SALT LAKE CITY — Lucy Mack Smith's 1841 edition of the Book of Mormon and the original 1842 Relief Society minute book are two of 65 historical items to be displayed in this year's "Treasures of the Collection" exhibit at the Church History Library.
Letters, photos, journals and other historical artifacts from the early days of the Relief Society will highlight the three-day exhibit at the Church History Library, located just east of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
"We were asked if we would focus on the Relief Society in conjunction with the publishing of the book, 'Daughters of My Kingdom, The History and Work of Relief Society," said April Williamsen, a public programming specialist at the Church History Library. "We are focused on the women of the church and how Relief Society has affected their lives."
The event will open at the library (15 E. North Temple) on Saturday, Sept. 24, the day of the general Relief Society meeting, and again on conference weekend, Friday, Sept. 30, from noon to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 1, from noon to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.
The first "Treasures of the Collection" event occurred in connection with the April 2010 general conference. Popular artifacts included two copies of the Book of Mormon — a worn copy originally belonging to Hyrum Smith and one signed by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and James Lovell, who manned Gemini XII. Also on display was an original manuscript of the Book of Commandants, known today as the Doctrine and Covenants.
The exhibits became so popular that the church decided to make "Treasures of the Collection" a general conference weekend tradition. "Not everyone can waltz in here and see these kinds of documents," said Patrick Dunshee, manager of marketing and communications for the Church History Department. "So it became a semiannual event."
The display will have 10 exhibit cases including themes of testimony, war, celebration, health, the new Relief Society building, record keeping, membership, publication, industry and charity.
Here are five highlights from the items that will be on display.
1. The personal and engraved 1841 copy of the Book of Mormon of Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, along with a painting of her sitting in a rocking chair holding the very Book of Mormon. There is also a handwritten letter from Lucy to her brother Soloman Mack in which she shares her testimony of the Book or Mormon. "This showed the importance of the Book of Mormon in her life," Williamsen said.
2. A beautifully hand-printed letter authored by Japanese members of the Relief Society to all Relief Society members in America in 1950. The letter expresses gratitude for the assistance their American sisters provided to them after World War II. A photo shows the general Relief Society presidency reading the letter. "The Japanese and Americans had been enemies," Williamsen said. "But they were responding and saying thank you."
3. The original 1842 Relief Society minute book and other similar documents. Women living in the old fort in Cedar City also pooled their resources to create a minute book in 1856. This book will also be on display.
"In Cedar Fort the women donated a sheet of paper, a precious commodity," Williamsen said. "This (book) was their pearl of great price."
4. A letter from Herbert Hoover, U.S. Wartime Food Administrator, and a speech by Utah Congressman Milton H. Welling recognizing the efforts of the Relief Society in storing wheat. These items will be on display in the "Sisters in Charity" exhibit.
5. A dress made using silk, along with other interesting items produced using silk.
The Relief Society sisters were industrious. They planted mulberry trees to raise silkworms and used the silk to sew dresses.
Williamsen hopes all those who visit the "Treasures of the Collections" leave with a great appreciation for the Relief Society organization.
"I hope they feel like they have learned something," she said. "I hope they have seen a part of what women in the Relief Society did, how it affected their lives and how many things are still the same. We still work together today to do these things today."
For more information, visit the Church History Library website at www.churchhistorylibrary.org or call 801-240-2272.
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