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Temple Square

Utah History

Temple Square

On a blistering summer’s day in 1847 Brigham Young and a handful of followers walked around the unknown landscape of what they hoped would be a new homeland in the American West.

Conflict and hardship were behind them, distanced by an overland trek from which they were still recovering. Unknown conflict and hardship would lie ahead. But on that July day Young walked confidently to a spot a short distance from the camp of his fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and said simply, “Here.” So begins the uneven, inspired, conflicted and purposeful history of a location that would become the centerpiece of the Utah experience. A place imbued with symbolism that has continued to this day. On that afternoon in 1847 Young outlined his vision for a spiritual gathering place that quickly became known as Temple Square.

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Temple Square now welcomes as many as five million visitors a year, ranking in the top twenty of most-visited tourist sites in the United States.

KUED (PBS Utah) brings the history of this iconic Salt Lake City setting to life in a new documentary, Temple Square. Produced and directed by independent filmmaker Issac Goeckeritz, the hour-long documentary takes viewers on a journey deep into the history of one of the nation’s most photographed settings. “While the ‘big stories’ of the Tabernacle and the Salt Lake Temple are fairly well known, we have found many personal, smaller stories that give life to the setting,” says Goeckeritz, who has produced a number of award-winning documentaries in collaboration with KUED. “It becomes a story of grand visions humanized by small and important gestures.”

The documentary also explores the role of the Square as a symbolic focal point of conflict, notably in the decades of uneasy relationship between Mormons in the Salt Lake Valley and federal officials scrutinizing the practice of polygamy. From burying the original foundation to hide the location from federal troops, to the destruction of buildings uniquely tied to the practice of plural marriage, Temple Square traces the role of the setting in the evolution of the political fortunes of the Utah Territory.

“What emerges is a spirit of reconciliation,” says Goeckeritz. “And by the 1920s Temple Square becomes a cultural destination as well as a spiritual setting. The visiting crowds grow so large the decision is made to select a guide for the grounds. At the time, it was quite a step to embrace visitors from all beliefs and different locations.”

Supported by:

Sorenson Legacy Foundation

R. Harold Burton Foundation

George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation

Vincent P. and Janet Mancini

University Services Corporation

Producer Issac Goeckeritz tells us about about his experience of producing & directing this documentary.

About the Producer/Director

Issac Goeckeritz

Documentary filmmaker Issac Goeckeritz began producing programs with KUED in 2007. His films have included Brigham Street: Salt Lake City’s Grand Boulevard, Ogden: Junction City of the West and Street Vets, for which he was awarded a PBS Emmy. Temple Square is Goeckeritz’s third installment in a series that examines place and architecture in Salt Lake City. Through these films, Goeckeritz has enjoyed researching the history of the places we live and finding inspiration on how to better our community. You can view more of Goeckeritz’s work at