International group finds deeper insights visiting Church sites

Participants of a U.S. government-sponsored religious tour, which visited Church points of interest in Salt Lake City last week, left with copies of the Book of Mormon, complete with an accompanying testimony.

After spending part of a day with the tour, Majorie Conder, a curator of the Museum of Church History and Art, gave each person a book that included a picture of her family and her own testimony."Every single one of them was touched," Sister Conder said. "You could tell that they were very appreciative. And they were curious, too. I really think they will read the book."

Two members of the tour group had already read the Book of Mormon before beginning the 32-day, seven-city tour, which began on Oct. 29. The group was in Utah, its fourth stop, from Nov. 15-18.

While in Utah, the group toured Temple Square, previewed an exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art, visited BYU, toured the Logan Tabernacle and a nearby farm museum in Mendon, Utah, attended a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and participated in a question-and-answer session about Church history and doctrine.

Topics discussed in the question-and-answer session ranged from the family unit to priesthood authority, from resurrection to missionary work.

"They were very interested in Mormon doctrine," said Sister Conder. "The discussion was fascinating, and the questions they asked were excellent. The thing that they seemed most impressed with was the emphasis we place within the Church on families."

"It was wonderful, a grand experience," she continued. "Several of the participants noted that this was the best experience that they had had on the tour thus far."

The tour, the second one of its kind, was hosted by the United States Information Agency. In a letter written to group participants, Robert A. Schadler, director of the agency's office of international visitors, said the purpose of the program was two-fold: to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange; and to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.

Group participants came from Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Nigeria and South Africa.

In addition to Salt Lake City, the group visited Mobile, Ala.; Oxford, Miss.; San Diego, Calif.; Lynchburg, Va.; Indianapolis, Ind.; and New York City.

"I knew nothing about Mormons and who they were before this trip," explained the Rev. Josiah Atkins, one of two Nigerian participants on the tour. "This is a good opportunity to learn about them and their history, and to try and understand their beliefs."

Dr. Abubakar Mustapha, a Moslem and an Islamic lecturer at the Bayero University in Nigeria, said the tour was very interesting. "In order to really teach about world religions and beliefs, you should understand them. This is an excellent opportunity.

"Every aspect of the trip thus far has been wonderful," said Mustapha. "It's my first trip to the United States and I have not been disappointed at all."

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