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Church History Library Dedication

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 20, 2009

The new Church History Library was dedicated this morning (Saturday, June 20), between 11:00 a.m. and noon.

After the last of the open houses and tours concluded late Thursday evening, workmen removed the display cases holding samples of the materials archived in the library, and carried away all the tables and chairs from the two reading rooms, and all the furniture from the lobby. They erected a raised platform at the north end of the main library reading room, with its podium placed so that everyone in that room and most in the lobby could see it. They moved in an organ, and hooked up speakers and television lighting and large flat-screen televisions in all three rooms so that no matter where guests were seated, they could see and hear. Then they filled all three rooms with chairs, enough to seat several hundred guests.

By 9:30, guests were lining up outside the main entrance, which wouldn’t open until 10:00. It was a happy crowd, and the morning was sunny (in contrast to the dark skies pouring rain this afternoon). The organ, played by Michael F. Moody, covered much of the chatter as everyone found seats in their assigned rooms. A few people holding tickets to the main room apparently did not come, and at 10:45 a few lucky late arrivals who had been expecting to sit at the back of the lobby were escorted into the main room to use those empty seats. A dozen cameramen, some recording the event for the Church and some representing the press, stood behind the long reference desk and caught everything in their lenses.

A few minutes before 11:00, President Monson and his counselors, and President Packer with several other members of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with other speakers and pray-ers, entered the room. Everyone stood in respect to President Monson.

Promptly at 11:00, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder, called us to order, welcomed everyone, and announced the first few items on the program. We all sang “Redeemer of Israel,” and Richard E. Turley, Jr., Assistant Church Historian, opened with prayer.

There were four speakers, with a musical number:

Elder Jensen spoke first, describing the completion of the building as the culmination of a long line of makeshift historical quarters from the earliest days of the Church, through a number of more formal libraries in various downtown Salt Lake City buildings – better than the early days, but always becoming quickly inadequate as Church records grew from the two boxes packed for transport across the plains to the millions of items held today. He quoted from dedicatory prayers at earlier offices, emphasizing the dedication of the record keepers and their desire to preserve our history and transmit it to us.

Bishop H. David Burton (the Presiding Bishop) spoke in more temporal terms, thanking the architects and contractors, and telling the stories of some the specialists who had come from elsewhere to help make this the finest building of its kind anywhere. He described parts of the physical plant and the technology intended to protect historical materials from deterioration.

A chorus of six men and six women, all employees of the Historical Department, sang “Sweet is the Work.” These are people that colleagues and patrons see every day handling telephones and manuscripts and computer keyboards. It was fun to see them in a new way, displaying talents that ordinarily aren’t on display at work.

Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke next, representing all of the patrons who will come to the library to search out the story of the past. All eight of his great-grandparents came from Europe as converts to the Church, and he told the story of his grandmother, Amanda Jensen Nelson, and her parents. He had known her, he said, as his grandmother, the lady who baked delicious raisin sugar cookies, but until she was gone and her story was found in a predecessor library to this one, he had not known her history. The gospel came to her family after her father was imprisoned for calling to repentance the people – including the king – of Norway. While he was in prison, two Mormon elders were also jailed. The elders sang hymns to the other prisoners, and Johan Jensen responded. He and his family, including twin daughters just two months old sailed for America, and then crossed the continent. One of those baby girls (Julie, I see by Family Search) died en route; the other grew to be his grandmother Amanda.

President Monson was the concluding speaker. He said he had first become impressed with the need for records when he was called as a ward clerk, and he determined that the minutes he kept would be so complete that there would be no question in the future of anything that had happened in those meetings. He told about the podium that all the speakers had been using. It had been the one in the chapel where he grew up, and where he served as a bishop. He gave his first talk at that podium, as a young boy with a Sunday School assignment for a 2-1/2 minute talk. He chose as his topic the story of the seagulls and the crickets (“I always loved birds,” he said). As part of his preparation, he went to Temple Square to see the monument there … and he admitted that what he noticed first was all the coins thrown into the fountain, and he gave some consideration as to how to retrieve some of those coins without being seen. Later, that podium became his altar as he worked late in his bishop’s office; he would kneel in a darkened chapel with his hand on the right edge of the podium, seeking the wisdom he needed as a bishop.

President Monson also spoke about building for the future, that men should build for the future and not merely for the present, that when the things they built were old, their children would revere them because their fathers had built with them in mind.

He then asked us to close our eyes as he offered a dedicatory prayer. He dedicated the building and the activities that would go on under its roof to the Lord and his kingdom, and asked that those who came there would be inspired by “the legacy of the past, the opportunity of the present, and the brightness of the future.” He prayed that the building and its contents would be protected from any harm, whether by man or by nature.

The closing hymn was “High on the Mountain Top,” and the benediction was offered by Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President.

As we left, workmen began stacking the chairs, and no doubt by now the furniture has been replaced and the building is ready for staff and patrons to carry on the historical work of the Church on Monday morning.

How blessed I am to be a part of that.



25 Comments »

  1. Just remembered this line from Elder Nelson that I had wanted to include: He said that this library would help us learn “not only what they did, but why they did it.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 20, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  2. Excellent write-up. Thanks so much.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 20, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

  3. [...] and humbled that I was able to do so.  Ardis has also posted her impressions of the proceedings at Keepa, be sure to check them out. [...]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Notes From The Dedication of the Church History Library, June 20, 2009 — June 20, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

  4. Many wonderful moments. My favorite, from Elder Jensen’s talk . . .

    Much like the Ark of the Covenant which was temporarily housed in the Tabernacle during Israel’s wanderings, and finally found a more permanent home in Solomon’s temple, so now have the treasures of Church history found a welcome resting place here.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — June 20, 2009 @ 7:13 pm

  5. Were you there, Rick?!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 20, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  6. Great report, Ardis. I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.

    Comment by Jared T. — June 20, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  7. #5 – There in spirit only. I taped the dedication (BYU channel)here at home and enjoyed every minute.

    Following the services, BYU showed the fifteen-minute special which you described recently (which includes the episode of Bro. Millet providing flour to a neighbor in need, and the record transcription now being preserved at the Library). Following that, they played Elder Jensen’s keynote address in Provo last February. A great two hours.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — June 20, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  8. Thank you, Ardis and Rick! What a marvelous place!

    Comment by Ben Pratt — June 20, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

  9. Thanks for the wonderful notes. It’s nice for those of us who couldn’t be there to be able to participate a bit.

    Comment by Hunter — June 20, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

  10. Oh how I wish I could have been there! Thanks for the write up Ardis.

    Comment by Tracy M — June 20, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  11. I wish the real interesting stuff was on display, instead of still in the church vaults. How much good could come of learning from real history! Think of how much better we could become as people and Mormons!

    Comment by GD — June 20, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  12. “Blessed” indeed. Thanks Ardis!

    Comment by Clean Cut — June 20, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  13. Thank you so much for this, Ardis!

    And thank you for your service.

    Comment by m&m — June 21, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  14. Thanks for the description of the event, Ardis, and thanks to Rick for mentioning that the dedication was on byutv. (I see it listed on Saturday at 11:00–unfortunately it won’t be available for more than a couple of weeks.)

    Comment by Researcher — June 21, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  15. I was so glad to read the details. Don’t you love President Monson’s stories? I wish I could be there to see the new building. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — June 21, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  16. This is a dumb question, probably, but where is the new library? I’ve been waiting for it to reopen, so I could check out something in Bikuben, a Danish language newspaper published in Utah, but just realized I don’t know where it is. I’m going to be in Utah for a few days at the end of this week, so maybe I can make it in to the library too. Is the catalog online? I know they have the newspaper, but no details.

    Comment by Paula — June 21, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  17. Paula, it on North Temple and Main — not quite directly across the street from the Church Office Building across North Temple, and directly across the street from the Conference Center across Main. 15 East North Temple.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 21, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  18. Thanks Ardis– and is everything transferred over now? One article in the Trib kind of was ambiguous on whether that was completed or not. I’m thinking I probably won’t make it in on this trip, but a girl can dream…

    Comment by Paula — June 21, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  19. It’s complete, Paula. The move was done ahead of schedule and under budget, and everything is set up in new quarters now. It has been for weeks, although they are finally opening the doors for work tomorrow morning. In twelve hours and 29 minutes, as a matter of fact. But who’s counting?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 21, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

  20. I want to thank you also, Ardis. I enjoyed attending the open house with you and would like to have been to the dedication. But, an out-of-state family reunion won out. I probably won’t get down until next week.

    Comment by Maurine — June 22, 2009 @ 1:11 am

  21. Thank you for that write-up, Ardis. My mom has recently shared with me some of her research using the new Family Search. She has a stack of work to complete and much more research to do.

    I look forward to a day when I have more time to assist with the research portion of the work and to one day have the privilege of visiting this new library.

    Comment by Brian Duffin — June 22, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  22. Great work.

    Comment by smb — June 22, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  23. That is really cool. I liked that the podium was from his old ward. My mother grew up in that ward when Pres. Monson was Bishop.

    The ward and the chapel are long gone. It is all commercial now. My mother and her sister once went around to see the three remaining houses within the old sixth-seventh ward boundries. I’ll bet she’d love to have seen this and the podium.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 22, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  24. So I’m totally late on this but I haven’t had internet for awhile. My favorite quote was actually from Rick Turley’s prayer when he prayed that we would learn from and show reverence for the people whose lives are documented there in the library, “that when our lives are studied as thoroughly and meticulously, there may be found therein subjects worthy of emulation.”

    Comment by Meghan — July 10, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  25. Wonderful quote, Meghan, thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 10, 2009 @ 9:14 am

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