The First Presidency approved a proposal in 1902 to open a Bureau of Information on Temple Square to provide tourists with accurate information about the Church. The Bureau opened a small kiosk on August 4. A four-person committee under the First Council of Seventy worked with over 100 men and women who served part-time "home missions" at Temple Square. Benjamin Goddard was called to chair the committee. After two years a permanent building was built—the forerunner of all Church visitors’ centers. It was expanded three times before being replaced with the South Visitors’ Center in 1978.
From its beginning both men and women were called to serve in the Bureau of Information. Many of the first guides came from the Young Men and Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Associations.
Monthly training meetings were held at LDS University (now LDS Business College). Training consisted of instruction, reports, and “interchange of experiences and ideas.”
Temple Square guides in 1902 wore badges showing a metallic design of the tabernacle and the initials L. D. S. An attached ribbon read, “Bureau of Information and Church Literature.” The missionaries were told not to proselytize, but to make friends who could then contact missionaries serving in their home towns to learn more.
Director Benjamin Goddard described a typical tour of Temple Square in 1902:
“Immediately upon their arrival on the Tabernacle grounds, strangers and tourists are pleasantly accosted by one of the missionaries and presented with a souvenir card containing the Articles of Faith on the reverse side.
“The visitors are invited to the Bureau and enter their names on the register books. Some of the tracts or literature mentioned above are invariably presented to all who are willing to receive them, after which the strangers are escorted through the Tabernacle grounds. During these strolls the beautiful Temple is described when many opportunities are afforded for explaining salvation for the dead, eternity of marriage covenant, etc. The Assembly Hall also is visited, the Tabernacle with its wonderful acoustic properties and magnificent organ is always admired and many questions are asked and cheerfully and intelligently answered on historical and doctrinal topics.
“Visitors usually manifest a great eagerness for information respecting Utah and its people and are very appreciative of the Latter-day Saints.
“After these church edifices have been described, if the strangers so desire, a visit is paid to the LDS University, the Tithing offices, Church offices [Beehive House], Eagle Gate, President Young's grave, and other points of interest. And when the self-sacrificing missionary positively refuses to accept a fee or donation, grateful admiration is blended with astonishment, and often the fervent exclamation is heard, 'This is the best people on earth.'”
A weekly radio broadcast of the Tabernacle Choir and organ began on July 15, 1929. “Music and the Spoken Word” has been continuously broadcast each week ever since.
In 1922 Benjamin Goddard remained at the head of the Bureau of Information, but Levi Edgar Young was called to preside over a new Temple Square Mission. This divided the work of the mission between leading guided tours and curating the growing collection of library and museum materials housed in the building. Although missionaries still served part-time, they were now encouraged to share the gospel as they would in any other mission.