Jason, the cowboy full of tales leading us the mountain pass, wasn’t long in from a night carousing with his buddies. Meanwhile Mike, a young Mormon father of three was calmly getting to grips with his first day on the job taking wannabe John Waynes out in the wide blue Utah yonder.

Back at the ranch – we really did end up there – the boss asked Jason about the rookie. “He’s a keeper?”

“Yep, he’s a keeper.”

In a way our guides were a microcosm of the State of Utah where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, make up just over half the population.

With the state capital founded by Latter-day Saints in 1847 the Church, its culture, its language has a huge presence. After finding out where I was from a shop assistant told me her dad had served his mission in New Zealand. I guess she just assumed I’d know she meant by mission – luckily by this stage I did.

Our journey to Utah had its roots six months back when Steve, Crystal and I moseyed – OK, OK, stop with the cowboy talk…

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Our journey began when Story Inc was hired to design an exhibition telling the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the South Pacific. Step one was a three-day hui in Hamilton to start talking about how we could tell this story that stretches back over 150 years.

As non-Church members there was a lot to learn. The museum committee was really patient with us as we got to grips with terminology, Church structure and language. Thanks Randy, Margaret and the team for bearing with us!

There was a lot of talk, a lot of questions, and a lot of listening. There was also a lot of aroha.

From the get-go we wanted to create an exhibition where visitors could feel inspired by the legacy of those who’ve gone before them and connect to the stories being told. And there had to be an element of surprise – the ‘well, I didn’t know that!’

By day three we were beginning to find a shape to the story. Our next stop was an action-packed fact-finding few days in Salt Lake City. What an exhilarating time. First up we were met by Randy and Margaret – who felt like old friends by this stage – and visited the Church History Library. It’s an incredible place packed with diaries, images, films, run by the very helpful and Chris Cox and her team. We checked out the Discovery Centre where you’re given an iPod and let loose to trace your family history, add to your family’s story, and even play digital dress-up.

On day two we got a sneak-peek at the Church History Museum which was midway through a major refit. Pretty impressive stuff, and gave us lots of ideas for our exhibit back home. We also got to meet the team behind this multi-million dollar project who were incredibly generous in sharing what they’d learnt through the process.

On our last day we headed down to the very pretty town of Provo where the Church’s Publishing Services Department (PSD) is based. Sallie Larsen and her team showed us round their incredible facility where they produce interactives for Church visitor centres, museums, and hundreds of videos and movies shown by the Church around the world.

There’s a permanent set out the front where they can shoot historical stories, a props department that would have Peter Jackson green with envy, and all the state-of-the-art digital facilities a techie person could wish for – eh Steve!

Just as during the Hamilton hui, we learnt a lot on our Salt Lake visit. It was a really interesting time sharing ideas and getting a greater understanding of the Mormon perspective – how our clients see the world and their South Pacific Story.