This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The LDS Church History Museum is closing Oct. 6 for renovation and will reopen next year with a renewed emphasis on Jesus Christ and the faith's founder, Joseph Smith.
Maryanne Andrus, an exhibit manager, explained the various sections planned for the new first floor:
The Awakening • "[This] section here is the idea of the Great Awakening, that the tumult that was happening in the East and really across the country as it existed then in the 1820s, so you get a perspective here of more of a sense of questioning on a regional, national level."
The Smith Family Area • "You move down the hallway … and here through some talking portraits you're going to hear the actual ancestors of [Joseph Smith] talk about their struggles to understand their standing before God, their understanding of religion, and their own struggles to make that come together. At the very end, Joseph Smith at the hearth is asking these questions. You know, 'Where do I fit, where do I stand, what can I do?' "
The First Vision Theater • A circular theater will allow patrons to watch a video of when a then-14-year-old Joseph Smith reportedly saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.
"We wanted that experience to be very much a central part of the exhibit," Andrus said. "So you'll notice every section ties back to this centering experience."
Outside the theater, artists' renderings of that moment will decorate the walls, and a kiosk will let visitors explore several accounts of the vision from Smith and those with whom he shared the story.
"And they differ somewhat," Andrus said. "… You know as people tell stories they never wrote or say the same thing. And you can get a sense of the experience coming out of these various historical accounts. It's really wonderful to read and we wanted people to have that chance."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently published on its website a scholarly essay on Smith's various versions of his first vision.
The Book of Mormon • This section describes Smith's purported translation of the Book of Mormon and will include the original press that printed the faith's signature scripture. It also will boast a table, where scribes would have transcribed Smith's words. "You can sit, you can hear their words, you can try writing at the pace that [Smith] was dictating. We wanted again for people to get as close to the experience as possible."
The Restoration • This will be a re-creation of the Whitmer cabin in Fayette, N.Y., where the church was officially established in 1830.
Ohio and Missouri • This section about the Mormons' trials and triumphs in Ohio and Missouri will include a model of the Kirtland Temple. The re-creationof the sacred Ohio edifice will have an art gallery and play early LDS hymns.
"A wonderful artifact there," Andrus said, "is Sally Phelps' hymnal that she actually held at dedication [of the temple] as her husband's song 'The Spirit of God' was sung for the first time."
Liberty Jail • This re-creation of the Missouri jail where Smith was incarcerated for several months will depict "a very low period for the saints and for the prophet," Andrus said. "And yet, out of it has come one of our greatest revelations. So again, as we planned the format of the exhibit, we went back continually to this idea of what revelations governed this part of our history, what guided us here, what guided us there. So Liberty Jail will feature those revelations." Nauvoo • The jail will lead into a hallway and final stretch of the exhibit. A depiction of the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois will adorn the opposite end of the hall, which visitors will have a clear view of as they leave the jail. The hallway will discuss Smith's murder in 1844. "But the saints persevere, and they come to the [Nauvoo Temple] and they complete the temple," Andrus said. "… We wanted this hallway to keep always focused on the completion of the temple, not to focus on the sadder events of the martyrdom as the sole thing to think about."
The hallway will bend back toward the lobby, concluding with a wall about the Mormon pioneers as they leave on their trip West.