From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The Church maintains and staffs several historical sites and visitors centers. Their main functions are to introduce visitors to the history and doctrine of the Church, to help them understand the blessings of the restored gospel, and to strengthen the members and provide them with missionary opportunities.
Most tour guides at visitors centers and historic sites are volunteers, called to serve from six months to two years. They are taught specific information to present to visitors individually or in guided tours, and they are encouraged to meet the needs of their guests, answer questions, and have friendly personal interaction with them. Visitors are taught that the Church is a Christian religion and that Jesus is the Christ. An atmosphere of goodwill and positive public relations is sought for and fostered by the attendants and tour guides.
Visitors centers typically feature visual displays, films, photographs or paintings, replicas, and artifacts regarding the local site, as well as presentations about the Savior Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and the purpose of life on earth. Books and pamphlets are also made available.
As of 1990, ten visitors centers were located near Church temples. These centers are open to the public and explain the purposes of temples, but the temples themselves are not open to the public once they have been dedicated to sacred services. Visitors centers are located near the temples in Mesa, Arizona; Laie, Hawaii; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Mexico City, Mexico; Hamilton, New Zealand; St. George and Salt Lake City, Utah; and Washington, D.C.
As of 1990, seven other visitors centers were also maintained by the Church. They are located in New York City; at the Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York; in Nauvoo, Illinois; in Independence, Missouri; in San Diego, California (see Mormon Battalion); at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City; and in Montevideo, Uruguay. Fifteen additional historical sites are likewise maintained and staffed by the Church, offering tours and historical information to all who are interested. Several other historical sites are owned and maintained by the Church but are not staffed. [See also Historical Sites.] GARTH W. SEASTRAND