One of the more appealing exhibits to be produced by the Church is attracting increased numbers of visitors at the Utah State Fair.
The portable exhibit, which will eventually be placed in the lobby of the Church's visitors center in the New York Lincoln Center, is a prototype for exhibits that will be used in visitors centers in other countries."Our purpose in being at the Utah State Fair is to help people find themselves and find a path to run on in this life that will bring them happiness," explained Pres. E. Widtsoe Shumway of the Utah Salt Lake City North Mission.
"Hopefully, by the time the fair ends, we will have nearly twice as many referrals as last year," he said. "This is a tribute to the way the booth is set up. It is a very effective presentation."
He said the missionaries were obtaining about six referrals a day.
The display incorporates tall pillars inscribed in a classical motif with ample visuals to introduce answers to gospel questions about the purpose of life, he said.
"The display is surpassing all our expectations," said Tim Brosnahan, director of the Salt Lake Area Public Communications Council and mission public relations director.
"It is one of the most professional exhibits in the building.
"The best exhibits involve the visitors," explained Brosnahan. "We have a color monitor and television camera focused on the visitor to add impact to `Man's role in God's plan' ."
Statue bookends of praying hands holding the holy scriptures, and a visual of a young woman in prayer symbolize that "through prayer, study and faith in Christ, we can gain an understanding of our Heavenly Father's plan." The display also underscores the importance of man himself, he said.
Finally, a theater presents a portion of the video, "Our Heavenly Father's Plan." This new video and another, "Together Forever," are introduced by the exhibit, he said.
The entire presentation takes about five minutes.
Visitors are invited to fill out response cards and requests to have representatives of the Church show the full 30-minute videos. These response cards are sent throughout the world through a computerized follow-up system used by the Missionary Department.
The professionalism of the exhibit was accomplished by its creators in the Missionary Department. A. Jay Blair, manager of the Missionary Department's exhibits section, said, "The gospel is a beautiful thing. To be acceptable in presenting it, we need to abide by a standard of excellence as we use the techniques of the display to introduce the gospel."
He said the display and others like it are designed to prompt interest in spiritual matters.
"The whole intent and purpose of exhibits is to obtain referrals," Blair said. "We know the things people want to know about, such as `What is the purpose of life? Why are we here?' This exhibit is designed to stimulate their interest in the fact that we have the answers.
"We hope it will be an effective tool in helping people, both non-members and members, who may have questions."
He suggested in areas where Church-made exhibits are not available that ward and stake mission leaders use the resources of the local distribution centers.
Attractively placed posters and other visual aids, such as those that illustrate the concept of the family and the Savior, coupled with recordings or videos, can be effective in introducing the gospel to those who may be interested.