SALT LAKE CITY — In 1927, Utahns stepped off a trolley to visit the brand new Masonic Temple, guarded by granite sphinxes on its grand staircase.
May 2, Utahns are invited to visit the same temple, which has been beautifully preserved for nearly 100 years.
For more than five years, the Grand Lodge of Utah has hosted the Masonic Temple Open House, an event that draws locals to view the unique architecture and ask questions to Masons, according to Ridgely Gilmour, the chairman of the public relations committee of The Grand Lodge of Utah and former Grand Master.
“If you ask 100 Masons what it is to be a Mason, you’ll probably get 150 answers,” Gilmour said.
Visitors will tour the temple at South Temple at their own pace, with maps for the various rooms will be available, as will dozens of local Masons whom people may speak with.
From the outer architecture designed in the Egyptian Revival Period to the “beautiful woodwork” in the Gothic Room, the building is filled with different themed rooms designed after Masonic symbolism, Gilmour said.
While wandering through the halls and rooms of the temple, one will notice the symbol of the compass and the square that appears in many areas of the building, including the top of the outside.
Originally derived from the stone mason guilds from the middle ages, speculative Masons have adopted the square symbol to represent virtue and honesty, Gilmour said.
The compass represents “keep(ing) our passions and prejudices in bounds towards all mankind,” Gilmour said.
In the center of the compass and the square is the letter “G,” which on one hand represents geometry, or the natural beauty and the order of the world, and on the other represents deity, because in order to be part of the Masonic fraternity, one must believe in God, Gilmour said.
- Salt Lake
- St. George
The square and the compass is just one of hundreds of others in the church, but it is worn frequently by Masons in the United States, Gilmour said.
Each part of the temple is unique and interesting, beginning with the staircase, sphinxes and front facade of the building, which is made out of the same granite used for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Salt Lake temple.
The Great Hall features flags hanging down representing the different local lodges, or a group of Masons who meet together as an organized lodge, and pictures of the previous Grand Masters, or the man at the head of Masons in Utah.
The auditorium, which can seat up to 900 visitors, but more comfortably 700, is particularly stunning, featuring a 3D backdrop on the stage, coming from a couple of the 92 backdrops painted by Thomas Moses in the early 21 century.
“The interesting thing from an architectural standpoint is how you can have, in our case, three different lodge rooms … the Egyptian Room, the Colonial Room, the Moorish Room … all of them you’ll be able to recognize as a Masonic lodge room, but each one is distinctly different in its architecture,” Gilmour said.
Gilmour described the temple as a place of learning, noting that Masonry is a philosophy on how to live one’s life better and how to help one’s community.
Though the Masons in Utah are the “smallest Masonic jurisdiction in the contiguous United States,” with fewer than 2,000 members of the Grand Lodge of Utah, their community is extremely active in the state, involving themselves in community service such as fundraising for a food bank, donating money to non-profit organizations and other services, Gilmour said.
There are several women’s organizations and two youth organizations, DeMolay for boys and Job's Daughters for girls, as well, bringing the number of people associated with the Masons in Utah closer to 2,500, Gilmour said.
The free, public open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Gilmour said an event like this is important because Masonry has been an important part of the community since the 1860s and “it’s important for the community to know and the state to know that Masons are here thriving and active.
“We’re smaller than we used to be, but we’re very much a part of the community. This is our effort to show people that,” Gilmour said.
All 12 Masonic temples across the state will be open for public tours May 2, though some times and events will vary. For more information about the other open houses, click here.