The Greatest Collection of Church History in the World is Tucked Away in Provo
I would say it’s the “best-kept secret in Utah,” but according to a billboard I recently saw on I-15, that title belongs to a carpet warehouse in Spanish Fork, and I wouldn’t want to challenge them. But Moon’s Rare Books, located in the Shops at Riverwoods in northeast Provo, is a unique place that everyone should have a chance to visit. It’s more museum than bookstore, with museum-quality displays of books and historic artifacts from the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as displays from early modern Britain, middle Christianity, Victorian literature, and American film.
Reid Moon’s collection includes countless one-of-a-kind books and artifacts from both the Church and the wider history of the English-speaking world. Nowhere else do you have the chance to see the personal copies of the Book of Mormon owned by Joseph, Hyrum, and Samuel Smith during their lifetimes. Or the original fedora and whip used in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Or a first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone signed by an 11-year-old Daniel Radcliffe. Or a King James Bible that belonged to its namesake, King James I.
I say that it’s a like a museum, but it’s more of a journey, a unique experience every time. I’ve visited on multiple occasions. Once I left overwhelmed by the volume of knowledge in the world of which I’ve only scratched the surface. Once I spent several hours going from artifact to artifact, book to book, and Wikipedia article to Wikipedia article as I explored the past. Once I saw and held things so sacred, I hesitate to mention it online. And not just the Star Wars script.
The collection rivals the Church History Museum in content, and far surpasses it in engagement. It includes an original dictation of a revelation received by Joseph Smith, the only original section of the Doctrine and Covenants not owned by the Church today, as well as at least one article of scripture belonging to each Latter-Day Prophet.
The front room contains a large collection of early modern Bibles, a staple of any great book collection, while the back room contains an immense collection of Books of Mormon (Book of Mormons?), in every language in which it has been published, including a few in the nineteenth century “Deseret Alphabet.” The Bible collection includes a few large partially damaged Bibles, single pages of which are available for sale and framing as a beautiful display. The front room also contains a layout in the form of an old English street full of shops, each with various themed displays to view through the windows.
The front room and main area are free to visitors, open six days a week and alone are worth the visit. But some of the greatest treasures can only be seen on in the back room, on the giant side of a giant oak door imported from an English castle. The back room is typically only accessible during Mr. Moon’s lectures and live events, which he gives over a hundred times a year. It’s during these events that he shows off the amazing breadth of his collection, which he does in the form of requests for books related to any subject. For example, when given the subject of magic he pulled out a book of magic tricks owned and marked up by Harry Houdini himself.
Next time you’re in Provo, Moon’s Rare Books should top your list of things to do. And if you’re not visiting any time soon, it might be worth making the trip anyway. After your visit, I’d recommend either Seven Brothers or Happy Sumo for dinner, which are both just a few shops away in the Riverwoods. Seven Brothers has one of the best burgers in Utah Valley, and Happy Sumo has great sushi in a relaxing atmosphere. Reid Moon also has an Instagram page with enough history to make me break my resolution to never use Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/reidnmoon/
More information is available at https://moonsrarebooks.com/.
Neither Moon’s Rare Books nor any other business has offered any compensation in exchange for this review. Maybe one day…