PAYSON -- Through the clouds and misty Thursday morning, the golden statue of the Angel Moroni was set in place atop the spire of the new Payson LDS Temple. The iconic symbol is typically an early highlight of temple construction.
Several visitors grabbed binoculars, umbrellas and strollers, and watched as crews worked carefully to hoist the statue into place with a crane.
Payson resident Elaine Williams set up a ladder at 7 a.m. and spent the morning helping people climb it to get a better look over the fence.
"I know I'm going to cry when I watch them put him up there," Williams said. "It brings a lot of good energy to the neighborhood."
Susan Leavitt has been a resident for 36 years and has watched as crews bring supplies to the construction zone. Thursday morning she saw a gold object being hauled and raced down to the site to see if it was in fact Moroni. Later, a construction worker allowed her to stand next to the statue. She admits she cried uncontrollably.
"I'm speechless. It was just really touching for him to do that. I wasn't expecting that at all," Leavitt said. "To think we came to Payson and then the temple came here. I never dreamed this would happen."
The sentiment seemed to permeate the crowd. As many things in the church, the rumor grapevine travelled fast and people from outside of Payson gathered.
"I didn't know about it until it was happening," said Utah State Senator Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork. "I dropped everything, grabbed my kids and got in the car. I thought it was really important for my kids to witness that event. It's an important thing to have in our community."
Henderson noted that the place was packed with people, and cars lined the streets and even along the freeway. That's without any formal announcement.
Payson resident Sandy Whettstein was texting her son in Germany serving in the Air Force.
"We are so excited we can hardly stand it," Whettstein said. "Already I think it's blessed us."
Referring to the numbers of people who showed up Whettstein said, "I love it, it's a like a party."
Margaret Allred moved to Payson from Safford, Ariz., where the closest temple was three hours away. Now the Payson Temple is half a mile from her house. She often sits in her chair watching the construction.
"It's absolutely exciting. I'd sit out here all morning and day," Allred said. "It's a blessing of the Lord for us. I think it will touch people's hearts."
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the statue symbolizes the restoration of the gospel and the preaching of it to the world. According to LDS Church sources, the Salt Lake Temple was the first temple topped with Angel Moroni in 1893, although the original Nauvoo Temple dedicated in 1846 featured a horizontal angel figure on its tallest spire.
It wasn't until the Los Angeles Temple was dedicated in 1956 that a second Moroni was cast and used. The Washington D.C. Temple was third.
In a recent church news release it says, "Not all temples have Moroni statues because of building regulations, cultural misconceptions, or the architectural design of the building."
The following eight temples do not have a statue: Cardston Alberta, Hamilton New Zealand, Laie Hawaii, Logan Utah, Manti Utah, Mesa Arizona, Oakland California and St. George Utah.
Statues have been added to a number of temples long after their dedications. They include: the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple, which had an angel Moroni statue added in 1983, almost 40 years after its dedication; the Freiberg Germany (2001), Ogden Utah (2002), Provo Utah (2003), São Paulo Brazil (2003), Tokyo Japan (2004), Bern Switzerland (2005) and London England (2008) Temples.