Friday, October 29, 2010

Angel Moroni Statues

Wow, I have not written on this blog in a long while. This is mainly because nobody ever commented on my posts. So please comment on my posts and if you like the content in this blog, link it to your web pages/ blogs, it helps get more readers here.

So today's post is about Angel Moroni statues. The Angel Moroni was an angel who appeared to Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon or LDS church).  To quickly summarize, the angel gave Joseph Smith the record that The Book of Mormon is translated from  For a complete account click here.  Verses 30 on in particular deal with the Angel Moroni.  These statues are on most LDS temples as a symbol that revelation still exists, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, and of the angel mentioned in Rev 14:6.  Eight temples don't Angel Moroni statues because they lack a spire (Laie Hawaii, Cardston Alberta Canada, Mesa Arizona) or because they were built before the statues were traditional (St. George Utah, Logan Utah, Manti Utah, Hamilton New Zealand, Oakland California). Originally the Idaho Falls Idaho, Bern Switzerland, London England, Ogden Utah, Provo Utah, Sao Paulo Brazil, Tokyo Japan, and Freiburg Germany Temples lacked statues, but have since had them added. The Boston Massachusetts Temple and Manhattan New York Temple both had spires added shortly after their dedications (due to a court case for Boston).

The image at the top of this post shows 5 Moroni statues and a proto-Moroni weather vane. This shows some of the diversity in Moroni statue design. The first picture shows how the angel weather vane on the Nauvoo Temple would have originally looked. This was the only flying angel statue on a temple and wasn't specified as Moroni. Notice that he is holding a book and not gold plated. This may imply that he was a general angel and not Moroni specifically, or that he was someone such as Joseph Smith (as one institute teacher of mine theorized). Regardless of the intended identity, this weather vane represented the angel in Revelation 14:6

The next temple with an angel was the Salt Lake Temple. Originally it was planned to have 2 angel weather vanes (Nauvoo style) with one on the east center tower and one on the west center tower (scroll down in the link for the drawing). By the time the temple was completed 40 years later in 1893, styles had changed and statues were more common on the tops of buildings (think U.S. capitol building). So Cyrus E. Dallin was commissioned to make a standing angel statue, now identified as Moroni. This is the second picture on the image above (from the left).

63 years after the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, the Los Angeles Temple was the next temple with an Angel Moroni statue. This statue (3rd from left in above picture) is quite unique
because Moroni is Native American and dressed in Mayan clothing. Also, this is one of the few Moroni statues holding gold plates and not just a trumpet. The Washington D.C. Temple also has an Angel Moroni statue holding plates and replicas of this statue are found on the Jordan River Utah (pictured 4th from left), Seattle Washington and Mexico City Mexico Temples. These are the only temples with Angel Moroni statues holding plates.

As all temples began to include Angel Moroni statues several styles have been used. When the small temples first began to be built, the Monticello Temple was given a white Angel Moroni statue holding a trumpet and a scroll. Unfortunately the white statue disappeared in the clouds so it was replaced with a gold leafed one shortly thereafter and now all Moroni statues are gold leafed. Five temples have Moroni with a scroll (5th from left in picture). These are the Anchorage Alaska, Bismarck North Dakota, Columbus Ohio, Kona Hawaii, and Caracas Venezuela Temples.

It should also be noted that Angel Moroni statues are not exclusive to Temples. The Washington D. C. ward chapel had a replica of the Salt Lake Temple Moroni sculpted by Torlief Knaphus (this replica is now in the Church Museum of History and art and castings of it were added to the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple and Atlanta Georgia Temple (since replaced)).  The Hill Cumorah Monument (far right in picture) also has a Moroni Statue without a trumpet, but with gold plates (and a beard!).

I also want to note that there is a lot of lore about Angel Moroni statues having to face east. This simply isn't true. While most do, because many (not all) temples face east, at least the following do not face east: Seattle Washington (west), Dallas Texas (South), Nauvoo Illinois (West), Spokane Washington (West, although originally East), Taipei Taiwan (West), and Manhattan New York (Southwest).

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you've learned something. Please post a comment to encourage me to keep this blog up to date. Also if you know any interesting Angel Moroni Statue trivia, please comment.

Due to comments I am adding the following:

Well there have been 5 sculptors (6 if you count LaVar Wallgren as distinct from Quilter). Read Ensign Jan 2010 article

The sculptors and corresponding Angel Moroni statues are:

Cyrus Dallin - Salt Lake, Copper, 12'5"

Torlief Knaphus - SL replica for D.C. Chapel, hollow Aluminum (now in the Church Museum of History and Art). Fiberglass castings of this statue by LaVar Wallgren were placed on the Atlanta Georgia (later replaced) and Idaho Falls Temples. Knaphus Also did the Hill Cumorah Moroni (10'4" bronze) He also helped Avard Fairbanks do the Laie Hawaii Temple Font and he sculpted the oxen for the Cardston Alberta, Mesa Arizona and Idaho Falls Temple Fonts.

Millard F. Malin - L.A., 15'5" Aluminum

Avard Fairbanks - Washington D.C. (18ft bronze) and 15'2" bronze castings of the same sculpture for Jordan River, Seattle Washington, and Mexico City Temples.

Karl Quilter - 1978 commission for a 10ft and 7ft Moroni. The originals were then cast in fiberglass by LaVar Wallgren and used on many temples. Quilter got a 1998 commission to make a 6'10" Moroni for small temples. Although the article doesn't mention it, he would have had to have made the Moroni w/ scroll used on 5 temples and then the Moroni w/ open hand used on all future temples. Fiberglass castings of these are used on many temples. Over 100 Karl Quilter/LaVar Wallgren Moroni statues are on temples. Quilter also made L.A. font oxen. Wallgren makes Moroni statues in his Kearns, UT studio.

LaVar Wallgren has generally worked with Karl Quilter and may be considered a sixth sculptor of Angel Moroni statues.  He did a casting of the Washington D.C. Chapel Angel Moroni statue that was used on the Atlanta Georgia Temple for a while and may have done other statues without Quilter, although I am not certain if Quilter was or was not involved with Wallgren on all of Wallgren's Mornoni statues. 

Addition to the original post (added 18 March 2011)
Here are articles on Angel Moroni statues if you want to read more here and here:

26 comments:

Persephone said...

That is really interesting about the DC chapel having an angel Moroni statue. Does the Church have some sort of art contest to see who will sculpt the statues?

Jon said...

Because Brittany wants to enter it yesterday.

Scott said...

Well Brittany and Jon, I've added to the post about who the sculptors are and some of their background. It looks like the church sees an artist they like and then commissions a statue. Working under previous artists or on fonts seems to help. Interestingly Cyrus Dallin was a non-member and didn't believe in angels and originally didn't want to do the sculpture.

Wendella said...

Really fascinating information. Keep up the blog! I will keep reading.

GDP said...

So, gold plate on aluminum would not present any kind of corrosion problem similar to the Statue of Liberty (copper on wrought iron) since gold has such a low number on the corrosive scale (dissimilar metals don't work and play well with each other). Plus, like you mentioned with the Monticello temple, gold doesn't disappear into the clouds. I really doubt many people, other than Mormons understand the symbolism of the angel Moroni statues. My mission in Kobe, Japan used and still uses the Angel Moroni in front of the rising sun as it's logo.

GDP

Scott said...

GDP - after reading your comment I realized that anyone not familiar with Moroni might be a little confused, so I added a little about Moroni including a link to JS-H to the original post.
As for corrosion, I don't know as much as you on that. I know that gold leaf doesn't corrode, unlike exposed copper. BTW part of the statue of liberty's problem is that the exposed copper exterior will corrode no matter what's underneath. Many don't realize that the Angel Moroni statues' gold is minimal, probably several dollars worth of gold since it is gold leaf, an incredibly thin layer. The real expense to gold leaf is applying it, which is probably still only a couple hundred dollars.

Brett said...

The Sydney Temple was initially dedicated without an Angel Moroni. However within a year the Church had successfully appealed an earlier court decision and was granted permission to add it to the building...which the Church did the very next day.

Sara said...

This helped with my family home evening for tonight! Great post. My 2 year old is obsessed with Angel Moroni - So I'm excited to share some new things tonight.

Don said...

I thought the statue in the Church History Museum was taken from the Washington, DC Chapel. If that's not the case, where does it come from?

Scott said...

Don,
I haven't found where the original article was that said the statue was on Atlanta. I can confirm that a replica was placed on Atlanta and since replaced. I thought I read that it was replaced by the original; however, I cannot find the article so I have edited the original post accordingly.

Sourdough said...

The Moroni statue on the Denver Temple was hit by lightning 3 or 4 times and started to show some wear, the gold was coming off in a couple places. The Denver Temple is on a low hill, highest point in some distance, and we have some pretty fierce lightning storms due to the geography with the Rockies right off to the west. They modified it to include a lightning rod, which can be observed sticking out of his head slightly right at the top. I might have a photo if desired.

Scott said...

A lot of Angel Moroni statues have been struck by lightning as they are coated in a good conductor and are at a high elevation. Lightning rods are common now.

I saw a cool video of the Tokyo Temple during the huge earthquake last month. The Angel Moroni statue starts spinning (apparently a bolt holding it in place broke) and after the earthquake it faced about 90 degrees from where it started. A large aftershock a month later moved it most of the way back.

Rivka said...

I am trying to find out how much gold leaf is on the average statue of Moroni. I realize the statues vary in size, but do you know the weight of gold used on any of them?

Scott said...

It would be an incredibly small ammount. Gold leaf is increadibly thin. According to this website http://sorensenformula.blogspot.com/2009/08/angel-moroni.html the ammount is less than 1 ounce. Gold leaf generally costs much more for the labor to apply it than the actual gold costs.

Anna said...

In answer to your question about how much gold leaf is used on a typical size Moroni statue. My father was the first president of the Seattle Washington Temple. He also served on the temple committee and was the historian prior to his call to serve as the first temple president. From his journal, I quote: "The casting of Moroni is a little over 15 feet tall, weighing 5,800 pounds. It is cast of bronze and covered with 39 ounces of 23 karat gold foil at $248 per ounce." This was in 1979. The gold goil on Moroni cost just under $10,000 way back then, or roughly, $ 9,672. Six months ago the price of 23 karat gold foil was $1,000 to $1,100 per ounce. The gold leafing for the Seattle Temple in today's market would be from $39,000 to $42,900.

Anna said...

Would like to know that the owner of the blog received my comments about the cost of gold leafing.

Scott said...

Thanks for sharing Anna

marccrand said...

I was recently introduced to your blog and am loving it! I have a wonderful book about the DC Temple: A Light To The World - A History of It's Architectural Development by Keith W. Wilcox that has a funny story that I've always liked about the statue. The story is several paragraphs long but I'll summarize. Dr. Avard Fairbanks was chosen to design it and he invited several people to view the model. "I told Dr. Fairbanks I didn't like the sculpture. He was shocked. After gasping for breath, he asked why. I told him that to me the Angel Moroni looked as if he were 'drinking' from his horn rather than 'blowing' it. He asked what I meant. I responded by displaying how a former trombone player 'buzzed' with his lips to make the tone...I demonstrated this..Dr. Fairbanks requested that I model this so he could reform muscles around the mouth... however, when first perceiving the statue 300 feet in the air, I commented then that I could hardly see ...whether the Angel Moroni actually had a head, let alone how his lips appeared..." Hope you like it as much as I do!

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alan said...

Thanks and keep up blog please

Cory said...

All these added Moronis to temples that did not originally have them are so kitschy, especially on temples such as Sao Paolo, the Swiss Temple, and Tokyo. They look completely out of place and our in bad taste. Very thankful that my own hometown temple (Logan) is without a Moroni. I do think that the Moroni on Salt Lake and several other temples are well done, but the temple department is over doing it. In fact temples themselves are becoming very "cookie cutter" which I think is too bad.

Ed Kanet said...

I found your blog searching for Moroni statutes (I collect them); representations, not the real things ;-)

The comments on this thread are fascinating. The subject of this blog is intriguing.

I guess my interest with the statues lies in my interest in Mormon symbols (we have many of them, even though the Church rightfully so proclaims that the life we live is the symbol of our religion.

But there are some prominent symbols that stand for Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle Choir, the Book of Mormon and of course the subject of this thread.

I am fascinated with this symbol because of what it represents: the heralding in of that restoration of the Gospel in these Latter Days; the topping symbols on our temples which are centered around Jesus Christ, the true center of our religion; the Book of Mormon (on which the visage of Moroni has appeared), a second witness of Jesus Christ; that God still reveals His word; a testimony of Christ's Second Coming (the facing East from where He will return) and it just goes on and on.

As a convert to the Church and a lover of the message and characters of the Book of Mormon, Moroni—this last prophet—represents the type of individual the Lord wants for His kingdom.

Lastly, it reminds me of great missionary spirit espoused by the likes of Alma: "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!" -- Alma 29:1

I have taken and sold in LDS bookstores a lot of photographs of our local temple (Las Vegas Nevada). But for personal satisfaction I have photographed all of the details that goes into the architecture, particularly those that are symbolic.

So I appreciate the scope of this blog and will be contributing some insights. Thanks for maintaining it. Sorry that I didn't run across it a couple years ago.

Becky said...

Loved your blog - great information. I have been doing research on the Angel Moroni Statues for a presentation at the Church History Museum where I am a serving a mission as a docent. A couple of questions: 1) your blog makes mention of a picture of the "scroll" angel at the top of the article - I can't see it, 2) I would like your source for the Atlanta Georgia angel replacement, and 3) do you have a picture of the white angel before it was gold-leaved? I also came across an artilce in the Church News published Saturday, May 23, 1998 that states the Angel Moroni Statue used on the Monticello Temple was not only white, but that it was sculpted by LaVar Wallgren - Moroni holds a scroll in his left hand.

Scott said...

I don't have a photo of a Moroni holding a scroll or of the white Moroni (which I believe was later gold leafed and used on a different temple). Much of the information for the Atlanta Georgia Temple came from here http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/atlanta/
I will add some info on LaVar Wallgren

david said...

LaVar Wallgren was the sole artist for the angel design originally used for the small temples.