The Salt Lake Tabernacle was not dedicated until 1875, but it was first used in the October 1867 conference. A transcription of that meeting’s remarks by President Brigham Young was recently transcribed and made available. Imagine my excitement! A chance to read the first words ever given over the pulpit in the beloved Tabernacle – a building that not only means so much to members of the church and historians alike, but also the place I spend so many of my hours and days each week rehearsing and singing.
The Tabernacle was completed in approximately 6 years. By contrast, the Salt Lake Temple was currently under construction a few feet to the East a project that would take 40 years total, and at the time of the first sermon in the tabernacle, the temple would not be completed for another 26 years (April 1893).
On October 6, 1867, Brigham Young stood in front of a packed audience inside the newly constructed Tabernacle and began to speak:
“It will be a [satisfying] reflection to myself if there is a spirit in the Latter-day Saints of Israel to forward the temple as we have this tabernacle.”
- There were only 100,000 members of the Church residing in four stakes and ten missions at the time. By contrast, today there are over 15.4 Million members, 29,621 congregations and 406 missions.
Historical records from October 1867 state that members voted to extend the conference to last 4 days instead of 2. The famed Tabernacle organ was still under construction, and only in its infancy from what it is today.
President Young addressed that topic first:
I wish to make a little apology to the people for the unfinished state of our organ. We have commenced one that I think will do credit to the wilderness we inhabit when it is complete. There is not over I suppose one third of the pipes now up in cases, and around it we have thrown … [a veil] to cover its nakedness, shall I say. … When it is completed, the height of it will be more than once again than the height of its present appearance. It is now built about fifteen feet tall. [It will] be, when completed, in the neighborhood of thirty-five feet in height. We have done the best we could with it. Brother Ridges has been faithful, and the hands [that have] been assisting him. It is in the best order as could be under present circumstances.
Eliza R. Snow composed a special hymn for the occasion (I am still trying to find out what hymn that was), Joseph J. Daynes played the not yet fully completed tabernacle organ, and the music for the conference was furnished by the combined Springville and Spanish Fork choirs (many future “Tabernacle Choir” members).
President Young offered an opening prayer during this meeting – a bit like like a dedication of the General Conference. I was particularly struck by this passage of the prayer.
Bless those that sing. Bless him that plays the organ and all that assist in singing, our brethren [and sisters who] come from distant [lands]. Inspire them to seek [the] power of thy holy spirit and help each one of us so to conduct ourselves so that we may be inspired from on high and have the gift of revelation, that we may speak thereby, pray thereby, sing thereby, [and] hear thereby, that we may be perfected.
From the very beginnings of the Tabernacle, it was meant to be a place of inspiration and to be filled with music. All those who play and sing inside it’s walls have truly been consecrated and blessed by the early prophet, President Brigham Young.
LDS pioneer George D. Watt captured hundreds of sermons in shorthand (then known as “phonography”) given by Brigham Young and other church leaders. He did this for nearly twenty years between the 1850’s-1870’s. Many of these sermons have remained unknown and unpublished until recently.
Don’t miss watching this fascinating video!
You can read all of the latest transcriptions from the George Watt archive on this web page. I highly recommend it! – MoSop