Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Angelic handoff of Mormon golden plates to Joseph Smith took place 190 years ago today

(by Trent Toone 9-22-17)

It was on this day in 1827 — 190 years ago — that Joseph Smith received the golden plates from the angel Moroni at a hill in upstate New York.

The Mormon prophet went on to translate the plates' ancient writings and publish the Book of Mormon.
The timing of the anniversary seems appropriate given that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently purchased the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon and church historians are piecing together fragments of the original manuscript for future publication, the Deseret News has reported.

Why the date of Sept. 22? The annual visitations by Moroni appeared to be in timing with the Israelite harvest festival season, according to Book of Mormon Central, a website that specializes in Book of Mormon scholarship.

"The initial visit on September 21 in 1823 coincided with that year’s celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. In 1824, September 22 was the eve of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the beginning of the fall festivals. In 1825, September 22 was precisely Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In 1827, when Moroni finally delivered the plates to Joseph (Joseph Smith—History 1:59), his timing on September 22 coincided exactly with Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets," explains.

No existing account was made of all that happened the night the Prophet Joseph retrieved the golden plates from the Hill Cumorah, but he was warned that "wicked men" would "lay every plan and scheme that is possible to get them away" from him, Andrew H. Hedges wrote in a 2001 church magazine article, "Take Heed: Continually Protecting the Gold Plates."

The evil men did not succeed. After once retrieving the plates from a secret place, Joseph was attacked by three men but fought his way out, his mother Lucy Mack Smith recorded in her book, "History of Joseph Smith."

"As he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind and gave him a heavy blow with a gun," his mother wrote. "Joseph turned around and knocked him to the ground, and then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further, he was attacked again in precisely the same way. He soon brought this one down also and ran on again, but before he got home, he was accosted the third time with a severe stroke with a gun.

"Joseph struck this third and final attacker with such force that he dislocated his own thumb. He continued running, 'being closely pursued until he came near his father’s house,' at which time his assailants, 'for fear of being detected,' broke off the chase. Reaching a fence corner, he 'threw himself down … to recover his breath,' then rose and continued running until he reached the house."

On the same day Joseph Smith received the plates, future church leader Heber C. Kimball, his wife and others in Mendon, New York, along with future church president Brigham Young and friends in Port Byron, New York, all claimed to see wonders in the heavens, including an army of men marching across the horizon, History of the Saints wrote for

"They continued marching until they reached the western horizon. They moved in platoons, and walked so close that the rear ranks trod in the steps of their file leaders until the whole bow was literally crowded with soldiers. They were dressed in the full battle gear of 19th century soldiers—muskets; bayonets, and were so clear and distinct that Heber and the small group of neighbors could distinguish the features of their faces, and hear the jingle of their equipage as they moved," the article said.

When asked what it all meant, an older man replied, "Why, it's one of the signs of the coming of the Son of Man."

Many have wondered what became of the golden plates following the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. The plates were deposited in Cumorah's cave, Cameron J. Packer wrote in an article for Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Packer's article presents several accounts from church leaders and others about what happened to the plates. One account by Young in the Journal of Discourses, June 17, 1877, reports that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey walked into a cave at the hill and found themselves in a room full of other ancient records, "probably many wagon loads," the account said.

They saw sacred objects like the Sword of Laban and "tons of choice treasures and records," Wilford Wood wrote in his journal on Dec. 11, 1869.

"By looking at all the accounts and context in which they were shared, one can see that regardless of the meta-physical nature of Cumorah's cave, it has served to teach important gospel principles — principles such as God's miraculous dealings with man, his dominion over all things, consecration, and continuing revelation," Packer wrote.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

LDS Church buys printer's manuscript of Book of Mormon for record $35 million

(by Tad Walch 9-20-17)

The LDS Church paid a record-setting $35 million Monday to buy the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon from the Community of Christ.

Donors provided all of the money for the purchase made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The two churches jointly announced the sale Wednesday night. Both faiths treasure the document, which is the most complete copy of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon dictated by Joseph Smith to several scribes.

The printer’s manuscript is a handwritten copy of the original manuscript. Smith provided it to the printer, E. B. Grandin, in Palmyra, New York, in 1830, and Grandin used it to set the type for the first edition of the Book of Mormon.

"We hold the Book of Mormon to be a sacred text like the Bible. The printer’s manuscript is the earliest surviving copy of about 72 percent of the Book of Mormon text, as only about 28 percent of the earlier dictation copy survived decades of storage in a cornerstone in Nauvoo, Illinois," said Elder Steven E. Snow, LDS Church historian and recorder, in an LDS Church news release.

A Community of Christ news release included the purchase amount and the information that it was funded wholly by donors. The release said the amount is the most ever paid for a manuscript, exceeding the $30.8 million paid by Bill Gates for the Leonardo da Vinci Codex in 1994.

"It's new territory for any manuscript for sure, or any book," said Reid Moon, owner of Moon's Rare Books in Provo, Utah. "Just to give it a comparable, George Washington's annotated copy of the Constitution sold for $9.8 million in 2012."

Moon expected the sale to increase the value of other rare Mormon books and documents.

Elder Snow expressed appreciation to the anonymous donors who funded the purchase.

The LDS Church is making plans to display the manuscript for the public at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City later this year, its release said.

The Community of Christ is based in Independence, Missouri, and previously was known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Community of Christ bought a collection that included the printer’s manuscript in 1903 for $2,500.

The printer’s manuscript is missing only three lines of text, according to the Community of Christ release.

The LDS Church announced last month that it had acquired several tiny fragments of the original dictation of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith placed the original manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841. When it was removed decades later, water had ruined most of it.

As for the printer's manuscript, Oliver Cowdery, who wrote it out by hand, gave it to David Whitmer shortly before his death in 1850. Whitmer guarded the manuscript until his grandson George Schweich sold it to the Community of Christ in 1903.

The LDS Church and Community of Christ have worked jointly on conservation projects to preserve the manuscript over the years.

"We are pleased to transfer stewardship of this important document to those who will treasure it and continue to care for it for future generations," Community of Christ leaders said in their news release.
Still, the sale was not an easy decision.

"Church leaders know that letting go of this document will cause some members sadness and grief," the Community of Christ statement said. "We feel sad, too. However, the church’s use of the Book of Mormon as scripture and our appreciation and respect for our history are not dependent on owning the printer’s manuscript. Letting go of this document does not affect the rights of Community of Christ to publish and protect the copyrights of its editions of the Book of Mormon. When a decision had to be made, we chose the well-being of people and preserving the current and future mission of the church over owning this document. “

The Community of Christ's Presiding Bishopric set the price after evaluating the market for the manuscript with consultants. There were multiple potential buyers, according to the Community of Christ release.

The LDS Church published the entire printer’s manuscript in 2015 in Volume Three of the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. It plans to post digital images of the entire manuscript online at
Moon said the da Vinci manuscript was an only copy of 7,000 pages of his notebooks. The $31.8 million paid by Gates would be worth $49 million today, adjusted for inflation.

"But for actual dollars paid, this does set a record, and it will get the world's attention," Moon said.
Moon said if the original, dictated copy of the Book of Mormon existed in complete form, it could fetch as much as $75 million.

A first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon sold for more than $50,000 in 2016.

"Early Mormon books have appreciated at a far more rapid pace than comparable 19th Century literature. I think it's because Mormons really appreciate their own history and want to own a piece of it."

Community of Christ leaders affirmed the Book of Mormon's place in the church.

"The Book of Mormon is an important part of our church’s heritage and ongoing sacred story," they said in their release. "We affirm that these sacred writings do not replace or improve upon the witness of the Bible; they confirm its message that Jesus is the Christ."

The Community of Christ released an eBook edition of the Book of Mormon in November 2016.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Philippines reaches major Mormon milestone: 100 stakes

(by Sarah Jane Weaver 9-10-17)

Five and a half decades after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was legally registered in the Philippines, Elder Neil L. Andersen created the church's 100th stake in the country on Sunday.

To a capacity congregation gathered in the Kia Theater in Metro Manila, Elder Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of the historic milestone for the Philippines — the first nation outside of the Western Hemisphere to experience this level of LDS growth.
Why among all the nations of the earth “has the Savior set his feet so firmly here in the Philippines?” he asked. “It is because of who you are.”

Elder Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, praised the Filipino church members for their gentleness, humility, education, optimism and belief in Jesus Christ.

“This is a special place,” Elder Andersen said. “Do not underestimate who you are. … The most important part of the Philippines is the people.”

Elder Ulisses Soares, of the Presidency of the Seventy, told early church pioneers in the Philippines that they are the reason the gospel of Jesus Christ took root in their country. "We are celebrating this wonderful moment because of the faith of people like you."

The new stake — the Mandaluyong Philippines Stake — is located in the area where the LDS Church built its first chapel in 1966.

The milestone is significant. The LDS Church has only reached this milestone in four other countries of the world — Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Peru.

Although the first official Mormon conference was held in the Philippines on May 13, 1945, it was only attended by Latter-day Saints in the U.S. military.

The Philippines wasn’t dedicated for the preaching of the gospel for another decade. On Aug. 21, 1955, then-Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who later became the 10th president of the church, offered a prayer of dedication on the Philippines.

On April 28, 1961, under the direction of then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who would also later serve as prophet, the church was legally registered in the Philippines and received permission to send missionaries to the nation.

“This is an occasion you will never forget,” Elder Hinckley told a group gathered at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila in 1961. “What we will begin here will affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people in this island republic, and its effect will go on from generation to generation for great and everlasting good.”

Since that time, church growth in the Philippines has been rapid, said Keith Erekson, director of the Church History Library.

“If we measure from the date of the first stake to the 100th, the Philippines reached the milestone in 44 years. (The first stake in the Philippines, the Manila Philippines Stake, was created in 1973.) That same milestone was reached by Mexico in 94 years and Peru in 43 years. By this measure, only Brazil was faster, 27 years. In the United States, the only states outside Utah to reach the milestone — California, Idaho, and Arizona — all took more than 100 years.”

Ruel E. Lacanienta, Philippines Olongapo Mission president, was 10 years old when he and his family met Mormon missionaries in 1963 — just two years after Elder Hinckley prayed for the country and the people.

He became the 60th Filipino member to be baptized in his country. In his lifetime, the church has grown from one branch meeting in a rented building to 100 stakes meeting in more than 730 church-owned chapels.
President Lacanienta served a full-time mission in Manila; back then he was one of just a handful of Filipino elders and sisters. Today, 60 percent of the missionaries in the Olongapo Mission are Filipino. They join more than 4,000 other Filipino missionaries currently serving in their nation.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, lived and served in the Philippines from 2002 to 2004 as he presided over the Philippines Area of the church.

“When Sister Oaks and I arrived in the Philippines 15 years ago, there were only about 80 stakes, but the Philippines Area was rich in faith and determination to serve the Lord," said Elder Oaks, who was not in the Philippines for the stake creation.

“I am thrilled that the faithfulness and commitment of the Philippines saints has brought the church to this great milestone in their growth in that favored part of the vineyard.”

Saturday evening, some 600 primary children and youth marked the historic milestone with music and dance in a cultural celebration titled, “Upon the Isles of the Sea.”

What began in a quiet cemetery with only a small group “now has 21 missions, two operating temples (with two more temples to be built) and a total membership of 750,000 in 100 stakes and 75 districts,” said Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a General Authority Seventy and president of the church’s Philippines Area “This is truly worthy of a celebration.”

The youth celebrated the geographic and cultural diversity of their country by performing dances indigenous to different regions of the Philippines. “'Upon the Isles of the Sea' we have 7,100 islands,” said Dino Antenorcruz, cultural celebration director. “The thing that really binds them is the gospel.”

Roni Balde, 15, of the Malolos Philippines Stake, performed the Bumaya-Uyauy, a festival dance that celebrates a bountiful harvest. She said she is happy to use the dance to mark the church taking root and growing strong in her country.

“As long as there are still people who have not heard the word of God in the Philippines, then the church will keep growing,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe in the future we will reach 200 stakes.”


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The prosperity gospel, explained: Why Joel Osteen believes that prayer can make you rich

The long, strange history of a quintessentially American theology.

(by Tara Isabella Burton 9-1-17)

In the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey, which has resulted in the deaths of at least 46 people, few narratives have captured the public imagination — or anger — like that of Joel Osteen and his Lakewood Church, one of the largest megachurches in the country. Osteen’s seeming hesitation in opening the church as a shelter for evacuees provoked an intense social media backlash.
Lakewood’s representatives maintain that the church was opened as soon as it was safe and feasible to do so. But whether the backlash was founded or not, it reflects the profoundly ambiguous feelings Americans of different faiths have about wildly wealthy preachers like Osteen — whose net worth is estimated at over $50 million — and about the “prosperity gospel” he preaches.
As Laura Turner notes in an excellent piece for BuzzFeed, no theological tradition is as rife for accusations of hypocrisy as the “prosperity gospel,” a distinctively American theological tradition. While it’s popular among many evangelical Protestants, it’s been condemned by many others. But to many of its critics, especially since the election of Donald Trump, this tradition has come to represent the worst of the conflation of American-style capitalism, religion, and Republican party politics.

The prosperity gospel has its roots in an American occult tradition called New Thought

The prosperity gospel is an umbrella term for a group of ideas — popular among charismatic preachers in the evangelical tradition — that equate Christian faith with material, and particularly financial, success. It has a long history in American culture, with figures like Osteen and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, glamorous, flashily-dressed televangelists whose Disneyland-meets-Bethlehem Christian theme park, Heritage USA, was once the third-most-visited site in America.

A 2006 Times poll found that 17 percent of American Christians identify explicitly with the movement, while 31 percent espouse the idea that “if you give your money to God God will bless you with more money.” A full 61 percent agree with the more general idea that “God wants people to be prosperous.”
Its roots, though, don’t just lie in explicitly Christian tradition. In fact, it’s possible to trace the origins of the American prosperity gospel to the tradition of New Thought, a nineteenth-century spiritual movement popular with decidedly unorthodox thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James. Practitioners of New Thought, not all of whom identified as Christian, generally held the divinity of the individual human being and the priority of mind over matter. In other words, if you could correctly channel your mental energy, you could harness its material results. New Thought, also known as the “mind cure,” took many forms: from interest in the occult to splinter-Christian denominations like Christian Science to the development of the “talking cure” at the root of psychotherapy.
The upshot of New Thought, though, was the quintessentially American idea that the individual was responsible for his or her own happiness, health, and situation in life, and that applying mental energy in the appropriate direction was sufficient to cure any ills.
Thus, New Thought thinker Ralph Waldo Trine (not to be confused with Ralph Waldo Emerson) could exhort his readers to “See yourself in a prosperous condition. Affirm that you will before long be in a prosperous condition.”
In addition to influencing Christian movements like the prosperity gospel, New Thought has also made its way into many “secular" aspects of American life, including the tradition of positive-thinking self-help represented by books like The Secret, which was written by an Australian but gained popularity when promoted by Oprah.

Today’s prosperity gospel was also shaped by pro-capitalist and Pentecostal thought traditions


A second strand in the development of the American prosperity gospel was the valorization of the “Protestant work ethic.”
Written in 1905, Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism traced what he saw as the specifically Protestant approach to labor as integral to the development of capitalism and industrialization.
In Weber’s historical analysis, Protestant Calvinists — who generally believe in the idea of “predestination,” or that God has chosen some people to be saved and others damned — felt the need to justify their own sense of themselves as the saved. They looked both for outward signs of God’s favor (i.e., through material success) and for ways to express inward virtue (i.e., through hard work). While the accuracy of Weber’s analysis is still debated by scholars, it nevertheless tells us a lot about cultural attitudes at the time Weber wrote it.
By 1905, at least, the idea that working hard and receiving material, financial reward for that work was integral to a certain strand of Protestant Christianity had entered the public consciousness. According to a recent Dutch study, that point of view still holds true today: Protestants and citizens of predominately Protestant countries tend to conflate labor with personal satisfaction more than those of other religious traditions.
A final strand of the development of the prosperity gospel was the development of charismatic Pentecostal churches in America. An umbrella term for a decentralized group of churches — comprising over 700 denominations — Pentecostal churches are characterized by an emphasis on what is known as “spiritual gifts” (or charisms, from which the term “charismatic” is drawn). A worshipful Christian might experience, for example, the gift of healing, or might suddenly start speaking “in tongues.” This tradition of worship meant that, for a believer, the idea that God would manifest Himself to the faithful in concrete, miraculous ways in the here and now was more prevalent than it would be in, say, a mainline Episcopalian church. In addition, the decentralized nature of these churches also meant that individual leaders, many of whom practiced faith healing or similar practices, had a particularly strong effect on their congregations and could build up individual personal followings.

These three strands collided throughout the twentieth century, as the prosperity gospel came into being. It started — like the “work ethic” Max Weber described — as a way to justify why, during the Gilded Age, some people were rich and others poor. (One early prosperity gospel proponent, Baptist preacher Russell H. Conwell, told his mostly-destitute congregation in 1915: “I say you ought to be rich; you have no right to be poor.”) Instead of blaming structural inequality, Conwell and those like him blamed the perceived failures of the individual.
Throughout the twentieth century, proponents of this particularly American blend of theology envisaged God as a kind of banker, dispensing money to the deserving, with Jesus as a model business executive. Both of these characterizations were, at times, literal: In 1936, New Thought mystic and founder of the Unity Church Charles Fillmore rewrote Psalm 23 to read, “The Lord is my banker/my credit is good”; in 1925, advertising executive Bruce Bowler wrote The Man Nobody Knows to argue that Jesus was the first great capitalist. The literal money quote reads, “Some day ... someone will write a book about Jesus. Every businessman will read it and send it to his partners and his salesmen. For it will tell the story of the founder of modern business.”
Yet it was in Pentecostal churches — with their focus on immediate spiritual gifts and the power of God to confer favor (and wellness) immediately — that the prosperity gospel as we know it today took hold. The “Word of Faith” movement — a Pentecostal version of New Thought that saw positive affirmation as central to financial and material success — became more prominent. Figures like Kenneth Hagin, his protégé Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and, of course, Osteen himself built up individual followings: followings that often grew as a result of cross-promotion (something religious historian Kate Bowler points out in her excellent Blessed, a history of the prosperity gospel movement). One preacher might, for example, feature another at his conference, or hawk his cassette tapes.
Central to the prosperity gospel was the idea of tithing, or giving money to the church, ideally one's “first fruits” — or initial earnings. This money, many prosperity gospel preachers promised, was an investment. By showing faith, parishioners could have a “hundredfold” return on their investment, a reference to a verse in the Gospel of Mark about those who suffer for Christ receiving a hundredfold what they have lost. Thus could Ken Copeland write in his Laws of Prosperity, "Do you want a hundredfold return on your money? Give and let God multiply it back to you. No bank in the world offers this kind of return! Praise the Lord!” In this mentality, tithing is a financially responsible thing to do. It’s a show of faith and a shrewd investment alike, a wager on the idea that God acts in the here and now to reward those with both faith and a sufficiently developed work ethic.

Many of the evangelical leaders that surround Trump are proponents of the prosperity gospel

The prosperity gospel tended to ebb and flow in accordance with wider cultural trends — it flourished in the postwar boom of the 1950s, and then again (unsurprisingly) in the no less ostentatious ‘80s, when big hair and big money alike were in. Yet despite the catastrophic fall of some of the most prominent proponents of the gospel — Jim Bakker, for example, spent years in prison for fraud — the movement has persisted well into the present day. Perhaps no less unsurprisingly, two of its major proponents — Paula White and Wayne T. Jackson — were among the six faith leaders invited to pray with Donald Trump at his inauguration.
Certainly Trump is, in some sense, a product of that mentality. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, theology professor Anthea Butler argued that Donald Trump and Joel Osteen were “mirrors” of one another:

Both enjoy enormous support among evangelicals, yet they lack a command of biblical scripture. Both are among the 1 percent ... Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Osteen’s brands are rooted in success, not Scripture. Believers in prosperity like winners. Hurricanes and catastrophic floods do not provide the winning narratives crucial to keep adherents chained to prosperity gospel thinking. That is why it is easy for both men to issue platitudes devoid of empathy during natural disasters.

It’s difficult to say that the prosperity gospel itself led to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Again, only 17 percent of American Christians identify with it explicitly. It’s far more true, however, to say that the same cultural forces that led to the prosperity gospel’s proliferation in America — individualism, an affinity for ostentatious and charismatic leaders, the Protestant work ethic, and a cultural obsession with the power of “positive thinking” — shape how we, as a nation, approach politics.
What is our collective approach to health care, after all, if not rooted in a visceral sense that the unlucky are responsible for their own misfortune? What is our willingness to vote a man like Trump into office but a collective cultural reward for those who brand themselves as successful?
After all, Trump may have embraced New Thought more than anyone realized: seeing himself in the White House, affirming himself in the White House, before anyone else saw it coming.
He’s gotten his investment back a hundredfold.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rare Arnold Friberg sketches come to Springville Museum of Art in new exhibit

( 2-18-17)

In his home studio in Holladay, famed Latter-day Saint painter Arnold Friberg had a handmade advertisement of sorts. The sign invites people to buy a portrait from Friberg, described as “The most confused, abused, misunderstood, and underfed Genius in Seven Counties!”

That sign now hangs in the Springville Museum of Art as part of its newest exhibition, “From the Studio of Arnold Friberg.” Alongside it are enormous illustrations — some as large as 7x14 feet — that Friberg sketched on his studio walls.

Yes, these aren’t canvases, but literally huge chunks of Friberg’s own walls.

Keep in mind, these walls are now on the second floor of the museum. And the museum doesn’t have a freight elevator. The exhibition’s largest piece, which depicts Joseph Smith being visited by God and Jesus Christ, weighs more than 600 pounds, according to Emily Larsen, the museum’s assistant curator and registrar.

“And I tried to do all the geometry and the math to say, ‘Can we get it in at an angle? Can we tabletop it somehow?’ And there was no way it was going to fit through,” Larsen said, standing atop the narrow staircase through which it was somehow transported.

“And it was nail-biting to watch it come up,” she continued. “We had probably 10 different people, four big guys, and all the interns and volunteers we could scramble. It was really stressful. But it worked, and it was so exciting.”

Within LDS circles, Friberg is most known for his illustrations of Book of Mormon scenes that he completed in the 1950s. These illustrations became an unexpected success after they were included in the church’s official distributed copies of the Book of Mormon — Friberg became the art director for Cecil B. Demille’s 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments” as a result. Friberg fans, be they Mormon or not, are used to seeing his works rendered in grand, dynamically painted color schemes. This new exhibition, though, turns these associations on their head: Instead of direct, colorful statements, the exhibit’s pieces are ethereal, somewhat vague black-and-white pencil sketches.

“It all feels more personal,” said Ali Royal-Pack, the museum’s educator. “I’ve grown up seeing those images from the Book of Mormon, and I love the idea of seeing kind of the raw, behind-the-scenes quality of some of these works. And it feels a little more personal to get a glimpse into his process.”

The museum worked with Micah Christensen, a specialist at Anthony’s Fine Art & Antiques in Salt Lake City, on the exhibition. Christensen got to know Friberg before Friberg’s death in 2010. Friberg, he said, was so much more than a hero of Mormon art. His paintings were revered around the world, particularly in England, where he had been commissioned to paint portraits of the royal family.

“The problem with Arnold Friberg … is we’re too familiar with him. Just like Van Gogh,” Christensen said. “We think we understand them because we’re familiar with them. And the thing that I think surprises people when they see Arnold Friberg’s sketches is how skilled he was as an artist. On a technical level, he had an enormous arsenal.”

Friberg was also a contemporary of Norman Rockwell. The two men went against the grain of their own artistic time period, focusing on realism when the era’s biggest visual artists — people like Pollock, Warhol and Lichtenstein — focused on surrealism and postmodernism. And yet, Rockwell and Friberg succeeded. When the LDS Church became more directly involved with Friberg, it had never courted an artist so highly regarded.

“Well, Arnold Friberg was a powerful force to be reckoned with as an individual,” Christensen said. “He had very strong opinions, and he had no problem going toe to toe with apostles and prophets when it came to his work — and he often did.”

These toe-to-toe interactions aren’t commonly known among Latter-day Saints, but are made manifest in much of Friberg’s religious art. David O. McKay, president of the LDS Church from 1951-1970, wanted church-sanctioned art to avoid literal, physical depictions of God and Christ — he wanted to avoid the iconography so rampant in other Christian faiths. In this, Christensen said, Friberg was vehemently opposed.

“So when you see the First Vision depiction that he did, that’s on the wall at Springville, it was a somewhat rebellious act by him,” Christensen explained. (That piece features an embodied God and Christ.)

Drawing on one’s own walls, Christensen said, is pretty atypical for artists. But it certainly conveys the boldness and matter-of-factness with which Friberg seemed to live his life. Friberg, Christensen said, was prolific, drawing on whatever kinds of surfaces he could find, be it his enormous studio walls or otherwise.

Added Christensen, “He was a big fish who happened to paint Mormons.”