New exhibit of Missouri artifacts opens in Church History Museum

Mar 25, 2024, 1:21 PM | Updated: 2:37 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled a new exhibit Monday at the Church History Museum after a display of unique artifacts took a trip to Utah from Independence, Missouri.

The exhibit opened at 10 a.m. on Monday and will remain open until Oct. 26. Staff working there said seeing it in person helps them connect to the past and bring some of the history to life.

Church History Museum Director Laura Paulson Howe said the exhibit begins with portraits of Joseph Smith and Emma Smith. The paintings set the tone for the entire experience, and really all other portraits of the two. She said the portraits also mark their relationship together as rare companion portraits.

“All of the things we recognize (in) portraits of Joseph (like) the high collar, the neatly tied cravat of Emma, that embroidered chemise that she wears … this is what we see over and over in everything coming out,” Howe said. “These are the portraits upon which all other portraits of Joseph and Emma are based. They’re one of very few portraits that were done from life.”

Across the room, documents are neatly organized.

“This is one of the earliest attempts to write the history of the Church,” Spencer W. McBride, a historian with the Joseph Smith Papers said.

McBride said when church leaders could not get a hold of that record in 1837, they started a new church history, which is the one Latter-day Saints know best today. Sharing these pieces of history with others is something McBride cherishes.

“As historians, it’s very exciting to see it in person; have access to it in person, to do the research we need with the original documents,” McBride said.

Another display, behind glass, includes the original door from Liberty Jail, where Joseph Smith and five others were imprisoned.

“Some very important revelations come out of that experience. Joseph writes them in a letter from Liberty Jail,” said Riley M. Lorimer, director of the Church History Museum.

The door is a direct visual of some of the hardships the church’s earliest leaders endured, Lorimer said.

“As long as memory lasts, will remain in my mind the great creaking of the hinges as it closed upon the noblest men on earth,” Lorimer said, quoting the words of a visitor of Liberty Jail during Joseph Smith’s imprisonment.

Contributing: Mary Culbertson, KSL TV

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New exhibit of Missouri artifacts opens in Church History Museum