PROVO — Uri Ahman stood at the base of the Provo LDS Temple Monday morning, taking pictures of two cranes towering near the steeple.
Ahman, an LDS convert from Russia, paced back and forth across the grass, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Angel Moroni. By 11 a.m. he had taken more than 100 pictures of the construction cranes.
It would be hours before a statue of the Book of Mormon angel arrived.
"I think it's terrific," said Ahman, who said he visits the temple daily. "I think the Angel Moroni symbolizes something unique about our religion."
By 3 p.m., hundreds more had arrived at the temple grounds to watch workers place the 13 foot, 300 pound, gold-leafed statue atop the temple. Some had sat on the grass for five hours waiting.
"It doesn't change the nature of anything we do inside the temple, but it's become a symbol of the temples, and so it's nice to have it in our valley," Provo Temple president Jay Smith said.
The Angel Moroni has become a symbol of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a whole, in the same way the Star of David is an emblem of the Jewish faith. A silhouette of the statue, which features a robed angel blowing a trumpet, has appeared on T-shirts, bumper stickers and tie tacks.
Of the church's 114 temples worldwide, nearly one-third do not feature a statue of the Angel Moroni, said church spokesman Coke Newell. Several of the church's early temples, such as St. George, Manti and Logan, did not include an Angel Moroni statue.
In November the church placed a Moroni statue atop the Ogden Temple and painted the steeple white. Newell said there are no plans to make any other landscaping or design changes at the Provo Temple, which is almost identical in appearance to the Ogden Temple. Both were dedicated in 1972.
Newell said church leaders may put Moroni statues on other temples but would not disclose where.
"It's to recognize an emblem and symbol of the church," he said. "It just adds to their nature and look of that building as a sacred structure."
According to the book "The First 100 Temples" by Chad Hawkins, the Salt Lake Temple was the first to feature a statue of an angel "formally identified as Moroni."
The Los Angeles Temple, dedicated in 1956, and the Washington D.C. Temple, dedicated in 1974, were the next two to feature Angel Moroni statues on their steeples.
"The Angel Moroni was not typical on temples at the first part of the century," says Richard Cowen, a professor of LDS Church History at Brigham Young University. "But since it was placed on these prominent temples, it became a symbol of the temple."
Cowen says since the completion of the Seattle Washington Temple in 1980 there has been an Angel Moroni statue on nearly every temple. The church has since dedicated 95 temples and has announced plans for 14 others.
Members of the LDS Church believe Moroni was a prophet who wandered the ancient Americas after his people had been destroyed by war. They also believe he directed LDS founder Joseph Smith to golden plates, which he translated into what is now the Book of Mormon.
LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley has said Moroni is the angel referred to in Revelation 14:6 who would share the "everlasting gospel" with the world.