‘A Good Turn Christmas’ exhibit opens at Church History Museum

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This nativity set from Ghana will be on display. Several unique crèche (nativity) sets from around the world will be on display as part of the exhibit. Photo courtesy Church History Museum.

This nativity set from Ghana will be on display. Several unique crèche (nativity) sets from around the world will be on display as part of the exhibit. (Photo courtesy Church History Museum)

The Church History Museum in Salt Lake City traditionally displays nativity sets from around the world at Christmastime. But this year marks the historic 100th anniversary of the Church’s partnership with Boy Scouts of America, and curators wanted this year’s Christmas display to incorporate both.

The result was “A Good Turn Christmas,” an exhibit opening Nov. 23 and lasting until Jan. 12, 2014. The exhibit celebrates Christlike acts of service with a nod to the Boy Scouts of America’s slogan to do a good turn daily.

“We’ve tied scouting in with the traditional Christmas message—the message of our Savior and His birth,” said Ray Halls, curator of education and exhibitions at the Church History Museum. “We have a few international nativities that enhance the Christmas story that we’re trying to tell. We also have items—some of them nativities—that represent a good deed. We wanted to meld Christmas and scouting together.”

Twenty-thee Norman Rockwell paintings portraying boy scouts, including this one titled "We Thank Thee, O Lord," are on display as part of a larger exhibit on scouting. (Photo courtesy Church History Museum)

Twenty-thee Norman Rockwell paintings portraying boy scouts, including this one titled “We Thank Thee, O Lord,” are on display as part of a larger exhibit on scouting. (Photo courtesy Church History Museum)

And they’ve done just that. One of the nativity sets was created by The Happy Factory, an organization that makes wooden toys for ill and needy children. To date, The Happy Factory has sent more than 1.2 million toys to more than 600 different organizations, groups and people in 180 countries.

“That’s what makes it such a wonderful item for our Christmas exhibit,” Halls said. “That set represents millions of good deeds.”

The exhibit also features a cane that once belonged to Joseph Smith. The story of the cane indicates that Joseph Smith was in Nauvoo in the 1840s when he saw Joseph Knight, Sr., looking old and feeble as he walked down a street. Joseph offered the old man his can, insisting that Father Knight needed it more than he did.

Other displays focus on the marriage of scouting and service. A MicroTile display shows a video of Boy Scouts telling stories of good deeds. A booklet written by President James E. Faust just before he died entitled “Christmas and the Good Turn Diary” is also part of the collection.

A larger exhibit on scouting is also available for view throughout the Christmas season. This display features paintings of scouting scenes by Norman Rockwell, historic scouting documents, and artifacts that tell the story of scouting’s rich history in the Church.

“We’re really hoping that people will go away from this exhibit with a renewed desire to do good to their fellowman,” Halls said. “We want them to look around them and say, ‘What can I do to help? to make a difference?’ and to realize that it doesn’t have to be world-changing. We want them to go away wanting to do a good turn—to do good to others.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 801-240-4615 or visit the museum’s website for more information.

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Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

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