Airbrush Correlation Up to Mormon Standards

Heather, a blogger at Doves & Serpents, made an interesting discovery. In a blog posted last week (May 16, 2012) Heather, a Latter-day Saint, wrote about a painting by Dutch artist Carl Heinrich Bloch that was reproduced in the December 2011 issue of the Mormon magazine Ensign. It seems that Bloch’s painting, The Resurrection (1873), was a little risqué according to Mormon standards. Therefore, the Ensign edited the image. Heather explained,

“…it seems fair to assume that [the Ensign reproduction is] not what the artist intended.

“Some friends and I identified a few differences:

“In the Ensign version, the angels’ wings have been clipped (=removed).  That’s because Mormons don’t believe in angels with wings.

“In the Ensign version, the angels’ bare shoulders have been covered.  That’s because Mormons believe that bare shoulders are indecent.  This standard has even recently been extended to include 4 year old girls.

“In the original version, the angels’ bodies are naked below their arms.  In the Ensign version, the naked skin underneath the arms is discreetly covered up.” (Compare the original Bloch painting with the altered Ensign version side-by-side at Doves & Serpents.)

Apparently, the Mormon Church removing angels’ wings from Bloch’s paintings is nothing new. The Salt Lake Tribune noted Heather’s findings and also mentioned last year’s BYU exhibit of Carl Bloch’s paintings. The journalist wrote,

“During the exhibit, curators acknowledged sheepishly that sometimes in the past the Utah-based church had airbrushed out angel wings on Bloch reproductions, reflecting the Mormon view that angels are resurrected humans, not some kind of flying creatures.” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormons alter Bloch’s angels so they’re wingless and not sleeveless”)

Mormon commenters at Heather’s blog are mostly upset by the Church’s alteration of Bloch’s painting. They use words like “nutty,” “annoying,” “absurd” and “wrong” in response to the LDS revision. But one commenter saw a broader issue. He wrote,

“It would be one thing, I suppose, if the church was such a stickler for ‘detail’ in all their paintings. Yet when the church uses visual images to depict the translation of the Book of Mormon, we don’t see Joseph with his head in his hat. Instead, those sorts of glaring factual inaccuracies seemingly pass without a moment’s hesitation, and yet the church feels compelled to cut off the wings of angels in 150-year-old paintings lest we get confused.” (Randy B., Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:33 PM)

He is right, of course. The Mormon Church is quite selective regarding the importance of details.  For example, the December Ensign included a note identifying Carl Bloch’s painting and the fact that the Church had permission to use it, but it did not note the fact that the painting had been altered. The version in the Ensign was not really (or not all) by Carl Heinrich Bloch; but this detail wasn’t important enough to mention.

The Mormon Church has failed to mention many details over the years. Some, perhaps, are relatively inconsequential. But others, like changes to Mormon scriptures, are of great importance.  The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price have all undergone significant changes – without any notation provided by the Church to indicate the more modern deviations from the original texts.

There are also many important unnoted changes the LDS Church has made to the History of the Church (Joseph Smith’s History) and the temple ceremonies. One commenter on Heather’s blog wrote, “The Mormon church spends an enormous amount of mental energy rewriting the past so it lines up with their cosmology.” The Church’s “correlation” of Carl Bloch’s painting for the Ensign is just one more example.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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18 Responses to Airbrush Correlation Up to Mormon Standards

  1. falcon says:

    Mormonism is at its core a religion that just sort of makes it up as it goes along. Faithful Mormons don’t seem to mind this, in fact they rather dig it. In some instances the alterations and changes are filed under “progressive revelation”.
    Take for example Joseph Smith’s ever evolving notion of who God is. He started out fairly conventional, but being the creative type, Smith just couldn’t help himself. Pretty soon he had concocted a doctrine which included multiple gods and men becoming gods. He even threw in polygamy, which I’m guessing was a convenient way for him to satisfy his sexual lust, by making it a spiritual requirement for full exaltation.
    The rock in the hat scam is one of my favorites. Here we have the Mormon church depicting Smith leaning over the golden plates “translating” them by the power of God. In reality, Smith had his face buried in his hat trying to decode secret messages from his magic rock. This isn’t a detail that the Mormon church really wants to depict.
    “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. ” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

  2. Mike R says:

    Mormon leaders have been up to this behavior before. In the Church curriculum, ” Teachings
    of the Presidents of the Church—Brigham Young” , they carefully removed mentioning that
    he was a prolific polygamist . I’m trying to remember where I ran across a picture of B.Y
    where there was a spittoon by his feet , later this picture was altered and lo and behold there
    was prophet B.Y. but no spittoon to be seen .It seems that organizations can acquiesce to this
    type of behavior , especially when they become large and powerful , to protect an image.While
    this type of behavior coming from those who lead a “christian church” would raise red flags
    to members , it’s the altering of the true gospel of Jesus that Mormon leaders have succumbed
    to that will not just tarnish an image , but it will bring consequences from God : Gal.1:8-9.
    The Mormon people deserve to know about the true gospel from the true apostles :
    Matt.28:19-20 ; Col 1:23

  3. TJayT says:

    Fwiw I also think it was silly of them to worry about changing the picture (a very beautiful picture might I add). I honestly hope we LDS are mature enough to see a non-Mormons painting and not fall all over ourselves in a panic.

    Still we aren’t the only ones that don’t believe in angels having wings. A quick google search brought up this non-mormon article:

  4. canuck54 says:

    Mormons don’t believe that angels have wings? And that they are resurrected humans? Hmmm, this is something that I’ve never heard before. What about the angel in Rev. 14:6? You learn something new everyday!


  5. TJayT says:

    The Lds Bible Dictionary has the following definition under Angels;

    Angels. These are messengers of the Lord, and are spoken of in the epistle to the Hebrews as “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14). We learn from latter-day revelation that there are two classes of heavenly beings who minister for the Lord: those who are spirits and those who have bodies of flesh and bone. Spirits are those beings who either have not yet obtained a body of flesh and bone (unembodied), or who have once had a mortal body and have died, and are awaiting the resurrection (disembodied). Ordinarily the word angel means those ministering persons who have a body of flesh and bone, being either resurrected from the dead (reembodied), or else translated, as were Enoch, Elijah, etc. (D&C 129).

    So technically Mormons believe an angel CAN have a body, but they don’t have to.

  6. Mike R says:


    concerning D&C 129 , ex-Mormon for Jesus Latayne Scott, in her book where she shares her experiences as a faithful Mormon comments on the test Joseph gave in D&c 129 to identifying supernatural beings:

    “There he gave a test that Mormons memorize in case they are ever confronted by a supernatural being. Spirits from God , said Joseph, fall into two categories: 1. good angels, who are resurrected personages of flesh and bones and 2. the spirits of ‘ just men made perfect’ , who have glorious (spirit) bodies, but have not yet been resurrected physically. Mormons know that if they are approached by an unearthly being they are to offer a hand to that personage. If it is a heavenly angel, he will take the hand and the person will be able to feel the flesh and bone of the angel. A spirit of a just person made perfect though, will not accept the handshake because the person’s spiritual body would not be tangible. mistakenly accept him as an angel from God A devil, however, in his eagerness to have you will extend his unembodied hand.

    So Mormons believe that if anyone offers you a handshake you can’t feel , you’ve got a problem on your hands. (I often wondered, though, why the devil’s were so stupid as not to be ableto restrain themselves from offering the hand, and thus pass themselves off unsuspected as the spirits of just men made perfect.)” She also mentions where it has been taught that if any supernatural visitor has sandy-colored hair or is afraid of weapons is a ” bad angel”. Strange.

  7. Mike R says:

    Well , that came out a mess . That partial sentence at the end was supposed to be in middle of the quote ! Oh well . It’s late , I should have waited until tomorrow I guess.

    ***I fixed your comment Mike…grindael 🙂 ***

  8. falcon says:

    Yea I wonder where Mormons get this information about angels? I’m sure it’s one of their many reliable sources. Mormon prophets get ideas. That’s about as plainly as it can be articulated. They have zero authority except for that which they grant themselves and that which their followers are willing to accept. These guys create these notions and then a narrative, symbols and illustrations are provided that reinforce their fantasies. All the devotion, sincerity and piety can’t make these things true except in the minds of people who desire them to be true.

    Here’s a good website on Mormon folklore.

  9. falcon says:

    Every group wants to be presented in the best possible light. Mormonism is no different. However the SLC branch of Mormonism has seen fit to hide information and invent scenarios to provide some sort of reality that simple doesn’t exist.
    That’s what “air brushing” does. It presents a picture of someone that doesn’t resemble the original. Kelly Clarkson of American Idol fame and a country music performer was so shocked at the picture of herself that appeared on the cover of a magazine that she saw fit to call (the magazine) out on the ruse. The front cover photo was enhanced to the point that it could be argued that it wasn’t Kelly Clarkson.
    This is Mormonism. The missionaries who ride their bikes up and down the streets of the world are trained to present the Mormon restored gospel in a manner that doesn’t reflect what the religion is all about.
    Mormons justify their “air brushed” gospel by intimating that neophytes investigating the Mormon religion aren’t sufficiently spiritually mature to understand and accept the “deep spiritual truths” hidden behind the curtain.
    The air brushed picture of Mormonism is one of strong values, clean living, and piety. It is one that would call itself “Christian” in the air brushed version, while blotting out the basic facts. Those basic facts are that Mormonism promotes a God different from that of orthodox Christianity and has a plan of salvation that promotes every man as a god in embryo.
    This doesn’t even get to the facts about the BoM, the BoA, and Joseph Smith’s life prior to starting his religion as a huckster who claimed he could see buried treasure in the ground with his magic rock.
    Hold the air brushed version of Mormonism up to its actual picture and the difference is clear.

  10. falcon says:

    I found the following article very interesting and relative to our discussion here on air brushed Mormonism. Although it relates to Mitt Romney, it also gets at the dilemma faced by the presidential candidate for the presidency as a Mormon. Mormonism is the core of who Mitt Romney is. But how much should he talk about the Mormon religion. As long as he stays in the realm of family values he gets a pass from evangelical Christian and Catholics who share those values. If the Mormon history and doctrine are the topics, he’s out in no-man’s land of religious doctrines and practices that most Christians can’t relate to.
    So should he “air brush”?

    Excerpt from the article:

    Mormonism grounds Romney in the mainstream of American life; at the level of theology, Mormonism pushes him to the margin.

    The relationship of the Mormon community to the American mainstream is an interesting one. From the standpoint of orthodox Trinitarian Christianity as understood by the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholic Church and the leading American Protestant denominations and movements, the Mormon faith is pretty far “out there” in theological terms. But from the standpoint of traditional American civic, social, and political values, the Mormon faith and its community values are in many ways so normal and wholesome they strike many as corny.

    To many people, the Mormon religion feels at once hyper-American and un-American. It is apple pie and secret underwear; it is Doris Day on the outside and Carmen Miranda within. (Let me emphasize that I am not trying to describe what the religion is or to judge either the faith or its adherents; I am merely trying to capture the contradictory ways in which its social conformity to conventional and historical American ideals clashes with its doctrinal originality and unique history and organization.)

  11. Ralph says:

    ”The Mormon Church has failed to mention many details over the years. Some, perhaps, are relatively inconsequential. But others, like changes to Mormon scriptures, are of great importance. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price have all undergone significant changes – without any notation provided by the Church to indicate the more modern deviations from the original texts.”

    Is it the posit of the above that there is nothing to tell the members that there have been changes made in these books? If so what do you make of these statements made in the Introduction of each book –

    ”About this edition: Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

    (A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon, introductory pages in BoM)

    ”It is evident that some errors have been perpetuated in past editions, particularly in the historical portions of the section headings. Consequently, this edition contains corrections of dates and place-names and also a few other minor corrections when it seemed appropriate (such as discontinuing the unusual names beginning with section 78). These changes have been made so as to bring the material into conformity with the historical documents.”

    (Introduction, introductory pages in D&C)

    ”Several revisions have been made in the contents as the needs of the Church have required.”

    (Introduction, introductory pages in the PoGP)

    These are found on the net as well as in the printed version, including as afar back as my 1981 copies. So its right there in black and white and not hidden from anyone that changes have been made.

  12. Ralph, my comment is meant to refer to specific “deviations from the original texts,” not a broad statement that minor unspecified errors have been corrected in newer editions. For example, section 27 in the current D&C contains over 400 words that were not in the original 1833 printing (roughly beginning with the second half of verse 5 and ending after the first half of verse 18). Nor were these words in the revelation as published in the Evening and Morning Star in 1833, The Telegraph (Painsville, Ohio) in 1831, or the surviving handwritten manuscript (Edward Partridge’s handwriting). This additional text deals with the keys of the restoration and putting on the armor of God. In his book, The Joseph Smith Revelations Text and Commentary, H. Michael Marquardt notes, “It appears that all added material [in D&C 27] dates from after the time when the commandment was received. The additions are too developed, the product of a later stage of theological evolution” (74-75. Mr. Marquardt devotes 8 pages to an analysis of these textual additions and their historical background to support his conclusion). Yet the 1981 D&C intro says the revelation was received in August 1830, “a portion of which was written at the time, and the remainder in the September following.” There is no indication that the text of this revelation was significantly revised for the 1835 printing. The LDS Church has failed to notify readers of these deviations from the original text.

  13. falcon says:

    Just some minor little changes nothing to be concerned about, right?
    There are websites dedicated to showing the changes in the BoM from the original to its present day form. Not a pretty picture and certainly not a minor one.
    But not to worry. Continuous revelation covers it all!

  14. Rick B says:

    If we could prove their were major changes and these changes effect doctrine, and they are not noted, thats called being dishonest. You mean that does not bother you?

    Also if this is the case, what other things are LDS not telling you or us? That also does not bother you?

  15. Ralph says:

    Sharon, Falcon and RickB,

    It does not matter whether the disclaimer states that the changes are minor or major, it clearly states that some changes have been made. If someone is upset about this or curious then they have the ability to research it more and determine for themselves if it’s a major issue or not. So the posit that it is not mentioned to the members is false, it is mentioned. You could say that it’s misrepresented to make it look like the changes are minor, but in your opinion they are major. But if it states that changes have been made, then it states that changes have been made. To say otherwise is false, is it not?

  16. 4fivesolas says:

    If you went to the horse races and lost – then told your wife that you lost a little money of minor consequence (on a note you left for her at the bottom of your sock drawer), only for her to later discover that you lost $149,852 would that be lying? You said you lost money didn’t you – it was right there on the note in the sock drawer! And compared to a $149 million dollars it really isn’t that much! How could she be upset?

  17. Kate says:

    The problem with the disclaimers are that they are misleading. Let’s look at this one for the BoM:

    ”It is evident that some errors have been perpetuated in past editions, particularly in the historical portions of the section headings. Consequently, this edition contains corrections of dates and place-names and also a few other minor corrections when it seemed appropriate (such as discontinuing the unusual names beginning with section 78). These changes have been made so as to bring the material into conformity with the historical documents.”

    This makes the reader think that it’s only errors in the historical portions of the section headings, dates, place, names. It doesn’t state the doctrinal changes from the original BoM. I’ve posted these before, but let’s do it again:

    1 Nephi 11:21 ( 1830 edition)
    “..Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father.”

    1Nephi 11:21 (current edition)
    “….Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father.”

    1 Nephi 14:40 (1830 edition)
    “…that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and Savior of the world”

    1 Nephi 14:40 (current edition)
    “..that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and savior of the world.”

    There are more but these are clearly doctrinal changes. Why isn’t there a disclaimer that these have been changed? Half truths are lies. It just amazes me how Mormons can overlook the half truths and lies by omission and defend the rest of it. So they put in a disclaimer that some things have been changed, they also go on to say that only names, dates etc. have been changed. It’s lying by omission, a half truth, and it’s misleading. This is so common in the LDS church, I guess that’s why the members who are aware of it have no problem with it. It’s become the norm.

  18. Rick B says:

    Their are many problems with you saying their are disclaimers listed. I would love your response to me, but here are my issues with you saying that.

    If I were to convert to Mormonism and I asked a teacher or MM about this, they would blow it off as nothing. Yet for LDS to say the Bible cannot be trusted since many plain and precious parts are missing, so how is much info being left out of these books any different? The Info being left out was supposedly from God himself, so how can you leave it out as if it were nothing?

    If I was thinking about converting and I pressed the issue, and even started looking into it and ask questions, LDS would say I am looking at an-ti mormon propaganda. They would not be up front and honest and answer me about this, and would even do as you are and blow it off as nothing.

    Also when you said in your copies it simply says, changes were made, well I hate to tell you, but I own a 1977 edition triple combo and no where does it state any changes were made or anything was added or left out. And I do know that from my edition vs the 1830 edition their are changes and things either added or removed. So no info on these changes is deceitful and misleading dont you think?

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