Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center Reopens after Renovation

    “Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center Reopens after Renovation,” Ensign, June 1986, 79

    Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center Reopens after Renovation

    After being closed for four and one-half months of renovation, the San Diego Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center reopened on April 14.

    Under the direction of Church Exhibits Department personnel, the Center’s physical facilities and focus have been changed.

    “It’s absolutely beautiful,” said California San Diego Mission President Clair E. Rosenberg.

    While the new Mormon Battalion diorama and soldier statue are “very impressive,” the center’s real impact will come when visitors see its religious presentations, he said.

    Referring to the room in which the Second Coming of Christ is depicted, he commented, “I don’t see how anyone could go through there without feeling a special spirit and wanting to know more.”

    All the improvements in the center, President Rosenberg explained, are designed to teach gospel principles to nonmembers, refresh the knowledge of less active Church members, and strengthen the testimonies of active members.

    Changes include expansion of the Mormon Battalion segment of the tour, which now offers a new theater and much-improved diorama showing the battalion on the march. A new script has been developed to cover the important details of the march, and a film gives the viewer a musical, pictorial, and verbal insight into that segment of Church history. In addition, films, plaques, and audio presentations in the center are available in both Spanish and English.

    A second theater has been added for the presentation of the film Neighbors, which depicts a conversion story and answers the questions, “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” and “Where will I go after death?”

    The room focusing on the Savior contains five large pictures that show his baptism, the calling of Apostles, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. It also contains the original painting of the Second Coming by Harry Anderson. Events shown in this room are explained by both the guide and an audio presentation.

    The Restoration room offers pictures and audio presentations covering the main events in the restoration of the gospel. A replica of the gold plates is exhibited, and three pictorial displays compare the ancient Church with the restored Church of 1830 and the Church as it is today.

    In the center’s original theater, where a variety of films used to be shown on request, two films are now the standard fare: If You Love ’em, Tell ’em, a selection of the best of the “Homefront” radio and television public service announcements, and Ancient America Speaks, which offers archaeological support for the Book of Mormon. Projection equipment in the theaters has been updated from 16 mm to automatic 35 mm systems.

    In addition to the rooms visited on the tour, there is a new “teaching room” available to missionaries. There they may meet with investigators and show key missionary films as they give discussions. The room will also allow the center’s guides to do on-the-spot teaching of visitors in a private setting if the Spirit so dictates.

    The center has a library of Mormon Battalion historical sources that includes biographies, journals, and books. For the past two years, San Diego city schools have included the Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center in their Old Town Historical/Cultural Program. Almost every day during the school year, four groups of twelve to fifteen children visit the center as part of the program. Often the children will come back later, bringing their parents.

    With the changes in the center’s structure and focus, and two opportunities to fill out referral cards during the tour, President Rosenberg believes many more people may be introduced to the gospel through the center. In 1984, some 54,177 people toured it, including 16,827 nonmembers.

    A visitors’ center guide tells a school group about the battalion’s trek. (Photo by Quentin Gardner, Jr.)