Visitors center nears completion

PALMYRA, N.Y. — A new visitors center at Hill Cumorah, larger to handle the increasing size of crowds at that historic location, is expected to be complete by July 1 in time for the throngs attending the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

The message of the new center will be "First and foremost that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and that we worship Him," said Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department. "It will be a Christ-centered message."

The Hill Cumorah Visitors Center will also have a theater seating more than 100 people. In this theater will be told the account of the Restoration through a new film now being produced, expected to be complete by January of 2003.

"We hope that in a beautiful and moving way, it will help people understand the young Prophet, Joseph Smith, and what motivated him to go into the Sacred Grove and ask the questions he asked, and what prompted the vision," said Stephen B. Allen, managing director of the Missionary Department. "We hope it will help them understand it in a way that helps them love and appreciate the Prophet."

The exhibits in the center will use the same technology used at Temple Square. A large resource room will permit people to browse at their leisure and enjoy the exhibits of the Restoration.

The new center will also be the hub of other sites in the surrounding area rich in Church history, such as the Sacred Grove, the Smith log cabin and farm home, the Peter Whitmer farm and the Grandin Building.

It is expected that visitors would come first and learn what took place at each of those sites, he said. "This becomes the orientation site where you go and learn about all of those places in general terms and then you go out to the sites."

Displays or exhibits at other sites tell of the events that occurred there. For example, the Whitmer Farm at nearby Fayette, where the Church was organized, features a restoration of the cabin where the Church was organized April 6, 1830. At the Grandin Building in Palymra is told the account of the publication of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon particularly will be featured at the new visitors center because Hill Cumorah is the site where it originated. "This is the center that really talks about the Book of Mormon itself. It includes three Book of Mormon stories given on Temple Square that are so popular. The center has displays showing that the Book of Mormon has been translated into many languages."

He said that during a recent visit, he noticed families who had just come from the Nauvoo Illinois Temple open house.

"Many, many families come to these sites," said Brother Allen. "The Church is growing. Efforts over the past five or six years to restore some of these sites hold great interest to members of the Church as they take their families on vacation."

He explained that historic sites, which are a restoration of what existed there many years ago, function primarily for members of the Church, while a visitors center is designed more for people who are not members of the Church.

"We hope the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center is a place where members can bring their friends and relatives, where they'll feel the Spirit and desire to know more," Elder Didier said.