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Holiday warmth being felt at Church museum

Nativity scenes highlight gospel-themed exhibits

Holiday season Temple Square visitors: consider this an unsolicited but hopefully welcome tip on how to warm up after taking in all the lights and Christmas displays.

Wander across the street from the west entrance of Temple Square and visit the Museum of Church History and Art. It's always toasty inside. Plus, you might learn something about the Church, the Christmas season and yourself.

Once again, the museum has rolled out its permanent collection of nativity scenes to greet visitors as they enter the museum's foyer. The creches are colorful and diverse — capturing the cultural and artistic customs of various nations from Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Isles.

Highlights include a large, wooden nativity scene from Sweden with the holy family, three kings and shepherds donning Scandinavian regalia. Another creche celebrates the Native American traditions of the Lekota tribe. Figures dressed in ornate animal skins adore the Baby Jesus outside a teepee.

Also included in the display are several gospel-themed Christmas paintings that capture the meaning of the holiday, said museum curator Robert Davis.

Beyond the foyer are several other exhibits

celebrating Christ's mission, Church history and the sanctity of children and eternal families. As always, a visual history of the restored Church is taught in the museum's permanent exhibit "A Covenant Restored." Displays rich with historical artifacts and documents tell the story of the Church, from its beginnings in upstate New York to the present day global Church. A free 40-minute audio tour of the exhibit is available in English and Spanish at the information desk in the main lobby.

Temporary exhibits in the museum's upstairs galleries include "Scenes From the Land of Promise: Book of Mormon Paintings by Walter Rane." The exhibit includes artistic depictions of several Book of Mormon stories, including a painting of Nephi in a vision of the nativity scene entitled "Behold the Lamb of God."

"It's one of the most popular and moving pieces" at the museum, Brother Davis said.

The popular children's interactive exhibit "You Have a Family Tree" continues its run at the museum. Visitors of all ages can learn about family history at several hands-on learning stations and an activity kiosk.

Visitors will notice a large section of the museum's upstairs's level cordoned off from the public. Curators are still organizing a major exhibit celebrating the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth. That exhibit is scheduled to open in early 2005, Brother Davis said.

The Museum of Church History and Art is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weekend and holiday hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum will be closed on Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is free.

Gallery tours are available Monday through Saturday for Church, school and private groups. Tours must be scheduled two weeks in advance. Call (801) 240-4615 for information.

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