News Story

Joseph Smith Bicentennial Exhibit to Close in January

The Joseph Smith bicentennial exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art will close on Monday, 16 January 2006. Exhibit curators are urging visitors not to postpone their plans to see this extraordinary presentation of the life and legacy of the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration is entering its final weeks. Since opening to the public on 5 February 2005, the exhibit has drawn unprecedented numbers of visitors. Its closing will follow the Church’s 23 December 2005 commemoration of Joseph Smith’s 200th birthday by just three weeks.

Curator Mark Staker describes the exhibit as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” and encourages visitors not to wait until the last minute to see this unique collection of historic materials.

“Many of the artifacts and documents on exhibit have never been shown publicly before. Because of their fragile condition, it will likely be many years before they are exhibited again,” Staker said.

Exhibit materials have been drawn from the extensive collection of Joseph Smith materials in the Church History Library and Archives. Rare items from the Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections at Brigham Young University and from the Community of Christ Special Collections Library in Independence, Missouri, are on loan just for this exhibit.

Documents of particular interest include early manuscript copies of the book of Moses, an early manuscript of the Word of Wisdom revelation and a letter on baptisms for the dead dictated by Joseph Smith and later published as section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Favorite artifacts include Joseph Smith’s cloak from his Nauvoo Legion uniform, a lock of his hair and fragments from the clothing he was wearing when he was martyred.

As the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth nears, visitors will be especially intrigued by the family record book used by his paternal grandparents, Asael and Mary Duty Smith, to record Joseph’s 23 December 1805 birth in Sharon, Vermont.

The exhibit includes Joseph Smith’s earliest account of his own life, including his birth to “goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in the christian religion.” Portions of this 1832 history are quite rare since they were penned by Smith himself, who usually employed scribes to record his dictated revelations, histories, journals and correspondence.

These documents and artifacts have been pulled together to explore how Joseph Smith was prepared, called and tutored to complete his prophetic work. In addition, the exhibit also features re-created settings, artworks, audiovisual presentations and activity stations that give visitors new insights into the prophet’s life.

Open now for nine months, the exhibit has been one of the most popular in the museum’s history, drawing record-breaking crowds. To date, more than 300,000 visitors have viewed the exhibit.

In addition to tens of thousands from along the Wasatch Front and other parts of Utah, visitors have come from throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe and other parts of the world. Museum comment cards have been completed by visitors from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Samoa, Bora Bora, Russia, Albania, Poland and Romania.

Visitor comments consistently reflect an increased appreciation for and deepened understanding of Joseph Smith’s life and leadership of the early Church. Documents he dictated, objects he held and clothing he wore give a sense of his stature, both physically and spiritually.

Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration can be seen at the Museum of Church History and Art through Monday, 16 January 2006. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and most holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The museum will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and will close at 5:00 p.m. on 23 November and at 11:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Located at 45 North West Temple Street, the museum in downtown Salt Lake City is a half-block north of the Temple Square TRAX station. To schedule group tours, please call 801-240-4615. Admission is free.

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