Torleif S. Knaphus

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Torleif Soviren Knaphus
Torleif knaphus photo.jpg
Historical photo of Torleif S. Knaphus
Born(1881-12-14)December 14, 1881
DiedJune 14, 1965(1965-06-14) (aged 83)
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
Alma mater Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry, Académie Julian
OccupationArtist and sculptor
Spouse(s)Emilia Helena Christensen (6 children)
Rebecca Marie Jacobson (6 children)
Knaphus in his studio, posing with his 1947 Handcart Monument Handcart Monument with Torleif.jpg
Knaphus in his studio, posing with his 1947 Handcart Monument

Torleif Soviren Knaphus [1] (14 December 1881 – 14 June 1965) was a Norwegian-born artist and sculptor in Utah, primarily known for sculptures for and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).


Early life

Knaphus was born 14 December 1881 in Vats, Rogaland, Norway. His parents were Lars Larsen Slottenaa Knaphus (born: 1843, died: October 17, 1919) and Liva Sakariassen Alfseike Knaphus (born in Vats/Vass, Rogaland County, Norway, 14 March 1847; died December 18, 1914). [2]

At age 14 Knaphus took out an apprenticeship in a paint and decorating shop in Haugesund. At 17 he went to sea for a year, then completed his apprenticeship in "decoration painting," earning his master's slip, which entitled him to be bonded and open his own shop.

Knaphus was accepted for study under Harriet Backer at her famous art school (in Oslo) and also attended the Royal Art School where he learned sculpturing from Lars Utne.

While in Oslo, Knaphus converted to the LDS Church in 1902, and after completing his studies, migrated to Salt Lake City in 1906.

After his immigration, Knaphus married Helena "Millie" Christensen in the Salt Lake Temple in 1909. Together they moved to Sanpete County, where Knaphus and his brother painted houses to support the family.

When his brother was called to serve as a LDS missionary, Knaphus decided to get more art training in 1913, where he studied sculpting in Paris at the Académie Julian for a year. After completing his studies in Paris, Kanphus spent six months in New York and then in Chicago studying at the Art Students' League to obtain additional skills in sculpting monuments.

Handcart Monument

The Handcart Pioneer Monument, located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah Mormon Pioneer handcart statue.jpg
The Handcart Pioneer Monument, located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah

Hill Cumorah Monument

Hill Cumorah 1.JPG

When Knaphus learned that the LDS Church had acquired the Hill Cumorah property, he decided that there need to be a memorial there. After working worked through seven designs, he presented them to leaders of the LDS Church as part of an unsolicited offer to create a monument there. Knaphus later claimed that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles independently selected the same design that he had been informed through personal revelation was the correct one.

A plaque at the site describes some of the symbolism of the monument, while Knaphus's own "Description of the Hill Cumorah Monument" details more meaning behind the design. The wording on the north sided of the monument titled "Exhortation of Moroni" is the text of Moroni 10:4, which Knaphus carefully shaped by hand, just as he had the other sculpted panels. His young daughter questioned the artist for just having words on this last panel, suggesting that he do another "pretty" panel instead. His reply was: "Dear, this is the prettiest panel of all, and I hope that one day you'll come to understand, like I have, the true meaning of these special words."

The model for the body of the Angel Moroni was not used for the face; instead the model's father was selected out of a crowd, without Knaphus knowing of the relationship between the two men until they posed together for the first time.

He made two visits to the site: first was in the summer of 1934 with Sylvester Q. Cannon, LDS Church presiding bishop, to decide the exact placement and orientation of the monument. The second was when the monument was erected dedicated on 21 July 1935 by Heber J. Grant. In remarks during the ceremony David O. McKay stated "There is no monument in the world today with which greater things are associated."

Angel Moroni statues

For temples

Other works

Personal life




  1. Alternate spelling of Torleif in some sources as Torlief (ei vs. ie)
  3. "Whittier Ward: Bas-relief Detail". Historic LDS Architecture. 2016-01-28.

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Further reading