I came across this interesting story about the statue of the angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra.
The Angel Moroni Monument was sculpted by Torleif S Knaphus who also sculpted the famous Handcart Pioneers statue.
When the Church acquired the Hill Cumorah in 1928, Torlief suggested to the Brethren that it would be appropriate to create some sort of monument on the hill to commemorate Joseph Smith receiving the gold plates from the angel Moroni.
Willard and Rebecca Bean served a 24 year mission for the Church looking after the Church properties in Palmyra and they became very friendly with Torlief. Rebecca told this story at a fireside in Salt Lake City in 1964:
“Brother Knaphus told me this story….As soon as he heard that we owned the Hill Cumorah, he started making sketches of what he thought an Angel Moroni monument and statue should look like. No one asked him to do this or knew what he was doing. After he had finished seven sketches, one evening all alone he climbed Ensign Peak which looks southward over Salt Lake Valley. In the darkness of night he held the seven sketches out on the ground and the he knelt in prayer asking the Lord if he had done the wrong thing. He asked the Lord to show him which one would be the right one to take to the Church Authorities, and if it was right and proper for him to even go to them. When he opened his eyes there was a light all around him and he could see every one of the seven sketches, even though it was dark. And then he saw an angel pointing with his finger to the one that he (Brother Knaphus) thought was the best and heard the angel say, ‘This is the one.’ And then he asked, ‘How will I approach the Brethren? What will they think? Have I done the right thing to do this?’ Then he, the angel, said, ‘You go to the Church offices in the morning. They will be waiting for you.'”
The next day, Torlief went to the Church Offices and met with the Brethren. They examined the sketches that he had made and unanimously chose the one that had been indicated by the angel and Torlief was given permission to proceed with the project.
So, who was the angel that appeared to Torlief? Sister Bean said:
“I asked Brother Knaphus, when he told me that story, if it was the Angel Moroni that came to him. He said, ‘Sister Bean, that’s my secret.’ But I really feel that it was the the Angel Moroni who came to him.’
Torlief’s second wife, Rebecca Marie Knaphus, said that Torlief had told her that he had been visited by Moroni. She said that it was a sacred experience for him and he was reluctant to talk about it.
The Hill Cumorah Monument is an is an inspiring creation that testifies of the Restoration of the Gospel. Brother Knaphus said of it:
“I trust that the imperfections of my work will not be an offence, but that whoever sees this monument will investigate and accept the Gospel message as I have done, as it is the most precious thing to receive.”