Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

3-month exhibition in New York City

Published: Saturday, July 12, 1997

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A large collection of Church artifacts is now on display at the New York Historical Society, one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in New York City. The museum recently opened a three-month exhibition on the Restoration of the Church and the pioneer trek to the Salt Lake Valley.

Hundreds of New Yorkers attended a reception at the Society on June 25, hosted by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Barbara. Elder Ballard met with a number of New York media and business executives at the event, including Howell Raines, editor of the editorial page of The New York Times; Nyron Kandel, financial editor at CNN, and philanthropist Henry Luce III. Also attending were stake presidents and other Church members from the New York area.In his address at the reception, Elder Ballard noted the long history of the Church in New York state. From the Church's beginnings in upstate New York to the first printings of the Book of Mormon in 1830 in Palmyra, the state of New York has played a major role in the Restoration, Elder Ballard said.

The association between the Church and the New York Historical Society dates almost to the same period. After translating a portion of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith consulted linguists, including Dr. Charles Anthon, who were associated with the Society. The Society has long collected materials related to the Church, including a rare pencil sketch of Joseph Smith from the Nauvoo period.

The mounting of the exhibition followed months of collaboration between the Society's curators and Dr. Glen Leonard, director of the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City. Prior to the exhibition opening, Brother Leonard spent a week in New York consulting with the Historical Society and managing final preparations.

As with many other activities this Pioneer Sesquicentennial year, the New York exhibition honors the pioneer trek of 1847. A section of the exhibition titled "Brigham Young and the Great Western Migration" is devoted to artifacts from the Pioneers' arduous 1,000-mile journey from Winter Quarters, Neb., to the Salt Lake Valley.

Also in honor of the Sesquicentennial, the reception featured a handcart made by members of the Church in Siberia, Russia, to commemorate those used by the original Pioneers nearly 150 years ago.

The handcart arrived in New York the day before the exhibition opened after completing a 14-city journey across Russia and the Ukraine. (See Church News, March 8, 1997, and June 28, 1997.) Following its brief appearance in New York, the handcart will be taken to Salt Lake City where it will join the wagon train commemorating the original trek.

Other elements of the Historical Society exhibition include "Beginnings in New York State, 1820-30," which includes a first edition of the Book of Mormon and photographs of upstate locations important in Church history; "The Gatherings to Ohio and Missouri, 1831-38," which highlights an early Church newspaper and personal belongings of early Latter-day Saints; and "Seeking Refuge in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-46," featuring a hymn book published by Emma Smith in 1841, as well as leather wallets that belonged to Joseph and Emma.

In his remarks at the reception, Elder Ballard noted the special affinity Joseph Smith felt not only for New York state, but for the city also. Elder Ballard referred to a letter written by the prophet after he had ventured to New York City in the 1830s to arrange financing for the Church. Elder Ballard quoted:

"This day I have been walking through the most splendid park of the city of New York. The buildings are truly great and wonderful to the astonishing of every beholder, and the language of my heart is like this. Can the great God of all Earth, maker of all things magnificent and splendid, be displeased with man for all these great inventions. My answer is no - it cannot be."

A highlight of the exhibit's opening evening was a performance of "Come, Come, Ye Saints," by Manhattan members of the Church, featuring guest soloist Ariel Bybee of the Metropolitan Opera.