Act fast: 5 can’t-miss LDS Church history artifacts to see this week

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The death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith will be on display for another week, until the museum renovation begins Oct. 6. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

The death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith will be on display for another week until the museum renovation begins on Monday, Oct. 6. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

After nearly 30 years, 7 million visitors and more than 108 different exhibits, it’s time for a renovation of the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

The museum will be open through Sunday, Oct. 5 and close the next day for major interior renovations. It will remain closed for one year, with an aim to finish before general conference in October 2015.

“While we’re saddened about the closing for a year, we’re very excited about the prospects of the future,” said Elder Steven E. Snow of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who is also Church historian and recorder. “We’re confident that the renovations and new exhibit will be become a very popular visit for our members and friends alike.”

But visitors still have a week to see the current exhibit before the museum closes. Here are five artifacts you don’t want to miss.

1. Death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

The current exhibit is called “A Covenant Restored,” which includes artifacts from 1820 through the Salt Lake period of Church history. It includes many objects of interest, including pioneer-related artifacts from well-known people and original works of art. Among these are the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, taken just after their deaths in 1844.

“Taking death masks was popular in that time period,” said Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum. “It was a way to remember those who recently passed away. It’s one of the most popular artifacts we have here now.”

2. Original Book of Mormon manuscript page

The museum has several pages from the original Book of Mormon manuscript. These pages are rotated periodically within the display. The page on display now contains 1 Nephi 11:1-18, which was recorded while Oliver Cowdery worked with Joseph Smith as scribe.

3. Nauvoo Temple stones

Stones from the original Nauvoo Temple, which was dedicated in 1846 and destroyed by fire in 1848, are also on display at the Church History Museum. The stones were originally quarried near the city of Nauvoo and are a high-quality limestone. Before the temple was destroyed, the walls were three feet thick at ground level. Some individual stones weighed up to 4,000 pounds.

4. Gold coins used in early Utah

During the early Salt Lake period of Church history, Brigham Young called a few missionaries to California to mine for gold. Some of this gold was used to create coins that were used as currency in the Utah settlement. Some of these gold coins are now on display in the Church History Museum, visible to visitors now.

5. International art competition winners

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosts an international art competition every three years. Some of the winners’ work is on display now, including work from artists in Brazil, Venezuela, India, Tahiti and African countries.

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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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