When it comes to introducing children to the temple, resources are few. But with a new exhibit at the Church History Museum, children can learn more about the sacred purposes of and sacred spaces in temples in a child-friendly way.
The new exhibit “Temples Dot the Earth: Building the House of the Lord’‘ opens on Thursday, Feb. 13, in Salt Lake City and will be open for approximately four years.
Sister Nancy Dance, a Primary general board member who has been involved with the development of the exhibit, said the purpose is to help children “experience and feel the power of a temple — not only the building but also what goes on inside.”
Designed for children ages 1-11, the exhibit features 25 interactive activities, colorful wall-to-wall graphic design murals, imagery from actual temples and historical artifacts. Children can sit at child-height tables and participate in active play stations.
Sister Dance hopes the exhibit for children will be fun, engaging and draw them in. But more importantly, she said, “we hope the children will feel the Savior’s love for them and feel drawn towards His temples — drawn to return to this exhibit, drawn to learn more of temples, and drawn to follow Him more clearly.”
A timely exhibit
Church History Museum director Alan Johnson said plans for the exhibit began long before his team knew about the Salt Lake Temple renovation. The timing for the exhibit could not have been better.
“Folks can go look at the construction, and then they can come here and learn about what happens in temples,” he said.
To create the best experience for introducing children to the temple, the Church History Museum partnered with the Primary organization, Temple Department, Family History Department and Friend magazine.
“This exhibit is not only for members of our faith, but we hope all children and all families who enter will feel drawn to the Savior, His temple and seek to learn more,” Sister Dance said.
Maryanne Stewart Andrus, team lead of the exhibit’s development, said, “We’ve tried to be really conscious of our nonmember friends and wanting to help them understand. So a lot of our training has been how can we answer questions and be really clear and helpful to people.”
The design of the exhibit gives children an experience in a three-dimensional space to “identify and feel comfortable with the temple,” Andrus said. “I really hope they gain a stronger sense of excitement to learn and go to the temple.”
At the entrance of the exhibit is a large picture of young Jesus leaving the temple to help focus the tone of the exhibit on the Savior.
Next to the picture of young Jesus is a world map with dots for every temple in operation, under construction or announced. Newly announced temples will continue to be added. Children can learn more about each temple on a touchscreen.
“Going all the way back to knowing that the Savior loved the temple … all the way up until today with temples dotting the earth — it’s just a wonderful way to put it into the historical context of ‘we are a temple-building people’ and always have been and that continues today,” Johnson said.
After they pass the world map, children can stand at a replica of the Conference Center podium with a painted backdrop of the Tabernacle Choir. An adjacent touchscreen features quotes from each Latter-day prophet about temples.
A lifesize cutout of President Russell M. Nelson stands next to a speech bubble that reads: “We have been a temple building people under the direction of the Lord from day one.”
In the main area of the exhibit, children can draw an architectural rendering of a pioneer temple using a stencil, play computer games to build a temple or learn temple trivia, and stack custom-made blocks to build a temple spire with an Angel Moroni at the top. They can build different rooms of a temple with sliding photo cards.
Another area tells the story of a Latter-day Saint family in Brazil in the 1970s who traveled over 3,000 miles from Manaus to Sao Paulo to attend the temple. Children can move buses, cars and boats around a racetrack.
A toddler area for children ages 1-3 replicates some of these same experiences.
Behind these activity stations is an area depicting the inside of a temple. A wall-sized mural of the inside of the Payson Utah Temple includes descriptions of several rooms in a temple and the five basic promises made with God.
Children can also stand nose-to-nose with an ox encased in plexiglass and learn more about baptism for the dead. The ox statue previously resided in the baptistry of the Frankfurt Germany Temple.
More information about the new children’s exhibit can be found at History.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/faq/museum/temples-dot-the-earth-building-the-house-of-the-lord.