Original documents from the founding of the Mormon faith are on exhibit now in Salt Lake City. A page from the Book of Mormon (the original 185-year old one, not the musical) and other priceless relics from the early days of Mormonism are now on display.
The Foundations of Faith exhibit at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) History Library in Temple Square went on display Thursday. The first-ever exhibit includes 26 treasured historical documents, doctrine’s founder’s writings and more. They are exhibited in cases that control humidity, temperature and light to preserve the materials.
These materials on display go “to the roots of our foundational faith,” noted Steven E. Snow, LDS Church Historian and Recorder. The cases on display include church documents that trace the history of the religion and its fundamental beliefs. The artifacts had been in a church vault and taken out piecemeal for special purposes. However, this is the first time they are all available for viewing by anyone.
In one glass case, there is a page from the original 1929 Book of Mormon manuscript, which LDS followers believe was dictated by founder Joseph Smith, who translated it from an ancient record. Assistant church historian and recorder Richard E. Turley noted that the manuscript is written with “one endless flow,” without breaks for paragraphs or verses, just as Smith dictated it. There is also a Book of Mormon first edition, one of 5,000 copies from the original printing run.
Another item in the collection is Smith’s personal journal from 1832 to 1834. The journal by contrast does not reflect free flow of thought. The entry from Nov. 27, 1832, includes scratch outs and rewordings.
Also displayed is a Book of Commandments, an early collection of Smith’s “revelations” that belonged to Wilford Woodruff, one of his initial converts who later became church President. Only 29 copies of the Book of Commandments exist today.
There is also a letter dictated by Smith while he was in Missouri’s Liberty Jail. The contents later became part of the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants.
The Mormon religion reportedly has 15 million followers worldwide. However, the church has been criticized for its secretive practices. The exhibit is part of a recent effort by LDS officials to be more transparent about the religion and its doctrines. The church’s Web site now offers a lot more information about the doctrine and church practices. Through a series of articles, they have even tried to address areas of their history that have been controversial. These include the early history of polygamy and previous ban on black men in the clergy.
The free Foundations of Faith exhibit is available during the church library’s regular hours. Currently, that means 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, except Thursdays when it is open until 9 p.m. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For those who cannot make it to Salt Lake City, the Church History Library Web site contains information on and photos of the materials on display. There is even a downloadable version of the Exhibit Booklet.
By Dyanne Weiss