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Utah sculptor of Mormon Angel Moroni statues dies at 84

Published December 13, 2013 11:19 am
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Karl A. Quilter, the man who designed the majority of the Angel Moroni sculptures that grace the steeples of Mormon temples worldwide, died last week. He was 84.

Born April 27, 1929, to Alfred and Vera Hales Quilter, Karl Quilter spent much of his life carefully and painstakingly sculpting out of clay the mold for what would eventually be cast into the golden angel perched atop The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples.

All but an estimated 10 or so Angel Moroni sculptures on temples worldwide are Quilter's work, said his daughter, Elizabeth Quilter Finlinson.

"[He was] very passionate about his religion his whole entire life," she said. "He always had the desire to put God first, but his family was right up there. We always felt his love."

The father of eight, Quilter created his first non-commissioned sculpture while serving an LDS mission. More than 250,000 people viewed his 18-to-24-inch sculpture that he set up at a booth at the Ohio and Indiana state fairs, Finlinson said.

Always passionate about the arts, Quilter graduated with a degree in art and industrial design at the University of Utah. It was at the U. of U. that he met his wife of 61 years, Verna Frances Critchlow.

In addition to the Moroni sculptures, Finlinson said her father also created the large Christmas Nativity scenes that can be viewed at more than 100 Mormon churches during the holiday season.

It was in the '70s when he was commissioned by the LDS Church to start his most high-profile creations — the angels.

By the time of his death on Wednesday, Quilter had created three versions that could be cast and set atop the temples.

"He was able to create an angel that could be made out of much lighter material, and it made the casting process much easier, it was less expensive and it was more durable," Finlinson said.

Each of the three Angel Moronis was different, including in size, to give church architects the option of which would fit the design best.

Finlinson's childhood memories include sitting next to her father rolling the clay that would later be turned into Angel Moronis.

"That was one of my favorite things to do," she said, saying to this day she still loves the smell of clay.

"He made us a part of it," she said. "It was just a natural part of our lives.

"He was always a perfectionist," she said. "He always did the correct anatomy first. Every single muscle goes on. He's known for his ability to drape the robes over the angel."

Finlinson said her father always loved people and felt blessed.

"[He had an] incredible energy for life. And loved to make people laugh. Some might call it irreverent [but] he just loved to make people laugh."

And while they'll always be able to look up at the Angel Moroni and think of their dad, that's not what they'll best remember him for, Finlinson said.

"We look at the temple and say that's really amazing, but being dad trumps all," Finlinson said.

Quilter is survived by his wife, his eight children, 43 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

Services are set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Olympus 2nd Ward Chapel, 3070 E. Nila Way (4170 South). Friends may also call at the same address 6-8 p.m. Tuesday and 9:30-10:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Interment will be at Holladay Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the LDS General Missionary Fund.


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