Out of respect and love for the Prophet of the Restoration, the recently renovated Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City was renamed and dedicated as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on June 27, precisely 149 years after his martyrdom.
Held in a chapel where before the renovation the hotel's elegant LaFayette Ballroom was located, the 7 p.m. dedicatory ceremony was akin to a memorial service. Prayers and addresses expressed gratitude for the Prophet's life and mission, and three of four hymns sung by members of the Tabernacle Choir focused on the Prophet and his calling.President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the ceremony, spoke and offered the dedicatory prayer. President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, also addressed the congregation of about 600 that filled the chapel and overflow areas on the building's mezzanine level. Other speakers at the ceremony were Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve and Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve offered the invocation; Relief Society Gen. Pres. Elaine L. Jack offered the benediction.
President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve, who was recently released from the hospital, attended the ceremony. Also attending were the other members of the Council of the Twelve, many members of the Seventy, and the counselors in the Presiding Bishopric. Presidents of Salt Lake area stakes and their wives were among those invited to the ceremony.
During the dedicatory service, the landmark 10-story building just east of the Salt Lake Temple on Main Street was proclaimed an architectural jewel. Much of its history as the Hotel Utah was reviewed and anecdotes were related pertaining to the renovation of the building, which now houses Church offices, a chapel, meeting rooms, a 500-seat theater, computers for family history research, banquet rooms and two restaurants. (See June 26 Church News for articles containing details of the renovation project.)
Before offering the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley spoke of the naming of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. He said Church leaders already had decided to name it the "Utah Building." Another building in the downtown area, the Utah One Center, was completed and named before the work on the former hotel was finished. He said the names of the buildings were so similar that confusion might result.
President Hinckley said he was unable to sleep one night several weeks before the building was scheduled to be dedicated. He said he gazed out a window overlooking the temple and the inspiration came to him that the structure ought to be named in honor of the Prophet.
"We have [in Salt Lake CityT buildings in remembrance of Brigham Young. We have the statue at the intersection of Main Street and South Temple. We have the Lion House and the Beehive House, where he lived, and the old office in between them. But we have nothing remembering Joseph Smith. It came into my mind, `Joseph Smith Memorial Building.' I think the Lord wanted this building named the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. I knew we had another building named the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in the Church, because I had dedicated it on the campus of Brigham Young University. I said to myself, `I wish there were a Joseph Smith Memorial Building in every city in the world to speak of his hallowed name.' "
President Hinckley said he discussed the idea with President Monson, and he was agreeable to it. He then presented it to members of the Council of the Twelve and they all agreed.
"So this became the Joseph Smith Memorial Building," President Hinckley said. He then recounted the search for "something of Joseph Smith" to place in the building. A heroic-size statue, returned to storage after an exhibit was changed at the visitors center in Independence, Mo., was selected and now stands in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The statue, weighing 3,950 pounds and standing 9 feet, 6 inches, is made of Italian marble. It is an enlarged copy of the original bronze sculpture that Mahorni Young (1877-1957) made of Joseph Smith. The original stands on Temple Square between the temple and the South Visitors Center.
With emotion halting his speech, President Hinckley recited the first stanza of the hymn sung by members of the Tabernacle Choir at the opening of the dedicatory service: " `Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer. Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.' "
President Hinckley added, `I think of those great words of the 122nd Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, written when he was in Liberty Jail, after spending five months of that terrible bitter winter in that dungeon cell. [As recorded in Section 121T, he cried out to the Lord, `O God, where art thou?' Among the words which came in response to that cry were these:
" `The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
" `While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.
" `And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.' " (D&C 122:1-3.)
President Hinckley concluded, "This is the day of fulfillment of that prophecy. There will be those who cross the earth, who will come [to the Joseph Smith Memorial BuildingT and look and judge. Some will mock, as it were, a few. But I believe that more will stand in reverent respect.
"I love the Prophet Joseph. . . . There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind of the fact that he was called of God. . . .
"This building will preserve and enhance and brighten the memory of the Prophet of God, who was the instrument in His hands in bringing to pass this mighty work, which is spreading over the earth. Of this I bear witness."
President Monson described the dedicatory ceremony as "a memory-jogging, spine-tingling, inspirational experience." He said he was pleased to think that thousands will have the opportunity to visit the building, see the Church film "Legacy," and otherwise enjoy the restoration that has taken place.
"After the summer season is concluded, guests from all over the world will have visited here," he said. "That number will go beyond hundreds of thousands, and who knows, into the millions, honoring the name of the Prophet Joseph and beholding for their own benefit all that has transpired in the history of the Church, to likewise experience the inner satisfaction of inspired knowledge."
He reviewed the historical significance of the site occupied by the building. Through the years, the Church Storehouse, the Deseret News and the Deseret Store were located where the building now stands. "If we really try, we may in our imagination see and hear great herds of cattle and long trains of heavily loaded freight wagons as they went in and out of the tithing yard," President Monson said.
He reflected upon some personal memories of the building. He recalled having dined in one of Hotel Utah's restaurants the evening before he left home for the Navy, of attending and addressing meetings held in the LaFayette Ballroom, and visiting with Presidents David O. McKay, Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson when each of them occupied suites in the hotel.
"The former Hotel Utah, now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, is to be dedicated. Completed is the restoration of a treasure," President Monson said. "The `grand old lady' has not had a simple face lift; rather, her youth has returned, her purpose ennobled, and her future assured. . . .
"The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is beautiful. It represents the work of skilled artisans. It safeguards a heritage of the past. As it is dedicated this evening, we will dedicate our lives to the past, to the present and to the future - the past because we came out of it; the present because we live in it; and the future because our descendants will inherit it."
Elder Perry read the account of Joseph Smith's prophecy that the saints would " . . . assist in making settlements and build cities and . . . become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains." (History of the Church 5:85.)
"The Prophet Joseph Smith must be smiling down with great pleasure as he sees his prophecies aggressively being fulfilled," Elder Perry said. "How fitting it is that we name this building and stamp his history on this historic old Hotel Utah building. I would hope in naming this building after the Prophet it would create a greater desire in us to become more acquainted with him and his life, and the great works which he accomplished. He is a man with whom I want to continue to become better acquainted because of what he accomplished in his short life. . . .
"He must be remembered for what he gave to the world. The First Vision gave to us a knowledge and personal witness of the existence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. From the golden plates, with which he was entrusted to translate, he brought forth the great Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ; and the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with its promise to make bad men good and good men better, and bring to earth the sacred saving ordinances necessary for our eternal exaltation. He not only gave us joy, happiness and opportunity here, but also a great hope in the life to come. May his memory be ever more vivid in our minds as we use and reuse this historic gathering place."
Bishop Hales said: "It is so appropriate that within the shadow of the temple and within the shadow of the Administration Building which houses the prophets, seers and revelators of this dispensation, that this building has been placed in its rightful purpose. It represents a number of buildings. There would have had to have been a theater built, another chapel built, and great renovations."
Bishop Hales reviewed some of the history of the Prophet's final days, citing key events leading to the martyrdom of the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith, the Church patriarch.
Bishop Hales called attention to a statement the Prophet made to Daniel H. Wells, who then was not a member of the Church but later became a counselor in the First Presidency. As he departed Nauvoo for Carthage, Joseph said: "Squire Wells, I wish you to cherish my memory."
"It is for this purpose that this memorial stands," Bishop Hales said.
In addition to "Praise to the Man" sung at the opening of the dedicatory meeting, the Tabernacle Choir sang "Joseph Smith's First Prayer," "Our Savior's Love," and "We Thank, Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet." The choir was directed by Jerold Ottley and accompanied by Richard Elliott and Clay Christiansen. W. Herbert Klopfer, president of the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake in whose stake the building is located, provided prelude and postlude music at the chapel's organ.