SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday unveiled a new collection that features some of the faith's most treasured artifacts, including a page from the original Book of Mormon manuscript written by founder Joseph Smith.
The "Foundations of Faith" exhibit that opens to the public this week in the church's history library in Salt Lake City also includes 26 other books, manuscripts and documents that go back to the early days of Mormonism. The Book of Mormon is considered the religion's most valuable manuscript, said Richard E. Turley, assistant church historian and recorder.
The exhibit, unveiled by church historians at a news conference, marks the latest example of the faith being more open and transparent about its history.
A year ago, the church began releasing books containing historical documents that shed light on how Smith formed the church in upstate New York more than 180 years ago.
The religion also recently issued a series of in-depth articles that explain or expand on some of the more sensitive parts of its history and doctrine that it once sidestepped. Articles have addressed the religion's past ban on black men in the lay clergy and the early history of polygamy.
The exhibit contains first printed editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. All are keystone documents for the faith that counts 15 million members worldwide and is based in Salt Lake City. Smith's journal from 1832 to 1834 also is in the collection.
"These four display cases comprise our most precious documents," Steven E. Snow, church historian and recorder. "They go to the foundation of our faith. These are our spiritual roots."
Some of the earliest records in the collection were carefully maintained as church headquarters moved from New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Missouri and Illinois, and finally to Utah in 1847 after a trek across country by early church members.