BYU to Again Display Famed “Mormon Panorama”

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 3 June 2015

Catching Quails from C.C.A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama.  Courtesy BYU-MOA.

Article Highlights

  • Brother C. C. A. Christensen told the history of the Restoration and the Mormon pioneers through Mormon Panorama, a collection of paintings stitched together.
  • The BYU Museum of Art places it on public display once each decade.
  • It will be available again for public viewing starting June 4.

“In terms of Church history, the Mormon Panorama remains a remarkable document.” —Ashlee Whitaker, a curator at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art

PROVO, UTAH

If Mormon pioneer artist C. C. A. Christensen were alive today, he would perhaps be a documentarian or a television journalist. He was a natural at telling stories through word and image.

But Brother Christensen lived in the 19th century, when photography was in its infancy and motion pictures were the stuff of dreams. So, instead, he shared his stories via paint on canvas.

A convert from Denmark, C. C. A. Christensen told the history of the Restoration and the Mormon pioneers to gatherings across the western United States. His famed Mormon Panorama is a collection of paintings—each 6.5 feet by 10 feet—stitched together to create a connected, rolling narrative.

The panorama’s 22 oil paintings depict key moments from early Church history such as the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the Saints’ exodus from Missouri.

“In terms of Church history, the Mormon Panorama remains a remarkable document,” said Ashlee Whitaker, a curator at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art.

The museum owns the priceless panorama and places it on public display once each decade. It will be available again for public viewing starting June 4.

Entitled “Moving Pictures: C. C. A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama,” the exhibition will allow patrons to experience the sacred narrative as it was presented over a century ago.

Joseph Preaching to the Indians is part of C. C. A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama. Courtesy BYU-MOA

Mormon pioneer artist C. C. A. Christensen joined the Church in his native Denmark and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley as part of a handcart company. He created the Mormon Panorama that told the story of the early days of the restored Church. Courtesy BYU-MOA

Brother Christensen would roll up his canvas panorama, place it on a horse-drawn wagon, and travel from city to city to present his show. He used the images to chronicle the stories of faith that defined the early Church leaders and the Mormon pioneer trek, ending with the settlement of the Salt Lake Valley.

The artist was a handcart pioneer. That life-altering experience left him anxious to share the story of the restored gospel with as many people as possible.

“C. C. A. Christensen began painting his panorama in the 1870s,” said Sister Whitaker. “He wanted to help a new generation of youth who had not experienced Kirtland or Nauvoo learn about the early history of the Church.”

Though painted almost 150 years ago, the Mormon Panorama remains a powerful tribute to the faith and sacrifices of the early members of the Church, she added.

The exhibition will be on display until October 3 at the Museum of Art on BYU’s campus. Admission is free.

Saints Driven from Jackson County, Missouri is part of C. C. A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama. Courtesy BYU-MOA

Leaving Missouri from C. C. A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama.

Burning of the Temple is part of C. C. A. Christensen’s Mormon Panorama.