"The Frontier Prophet" Statue, Manhattan, New York

Photo Courtesy of Mark Holden
“Fronteer Prophet” by Dee Jay Bowden.  Photo Courtesy: Mark Holden.

On December 23, 2005, the New York New York Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in conjunction with the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and the City of New York unveiled and dedicated a statue of Joseph Smith entitled, “The Frontier Prophet.”

The bronze statue was temporarily located in Old Slip Park in Lower Manhattan near where the Prophet stayed in his visit to New York City in 1832. The old slip was also a departure point for early members of the Church who headed west. Additionally, the statue was located near a plaque about the ship Brooklyn which sailed west in 1846.

Dee Jay Bawden, famed LDS artist, has created the heroic sized statue which will stand eight-feet tall. Joseph stands holding an axe in one hand, characteristic of his rural, New England upbringing, and a book in the other.

The unveiling and dedication took place on the 200th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birthday, and the installation remained in Manhattan until June 2006.


“The Frontier Prophet” by Dee Jay Bawden
Photo courtesy Mark Holden


Articles & Resources

Dedicatory Prayer of "The Frontier Prophet"

Author(s): Brent J. Belnap
Published in: N/A
Publication Date: N/A

Dedicatory Prayer of the Joseph Smith Statue, “The Frontier Prophet”
Old Slip, New York City, New York, December 23, 2005

President Brent J. Belnap, President of the New York New York Stake

Our Father in Heaven, we, a few of Thy children, have gathered on this cold December afternoon in Lower Manhattan in New York City to dedicate unto Thee a statue honoring the life, memory, and mission of Thy chosen servant, Joseph Smith, Junior, who was born two-hundred years ago today.

We marvel that this striking image of the “farm boy prophet,” who was born into poverty and sorely persecuted during his brief lifetime until his tragic martyrdom at the hands of a cursed mob, should stand here today at this prominent site in this great city—as a testament to the increasing stature of Joseph Smith as the great prophet, seer, revelator and translator of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see Doctrine & Covenants 124:125), a latter-day Moses (see 2 Nephi 3; Doctrine & Covenants 28:2), to whom was given “power to lay the foundation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which . . . the Lord is well pleased.” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:30)

From this site at Old Slip, a group of Latter-day Saints set sail on the Ship Brooklyn almost one-hundred-sixty years ago toward a new home in the West, as Joseph had prophesied. Just steps away Thou didst oversee the enactment of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing religious and other freedoms necessary for the development and flourishing of free peoples everywhere, thereby nurturing the rolling forth of Thy Kingdom throughout the earth. Near this site Thou didst also fulfill ancient prophecy in showing unto “the learned” certain characters from a “sealed book” translated by Joseph Smith as the Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ. We are mindful that Joseph himself once lodged nearby on Pearl Street, and that thousands of early members, heeding his prophetic call to build Zion, passed near here on their way West. We thank Thee for these events and all other blessings in our lives related to this unique location. We also thank Thee for the continued growth of Thy Church in this area, and for the blessings that Thou hast seen fit to bestow upon us, including a temple here in Manhattan.

We thank Thee for the talents of the sculptor, Brother Bawden; for members of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and the New York New York Stake History Committee; for the generous donors, city officials, and many others who have contributed so much to see this statue created, unveiled, and dedicated on this bicentennial observance of the Prophet Joseph’s birth.

We especially thank Thee this day for the marvelous and unique truths that Thou didst reveal through Thy Prophet, starting with the appearance of Thee and Thy Son to the boy Joseph in upstate New York, followed by the Book of Mormon, other revelations and inspired writings, the restoration of Thy holy priesthood, the organization of Thy Church, temples and temple ordinances, and many other precious and eternal doctrines and programs to bless and uplift Thy children.

Now, by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood and with authorization from our Area President, we present unto Thee this statue for Thine approval and dedicate it unto Thee as a memorial to the Prophet Joseph Smith and as an ensign to all who will have opportunity to look upon this likeness of Brother Joseph as “The Frontier Prophet” and consider his life and the “incomparable outpouring of knowledge, gifts, and doctrine” that came through him. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Great Things Which God Has Revealed,” General Conference, April 2005)

Wilt Thou shield this statue from all desecration. May no unhallowed hand harm in any way this image of him who himself was unjustly imprisoned, beaten, tarred and feathered, and, “like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times,” ultimately martyred in order to “seal his mission and his works with his own blood.” (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3)

May Thy Holy Spirit be felt here in abundance by all pure-in-heart who pass by. Bless those who come upon this monument, who do not yet know Joseph, with a desire to learn more concerning Thee and Thy Gospel restored through him. May this statue serve in spreading the message of Thy Gospel to growing numbers of local inhabitants and to visitors to this great city.

To those who already know Joseph as Thy prophet, wilt Thou renew in each of us a firm testimony that Joseph Smith was chosen by Thee to restore the fullness of Thy Gospel to the earth in this last dispensation. May we “be reminded that the Book of Mormon, [the] Doctrine and Covenants . . ., [and every good thing associated today with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,] cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world.” (Doctrine & Covenants 135:6.) May this larger-than-life statue symbolize that Joseph stands at the head of this last dispensation, that he stood firm in spite of ridicule and persecution, that true and living prophets once again speak Thy word to Thy children, and that “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3)

May its presence in this diverse world-class city assist in fulfilling divine prophecy made by the Angel Moroni that, as the stature of Joseph Smith grows ever larger, the “name [of Joseph Smith] should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” Bless this memorial, that through it, “Millions [including right here in New York City] shall know Brother Joseph again.”

Today, may each of us better understand these words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Joseph’s divinely appointed successor today, who said: “We do not worship [Joseph Smith]. We worship God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we acknowledge the Prophet; we proclaim him; we respect him; we reverence him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth the ancient truths of the divine gospel, together with the priesthood through which the authority of God is exercised in the affairs of His Church and for the blessing of His people.” (“Joseph Smith Jr.Prophet of God, Mighty Servant,” Ensign, December 2005.) Surely, “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!”

As we close this dedication, at this special Christmas season, we honor the birth of Him whom we worship as our Savior and Thy Only Begotten Son, even Jesus Christ. May we strive today and always to live as He would have us do, we humbly ask, in the sacred name of Thy Son, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen

Joseph Smith statue to be unveiled in Manhattan

Author(s): Carrie Moore
Published in: Deseret Morning News
Publication Date: December 23, 2005

Published December 23, 2005. Reprinted with permission from the Deseret Morning News.

Joseph Smith statue to be unveiled in Manhattan
Carrie A. Moore, Deseret Morning News

Just hours before LDS Church founder Joseph Smith is celebrated worldwide by an audience of millions via satellite tonight, a likeness of him will be unveiled in lower Manhattan, where Latter-day Saints will sing praise to the man who was born 200 years ago today, Dec. 23, 1805.

After months of politicking and persuasion, an 8-foot-tall statue of Joseph Smith was placed in Old Slip Park Sunday morning and will be formally unveiled during dedication ceremonies at 4 p.m. Eastern time, according to President Brent Belnap of the New York New York Stake.

“I’m told he’s larger than life size and stands on a low base so he’s very approachable,” Belnap said. “Standing next to him, he’s definitely bigger than you are,” doubtless as a way of memorializing the work Joseph Smith did to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now among the fastest-growing faiths in America.

The bronze statue, entitled “The Frontier Prophet,” was sculpted by local LDS artist Dee Jay Bawden, and it stands near the place on Pearl Street where Joseph Smith stayed during his visit to New York City in 1832. Old Slip Park was once a departure point for large sailing ships.

A permanent plaque memorializes the area as the place many early church members set sail on the ship Brooklyn, bound for San Francisco, in February 1846, at the same time hundreds of their counterparts were leaving Nauvoo, Ill., on their historic migration west. Belnap wanted to do something more to memorialize LDS history in the city, and Robert Clark, a friend who is a Salt Lake City attorney active with the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, told him the foundation was looking for new projects. At that point, local church member and Columbia University faculty member Claudia Bushman got involved, working with local officials to help forward the proposed placement of the statue. Bushman’s husband, Richard Bushman, recently published a highly acclaimed biography, “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.”

The proposal was presented before a community board in the lower Manhattan area. “They voted overwhelmingly in the negative,” Belnap said, many of them expressing sentiments that Joseph Smith “was a fraud and this is a false religion.”

A reporter for a local community newspaper “was actually offended that members of the board could be so intolerant in 2005 regarding religion” and wrote about the board’s opposition to the project, Belnap said. The story “was fairly supportive of the statue project.” Bushman and others pressed forward, approaching the parks department and using other political connections to obtain the necessary approvals.

Another Manhattan church member, Mark Holden, made some connections with Bawden and “all the factors came together,” Belnap said. “I don’t know who put up the money for the statue. I have a good idea but I literally don’t know. The cost is reputed to be about $300,000. There are some very generous individuals, mostly in Utah, who were interested in promoting it, and knowing we were willing participants it all came together.”

Kim Wilson with the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation said the New York group “needed an entity and the financial support. It seemed like a really great idea.” The foundation didn’t do any specific fund raising for the project, he said, but used resources from its general fund.

“It’s a wonderful tribute to the prophet on the 200th anniversary of his birth � to be honored by the largest city in the United States and in the state where the church was born.” The LDS Church is growing rapidly in Manhattan, evidenced not only by the dedication of a temple there in 2004, but by the well-publicized opening of a large chapel in Harlem earlier this year.

The statue of Joseph Smith is in close proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge and South Street Seaport and is scheduled to remain in place at least until June 2006.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

Symbolic return to New York

Author(s): Shaun Stahle
Published in: LDS Church News
Publication Date: December 31, 2005

Published December 31, 2005. Reprinted with permission from LDS Church News published by Deseret Morning News.

Symbolic return to New York
Statue of Joseph Smith unveiled near Wall Street in Manhattan
Shaun D. Stahle, Church News Staff Writer

In a symbolic way, the Prophet Joseph Smith returned to New York City on Dec. 23 when members of the New York New York Stake unveiled a larger-than-life size statue in his honor near an area where he once stayed.

With the East River as backdrop, an estimated 300 members and local officials gathered for an afternoon ceremony to unveil an 8-foot tall bronze statue titled, “The Frontier Prophet.”

The statue, depicting the Prophet with an axe in one hand and a Book of Mormon in the other, is positioned in the plaza at Old Slip Park, located two blocks from where the Prophet boarded at 88 Pearl Street when he visited New York in October 1832.

At that time, the port was a major dock for large ships, including the Brooklyn, which set sail in 1846 carrying 200 members of the Church around South America and eventually to present-day San Francisco.

The Prophet was impressed with the city and wrote a letter to his wife, Emma, saying, “the buildings are truly great and wonderful to the astonishing of every beholder.”

The port is no longer used, but is remembered in a park for the role it played in the discovery and growth of America. It is situated near the Brooklyn Bridge on the eastern end of Wall Street amid major office buildings in an area of high traffic, roughly halfway between South Street Seaport and boat ramps for the Statue of Liberty. Most double decker tourist buses pass Old Slip along Water Street where the statue stands.

“Other than Times Square or Rockefeller Center, you couldn’t ask for a much better location,” said President Brent J. Belnap of the New York stake.

The statue, sculpted by famed artist Dee Jay Bawden, is the result of cooperation between stake members who envisioned a statue to commemorate the Prophet’s work in New York City on the day of his 200th birth anniversary, and the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation that provided funds.

Members presented a proposal to a community board in the lower Manhattan area. “They voted overwhelmingly in the negative,” President Belnap said, many of them expressing sentiments that Joseph Smith “was a fraud and this was a false religion.”

Attitudes toward the project seemed to change, however, after a local newspaper editorialized on the apparent religious intolerance of the community board. After an eight-month process of political haranguing, permission was granted.

Dedicatory services included comments from Elder A. Kim Smith, Area Authority, and a dedicatory prayer by President Belnap. Particularly impressive to bystanders were the Scouts who stood at attention in short-sleeved shirts without flinching in the frosty evening air.

The statue will be on display until June 2006 as part of a New York arts program. At that time it will be determined if the statue remains permanently. Observers noted that as many as three out of every four people passing the statue in this busy Financial District stopped to study the statue and read the inscription.

“Following the dedication, after the crowd had dispersed, I had a few moments alone in front of the statue to think about this remarkable individual, and to consider the potentially favorable influence of this project,” said President Belnap, reflecting on his thoughts following the dedicatory services. “The plaza at Old Slip was remarkably well lit. With the statue facing west, toward Pearl Street, I thought of the Prophet looking toward the future of the Church, a fitting pose for “The Frontier Prophet.”

E-mail: shaun@desnews.com

Mormon Prophet Returns to the Seaport

Author(s): Barry Owens
Published in: Tribeca Tribune

Mormon Prophet Returns to the Seaport
Barry Owens

Joseph Smith statue is put in place by Utahns [Matt Kennedy and Steve Glenn] who came to New York for the installation. Photo by Carl Glassman
Joseph Smith statue is put in place by Utahns [Matt Kennedy and Steve Glenn] who came to New York for the installation.
Photo by Carl Glassman

As controversial religious figures go, Joseph Smith cuts a striking one. A bronze likeness of the founder of Mormonism was installed last month near Wall Street at Old Slip Park, and his wavy hair, face-framing curls, high cheekbones and rugged bearing did not go unnoticed by the faithful.

“He was a beautiful man,” said church volunteer Claudia Bushman, taking in the newly installed 10-foot-tall statue, titled Frontier Prophet, which depicts Smith with an axe in one hand and a Book of Mormon in the other.

Though Bushman, a historian, suspects that Smith had a slightly more “beaky nose” than the one portrayed in the statue (“I suppose he was a tenor,” she said), she was not about to quibble. For Bushman and others among the dozen Mormons on hand for the statue’s quiet arrival in Lower Manhattan one Sunday morning last month, Smith was a sight for sore eyes.

The statue was installed in the park at the behest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in commemoration of Smith’s 200th birthday on Dec. 23. The site is significant, church members said, as it was the location of the slip from which Smith, a native New Yorker, boarded the ship Brooklyn with his followers and set out for California in 1846. He is also believed to have briefly resided nearby on Pearl Street.

Many Christians at the time considered Smith’s teaching to be blasphemy, and his practice of multiple marriages was controversial, to say the least. In October, Community Board 1 advised the Parks Department to reject the church’s request to install the statue, even though it is temporary. Some community board members called Smith undeserving of a statue in this city. Others said they had reservations about allowing a statue of a religious figure to be installed in a public place.

The statue's creator, Dee Jay Bawden, blows a Mormon hymn on the harmonica. Photo by Carl Glassman
The statue’s creator, Dee Jay Bawden, blows a Mormon hymn on the harmonica.
Photo by Carl Glassman

But Bushman, who spearheaded the effort for the church and the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, pushed forward and the Parks Department gave its approval.

“We have no reason to discriminate simply because the figure was a religious one,” said Warner Johnston, a Parks Department spokesman. “There is no prohibition of displaying religious figures in city parks.” The statue will stand until June 18, according to the department.

“I really wanted it in this place,” Bushman said, as she watched the statue being lifted by hand from a truck and placed near the center of the plaza. “I hope it leads to some conversations.”

Jack Branin, who hauled the 1,000-pound statue the 2,200 miles from Utah in the back of his Chevy pickup, said the statue drew many curious glances along the way.

“People were asking if it was for sale,” he said. “The further east I got, the higher I raised the price.”

Artist Dee Jay Bawdin, the statue’s creator, flew in from Utah for the installation and blew a few Mormon hymns on his harmonica after the statue was fixed in place with a seal of construction adhesive around its base. The sculptor has created and donated dozens of likenesses of Smith to the church.

“This is spiritual to me,” he said.

Bawdin works from Smith’s death mask, a plaster mold of his face made shortly after his murder in 1844, and the artist vouched for the authenticity of the statue’s facial features, nose included. Much more difficult to sculpt, he said, is his second most popular commission-Jesus Christ.

“Everyone has a different idea of what he looked like,” he said.