'Foundations of Faith': Church History Library exhibits treasures from its documents collection

The Church Historian and Recorder calls them “documents which are foundational to our history,” and they are now on long-term display, some for the first time, at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City.

They include a page from the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon and copies of early editions of that book of ancient scripture brought forth in the latter-day dispensation.

Also included are the minute record book of the Relief Society as it was first organized in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1840, and the letter written by the Prophet Joseph Smith from Liberty Jail in 1839, portions of which today comprise Sections 121 to 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

“In one place, we have documents that have not been displayed together — and only rarely shown — through many, many years,” said Elder Steven Snow of the Seventy, commenting in his capacity as Church Historian and Recorder. “Because of our current facility here and some increased security steps, we’re really pleased to put these documents together for the first time.”

Located at 15 East North Temple in Salt Lake City, the library welcomes the public free of charge to see the exhibit, titled “Foundations of Faith: Treasures from the Historical Collection of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The display is open during regular business hours, beginning at 9 a.m. on weekdays and ending at 5 p.m. except for Thursday, when hours are extended to 9 p.m. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The exhibit opened Sept. 4.

“We intend this to be a longer-term display,” Elder Snow said. “We don’t want to say ‘forever,’ but certainly for the next five years, it is our plan to have these items on display.”

Elder Snow said that those who cannot come to Salt Lake City to see the exhibit will be able to view an upcoming online version of the exhibit.

Here is a rundown of some of the items in the display:

Book of Mormon original manuscript (1829). It is a leaf from the surviving portion of the manuscript as dictated to and written by scribes including Oliver Cowdery. The complete manuscript was placed in the southeast cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, where it was discovered more than 40 years later by Lewis Bidamon, Emma Smith’s second husband. Much of it was decayed due to water seepage. Bidamon gave pieces of the manuscript to passing visitors, most of which ended up in the Church Historian’s Office.

Book of Mormon first edition (1830). This is the one published by Egbert B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, 5,000 copies of which were made available for sale in August 1829. It was studied by Brigham Young during the months leading to his baptism.

Book of Mormon Liverpool edition (1841). This copy is the one from which Hyrum Smith read Ether 12, turning down the corner of the page, on the morning of the day he and the Prophet Joseph Smith were martyred at Carthage, Illinois.

Book of Commandments (1833). This was the first effort to publish the early revelations of Joseph Smith in book form.

Doctrine and Covenants first edition, (1835). This was the second effort to publish the revelations received by the Prophet.

Book of Abraham facsimile printing plates (1842). These plates were used to print the facsimile figures that, to this day, are part of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.

Pearl of Great Price first edition (1851). The pamphlet published by Elder Franklin D. Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when he presided over the British Mission. Its content was canonized as one of the standard works of the Church on Oct. 10, 1880.

Joseph Smith Journal (1832-34). Roughly half the entries in this journal were written either entirely or primarily in the Prophet’s own hand.

Letter from Liberty Jail (1839). The basis for Sections 121-123 of the Doctrine and Covenants, including several oft-quoted passages of scripture, such as, “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river … as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:33).

“A Collection of Sacred Hymns” (1834). Emma Smith’s compilation done in fulfillment of a commandment from the Lord (see Doctrine and Covenants 25), it was the first hymnbook of the Church.

Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer (1836). This was printed as a broadside for distribution at the time of the temple dedication. The text was added to the Doctrine and Covenants as section 109 in 1876.

Architectural rendering for the Nauvoo Temple (circa 1841-45). William Weeks’ sketch of the angel weathervane placed atop the temple in January 1846.

A Voice of Warning (1837). Apostle Parley P. Pratt’s book written over a two-month period while he was on a mission to New York.

Brigham Young letter (1846). Written by President Young to his brother, Joseph Young, as the Saints were in the early stages of evacuating Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book (1842). The minutes of the meetings of this initial organization of the Relief Society contain details about donations for and visits with the poor, contributions for construction of the Nauvoo Temple, and efforts at moral reform and civic activism.

Wilford Woodruff Journal (1847). Displayed is an entry of July 24, 1847, the day he and Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley for the first time.

Article of the Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association (1870). Organized first for Brigham Young’s daughters, this was the earliest forerunner to today’s Young Women organization of the Church.

Farmington Ward Primary Minute Book (1878). It contains minutes of the first meeting of the first Primary in the Church, as it was organized in Farmington, Utah.

Early Book of Mormon translations from around the world. Included are early edition copies of the Book of Mormon in Danish, Hawaiian, Spanish, Maori, Turkish, Japanese, Portuguese and Afrikaans.

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