Saturday, April 30, 2005


Yesterday afternoon, we toured Temple Square, the area around the Salt Lake City Morman Temple. We also toured the LDS Conference Center and its rooftop gardens and the Beehive House, part of the housing complex and offices for Brigham Young, the second president and prophet of the LDS church.

The grounds around the temple are overplanted in the most brilliant array of tulips that I've ever seen. Common planting instructions for tulips usually include mixing pansies in between. Every type of pansie or violet is found here, from Johnny Jump-ups to more traditional annuals. Amid many beds of flowers are the buildings that serve as the headquarters for the LDS church.

And newly weds are everywhere, getting their pictures made in front of the flowers.

Our guides at the Temple Square were two young women serving their two year mission. One was from Cambodia and the other from Brazil. They were quite kind, but insistent on presenting details about the Book of Morman and the church. I am afraid I was more interested in the story, the architecture, the gardens.

They also took us to the new LDS Conference Center, an amazing auditorium built a few years ago to provide space for the twice annual General Conference. It seats 21,000 people (7,000 on each level), is laid out in a half sphere. In one of the massive lobbies, we saw the original paintings from the early 1950s that illustrate the stories in the Book of Morman, concerning a lost tribe of Israel that settled in North America and how they preserved the faithful practice of Christianity diluted by the traditional Christian churches. These are the same pictures found in the Book of Morman carried by the young women guides throughout the area.

Then a very friendly gentleman gave us a tour of the roof garden above the center. He was fascinated with the engineering details and took us first to the third balcony and then to the roof. The building was sunk into the ground and has quite a truss system to hold the roof and balconies without supporting pillars to block views. The roof is floored in gray granite and has a series of raised beds, stair step fountains, trees and a meadow wildflower garden. There is some leakage from the fountains so they are turned off and are being re-caulked. The sides of the building include terraced tree and flower boxes, giving the whole space a hanging garden effect.

The roof garden also gives one an outstanding view of Salt Lake City and the Temple Square.

Partner went to see a 70 millimeter movie at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (formerly the Hotel Utah, a restored conference center with an opulent gilded age lobby -- several wedding parties were having dinners there.

I took pictures of flowers, wandered into a Borders bookstore across the street, and met him afterwards.

The open air shopping area called Gateway has a Z-Tejas restaurant -- Partner used to work across the street from the original restaurant in Austin. We had catfish beignets and I had their smoky enchilladas. Alas, our standards for Tex-Mex or Austin-Mex have slipped in our years away, but this was one of those occasions when eating was also a bit of cultural connection to Austin.

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