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Angel Moroni is a prominent church symbol

Published: Saturday, June 11 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

"Just as the Statue of Liberty stands at a gateway to America with upraised torch symbolizing freedom and justice to all the world, so the statue of the Angel Moroni, atop the central eastern spire of the Salt Lake Temple symbolizes the golden truths of the everlasting gospel, restored in these latter days."

That's how Albert L. Zobell Jr. eloquently summarized the Angel Moroni Statue in an April 1968 Improvement Era article.

Decades ago, representations of the Angel Moroni were only found on the covers of several printings of the Book of Mormon and in some paintings, besides the top of the Salt Lake Temple.

One of the first widespread usages came when a depiction of Moroni with a trumpet was designated as the official emblem on grave markers of American Mormon servicemen.

In the 21st century, the Moroni statue not only stands atop the Salt Lake Temple, but many temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is not only a symbol of restored gospel, but it is also now one of the well-known images of the church itself.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "The angel Moroni is the heavenly messenger who first visited the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1823. As a mortal named Moroni, he had completed the compilation and writing of the Book of Mormon. He ministered to Joseph Smith as a resurrected being, in keeping with his responsibility for the Book of Mormon."

The Encyclopedia further states:

"Because of the angel Moroni's role in restoring the everlasting gospel to be preached to all the world (Revelations 14:6-7; Doctrine and Covenants 133:31-39), the church placed a statue depicting him as a herald of the Restoration atop the Salt Lake Temple, and later on the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, New York, where anciently he had buried the Book of Mormon plates."

The Hill Cumorah features a 10-foot bronze figure of Moroni pointing toward heaven with his right hand and holding a replica of the plates with the left, mounted on a 25-foot shaft of white granite.

This statue was created by Norwegian sculptor Torleif S. Knaphus, and the monument was dedicated by LDS Church President Heber J. Grant on July 21, 1935.

"Moroni was the last in a line of prophet-leaders in the Western Hemisphere whose history is recorded in the Book of Mormon. Latter-day Saints believe John the Revelator foretold Moroni's angelic ministry: 'And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people' (Revelations 14:6)," the Encyclopedia also states.

(Moroni lived to about 421 A.D., but he wasn't the first "Moroni." The original Moroni, who died about 56 B.C., was just 25 years old when he was appointed captain of the Nephite armies, see Alma 43:16.)

It was Cyrus E. Dallin, born 1861 in Springville, Utah, who created and sculpted the landmark Salt Lake Temple's Angel Moroni, which became a standard for later representations.

Dallin displayed sculpting talents early in life with some wood carvings. At age 18, he surprised some fellow miners at the Silver City, Utah, mine by molding out of clay two life-size heads.

He eventually opened a studio in Salt Lake, studied abroad in Paris and then returned to Salt Lake. On July 21, 1891, he met with the First Presidency and other church leaders with a drawing of a heavenly messenger blowing a trumpet.

Dallin later once said, "I consider that my 'Angel Moroni' brought me nearer to God than anything else I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to communicate with angels from heaven. We can only create in life what we are and what we think."

(He was at one time considered the dean of American sculptors. He also created the Brigham Young statue on Salt Lake's Main Street; "The Scout" for Kansas City, Mo.; "Massasoit," overlooking Plymouth Rock, Mass.; and others — including some in the Congressional Library.)

The Salt Lake Temple Angel Moroni is 12 feet 5½ inches tall and weighs 1,500 pounds. Originally, an ingenious way to anchor and counterbalance the heavy statue was developed using two steel rods and five weights of iron, weighing more than 400 pounds each.

It is also interesting to note that at Cove Fort, Utah, an early sketch by Truman O. Angell, who designed the Salt Lake Temple, shows two Angel Moroni statues — one atop the center spires of the east side and a twin version atop the west side of the temple, too. Somehow, the western statue never became a reality.

Sources: Improvement Era, April 1968; Deseret News Archives and Mormon Encyclopedia

 

Other facts about Angel Moroni statues:

According to a Deseret News story in 2002, Angel Moroni statues were to be placed on temples according to a "case-by case condition."

Moroni statues generally come in a 7-foot- and a 13-foot-high variety. Most are covered with gold leaf; however, some are only painted gold.

The metal statues do more than draw visitor attention. They also attract lightning.

David J. May, director of temple facilities in 2002 said no one's faith should be shaken by lightning strikes at temples, since lightning is simply a part of nature.

May also said at the time he didn't know of any specific lightning strikes at the Salt Lake Temple, but suspected it was more common when the downtown skyline was lower. Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects, and the more rural temples may be struck more often than downtown ones.

Sources: Improvement Era, April 1968; Deseret News Archives and Mormon Encyclopedia

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