“Kwang Ju, Korea,” New Era, Oct. 1975, 9
As morning gathers around the city of Kwang Ju, Korea, the small glass-fronted office waits expectantly. It seems to watch as farmers trundle their carts down the narrow road on their way to market. Soon the street is filled with commuters on bicycles dodging scurrying pedestrians to the blaring accompaniment provided by nervous taxi drivers. When the raucous pace slows a bit, two smiling young women take their places outside the building.
Pedestrians walking by the office peer through its windows. The curious stop to examine a painting of a building like no other building they have seen before. Six white spires rise out of a gleaming white structure, and on one of the spires perches an angel with a trumpet to his lips. As they stop to look, one of the young ladies, a sister missionary, steps up to invite them inside the Kwang Ju Visitors Center.
The center opened in August of 1974. It was an experiment of President Eugene P. Till of the Korea Seoul Mission. President Till wanted a way to contact and teach large groups of people. The new missionary lessons guided the center’s layout and content, and several skillful missionaries constructed and put it together. Just as the first missionary lesson gives the story of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Savior’s visit to the Americas, the center illustrates the same story with the help of murals and displays created by the elders.
Entering the center from the busy street, visitors are greeted by full-time missionaries. The tour begins with four paintings illustrating the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In fluent Korean the missionaries bear their testimonies before a diorama of Joseph’s first vision. Next, a series of pictures and scriptural quotations explain the necessity of prophets.
The Book of Mormon is introduced by a painting of Moroni delivering the plates to Joseph Smith. In the Book of Mormon room there are eight-foot replicas of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. These open to display maps explaining where they came from and contain information on why the Book of Mormon is necessary. Finally, Christ’s ministry to the Nephites is pictorially presented.
The tour ends before an 8-by-20-foot mural of the heavens. People who just a few minutes earlier were thinking only about getting to work or the market on time are asked the questions, “Where did you come from? Why are you here? Where are you going after this life is over?” Before leaving the center for the street outside, visitors have had a thorough introduction to the Church, and many make appointments with the missionaries.
The center has been so successful that there are plans for expansion. President Till wants to add a room where interested families can be taught the gospel. Other displays are also being worked on. One elder has completed a scale model of Jerusalem that illustrates the location of important events during the last week of Christ’s ministry in the Old World.
At the end of the day the street quiets down and the center closes its doors for another day. But the following morning another curious person will stop to puzzle at a picture of a white, spired building, and the visitors center will welcome him in.