Note: this article was orginally published December 9 2015. It has been subsequently edited and updated with new photos. -Cathy Gilmore
A recent article on lds.org, Reclaiming Hill Cumorah1, prompted us to share some sources related to Hill Cumorah, its monument, and pageant beginnings. Our grandmother Dorothy Smith Clark’s papers reveal her connections to Cumorah through her parents Hyrum and June Bushman Smith, who were missionaries at the Cumorah Farm from 1935 to 1939, and her friend Torleif Knaphus, who sculpted the Hill Cumorah monument. In searching Dorothy’s diaries and letters on her Kindex archive, we are able to provide insight to our family’s connection to this historic sight.
Friendship with Torleif Knaphus, sculptor of the Moroni Monument
Partly as an effort to expand Dorothy’s educational and artistic opportunity, Dorothy’s family moved to Salt Lake City from Lethbridge, Alberta in 1930. In 1931, the recently widowed Torleif Knaphus took an interest in Dorothy. As her artistic mentor—and for a time—her suitor, Torleif escorted her on artistic excursions, instructed her in sculpting, and employed her in making handmade Christmas cards and sketches. Dorothy must have been flattered, as my grandfather Ellsworth was also competing for her attention. In her diary she wrote:
Sunday April 23, 1933
Went by Orem Electric to annual Springville Art Exhibit with T.S. Knaphus, sculptor. Spent 3 hours in Provo, sight-seeing on our way back to S.L.C. Took kodak snaps on B.Y.U. campus.
This was a very interesting day for me and rather an outstanding one I suppose, inasmuch as I was so kindly favored and well treated by one so prominent in his sphere.
En route he gave me valuable instructions and criticisms on art. Urges strongly that I begin to busy myself with “oils” and harness the talent he believes lies dormant. (I hope to do this soon, as I have been so inspired today). Left Knaphus at 8 P.M. to finish the day with Ellsworth. Youth does have its preferences.2
Indeed it does, as Dorothy settled on Ellsworth and became engaged that summer. Still, Dorothy maintained her friendship with Torleif and continued their mentoring relationship. In September of 1933 she wrote:
Was invited to Knaphus studio this evening where be showed me a newly-designed model of the shaft for the Hill Cumorah Monument. We ate some ice-cream there and talked of my doing some more painting there and maybe helping him with some new panels. Thrilled about getting into that work again.
Grateful for his attention and interest in her art, Dorothy later wrote:
Saturday, November 12, 1933
I have Christmas card orders to fill for Torleif S. Knaphus in return for clay which he gave me for modeling.
He certainly has inspired me and been a great help in pushing me, as it were, along the road to accomplishment. I don’t know many other grown people who have so influenced me to good and been as companionable.
During their engagement, Dorothy encouraged Ellsworth to serve a mission. After he departed in December 1933 to a Western States mission, there is some hint that Torleif was keen to maintain a close relationship with Dorothy as he repeatedly sought out her company. Dorothy wrote:
Wednesday, January 24, 1934
Attended night class tonite and made my first water color scene (copy of Moser’s) in new style (from my former teachings.) Mr. Knaphus met me after work – asked me to go to Beaux Arts Ball this Saturday but I declined.
Although she didn’t attend the dance with Torleif, their close friendship often proved difficult for Ellsworth during his absence while serving as a missionary. On a temple trip to Manti that included the Knaphus family, Dorothy played an April Fool’s joke on Ellsworth and wrote to him that she and Torleif decided on a whim to be sealed there. Practical jokes notwithstanding, Dorothy and Ellsworth married in August 1934.