This episode’s audio file may be found at http://www.utahhumanities.org/BeehiveArchive.htm.
© 2006 Utah Humanities Council
In 1891, the plaster model for the statue of the Angel Moroni that sits atop the tallest spire of the Salt Lake LDS Temple was completed. Born in Springville to Mormon pioneer parents, the angel’s sculptor, Cyrus Dallin, had strong ties to Utah. But he never identified with Mormonism, perhaps because the LDS church apparently excommunicated his father for supporting non-Mormon political candidates. Members of the Dallin family later converted to Presbyterianism and young Cyrus attended a Presbyterian school.
Dallin won his first art competition, part of a local fair, at a young age. Recognizing his talent, a couple of local men paid for his train fare to Boston where he studied with the famous sculptor Truman Bartlett. After opening his own studio a few years later, Dallin saved up enough money to travel to the art capital of the world—Paris—where he continued his art instruction under two master sculptors. Over time, Dallin developed into a first-rate artist, winning a number of important commissions. Perhaps his most famous, titled Appeal to the Great Spirit, sits in front of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Other Dallin pieces can be found in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and around Utah. A copy of his sculpture Massasoit stands outside Utah’s state capitol building, and the Springville Museum of Art, which Dallin helped found, owns several of his pieces. The statue of Brigham Young at the intersection of Main Street and South Temple in Salt Lake is also a Dallin. But, because of its visibility and symbolic importance to members of the LDS church worldwide, Dallin’s most popular work is arguably the Moroni statue.
As he grew older, Dallin traveled back and forth between his home in Arlington, Massachusetts, and Utah. On his final trip West he was quoted as saying that more than the awards and medals he’d won for his work, his greatest honor was that he had been born in Utah. But he remained fiercely opposed to the faith claims of Mormonism, saying that the LDS religion created too many intermediaries between himself and God. When he finally died in 1943 at the age of 82, a Unitarian minister presided at his funeral.
See Rell G. Francis, Cyrus E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done (Springville, Utah: Rell G. Francis, 1976). Also see Francis’s entry on Dallin in the online Utah History Encyclopedia at www.media.utah.edu/UHE, as well as websites belonging to the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum (www.dallin.org) and the Springville Museum of Art (www.shs.nebo.edu/Museum/dallin.html).