I Have a Question


Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

How long have statues of the angel Moroni appeared atop Latter-day Saint temples? Is there a reason the statues don’t appear on top of all temples?

Answered by Val D. Greenwood, director of special services and temple facilities, Church Temple Department.

Many members of the Church have become accustomed to seeing a golden statue depicting the angel Moroni on the tallest spires of latter-day temples. The gilded statues are so commonplace today that many people may not know that most temples built before 1980 had no statues of Moroni.

The first Latter-day Saint temple with a statue of an angel atop its spire was the Nauvoo Temple. That figure, unlike those we are familiar with today, was a smaller weather vane in the shape of a flying angel in a horizontal position. The angel, which was not then identified as the angel Moroni, was intended to represent the angel described in the book of Revelation as flying “in the midst of heaven” (Rev. 14:6).

The Salt Lake Temple, dedicated in 1893, was the second temple to be adorned with a statue of an angel. The earliest architectural sketches of the temple show that a statue representing a flying angel was considered. Before the angel was sculpted, however, Church authorities accepted the suggestion of a young sculptor, Cyrus E. Dallin, who was engaged for the project to sculpt the angel in an upright position. That statue—twelve feet, five and a half inches tall—also depicted the angel described in Revelation 14 and was formally identified as the angel Moroni (see Improvement Era, April 1968, p. 6).

The third temple to have a statue of the angel Moroni on its spire was the Los Angeles Temple, dedicated in 1956. The Washington Temple, dedicated in 1974, was fourth with a statue, followed by the Seattle Temple in 1980.

Nearly every temple dedicated since 1980 has been graced by a statue of the angel Moroni. A statue of the angel Moroni was added to the Idaho Falls Temple in the early 1980s, approximately forty years after its dedication. Only fifteen of the Church’s forty-five currently completed temples do not have a statue of the angel Moroni.

Yet the Church has no policy regarding the use of statues of the angel Moroni atop temples. The general practice is to use the statue, but there are reasons it may be absent. In certain geographic locations, building codes or use permits restrict use of the statue. The Sydney Australia Temple, for example, originally had no statue because of building restrictions. The statue was added later after permission to do so was granted.

In some areas, a statue may give more ornamentation than desired. In other areas, the statue is absent because a wrong impression may arise from its presence (such as in areas where statues on church buildings are understood to represent objects of worship). Limits imposed by the architectural design of some temples may be another reason; such is the case with the temple to be completed in Vernal, Utah, by converting the old Uintah Stake Tabernacle.

As the heavenly messenger who revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith the location of the golden plates of the Book of Mormon, Moroni has become a symbol of the Restoration and of the gospel being preached “unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6).

The angel Moroni

Thirty of the Church’s forty-five completed temples have statues of the angel Moroni, who has become a symbol of the Restoration and of the preaching of the gospel to all the earth. (Photo by Longin Lonczyna, Jr.)

Are members of the Church able to obtain copies of priesthood lines of authority from Church headquarters?

Answered by Glenn N. Rowe, President of the Japan Tokyo South Mission, on leave from his position as director of special projects in the Church Historical Department.

Recent growth of the Church and the simplification of the Church’s record-keeping procedures have made it increasingly difficult for the Church Historical Department to trace a member’s priesthood line of authority. As a result, the Church Historical Department no longer traces each member’s priesthood authority line.

These changes have placed the responsibility and opportunity of record keeping squarely on the family and on the individual. It is important for each of us to recognize that it is our responsibility and privilege, not the Church’s, to preserve records about ourselves and our families.

A priesthood authority line traces a priesthood holder’s authority from the person ordaining him back to Peter, James, and John, who conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood on the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829. For decades, the Church Historical Department provided members with a printed priesthood authority line for their ordination to their current priesthood office. This service required lengthy searches of ordinance and action records, old membership records, Church census records, vast volumes of minutes of ward and stake meetings, ward and stake annual historical reports, and other records. Through the years, Church curriculum materials and handbooks encouraged priesthood holders, young and old, to obtain their priesthood lines of authority and to provide copies to those whom they ordained.

Through the nineteenth century and most of the current century, clerks and record keepers meticulously kept a record of most ordinances involving individual Church members. These records have been retained by the Church Historical Department. However, the Church’s worldwide growth has necessitated the discontinuing of certain types of records about members. New, simplified membership recording systems have been implemented, and new membership records now record only information about a priesthood holder’s current priesthood office. Further, only a very simplified summary of historical events is submitted by stakes, missions, and districts. With the limited information now being recorded, it is no longer possible to trace individual priesthood authority lines.

One of the easiest ways to obtain a priesthood line of authority is for the ordained individual to request an authority line from the priesthood holder who ordained him. If that priesthood holder does not have an authority line, he might, in turn, seek out the person who performed his ordination.

Thousands of ordinances are performed weekly throughout the Church. These ordinances are to be performed by priesthood holders who have been properly ordained and properly authorized by one who has the keys to authorize the ordinance under the direction of the prophet. Therefore, it is “known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church” (D&C 42:11). This trust comes because of the wisdom of the Lord in establishing an orderly procedure in which delegation of the keys of the priesthood is always held by the living prophet.

Individuals and families are encouraged to keep their own records of priesthood ordinances, such as blessings of babies, baptisms, priesthood ordinations, patriarchal blessings, missionary calls, marriages, and so forth.