Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LDS Temple Assembly Halls

Today I want to write about assembly halls in LDS temples.  These are also known as solemn assembly halls, assembly rooms, priesthood assembly halls, priesthood assembly rooms, or priesthood rooms and were a part of the first 5 temples built and several built since.

Kirtland Temple Lower Court
The Kirtland Ohio Temple (1836) was essentially two assembly halls, one on top of the other.  The only other rooms were a few small ones in the attic area.  The lower room was designated for sacrament, preaching, fasting and praying.  The upper room was used for the school of the prophets, a school for LDS apostles dealing with secular and religious subjects. Both assembly halls had very unique architecture.  The rooms had pulpits in the front and back.  One set was for the Melchizedek Priesthood leadership and the other was for the Aaronic Priesthood leadership.  The pulpits on each side consisted of 12 pulpits arranged in 4 rows of 3 pulpits.  Each pulpit had three letter initials on it designating who sat there.  The three pulpits on each row had the same initials.  These initials on the western Melchizedek Priesthood side are from top to bottom:

M.P.C. (Melchizedek Presiding Council) – First Presidency of church or stake
P.M.H. (Presiding Melchizedek High Priesthood) – Quorum of 12 Apostles or Stake High Council
M.H.P. (Melchizedek High Priesthood) – High Priests Quorum
P.E.M. (Presiding or Presidency Elders Melchizedek) – Elders Quorum Presidency

On the eastern Aaronic Priesthood side the initials are from top to bottom:

B.P.A. (Bishop Presiding over Aaronic Priesthood) – Presiding Bishopric of the church or local Bishopric
P.A.P. (Presiding or Presidency Aaronic Priests) – Priest’s Quorum Reps
P.T.A. (Presiding or Presidency Teachers Aaronic Priesthood) – Teachers Quorum Presidency
P.D.A. (Presiding or Presidency Deacons Aaronic Priesthood) – Deacons Quorum Presidency

The bottom pulpits on both sides included collapsible sacrament tables so the sacrament could be administered.

In the Kirtland Temple the assembly halls were extremely important because they are where Jesus Christ appeared, stood on the breastwork of a pulpit, and accepted the temple.  Then Moses, Elias, and Elijah came as angels and gave the priesthood keys of the gathering of Israel, the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham and “this dispensation”, and the sealing keys that allow ordinances to have power even beyond death allowing baptisms for the dead and eternal marriages to be performed, among other things.  See Doctrine and Covenants Section 110.

The Kirtland Temple assembly halls are also notable because each could be divided into 4 sections by dropping curtains allowing for 8 meetings to take place simultaneously.  The pulpits could also be separated from the rest of the room by curtains, functioning as a sort of Holy of Holies.  The seats were also reversible so the congregation could face either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood side depending on who was speaking or if the room was divided by curtains.  About 900 to 1000 people could fit in the lower assembly hall.  I’ve been in the Kirtland Temple and the craftsmanship is incredible.  Some people notice that the pews have doors on the row ends.  This isn’t unique to Latter-day Saints, but is actually a common feature of New England architecture.  The doors cut down on drafts in the room in winter time.

Nauvoo Temple Assembly Hall
The Nauvoo Temple (1846) was essentially a larger version of the Kirtland Temple, again with two assembly halls.  The upper assembly room may not have ever been finished (In the rebuilt temple this floor is filled with the endowment rooms and celestial room).  In the original Nauvoo Temple the endowment was presented in the attic level with the space divided into endowment “rooms” using curtains.  Baptisms for the dead were performed in the basement font.  The rebuilt Nauvoo Temple includes the first floor assembly hall, although it is a little smaller width wise.  I’ve seen the assembly room in the Nauvoo Temple on my visits there and it is beautiful.  The pulpits are very similar to those in Kirtland.  The original assembly room could seat about 3,500 people, although in the rebuilt temple the room is smaller and seat less people.  The words "The LORD Has Seen Our Sacrifice - Come After Us" were originally inscribed in gilded letters along the ceiling arch behind the east Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits on the first floor assembly hall.  I've noticed that the new temple has transmitters in the ceiling like those used for headsets used to listen to the endowment in another language.  I assume from this that meetings are broadcast to this temple with translations when needed.
St. George Temple Assembly Hall
The St. George Utah Temple (1877) was constructed similar to the Nauvoo Temple with two assembly halls.  Originally the lower hall was divided with curtains to make endowment "rooms".  In 1938 the lower assembly room was converted with walls dividing the space into endowment rooms and a celestial room.  The upper assembly hall is left intact and has Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits but instead of permanent pews it has removable chairs.

Logan Temple Assembly Hall
The Logan Utah Temple (1884) was build with endowment rooms on the lower floors and a single assembly hall on the top floor.  This one also has chairs instead of pews.  Although the Logan Temple was gutted and a new steel frame temple was built inside the stone exterior destroying the original pioneer craftsmanship and layout, it is my understanding that the assembly hall was left intact during the remodel and still occupies the top floor.  I know for a fact that you can see all the way through the temple on the top row of windows, so if they removed the assembly hall, they can't have replaced it with anything.
Manti Temple Assembly Hall
The Manti Utah Temple (1888) is similar to Logan with an assembly hall on the top floor.  This time pews are present.  The room has a seating capacity of 1,500 people according to the Millenial Star volume 50 printed in 1888.  Because the temple is on a hill, the east doors of the temple lead into this room whereas the west doors enter the endowment and sealing section of the temple several floors below.


Salt Lake Temple Assembly Ha
The Salt Lake Temple (1893) contains a large assembly hall on the top two floors which seats about 2,200 people.  The top two rows of windows on the temple main body (an arched row and an elliptical row) give light to the room.  The pulpit design breaks away from the Kirtland model (curved breastwork) and instead has podium style pulpits with 12 on each side.  Above the pulpits there is a canopy labeled "Aaronic" and "Melchizedek" on the respective sides (I think it also says Priesthood).  The hall also has a large balcony with spiral staircases.  This room is regularly used for meetings of General Authorities of the church (every Thursday I’ve heard) as well as occasionally for special temple worker meetings and meetings for bishops, etc..  The assembly hall was also temporarily used as a studio to film the endowment when it was first converted to a film format for the Bern Switzerland Temple.  Before the Missionary Training Center was built in Provo, missionaries were trained in Salt Lake City and had special devotionals usually led by an apostle or member of the first presidency in the temple assembly room before leaving on missions.  Here's a cool picture of the room under construction.
After the completion of the Salt Lake Temple, temples were built without assembly halls to save money as most temples don’t need them.  This was new as every temple up to this point had an assembly hall.  Another temple wouldn’t be built with an assembly hall for 63 years.

Los Angeles Temple Assembly Hall
The Los Angeles California Temple (1956) was a very large temple with more square feet than the Salt Lake Temple at the time of its construction (additions have made Salt Lake larger) and it included a priesthood assembly hall (because WWII delayed the groundbreaking an assembly hall was added to the plans).  The assembly hall has a very sleek modern design and is a very large room occupying the entire top floor of the temple. It is 300 ft long so the same length as a football field.

For 18 years after the LA Temple was completed temples were built without assembly halls.

Washington D.C. Temple Priesthood Room
The Washington D.C. Temple (1974) again had a priesthood assembly hall.  This one is a modern interpretation of the Salt Lake Temple priesthood assembly room with podium style pulpits.  This temple calls the room "the priesthood room" and it is located on the top floor of the temple.

The Portland Oregon Temple (1989) was the next temple containing an assembly hall.  According to the top floor contains an assembly hall and sealing rooms.  I’ve been in this temple and the celestial room has a staircase and upper level.  The upper level has a door that apparently leads to the sealing rooms and assembly hall.  I don’t know other details and I don’t have any photos so I don’t know if it follows the Kirtland pattern of 24 pulpits like every other assembly hall. 
Portland Temple Assembly Hall
* addition - I have a picture of the assembly hall that I got from a Friend Magazine from 1993. It labels the picture as the temple chapel; however, I've been to the temple and know the chapel is downstairs and has a flat roof and pews.  This is clearly at the celestial room balcony level.  Although it doesn't use the 24 pulpits, I like it.
The Boston Massachusetts Temple (2000) was originally designed as a much larger structure complete with an assembly hall.  I talked with someone involved in the construction and was told that the plans were changed so the basement cafeteria rooms can be used as an assembly hall.  I don’t think there are pulpits there (I’ve been in the cafeteria but haven’t seen all the rooms in it) so I assume this hall would simply have solemn assemblies broadcast from other temples with pulpits.  I did notice that the cafeteria ceiling contained transmitters like those used for headsets used to listen to the endowment in another language, so I assume meetings are transmitted to the temple and translated if needed.

I should explain, temple assembly halls are used for solemn assemblies which are special meetings (usually priesthood meetings) held in the temple.  Meetings are regularly held for general authorities in the Salt Lake Temple.  I’ve heard that the church occasionally holds meetings in temple assembly halls for stake presidents or bishops around general conference and at other times, although I’m not sure how often these meetings are held.  One reason to include assembly halls in temples would be to allow for these special meetings.  Temple assembly rooms are also occasionally used for temple worker devotionals.  These meetings are held about once a year but they don't necessarily have to be held in an assembly hall.

Technically any temple with a chapel could use the chapel as an assembly hall for meetings not requiring the 24 pulpits.  With slight modifications these temples would allow for viewing solemn assemblies broadcast from other temple assembly rooms with the 24 pulpits.  Endowment rooms in other temples could also be modified to allow solemn assembly broadcasts if needed.  Also, although I love the symbolism involved with 24 pulpits showing the two priesthoods and the order in priesthood offices and presidencies, I’m not sure if there is any special ceremonial use of them during solemn assemblies or if a single pulpit would be acceptable.

Well I hope you've enjoyed this post.  Please post a comment or any questions you have.
I love the usage of assembly halls in LDS Temples.  Although not necessary, they are great rooms with wonderful symbolism and I hope assembly halls are added in other temples from time to time.  I notice that all the current halls are located in the United States, although they do go coast to coast.  An assembly room in a foreign temple would be interesting.  Based on the history of these rooms I wouldn't expect them to be added very often, so we might be waiting a while.


Wendella said...

It would be so great to attend a training in the temple. They are wonderful places where God's spirit is felt.

Scott said...

Agreed. I wish we used the rooms more often. I went to a meeting in the Logan Temple where the Temple President spoke to us, but it was just held in a chapel on the 1st floor addition and not up in the assembly hall.

Bert said...

I stumbled across your blog in an effort to learn more about the Assembly Hall in the Salt Lake Temple, as I get to go to a meeting there this week. Great blog, keep it up!

Scott said...

Bert, thanks for reading.

Clark Herlin said...

Dear sir:

My name is Clark Herlin, and I have a blog ( on which I explain the doctrine of the Church and some history and the like. As a historian, I carefully cite my findings. I was wondering how and where you came upon the meanings of all the letterings found on the pulpits of the Kirtland Temple. I ask out of academic reasons, trying not to upstage your work or call you wrong. I was just wondering so I can cite where it says it.

Clark Herlin

Scott said...

I found the information in multiple places including the Kirtland Temple tour and
I've read the descriptions in a lot of places. Thanks for reading my blog.

Bert said...

So very late follow up, but I wondered if you knew more about the spelling of "Melchizedek" in the Salt Lake Temple Assembly Hall. I noticed it was different then traditional spelling.

Scott said...

Do you mean how Melchizedek is spelled above the pulpits? I'm not sure of the spelling there, although I've seen a blown up image of it in the centennial Salt Lake Temple book (I forget the name). So I guess I don't know the answer to your question.

Tolman said...

I can tell you that the image you have of the Portland Temple Assembly Hall is what they generally refer to as the Chapel. Whenever we have Stake Conference we have our Stake Temple Night and before the main session we have a "Chapel Session" in this room. It's a pretty amazing room.

Scott said...

The Friend article labeled it as the chapel, but it is clearly a special one and not the normal chapel (especially as it is at the top). I think it classifies as an assembly hall, but yes, it is called a chapel.

JAL said...

I seem to recall reading that the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic temple was built with a Solemn Assembly Room, complete with pulpits. Does anyone know if this is true?

Steven said...

JAL, in the dedicatory prayer of that temple, President Hinckley did dedicate an assembly room.

"We dedicate the Baptistry, the endowment rooms, the celestial room, the sealing rooms with their sacred altars, the offices, the priesthood assembly room, and every other part of this beautiful structure."

Thanks for pointing that out. That's a really awesome fact.

Geoff said...

What a great writeup. Thanks for doing this. I wandered up to the 7th floor of DC the other day, but the doors were locked. :( I should have just asked to see it. Most temple workers are cool about giving "tours," especially in Manti.

I had no idea PORTLAND, of all places, had an assembly hall. Awesome.

Jeffrey Cannon said...

I would not say Portland has an "assembly room" in the traditional sense. The large chapel on the third floor, usually called the "third-floor chapel," is used by the temple workers for their meetings and also for chapel sessions connected to stake conferences. There are also three other chapels in the building. The "youth chapel" is in the basement and is used by the youth attending baptismal sessions, the "first-floor chapel" is used as a gathering area before endowment sessions, and the "second-floor chapel" is used for guests waiting to attend a sealing. The "third-floor chapel" is considerably larger than any of the other three but does not have the distinctive pulpits found in assembly rooms.

Anonymous said...

The fourth floor of the Logan Temple does indeed still house an assembly room with both sets of pulpits. It does differ from the picture in the post. When the temple was gutted and rebuilt in the 70's they made new pulpits and carpeted the whole room. However, the windows and doors shown in the picture are still there and are quite impressive.

Cory said...

Our stake is having a meeting in the D.C. Temple Priesthood room, and I was curious if this was an assembly hall like the ones in the four Utah temples. Your post answered my question. I'm looking forward to the meeting.

Cory said...
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Cory said...
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Cory said...
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Unknown said...

The original document defining the names of the temples and also the corresponding pulpits were sent with the Plat of June 1833 to the brethren in Jackson County. The pattern was as follows:

Presidency of local Church "stake"
Bishopric of local church
High Priest Presidency
Elders Quourum Presidency

Aaronic Priesthood Presidency
Priest Quorum Presidency
Teachers Quourm Presidency
Deacons Quorum Presidency

All of the priesthood quourms are duplicated on the 2nd level for the women who are to be organized "Patterned after the priesthood"

All of the quourms are leadershop quorums and all at the stake level.

The 96 elders are over the 96 branches of a church or "Stake"

Unknown said...

The 24 temples outlined in the Plat that was published in June of 1833 followed the same pattern as the pulpits and part of the reason for the 24 temples...or multiple purpose community buildings was to re-enforce the importance of the local organizational structure for the local community.

Unknown said...

I notice that my comments are showing as unkown: My name is David R. Hall

Lindsay said...

Shortly after the rededication of the St. George Temple in 1975 a solemn assembly was held for priesthood leaders in the temple district, which at that time included stakes in Las Vegas and Eastern Nevada. My father attended and related the following to me. President Spencer W. Kimball presided and other general authorities spoke. The Sacrament was administered and passed, not by the general authorities but by preisthood holders selected from the attendees. Of note was that the top floor of the temple does not have electric lights, they had to rig up some tempory lighting at the pulpits as the meeting went into the evening hours. I would say that regional preisthood leadership meetings have taken the place of such solemn assemblies.

Steve said...

So except for Santo Domingo, no assembly rooms outside the US? And none outside North America?

BagBoy said...

I found a better pic of the DC Priesthood room here at my institute. I took a snap shot.

ClaytonK said...

I suspect that the Thursday meetings of General Authorities mentioned are more likely held one level below the assembly hall in the Council Rooms of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles. In the image below these rooms are between the Telestial room and assembly hall. I once cleaned the spiral granite steps the week before General Conference in preparation for a meeting of Seventies in the assembly hall. Thus I don't believe the room is used as frequently as weekly.


Don said...

With regard to the Boston Temple's planned assembly room, I remember a few years ago finding an Internet site that explained the evolution of the Boston Temple design, how it had begun as a very large, six-spired temple with an assembly room, and how the Church had, in several proposed modifications, reduced the planned size by more than half, in response to neighbors' complaints. It showed renderings of early designs and had a lot of other information about the history. I later found the site to be defunct. Do you know where I can find any of that information now?

sue crafts said...

I would love to see the Assembly Halls in the Salt Lake , St. George or the Manti Temple. I asked the last time I was in the Temple and was informed very rudely that the Temple is not a museum and that it is the Holy Priesthood room

Brian J said...
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Brian J said...

What is the difference between a top floor assembly hall and an assembly room elsewhere? As part of a stake conference, members ofmy stake met in the assembly room on the main floor of the Seattle Temple. Prior to that meeting I didn't even know the Seattle Temple has an assembly room!

The assembly room in the Seattle Temple looks like it will hold about 180 people comfortably, maybe 200 with extra chairs. It is close to square in shape with two large TVs on the front wall instead of a projector.