By a strange stroke of luck, Marion Edward Thomas was in the right place at a time the National Aeronautic and Space Administration needed a photographer in a hurry. That led him to 25 years as NASA’s official photographer.
Thomas was married to Ruth C. Thomas and she was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her small purse copy of The Book of Mormon was flown on Apollo 16 by Commander John Young on its moon mission.
Now that book will be on display for two days during the LDS semiannual general conference.
It will be on display from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in the President’s room of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday it will be displayed with other NASA memorabilia at B. Ashworth’s, 65 N. University Ave. in suite 03 in Provo.
“It’s kind of a neat story,” said Brent Ashworth. “A segment of microfiche of the Bible that went on Apollo 14 will also be on display.”
R&R Auction House is providing the opportunity for the exhibit and Ashworth is adding many of his own collections to it.
According to the auction house, while M. Edward Thomas was working with Young in 1972, he inquired if Young was taking a Bible with him to the moon on Apollo 16. Thomas said he could provide him with one. However, Thomas was afraid to send his family heirloom Bible in case, for some reason, it didn’t return.
However, his wife, an active member of the LDS Church, gave him her personal, purse-sized Book of Mormon instead. Although small, Young didn’t have room in his personal gear for the book, so he put it down his pant leg and that is how the Book of Mormon got to the moon, according to Ashworth.
“It’s a thrill to have it here. It is a very historic item,” Ashworth said.
Thomas was later baptized and the story with the Book of Mormon itself was the impetus of Thomas being introduced to President Spencer W. Kimball, the LDS president at the time. They became close friends and Thomas served as a photographer for Kimball on his trips and special events.
Thomas died Jan. 5, 2001, at the age of 80, in Kaysville, Utah.
Both exhibits are free and open to the public.