Park City visitors discover their roots, Church

PARK CITY, Utah — Perhaps it is apropos that Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin was asked to dedicate the Family Tree Center in Park City.

Decades before becoming a global ski destination and future Olympic venue site, Park City was a silver mining community. Elder Wirthlin's roots stretch to that prospecting era — his great-grandfather was among the legions of men who once searched for ore in Park City.

Today, most come to Park City searching for some R&R on its snowy slopes. Thousands of those visitors are finding their way into the wood and rock-faced Family Tree Center on historic Main Street, hoping to discover ancestors and their own place in their family trees.

The recently opened center "is a dream that has come true for many of us," said Elder Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve who offered the dedicatory prayer on the facility. A prophet, he added, has been instrumental in the center's development and construction.

"I know [this center] will be a great success because the Lord directed President Gordon B. Hinckley," Elder Wirthlin said.

The facility was built to help Park City visitors learn about family history — and the family's central role in the restored gospel. Sports enthusiasts from around the world will be walking Park City's main street during the 2002 Winter Games. For many, the Family Tree Center may be the only opportunity they have to learn about the Church and its message.

"There is no telling just how many will come here when the Olympics arrive, but there will be thousands," he said.

People have already been captured by the center's intriguing displays, said Elder Verdis Norton, the center's director. A mural stretched across one wall links Joseph Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Bush, Richard Nixon and other notable leaders to a common ancestor. Family photos from different eras are abundant, while a two-story tree, laden with branches and placed in the center of the facility, symbolizes family history research.

The center is staffed by a few full-time sister missionaries, along with stake missionaries from the Park City Utah Stake. Besides enjoying the displays on the main floor, visitors can go to the basement where they can use FamilySearch computers to help find their ancestors. Quiet rooms have been built near the computer room where missionaries can teach discussions or answer questions that visitors may have about the Church, said Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy.

Local members call it an honor to work in the Family Tree Center.

"Miracles are happening in Park City, and some are happening because of this great center," said David Evans, president of the Park City Utah Stake.

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