Stephen Hughes stepped back to let his wife walk ahead of him through the gates of Temple Square. So as Teresa Hughes entered the Square at 9:20 a.m. on Dec. 19, she became the official 4 millionth visitor during 1988.
Later, as still cameras clicked and television cameras rolled, she responded, "No, I'm not surprised – I'm in shock."The visit of Teresa Hughes meant that the previous record of 3 million visitors, established just a year ago, was eclipsed, and that Temple Square now receives more visitors than any of the national parks in the western United States, including Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.
Visitors this year have been so numerous that the sidewalks of the Square are often shoulder to shoulder with people. Officials estimated the year's total will reach 4.1 million.
The Hugheses, from Kingsport, Tenn., are typical of the visitors who have come to the Square in record numbers this year. Like many other visitors, Mrs. Hughes came at the recommendation of another – her husband.
"I saw Temple Square last year and told my wife about it," said Hughes, chief technologist of the Radiology Department at Indian Path Hospital in Kingsport. "The lights on the Square are just gorgeous."
The Hugheses visited the day before on Dec. 18, but returned to take the historical tour. At that time, she was notified that she'd made history, too.
The couple was taken to the North Visitors Center, where news reporters and local and state officials waited.
"This is a real milestone for Temple Square," said Joseph Horne, director of Temple Square.
"We've never reached the 4-million mark in any previous year," he said. "In fact, last year was the previous record year for visitors and the 3-million milestone was reached on Dec. 3, so we're way ahead of any previous year."
The Hugheses were presented with a small porcelain model of "The Christus," a marble statue of Christ by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldesen, a replica of which is in the visitors center; and a book, "The Mormons," signed by President Ezra Taft Benson and his counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson.
Others who presented gifts to the Hugheses included Rick Davis, president of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau; Jay Woolley, director of Utah Tourism; and Fred Rollins of Delta Airlines. Among the gifts were round-trip airline tickets, dinner and lodging at downtown hotels, books, tapes of the Tabernacle Choir, plaques and a travel bag.
"The Square is a beautiful place," said Mrs. Hughes. She said they particularly enjoy the history of the settlement of the West. She observed that a friend of hers at her work is a Church member, and, referring to the First Presidency's signatures in the book, "she is going to be very envious of these signatures."
The Hugheses had heard of Temple Square, and listen to the Tabernacle Choir frequently. They were in Utah to pick up a son, Chris, who is studying here, and they made a point of coming to the Square. They have two other children.
"We appreciate what is done here for the Christmas season," she said. "I am very pleased to be the 4 millionth visitor – and I'm still in shock."