Sometimes a museum exhibition is appropriately experienced with folded arms and sealed lips. Not the new children's exhibit at the Church History Museum.
"A Book of Mormon Fiesta: A Latin American Celebration," is just that — a celebration of latter-day scripture that binds a global Church together. The exhibit also pays tribute to the countless Latin American members who have utilized the Book of Mormon to bless their lives, and the lives of many others.
"We want kids to come to this exhibit and feel like the Book of Mormon is part of their lives," said Ray Halls, the museum's director of education.
"A Book of Mormon Fiesta" is hands-on and invites young visitors — and their parents and teachers — to interact with the many Book of Mormon-themed displays. The exhibit is divided into three sections: "learning" the stories of the Book of Mormon; "sharing" the stories of the Book of Mormon; and, finally, "living" the teachings of the Book of Mormon. The various wall texts and audio-visual elements are offered in English and Spanish.
Visitors are welcomed into the exhibit by a mural depicting faithful Lehi and his family fleeing Jerusalem under the cover of night. They then move into a dimly lighted tent where they can learn of Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life and the importance of holding tight to the iron rod. Youngsters can make a necklace with imprints they can make of the iron rod and the sacred tree.
A highlight of the first section of the exhibit is a wooden, child-friendly representation of the ship Nephi and his family built to sail to the Americas. Youngsters can climb on deck, help construct the sides of the vessel and even reel in a fish or two. The ship and other design elements in the exhibit were fabricated almost entirely by workers in the Church shops.
"It's just amazing what they have done," said exhibit designer Craig Rohde.
Other interactive highlights in the exhibit's "learning" section include stations where children can learn about the writing on the golden plates and even try to lift a reproduction of the hefty plates. Huge, padded building blocks can also be stacked to "rebuild" an ancient temple as the Book of Mormon people did when Christ visited the Americas. "The people rebuilt because they had become one," said Brother Halls.
The "sharing" section focuses on missionary work. Young visitors can try their hand at making dinner for a pair of hungry missionaries and spend a few minutes harvesting vegetables in an abundant garden. Anecdotal lessons in the section teach the blessings of sharing the Book of Mormon with others.
"Kids can learn that sharing the message of the Book of Mormon is part of our lives as Latter-day Saints," he added.
With a bit of imagination, visitors to the exhibit's final section will believe they have stepped into a Latin American plaza, replete with tortilla vendors, bustling apartment buildings and an LDS meetinghouse. Take time to get acquainted with the virtual, bilingual residents of the apartment complex as they share stories of faith and testimony from their windows.
Another station tells the story of an LDS Peruvian girl who chose not to perform with a local dance troupe because she felt the costumes were immodest. So the girl performed on her own — dressed in a manner she knew was right. Visitors of all ages can don a festive skirt or a mariachi's vest and learn a few Latin dance steps taught by virtual instructors on large television screens.
The "living" section also highlights faithful episodes from the lives of two Latin American General Authorities: Elder Benjamin De Hoyos and Elder Claudio D. Zivic of the Seventy. A large dump truck parked in the plaza represents the story of young Benjamin De Hoyos and his family, who drove a dump truck around Monterrey, Mexico, on Sundays to pick up members and investigators for Church services. Visitors will also learn of young Claudio Zivic, a promising track star in his native Argentina who gave up competition and the possibilities of athletic glory because most of the track meets were held on Sundays.
Brother Rohde said "A Book of Mormon Fiesta" is the culmination of three years of planning, designing and building. "You know it's for the Lord, and the work shows it," he said.
The children's exhibit works as a companion display to "Mi Vida; My Life," a neighboring exhibit that shares the gospel experience of several Latin American members. An exhibit chronicling the vibrant history of the Church in Mexico will open at the museum later this year.
"A Book of Mormon Fiesta: A Latin American Celebration" will be on display until Jan. 6, 2013. The Church History Museum is located in Salt Lake City immediately west of Temple Square.