Museum Treasures

This series highlights some of the many treasures in the Church History Museum’s collection of more than 150,000 historical artifacts that tell the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from its earliest beginnings to the present day. Many of these items can be viewed in current exhibitions at the museum.

Museum Treasures: Early History of the Church to 1846

Circa 1811
A Narrative of the Life of Solomon Mack
Joseph Smith’s maternal grandfather, Solomon Mack, wrote this life sketch in 1811, when Joseph was a young boy.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1819
Jesse Townsend Sermon Text
Joseph Smith likely heard from many preachers in the years preceding the First Vision. Two he may have encountered in his search for the true Church were Reverend Jesse Townsend and Reverend George Lane.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1820s
Lucy Mack Smith’s Gold Bead
This tiny gold bead is easy to overlook among all the larger pieces in the museum, but it carries a story that gives us important insight into the faith and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s parents.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1915
The First Vision, Stained Glass
This stunning art glass window depicts one of the most pivotal moments in history: Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1923
Lewis A. Ramsey’s Painting of the Angel Moroni
Church leaders commissioned this painting from artist Lewis A. Ramsey in 1923 for the centennial of Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith. It was perhaps the first depiction of this sacred event in Church history by a trained artist, and for many years it was included in the large-print edition of the Book of Mormon.
Not on display
Circa 1820s
Alvin Smith’s Wooden Lap Desk
This simple wooden box may not be an impressive sight on its own, but what it held—even briefly—is one of the greatest treasures of our time.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1830
Martin Harris’s Wallet
This simple leather wallet belonged to Martin Harris, who is arguably one of the more complicated figures in early Church history.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1829
Book of Mormon Manuscript Pages
The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon contains few punctuation marks or paragraph breaks. Though the Book of Mormon text has since been updated with corrections, the precious truths it contains have remained unchanged through the centuries.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1829
Book of Mormon Printing Press
This printing press is from the shop of Egbert B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York. Modern for its time, the Smith Patented Improved Press greatly simplified the printing process and allowed the pressman to make an impression with one pull of a lever. It was this very printing press that issued the first copies of the Book of Mormon in 1830.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1820s
David Whitmer’s Trunk
This hide-covered traveling case belonged to David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Although it is unclear when or where David may have used this case, it is a tangible link to a key figure in early Latter-day Saint history.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1793
Mary Whitmer and Maria Louise Cowdery Samplers
Mary Whitmer and Maria Louise Cowdery belonged to families who played vital roles in the Restoration of the gospel from its earliest days.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1830
The Articles and Covenants of the Church
This document is one of several known handwritten copies of the Articles and Covenants of the Church, which would later become section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1830
Brigham Young’s Wood Lathe
Many who know of Brigham Young know little of his life before he became a prophet. This wood lathe from Brigham Young’s carpentry shop in Mendon, New York, sheds light on a lesser-known chapter in the life of this great man.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1830
Samuel Smith’s First-Edition Book of Mormon
Samuel H. Smith, though not as well known as his older brothers Joseph and Hyrum Smith, played an influential role in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1830
Newel K. Whitney’s Lap Desk
Even the most unremarkable item becomes a treasure when it is connected to someone we care about. What makes this particular lap desk a treasure is that it was owned and used by Newel K. Whitney, an early member of the Church and a friend and support to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1835
Original Kirtland Temple Window
Built by brothers Brigham and Joseph Young, this Gothic-arched window originally hung in the main-floor assembly room of the Kirtland Temple, a silent witness to the devotion of early Latter-day Saints and the outpouring of spiritual knowledge and manifestations they received.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1835
Sally Phelps’s Hymnal
In July 1830, Joseph Smith received a revelation directed to his wife, Emma, that would bring greater harmony to congregations and homes for generations to come. The Lord called Emma to “make a selection of sacred hymns” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:11), thus confirming divine approval of worshipful music in church services and solidifying what would become a long-standing tradition of reverent hymnody among the Latter-day Saints.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1830s
Brigham Young’s Thimble
This particular sewing aid is known as a tailor’s thimble, and it belonged to a skilled carpenter, community builder, and latter-day prophet—a man some now call an American Moses.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1830s
David W. Patten’s Rifle, Watch, and Powder Horn
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1835
Hawn’s Mill Face Wheel
This piece of cast-iron machinery is one of the few remaining pieces of the gristmill owned by Jacob Hawn. This mill was the site of what is now known as the Hawn’s Mill Massacre.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1841
Phebe Woodruff’s Mantle Clock
This beautiful clock was finely crafted by Henry Connor in 1841, and it was purchased by Wilford Woodruff as a gift for his wife Phebe during his first mission to England.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1842
Map of the City of Nauvoo
This map of Nauvoo was first printed in 1842 by Gustavus Hills, a recently converted member of the Church, and it illustrates the Saints’ optimistic expectations for their city. Members of the Church thought they had finally found a permanent home in Illinois. This was where they would build Zion.
Facsimile on display in Presidents of the Church.
Circa 1830s
Wilford Woodruff’s Red Silk Handkerchief
This red silk handkerchief is a vivid reminder of both Joseph Smith’s compassion and the power of God to heal the sick.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1842
Chandelier from the Red Brick Store
Learn about the beginning of what would become one of the largest women’s organizations in the world.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1842
Joseph Smith’s Office Sign
The sign that once labeled Joseph Smith’s office in Nauvoo’s Red Brick Store draws attention to his position as prophet, yet it hung in a place where he filled many additional roles.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1841-1846
Nauvoo Temple Architectural Drawings
The original Nauvoo Temple was an inspired masterpiece of architecture and craftsmanship. The Prophet Joseph Smith directed the work, but architect William Weeks translated those directions into workable plans.
Not on display.
Replica, Circa 1840s
Nauvoo Temple Sunstone
To early Church members, the sun breaking through clouds symbolized the dawning of the Restoration and the coming of gospel light to illuminate a dark earth. It is little wonder, then, that sunstones were featured prominently on the Nauvoo Temple.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1840s
Joseph Smith’s Personal Effects from the Nauvoo Legion
A blue woolen cloak, brass epaulets, a sword and scabbard, and a pistol stand among the Prophet Joseph Smith’s personal effects as evidence of his position as lieutenant general in the Nauvoo Legion.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1843
Relief Society Penny Box
When the Prophet Joseph Smith proposed that the temple in Nauvoo be built by tithing Church members, the Saints responded with energy.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1840
Cane Owned by John Taylor
Stephen Markham’s hickory “rascal beater” was made famous when it helped defend Joseph Smith from attackers at Carthage Jail.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1840
John Taylor’s Pocket Watch
This watch was in John Taylor’s vest pocket during the martyrdom at Carthage Jail, and Brother Taylor, who later became President of the Church, believed that it saved his life.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1844
“Warsaw Regulators” Powder Horn
While we do not know the name of the man who owned this powder horn, we do know the names of several men who helped organize and carry out the plan to kill the Prophet Joseph.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
Circa 1840s
Hyrum Smith’s Clothes, Watch, and Sunglasses
These artifacts are perhaps the most intimate remembrance of the martyrdom of Hyrum Smith: they are the clothes Hyrum was wearing when he was killed, the watch he carried in his pocket that day, and a pair of sunglasses he owned.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1844
Joseph and Hyrum Smith Death Masks
June 27, 1844, was a dark day in Nauvoo, Illinois, as Church members received word that their beloved prophet, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum had been killed at Carthage Jail. Friends guarded their bodies in Carthage until the next day, when they were brought home to Nauvoo.
On display in The Heavens Are Opened
1844
Memorial Sampler by Mary Ann Broomhead
Thirteen-year-old Mary Ann Broomhead stitched this sampler as a tribute to Joseph and Hyrum Smith shortly after their martyrdom.
Not on display.

Museum Treasures: Exodus and Westward Migration

Engraving of Nauvoo Temple Remains
By the time London–trained artist Frederick Piercy traveled through Nauvoo in 1853, the crumbling facade was all that remained of the Nauvoo Temple.
Not on display
Nauvoo Temple Sampler by Ann Eckford
A young English girl named Ann Eckford created this cross-stitch sampler of the Nauvoo Temple sometime between 1846 and 1849, probably as part of her formal education. The sampler represents some of the “growing pains” in Latter-day Saint history, when policy and procedure were still unestablished.
Not on display
Brigham Young’s Spyglass
Brigham Young used this collapsible brass and leather spyglass on the first trip to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Members of the company used spyglasses like this to scout the trail, search for game, and watch for danger.
Not on display
Brigham Young’s Travel Case
If you were forging a trail across unfamiliar territory in a covered wagon, what would you bring with you? How would you carry it?
Not on display
Orson Pratt’s Wagon Odometer
When you’re traveling an unfamiliar road in the wilderness, how do you accurately measure the distance between landmarks? How do you record the route to help the people who follow?
Not on display
Heber C. Kimball’s Tool Chest
When we speak of building the kingdom of God today, most of the time we mean it in a figurative sense: we serve in the Church, share the gospel with others, and follow the counsel of the living prophet. Heber C. Kimball did all of these things, but as a blacksmith and potter, he also built the kingdom in a literal sense.
Not on display
Willard Richards’s Grooming Kit
This grooming kit, owned by Dr. Willard Richards, shows the refined side of a faithful and courageous man of God. Richards was trained as a doctor of herbal medicine and cultivated an air of respectability and refinement appropriate to his profession. He shaved his face clean until his death in 1854 and regularly had his hair cut, combed, and curled.
Not on display
Pioneer Hymns by Eliza R. Snow and William Clayton
In their journals and reminiscences, many Mormon pioneers write of singing while crossing the plains, often ending the day with music. In the 19th century, most hymnals included only the words to the hymns, not the music. Hymns and other songs were sung to familiar tunes and could often be sung to more than one tune.
Not on display
Not on display
George Wardle’s Cello
When George Wardle played music, people listened. Music was part of his very being. One of his granddaughters recalled, “He would play any and every musical instrument.”
Not on display
Levi Hancock’s Journal
In January 1847, the Mormon Battalion staggered into San Diego, California, having just completed a grueling march from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Not on display
Thomas David Evans’s Wooden Leg
Imagine the faith and perseverance needed to pull a handcart more than 1,000 miles across the plains. Now imagine the faith and determination you’d need to pull a handcart while walking on a peg leg. Thomas David Evans had that kind of faith, wearing this leg as he crossed the plains from June 23 to October 2, 1856.
On display in Mormon Trails
Maria Bentley Christian Linford’s Wedding Dress
Maria Linford married her husband, John, in this dress in 1833. Twenty-three years later, she buried him on the plains of Wyoming en route to Utah.
On display in Mormon Trails
Mormon Battalion Bullet Pouch
Captain Daniel C. Davis of the Mormon Battalion carried this bullet pouch the entire way from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to California, but he never fired a shot in combat. None of the battalion members did. Although the battalion was formed in a time of war, its legacy is one of peace.
Not on display
Salt Lake City Meridian Stone
Have you ever wondered why Salt Lake City addresses sound like math coordinates? It’s because they are. Salt Lake City is laid out in a grid, with a center point at the intersection of a base line (running east-west) and a meridian (running north-south). But how did that center point get decided?
Not on display

See More Pioneer Artifacts in These Online Exhibits

Church History Museum