Mormons Flock To Palmyra, New York To Learn About Historical Roots

December 20, 2000

Source: The New York Times

On December 20, 2000, The New York Times reported that many Mormons are traveling to Palmyra, New York to visit the birthplace of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, eventually led followers west. His recreated log home is one attraction in Palmyra. "A restored printing shop shows where the Book of Mormon was first published, and a visitors' center plays a recording of Christ's words in 20 languages including Hungarian, Finnish and Tahitian. A new temple overlooking the Sacred Grove draws so many Mormons that reservations are taken weeks in advance, and walk-ins often have to be turned away. Only church members in good standing -- they must present a card -- can enter the inner sanctuary." The town of Palmyra has become a major tourist attraction for Mormons. Today, Mormonism has nearly 11 million members, and almost half of them live in the United States. The Mormon Church has historically faced criticism, and Smith was eventually killed by a mob. "The Mormon Church started buying land in the Palmyra area in 1907, and later dispatched a missionary couple, Willard and Rebecca Bean, to reintroduce the Mormon faith in Smith's hometown. It was no easy task. Neighbors yelled at them to go home to Utah. But the Beans slowly won friends, and converts, and stayed for a quarter-century. They even named their daughter after the town." The annual pageant in Palymra has grown into an elaborate production, and it attracts up to 10,000 spectators at night. Those of other traditions also go, because it is such an attraction."