The Tabernacle organ is considered to be one of the finest examples of the American Classic style of organ building. Inspired by the design of the Boston Music Hall organ, the original organ was built in 1867 by an Australian, Joseph Ridges. Ridges' instrument contained some 700 pipes and was constructed of locally derived materials as much as possible. The pipes are constructed of wood, zinc, and various alloys of tin and lead. When it was initially constructed, the organ had a tracker action and was powered by hand-pumped bellows; later it was powered by water from City Creek. Today it is powered by electricity and has an electro-pneumatic action.
Though the organ has been rebuilt and enlarged several times since 1867, the original casework and some of Ridges' pipes still remain in the organ today. The current organ is largely the work of G. Donald Harrison of the former Aeolian-Skinner organ firm. It was completed in 1948 and contains 11,623 pipes, 147 voices (tone colors) and 206 ranks (rows of pipes).
The organ often accompanies the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its weekly radio and television broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word. It also appears in other concerts, recitals, and in recordings. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used the organ to accompany music for its semiannual general conferences until April 2000, when the church opened its newly-constructed Conference Center across the street to the north, which has its own 7708-pipe organ.