Let my servant George, and my servant Lyman, and my servant John Snider, and others, build a house unto my name, such a one as my servant Joseph shall show unto them, upon the place which he shall show unto them also. And it shall be for a house for boarding, a house that strangers may come from afar to lodge therein; therefore let it be a good house, worthy of all acceptation, that the weary traveler may find health and safety while he shall contemplate the word of the Lord; and the cornerstone I have appointed for Zion. (D&C 124:22-23)
The house that was built came to be known as the Nauvoo House (because the Church was in Nauvoo, IL at the time). This hotel was to be grand, but by the time of Joseph Smith's murder only the first floor had been completed. Before he died, all but six rooms in the Mansion House (also in Nauvoo) were converted into a hotel. The hotel wing was removed in 1890.
When the Saints made it to Utah and finally got out of debt in 1907, the Hotel Utah was completed in 1911. However, the Church needed to pay off the $2 Million dollar construction loan, so a very fine bar was built in the basement of the Hotel. President Joseph F. Smith was unquestionably perturbed, according to Dr. Hugh Nibley, but eventually gave in in order to settle the Church's debt (Approaching Zion, p. 470).
From 1987 to 1993, the Hotel Utah was closed and extensively remodeled, opening in 1993 as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. It now serves these functions:
1. Atop the tenth floor there is The Roof Restaurant, The Garden Restaurant, and many rooms for wedding receptions and other gatherings. My wife and I had our reception in the Wasatch Room on the tenth floor. It was amazing, especially the food.
2. The Nauvoo Cafe' is located on the bottom floor, with more family-friendly prices (around $10 per meal), as opposed to the $50-per-plate in the Roof.
3. A Family History Center is located on the first floor, with many computers to use to trace family lines. A large pedigree chart of President George W. Bush hangs on the wall, informing visitors that he descends from Joseph and Emma Smith, as a distant cousin. President Bush does not descend directly from Joseph and Emma. Their common ancestor is Henry Howland.
4. The Legacy Theater, a large theater that seats around 500-800 people, shows Church-produced movies.
The main lobby of the building is restored as it looked in 1911.