Keeping a record
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The "Treasures of the Collection," a series of twice-yearly open houses that showcases selected holdings at the Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City, this time focuses on the Church's legacy of "Record Keeping in the Kingdom," both by the institution itself and by individual Church members.
The exhibit opened Sept. 27, and will continue through Oct. 11, which makes it available to attendees at both the General Relief Society Meeting Sept. 29 and the Church's semiannual general conference Oct. 6-7.
The library is located at 15 E. North Temple, directly north of the Church Office Building, and the open house hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Admission is free.
"We're focusing on some of the records that the various Church historians either collected or created," said April Williamsen, public programming supervisor for the Church History Department. These include histories of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve.
The work of assistant Church historians will also be spotlighted, such as Andrew Jenson, who traveled through the Church visiting wards, branches, stakes and missions, creating individual histories of those areas, Sister Williamsen said.
"We want to show why the records are important to us, both those that were kept in the early days and those that we have today," she said.
Accordingly, on exhibition are an 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon and a rare copy of the Book of Commandments reflecting the dramatic event in Church history when two teen-age sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins salvaged uncut pages of the book and then hid in a cornfield as a mob was destroying a printing press in Independence, Mo., where the book was being produced.
Highlighted is an 1852 copy of the Book of Mormon published by John Taylor with French and German translations on facing pages. Sister Williamsen said it is the only known copy of its kind in existence.
The drama of Church history is reflected in a letter written by Willard Richards, signed by him and John Taylor, informing the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo that Joseph and Hyrum Smith had just been martyred. Elder Richards and Elder Taylor were eyewitnesses to the martyrdom.
"Can you imagine what Willard Richards was feeling at that time?" Sister Williamsen asked. "How distraught he must have been, first of all thinking, 'Is the mob coming back? What are we going to do?' Joseph and Hyrum were the Church, and they're gone now. I had never thought of it from his perspective."
Also featured in the exhibit are an entry from Joseph Smith's journal written in his own hand. "Which is unique in that he didn't do a lot of writing himself," Sister Williamsen said. "He had clerks, and he would dictate and they would do the writing, then he'd sign it."
Another item is Orson Pratt's copy of the Doctrine and Covenants wherein he made notations in pencil for separating the text into verses and including chapter headings. "The Doctrine and Covenants we have today is still based on his original separations into verses," Sister Williamsen noted.
Record keeping pertaining to the individual Latter-day Saint is highlighted in one of the display cases wherein the life of a typical Church member, Carl Madsen Bradt, is documented. It contains records of his baptism in Denmark, his emigration to Utah, his mission call to Denmark, his marriage and his Church callings.
"I hope that will show people that there is more here than just the Book of Mormon and presidential papers," Sister Williamsen said. "They're unique and great to have, but anybody can be documented in the Church History Library."
Added Patrick Dunshee, manager of marketing and communications for the Church History Department, "We've found that 40 percent of the people who come to this library come to do that kind of research on their family. There are a lot of family historians who come. They're not necessarily getting genealogical data like they would at the Family History Library, but they're putting the flesh on the bones of the dates and names so they can get a picture of who the individual was and what kind of life they lived."
Brother Dunshee said the open house is in line with the department's mission to collect preserve and share Church history.