Responding to a call to serve a couples’ mission at the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center, Norman Ashton, a retired attorney and judge, and his wife, Meredith, a retired music teacher, left Ogden, Utah, just over 13 months ago.
However, at nearly the halfway point in their mission, Elder Ashton received a new call, to serve as the director of the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center.
“It was a sudden and unexpected change,” says Elder Ashton, adding that while he had come to “know the ropes” in the year the couple had served at the Visitors’ Center, “the ropes are a little different as director.”
He says his new calling, and serving now in the newly renovated Visitors’ Center, combine to make an exciting and rewarding experience.
Elder Ashton says, “I think my favorite exhibit is still ‘God’s Plan for His Family,’” one of few that wasn’t changed with the renovation. “It’s still one of the most popular as it brings out a lot of emotions and sensitivities for people.”
Among the most popular of the new exhibits are the Book of Mormon teaching pods and guests at the Visitors’ Center also appreciate the missionary display.
“Everyone seems to identify with at least one of the eight stories about missionaries portrayed in that exhibit,” says Elder Ashton.
He says the revised temple exhibit at the south end of the center also evokes a great deal of interest. “It’s a beautify display with the reflection pool behind it and then the Temple.”
“Some people miss the old Book of Mormon table and the Jerusalem diorama,” he says, but they seem to quickly take to the new, highly interactive, state-of-the-art exhibits.
“The response has been very favorable,” he says.
Of course, “we have all the regular videos, ‘Meet the Mormons’ and ‘Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration,’” and families, Primary or Young Men or Young Women groups can pick and choose which they would like to view.
He adds, “Our sister missionaries are really the best exhibit we have.”
The 24 sister missionaries currently serving at the Visitors’ Center, “come from all over. Half are Spanish-speaking missionaries, and half are English speaking. They are specifically called to the Visitors’ Center and spend half their time there and half in the peopled areas,” says Elder Ashton.
For groups visiting the center, the sister missionaries will conduct tours and answer any questions guests have.
“The center and the missionaries here are very accommodating and welcoming to small and large groups,” Elder Ashton says.
There is no need to call ahead, unless the group is particularly large.
He adds that the Visitors’ Center hosts a variety of events and temporary attractions, such as they did during the weeks prior to Easter when they posted banners and showed the two-minute clip supporting the Church’s Easter initiative to “Find Him and Enjoy New Life. Hallelujah.”
“We have 28,000 to 30,000 people that come into the Center as a direct result of the Easter Pageant,” Elder Ashton says.
Beginning April 1, the Center will host story time for young families, with the sister missionaries acting out various Bible stories every other Friday morning at 10 a.m.
Also beginning April 1, Spring Concerts at the Center will feature one-hour concerts on Fridays at 7 p.m. The concerts will showcase local talent, such as the Maxson Family Singers, Resonance, the Hoopes Family Strings and others.
Details about concerts, story time and other events can be found on the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MesaVC/.
The Visitors’ Center, at 525 E. Main Street in Mesa, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.