While the center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, LDS temples can be found around the world—from Aba in Nigeria and Adelaide in Australia to the Washington DC Temple and Villahermosa in Mexico. They are most often large imposing structures featuring one dominating steeple tower and, sometimes, additional spires.
Adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe fervently that their churches are true houses of God—a place of holiness separate and apart from the world. After construction and before the dedication of LDS temples an open house is held and the public is invited to tour the buildings and see their facilities. But, once a temple is dedicated, only those faithful who have completed the four preliminary steps of faith, repentance, baptism, and confirmation may enter. They are provided with certificates, called Temple Recommends, allowing them to enter. Outsiders are always welcome to visit the grounds of Mormon temples and to join in worship services in designated meeting houses. Other sites where the public is welcome include the Mormon Tabernacle in the Temple Square of Salt Lake City, which is home to the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This is open for choir rehearsals, guided tours, and full performances.
The first temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in Kirtland, Ohio, and was built in 1836. The second was the Nauvoo Temple located in the town of the same name in Illinois. This temple was built in 1846, and you will see a steady westward progression of Mormon temples as the Mormon people were forced to move (called their exodus) over time until they reached their final spiritual home in Utah. The first Nauvoo Temple was damaged by tornado and fire, and finally demolished after most Mormons had emigrated in 1865. A new temple was dedicated on the site in 2002.
The Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City was inspired after the Nauvoo congregation attempted to build a similar tabernacle out of canvas in the 1840s. Many people think that LDS temples include the Mormon Tabernacle, and therefore think it is an exception to the rule not allowing entry to the public. However, this public building is entirely separate from the temple. Both are in Temple Square, which is a vast ten-acre complex that is the most visited tourist attraction in the state. The five national parks in the state Zion National Park, the Bryce Canyon area, Canyonlands, and Arches National Park have a combined number of visitors that is not much higher than Temple Square.
The largest of all the Mormon temples is the one in Temple Square. It was the sixth built, begun in 1847, and was dedicated in 1893. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members have strong ties to the Old Testament, and consequently to the city of Jerusalem in Israel. It is oriented towards Jerusalem, and Temple Square in Salt Lake is meant to be patterned along the lines of the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City.