Museum Kicks Off Year of Celebration with Joseph Smith Exhibit
By Chad Phares, Church Magazines
Elders Russell M. Nelson and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony February 4 at the Museum of Church History and Art that officially opened a new exhibit celebrating the life of Joseph Smith.
The exhibit, which was organized to commemorate the bicentennial of the Prophet's birth, includes several rare and historically significant items from his life.
Among other things, the exhibit displays an original Book of Mormon manuscript page with Joseph Smith's handwriting, original copies of section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of Moses manuscript, wall fragments from the Liberty Jail, surgical instruments similar to those used on the Prophet during a leg operation when he was seven years old, and a touchable plaster cast made from Joseph's death mask.
Joseph Smith's journal, a letter he wrote from Liberty Jail, and the first transcript of the Word of Wisdom revelation are also part of the exhibit.
Executive Director of the Family and Church History Department, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, of the Seventy, said he thinks the exhibit will help people gain a better understanding of the Prophet.
“I think one of the main benefits for people who visit the exhibit will be the sense of reality they get,” Elder Jensen said. “It will bring Joseph Smith to life for them.”
Materials were taken from the Joseph Smith collection in the Church History Library and Archives and borrowed from the Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections at Brigham Young University and from the Community of Christ Special Collections Library.
In order to make the exhibit accessible to more people, video clips and item explanations throughout the exhibit are available in Spanish as well as English.
The exhibit is only one part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Prophet’s birth. A new film about Joseph Smith's life will be shown at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building later this year, and the Church will sponsor international and national recognitions of the Prophet's bicentennial throughout the year.
The Library of Congress and Brigham Young University will jointly hold an academic symposium on May 67 in Washington, D.C., entitled, “The Worlds of Joseph Smith.”
Brigham Young University is currently working on a project to create a comprehensive collection of all documents associated with the Prophet. About 12 volumes of the project are scheduled to be released by the end of 2005.
Although the exhibit and other things being done to commemorate the birth of the Prophet have required a lot of planning and organization, Elder Jensen said Joseph Smith is worthy of such recognition.
“John Taylor said Joseph ' has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it' [D&C 135:3],” Elder Jensen said. “Joseph's legacy will be found in his work. His work will show he is a true prophet.”
Visitors can see the exhibit, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, through January 15, 2006.