Mormon Trivia: The Angel Moroni Statue

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

Joseph Smith and The Angel Moroni

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]

1840’s Nauvoo “Flying Angel”

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 FIRST OFFICIAL ANGEL MORONI STATUE:

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 E. Dallin, 1880

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.

SLC Angel Moroni Replica

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:

LA Moroni – click to enlarge

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“.

2. Avard Fairbanks sculpted the third Angel Moroni statue which was placed on the Washington D.C. Temple, dedicated in 1974.

DC Moroni -click to enlarge

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.

 

Hill Comorah Monument

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.

Quilter

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

Photo shared by Jeff & Penny Richards

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

Laie Hawaii Temple

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.

DC Chapel, circa 1933

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.

Angel Moroni damaged by Lightening 6-13-09

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.

Courtesy Google Videos

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

55 thoughts on “Mormon Trivia: The Angel Moroni Statue

  1. Great article. Some points that could have been added include: 1) Which is the largests angel in weight and height. 2) Name of a chapel with an angel moroni on the steeple. 3)Which temples did not have an angel on them originally? I wish that you would have done this sooner so that I could have used the material in a youth conference presentation that I made last summer at the Washington DC Temple Visitors Center about how the Washington DC temple angel Moroni was different that other temples.

  2. An Angel Moroni statue adorned the top of the original Washington, D.C. Chapel.

    From artist Al Rounds’ website:

    The Washington, D.C. Chapel was built in the 1930s and served as the meetinghouse for many LDS members working in the U.S. government. [Ezra Taft Benson, future Secretary of Agriculture and future Church president became the first stake president.] It was sold in 1975, but the angel Moroni and other artifacts from it are now displayed in the Museum of Church History in Salt Lake City.

  3. Thanks everyone for your great comments!
    @Douglas – Sorry I didn’t accomodate you sooner, but glad you took the time to read!

    @Jake – thanks for sharing that! I don’t recall hearing about the Mt. Timp angel. It’s a bit odd that neither DesNews nor Mormon Times mentioned the prior angel being damaged by lightening when the Oquirrh Mt. angel was getting so much publicity.

    @ MormonBlogger – You are correct! That was a great tidbit I left off the article. My father used to attend the LDS chapel in Washington DC with the angel, and has many fond memories of his time there. The members were so proud of that unique chapel, and it was a marvelous missionary tool. He says that they had non-Mormon visitors to the chapel every single week. People would be so curious, or impressed with the gold angel statue they would walk in, and then stay for the meetings.

    • I am writing a personal history for my grandchildren. I am looking for pictures of the inside of the old DC chapel. If anyone has any, please let me know. Thanks.

  4. There’s one angle Moroni statue you’ve missed. At least the only one I know about. Possibly because it is no longer in place. The Old Washington DC Ward building, sold by the church in the 1970’s, once had a Moroni statue on its spire. I think it was a smaller replica of the Salt Lake Temple’s statue. In 1971 when my family visited DC, we visited this chapel and I saw the statue myself. In the late 1970’s the statue was briefly on display in the DC temple visitors center and I understand it is currently in the chruch museum west of Temple Square. Just thought you’d like to know.

    Thanks,
    Rick

  5. This was beautiful. I am post mormon, but I feel like I need an update occasionally. This must be a very emotional experience when seen in person. The close ups at the end, and the music by the taberbacle choir just added to everything.

  6. Thank you so much for the great article. It had some information that I was looking for. I am related to Karl Quilter. (My great-grandmother was a Quilter.) I had heard about Karl and something about the angel Moroni. Thank you for clarifying it for me. I greatly appreciate it!!!

  7. Interesting about the west facing Moroni’s. I wonder how many face north and south. The Mexico City Moroni faces south. The missionaries that gave us a tour said Pres. Kimball requested him to awaken the Lamanites and face the book of Mormon lands. This angel also has the gold plates. And I think the Manhatten temple faces southwest since the temple is on a street corner.

    • sorry, I don’t know the exact answer, but it wouldn’t be hard to figure out using some basic trigonometry. Here’s how:

      If you walked away from the temple wall, say 100ft and remained on level ground. If you could measure the angle from the ground looking up to the angel you could simply do this calculation: 100ft *(tan (put in measured degrees here)) = how high up the angel Moroni is.

      p.s. You’ll want to make sure your calculator is in degree mode, or you’ll get a wrong number. Also, this won’t be exactly right, as the angel Moroni isn’t directly over the East wall, but will give you a good estimate. You could also get a better estimate if you add to the initial 100ft how far in from the outer East wall you think the angel is before multiplying by tangent of the angle.

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  9. Sister MoSop,
    Thank you so much for this article! I am a Temple Trivia nut and maintain a full-page Excel spreadsheet (front and back) of all the temple trivia I can think of. I’d been wondering about the different Moroni statuess for a while now, and your article was an informative balm. :o) A suggestion and a question:

    Suggestion: The article is currently titled “Mormon Triva,” when you probably meant “Trivia.”

    Question: Can we pretty safely assume, then, that all the remaining temples not mentioned in the Dallin, Malin, Fairbanks, or Knaphus paragraphs, are adorned by the Quilter version?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Eric,
      1. Thank you for being so observant! I have corrected my spelling error :)
      2. You have posed an excellent question which I do not have an immediate answer for. It sounds like we have some sleuthing to do! If you find the answer before me, let me know – and vice versa.
      Best wishes, MoSop

      • Slipped my mind to remind everyone of the story of the Moroni at the L.A. Temple, as an appendix to your section about which way he should face. You’ve doubtlessly heard or read it before:

        “During one of his frequent visits to the temple, President David O. McKay noticed that the angel faced southeast as did the temple. He informed architect Edward O. Anderson “that it was not correct in that position…that the angel must face east.” The angel had generated much conversation among the neighbors, and one indicated, perhaps tongue in cheek, that she “certainly never would be interested [in learning more about the Church] until the angel faced her home.” One morning she awoke to find the statue “was looking directly at her place.” Brother Anderson had followed President McKay’s instructions to turn the angel.” (Temples to Dot the Earth by Richard Cowan, 1997 edition, page 183) :)

      • I’m considering putting it on Google Docs so that everyone can see it, and suggest improvements or corrections. If and when I do, I’ll let you know.

        Gosh, my best guess to your question, pre-Googling, would be the L.A. Temple. However, this answer would be wrong. The correct answer is interesting, and really rather obvious if you think about it.

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  11. Lance, you are correct. Only five temples at this time feature an angel Moroni statue holding a trumpet in one hand, and the gold plates in its other hand. These angels are located on the Los Angeles California Temple, Washington D.C. Temple, Seattle Washington Temple, Jordan River Utah Temple, and México City México Temple. A sixth angel Moroni holding plates stands atop the Hill Cumorah Monument.

    The first Angel Moroni sculpted to hold the golden plates in its left arm was designed by Torleif Knapfus for the Hill Cumorah Monument (see #3 above). Sculptor Millard Malin kept Knaphus’ design idea for his unique Los Angeles Temple angel (#1 above), also keeping the plates in Moroni’s left arm; so did Avard Fairbanks (#2), who sculpted the version for the Washington D.C. Temple. (Replicas of Fairbanks’s plate-holding Moroni stand atop the Seattle Washington, Jordan River Utah, and Mexico City Mexico Temples.)

    Every Angel Moroni statue is created as a unique work of art designed through inspiration. The choice to depict a Moroni holding the plates seems a perfect tribute to the prophet who sacrificed his entire life to preserve, protect and hide these sacred ancient records – and then to deliver them to Joseph Smith in the 19th Century. Although I do not have all of the details about each angel story, LA and DC angels are mentioned above. The Mexico City temple was the first temple built specifically for the decendents of the Lamanite people of the Book of Mormon, so I think it is especially fitting their angel is holding the golden plates!

  12. I hear the ball Angel Moroni stands on at SLC temple is actually a capstone of sorts that serves as a relic chamber containing historic church relics. Is this true do you know? Or what relics may be in there?

        • You might prove me wrong, but I don’t think there is “time capsule”-style stuff in there. Usually, those items are sealed into a cornerstone so that they can be (more-or-less) easily extracted later. Also, as you may know, the ball that the Angel Moroni stands on atop the Salt Lake Temple actually serves a practical engineering purpose. It is not actually a solid ball, but has a hole down the middle of it to allow a weighted pole attached to Moroni’s feet to swing a few degrees in every direction. So (unless I’m mistaken) I would think that it would be extremely tricky to pack very many items of historical significance into such a small, and oddly-shaped, space. Just my $0.02 cents, though.

    • I’m joining this discussion so late that this response may have little value. Here is a sentence from Church News, Feb. 6, 1993, in an article written by Elder Loren C. Dunn: “In the capstone are copies of the four standard works and other theological works, photographs of Church authorities, and an engraved tablet giving a brief history of the temple’s construction. (The Contributor, April 1893, pp. 275-77.)”

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  14. I count 9 different designs when closely examining all the angel Moroni photographs I could find, yet this article only mentions 5 different designs. Perhaps you could research and find information on the other (4?).

  15. I also count 9 different Angel Moroni Styles. Here is what I have found.
    1. Original Nauvoo Temple weathervane style (0 on current temples)
    2. Cyrus Dallen’s Salt Lake Temple version – replicas currently on Idaho Falls and Boston Temples (3 currently on Temples)
    3. Torlief Knaphus’s Hill Cumorah Monument Statue – (0 on temples)
    4. Millard Malin’s Los Angeles Temple Style – Gold Plates in left hand and Mayan clothes (1 on a temple)
    5. Avard Fairbanks’ Washington D.C. Temple style – gold plate in left hand (currently on 4 temples, Washington D.C., replicas on Jordan River, Seattle and Mexico City temples)
    6. Karl Quilter’s shorter (7 foot) 1978 style – closed fist left hand and tight sleeves (currently on 83 dedicated temples and two temples under construction) I have the list if interested
    7. Karl Quilter’s taller (10 foot) 1978 style – closed left fist and looser sleeves (currently on 33 dedicated temples and on one under construction) I have the list if interested
    8. LaVar Walgren’s design – scroll in left hand (5 on current temples Anchorage, Bismarck, Columbus Ohio, Kona Hawaii and Caracas Venezuela)
    9. Karl Quilter’s 1998 design – open left hand ( 3 on current temples Nauvoo, Manhattan and Reno Nevada)

    Eight temples have no Angel Moroni Statues.

    The Atlanta Temple used to have a #2 statue but now has a #6 Statue.

    The Monticello Utah Temple used to have a white #8 statue but now has a gold #6 statue.

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    • Hello Marilynn, Thank you for visiting. Please scroll back up and read item #1 under “Other Angels” which gives information about the Los Angeles Temple angel. “It has Native American features, wears a Mayan style cloak and holds the gold plates in his left hand.” Of course, no one actually knows what “Lamanite style clothing” actually looked like, but we can assume it had a close resemblance to styles found in “Aztec” art.
      I hope that helps answer your question.
      est wishes – MoSop

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  18. It should be noted that East and West are not the only options for directions for Moroni to face. Chicago and Guatemala City Face North, Dallas and Buenos Aires face south, and Manhattan Faces the Lincoln Center, South West.

  19. The following is a reference to another type of Angel which I use to share the Gospel with others. The reference is: Ensign 1984, Living by the Spirit by Joy Webb Rigby. Go to 2nd page if you do it on line; 1/2 way down a 2 line paragraph that starts out, “My husband and I…” Let me know what you think.

    • Thank you, Thomas for recommending the article “Living By The Spirit” .
      The story you reference of a young girl who was sent a special “angel” [her mother] was very sweet. :) I do hope that I can be that kind of mother for my children, and I do pray that we will all be a special angel for someone else.
      I am reminded of President Spencer W. Kimball’s famous quote:

      “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”

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