Living Church History
My family and I lived in the cradle of the restoration from 1997 to 2001. During that time, we visited many places made sacred by what transpired there, including every location where a Doctrine and Covenants revelation was received. We participated in the Palmyra Temple cornerstone ceremony and dedication, and I served as one of the first temple workers there. We enjoyed a special LDS conference in the Kirtland Temple, which concluded with a heartfelt rendition of “The Spirit of God” by all assembled. We met with descendants of Hyrum Smith who testified of the events of the restoration, and showed us the clothing he wore at the time of his martyrdom. I’ve held and inspected the copy of the Book of Mormon that Hyrum read and folded the page in shortly before his death. I feel a special kinship with those who helped establish the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those who continue in this spirit of pioneering and sacrifice today.
These and many experiences of a similar nature opened my mind and heart to the benefits of seeing and feeling the history of the Church for myself. I started to photograph Church history sites so I could more effectively share these experiences with friends and family members. Some were interested in my Doctrine and Covenants research, so I created a fireside presentation and eventually a website featuring the results of that project. My Doctrine and Covenants Revelation Sites website led to the publication of more than fifty of my photographs in magazines and books, and an opportunity to participate in the creation of the Church’s official Joseph Smith website. I never realized where this project would lead, and it is unfolding still.
Imagine being able to visit virtually any location in the world where important events in LDS history have occurred, through beautiful photographs accompanied by faith-promoting accounts of what transpired there. A web-based approach allows the project to continually expand, with the most current information being freely available to anyone with Internet access. This is my vision for the project.
Why create such a resource? The world is filled with sacred places, locations that have been sanctified by the sacrifices of Latter-day Saint pioneers. A special spirit can be felt when one visits such a place, contemplates the events that transpired there, and seeks for personal application of demonstrated gospel principles. I believe that the spirit of the place enhances the spirit of the message. In fact, it has been my experience that when the spirit of the place and message are united, the learning experience can penetrate willing hearts and minds to greater depth, resulting in better understanding, improved retention, and stronger conviction.
In his April 2003 General Conference address, Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander shared his feeling about sacred places. He said, “Holy places have always been essential to the proper worship of God. For Latter-day Saints, such holy places include venues of historic significance, our homes, sacrament meetings, and temples. Much of what we reverence, and what we teach our children to reverence as holy and sacred, is reflected in these places.
“Holy places and sacred space are … distinguished by the sacrifice they require. One may not have the sacred without first sacrificing something for it. There can be no sacredness without personal sacrifice. Sacrifice sanctifies the sacred.
“Deep and reverent feeling are aroused by … sacred places across the earth relating to the history and establishment of this Church. These sacred places inspire our faith and give us encouragement to be true to that faith and to move forward, despite the challenges that may cross our path. In holy places and in sacred space, we find spiritual refuge, renewal, hope, and peace.”
In 2005 I created a CD-ROM containing more than 500 photographs of Church history sites I have visited over the years. In 2012 I decided to make all of these photographs freely available on this website for non-commercial purposes, and invite photography and written Church history account submissions to continue building the usefulness and international scope of this resource.
The project will roll out in stages. In the first stage, I am simply posting all of my United States Church history photographs with accompanying captions to the website, and inviting others to participate if they are so inclined.
In the next stage, I will structure the website to include more written information about each location, along with accounts of what transpired there. Perhaps video and audio recordings will be included in this stage as well. I will seek to more broadly communicate the invitation for submissions.
Subsequently, I plan to build on this foundation country by country, expanding the international scope of the project.
Accounts describing the challenges faced and the miracles witnessed as the Church has grown around the world are of significant interest to many when presented in an engaging manner. This is one of the goals of this project.
If you have a verifiable account of edifying Church history and accompanying photography from anywhere in the world and would like to submit it for possible publication on this non-commercial website, please let me know.
Another aim of the project is to make photographs of Church history sites freely available to all who wish to use them for non-commercial purposes, such as lesson materials, gospel study, presentations, and handouts.
If you have taken photographs of Church history sites for which you own the copyright and wish to share them in this manner on this website, please let me know.
Words and Photos
All text on this website was written by Steve Mortensen, except when another author is identified in specific instances.
All photographs on this website were taken by Steve Mortensen, except when another photographer is identified in specific instances.
All the original project photographs were taken from 1997 to 2003 by Steve Mortensen using a film camera and then digitized. The quality of digital photography today has improved significantly in the last decade. Therefore, photographs may be updated and augmented from time to time as better submissions become available.
You may use any of the photographs on this website for non-commercial purposes that are not detrimental to the name or reputation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are the simple terms of using these photographs. If you do not agree to these terms, the copyright holder does not grant you a license or permission to use them. All rights to all materials on this website are reserved by the copyright holders.
You can view a larger version of each photograph by clicking on it. Then, using your right mouse button, click and select save picture as … or save target as … to specify where on your computer you would like to save the image.