Church History Museum and Beehive House reopen to the public after COVID-19 closures

David and Meghan Hernandez from Fort Worth, Texas, were the first guests inside the Church History Museum when doors opened to the public at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 2.

They had tried to stop by the Church History Museum last summer while visiting Salt Lake City for the first time, but the museum was closed due to the pandemic. “We wanted to learn more about the religion. We were curious,” David Hernandez said. 

The Hernandez family happened to be in Salt Lake City again this weekend — this time with their 4-month-old baby Jacob — and planned to depart at 5 a.m. this morning for the Grand Canyon. When they found out the museum would be open, they postponed their departure. 

“We saw it was opening today, so we said, ‘Let’s stay a little longer,’” Meghan Hernandez said. “It worked out perfectly.”

David and Meghan Hernandez spoke to the Church News inside “The Heavens Are Opened” exhibit shortly after watching the First Vision film on the 240-degree semicircular screen. 

“The film was awesome,” Meghan Hernandez said. “It’s very interesting to see it all.”

Nearly 17 months after closing due to pandemic restrictions in March 2020, the Church History Museum is now open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Beehive House and Church History Library also reopened to the public on Monday.

Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum, said: “We’re just excited to let people come back, join us and connect with the history of the Church, especially at this time with the temple being renovated. We’ve got the ‘Temples Dot the Earth’ exhibit to help people understand about temples and why they’re important. We’re just excited to have the docents back, we’re excited to have the public back, we’re just excited to get back to work.”

The following exhibits are available: 

A display features a portrait of Joseph Smith at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The museum reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19.
A display features a portrait of Joseph Smith at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The museum reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The only major change during the COVID-19 closure was the relocation of “Mormon Trails” from the second floor to the lower level, Johnson said. Pieces from the 12th International Art Competition are coming in for the second round of jurying and are being housed on the second floor. That exhibit will be open to the public spring 2022. 

Beehive House

The Beehive House reopened to the public today for guided tours, available Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

This home served as Brigham Young’s primary residence from 1855 until his death in 1877. In this home and the adjoining office, he carried out his duties as president of the Church, territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs

“It’s just exciting to be able to have the doors open again so that people can come in and learn about Brigham Young and his life here and what he did for the Church and for the city and for the state of Utah,” said Ray Halls, operation manager at the Beehive House. 

Michele Brown, center, and her children, Penelope, 8, Lillian, 13, Hazel, 5, and Delilla, 11, left to right, look around the Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The Beehive House reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19.
Michele Brown, center, and her children, Penelope, 8, Lillian, 13, Hazel, 5, and Delilla, 11, left to right, look around the Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The Beehive House reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Halls said tours are now offered every 15 minutes and can be reserved. A reservation option will be added to the website in the near future. 

Zach Vayo of Salt Lake City went on one of the first guided tours of the Beehive House on Monday. Shortly after concluding the tour, he said of Brigham Young, “I’m thinking about how many hats he’s wearing.”

“It was really kind of striking to me just to see how many different functions are sort of happening within this space and bumping up against each other,” Vayo told the Church News. “There’s the religious office right next to the governmental office next to the family space. … I think the proximity of those things was really interesting to me.” 

Lisa Smith, a docent at the Beehive House and Vayo’s tour guide, said her experience at the Beehive House has reminded her of the sacrifices of the early Saints and what they endured during the first several years in the Salt Lake Valley. 

“Their tenacity, their persistence and their faithfulness in following the prophet here and establishing what we get to enjoy — it’s pretty overwhelming to realize,” she said. 

Of those who visit the Beehive House, Smith said, “I hope that they go away with a feeling of Brigham Young as a family man and about this being a home for a family, as well as an official residence, and that they have a better sense of maybe what he was like and what his family was like.”

The Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The Beehive House reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19.
The Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The Beehive House reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Church History Library

After opening the reading room by appointment only on July 6, the Church History Library is now fully open to the public, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

We have seen more people in here than we ever anticipated,” said Christine Cox, visitor and consultation services manager at the Church History Library, at the end of Monday. “We have been busy. … There’s just lots of fun, exciting things and we’re all energized.”

In addition to helping walk-ins, consultants will continue to work one-on-one with those who schedule appointments. The benefit of setting an appointment, Cox said, is having materials and resources ready to go when the researcher arrives — maximizing time and efficiency. 

For the latest information on operating hours, safety policies and how to schedule appointments, see the library’s Plan Your Visit webpage.

The Church History Library.
The Church History Library. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Openings for the Relief Society Building and the Lion House will be announced at a future date. For more information, visit templesquare.org.