Many inspiring buildings, statues, and sights greet visitors to Temple Square, and one of the most breathtaking is the statue of Christ, the Christus, located in the North Visitors’ Center. Whether seen through the southern bank of two-story glass windows or viewed after circling the spiral ramp leading to the second floor, the 11-foot, Carrera marble statue is long remembered. Countless people have seen an image of the statue in LDS Church magazines, pamphlets, videos, and other media productions.
The Christus is a replica of the statue created by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768-1844) displayed in Copenhagen, Denmark. It conveys the central doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Creator of this Earth, Redeemer of the world, and he invites all to come unto him.
The statue came to Temple Square through a series of inspired events: Elder Stephen L Richards visited the original in 1950; Elder Richard L. Evans, in a planning meeting for guided tours on the grounds, said, “The world thinks we’re not Christians because they see no evidence of Christ on this square”; Elder Marion D. Hanks suggested placing a marble copy of Thorvaldsen’s Christus; and President David O. McKay asked Elder Richards, owner of Wasatch Lawn Cemetery in Salt Lake City, to inquire through his connections with Forest Lawn if a copy could be obtained. Elder Richards decided to make it a personal and anonymous donation to the Church, and a copy of one of the Christus statues on display at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California, was sent to Italy and a marble replica was made.
Elder Richards died before the statue could be installed on Temple Square. Originally the Christus was to be placed outdoors, but after considering the harsh climate of Utah, the statue was lowered into the rotunda of the North Visitors’ Center and the spiral ramp and mural were created around it. The Christus was open for public viewing in 1967.
The Salt Lake City replica of the Christus is not the only replica owned by the LDS Church. There are 14 statues used in displays by the Church at the Temple Visitors’ Centers: Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; St. George, Utah; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; Palmyra, New York; Independence, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; Hill Cumorah in New York; Hawaii, Arizona, Washington D.C., Mexico City, New Zealand; and a traveling statue. One statue was donated to the Icelandic Immigration Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland.