Making the Most of Church Historic Sites and Visitors’ Centers

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“Making the Most of Church Historic Sites and Visitors’ Centers,” Ensign, June 1999, 77

Making the Most of Church Historic Sites and Visitors’ Centers

Speakers at the annual seminar for directors of Church visitors’ centers and historic sites included Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy, who serves as executive director of the Missionary Department, and Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy, who serves as executive director of the Historical Department. Highlights of their remarks are followed by a list of Church historic sites and visitors’ centers.

Elder Earl C. Tingey said, “In the last two years there have probably been more directions and policies on missionary work … from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve than in almost any span of time before then.”

He continued, “This is the result of a challenge from President Hinckley to all members of the Church to work to make a major change in the retention of new converts.”

Elder Tingey said that visitors’ centers and historic sites can be “an integral part of the process that results in converts.” Noting that family history computers are now installed at visitors’ centers and historical sites, he said, “In a visitors’ center, with the Christus in the background and after a film on the family has been shown, the visitors enter the name of an ancestor in a computer, and in an instant it can pull up a pedigree chart or a list of names. Can you imagine what that will do? The proclamation on the family, the doctrine of eternal life, the purpose of temples will all fall into place.”

At another time, Elder John K. Carmack said, “The message, the faith and courage, the doctrine, the events, the geographical places, the artifacts—they are all part of the story of the Restoration.”

He continued, “These things happened in real places, in the near past. Places and things still exist that remind us of these foundational things that let us see and feel. And the Spirit is still there; thus visitors can personally experience these sacred events and strengthen their testimonies of the Restoration in profound and sensory ways.” He continued: “It seems like these places have been preserved. Why? So that we can reach out and touch them and feel the spirit of the Restoration of the gospel.”

Sites and Centers

Church visitors’ centers and historical sites with missionary staffs include, in order of historical chronology:

Joseph Smith Memorial, Sharon, Vermont

Joseph Smith Sr. Farm, Manchester Township, New York

Sacred Grove, Manchester Township, New York

Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center, Manchester Township, New York

Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site, Palmyra, New York

Peter Whitmer Farm, Fayette Township, New York

Newel K. Whitney Store and Home, Kirtland, Ohio

John Johnson Farmhouse, Hiram, Ohio

Independence Visitors’ Center, Missouri

Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri

Nauvoo Historic District and Visitors’ Center, Nauvoo, Illinois

Carthage Jail, Carthage, Illinois

Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Omaha, Nebraska

Temple Square, Salt Lake City

San Diego Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center, California

Mormon Handcart Visitors’ Center, Alcova, Wyoming

Beehive House, Salt Lake City

Jacob Hamblin Home, Santa Clara, Utah

Cove Fort, Utah

Brigham Young Winter Home, St. George, Utah

St. George Tabernacle, St. George, Utah

In addition, visitors’ centers are located near Church temples in Mesa, Arizona; Laie, Hawaii; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Mexico City, Mexico; Hamilton, New Zealand; St. George, Utah; and Washington, D.C. Several other historical sites are owned and maintained by the Church but not staffed.

A replica of a pioneer log home is on display at the Independence Visitors’ Center, Missouri. (Photo by Timothy L. Taggart.)