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Music and the Spoken Word: The Tabernacle — a beloved companion and friend

POSTED: September 25, 2017 9:10 a.m.
Deseret Connect/

The Tabernacle on Temple Square as it appeared in October, 2004. The Tabernacle's exterior was built with red sandstone brought for the temple.

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Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

The Tabernacle on Temple Square has been the well-known home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 150 years. Millions have entered these walls since it was completed in 1867, and millions more will enter for years to come.

The choir has performed in the great concert halls of the world. But when we return to the Tabernacle for our weekly broadcast and fill this sacred space with the joyful sounds of music, we are home.

Just as people have personalities, this building has a personality. Like the pioneers who built it, the Tabernacle is hardy and resilient, yet warm and welcoming, venerable while also true to its humble roots. And even after all these years, it retains its original pioneer character.

Other than some seismic and technological updates, the Tabernacle’s unique appearance, its 19th-century craftsmanship and its renowned acoustics have remained unchanged. This beloved companion and friend is today, as it was 150 years ago, a peaceful place of history, beauty, worship and refuge.

Built by pioneer ingenuity, the Tabernacle was made sacred through sacrifice. The strong hands and faithful hearts that raised these walls gave their all to build a place where God might be glorified. The Salt Lake Valley was a remote wilderness then — not even a railroad graced its barren landscape.

So when marble was wanted but not found, wooden pillars were carefully painted to look like marble columns. Hardwood was hard to come by, so pine benches were painstakingly painted to look like oak. And when it came time to assemble the huge elliptical roof atop the 44 stone buttresses, the latticework of timbers was held together by wooden pegs and rawhide.

Sixty years ago, acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright called this national historic landmark “one of the architectural masterpieces of the country, and perhaps the world” (see “Pioneer Edifice Fulfilled a Pressing Need,” by R. Scott Lloyd, Church News, Oct. 16, 2004).

Today as we celebrate the 150th birthday of this one-of-a-kind treasure, our wish is that the Tabernacle may enjoy many more decades of stability, harmony and happiness. And our hope is that all who enter within these walls may find goodwill, peace and joy.

Happy birthday, dear friend.
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