NAUVOO, Ill. — A statue of the Angel Moroni was hoisted above the Nauvoo Temple and two other temples Friday, the 178th anniversary of the day LDS scriptures say the angel first appeared to church founder, the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
"I know there are a lot more people watching this than what we can see," said Julie Rydalch, a visitor from Tooele, Utah. At least 500 people turned out in person to watch the gold-plated statue placed atop the temple dome. An untold number of others watched as live Internet pictures were fed around the world.
Crowds in Boston and The Hague, Netherlands, watched as Angel Moroni statues were simultaneously lifted to crown temples under construction in each city. Ann Orton, a spokeswoman for the Nauvoo Temple project, said placement of the statue was the last outdoor event before a five-week open house begins May 18.
Civic leaders and officials for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed for pictures with the 6-foot, 10 1/2-inch likeness before it was lifted by a crane. Some visitors tried to climb the fence surrounding the temple site in order to get a better view. Nearly everyone had a camera. A few dignitaries were let into the site where the statue rested.
"It is exciting," said Nauvoo Stake President Durell Nelson.
Kate Ervin of Elyria, Ohio, in town with an LDS women's group, didn't know the statue would be placed Friday. "We were just lucky." To 8-year-old Christoph McLaughlin of Nauvoo, however, the angel's placement was a highly anticipated milestone. "I think it's pretty cool the temple is going to be done soon," he said. "I want to see what it looks like inside."
Although temples are closed to all but the church's most faithful after they are formally dedicated, the open house will allow all who want to, to tour the structure. After a June 27 ceremony presided over by President Gordon B. Hinckley, the structure will be considered a sacred building.
The stone facade around the temple's concrete shell is nearly complete. Church officials want the new structure to closely resemble the original Nauvoo Temple, finished in 1846 and abandoned a year later when church members fled to Utah. An inscription above a set of great arched doorways reads "commenced April 6,1841."
Nauvoo's original temple had a recumbent flying Angel Moroni on top, but modern temples have a standing angel. The statue placed Friday is one of a trumpeting Angel Moroni standing on top of a globe. Beneath the golden coating, the statue, by Salt Lake City artist Carl Quilter, is made of fiberglass. The angel faces the Mississippi River, sounding his trumpet toward the West. Spectators cheered as the angel was set into place, after which a bell in the temple's domed tower chimed seven times.