Members of the Sun Prairie Ward, Madison Wisconsin Stake, have put together a Church history exhibit designed to acquaint townspeople with the Latter-day Saints.
The display, in the Sun Prairie Historical Library and Museum, depicts Church history from the international level down to the story of the development of the Sun Prairie Ward.This exhibit evolved after a chance meeting in a local bank between museum curator Peter Klein and two full-time missionaries, Elders Eric C. Wallace and Lane R. Archibald, in September 1994.
The curator told the missionaries he was interested in having a Mormon Church display at the museum with a historical perspective, a display that would run for three years. The missionaries immediately contacted Elwood Porter, ward mission leader, who in turn referred the idea to Bishop Gene Amberson.
A committee was organized to design and build the exhibit during the next several months. The committee consisted of Kevin A. Delorey, Elaine Allen, David Allen, Debra Nicholson and Elwood Porter.
Each brought special expertise to the project: Brother Delorey with his leadership and diplomacy, Sister Allen with her background in temple and family history work, Brother Allen with his skill in photography, Brother Porter with his drive and organization, and Sister Nicholson with her writing skill.
The exhibit depicts early Church history and includes displays on family history, the Word of Wisdom, Latter-day Saints in early Wisconsin, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the construction of the Sun Prairie meetinghouse.
The exhibit addresses three questions: Are Mormons Christians? Why are Church members so interested in the family? How does one find happiness during this life?
The committee estimated that 20,000 persons are expected to view the exhibit in the coming three years. At the end of that time the stake will move the displays to a permanent location.
To complete the exhibit materials, the committee searched for a model of the Salt Lake Temple. Brother Porter contacted Stacy D. Goodliffe of the Church Missionary Department, who had such a model available. But the cost of crating and shipping the model was prohibitive with the limited budget in Sun Prairie.
Brother Porter then turned to Richard L. Emery, stake director of public affairs, who in turn contacted the bishops and branch presidents in the stake to see if anyone were going to general conference who could bring back the temple model.
Ken White of the Madison 1st Ward responded to the appeal and notified Brother Porter that he was indeed going to Salt Lake City for a missionary reunion. Arrangements were made for him to return with the model.
The committee desired to show some Church videos as part of the exhibit, but the museum board declined as the facility does not have a videocassette player and could not make one available to the other church whose displays will follow.
Bishop Amberson decided to donate a television and videocassette recorder to the museum permanently; thus the way was cleared to show the Church videos.
Stake Pres. David E. Staples, in viewing the exhibit, commented: "What a marvelous opportunity to share something good with our community. It gives us a chance to take our families and friends on a walk through history, not only of the Sun Prairie Ward but of Wisconsin and the Church in general."