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At the LDS church I saw paintings of what I thought were Jesus, but later realized were Moroni. Who was Moroni?
First of all, thanks for coming to the Faith Feast! I hope you enjoyed the delicious food and great conversation!
Latter-day Saint meetinghouses have quite a bit of art hanging on the walls. At the Spokane Stake Center there are paintings of Jesus as well as other scriptural figures in the halls you walked through. I’m not sure which specific painting you are referring to, but there are two characters named Moroni in the Book of Mormon, both of which have been depicted in some artwork commonly seen in LDS buildings.
The first Moroni, usually called Captain Moroni, was a military leader who rallied his people, the Nephites, to defend their families, homes, and faith against a Lamanite invasion. His story is told in the Book of Mormon starting in Alma 43.
I think it’s more likely that the painting you saw showed the other Moroni, who lived several hundred years after the first. This Moroni was the last Nephite to survive the ultimate decimation of his people by the Lamanites, and was charged by his father Mormon — the person who compiled the majority of what we now have as The Book of Mormon – to protect and preserve the record of their people. Moroni added a few of his own words and then buried the plates to keep them safe.
Latter-day Saints believe this Moroni is the angel who visited Joseph Smith in 1823, about three years after his First Vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Moroni taught Joseph Smith from the Bible, quoting passages from Malachi, Isaiah, and Joel, and told him “that God had a work for [him] to do.” You can read more about Moroni and his visits to Joseph Smith in Smith’s account here.
Latter-day Saints often identify Moroni as the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6 who comes to preach the “everlasting gospel” to “every nation and kindred and tongue and people,” which is why a statue of the angel Moroni holding a trumpet is placed on the top spire of most Latter-day Saint temples.
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