missionary from Oslo, Norway.

The Myhrs expressed delight and amazement at having found during their travels in the United States someone who speaks Norwegian.

Sister Sara A. Cankiel, a native of Denmark whose parents are Polish, took a group of dentists from Poland on a tour of Temple Square. "This is a beautiful place, where there's a special kind of energy," said Romuald Ciesielski, one of the visitors. "It's so quiet, so peaceful."

Marcin Dolecki, one of the group from Poland, added, "This is a place that puts you in a mood of reflection."

Frank and Betsy Lord of Duxbury, Mass., spent Sunday morning, Sept. 27, on Temple Square. Even without the conference crowds, they found the Square "busy and crowded, but calming."

They were taken on a tour by Sister Hana Kang, a missionary from Seoul, Korea. "We were fortunate to meet Sister Kang," Mrs. Lord said. "She gave us a wonderful tour, did a great job guiding us."

Mr. Lord said that their travels had taken them to Mount Rushmore, Little Big Horn and Yellowstone. "This [Temple Square] is a very emotional, spiritual place." Mrs. Lord added, "It's nice to see a city where there is so much mention of God and Jesus Christ. We've really enjoyed our visit."

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