SALT LAKE CITY — As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commemorates the 40th anniversary of the priesthood and temple blessings being extended to all races in June, the Church History Library is inviting the public to view an exhibit of 16 items that help bring the history of black Latter-day Saints to life.
"This exhibit is significant because black Latter-day Saints have been part of the church since 1830. Their story is the story of the church," said Keith Erekson, library director. "We are excited to place documents, photographs, oral histories, autobiographies, all of these records on display for members of the church and members of the public, to understand the long connection that black members have had with the church and the significant contributions they've made over time."
The free exhibit, planned in timing with the First Presidency's June 1 "Be One" event, started May 21 and will run until June 9, and is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours will be extended to 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings, and on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The library will also stay open until 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 1, for people attending the "Be One" celebration.
The historic documents will be on display in two cases; one with items related to prominent members of the 19th century and the other displaying representative items from the 20th century.
Elijah Able's 1836 priesthood ordination record, Jane Manning James' dictated autobiography and Samuel Chamber's testimony, along with photographs, are among the 19th-century items.
The second display case features oral histories, testimonies and conversion stories from the 1970s to the present, including a history of the Genesis Group.
The goal was to tell the story of individuals as they connect to the larger story of the church, Erekson said.
"This exhibit was created to highlight individuals and their experiences in various locations and time periods," Erekson said. "There are stories from Jamaica, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria, the United States. There are people who are ordained to the priesthood, there were people waiting for the priesthood, there are people building the church in their communities even before missionaries officially arrived. We wanted to focus on individuals and give a broad sampling of the different kinds of experiences that men and women have had in the church over time."
Elise Reynolds, a specialist at the Church History Library, helped plan and coordinate the exhibit. She is moved not only by the testimonies of male members affected by the priesthood ban, but also by the faith of their families.
"They are amazing stories and part of our history," Reynolds said. "I personally love the stories of individuals and this exhibit does a good job of sharing those very personal experiences."
"We invite everyone to visit the exhibit," Erekson said.
For more information on the exhibit of black Latter-day Saint history, visit history.lds.org.