For generations, it has been an LDS icon, one of the most famous

artworks of Mormonism. Now, a copy of Torleif S. Knaphus' \"Handcart

Pioneers\" sculpture, viewed by millions of Temple Square visitors over

the years, will grace the Norwegian Emigrant Museum in Ottestad,

Norway, about a two-hour drive north of Oslo.

Knaphus (1881-1965) was a Norwegian convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who

emigrated to Salt Lake City in 1905, where he created many sculptures

and paintings, some with LDS themes. Many of the sculptures were

commissioned by the church. Besides the handcart statue, perhaps his

most famous work is the Hill Cumorah Monument in Palmyra, N.Y.,

depicting the angel Moroni.

\"It is a natural fit to have a statue about emigrants by a Norwegian

emigrant be placed at the Norwegian Emigrant Museum,\" said Allen P.

Gerritsen, a Knaphus grandson and representative of the Knaphus

(pronounced kuh-NOP-hoos) Family Organization.

The sculpture being sent to Norway is a casting from the 3-feet-high

original commissioned in 1924 by the Daughters of Utah Handcart

Pioneers. That work was displayed for decades in the old Bureau of

Information Building on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, where the

South Visitors Center now stands.

For the 1947 centennial of the coming of the Mormon pioneers to

Utah, the church commissioned a heroic-size copy of the sculpture for

placement on Temple Square, where it has stood for years just east of

the Assembly Hall.

Gerritsen said the sculpture going to Norway will be

placed June 7 in a prominent location outside the museum along a

pathway between the museum's research center and church. The event will

be marked by a celebration and formal unveiling, with Norwegian

dignitaries to be invited.

Scores of Knaphus descendants gathered Saturday in Salt Lake City

for a \"send-off\" of the sculpture. Among those on hand were two people

who served as models for members of the pioneer family depicted in the

handcart statue.

And Knaphus' own daughter, Marie Kanphus James, was the model for the little girl riding in the handcart.

Now 85, she shared memories of her father. Though she does not

remember him sculpting the original in 1924, the creation of the large

one in 1947 \"was a big thing in my life,\" she said.

She remembered going to the studio to see him work. She was there on

one occasion as a young married woman, when she expressed admiration

for his work and the wish that she had such talent.

\"He stopped his work, got down and looked me in the eye, and said,

'Why Marie, you're sculpting right now.'\" He told her she was sculpting

the lives of her children.

\"He was quick to make you feel like his work was no more important that anyone else's\" she remarked.

She remembered when in his later years a reporter

from Life magazine interviewed him in his Salt Lake studio,

surrounded by statues, oil paintings and clay models. Asked what his

greatest work was, he pointed out pictures of his

family and a large genealogical pedigree chart hanging on the wall. He

replied, \"My family and this genealogical research has been my greatest

work in life.\"

It was not the answer the Life reporter was looking for, his daughter recalled, but it reflected his values.

She remarked that her father, after he joined the church, was full of zeal and eagerly distributed

pamphlets and books about the church to family and friends. \"Now his

handiwork will continue that missionary contact in his native land,\"

she said.

Gerritsen said the family organization found five years

ago that Norway does not have any art pieces from their famous

progenitor. They launched a fund-raising effort to cast the

copy and donate it to the museum in Norway. He said it

will sit on a massive base of Iddelfjord granite, found only in

Norway. A bench made of the same material will face the statue.

Richard G. Oman, a longtime curator at the Church History Museum,

where the original 1924 sculpture is now displayed, attended Saturday. He said heritage is reflected both in Knaphus'

sculpture and his life, a heritage of overcoming hardship to achieve

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great things. The work of the family in providing the sculpture for the

museum in Norway is an application of two precepts taught by the

Prophet Joseph Smith: governing themselves according to correct

principles and doing good of their own free will, Oman said.


Email: rscott@desnews.com