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The Surprising True Story Behind the Dinosaur Mural in the Manti Utah Temple

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The mural featuring dinosaur-like figures in the Manti Utah Temple is an intriguing feature that has sparked curiosity and discussion among visitors and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Situated on the back wall of the temple’s Creation Room, the mural depicts a scene from the prehistoric era, showcasing several dinosaur species in a lush, green landscape.

Manti Temple Creation Room Mural Dinosaurs
The restored Creation Room in the Manti Utah Temple.

Painted by Carl Christian Anton Christensen, a Danish-American artist who joined the Church in 1850, the mural follows the Biblical account of the creation of the world as it wraps around the room. Christensen is renowned for his depictions of Latter-day Saint pioneers and is recognized as one of the few artists who depicted the trek west after having embarked on the journey himself.

C.C.A. Christensen
C.C.A. Christensen

How did Christensen, who was commissioned to paint the room, decide to include dinosaurs? Emily Utt, historic sites curator, shared the story during a recent tour of the renovated Manti Utah Temple.

“The artist, C.C. Christensen, was trained at the Royal Art Institute of Copenhagen. Unfortunately, he left school while he was in his figure painting classes because he joined the church and wanted to gather to Zion. He settled here in Sanpete, and in 1886, was commissioned to paint this mural. So, he had to visualize and conceptualize something that he had only read about. He went back to Genesis and read those accounts, but he also took advantage of the world’s latest and greatest scientific discoveries—finding fossils and dinosaur bones. Science is cool.”

A close-up of the prehistoric figures in Christensen’s mural before restoration.

Utt then shared a copy of Louis Figuier’s The World Before the Deluge and some of the illustrations found inside, showcasing the direct influence of the book on Christensen’s mural.

Dinosaur depictions from The World Before the Deluge, by Édouard Riou.
Dinosaur depictions from The World Before the Deluge, by Édouard Riou.

“What I love about this is that as he studied it, he got design inspiration,” Utt said. “He took the very best of his personal experience with faith and combined it with the latest scientific discoveries, study, and analysis, coming up with a depiction of the creation of the world that is brand new, unusual, and sacred.”

Dinosaur depictions from The World Before the Deluge, by Édouard Riou.
Dinosaur depictions from The World Before the Deluge, by Édouard Riou.

Christensen’s mural, along with the others inside the temple, has been fully restored as part of the recent temple restoration. Inch by inch, layers of dirt, grime, and old finish were removed to bring back the life and color of each mural.

Visitors can attend the public open house of the Manti Utah Temple from March 14 to April 5, 2024, prior to its rededication on April 21.

The Manti Utah Temple is home to some of the most unique murals in the Church. While some of the depictions may seem curious today, upon closer inspection, we see the faith and love of our pioneer ancestors shining through.


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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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