GENEVA, Switzerland Members of the Church in western Europe say the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit has opened doors of interest with their neighbors and improved the image of the Church. To date, more than 60 percent of the visitors have been members of other faiths.
The exhibit is a missionary effort organized to create a better image and perception of the Church in Europe. Its influence, according to missionaries and members, has been measurable and positive. It has given them an opportunity to talk about the gospel to people who would rather not talk about religion.
The exhibit has influenced many changes in attitude among local populations toward the Church, exemplified in the simple comment by a young man in the Netherlands who wrote in the guest book that he no longer found "the Mormons as odd" as he previously considered them.
Members who typically found it difficult to approach their neighbors about the Church, but found it easy to invite them to such an event.
The exhibit was particularly well received in Bordeaux, France, where the local government co-sponsored the exhibit in its downtown art venue located in an ancient monastery.
More than 3,500 visitors attended in less than 10 days, in spite of attempts by a local organization to block the exhibit by preventing the name of the Church from appearing on advertising banners and pressuring the mayor to revoke the event.
Ambassadors, consuls general and first secretaries from various European, American, Asian and Middle Eastern embassies visited the exhibit. "It is such a blessing to be here and learn more about these ancient writings of faith," said the consul general of the Philippine Embassy.
The chief Rabbi of Geneva gave his approval by attending the opening, while Protestant churches in Geneva publicized the event in their journal.
The exhibition was located in the Geneva meetinghouse, creating minor congestion in a building which houses four wards. But having more than 100 visitors per day made the inconvenience worthwhile for the members in the Geneva stake.
The exhibition arrived in Geneva in mid-February after an extended tour of 14 cities in the British Isles, Netherlands, Belgium and France. It will continue its tour to Rome, Madrid and Lisbon before going to the Central European Area countries of Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark.