News Release

Apostle Speaks on 50th Commemoration of
1964 New York World’s Fair

Elder L. Tom Perry recounts working at the Mormon Pavilion

Fifty years ago, Elder L. Tom Perry, now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was living in Scarsdale, New York. Elder Perry, now 92, was serving as a leader in the stake over missionary work and part of that assignment included working on the committee for the 1964 New York World’s Fair in New York City, which is marking its 50th anniversary.

The 1964 New York World’s Fair theme was “Peace Through Understanding.” The fair showcased American culture and technology, but it also had international participation.

Elder Perry talked about his experiences at the Mormon Pavilion with a group of Latter-day Saint professionals, the New York LDS Professional Association (NYLDSPA), at the New York Riverside Church, a landmark in Manhattan, on Tuesday night, 14 October 2014. The organization honored Robert P. George, Princeton University political philosopher and constitutional scholar, with the NYLDSPA Visionary Leadership Award. Elder Perry was the keynote speaker and was given a memento for his involvement in the New York World’s Fair.

George noted “unprecedented cooperation between faiths” in his efforts to gather support from various faiths to defend traditional marriage and religious liberty. 

“It was a special time in my life that will never be forgotten,” said Elder Perry about his experiences at the World's Fair.

Elder Perry told the audience of more than 400 people that the Church had a pavilion in a “prime location” at the World’s Fair because the Mormon Pavilion was visible to all of the riders coming to the fair on the subway system. He recalled, “The first thing they would see would be the beautiful façade of the [Salt Lake] Mormon temple,” a replica built in New York.

Inside the pavilion, there was a “Christus” statue, a replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s sculpture in Denmark. And there was a film, “Man’s Search for Happiness,” created for the event. More than 5 million people visited the exhibit. Some visitors were so moved by the experience they eventually joined the Church. For more about the history of the Mormon Pavilion, read an article on the Church News website.

Elder Perry said his most exciting day at the World’s Fair during its two-year run was when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed in special concerts. “The crowds were so large it spread out into the street in front of our pavilion. The choir really connected with the people.”

His favorite assignment at the Mormon Pavilion was working behind the Book of Mormon table, where copies of the book were sold for 50 cents a piece.

Elder Perry said the World’s Fair significantly helped the Church’s interfaith efforts. He also believes the Church’s missionary efforts during the World’s Fair influenced the growth of the Church in the area.

"We had good missionary success during that time," related Elder Perry.

Elder Perry credits three Church leaders for the success of the Church’s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. He called President Harold B. Lee, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, “the real force behind [the Church’s] participation.” Other men he acknowledged included Stanley McAlister, president of the New York Stake, and Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who moved from Salt Lake City to New York City to direct the pavilion’s daily affairs.

Elder Perry continues his work today with outreach efforts to provide service and protect religious freedoms. He highlighted the expanding reach of the Mormon Newsroom, which now has 75 country sites and provides information tailored specifically for the news media and opinion leaders; participation in, an interfaith alliance to tell stories of faith through videos, articles and images; and the creation of a website called JustServe to identify opportunities for service for Church members and non-members. Elder Perry reported there are 2,100 service projects in progress on the JustServe website.

Video prepared locally for the event

“We have doctrinal differences that will never change, but there’s so much that’s common to all of us,” said Elder Perry in a short video (prepared locally for the event) with historical clips that commemorates the Church’s participation in the New York World’s Fair.

“We have had to in this day and age realize that Christian faith is being marginalized,” he added. “Secularism is moving out to where the people think they can have their own religious beliefs, and it’s important that all Christian, Jewish, Muslim faiths unite and make their own faith stronger in the lives of the people.”

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