Monday, November 1, 2010

Temple Statues (other than those of the Angel Moroni)

Most Latter-day Saint temples have statues of the Angel Moroni on their tallest spire, and I wrote about that a few posts ago.  I have also written about relief sculptures on temples.  I mentioned that there is only 1 temple I know of that had a non-Moroni sculpture on the temple.  In this post I’m going to talk about that temple’s sculptures and other statuary on LDS temple grounds.

The Salt Lake Temple is the only temple I know of that used to have statues other than of the Angel Moroni on the temple.  I wrote “statues” because there were 2 of them and I wrote “used to” because they have since been moved to elsewhere on temple square.  Have you ever noticed those little covered spaces just to the sides of the doors of the Salt Lake Temple (seen in the picture on the right of the door)?  Brides love to get pictures standing underneath them.  Well these aren’t just wedding picture locations, they are statuary niches.  The top covering would keep rain off statues, slowing corrosion while framing the statue at the same time.  While there are 4 places for statues, there were only ever 2 statues placed in them.  Originally bronze statues of the martyrs Joseph Smith Jr. and his brother Hyrum Smith were placed in the statuary niches on the east side of the Salt Lake Temple.

Some years after the completion of the Salt Lake Temple the church moved the statues to another spot on temple square south of the temple so you can still see them there.  I am confused why they did this.  Articles I’ve read discussing this say that the niches are loved by brides getting pictures, but the west niches never had statues so brides could still use those.  Also, these were in the temple design and are symbols of sacrifice, testimony, and priesthood (a prophet and patriarch) among other things.  I think they should be put back in the niches.  Maybe the reasoning was that having 2 of 4 niches empty was silly, but having 4 of 4 niches empty is even sillier in my opinion.  Maybe they wanted them to get noticed more on temple square; however, with the general public now allowed to walk right up to the doors this isn’t an issue.  Placing statues in the niches should also attract more attention.  Moving the statues would also be really easy and would provide more protection to them.

Well, this post isn't just about these statues of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on the Salt Lake Temple, but before I leave that topic I'd like to propose a discussion for the comments.  If the church put the statues back in the niches on the east side of the temple and they wanted to fill the two empty west statuary niches, who's statue would you place there?  I know a few of my nominations, but I'll save them for the comments.  There are a lot of factors to consider - the symbolism, importance of the people, how the statues will match the other two, etc.  PLEASE COMMENT

Other temples also have statues on their grounds.  Here is a list I've compiled (very incomplete):

Many temples have visitors centers with replicas of Thorvaldsen's Christus statue.  Although I really like this statue, I would like to see the church commission Christ statues or make replicas of other artist’s Christ statues for some variety.  I can always see the Christus replica when I visit Temple Square in Salt Lake.

Manti Utah Temple – this temple actually has a statue of the ancient American prophet Moroni, only not as an angel and not on the tower or temple itself.

Salt Lake Temple – Temple Square has many statues on the grounds.

Laie Hawaii Temple – Multiple statues by the Fairbanks brothers ore around the temple including:
  A fountain statue dedicated to motherhood with a mother holding a giant clam shell and pouring water over children as a symbol of mothers pouring love, hope and care on their children. 
  A statue of Joseph being blessed by his father.
  A statue of the The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi

Oakland California Temple – The courtyard has a sculpture of children (and a cute dog) and quotes 3 Nephi  17

Nauvoo Illinois Temple – Grounds to the west have a statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on horseback.

Rome Italy Temple – This planned temple has a plaza between the visitors center, stake center, patron housing, family history center and temple that includes statues.  You can clearly see in the rendering bronze statues showing the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.  In addition there are 2 other statues.  One looks like it has women, the other I’m not sure.

Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple – shares grounds with a pioneer cemetery with statues and bas-relief sculptures.

I also notice that the Manti Utah Temple has a bunch of empty statuary niches.  I don't think these were ever planned to contain statues.  In the Logan Utah Temple the same places have windows.

If you want to discuss other temple statues, talk about adding statues to future temples, or anything else, PLEASE COMMENT.
I personally think that one of the new 2 towered temples would look good with a statue of the Aaronic Priesthood restoration in front of the Aaronic Priesthood side (baptistery entrance) and a statue of the Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration in front of the Melchizedek Priesthood side (main entrance).  These could either be in niches above the doors or just have a path around them.  Bas-relief sculptures would also be an option.  Either way the art would strengthen temple themes and teach.
I also like the idea of putting other statues on temples.  For instance, John the Baptist would look great on a temple west spire.  He already shows up in a lot of temple baptistery paintings and stained glass.

-The following is an addition to the original post

My brother-in-law reminded me of a few statues inside the Salt Lake Temple.  In the celestial room, in front of a Tiffany glass window there is a statue of a woman with two babies on either side.  She is holding something, I think laurels or flowers, or another plant.  I have been unable to find the reference on this, but I thought the statue is supposed to represent something and not a specific person.  It represents love or innocence or some ideal like that.  I find several blog entries claiming it is Aphrodite which in 1890s neoclassicism means love, beauty and fetility.  I also have found some people who say it is the Virgin Mary (one even claimed the Catholic church had donated it to the LDS church) but I'm not sure about that because the statue is flanked by 2 children, not holding one infant Jesus.

There is also a statue of a Cupid or Eros or a cherub on a railing on a staircase that leads up to a sealing room where couples are married for time and all eternity.  The statue is only a foot or so tall and includes a quiver of arrows.  This is clearly a symbol of love.  Neoclassical statues like these were common in 1893 and even earlier.  Many cathedrals in Europe are filled with similar statues representing ideals or showing Greek and Roman gods in a symbolic Christian way (like having Cupid for love).  The other statues in the Celestial Room( if you want to call them statues) are a few birds and a lot of fruits and flowers carved into the walls and ceiling.


Scott said...

Come on readers, post a comment. I'll start. If the Joseph and Hyrum statues were returned to the Salt Lake Temple statuary niches, I would propose these two statues for the west 2 niches:
John Taylor - he was wounded at Carthage when Joseph and Hyrum were martyred and he was the 3rd prophet.
Willard Richards - held off the mob at Carthage and miraculously wasn't wounded fulfilling one of Joseph Smith's prophecies.
These two would strengthen the Carthage theme and deal with sacrifice and the martyrdom.

Wendella said...

Some ideas for the empty niches: John the baptist and the apostle Peter (representing the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods); a Book of Mormon prophet such as Nephi or Mormon and the current prophet; Adam and Moses; or Abraham and Isaac (symbolic of Heavenly Father and Jesus).

Travis Brinton said...

I'd suggest putting Joseph and Hyrum in the west niches and leaving the east niches open for wedding photos. There's a lot more room in front of the east side for parties to gather, the sunlight is more likely to be favorable for photos, people are used to it, and it's closer to the temple entrance (in fact, newlyweds usually exit through another auxiliary structure that puts them right in front of the east side).

Scott said...

Travis -
Thanks for commenting. That could work. I know for my sister's wedding she exited out the west temple doors, not the annex so they do use those big doors. As for lighting, we took photos at the west doors, it just depends on the time of day. East is best for morning, West for afternoon.

Brett said...

This is an ok thread of statues that were and are in the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple.

Don said...

The cathedrals of Europe almost universally have statues in niches on the outside, indicating a certain official status--almost always sainthood--for those whose likenesses are placed there. I think the Church's decision to move the statues was probably to avoid creating the appearance that we were engaging in that practice, or give fodder to the dishonest critics of the Church who claim that we worship Joseph Smith. Keeping the images of men off the temple avoids creating the impression that we were worshiping men, and helps us focus our temple worship only on Christ. So I wouldn't the statues back, and I wouldn't add anyone to the other side.

Don said...

With regard to the likeness of a woman, I can't remember whether Talmage, in The House of the Lord, said it might represent Eve. In any case, it may just be a random human image that functions solely as a decorative feature. That would have been very common for the time. I'm doubtful that there's any significance to the cherubic figure on the staircase leading up to sealing rooms. Originally, the Salt Lake Temple had only two sealing rooms, and both were directly accessed from the Celestial Room with no stairs involved. The face on the staircase is, I suspect, just another architectural decoration of no special meaning (just like the similar faces on the case of the Tabernacle organ).

Scott said...

There was always a third sealing room in the Salt Lake Temple. It is up the stairs in the celestial room - directly off the celestial room. The statue is of a cupid complete with a quiver of arrows, not just a random face and this makes sense as a symbol of love. I read an article from 1893 explaining this. This sealing room is one of the original 3, not part of the annex addition which is accessed off a hallway on the opposite side of the celestial room.

As for the Joseph and Hyrum statues - Moroni was a man and we don't remove him. Also, we worry too much about how people are going to misrepresent us. The original intent was for the statues to be used on the temple. Also, we use inverted stars on the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple even though the connotation of those symbols has changed in modern times so I think we can restore the statues and explain that they aren't for worship if anyone asks. Besides, the statues are maybe 50 feet away so they can still be mistaken for items of worship by people who want to misinterpret our religion.

Seth said...

What is the 1893 article you are referring to? Would you please post it or tell me where I can find it? You are referring to the statue in the celestial room right?

Scott said...

Yes I am referring to the celestial room statue. I tried to find the article again last night but couldn't find it. I thought it was a New York Times article but I couldn't find it in their archives so I probably am thinking of the wrong newspaper. I read the article a year ago or so. It talked about Tiffany glass being used in the temple, brought in from New York, and the various decorations and requirements for modesty. I think it was an 1893 article because it was talking about the various things from the east that were used in the temple. I thought it was published just before the temple was dedicated, although it may have been written years later. I stumbled across it by accident one day and unfortunately I do not remember what search term brought the article up. I have read a nice old TIME magazine article published about the London Temple just before it opened up. It is always interesting to read old reports of temples.

Seth said...

any ideas on where the statue above the veil in the celestial room with the two cherubs came from? I've heard a gift from the catholic church which I seriously doubt. No one seems to know anything about it. I also doubt it's just some random statue that was found. Due the symbolism of the temple I feel like it has a meaning, but I would like to know where the church got it from.

Scott said...

I found some information. Apparently the statue is discussed in a Harper's Weekly article by one of Brigham Young's non-mormon granddaughters. The discussion at this website:
Quotes the article as saying this:

By Eugene Young, of Salt Lake City
* * *
Passing through drooping silk damask curtains hang-
ing from a fifty-foot arch, the party at last reached the
most beautiful room in the building, the Celestial Room, in-
tended to typify the glory of the highest kingdom in the
hereafter as compared with the lower kingdom. If human
art can present an idea of heaven, it must be presented in
this part of the building, for an air of rest and comfort per-
vades the very atmosphere. The background, of warm
terra-cotta brown, is relieved by hangings of the richest ma-
terial and most exquisite shades of color, and also by eight
massive and richly carved Greek columns, four each on the
north and south sides, each of which ends in a niche for the
bust of a prominent churchman, the busts of Brigham
Young, Wilford Woodruff, now president of the Church,
and George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, his counsellors,
being already placed in four of these niches. Over the arch
at the west end of the room is a figure of the Virgin in
white, the work of a Utah sculptor; and two rich paint-
ings hang at the east end, representing respectively the
Hill Cumorah, where Joseph Smith is supposed to have
found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and Adam-on-di-
Ahman, a place in Missouri, where Adam is supposed to
have built an altar when he was cast out of the Garden of
Eden, it being a part of the Mormon belief that the Garden
of Eden was on this continent. The roof, however, is the
most beautiful part of the room, as bunches of fruits and
flowers, naturally moulded and artistically painted, hang
thereon in convergent lines, forming a satisfying picture for
an aesthetic taste.

I found a link to the article in BYU's scholar search. I wasn't able to view it as I am not a student. Harper's Weekly's archives didn't have the article even though their archives go back to the 1850s.

Keep in mind that this article was written by a non member who may have misunderstood the statue's significance. She may not have been told what it meant and just thought the meaning was obvious.

Seth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just found your blog; amazing!

A sealer in the SL temple told my wife and I that the "third sealing room" was intended as the temple recorder's office, and that the current sealer's office (the room with the fireplace adjoining the Grand Staircase) was originally living space for the Prophet. Can you confirm or debunk this?

Scott said...

I've heard that as well.

Browns said...

The 3rd Sealing room was for the sealer (as you said) and typically was used by the prophet, and President of the Temple. The Church, of course, added several offices for records, the presidencym, and other functions. As for the cherub in front, I think that the Catholic Church idea is actually a rumor and it was simply a unique antique that would suggest divinity and love. We must remember that symbols must change with time. As one who has studied the ancient near-east I was shocked to learn that the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant were NOT angelic looking figures; rather, they looked like the Mesopotamian guards that the Israelites would have identified with power.

Ryan said...

Hey! Loooove this site. How about Elijah, Moses, Isaiah, and JS - they all fit with the gathering of Isreal/work for the dead/attending the temple theme. Hyrum actually would make sense for the same reasons - we don't ever really talk about that he was copresident of the church at the time of his death...

Anonymous said...

Be p. c. or at least make atonement for past sins: Elijah Able and Emma Smith would fill those empty niches nicely!

cdiddy said...

Having assisted the Architects for the Rome Temple, I am aware that in addition to the statuary Scott mentioned, there are plans to include copies of Thorvaldsens statues of the Twelve Apostles as part of the Visitor Center for that Temple.

Shawn Horrocks said...

Seems this is a dead blog, but just in case somebody is still interested, I think the reason the statues were moved from the Salt Lake Temple is related to the vandalism and subsequent closure of the area immediately around the Temple from the 1970s to the early 2000s when the church created the Main Street plaza.

It is my understanding that the move was to allow visitors to see the statues without having to grant them access to the grounds immediately around the temple. This was also the time frame when they created the restricted access entries for the temple. Unless there's been a recent change, one of the entries is still used to access the baptistery.

Anonymous said...

This could explain why access was restricted around the temple and door statues removed:

On November 14, 1962, at about 1:30 AM, the southeast door of the Salt Lake Temple was bombed. FBI agents state that the explosive had been wrapped around the door handles on the southeast entrance of the temple. The large wooden entrance doors were damaged by flying fragments of metal and glass. Damage to interior walls occurred 25 feet inside the temple, but damage to the interior was minor. Eleven exterior windows were shattered. Many members of the LDS Church believed this incident was related to violence of the nation's racial strife and the Priesthood racial restriction policy of the church at the time.

Jesse Abraham Lucas said...

Back in 2012 I was with a volunteer cleaning crew around the assembly room. I recall a small statue of a dragon, I think in bronze with a marble pillar base, about 3/4 feet high for the pillar and about a foot high for the base. I think it was standing up on its hind legs. I asked our supervisor about it and he just said "that's a statue of a dragon."