Missionary in the California San Fernando Mission, blogger, musician, chef, geek, and I'm a Mormon.
65 Fun Facts about the LDS Conference Center
The building was announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the April 1996 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) after several years of thought and research
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Hinckley speaking in the Tabernacle
Ground was broken on Pioneer day, 1997
The 1.4 million square feet building (by comparison, the Church Office Building across the street has 850,000 square feet) took three years to complete
The building was first used for General Conference in April of 2000
In order to complete the building in three years, sometimes there would be over a 1000 construction workers on-site
The building was officially completed for General Conference in October 2000
The building can withstand an 8.5 on the Richter scale for an earthquake
The flooring of the building is made out of Dakota Mahogany Granite. Half of it is polished and half of it is not. This gives the floor it’s larger than life checker board look.
There are two main types of wood in the building: The trims are made of Cherry wood and the inserts are made out of Pear wood. The wood was milled at Fetzers, a Salt Lake valley woodworking company
A large fountain, glass sculpture, and kaleidoscope-like skylight are the main features of the foyer
The auditorium seats 21,000 people, 7000 on each level (that makes three levels if you can’t do the math)
The stage is so large, the Salt Lake Tabernacle across the street could fit on it
The auditorium is big enough to fit a 747 jet airplane inside
The main purpose of the main auditorium is for the semi-annual General Conferences of the LDS church
The entire stage can be completely reconfigured or even completely dismantled to create a flat stage surface
This process takes a crew of 18 people working 40 hours a week for four weeks to dismantle it. It would take this same 18 person crew working 40 hours a week for four weeks to assemble it again.
This process has only been done twice: once to prove to President Hinckley that they could do it and the other time was for the Olympic presentation “Light of the World”
The pulpit was originally built out of President Hinckley’s Black Walnut tree (by made out his tree, I really mean it was made out of plywood and covered in a veneer made from his tree)
After several years of use, the pulpit got a bit dinged up, so now there are four pulpits that are rotated for use
The beehives on the pulpit are made of cherry wood again to provide consistency between the pulpit and the rest of the wood work
Conference Center Pulpit
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and congregation stand to sing during a session of General Conference
Light of the World
The organ, the main focal point of the the auditorium has 7708 pipes, only about 2/3 the size of the Tabernacle organ which has 11623 pipes
For the April 2000 General Conference, the only the facade pipes were completed and the Tabernacle Choir was accompanied by a digital organ
The organ was first partially playable for the October 2000 session with more pipes added until in 2003 it was officially complete and an organ dedication was performed
The console of the organ can be moved anywhere in the building by way of a special cart that it sits on and a rigging system that moves it from each level of the stage
The organ builder wasn’t sure how to build the large curved parts of the organ case, so they hired a yacht manufacturer in Portland, Oregon to make them
The organ builder historically has only used silver colored pipes in their facades and was going to do that with the Conference Center’s organ, but President Hinckley said it didn’t look enough like the organ in the Tabernacle. The organ builder wasn’t sure how to make gold pipes, so an auto body shop in Layton, Utah painted them with gold leafing
The disk that is at the top of the facade of the organ was built the same way the pioneers made the wood pipes in the Tabernacle: by using what they had at their disposal, only this time they went to Walmart, bought a snow saucer, covered it with clay, dimpled it out with panty hose eggs, and gold leafed it. It has a dedicated spotlight which gives it a glowing effect
The choir loft in the Conference Center seats 364 people where as the Tabernacle seats 360
During summer, daily organ recitals are held in the Conference Center
Conference Center organ console
The console can be moved essentially anywhere on stage
There are skylights at on the roof that look down directly over the auditorium. They are covered for performances to control the lighting and uncovered when lighting does not need to be controlled. There are prisms on top which allow you to see rainbows on the floor of the auditorium
There are five remote controlled cameras in the auditorium, they are controlled from a room in the back of the plaza level of the room
There are over 1600 lights, making the lighting system the largest theatrical lighting system in the world
There are four projectors, but only two screens. This is on purpose. There are two projectors for each screen. They are angled in such a way that both projected images overlap each other for two reasons: one, so that when the house lights are up the images are bright enough to be seen and two, for backup in case one of them fails.
The auditorium is acoustically dead so that the sound doesn’t reverberate through out the room. If it wasn’t dead, the sound would bounce around making the sound inaudible as you’d hear everything dozens of times. Because of the acoustical deadness, speakers are spread through out the room to give it as natural a sound as possible
Conference Center camera
The paintings in the Conference Center are all original, there are roughly 70 of them. On the other hand roughly half of the statues are original and the rest are replicas.
The largest painting in the building is the panoramic painting of Jesus Christ visiting the Americas after he was crucified. The painting is 35 feet wide and 12 feet tall. It was commissioned by the church for the 1974 worlds fair in Spokane, Washington and later placed in storage. President Hinckley specifically had the wall it hangs on designed for it. It was all painted on ONE canvas by John Scott.
The Conference Center is home to the original paintings of the Book of Mormon that are featured in the special picture edition of it. These paintings were commissioned for the Church by Adele Cannon Howells with the intent of placing them on the cover of the Children’s Friend magazine each month to celebrate the magazine’s 50th year. Friberg after painting the first picture was hired by Cecil B. DeMille to be the artistic director of the movie “The Ten Commandments” and because of this the paintings were not completed in time for the 50th anniversary of the magazine. Howells did not live long enough to see them completed.
On the terrace level of the auditorium is a section for the deaf/hard of hearing. Two giant TVs are there, one for American Sign Language and one has a video stream of conference with closed captioning.
From the back of the auditorium on the balcony level to where the pulpit is during conference is the distance of 120 yards or the length of an American football field including endzones
The balcony is held up by a cantilevering system. It allows the balcony to be held up with out any other support. It is designed to sign about 5/16″ when at full capacity.
View from the balcony
The deaf/hard of hearing section
The balcony under construction
Going past the waterfall on this level is a hallway dedicated to the leadership of the Church.
First is a painting of Jesus Christ ordaining and setting apart the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from the New Testament in the Bible
On the left is a painting of each current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. From the original quorum of the twelve is where we get the leadership pattern for the Church.
In the middle is the First Presidency
After getting off the South Elevators are photographs, painted on canvas, that are of the General Auxiliary Presidencies of the Church
The Hall of the Presidents features busts of all the prophets from Joseph Smith to now Thomas S Monson
The Hall of the Apostles features paintings of all the apostles who did not become prophet
The roof is an area of approximately 4.5 acres. The building covers an area of 10 acres.
The roof can support an additional 18 million pounds
The roof is held up by a king truss that is 150 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and 4 feet thick. It weighs 650 tons and was imported (in pieces) from Belgium.
On the east side of the roof is planted with trees, symbolic of how the Mormon Pioneers planted trees on their way west down the mountains into the Valley
On the west side of the roof is planted with over 100 types of grasses and flowers. They have all gone to seed, so they blossom when ever they want.
There is no dirt on the roof, the plants are planted in crushed shale which is only half the weight of soil. When the plants are watered, the shale retains the nutrients and the plants are able to thrive off it.
There are simulated streams and reflecting pools on the roof.
The main water feature is a fountain that is directly above where the pulpit usually is.
There is a picture that is etched into Black Brazilian Granite, it depicts the world family. This is located on the north side of the roof, past the main fountain.
The granite that is wrapped around the building was quarried from Little Cottonwood Canyon, the same place the granite for the Salt Lake Temple was quarried
The tower was not originally intended to be on the building. President Hinckley part way through the construction said it didn’t look churchy enough. Upon research, it was determined that it would be too heavy so they made the tower out of styrofoam and veneered in granite.
The water fall starts at the base of the tower
Children often throw coins into the water features as if they were wishing wells. The coins are gathered and donated to Primary Children’s hospital.
On the south edge of the roof provides a gorgeous view of Temple Square.
Sunset behind the Conference Center Spire
Main roof fountain, directly over where the pulpit sits
World family mural etched in Black Brazilian Granite
Trees on the east side of the roof
Flowers and grasses on the west side of the roof
There is so much concrete, if you were to pour it on to a football field, it would be two floors tall
There is enough wiring to wrap around the world TWICE!
There is a 900 seat auditorium in the building called the “Little Theater.” Only in a building with an auditorium that seats 21,000 can 900 be called small!
There is a 1,400 car garage below the building. Despite having all those stalls for cars, it’s not open during major events. Only those who work the event are allowed to park there (e.g. choir members, ushers, general authorities, maintenance, audio-visual, etc)