Visitors to BYU–Idaho Center invited to ponder the purpose of life through two iconic pieces of art
A mural from the 1964 World’s Fair and another from the 1970 Osaka Japan World Expo now have permanent home on BYU–Idaho campus
For modern generations used to Google and social media, it might be difficult to understand the allure, but in 1964, the World’s Fair allowed individuals to experience new cultures and ideas and be dazzled by emerging technologies.
And for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it offered an opportunity to correct misconceptions or introduce visitors to its teachings and beliefs.
Now, two pieces of art representing this unique period of Church history can be seen on display in the BYU–Idaho Center on the Rexburg, Idaho, campus. A new permanent exhibit features the original “Purpose of Life” mural that was painted for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, as well as the Japanese “Purpose of Life” mural from the 1970 Osaka Japan World Expo.
“These iconic pieces of art signify a change in modern Church history in a big way, and they are finally gathered in one place here on our campus,” Kyoung DaBell, curator at the BYU-Idaho Jacob Spori Art Gallery, said in a press release about the new display. “We hope to have visitors see our displays and artwork and these historic paintings once again, and we hope that it will touch people’s lives and give them an opportunity to think of the purpose of their life seriously and in a meaningful way.”
The Church’s pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair — and later the 1970 Osaka Japan World Expo — was considered a success. It hosted an estimated 12.5 million visitors. Baptisms increased.
“The displays inside the pavilion really made an impact on how people perceived the Church, and it led to a lot of growth for the Church,” explained DaBell. “These events forever changed the perception of the Church worldwide.”
It also revolutionized the way the Church shared the gospel. The art, dioramas and multimedia featured in many of today’s visitors’ centers are part of the lingering legacy of the fairs.
The theme of the pavilions was “Man’s Search for Happiness,” the title of the movie produced expressly for the 1964 fair, with narration by Elder Richard L. Evans, who was the announcer for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square for many years.
In both the New York pavilion and the Osaka pavilion, visitors were taught about Jesus Christ, the Restoration of the gospel and Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for His children. As guests left the Church pavilion, they could study the “Purpose of Life” murals that now hang in the BYU–Idaho Center.
Some visitors might recognize the murals. That’s because the Church used them in pamphlets and other media over the years.
Included in the BYU–Idaho exhibit are other historical records and documents that invite viewers to think about the purpose of life and the plan of salvation.
The murals can be found on the main floor of the BYU–Idaho Center, which is open Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.