News Story

Historic Time Capsule Set in Church History Library

President Thomas S. Monson, world leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added his book Faith Rewarded; a Personal Account of Prophetic Promises to the East German Saints to other artifacts that were among the first to be placed in the newly constructed Church History Library. They were not locked away in a vault or placed on a shelf but sealed in a time capsule inside one of the massive walls of the 230,000 square foot state-of-the-art structure 25 March 2009.

“You can’t read history and not have a greater appreciation for the past and an awareness that every day we are writing a history for others,” President Monson said.

Members of the media were some of the first to get a look inside the building since ground breaking on its construction three and a half years ago. They were invited to the historic time capsule ceremony attended by President Monson, his counselors and other Church dignitaries along with some 300 staffers and service missionaries of The Church History Department.

“We have collected something that would be representative of what thoughtful people would want to know about this era — what we’re thinking, what we’re doing, how it’s being done,” Elder Marlin K. Jensen said. What is unique about this particular time capsule is that its contents are not unique. They are copies of originals stored just a few feet away in what could be described as the “ultimate” time capsule --- the vaults of the library itself. “We are not taking one-of-a-kind items … and placing them in that location,” said director of records preservation, Brent Thompson. “So I think this certainly reflects our view of time capsules being symbolic rather than as a way of keeping valuable records.”

What the box will provide is a valuable “snapshot” in time of what the Church looked like in present day for those who might open the capsule in the far distant future. Other items that went into the 7-by-21-by-25-inch stainless steel container include photos of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, Quorums of Seventy and Presiding Bishopric; a Conference Report of the Solemn Assembly in which President Thomas S. Monson was sustained as Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church; a current edition of the scriptures accompanied with a list of the many languages in which they are now translated; a current list of stakes and missions; and a talk delivered at the recent Church History Symposium at Brigham Young University by Elder Marlin K. Jensen titled “Making a Case for Church History.”

In his talk, Elder Jensen spoke of the importance of preserving Church history for Latter-day Saints and the general public.

“There’s never been greater interest in Church history and there’s probably never been a more exciting time. Not only have we just constructed what I think will be the finest library in the West, if not the country… but within the Church itself, within the membership, and then nationally among those not of our faith there’s a tremendous groundswell of interest in Joseph Smith as a person and as a prophet.”

It has been a longstanding tradition of the Church to place time capsules in symbolic cornerstones of many of its buildings, including temples. In the early days of the Church, similar records were commonly preserved in this manner but not always with the desired outcome.  Joseph Smith placed the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon in the cornerstone of the hotel called Nauvoo House in 1841. “Water got inside of the cornerstone and many of the pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript were either seriously damaged or destroyed,” said Thompson. It was not the only copy of the manuscript and thankfully today the remaining original pages have been preserved.

Items placed in a cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple by Brigham Young in 1857 fell victim to a similar fate. As part of the centennial anniversary of the temple dedication in 1993, the Church History Department searched and found the hollowed-out compartment of the cornerstone. It had originally contained books, pamphlets, periodicals and historic coins, but over the course of 136 years not much had survived.  “When we were able to locate that material and got inside, it was just kind of mush at the bottom,” recalled Thompson.

From remaining fragments, about half of the original items inside the box could be identified. They included pieces of the Book of Mormon translated in French and Italian and of issues of the Church newspapers Deseret News, Millennial Star and Times and Seasons. Those fragments and coins have since been carefully preserved and will be available for viewing at the new Church History Library along with the drilled-out piece of cornerstone. Technology in the 21st century has dramatically improved since Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s time. Now time capsules are sealed to be virtually water and airtight, as with this latest capsule.

Each year, thousands are anticipated to visit and view the largest collection of documents, manuscripts and photographs available on the growth and development of the Church. Elder Jensen hopes all who enter its doors experience a connection to the past.

“We are a welcoming institution,” said Elder Jensen. “We want the world to come and examine what I have often called our crown jewels – the historical treasures that we have. There’s really no other religion of comparable size that has anywhere near the original source material that we do for Church history, mainly because from the day the Church was organized, God ordered that there be a record kept, and we’ve been trying to do that faithfully ever since.”

The general public will have a chance to tour the new Church History Library in a special open house beginning Friday, 12 June, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, 13 June, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The dedication of the Church History Library will take place Saturday, 20 June at 11:00 a.m. Tickets are required. The library will be open to the public Monday, 22 June.  For more information, feature stories and photographs go to:

Find us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Widgets, E-mail, Text Alerts and RSS

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.