“Church Visitors’ Centers Put Technology to Work,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 76–77
High technology is being used in innovative ways to help teach the gospel to members of the Church and those of other faiths. In newly remodeled visitors’ centers in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City, Mexico, interactive technology helps guests learn about Church teachings of their choice. The same type of high-tech teaching will also be in use on Temple Square in Salt Lake City beginning this fall.
In the centers, visitors can touch a computer screen in an exhibit on prophets, for example, to choose one of several gospel topics they’d like to learn about. A video segment instantly appears of a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaching about that topic.
In a plan of salvation exhibit, guests can touch a computer screen to choose video segments of children explaining basic elements of the plan. By touching yet another screen, visitors can view footage of Church members, some of whom live near the visitors’ center, who share how various aspects of the gospel, including the Book of Mormon, have blessed their lives.
The “Life of Christ” exhibit includes a large, three-dimensional replica of Jerusalem. Around the perimeter of the map are small pictures of scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. When visitors push the button below each picture, the map lights up in the location where the corresponding event took place, such as at Gethsemane or Golgotha, and an audio account of the event is played.
David E. Salisbury, recently released director of the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center, said both members and nonmembers have reacted positively to the new exhibits. “These exhibits have been particularly effective in allowing those who choose not to take a tour with the sister missionaries to still personalize their visit,” said Brother Salisbury. Guests can even choose to interact with the exhibits in English or Spanish.
“Visitors especially seem to like the fact that they can be alone as they watch video segments of actual Church members sharing their personal experiences on gospel topics of the visitor’s choice,” Brother Salisbury said. “Some people will stay at such an exhibit for a long time.” After interacting with exhibits on their own, many guests then begin asking the sister missionaries questions about the gospel, he said.
The success of the high-tech exhibits in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City will soon spread elsewhere. Last November and January, the South and North Visitors’ Centers on Temple Square were closed for renovations. The two centers had not been substantially altered in more than two decades.
These remodeled visitors’ centers, scheduled to open this fall, will incorporate interactive technology similar to that used in Washington, D.C., and Mexico. Other changes will also emphasize the Salt Lake City centers’ focus on the Savior, says Richard Heaton of the Church Missionary Department, who oversees all visitors’ centers exhibits and tours.
The Christus statue will remain on the top floor of the north center, but large murals from the New Testament currently on the top floor will trade places with Old Testament murals on the ground floor. The new “Life of Christ” exhibit, with its large interactive replica of Jerusalem, will be placed in the center of the ground floor. “When visitors walk in, they’ll immediately see images of the Savior all around them,” says Brother Heaton.
Other new exhibits in Salt Lake City will focus on the family, temples, the scriptures, and principles of the Church welfare program. The scriptures and welfare exhibits include large dioramas featuring scenes from the Book of Mormon and the parable of the Good Samaritan.