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1. John F. Kennedy
On September 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived in Salt Lake City and gave a historic speech in the Tabernacle on Temple Square as the President of the United States.
Though he had also spoken in that historic building three years earlier as a presidential candidate, referencing Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and LDS scripture, during his 1963 visit, the president spoke powerfully of creating a united nation and a united world. In some of his opening lines, he shared:
“Of all the stories of American pioneers and settlers, none is more inspiring than the Mormon trail. The qualities of the founders of this community are the qualities that we seek in America, the qualities which we like to feel this country has, courage, patience, faith, self-reliance, perseverance, and, above all, an unflagging determination to see the right prevail.”
He later stated, “As the Mormons succeeded, so America can succeed, if we will not give up or turn back.” Just shy of two months later, President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
And while his speech is still remembered today, he was not the first famous visitor to share memorable words from the podium of the trademark Latter-day Saint building. Here are a handful of other famous people, from United States Presidents to airplane pilots, who have spoken at the celebrated Salt Lake Tabernacle.
2. President Theodore Roosevelt
May 29, 1903
Though not the first president to visit Salt Lake, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was the first president of the United States to speak at the Tabernacle. In his address, he praised the unity of the people of Utah, along with their wise use of resources:
“[Y]ou have exemplified a doctrine which it seems to me all-essential for our people ever to keep fresh in their minds—the fact that though natural resources can do a good deal, that the law can do a good deal, the fundamental requisite in building up prosperity and civilization is the requisite of individual character in the individual man or woman. . . You took a state which at the outset was called after the desert, and you literally—not figuratively—you literally made the wilderness blossom as the rose.”
3. William Howard Taft
September 26, 1909
President Taft addressed an audience in the Tabernacle on a Sunday morning. He started by saying:
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this expression of welcome and good will. I have been oppressed since I have come into this magnificent structure with the thought that you had gathered here in part to hear me, and that I have nothing to address to you worthy of such magnificent presence. . . . Yet I have felt that on this Sunday morning it was necessary for me to make such effort as I could to follow [my predecessor] in something that may sound a bit like a sermon. And as sermons are begun with the quotation of a text, having more or less relation to what follows it, I am going to give you the text from Proverbs: ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.’”
Towards the end of his speech, he added:
“My friends, I can not in the presence of so great an audience as this, an audience that inspires one with higher thought of country and patriotism, fail to refer to the depth of feeling that has been awakened in me, of gratitude for your welcome, of an appreciation of the basis of that welcome which is loyalty to your flag and country.”
During President Taft’s second visit to the Tabernacle, he spoke to a gathering of elderly Utah residents. At that gathering, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided most of the music while Bishop C. W. Nibley conducted and introduced the President.
To read about the other presidents and their visits, click here.