When Westvale Elementary School, West Jordan, Utah, sent permission slips home April 24 for a fourth-grade field trip to the Church History Museum, which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some parents parents were immediately wary. West Jordan is just south of Salt Lake City, headquarters for the LDS Church.
The slip told parents the trip would “supplement regular curriculum programs and [would] take place during the regular school day.” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, on behalf of several district parents, sent a letter May 1 to Superintendent Patrice Johnson.
Seidel pointed out that the museum “presents an unscholarly, uncritical, nonobjective view of the LDS Church” and noted that the New York Times has described the museum as “created by believers, for believers.”
One section of the museum section called “Learn Truths” depicts the “stories of ancient prophets found in the Book of Mormon.” Another named “The Gospel Blesses My Life” displays artwork from children who share “how knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses their lives.”
After taking a personal tour, Gregory Clark, a University of Utah associate professor of bioengineering, described how one museum docent “claimed that black skin was a curse from God.” Clark writes that the museum “is replete with religion, not history. It’s the Utahn equivalent of Ken Ham’s Creation Museum.”
In response to mounting evidence that the museum was much less about Utah history and more about prophecy and church doctrine, Kayleen Whitelock, a member of the Jordan School District Board of Education, said on May 6 that “students will no longer be attending this field trip.”
Seidel commented, “We hope that the Board of Education uses this opportunity to pick a more appropriate, educational location for a field trip. No one needs to play the martyr here.”
He added, “The Board of Education should have realized that this was an inappropriate location for a field trip from the beginning. If any Westvale fourth graders are disappointed, that’s on the board.”