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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Angel Moroni

The angel Moroni is a Book of Mormon prophet who appeared to Joseph Smith as a resurrected being. His influence goes far beyond the Hill Cumorah in New York.

The angel Moroni is a Book of Mormon prophet who appeared to Joseph Smith as a resurrected being. His influence goes far beyond the Hill Cumorah in New York. For example, pioneers spoke about Moroni more often than the First Vision. And today, there are dozens of angel Moroni statues atop Latter-day Saint temples throughout the world.


Who is the angel Moroni?

The angel Moroni refers to a prophet from the Book of Mormon. As a resurrected being, he tutored Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. Statues of the ancient prophet are often found at the top of many Latter-day Saint temples.


Was Moroni a real person?

Yes, Latter-day Saints believe that Moroni was a real person. A resurrected Moroni tutored Joseph Smith hundreds of years after his death and gave him the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

H. Donl Peterson summarizes Moroni’s mortal life in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi Through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction:

The Lord chose Moroni to complete the Nephite dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He finished his father’s inspired abridgment of the Nephite millennial-long history; he commanded 10,000 soldiers at Cumorah in their final battles with the Lamanites; he abridged the writings of Ether, the record of the Jaredites, a once mighty civilization that preceded his own on this western hemisphere; and he recorded the lengthy writings of the brother of Jared on the gold plates and sealed them up.

He wandered alone about the land for many years, not only concerned about his personal safety, but also fully aware of his responsibility to preserve the plates until he was commanded to hide them in the earth.

Finally, after traveling extensively and fulfilling priesthood responsibilities, he deposited the plates in a hillside in what is now western New York state.


What books did Moroni write?

The writings of Moroni can be found in the books of Mormon, Ether, and Moroni. In addition, the Title Page of the Book of Mormon indicates that the scripture was:

Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile.


Moroni didn’t dedicate the Manti temple

At least as far as we know. People often point to two pieces of “evidence” to prove that a mortal Moroni dedicated land for the Manti Temple during his travels: (1) a statement by Brigham Young and (2) a map purportedly handed down by Joseph Smith.

But there are problems with both claims, as demonstrated by Ardis Parshall:

  • Brigham Young’s statement. A paragraph attributed to Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses shows the prophet saying, “Here is the spot where Moroni stood and dedicated this piece of land for a Temple site.” Except there’s no record of the paragraph in the discourses.
  • Joseph Smith’s map. There’s a fascinating hand-drawn map that claims to show important sites Moroni visited during his mortality, such as Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Manti. Plus, a note on the back indicates that the map’s information can be traced back to the Prophet Joseph. But it’s written in a different pen (and hand) than the map. And, like the purported Joseph Smith photograph, there are substantial provenance concerns.
A handwritten map purporting to show Moroni's travels across North America.
Some claim that a map in the Archives Division of the Church History Department shows Moroni’s travels during mortality. However, there’s no information about the map’s provenance, and it appears to show the workmanship of several people.

That’s not everything, but you get the gist. Put it all together, and the myth about Moroni dedicating the Manti Temple grounds is likely just that: a Latter-day Saint myth.


Who saw Moroni?

Moroni appeared at least 22 times to Joseph Smith, and also showed himself to the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon: Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer.

And while the evidence isn’t always strong, there are also claims that more than a dozen other people saw the angel, including:


Was Moroni important to Latter-day Saint pioneers?

Contemporary Latter-day Saints stress the importance of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. However, pioneer members of the church also spoke often about the importance of the Prophet’s encounters with Moroni:

Joseph’s preparation to become a prophet began with his First Vision, but his early followers typically spoke of Moroni’s visit as marking the beginning of Joseph’s calling.

Church History Topics: Angel Moroni

Is Moroni a fallen angel?

Some Christians believe that Moroni is a fallen angel because he’s been described as an “angel of light.” They view the descriptor as being synonymous with Paul’s description of Lucifer in 2 Corinthians. However, the Moroni who appeared to Joseph Smith was not the devil in disguise, but rather a resurrected personage sent by God.

Michael Depicting the Devil by Anthony Sweat
The Doctrine and Covenants records Lucifer appearing as an angel of light as depicted in “Michael Detecting the Devil” by Anthony Sweat. Paul’s teachings in 2 Corinthians have led some to falsely assume that Moroni wasn’t an “angel of light” sent by God, but rather the devil masquerading as a holy figure.

Was he a soldier or a saint?

Both. Moroni lived during a time of extreme warfare. However, as a prophet of God, he also exemplified spiritual devotion in extreme circumstances. For example, Duane Boyce analyzed Moroni’s wartime behavior in the context of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount in a 2021 edition of BYU Studies.


Did Joseph Smith confuse Nephi and Moroni?

Early drafts of Joseph Smith’s history identify the angel who delivered the gold plates as “Nephi.” However, all known accounts appear to stem from a record written by James Mulholland. As one of Joseph Smith’s clerks, he tried to combine several of the prophet’s manuscripts into a single history.

Brigham Young would later identify the misnomer as a clerical error, and a Church History Topics essay states that “no evidence indicates Joseph Smith ever called the angel ‘Nephi.’”


What does the angel Moroni symbolize?

Many Latter-day Saint temples have a statue of Moroni on top to symbolize the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This includes several temples that received an angel Moroni statue after their construction.

A captivating look behind the scenes at how angel Moroni statues end up on top of Latter-day Saint temples.

Why don’t some temples have an angel Moroni on top?

Not all temples have an angel Moroni statue. Only three temples had a statue of the Book of Mormon prophet before 1970, namely the Salt Lake City Temple, Los Angeles Temple, and Washington DC Temple. And the prevalence of new temples with the statue has decreased since President Nelson became the prophet.

According to the most recent statement by the Church Newsroom, there’s no official policy on whether to include a temple-topping statue. A 2020 Q&A by the Church’s historical department also states that geography is a factor.


What questions do people ask about the angel Moroni statue?

People often ask the Church’s historical department five popular questions about the angel Moroni statue, according to Rachel Felt of the Church History Department:

  1. Who sculpted the angel Moroni statue on the Salt Lake Temple?
  2. Are there different variations of the angel Moroni statues?
  3. Why is the angel Moroni statue not on top of some of the temples?
  4. Do all angel Moroni statues face east?
  5. Are the angel Moroni statues lightning rods?

Is the Moroni statue a lightning rod?

Sure enough. The statues often get hit by lightning due to their height and gold exterior. As a result, contemporary versions include copper rods in their cores attached to a grounding cable.


Who designed the Salt Lake temple’s statue?

Cyrus E. Dallin sculpted the angel Moroni statue on top of the Salt Lake City Temple. Although not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cyrus Dallin was commissioned by Wilford Woodruff to design the statue.

In a 1953 edition of the Improvement Era, Dallin stated that the artistic endeavor helped him feel closer to the Lord:

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.

Cyrus E. Dallin

Does the Oakland Temple have an angel Moroni?

The Oakland Temple doesn’t have an angel statue. According to the Temple Hill website, the reason for the omission is “due to building codes, cultural misconceptions, or [because] the architectural designs won’t support the weight.”


What direction does the angel Moroni face?

The Church requires the angel Moroni to face east when possible, according to Wendy Kenney, in a 2009 article for The New Era:

According to scripture, at the Second Coming the Savior will come from the east (see Matthew 24:27). The Church’s guideline concerning placement of the angel Moroni figures is that where possible, they should face eastward. Sometimes, however, the angel Moroni figure may face another direction in order to align it with the orientation of the temple.


What is the meaning of angel Moroni’s trumpet?

The angel Moroni’s trumpet symbolizes two things. First, the trumpet calls to mind scriptural references in which trumpets sound a warning. In the case of Moroni, the trumpet symbolizes the spreading of the gospel. Second, it serves as a type of the Savior’s Second Coming, which Matthew indicates will be heralded by angels with trumpets (Matthew 24:31).


Why did Moroni drop his trumpet?

The angel Moroni on top of the Salt Lake Temple “dropped” his trumpet after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake on March 18, 2020. The original trumpet is currently housed in a local storage facility and will be returned when the temple is rededicated after its multi-year renovation project.


Is Moroni a book in the Bible?

No, Moroni isn’t a book in the Bible. However, President Henry B. Eyring states that Moroni quotes from the Old Testament prophet Elijah, as recorded in D&C 2:3 and Joseph Smith History 1:39.

Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants also includes an account of the Biblical prophet appearing to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery:

13 After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.
The angel Moroni taught Joseph Smith about Malachi’s prophesy of Elijah’s return. In this video, President Henry B. Eyring testifies of the resulting power to seal families together for eternity.

What did Moroni say about Joseph Smith?

Moroni told the Prophet Joseph Smith that his name would be known for good and evil throughout the world. Know Brother Joseph editor Matthew J. Grow says that this 1823 pronouncement illustrates “that Joseph Smith has always been a figure of great interest.”


What did Moroni tell Joseph Smith about Emma?

Moroni instructed Joseph Smith to bring “the right one” with him when he first obtained the gold plates. Joseph Knight Sr. said the Prophet learned through a seer stone that Moroni’s counsel referred to Emma Smith.

Accordingly, Joseph brought his wife with him to obtain the Book of Mormon record from the Hill Cumorah in New York.


How many different angel Moroni statues are there?

There are several basic versions of the angel Moroni statue carved by six different sculptors. According to the Church History website, the first version was completed in 1892 while the most recent statue was commissioned in 1998:

  1. Cyrus Dallin (1892)
  2. Torleif S. Knaphus (1930s)
  3. Millard F. Mallin (1954)
  4. Avard Fairbanks (1974)
  5. Karl Quilter (1978, 1998)
  6. LaVar Wallgren (1997)

How tall is the angel Moroni?

The angel Moroni statue varies in height depending on the temple. For example, the angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple is 12-feet 5-inches tall, while the statue on the Jordan River Temple stands 20 feet high.

Most of today’s temples use 7-foot and 10-foot versions designed by Karl A. Quilter. President Hinckley also commissioned a life-sized version that stands 5-feet 11-inches tall.


What is the angel Moroni statue made of?

The angel Moroni statue on top of the Salt Lake Temple is made of copper. It also has a 22-karat gold leaf covering. (Other early versions were made of bronze or aluminum, while contemporary statues use lightweight fiberglass.)


How is Moroni connected with a Temple Square time capsule?

The statue of the angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple stands atop the building’s cornerstone—which doubled as a time capsule for more than 100 years. While most of the materials were damaged by the elements, historians have documented several of the capsule’s contents, including early Latter-day Saint scriptures and books by Parley P. Pratt.

Fun fact. The time capsule was rumored to include a photograph of Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. says that there wasn’t a picture of the Prophet in the capstone.


What are popular myths about the angel Moroni?

Several myths about the angel Moroni have crept into Latter-day Saint culture. Each of them has been thoroughly “busted”:

  • Temples must have statues. Nope. Most new temples don’t have one.
  • Moroni once had wings. Sorry, folks. It’s not true.
  • The statues are expensive. Angel Moroni statues cost far less than many suppose because only a thin layer is gilded with gold.
  • Statues must face east. The Church prefers that the statues face east—but it’s not a requirement. For example, the Nauvoo Temple’s statue faces west.
The angel Moroni statue on the Nauvoo, Illinois temple faces west.
Not all angel Moroni statues face east. For example, the angel Moroni statue on the Nauvoo, Illinois temple points west.

Does the statue get cleaned?

J. Golden Kimball once jokingly told a reporter that the angel Moroni statue wouldn’t blow his trumpet when the Savior returned because it would blow pigeon crap all over the Hotel Utah. As it turns out, the statues undergo periodic maintenance—in part, to “clean bird droppings off the figures.”


What did Elder McConkie say about Moroni?

Bruce R. McConkie referenced Moroni in the 1976 BYU Devotional, “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.” In particular, he emphasized that there are minor commandments in which disciples can be perfect today, such as the payment of tithing:

We begin to keep the commandments today, and we keep more of them tomorrow, and we go from grace to grace, up the steps of the ladder, and we thus improve and perfect our souls. We can become perfect in some minor things.

We can be perfect in the payment of tithing. If we pay one-tenth of our interest annually into the tithing funds of the Church, if we do it year in and year out, and desire to do it, and have no intent to withhold, and if we would do it regardless of what arose in our lives, then in that thing we are perfect. And in that thing and to that extent we are living the law as well as Moroni or the angels from heaven could live it.

And so degree by degree and step by step we start out on the course to perfection with the objective of becoming perfect as God our Heavenly Father is perfect, in which eventuality we become inheritors of eternal life in his kingdom.

Bruce R. McConkie, “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”

Further reading

Cornerstone articles

Sources

  • Ask Us: Top Five Reference Questions about the Angel Moroni Statue (Article)
  • Church Newsroom: Angel Moroni Statues on Temples (Web)
  • The New Era: Looking Up to Moroni (Article)
  • Moroni: Messenger of the Restoration (Article)
  • Know Your Moroni: A Field Guide to Angel Moroni Statues (e-book)

By Kurt Manwaring

Writer. History nerd. Latter-day Saint.

4 replies on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Angel Moroni”

Great article on the Angel Moroni. The DC Temple was dedicated in Nov 1974. I am sure it had an Angel Moroni on the building before 1970 though. Can you double check?

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