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The Titanic Tour

Church leaders get a preview of exhibit of ship's artifacts

Leaders of the Church got a preview look at artifacts from the ill-fated Titanic in an exhibit that will be on display in Salt Lake City over the next several months.

President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and members of the Quorum Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder Richard G. Scott and Elder Robert D. Hales, with his wife, Mary, each walked through "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" on Friday, May 28, the day before it opened to the public.

The exhibit is on the second level of the Church-owned ZCMI Center in downtown Salt Lake City. It will run through Jan. 8, 2005. There is an admission charge.

The "virtually unsinkable" Titanic, a gigantic ocean liner, sank on its maiden voyage from England to New York shortly after striking an iceberg in April 1912. Of the nearly 2,200 people on board the ship, more than 1,500 died in the disaster.

President Packer, Elder Wirthlin, Elder Scott and Elder Hales met with other invited guests in the "Titanic: First-Class Dining Room," set up in another location around the corner from the exhibit. There they were greeted by exhibit officials. Then they were divided into groups to go on a tour of about half an hour. Guiding the General Authorities was Lowell Lytle in character as Captain Edward J. Smith of the Titanic. Dressed in dark uniform, Lytle, who plays the role of Captain Smith for special events at Titanic exhibits, shared anecdotes and information about the Titanic with the guests.

The General Authorities, for the most part, just listened and observed as they went from room to room. They saw artifacts that have been recovered from the Titanic debris field 2 1/2 miles below the surface in the north Atlantic Ocean. The items include the glass covering of a porthole, remnants of an emergency steering column, money and dishes, and jewelry, clothing and other personal items owned by some of the passengers.

At one point, the General Authorities and Sister Hales were invited to place their hands on an "iceberg" in the exhibit, cooled to near the temperature of the water where the Titanic sank to give some indication of the cold that led to many of the ship's fatalities.

Following his tour, President Packer said the exhibit was "well worth seeing."

Later, President Faust was given a tour of the exhibit by its designer, RMS Titanic Inc. Vice President Marc Lach. President Faust listened intently while looking at the displays.

In the tour's opening reception, Mr. Lach praised the Church for its involvement with the exhibit in conjunction with the Utah Museum of Natural History. He said that involvement has led to a different experience, a "special experience," from other exhibits around the world.

Besides hosting the exhibit on property it owns, the Church has opened a special "FamilySearch" center next to the Titanic exhibit. There, visitors can use computers to find out if they are related to any of the passengers of the Titanic. They will also be able to discover any other ancestors they might have who immigrated to the United States. It is free to the public.

Also on the mall's second level is "Titanic: First-Class Dining Room." With decor relating to the Titanic, it is available for catered dinners, receptions and other gatherings.

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