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LDS Church donates $2 million to First Americans Museum

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 19, 2021

Edie Roodman, director of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange, far left; Tom Gray, Oklahoma City Stake President, left; Reggie Wassana, Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, right; and Elder Larry Echo Hawk, General Authority Seventy, far right, engaged in a conversation during a reception at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Sunday, October 17, 2021. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserve)

On Sunday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a donation of $2 million to the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City.

The donation is to help Native American tribes learn more about their ancestral roots, according to the church.

Elder Kyle S. McKay of the Seventy, and several Native American members, presented the gift during a reception at the museum on Sunday.

The museum, which honors many Native American tribes, will use the gift to build a FamilySearch center and fill other needs. The center will include digital interactive exhibits for Native American families. Many will be able to learn more at http://FamilySearch.org,which is the Church’s nonprofit genealogy arm.

“Native Americans have been moved around so much from different places that a lot of our families have lost contact with each other. Having a center here is a way for us to connect our families together again,” James Pepper Henry, director of First Americans Museum, said.

Elder Kyle S. McKay of the Seventy presents the gift to James Pepper Henry, First Americans Museum director, during a reception at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Sunday, October 17, 2021. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserve)

“First Americans feel the yearning to find their ancestors, and we feel with our FamilySearch technology we can make this happen,” Elder McKay added. “We are donating our expertise and consultants who can build a center suited to the needs of the museum.”

On Sunday afternoon, President Russell M. Nelson spoke to Latter-day Saints in Kansas and Oklahoma in a virtual devotional based in Salt Lake City.

Kansas is home to 38,000 Latter-day Saints and 75 congregations. Another 49,000 members live in Oklahoma, worshiping in 93 congregations. Oklahoma also has one temple.

President Nelson said the new FamilySearch center in Oklahoma, “will make it possible for visitors to the museum to receive help in preserving personal histories, searching for ancestors and building their own family trees.”

He also said the First Americans Museum, “should remind each of us of our own ancestors and of our deep gratitude for those who have come here from many different countries and traditions.”

Outdoor shot of the First Americans museum. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserve)

Also speaking in the devotional were Wendy Nelson and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf along with his wife, Harriet.

The prophet dedicated the bulk of his address to helping members in the midwestern United States understand the Book of Mormon — what it is, what it isn’t, its truths and its origin story.

Nelson told those listening that their geography, being in the center of the continental United States, is a metaphor for where God wants them to be spiritually — “in the center of the covenant path.” One of the best ways to center their lives on Jesus Christ, he said, is to study the Book of Mormon.

“Perhaps most importantly, [the Book of Mormon] teaches the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ far more clearly and expansively than does any other book,” he said. “In doing so, it describes the Savior’s ministry among the people of this hemisphere after His Resurrection in some of the most compelling verses in all of scripture.”

Nelson encouraged all those “who live in the center of this great country” that the “truths contained in the Book of Mormon will center your lives on Jesus Christ and His gospel.” He promised that “daily immersing yourselves in the Book of Mormon will help you stay in the center of the covenant path. True joy will be yours now and forever.”

Wendy Nelson said that though many things are uncertain, one thing is for sure: One day we will each “have a personal interview with the Savior.” President Nelson’s general conference addresses are designed to help people prepare for that interview, she said.

Elder Uchtdorf said he is delighted to celebrate the partnership between the Church and the First Americans Museum.

As a boy, Uchtdorf said, he enjoyed reading adventure stories about the old American West written by a German author who had never been to the United States. In these stories, he said, Native Americans were often portrayed as wise and noble heroes.

Uchtdorf said this shows that people worldwide “have more in common than we might suppose.” For example, all are children of the same God. “If we only would focus on this divine fact, and on the many other things that we have in common — life experiences and dreams we share — it should not be too hard to get along as individuals, communities, and nations, regardless of where we live, and what our backgrounds or life’s circumstances may be.”

Harriet Uchtdorf directed her remarks to the youth in attendance. She encouraged them to make Christ the center of their lives, to participate at church and to love everyone.

She said when she was young she attended an all-girls school where er friends were either Lutheran or Catholic. “I wondered, ‘Should I tell them that I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or should I just avoid the topic and be quiet?'” she said. “I decided to stand up for what I believed.”

Sister Uchtdorf said she told her friends what the Church was and why she decided to join it. This was not always easy, she said, but the decision yielded significant fruit.

“In the end, my self-worth increased, and even the heartfelt bonds with my good friends increased,” Harriet Uchtdorf said.

“They often told me that they admired my courage to stand up for my faith. This, in return, made it even easier for me to share more details about what the Church stands for, and to live my faith. It was like a gift that kept giving, over and over again.”


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