On February 12, 2020, the Church History Museum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a new children’s exhibit titled Temples Dot the Earth: Building the House of the Lord, with an opening reception at 6:30 p.m. at the Church History Museum.
The museum has featured exhibits designed and built especially for children from the mid-1980s, when the museum was first opened. Museum director Alan Johnson has described the essential mission of the museum for children and adults alike, noting, “The purpose of the Church History Museum is to provide our patrons with opportunities to connect to the growing history of the Church. Children’s exhibits offer unique and engaging ways to do so. We hope everyone interested in learning more about temples will come and see this new exhibit.” Other recent children’s exhibits have included “I Am a Child of God,” “Book of Mormon Celebración for Children,” and “I’ll Walk Where Jesus Walked: An Art Space for Children.”
“We have been a temple-building people under the direction of the Lord from day one,” Church president Russell M. Nelson has declared. However, Latter-day Saints and others familiar with Latter-day Saint temples may not often equate temple attendance with children. This interactive children’s exhibit will provide many ways for member children to become more familiar with temples in those early years before they attend the temple. Latter-day Saint youth will also find activities, programs, and historical artifacts designed to increase their sense of recognition of and comfort in and around Latter-day Saint temples. The exhibition may also satisfy the interests and questions of community members who are not of the Latter-day Saint faith.
“One of our main goals in designing and installing this exhibition was to help youth and children know of the many beautiful features and purposes for building and attending temples. We hope they gain a sense of love and awe for these special places of worship,” explains Maryanne Andrus, team leader for the exhibition planning team. “The exhibition offers many activities and hands-on experiences, as well as beautiful imagery from actual temples, to help young members, older adults, and community neighbors gain appreciation for these unique, holy sanctuaries,” she added. This exhibition emphasizes that temple appreciation is for everyone, young and old.
The exhibit’s bright colors, low tables and chairs, child-height interactive activities, and hands-on experiences create a space that is welcoming and child-friendly. Wayne Pullman, the exhibition’s designer, sought to communicate “that no matter the place or culture across the world, Latter-day Saint temples can be an integral and positive part of a child’s life.” He was particularly pleased with how well the colorful, lively graphic design murals of the exhibition artist, Bryan Beach, communicate that message. Pullman hopes that the art and design will help make temples visually accessible and more comfortably familiar to children and youth from countries across the world.
The entrance to Temples Dot the Earth features a large painting of the boy Jesus leaving the temple in Jerusalem, created by artist Matthew Judd. This artwork sets a theme for the exhibit, establishing that the Savior Jesus Christ is at the center of Latter-day Saint temple worship. The exhibition explores how temples come into being: how revelation guides the process; how design and construction are planned, both in the Mormon pioneer era and contemporary times; and how these sacred buildings are finished, dedicated, and attended by faithful members. Several historical artifacts are on display in child-height protective cases, encouraging young visitors to see and appreciate history, up close, and helping them to make memories while having fun. A large statue of an ox, a historical artifact that once resided in the Frankfurt Germany Temple, is a dynamic example of a chance to stand nose to nose with the past.
Activities for children, primarily those aged 1 to 11, fill the exhibition. Active play stations help reinforce the messages of revelation, temple design and construction, sacrifices that individuals have made to attend temples, and the importance of family in temple ordinances. When asked how he knew what activities would resonate with children, museum educator and planning team member Craig Rohde replied with a smile, “Because I haven’t grown up! If I like playing with it, kids probably will too.” His favorite activity tells the story of a group of Brazilian Latter-day Saints who traveled over three thousand miles, by boat and bus, from Manaus, Brazil, to Sao Paulo in order to attend the temple. Their story is built in three dimensions on a wooden toy table, with boats, buses, and cars winging around the track, traveling through the toy-sized buildings and landscape of Sao Paulo. https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/manaus-brazil-temple-caravan?lang=eng)
A veritable army of specialists are required to pull off an exhibit of this kind. Andrew Schmidt, project manager of the exhibition, noted, “Many talented people worked on the exhibit—designers, illustrators, printers, carpenters, and software developers, just to name a few. We had to make sure that team members knew what everyone else was working on so that the exhibit would come together as a cohesive whole. We have all been committed to creating an exhibit that delighted children and taught them about the temple.”
Temples Dot the Earth: Building the House of the Lord opens February 13, 2020, to the general public, with the opening reception the evening prior, February 12, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. It is anticipated that the exhibition will remain open for approximately four years. “The timing of the opening of this exhibit is indeed fortuitous,” stated museum educator and planning team member Ray Halls. We didn’t realize when we began planning some three years ago, that the Salt Lake temple would be closed for major renovation in 2020. How wonderful it is that this exhibition is open to all during a time when the temple itself is resting and not accessible.”
More information about Temples Dot the Earth can be found at History.churchofjesuschrist.org/faq/museum/temples-dot-the-earth-building-the-house-of-the-lord (This website will be live Feb. 8, 2020)
About the Church History Museum: The Church History Museum, near Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, houses important artifacts and artwork related to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The museum is open to the public Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Admission is free.