Pioneers labored from 1863 to 1867 to construct this unique, dome-shaped building. Brigham Young envisioned a meeting hall capable of holding thousands of people in an interior free of obstructing structural supports. His design, drawn by bridge-builder Henry Grow, took shape in massive latticed wooden beams resting on 44 supports of red sandstone.
Because Utah lacked many common building supplies, the workers often had to make substitutions. Wooden pegs and rawhide strips hold the structure together. The large organ pipes resemble metal, balcony pillars appear to be marble, and the benches look like oak, yet all are pinewood painted to simulate these materials.
The tabernacle has become known for its phenomenal acoustics, a result of its smooth arched ceiling, and its massive pipe organ is regarded as one of the finest ever built. From 700 pipes when constructed in 1867, the organ has grown to about 12,000 pipes, five manuals, and one pedal keyboard. Daily recitals (noon and 2 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun. in summer, noon Mon.–Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun. the rest of the year) demonstrate the instrument’s capabilities.
Temple Square tours include a stop in the tabernacle for a short presentation on the history of the building; an acoustic demonstration shows that a dropped pin can be heard even in the back rows—170 feet away!
Important church conferences take place in the tabernacle every spring and autumn, but the seating capacity of about 6,500—considered huge when it was built—is now far too small, despite the addition of a balcony. The renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 360 voices strong, is heard on the Sunday morning national radio show Music and the Spoken Word. Visitors can attend choir rehearsals Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. or the broadcast performance on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (be seated by 9:15 a.m.); both are free.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition