Hundreds of artifacts, documents and works of art, together with reconstructions and replicas, combine to tell the history of the Church in a new exhibit opening to the public May 19 at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.
More than two years in the making, the exhibit is a permanent fixture at the museum and, in the words of museum director Glen M. Leonard, "the centerpiece of the museum's offerings to the public."News media representatives viewed the exhibit at a reception May 16, and invited guests toured it during the evening of May 17.
Titled "A Covenant Restored: The Foundations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," the exhibit occupies the entire main level gallery of the musuem, covering 8,000 square feet.
It is in the form of a carpeted pathway through what appears to be a small city comprising four sections: "Restoring the Covenant;" "Gathering to Zion: the Epic Quest of a Covenant People;" "Building Zion: Living the Covenant at Home, at Work and at Worship;" and "A Covenant Shared."
Among the features are a handcart that was pulled across the plains by the Pioneers; a scale model of the Enoch Train, an 1850s ship that carried Mormon immigrants; a giant lighted map showing the settlements established by Brigham Young and the pioneers throughout the West; a model depicting Salt Lake City in about 1870, with thousands of representations of trees, homes and other buildings; a section of a wall built from original blocks used in the construction of the Nauvoo Temple; and a covered wagon with a replica of the odometer built and used by the Pioneers during their westward trek.
Paul L. Anderson, one of the museum's designers, said a variety of architectural elements contribute a sense of scale and authenticity to the exhibit.
The Nauvoo Temple reconstruction is composed of limestone blocks quarried in the 1840s and used in the original temple. To accommodate the weight of the heavy blocks, the museum's floor structure had to be reinforced, Anderson said.
Original construction tools and a carved stone replica of a "sunstone" from the temple help give a sense of realism.
Featured in the historical display is the facade of a log home built about 1838 at a Mormon townsite in northern Missouri, Anderson said. He explained that the cabin is in unusually good condition, having been protected from the elements by a barn that was built around it.
An original window from the Kirtland Temple is also featured. The window is on loan from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Some historians believe that Brigham Young, a skilled carpenter and glazier, may have built the Kirtland Temple windows, Anderson noted.
Visitors will be allowed to feel as well as see what life was like in the early days of the Church. They will be allowed to climb into the covered wagon. They can also lie in the bunks of a reproduced "'tween-decks" portion of a typical immigrant ship, thus experiencing how it would have felt to have lived onboard ship for many months while traveling to America, as many of the early saints did.
Miniature elements in the exhibit reflect the same painstaking authenticity as the life-size artifacts and representations.
The model of Salt Lake City in 1870 and another model of the Joseph Smith farm in September 1827 were constructed according to the best documentary and archaeological evidence, including maps and historical photographs of the period, according to Leonard.
Objects and artifacts from Church history, some of which were displayed in a museum on Temple Square and earlier museums, are in the new exhibit. They include the press that originally printed the Book of Mormon, with pages from the original manuscript; the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith; and the pocket watch that saved the life of John Taylor by stopping a bullet from piercing his chest.
Leonard, in a series of Church News articles that concluded last week, gave the background for and described in detail several of the artifacts.
`A Covenant Restored'
Section I: Restoring the covenant
A. Beginnings: calling of a prophet.
The First Vision; Restoration of the Priesthood.
B. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
C. Birthplace of the Restoration: the Joseph Smith farm, September 1827.
D. Early converts: Who were among the first to join the Church?
Section II. Gathering to Zion: the epic quest of a covenant peopleih3p6
A. Building Zion, 1831-1846.
Revelations, priesthood authority and the search for Zion; seeking the "center place": the City of Zion; persecution and dissension; the temple in Zion; martyrdom and continuity.
B. Exodus: the path to Zion in the American West.
From Nauvoo to Winter Quarters: crossing Iowa, 1846; trek of the vanguard Pioneer company, 1847; foundation of a new gathering place.
C. By sea and land to Zion, 1840-1890.
Passage to Zion: the diary of a pioneer woman (audio-visual); the Enoch Train: Mormon Emigrant Ship, 1856 (model); 'tween decks on an emigrant ship; preserving the past/building a new home; gathering by handcart: "We thought it was a glorious way to go to Zion."
Section III. Building Zion: living the covenant at home, at work and at worship
A. Establishing communities: founding towns and making saints.
Cities and towns of Zion in the American West, 1847-1930; Salt Lake City, 1870 (model).
B. Public worship: worshipping as neighbors as well as believers.
Zion's tabernacles: landmarks for community assembly and worship; gospel study: "The glory of God is intelligence"; Church service: "By works was faith made perfect"; congregational worship in ward meetinghouses; priesthood ordinances: manifestations of the power of godliness; social and cultural activities: "That they might have joy."
C. Economic cooperation: working together for the good of all.
Assisting the needy and building Zion: bishops' storehouses and tithing offices; stimulating a pioneer economy: the public works program; exchanging the products of cooperation: LDS coin and currency; developing the region's resources: economic missions; unity and growth through cooperation: cooperatives and United Orders; celebrating the past: Pioneer Day.
Section IV. A covenant shared
A. Temple worship: the House of the Lord.
B. Proclaiming the gospel to the world.
C. A covenant people among the nations.