SALT LAKE CITY — It was perhaps the highest concentration of LDS Church leadership ever gathered in the Church History Museum since it opened in downtown Salt Lake City 26 years ago.

Church President Thomas S. Monson on Thursday cut ribbons to open two new exhibits, one showcasing the work of some of the church's outstanding artists, the other an eclectic display of quilts symbolizing the global reach and history of Mormons and their faith.

President Monson's two counselors in the church's First Presidency, Presidents Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf, were on hand for the invitation-only event, as were three members of the Quorum of the Twelve and numerous other general authorities and auxiliary officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Our hope in having this little gathering tonight, in addition to opening these wonderful new exhibits, is just to acquaint you, the very best opinion makers of the church, with the wonderful treasure — sometimes hidden treasure — that this museum represents," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy. As church historian and recorder, Elder Jensen is executive director of the Church History Department, which oversees the museum.

The theme of the Church History Library, a state-of-the-art facility opened two years ago, is "The story lives here," Elder Jensen said. "Here at the museum, we just turn that phrase a little bit, and we like to say, 'The story is lived here.' And you'll see that tonight in the construction of these new exhibits. They're very engaging, interactive and reflect what's happened to the art and the status of the museums of the world in the last 26 years."

"Seek My Face: Recent Artwork on Scriptural Themes" features the recent work of 29 professional painters and sculptors. They were invited to create works evoking the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as contained in the Bible and Book of Mormon.

Walter Rane, Brian Kershisnik, Jonathan Linton, Emily McPhie and James Christensen are among the artists included.

A large painting, "Petition of the Blind" by J. Kirk Richards, is a highlight. It depicts Christ healing two blind men who are silhouetted against light surrounding Jesus.

The quilt exhibit, "Pieces of Me: Quilted Expressions of Human Ties," is not about quilts, Elder Jensen said. "It's about the human relationships that are represented by these tremendous works of art and the intertwinings of our lives as they're symbolized in these quilts."

Contrary to stereotype, quilts in the exhibit were created by men as well as women, he noted.

Exhibit items exemplify the role that quilts have played in events of Mormon families: baby blessings, baptisms, missionary service, etc.

Historic artifacts accompany some of the items. For example, one quilt highlights the 1978 revelation that allowed all worthy men in the church to hold the priesthood without regard to race. Displayed with that quilt is the radio that William Billy Johnson, an African member of the church, was listening to when he heard the news of the revelation as it was carried around the world.

The public will be invited to view the new quilt exhibit today at a special opening from 6:30 to 9 p.m. A brief opening reception will take place in the Museum Theater, and light refreshments will be served.

In coming months, guest speakers at the museum will discuss topics such as how to quilt, how to care for precious quilts and how quilts have changed lives. Admission is free, and groups may schedule tours in which docents dressed as pioneers will teach quilting techniques.

The museum is at 45 N. West Temple, directly west of Temple Square. For more information, see the website at