For years the Hall of Church Presidents, located on the top floor of the Museum of Church History and Art, has featured unique displays from the lives of the Church Presidents from the Prophet Joseph Smith to President Spencer W. Kimball, who died in 1985.
Visitors sometimes ask where the displays are for the three most recent Presidents of the Church, exhibit curator Marjorie Conder said. It was something that was just put off for various reasons—until now.
Guests can now enjoy a complete exhibit featuring all Church Presidents from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the current prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Each President’s display features a portrait, a quote, an example of his signature, and artifacts that represent his life. The displays help convey the role each President played in building the Church.
“We try to focus on the stories and events that are most familiar to members,” Sister Conder said.
President Ezra Taft Benson’s display has a large bookshelf with 87 copies of the Book of Mormon—one of each of the languages the book was published in while he was President of the Church, from 1985 to 1994. A glass case is lined with pamphlets featuring speeches he gave to various groups in the Church.
President Benson was well known for his service as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower administration. The chair from his cabinet office—which he commonly referred to as “the hot seat”—is part of his display. A display case holds political cartoons depicting President Benson’s good character while he served in the cabinet and a medal of distinguished service awarded to him by the state of New Jersey.
Following President Benson, Howard W. Hunter served as President of the Church for nine months, from 1994 to 1995.
“Because he was President for so short a time, we focused on the talk he gave at a general conference and his work with the Jerusalem Center,” Sister Condie said.
In the 1994 October general conference, President Hunter admonished members to be a temple-attending and temple-loving people and to always hold a current temple recommend, even if attending the temple was difficult (see “A Temple-Motivated People,” Liahona, Mar. 2004, 40; Ensign, Mar. 2004, 38).
President Hunter’s display includes a temple recommend book and a copy of the Church News describing his dedication of the Orlando Florida Temple in October 1994. President Hunter also dedicated the Bountiful Utah Temple, in January 1995.
A large model of the Brigham Young University Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem, which President Hunter dedicated in 1989, shows what an enormous undertaking the project was. Items from his office, including a bowl given to him for his work with the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, surround his portrait and pictures.
President Gordon B. Hinckley is the 15th President of the Church. His display is evidence of the development of a worldwide Church and the use of technological advances that have facilitated that growth.
In 1953, under the direction of President David O. McKay (1873–1970), Gordon B. Hinckley, who at that time was not yet a General Authority, was asked to create the Church’s first film presentation for use in the temples. An exact model of the camera and the actual microphone used by President Hinckley for this project are on display.
In the center of the display, a small sampling of the many gifts given to President Hinckley by members all over the world surrounds a large globe. Pictures, President Hinckley’s concept sketch of a small temple, and books he has written are also on display.
A model of the Conference Center shows the magnitude of the building, and an exact replica of the Conference Center’s walnut pulpit, which was built from a tree grown in the yard of President Hinckley’s Salt Lake home, is placed so visitors can stand at the pulpit as a speaker would.
Overhead, a model of a satellite hangs from the ceiling, representing how technology has been used to broadcast general conference, firesides, meetings, and even the dedications of the Palmyra New York, Winter Quarters Nebraska, and Nauvoo Illinois Temples.
The Museum of Church History and Art is located at 45 North West Temple, just west of Temple Square in Salt Lake City. It is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Admission is free.