What Is a Tabernacle?
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir gets its name from the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Salt Lake Tabernacle, which was completed in 1867 and later designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, is one of several tabernacles constructed by early Utah settlers. Tabernacles were also built in St. George, Logan, Bear Lake, Brigham City, Provo, and Ogden, among other places. The buildings typically functioned as venues for religious and civic events.
An article from an issue of the Ensign magazine adds insight to the origin of tabernacles:
Use of the term tabernacle by Latter-day Saints may be a biblical allusion to Isaiah’s prophecy that Zion would be like an Israelite tabernacle established before Christ’s Second Coming: “Look upon Zion … : thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken” (Isa. 33:20).
In keeping with this metaphor, the name for the grouping of several Latter-day Saint congregations is a stake. With the creation of each new stake comes, figuratively, another set of fastening cords that extend and strengthen the Latter-day “tabernacle” of Zion. Isaiah urged Zion: “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes” (Isa. 54:2).
As Latter-day Saints settled in the Mountain West, the first large meeting halls were interchangeably called tabernacles or meetinghouses. As settlements grew, tabernacles became more clearly defined as the meeting places for stakes. As the 20th century progressed to mid-century, a newer building type, the stake center, replaced the tabernacle. Functioning as stake assembly hall, office suite, educational facility, recreation center, and meeting place for priesthood, Relief Society, and auxiliary functions, the stake center often is a modern equivalent to the tabernacle.
Take a tour of the Logan Tabernacle below: