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Mormon values set in stone, bronze

Temple Square monuments portray restoration, pioneers

Faith, fortitude, courage, service, obedience - all are integral to Mormon legacy and the restoration of the gospel.

And commemorating these principles on Temple Square in Salt Lake City are monuments dating back to 1911. Included are twin statues of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Seagull Monument, the Nauvoo Bell, and monuments honoring the Three Witnesses, the Handcart Pioneers, and priesthood restoration, and a flagpole in front of stone panels depicting Christian and patriotic values. Also providing a reminder of the settling of Utah is a replica of the Great Salt Lake City Base and Meridian marker just outside the wall surrounding Temple Square on the southeast corner.These monuments combined tell the story of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the hand of God in the settling of Utah, said Glen M. Leonard, director of the Museum of Church History and Art.

"These monuments are a recapitulation of Church history," he added, "where we came from, how we became a distinct Church, which is the story of the Restoration. We have tended to tell and celebrate the blossoming of the desert like a rose and the establishment of Zion."

Brother Leonard emphasized, however, that "none of those monuments are part of a master plan," in which someone decided at the turn of the century what monuments would be built and for what reasons. "One by one, the monuments were erected - 10, 15, 20, 30 years apart," he added. "Each monument was probably the result of some independent effort without relationship to what else was there."

Whatever their reasons for existence, the monuments symbolize what Latter-day Saints find important, he related. And every year thousands of tourists on Temple Square learn more about what Mormons find important while on tours conducted by full-time missionaries.

Elder Jerry Godfrey, director of public relations on Temple Square, said the missionaries mainly focus on the Handcart Pioneers and the Seagull Monument.

"Over a period of years, it was determined that tourists don't come here to hear Mormon doctrine," he explained. "They come for the beauty and the historical value. We try to weave through our tours a little about Jesus Christ because He's central to our religion."

Visitors can find out more about the Church by taking additional tours, by requesting missionaries - or by simply wandering and reading the inscriptions on each monument, describing its origin and purpose.

Following are brief historical accounts of some of the monuments on Temple Square:

Joseph and Hyrum Smith

Life-size bronze statues of the martyred Church leaders stand upon granite bases between the Salt Lake Temple and the South Visitor's Center. The statues were erected on Temple Square in the spring of 1911, and had been completed four years earlier by Mahonri M. Young, grandson to President Brigham Young, reported the June 27, 1911, issue of the Deseret News.

The article further stated that dedication ceremonies were intended for the afternoon of June 27 - the 67th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith - but were postponed until President Joseph F. Smith returned from business in Washington, D.C.

The statues, which face west toward the Three Witnesses monument, bear tablets providing brief histories of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum.

Seagull Monument

Well-known to Mormons is the story of how seagulls saved the crops of Utah's early settlers from an invading horde of crickets. In the spring of 1848, 5,000 acres of crops had been planted, and a good harvest was expected, according to the Nov. 19, 1960, issue of the Church News.

"Then tragedy struck," continues the article. "Before the month of May had passed the situation changed. . . . Hordes of crickets came into the field. Before the eyes of the pioneers their efforts were being shredded." In desperation, the pioneers turned to God in "fervent prayer." From the sky then came thousands of seagulls, which devoured the crickets and saved the crops.

On Oct. 1, 1913, the Seagull Monument was unveiled on Temple Square, just east of the Assembly Hall - "Erected in grateful remembrance of the mercy of God to the Mormon pioneers." President Joseph F. Smith dedicated the monument and addressed the gathering.

The Liahona: The Elders' Journal, Nov. 4, 1913, recorded that during the dedication ceremonies Relief Society general president Emmeline B. Wells pulled the cord, unleashing the United States flags that draped the monument.

The monument, sculpted by Mahonri M. Young, consists of a granite pedestal weighing nearly 20 tons, and a granite column more than 30 feet high. On top of the column is a granite ball on which two bronze seagulls covered with gold leaf are perched with wings outstretched. A pond and fountains surround the monument. Panels on the side of the monument briefly tell the story of the arrival of the saints in the Salt Lake Valley.

Goldfish once inhabited the pond, reported the June 3, 1944, issue of the Church News, but, ironically, were replaced by rainbow trout because seagulls were eating the tiny fish. Today, no fish inhabit the pond.

Three Witnesses

Presently facing the Joseph and Hyrum Smith statues south of the temple is a monument to the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon - Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris.

The monument, with oval, bronze plaques of the Three Witnesses, was unveiled April 2, 1927, by Josephine Smith, great-granddaughter to Hyrum Smith, reported the May 1927 issue of the Improvement Era. President Heber J. Grant offered the dedicatory prayer. The article states that the First Presidency and several thousand general conference visitors were present at the unveiling.

The monument, by Avard Fairbanks, is 10 feet, six inches high. Under the plaques, also in bronze, is the full text of their testimony, which can also be found in the front of copies of the Book of Mormon. On the west side of the monument is a large bronze relief of the Apostle John, with a quotation from John 14:6-7.

Base and Meridian

A point of interest at Temple Square is the "Great Salt Lake City Base and Meridian." Located outside the wall of the southeast corner of Temple Square is a stone marker - a replica of the original meridian marker - and a plaque designating the Great Salt Lake City Base and Meridian, the base of all government surveys in Utah.

The bronze plaque marks the spot where Apostle Orson Pratt, assisted by Henry G. Sherwood, began surveying Temple Square Aug. 3, 1847. From there the rest of the valley was surveyed. The May 21, 1932, issue of the Church Section of the Deseret News reported that David H. Burr, the first surveyor general for Utah, said on Aug. 31, 1855: " I have established an initial point for the survey of this valley on the southeast corner of the Temple block in the center of this city and am having a stone cut to place at the spot for a monument. "

During the June 1932 MIA conference, the plaque was dedicated. Superintendent George Albert Smith of the YMMIA and Pres. Ruth May Fox of the YLMIA supervised the dedication ceremony.

The original meridian stone marker is now on exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art.

Handcart Pioneers

Presently situated just south of the Seagull Monument is a bronze monument to the Handcart Pioneers, sculpted by Torleif S. Knaphus. Unveiled just prior to the October 1947 general conference, the monument is about seven feet high, weighs more than 5,500 pounds and sits on a granite base. The monument depicts a pioneer father pulling a handcart, with his wife alongside. A young boy is portrayed pushing from behind.

"Great effort has been made by the sculptor to typify the pioneer man, woman and child," said the April 4, 1942, issue of the Church News. "Character and perseverance are portrayed on the unbowed face of the man and the face of the woman is a real study in pioneer motherhood."

No special program attended the unveiling of the monument because it is actually an enlarged replica of a smaller Handcart Pioneers Monument, also sculpted by Knaphus, which was unveiled Sept. 25, 1926, by President Heber J. Grant. The smaller monument is now on display at the Museum of Church History and Art.

The Handcart Pioneer monument commemorates the nearly 3,000 pioneers who made the 1,300-mile trek to the Salt Lake Valley, according to Temple Square: The Crown Jewel of the Mormons, by Quig Nielsen. About 300 handcart pioneers died during the 10 separate handcart journeys from 1856-1860.

Nauvoo Bell

Every hour on the hour the Nauvoo Bell, which once hung in the Nauvoo Temple, rings throughout Temple Square and over local radio station KSL. Situated just inside the west wall of Temple Square between the Tabernacle and the Assembly Hall, the bell is housed in a bronze tower, designed by Lorenzo Snow Young, a grandson of President Young. Four bronze plaques, the creations of Avard Fairbanks, adorn each side of the structure. Three of the plaques portray a different theme: Pioneering, Education and Benevolence. The fourth carries the inscription, "The Relief Society Centennial Memorial."

The Nauvoo Bell is housed in a tower that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Relief Society, celebrated in 1942. However, because of World War II the bell and its tower were dedicated in October 1966, according to Brother Nielsen in his book. Just prior to the Relief Society general conference of April 1942, the Centennial Observance Committee suggested that the Nauvoo Bell be housed in a permanent setting, explained former Relief Society general president Belle S. Spafford in the January 1967 issue of The Relief Society Magazine. The First Presidency accepted the idea of a bronze tower and plans went forward. But the outbreak of World War II delayed those plans.

President David O. McKay authorized plans for the tower to go forward in 1966.

`Scriptures in Stone'

Religious and patriotic inscriptions on four stone panels behind a newly erected flagpole were completed late summer 1968, said the Sept. 7, 1968, issue of the Church News. The panels are on a wall west of the temple, along with a 100-foot flagpole.

Under the direction of Michael A. Giessing, the article continues, workers used sandblasting to inscribe verses from the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, Articles of Faith and quotes from Joseph Smith. These inscriptions deal with specific subjects: "The Law," "Governments," "Liberty" and "The Way."