Art, Music, and Architecture

The LDS Church lacks a distinctive style of art and music. As noted, hymns are important for expressing Mormon stories and themes. Art by LDS members expresses Christian themes as well as distinctively Mormon ones, such as the visions of Joseph Smith or scenes from the early pioneer days in Utah. Mormon literature and cinema is developing, drawing in wider Mormon themes. The Church makes or funds a number of films that are used in seminaries (for adolescents) and institutes of religion (for university age students) to teach Church history, doctrine and general kindness. However, the personal nature of the spiritual quest of following God’s plan is reflected in the diversity of Mormon artistic production. It is unified by representation of distinctive themes and ideas from Mormon history and theology rather than by a particular style or aesthetic.

Perhaps the most famous LDS artistic production is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a massed-voice chorus of over 300 members, who are all volunteers receiving no remuneration for their participation. The Choir performs regularly in Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and at all the general conferences of the Church. It dates to the mid-19th century and its participation in the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893 arguably marked the entering of the LDS Church into the American mainstream. It is now an established part of presidential inauguration ceremonies, having made appearances at six different inaugurations dating back to 1965.

A popular, recent Broadway musical called The Book of Mormon was not created by Mormons, but by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the animated TV series South Park, along with lyricist and composer, Robert Lopez. It is considered offensive by most Church members, but the Church has utilised the popularity of the play to market its faith, for example by advertising the Church’s services in the playbill with the headline, “you’ve seen the play, now read the book”. This is but one example of how the Church tries to work with the outside world and use engagement as an opportunity for teaching about the Mormon faith.

The style of architecture of Temples and churches reflects the local regulations and the customs of the country the buildings are in. There is not a set of religious ideas guiding the architecture. One of the articles of faith is to follow secular laws, and this includes not only building codes but also the general style of the wider community’s architecture. This means that LDS Temples and churches have eclectic architecture around the world, and often do not stand out in a distinctive way. Exceptions are the large Temples in Utah and the Western United States. Many of these are built in crenellated Gothic or Renaissance style, with tall thin spires. The Salt Lake Temple is the most recognisable of all the Mormon Temples, and is an international symbol of the Church.

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