Church History Museum

Considering these two facts 1) I grew up in Utah and 2) I am Mormon, I’m a little surprised that I’ve never been to the Church History Museum. At least, that I remember. I think it’s probably because of these two reasons: 1) I’ve never been that interested in church history and 2) I’ve never really liked church-y art (with some exceptions). So the museum never had much of an appeal to me, but when I was downtown a few weeks ago, I decided to check it out.

To be honest, I still have mixed feelings about it as a museum. It tells the story of the church, but in the same way that I’ve heard all my life. I kept expecting the information placards to tell me about the artifacts or the art, but instead they told me how they fit into the history of the church. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just different from what I expect in a museum. I’m used to something more objective rather than… didactic, for lack of a better word. But the museum is actually chalk full of really interesting things and it’s got all sorts of great exhibits. Let’s take a look. First of all, here’s the facade of the museum.

I love all the carvings. I especially love that it includes the scripture, “The glory of God is intelligence. ”

The museum starts with the early beginnings of the church and tells the story of the first vision and then how Joseph Smith and his brother were killed by a mob at Carthage Jail. Here are their death masks.

And here’s the pocket watch that saved John Taylor’s life.

Then the story progresses to tell about how all the Saints gathered in Winter Quarters after being expelled from their homes in Illinois and Missouri. I loved this painting of all the wagons gathered on the other side of the Mississippi.

The next few exhibits included a lot of artifacts from their journey across the plains. I really liked this part. I loved seeing what possessions the pioneers chose to carry with them along the plains when they could take so little.

Then they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and settled it. They mapped it out in nice even squares with the Salt Lake Temple in the center (but it took 40 years to build). They built chapels and stores and came up with their own monetary system.

They had a section on temples and some of the craftsmanship that goes into them. Remember when I mentioned the amazing murals painted by Minerva Teichert at the Manti Temple? They had one of the studies she drew in preparation for it.

Speaking of Minerva Teichert… the second floor of the museum is full of art, including some paintings by Minerva Teichert. She is still one of my favorites.

I love the patterns in the dresses and the soft, muted colors.

Right now, the museum is full of entries into its Ninth Annual International Art Competition. I browsed around for a bit. I wasn’t expecting to find much that I like because of the whole not liking church-y art. I thought there’d be mostly stuff like this:

Yeah… not so much my cup of tea. And to be honest, there was a lot of art there that wasn’t really my cup of tea. But then I’d come across art like these that I really liked.

(The photo didn’t quite turn out of that one, but it’s amazing. It’s completely made of paper cuts.)

The museum also had an exhibit about each of the presidents of the church, including different objects from their life. It was really fascinating to see the past 150 or so years represented and the change in technology. Even though I went into the museum feeling a little skeptical, I actually left feeling a lot more interested in church history, especially in the first years of settling the valley. Maybe I’ll have to find a book or something. Or just go back to the museum some time.


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