Sculptor’s lasting legacy

Church History Museum employees celebrate artist’s 150th birthday

Church History Museum employees joined in on the yearlong celebration of Cyrus E. Dallin’s 150th birthday Thursday evening, Sept. 13. Dallin is one of Utah’s most celebrated sculptors, best known for the Angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake Temple.

Angel Moroni statues in the Museum of Church History. Statue by Cyrus Dallin.
Angel Moroni statues in the Museum of Church History. Statue by Cyrus Dallin. Credit: Scott G. Winterton, Dnews

Church History Musuem employee Rita Wright presented information she has gathered on Dallin for more than a year. Sister Wright announced that she has recently accepted the position to be the Springville Museum of Art director, which happens to be the birthplace of Dallin circa 1861. She said that through her research she has found and has wanted others to understand that “you know Cyrus Dallin a lot better than you think you do.”

Cyrus Dallin’s parents were both converts to the Church, but eventually left the Church early in Dallin’s life. Although Dallin never converted, he understood the Mormons because he grew up with them. Sister Wright expressed how certain beliefs stuck with Dallin and would affect his artwork decisions later in life.

The Angel Moroni Statue on the top of the Salt Lake Temple.
The Angel Moroni Statue on the top of the Salt Lake Temple. Credit: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

“He really does play a primary role in art and Church publishing that you wouldn’t expect,” Sister Wright said.

At a young age, Dallin left Utah and traveled to Boston and later to Paris to study sculpture. But his ties to both Utah and Boston can be found through his many works of art left behind. Sister Wright compared Dallin’s famous “Paul Revere” statue that stands near the Old North Church in Boston and the Brigham Young monument on Main Street in Salt Lake City as symbols of Dallin’s reflection and connection he felt for each place he once called home. Both statues have become an iconic image for each city.

The Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple is graced with a touch of snow as seen from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. The statue, created by sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin, is recognized as one of the artist's best known works of art.
The Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple is graced with a touch of snow as seen from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. The statue, created by sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin, is recognized as one of the artist’s best known works of art. Credit: August Miller, Deseret Morning

It was later in his life that President Wilford Woodruff commissioned Dallin to create the model for the first Angel Moroni statue. Dallin moved back to Utah in order to do the sculpture and was recorded in the Improvement Era in 1953 stating: “My Angel Moroni brought me nearer to God than anything I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to commune with angels.”

Once the statue was complete, Dallin continued to travel and study until he returned to Massachusetts where he lived the rest of his life with his wife and three sons.

Dallin is also internationally recognized for his work the “Appeal to the Great Spirit” found at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Other works of his are also on display at the Springville Museum of Art.