SOUTH JORDAN — A new and improved angel Moroni statue stands watch atop the spire of the soon-to-be-dedicated Oquirrh Mountain Temple.
An iconic symbol associated with temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the replacement statue shares similar features with its predecessor, which workers took down on Tuesday — both are 13-foot-8-inch representations of the angel Moroni holding and blowing a trumpet, all covered in 23-karat gold leaf.
And the differences? The original statue was charred extensively on the face, arm and trumpet areas after being damaged by a June 13 lightning strike, while the replacement sports not just the standard-equipment lightning rod from the top of the statue's head but a second rod-like cable protruding from the end of the statue's trumpet.
Both points are tied by the grounding cables that run through the statue and spire tower and connect into the temple's lightning protection system.
The original angel Moroni statue suffered damage when the June 13 bolt hit the lightning rod on its head and arced beyond that point.
"He did his job — he's the end of the line," said Bruce Wallgren, owner/president of 3D Art Inc., which manufacturers the statues for the LDS Church and oversaw Tuesday's three-hour replacement effort. "But there was so much energy that it just spilled over."
The additional cable extending from the trumpet bell will help counter any future arcing. "What we're trying to do is to eliminate this from happening again," Wallgren said.
Contrary to rumors that the mid-June statue damage was the result of a nonfunctioning or inappropriate grounding system, the lightning rod was able to channel the brunt of the strike and ground it without incident inside the temple, said Tyler Wilson, Okland Construction's director of special projects.
An absent or ineffective grounding system would result in damage to the temple's electrical system and components and be a safety threat to those inside, he added.
After the June 13 incident, initial thoughts were to send workers up to inspect the statue's damage and see how much cleaning and repair might be needed. However, after considering the difficulty and cost of doing that 180-plus feet off the ground, as well as the uncertain extent of the damage, church leaders opted for 3D Art to build and install the replacement statue.
Tuesday's aerial effort needed to be sandwiched between the Aug. 1 final day of the temple's two-month-long public open house and its upcoming dedication services, scheduled for Aug. 21-23.
Lightning strikes to temple spires and angel Moroni statues are common.
"There's a misunderstanding that such strikes are rare, but that's not the case at all," said Wilson. "The angel Moroni statues get hit by lightning all the time."
Most of the time, the lighting rods on the statues channel a strike's energy through a temple's grounding system. Other times, arcing strikes hit other parts of the statues. But the damage is relatively small and is difficult to see from ground level.
For example, when Okland Construction handled the renovation of the Washington D.C. Temple's spires several years ago, workers found that repeated lightning strikes to the temple's angel Moroni statue resulted in damage "not visible to the naked eye, with strikes having left holes the size of a quarter," Wilson said.
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