Description of the Ordinance Rooms of the Salt Lake Temple

From The House of the Lord:
A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern (1969), 83, 204-208

Elder James E. Talmage
of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

[Underlining, bolding, and numbers hvae been added. All editions of The House of the Lord have included pictures of the interior including the ordinance rooms. Each edition includes updated pictures as the Salt Lake Temple has been renovated--as needed--on various occasions. The pictures in this collection are updated pictures.]

The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations,and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of [1] the most prominent events of the creative period, [2] the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, [3] their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, [4] their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, [5] the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, [6] the period of the great apostasy, [7] the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, [8] the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in the present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.

The Creation Room:

On the east side of the lower corridor of the temple are two assembly rooms. The first of these is about 40 to 45 feet, and is finished with plainness. Murals on the walls are subdued in tones, and depict scenes representative of the creation of the earth. The seats are comfortably cushioned, typical of those in the various lecture rooms of the temple. Provision is made for 301 persons. This room is used for preliminary instruction purposes, and may be called for convenience the Creation Room.


The Garden Room:

In striking contrast with the room last described is the room on the south, entered from the Creation Room by an arched doorway hung with portieres. While of about the same size as the room described, and seated to accommodate the same number of persons, in all its appointments it is of more elaborate design. Ceiling and walls are embellished with oil paintings to represent clouds and sky, with sun and moon and stars; the latter showing landscape scenes of rare beauty. There are sylvan grottoes and mossy dells, lakelets and brooks, waterfalls and rivulets, trees, vines and flowers, insects, birds and beasts, in short, the earth beautiful-as it was before the Fall. It may be called the Garden of Eden Room, for in every part and appurtenance it speaks of sweet content and blessed repose. There is no suggestion of disturbance, enmity or hostility; the beasts are at peace and the birds live in amity. In the center of the south wall is a platform and an altar of prayer, reached by three steps. The altar is upholstered in velvet, and on it rests the Holy Bible.

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The Grand Stairway starts near the south end of the lower east corridor of the temple. It is provided with a stately newel post and a massive balustrade, both of solid cherry wood, and finished in white and gold. This stairway comprises 35 steps with three landings, and at its top is the upper corridor, running 40 feet north and south. At the south end of the corridor is an art window in rich colors, elliptical in form, about ten feet in height, depicting the expulsion from Eden. It is of special significance in the journey from the Garden Room below to the symbolical room which will next be described.       

The World Room:

Leading off to the west from the first landing below the top of the grand stairway is a side corridor nine feet wide and 15 feet long. At either end the corridor terminates in an arch way. The room to which it leads is of equal size with those below, 40 by 45 feet. It is carpeted richly, and is seated in the usual way. At the west end is an upholstered prayer altar, on which are placed in readiness for use the Holy Scriptures. Near the altar is a stairway leading to a small waiting room adjoining the elevator landing.

The walls are entirely covered with scenic paintings and the ceiling is pictured to represent sky and cloud. The earth scenes are in strong contrast with those of the Garden Room below. Here the rocks are rent and riven; the earth-story is that of mountain uplift and seismic disruption. Beasts are contending in deadly strife, or engaged in murderous attack, or already rending their prey. The more timorous creatures are fleeing from their ravenous foes or cowering in half-concealed retreats. There are lions in combat, a tiger gloating over a fallen deer, wolves and foxes in hungry search. Birds of prey are slaying or being slain. On the summit of a rugged cliff is an eagle's eyrie, the mother and her brood watching the approach of the male bird holding a lambkin in his claws. All the forest folk and the wild things of the mountain are living under the ever-present menace of death, and it is by death they live. The trees are gnarled, misshapen, and blasted; shrubs maintain a precarious root-hold in rocky clefts; thorns, thistles, cacti, and noxious weeds abound; and in one quarter a destructive storm is raging.

The scenes are typical of the world's condition under the curse of God. Nevertheless there is a certain weird attractiveness in the scenes and in their suggestiveness. The story is that of struggle and strife; of victory and triumph or of defeat and death. From Eden man has been driven out to meet contention, to struggle with difficulties, to live by strife and sweat. This chamber may well be known as the room of the fallen world, or more briefly, the World Room.

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The Terrestrial Room: From the north-west corner of the room last described is a large door-way leading into another room, l
The House of the Lord, p.208ofty, spacious, and beautiful. Its general effect is that of combined richness and simplicity. Following the elaborate decoration of the World Room, this is restful in its soft coloring and air of comfort. The carpet is a light shade of blue. The walls are of pale blue, the ceiling and woodwork are white with trimmings in gold, At the west end is a large mirror framed in white and gold. The chairs, which provide seating for 300, are upholstered to harmonize with the floor-covering. From the ceiling hang two massive crystal chandeliers.

An upholstered altar stands near the east end of the room, with copies of sacred writ in place. In this room lectures are given pertaining to the endowments and emphasizing the practical duties of a religious life. We may, for convenience, designate it the Terrestrial Room. At the east end is a raised floor of two levels reached by two steps to each level across which springs an arch of 30 feet span. The arch is supported by five columns between which hangs a silken portiere in 24 sections. This is the Veil of the Temple.

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The Celestial Room:
From the room last described to the one now under consideration the passage leads through the Veil. This is a large and lofty room about 60 by 45 feet in area and 34 feet in height, occupying the northeast section of the building on this floor. In finish and furnishings it is the grandest of all the large rooms within the walls. If the last room described could be considered typical of the terrestrial state, this is suggestive of conditions yet more exalted; and it may appropriately be called Celestial Room. The west end is occupied wholly by the Veil and a mirrored wall. The east wall is in part taken up by five large mirrors and a mirrored door, 13 feet high; the central section of each is three feet eight inches wide, and the side sections each three feet in width. Along the walls are 22 columns in pairs, with Corinthian caps. These support entablatures from which spring ten arches, four on either side and one at each end. The ceiling is a combination of vault and panel construction elaborately finished. Massive cornices and beams separating the ceiling panels are richly embellished with clusters of fruit and flowers. The color scheme of the walls is soft brown relieved by the light tan of the fluted columns and by abundant trimmings in gold. Eight chandeliers with shades of richly finished glass hang from the ceiling, and each of the 22 columns holds a bracket of lights in corresponding design. A newel-post at the east bears a flower-cluster of colored globes with an artistic support in bronze. The floor is covered by a heavy carpet and the movable furniture is all of rich yet appropriate design. At the east is a short flight of stairs leading into a sealing room.   

Each of the three arched-window recesses in the north is framed by draped curtains of silk, which in material and design match the Veil. An arched doorway at the north leads to the sealing room annex to be later described. On the south side are four pairs of double doors in position and size symmetrically corresponding with the windows on the north. The portal at the south-west opens directly into the upper corridor at the head of the grand stairway already described; each of the three other portals is fitted with sliding doors, and opens into a separate room slightly raised above the floor of the large room, and reserved for special ceremonial work more specifically described in the following paragraphs.

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