Angel Moroni and the Earthquake

In this image, you can just make out the approximate current location of the trumpet on the first row of parapets, left hand (south) side.

As many of you who read this may know, a couple years back I wrote a book on the history of the Angel Moroni Statues called Know Your Moroni: A Fieldguide to Angel Moroni Statues. What you might not know, is I that I am working on a complete and total re write. This re write will nearly triple the size of the original, with more information, history, and background on not just the statues but the sculptors as well. I mention all this because there are a couple of sections that tie in with yesterdays Earthquake.

As you know, the Earthquake caused the Salt Lake Angel to lose the trumpet from his hand. The trumpet currently sits on the parapets below the statue. As amazing as this is, this is not a new experience for either Angel Moroni Statues as a whole, or for the Salt Lake Statue in particular.

Following are excerpts of two sections from my upcoming edition that talk about past experiences from earthquakes.

The Angel Gets a Shoulder Angel

Salt Lake Temple and supporting structures, circa 1910.

In 1910 work was progressing on the Hotel Utah, now called the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, just across the street and south of the Salt Lake Temple. The foundation had been laid and I-beams were being placed to form the framework of the new hotel.

On 10 April, just after 3 in the morning, an explosion on the North East corner of the construction site shattered the silence and glass of nearby office buildings. One of 2 night-watchmen on the hotel construction site was knocked unconscious by the blast. Some people, up early to view Hailey’s Comet, then making an appearance, thought the comet itself had struck ground. A portion of the Hotel’s iron framework was bent beyond repair. Despite the destruction to nearby property, no one was seriously injured by the blast.

The Hotel contractors had opted for an open-shop policy during the Hotel’s construction. Anyone with experience was welcome to come work on the project. This policy angered and frustrated the Ironworkers Union, who immediately became the prime suspects. The Union had also been suspected in a smaller explosion a little over 4 months earlier.

Head of the International Structural Ironworkers Union, John J. McNamara, denied Union members had anything to do with the events, and offered a $500 dollar reward for information on the event. 2 years later, McNamara himself, along with 2 others, confessed to not only having been responsible for both of these bombs, but dozens more around the nation, including one at the Los Angeles Times which killed 21 people.

Across the street, the temple windows had been spared from the same fate many of the local buildings suffered, however the morning sun showed that the horn on the Angel Moroni Statue had shifted, moving out of Moroni’s mouth, and through his hand a further couple of feet. Additionally, the back and forth vibration induced by the blast caused the trumpet to develop a slight bend.

The Steeplejacks would have taken a path of ladders from the catwalk along the roof ridge, up the back of the east spire, to the sphere of the Moroni.

Note, images posted by Deseret News of the trumpet dropped in yesterday’s earthquake indicate that it is no longer straight after being shaken loose, developing a severe curve.

The following month, Arthur Smith of New York was contracted to repair the damage to the statue. Smith assembled a team of four experienced climbers, known as steeplejacks, to assist him in the task. Over the next four days, his team would access the temple roof via a larger elevator in the west end of the temple. They would then haul large ladders, some 35 feet long, up the side of the temple from the ground with a rope.

In a series of steps that would give a modern safety inspector a heart attack, they tied the ladders to the east most spire of the temple, working their way slowly up from the roof level. On day four, a ladder was attached to the side of the temple leading from the uppermost parapet of the spire to the Angel’s granite sphere. From here Arthur Smith ascended the spire up to the top of the sphere. Standing next to the statue, he tied one last ladder to the back of the 12 and a half foot statue itself. With this last ladder, he scaled the back of the Statue. Then, like Matt Meese climbing Shawn Bradley, Smith placed himself on the shoulders and around Moroni’s head.

The final repair only took about 30 minutes. As a curious crowd watched on from below, Arthur worked to hammer the trumpet straight, then pulled the horn firmly back into the statue’s mouth .

The last of the job consisted of climbing back down, untying ropes and removing ladders along the way. This final segment of the work was accomplished fairly quickly. Smith and his Steeplejacks were each paid the sum of $7.81 per day, or a little over $207 a day in today’s money.


On the newer fiberglass statues (#5-#8) Moroni and the trumpet are two separate pieces. This has led to some problems when earthquakes have struck.

Santiago Chile

Santiago Chile

On 3 March 1985 an earthquake measuring about 8.0 shook The Santiago Area. Power and other utilities were shut down throughout the city. At the Santiago Temple, dedicated just 3 years prior, the only damage was that it shook loose some plaster on the interior walls of the temple and tossed the trumpet for the Angel Statue into a flower bed below. The trumpet was reattached using a firetruck and re-secured. On 27 February 2010, an earthquake pulled the trumpet out of the hand of the Angel Moroni statue again. Due to the need to occasionally refurbish the gold leaf on the statues and a remodel to the temple completed just 4 years prior, this was most likely not the same statue from the 1985 earthquake. The temple itself was left unharmed.

Apia and Tokyo

Apia Samoa

The Apia Samoa Temple lost the trumpet from its Moroni during an earthquake on 29 September 2009. No additional damage was done to the recently rebuilt temple. Additionally, the Tokyo Japan Temple lost its trumpet during an earthquake in 2005.

Due to these incidents, newer Angel Moroni statues have the trumpet bolted to the right hand through the palm.

Tokyo Again

Tokyo Japan

In the 2011 Japan earthquake, the Tokyo Temple Moroni rotated 45 degrees counter clockwise.

Cebu City Philippines

Cebu City Philippines

During the 15 October 2013 earthquake in the Philippines, the Cebu City Temple Angel Moroni statue turned 90 degrees as well. Both temples have since had the statue returned to its original placement.


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