SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. Visitors continued to stream into the newly remodeled visitors centers at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial several days after the open house was held May 30-31.
"People have been here constantly," said Sister Jane Merrill, serving with her husband, Elder Jay Merrill, who is the site director. "The good goes on and on. We're keeping very busy."
The three full-time missionary couples, along with numerous local members, assisted an estimated 500-600 visitors who attended the two-day open house, which was well publicized in the local media. Visitors came from across the Northeast. Many offered favorable comments.
The memorial marks the location where Joseph Smith was born Dec. 23, 1805. A 52-foot high monument of polished granite, including the base, was erected in 1905 as a tribute to the Prophet's birth.
Renovation of a nearby visitors center was completed in November 2002. Improvements include a 35-seat digital movie theater, replacing the diorama room; a renovated map room with new displays; a meditation room featuring paintings of various presidents of the Church; and in the former television room where the movie was shown is a mural depicting many important events in the Prophet's life.
In a commemorative program during the open house, Elder Merrill recounted the history of the monument to a packed audience of approximately 120 visitors, including members and area residents. The new visitors center also showcases a book display of writings by Joseph Smith, and revelations received and translations made by the Prophet. A bronze, life-size statue by Avard T. Fairbanks was also placed in the center.
President Michael D. Sessions of the Montpelier Vermont Stake spoke of somewhat lesser-known aspects of the Prophet's life, including his candidacy for president. Also he championed the elimination of imprisonment for debt, made recommendations for a national bank and suggested annexation of Texas, Mexico and Canada.
Yoshie Akimoto, an internationally acclaimed pianist and member of the Church from Connecticut, provided a concert, then bore her testimony. This was the first concert of the 2003 Concert Series for the Birthplace Memorial.