Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Angel Moroni statues, the Golden Calf, and the Cherubim

      A gold-leafed statue of an angel blowing a trumpet tops most Mormon temples, symbolic of the preaching of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The angel is typically associated with the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6 and with the angel Moroni, who ministered to Joseph Smith.

      Someone once remarked to me that the Angel Moroni statue "goes back to the whole golden calf thing" --implying that our use of the symbol means that our religion is apostate and has its roots in idol worship. He did not allow me to say anything in response.
      After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to receive instructions (including the Ten Commandments) from God. Tired of waiting, the Israelites decided to worship idols instead. At the people's request, Aaron fashioned a solid gold statue of a calf, and the people worshiped it. The Lord informed Moses what was happening, and Moses returned to the Israelite camp, destroyed the golden calf, and commanded the slaying of the unrepentant idol worshipers (Exodus 32).

      Unlike the golden calf, the Angel Moroni statues are not objects of worship and do not depict any sort of deity. They are not made of solid gold, but are merely covered in gold leaf. (The first one, on the Salt Lake Temple, is made of copper; most today are made of fiberglass.) They play no part in any worship ceremony. The only similarity to the golden calf is that the Angel Moroni figures are gold-colored statues.
      It is interesting to note, then, that Solomon's Temple also contained gold-leafed statues of angels. These were the "cherubim" that rested upon the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. Like the Angel Moroni statues, they were part of the Temple, represented angels, were not made of gold but "overlaid" with gold, and had no ceremonial function (1 Kings 6:23-28; 2 Chronicles 3:10). Which, then, is more closely related to the figures of the Angel Moroni--the idolatrous golden calf or the cherubim from Solomon's Temple?

In summary
Argument: The Angel Moroni statues on Mormon temples, like the Israelites' golden calf, show that the Mormon church has its roots in idolatrous religions.
Response: The Angel Moroni statues are not idols or objects of worship, and have far more in common with the statues of cherubim from the Most Holy Place of Solomon's Temple.

Achtemeier, Paul J. 1996. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. San Francisco: HarperCollins.
Gehman, Henry Snyder. 1970. The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Hunter, J. Michael. I Saw Another Angel Fly. In Ensign, January 2000.


Jackson Vinícius said...

But as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, I need to say that the God of Israel commanded us NOT to creat any image of any saint, or angel or of Himself because it would be the sin of idolatry just by creating such image that people would look and directly or indirectly would glare at it and would pay a compliment about the statue. Now the cherubin images on the arch of the covenant was an exception of the will of God, like the metal serpent God order to create to heal the people. This single orders of God cannot be used as a pretext to let man creat statues or images of things people who died or beings from heaven. When a mormon or any person looks at the image of the angel Moroni, surely could surely say: "what a beautiful statue", thus giving praise to it! and this is an abomination to the God of Israel!

Travis Brinton said...

That is an interesting viewpoint, Jackson. I had not planned on addressing that argument, because I don't think there are very many people who see things that way. If I understand what you're saying, you interpret Exodus 20:4 to mean that unless God specifically commands it, we should create no visual art at all. All artwork, religious or otherwise, runs the risk of inspiring praise, and is therefore idolatry. I don't think very many people would find that a compelling argument.
I see praise as distinct from worship. I can praise or compliment someone or their work without worshiping them, and I don't think that is displeasing to God. I think he is pleased when we are kind and complimentary to one another, even if we don't explicitly throw in a word of praise to God in the same breath.
I interpret Ex. 20:4 to be a specific commandment given to a people inclined to idolatry. They needed a very strict set of commandments under the Law of Moses to keep them from idol worship. I consider such commandments done away with the coming of the Gospel of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Exodus 20:4 says
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."
So how is the Angel Moroni on top of all temples not a graven image?

Travis Brinton said...

Maybe you didn't understand my response. The Angel Moroni is a graven image, as is Michelangelo's Pieta and Bertel Thorvaldsen's Christus and Rodin's The Thinker, for that matter. I don't believe the commandment to not make statues of any kind is still in force. I believe that such commandments were done away with the Atonement of Christ. It's part of the Law of Moses that we don't have to follow any more.

Sally said...

So you are saying that the 10 Commandments were done away with after the atonement of Jesus? I don't think that is what the church believes. Commandments regarding sacrifices for sin were no longer needed after Jesus since his sacrifice atoned for our sins, but the 10 commandments are God's laws for righteous living and we are still expected to obey them.

Travis Brinton said...

I think it's good that we have comments and discussion, because occasionally it leads me to amend my views. Now that you point out that the commandment to not make any likeness of anything in the earth beneath or in the heavens above is part of the Ten Commandments, I think I have to reconsider the theory that it was a commandment that was superseded by the higher law. The Ten Commandments are still in force. I think the better explanation, which I should've used from the start, is that the commandment was given in the context of idol worship and should be understood in that context. "Graven image" does not mean any carved visual representation, but specifically means images used for idol worship. The New International Version reading of Exodus 20:4 supports this interpretation: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."

Anonymous said...

Let me be clear. If the angel of Mornoni is a symbol of idolitry, then any cross would be also. It's a symbol that is not worshiped. It's artwork and that is all it is. People are not listening, because it symbolizes the restoration of the GOSPEL. Most people who accuse the mormon faith of being idol worshsipering, basically are throwing mud and badmouthing one church over another.

In essence, if that is a sin than every church and jewish temple is sinning. Most of this logic is flawed. As a mormon, i have never bowed to a moroni statue.

Bradpetehoops said...

Yeah, just symbolical for the prophecy of john the Revelator on Revelation 14:6 , Have a great day.

Mark Hansen, LDS Rock Music said...

Let's look at Exodus 20:4 in context of the verses that surround it.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

The entire passage is all about who God wants us to focus our religious adoration on: Him. And why on Him? Because if we get distracted into other paths, then we can't come back to Him.

So, let's not get distracted by whether or not we're supposed to make statues, paintings, or take pictures of each other, and just focus on serving others so we can all come back to Him.

justagirl said...

Why aren't the golden calves at the base of the vessel of baptism by proxy spoke of in this article? I have been in the salt lake city Tempe, as well as the mesa AZ. temple, they both have them.

Travis Brinton said...

They aren't golden calves; they're oxen. I didn't mention them because this post is about the angel statues, not about oxen. But if your point is that putting statues of oxen under the baptismal font is akin to making idolatrous golden calves, then I would point out that we're following the Biblical pattern: see 2 Chr. 4:2-4 and 1 Kings 7:23-25. So that is also a feature of God's temple according to the Bible, not an object of idolatrous worship.

alik pinski said...

Lets dig deeper. Why does God need a material temple, if His Throne is Heaven and the Earth is His Footstool?

Travis Brinton said...

alik pinski: There's another post to answer your question. Here's the link: http://answeringthecritics.blogspot.com/2008/07/are-temples-obsolete.html