PROVO — Maj. Dave Jungheim finished his model of the Salt Lake Temple, comprised of more than 35,000 Legos, in 2012.
Jungheim’s temple is the centerpiece of an exhibit titled "Building Faith: Bricks of Religion" located in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. The exhibit features LDS and other religious themed Legos and Lego-like sets with scenes ranging from “The First Discussion” to “The Last Supper.”
Trevor Alvord, curator of 21st-century Mormonism and Western Americana, said he was interested in how members of the church were interacting with popular culture to express themselves. Alvord explained that there has been a growing trend of building with the small interlocking plastic bricks to express faith during the past five years and that the exhibit seeks to “document this phenomenon.”
One display in the exhibit features LDS scenes provided by a non-LDS company, Citizen Brick. Based in Chicago, this company specializes in custom printing Lego items. Viewers can see missionary Lego mini-figures holding copies of the Book of Mormon in a scene titled “The District Meeting.” Viewers also might recognize the setting for “The First Discussion,” taken from the Lego set for the television show “The Big Bang Theory.”
Another display features brick sets of religious iconography provided by a company called Trinity Toyz. Some of the scenes include “The Nativity,” “Noah’s Ark” and “The Last Supper.”
In addition to Jungheim’s Salt Lake Temple, three other Mormon temples are on display, provided by the Brick’em Young company. The largest one is a 1,725-piece set of the Salt Lake Temple. The other two temples featured are the Nauvoo Illinois Temple at 735 pieces and Washington D.C. Temple with 895 pieces.
Brick'em Young began because parents Tim and Suzanne Calton wanted to find a way to better connect their children to the temple, according to the company's website at brickemyoung.com. The family was living in China at the time and the nearest temple was a two-hour flight away in Hong Kong. The parents thought it could be rewarding to have their children interact with familiar toys in a religious way.
Viewers of the exhibit can also see illustrated scenes of Lego figures in the book “Brick of Mormon Stories.” The creators of the scenes hope "to acquaint children with passages from The Book of Mormon" in a way that will better help them remember the stories, according to brickofmormon.com.
Alvord said that throughout history, sculpting has always been a form of devotion and that art has a way of bringing people together. On Brick’Em Young’s website, there is a section titled “Meet Our Builders,” featuring people from all over the world who have built temples from plastic bricks. Builders come from as far away as Ghana, China and Australia.
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Because the toy bricks are so familiar to so many people throughout the world, Legos and similar toy bricks serve as a great medium for religious expression, Alvord said.
“Legos as a medium for religious expression allows children to participate in and experience something that is sacred and divine,” said Alvord, who spent about four months researching and preparing for this exhibit.
"Building Faith: Bricks of Religion" is on display in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections through the end of October. The exhibit is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.