Thursday, August 20, 2015

Salt Lake Temple: Interior

Note: This is one of a series of posts on the interior and preservation of historic temples. Click here for posts of the floor plan and interiors of the Logan Temple, St. George Temple, Manti Temple, and Idaho Falls Temple.

I was originally not planning on doing a post on the Salt Lake Temple, because it has been extensively covered on many other sites. However, I've found the original source of many of the pictures that float around on the internet (The Salt Lake Temple: A Monument to the People), and so was able to get scans that are much higher quality than other photos. So, while none of the photos below are "new" to the internet, they generally are higher quality.

This is a LONG post, because there are so many photos. I apologize.

The ground floor of the temple is split into two halves. This is the hallway that divides that floor in half. (The temple is not nearly as whitewashed now; this photo was taken around 1980. A lot of the natural wood color has been returned, which is a relief.) On the west side (right part of the photo) is the baptistry.

The doors and rooms on the sides of the baptistry were originally used for the initiatory ordinances. Now, I think they've been changed to dressing rooms.

On the south side is the creation room and garden room. The creation room is immediately on the left upon entering the temple proper. It originally had no murals, but they were added later. No animals are in this creation room, which is different from most others.

The chairs are facing toward the garden room in this photo. They no longer face that way; they face toward the small door that provides access to the northeast tower.

This photo shows the way they currently face.

Patrons leave this room, heading south into the garden room up a small ramp. This is the view of the room as you enter:

Some notes: the 3 doorways lead to small recesses, but there was originally a small greenhouse connected there that had living plants.

The center doorway used to have a small lift that was used by temple workers in the endowment. President McKay apparently thought that it did not achieve its intended effect and was more distracting than anything else, so it was also removed.

This is the view from the recess on the right of the above photo. The door goes to the southeast tower stairwell, but it's not used by patrons or workers. Maybe it could be used as an emergency exit.

 The murals in this room are lovely, with vibrant green and blue colors. The ceiling is higher, and there is a type of skylight (lit with electricity) in the center of the room. At the front of the skylight is the all-seeing eye. You can see this in this next picture, which is the view of the garden room as patrons exit to proceed up the grand staircase.

Patrons emerge out onto this landing, and proceed up the staircase. As they do, they pass a stained glass depiction of Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden. The stained glass used to be located near the entrance to the world room, but it was moved when an elevator was placed there.

Now on the second floor, patrons enter the world room. Here, the in place of the serene murals of the garden room, the paintings depict animals fighting, rugged landscapes, and other signs of the world we live in. This is the view as you enter:

Both of the doorways at the front are used during the endowment. When it's time to leave this room and enter the terrestrial room, patrons take the door on the right.

The terrestrial room is beautiful--ornate carvings, stained glass, and a gracefully curved veil at the front. The windows in this room are artificially lit, as the addition of sealing rooms is now behind the wall.

Better colors in this one:

This image and a few others are stills from The Mountain of the Lord, an LDS film about the history of the Salt Lake Temple. The stills originate from another blog on temple architecture, which you can check out!

Finally, patrons enter the celestial room on the other side of the veil. The ceiling is high and takes up the floor above; colorful floral paintings grace the walls, and other ornate designs are available to view.

There are 4 major doors that you can see in the photo above. The one on the far left, up the small staircase, used to be an office, but it has since been changed to a beautiful sealing room, flooded with natural light (because it is located in the central east tower). The next one is the sealing room for the living; the one on the far right is the original sealing room for the dead (pictures below). The one in the center, with its doors closed, leads up to the Holy of Holies, a special room reserved for use by the Prophet.

This is a photo of a small statue above the veil as you enter the celestial room. The explanations for this statue are varied: that it is Christ (albeit a feminine-looking one), that it is Mary and was donated by the Catholic church, or that it is Aphrodite (since it looks like a seashell). Other people say it is Heavenly Mother or the Roman goddess Venus. Which is it?

In An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, one article, titled "The Woman at the Veil," seeks to answer this:

"The true origins stem back to Joseph Don Carlos Young, the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, after the death of Truman O. Angell in 1887.  His great contribution to the temple was a redesign of the interior plan, which included the original interior furnishings.  While in Boston at the advice of his father Brigham, Don Carlos, as he was called, saw a statue made by a young sculptor.  Fascinated by it, he purchased it and busts of two cherubs.  Dubbed the “Angel of Peace,” probably by its sculptor, Young had it enlarged to a full-size, six-foot statue.  The original had wings, because it supposedly represented a female “heavenly being.”  Young took the wings from his original and apparently directed that the copy be made without wings as well.  It is not certain, but the authors believe Cyrus Dallin, the sculptor of the Angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple was likely the sculptor of this piece too....It is certain, however, that it does not represent Mary, Venus, or Aphrodite."

Here's a better view of the sealing room for the living. Before the addition of many more sealing rooms on the north side, this room was used for live sealings.

This is the view as you enter. On the opposite side is a door leading to a small waiting room.

This is a view as you stand in that sealing room, looking back toward the door into the celestial room.

Here are some views of the sealing room for the dead. I wish I had some better pictures of this one, especially the stained glass. 

This temple is truly breathtaking. Few temples can compare to it and Manti.

Here is a picture of the landing on one of the tower staircases.

These staircases are still used, especially to access the priesthood assembly hall on the top floor of the temple. This is the view as you enter: the balcony is above; light streams in from the windows.

Just like other assembly halls, there are two sets of pulpits.

If you want to sit on the balcony, you ascend one of the beautiful spiral staircases.

I really like the Salt Lake Temple. Some parts of the architecture were whitewashed in the past, but I feel that the Church has been more sensitive to the original architecture in recent decades.


  1. I'm a worker in the Salt Lake Temple. The other day I was standing studying the stained glass depicting Adam & Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden and I realized the sword-bearing angel has six toes. Adam & Eve only have five, but the angel has six.

    1. That's something I wouldn't have noticed, Dave; you're right. I'm guessing that was an error in the glass that either went unnoticed or was ignored. Thanks for the heads up; I've got a few sources on stained glass that I'll check out to see if that is mentioned.

    2. What you think is the 6th toe is just the foot, not an extra toe.

  2. I sent two stained glass windows to the church history museum and am looking for a buyer for the remaining two SLC Temple Annex windows 1896c. These are the upper level 9'x8' arched windows.

    1. Unknown, if there are any potential buyers, I wouldn't be surprised if they were on this blog! If you don't mind, would you email me at I would love to see pictures and learn more about the window, if you felt comfortable. Thanks!

  3. The Salt Lake Temple is breathtaking, beautiful, full of symbolism and sacrifice that the pioneers gave for it. However, I wonder why Adam and Eve are shown the way they are, especially Eve. In a time when modesty was paramount and the fact that we believe in modesty, I am disappointed that she is not covered up much and that the Church has not painted over it. In the temple that is the headquarters of the Church and our belief in the sanctity of womanhood and motherhood it sickens me to see her displayed in this way. Our bodies are temples, sacred, and should be covered. I realize that there is symbolism in their nakedness, they were not able to "see" and were innocent before they left the Garden of Eden. They were given coats of skins to cover them, once they understood. But it bothers me that this is shown. Especially in light of all the problems in the world with pornography, sexual abuse. Statistics show that 1 out of every 3 or 5 women is sexually abused. I wonder how comfortable many women, and even men feel, when they see that depiction. I wish the Church would make it more modest. In other temples I have not seen a problem.

    1. Julie, I think the stained glass is trying to create an accurate picture of what it was like for Adam and Eve to leave the garden. I know it's not as modest (according to the modern tradition) as most Church art, but I think they assumed that those going through the temple would be able to understand its purpose. It also has a much more classical feel, which fits in with the era and style of the temple. To modify the glass to fit modern standards of modesty would be almost criminal, in the eyes of a preservationist.

    2. Julie,

      You're being sarcastic, right?

    3. Please be sarcastic, Julie. Please. Please don't discount all of history, art, and religion because you haven't studied it, yet.

  4. Does anyone here know the history and/or symbolism of this statue of Joseph and Hyrum seemingly adoring this female light bearer? I'd love to get the group's wisdom and take on it.

    1. Crump Family,

      I have seen that photo before. The statue was removed sometime in the early twentieth century, but it should still be in Church storage. I haven't found a satisfactory analysis of the statue or its history, so any information on it is pure speculation.

      If I had to guess, I would say it's a depiction of a female goddess on the top, but without a knowledge of the background, it's impossible to say who. I would love to get more knowledge of it, including all of the figures on the base. Maybe one day...

    2. That is so cool! I've wondered, because there is so much female symbolism in the celestial room, including the goddess on the shell. What a gorgeous sculpture. I wonder when it was removed? And why?

  5. Was this statue in the Salt Lake City Temple?

    1. Yes; it used to be in the Celestial Room.

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  7. Are the sealing rooms off the celestial room still used?

    1. I've seen them used for sealing for the dead, but they're not used for sealings for the living anymore, I believe. There might be a few exceptions.

  8. They are currently used for both living and dead. You just have to request it when booking your wedding. The reason they are used so rarely is that most wedding parties are not that tiny! I think parties have to be smaller than 10.