January 4th is “National Trivia Day” in the USA. [You’re welcome to play along no matter where you live]. It seems only appropriate I should share some interesting Mormon Trivia. So, here’s everything you need to know, and more, about:
THE ANGEL MORONI STATUE
A large majority of Latter-day Saint (“Mormon”) Temples across the world have a gold-leaf statue perched on the top spire. The statue depicts a man in flowing robes blowing a trumpet. This recognizable Mormon symbol represents a heavenly messenger [angel] named Moroni, who appeared to the first Latter-day prophet Joseph Smith , visiting on several occasions. Moroni showed Joseph where the records of an ancient American civilization were buried, which were translated into the Book of Mormon. [extra trivia tidbit: the prophet Mormon which the book is named after and where Latter-day Saints get their nickname, was Moroni’s father]
AN EARLY ANGEL:
The first angel placed on an LDS temple was the original Nauvoo Illinois Temple built in the 1840’s and destroyed by fire in 1848. The angel fulfilled a tri-functional purpose as religious symbol, weather vane, and lightning rod. This statue did not officially represent an angel Moroni. It was depicting a “Flying Angel”, as inspired by Revelation 14:6,
“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.”
The Salt Lake Temple, dedicated in 1893, was the next LDS temple topped with an angel, and, the first to be formally identified as representing the angel Moroni. This statue was designed by an American Presbyterian sculptor living in Salt Lake City named Cyrus Dallin.
Cyrus Edwin Dallin was born in Springville, Utah, on 22 November 1861. His ancestors converted to the LDS Church in England and immigrated to Utah in 1851. Once there, however, Dallin’s parents joined the Presbyterian Church. As a child he loved sketching and modeling with clay. Eventually he studied art in Boston.
When LDS President Wilford Woodruff asked Dallin to create the statue, he declined, saying he “did not believe in angels.” President Woodruff was not deterred. He encouraged Cyrus to consult with his mother, a former Latter-day Saint.
The sculptor’s mother felt strongly that her son should accept the commission. When Cyrus repeated he did not believe in angels, his mother asked: “Why do you say that? You call me your ‘angel mother.’ ” She encouraged him to study LDS scriptures for inspiration, which he did.
Dallin’s design was a dignified, neoclassical angel in robe and cap, standing upright with a trumpet in hand. The original 40-inch plaster model was completed by 4 October 1891 and exhibited at the Salt Lake Fair. A full-size model was sent to Salem, Ohio, where the statue was hammered out of copper and covered with 22-karat gold leaf.
The 12-foot-5-inch statue stands on a stone ball on the 210-foot central spire on the east side of the temple.
Dallin’s reaction to his experience is enlightening:
“I consider that my ‘angel Moroni’ brought me nearer to God than anything I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to commune with angels from heaven.”
(Levi Edgar Young, “The Angel Moroni and Cyrus Dallin,” Improvement Era, Apr. 1953, 234 as quoted)
OTHER SCULPTORS & ANGELS:
Today, nearly every Latter-day Saint temple includes an Angel Moroni statue. Since Cyrus Dallin, other significant sculptors have been involved in designing the statues:
1. Millard F. Malin created the 2nd Angel Moroni Statue, placed on the Los Angeles California Temple in 1953 (dedicated 1956) . His angel was cast in aluminum, and stands 4.7 meters high and weighs 953 kilograms. It has Native American features, wears a Mayan style cloak and holds the gold plates in his left hand. You can read a fascinating trivia article about this statue at Keepapitchin entitled “Angel Moroni’s Secret“.
This angel was created as a one-meter model which was sent to Italy where it was enlarged, cast in bronze, and gilded. The finished statue is 5.5 meters high and weighs over 4,000 pounds (1814 kg). The Seattle Washington, Jordan River Utah, and Mexico City Mexico Temples each have a 4.6 meter casting of this statue.
3. Torlief Knaphus is most famous for creating the Hill Cumorah Monument - [another Moroni statue] which stands atop the historic LDS site believed to be the location where Joseph Smith received the ancient Book of Mormon records [golden plates] from the angel Moroni. [Bonus trivia: This angel statue was the first designed holding the plates in it’s left arm. Today, 5 Temples have an Angel Moroni statue depicted holding the gold plates in its left arm – Los Angeles California, Washington DC, Seattle Washington, Jordan River Utah and Mexico City] Located near Palmyra New York, just southeast of Rochester, this is also the site of the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. Torlief created a second Moroni statue design which was eventually used for the Idaho Falls, Atlanta Georgia, and Boston Massachusetts Temples.
4. Karl Quilter studied under Avard Fairbanks, and sculpted his first Angel Moroni in 1978. Two sizes were made, one 3 meters high, the other just over 2 meters.
These statues were designed to reduce the cost and weight of the previous Angel Moroni statues, in order to become a standard part of the temple architecture. These angels are made of fiberglass and covered with gold leaf. In 1998 with the construction of many new smaller temples, Quilter was commissioned to create a new angel. This angel was similar in design to his previous angels, but he gave Moroni a slightly more massive build, his left hand is opened, and his body is turned slightly showing more action. The photo attached is a 1998 design found on the Bern Switzerland Temple 2005 replacement Moroni. Quilter’s Angel Moroni design is found on well over one hundred (100) temples around the world. (J. Michael Hunter, “‘I Saw Another Angel Fly’,” Liahona, Aug. 2000, p. 12.)
FACING EAST or WEST?
The Angel Moroni statues are traditionally turned to face East, to herald the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. However, a handful of angel Moroni statues face West due to the orientation of the lots and the placement of the spires (or towers). These are the Seattle Washington Temple, Spokane Washington Temple, rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple, and Taipei Taiwan Temple.
Update July 2014 – go check out the cool graphs over at 3DTemples “Moroni Always Faces East [Except When He Doesn’t]”
THE WHITE ANGEL EXPERIMENT
The Monticello Utah Temple is the only temple to have had a white angel Moroni. President Gordon B. Hinckley had envisioned all of the “smaller temples” to have a white enamel angel, however the Monticello experiment proved the white statue was too difficult to see, especially in cloudy weather. It was replaced about a year later by a larger, traditional gold-leafed statue, which remained the standard from then on.
TEMPLES WITHOUT AN ANGEL
For various reasons, eight (8) current temples do not have an angel Moroni. They are the St. George Utah, Logan Utah, Manti Utah, Laie Hawaii, Cardston Alberta, Mesa Arizona, Hamilton New Zealand, and Oakland California Temples.
ANGELS WITHOUT A TEMPLE
One of the most beloved and popular Angel Moroni’s during the early 20th century did not top a temple – but rather, it crowned the Washington D.C. Chapel.
This Mormon congregation had the distinction of having the only chapel adorned by a golden angel Moroni (an exact replica of Cyrus Dallin’s Salt Lake City Temple Moroni). The stone used to construct the exquisite chapel was taken from a granite quarry in Utah and transported to the nation’s capital. Dedicated on Nov. 5, 1933, this beautiful and unique building served the church for over 4 decades, until it was sold in 1975 to the Unification Church. The unique Chapel Angel was removed at that time, and is now displayed inside the Museum of Church History in Salt Lake City.
[Extra Trivia: My father attended church in the Washington DC Ward Chapel during the late 1960s and early 70s. During that time, Dad served as a Ward Missionary Leader and credits many baptisms to their Angel Moroni. He recalls that visitors would be drawn to the beautiful building with the beautiful statue on a daily basis. They would come inside, and request to learn more about the church.]
ANGEL MORONI and LIGHTNING
The angel atop the newly constructed Oquirrh Mountain Temple was struck and blackened by lightning on June 13, 2009.
Many people enjoyed poking jabs at this incident, and/or trying to devise some sort of “sign from God” theory. However, the plain and simple fact is that being the highest point on a very tall building, all Angel Moroni statues are frequently hit by lightning. They each include a lightening rod to protect the building, which emerges from the top of the statues head, and they also include special varnish to protect against extreme weather.
It appears that this particular angel suffered from a fluke strike which bounced and caused scorching:
“The original Angel Moroni statue suffered damage when the June 13, 2009 bolt hit the lightning rod on its head and arced beyond that point.” – Deseret News Mormon Times
The poor damaged Moroni was replaced successfully. The new one included an extra lightening rod, for extra protection.
ANGEL MORONI and EARTHQUAKES:
The trumpets of the angel Moroni statues have been launched right out of Moroni’s grasp during earthquakes near the Santiago Chile Temple, Tokyo Japan Temple, and Apia Samoa Temple [see these Temple facts]
HOW MANY ANGEL MORONI STATUES?:
As of this publication date there are 130 Operating Temples, 8 Under Construction and 13 Announced – (click this link for monthly update). As stated above, 8 temples do not have an angel Moroni statue. That adds up to a lot of angel Moroni statues!
PLACING AN ANGEL:
The event of an angel Moroni being placed upon the top of a new temple is always a very exciting celebration.
VIDEO: The Helsinki Finland Temple Thursday, October 13, 2005.
Each Angel Moroni is a special symbol to the Latter-day Saints. They are a reminder of the miraculous and holy circumstances which surround founding events of the church, and a declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ being available and declared to all nations of the earth.
I always welcome your comments! “Don’t be mean, & keep it clean“! – MoSop
**Jan 31, 2012 Updated – Thank you everyone for your amazing and helpful comments, and info sharing! I have added additional photos and links to improve this popular post**
11/27/2013 THIS POST WAS MENTIONED on DeseretNews.com