Complaints Prompt Change in Mormon Exhibit

SALT LAKE CITY — Smithsonian Museum curators changed a new gallery exhibit after two Utah congressmen and others complained that it portrayed Mormon church founders in a negative light.

The National Portrait Gallery’s American Origins display pays tribute to influential Americans from 1600 to 1900, including Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Brigham Young, the second leader of the faith, who led the emigration into what would become Utah.

The text accompanying portraits of Smith and Young offended at least two Washington-area church members who got a sneak preview of the display. The text reportedly said Smith was “lynched” and Young was a “tyrant.”

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The church members notified Republicans Sen. Bob Bennett and Rep. Rob Bishop, whose offices contacted the museum.

The Smitsonian and the Book of Mormon

Bethany Bentley, spokeswoman for the National Portrait Gallery, confirmed that changes were made based on the complaints.

“It’s very common (to make changes) and it happens with many of our labels,” she said.

Bentley said changes were under way before Bennett’s office called and that all were made before the gallery opened July 1.

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July 23, 2006
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday July 24, 2006.
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