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Some students may not know the myths and rumors surrounding the statues on the BYU campus.
Only a few myths are well known. The LaVell Edwards Stadium Cougar may hold the most obvious significance. The sculpture of BYU’s mascot made its debut in 1974 to represent school spirit. The Cougar was created by Avard Fairbanks, the artist of many sculptures on BYU’s campus.
Students who walk by the Native American sculpture, located southwest of the Harold B. Lee Library, may wonder why this sculpture is on campus when Native Americans represent the University of Utah, one of BYU’s biggest rivals.
This sculpture is known as the Massasoit Indian and is a copy of an original by Cyrus Dallin, who also created the Angel Moroni statue for the Salt Lake City Temple. Dallin created the Massasoit Indian to represent an Indian who befriended Pilgrims in 1620.
The lack of clothing on the Massassoit Indian sometimes creates controversy among students. The statue is deemed appropriate because of traditional Native American-style dress.
An empty circular spot southwest of the Wilkinson Center served no purpose for 20 years until the “First Child” statue arrived.
This statue, created by Dennis Smith, features a mother and father walking with their child as they hold hands. It was added to BYU’s campus in 1979 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Church.
Makensie Greer, a 21-year-old senior studying nutritional science, said she has heard rumors that “every year when they saran wrap the statues for BYU’s rivalry game, there’s a bunch of people who gather around the Smith Family statues to celebrate the family being wrapped or sealed, like they’re sealing an eternal family.”
As the school was named after Brigham Young, it is only fitting that campus feature a statue of the man himself.
Brigham Young’s grandson, Mahonri Young, sculpted this statue as a monument in Salt Lake City. The statue was recreated and added to BYU’s campus on Homecoming Week in 1961.
Many students argue that BYU removed the beard from the Brigham Young statue to support the standard of conduct on BYU’s campus, but this rumor is false.
Some students claim that if one runs past the statue fast enough, and at the right angle, Brigham Young appears to be doing the funky chicken dance.
Karl G. Maeser
The Karl G. Maeser statue represents another important BYU founder. The statue stands on the south end of campus in memory of Helen M. Morgan, donated by the Nicholas G. Morgan foundation. Helen Morgan was a student of Professor Maeser.
According to the Y Facts website, “Mr. Morgan said the project was the result of the suggestion of Bryant S. Hinckley, a Brigham Young Academy alumnus and early-day teacher, who said in a devotional assembly in 1955, ‘I hope to live to see the day when a heroic statue in bronze of my beloved teacher and friend, Karl G. Maeser, is erected on this campus.'”
According to the 100 Hour Board, “Prankish students have been known to draw a chalk circle around his statue. More prankish students have been known to draw a chalk circle near the statue.”
Perhaps the most spiritual of all the statues on BYU’s campus, The Vision, is located in the courtyard of the Joseph Smith Building.
The Y Facts website provides details about the 1997 unveiling ceremony, where then-Elder Henry B. Eyring, of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, “This piece of art represents that moment when Joseph Smith learned there was a way for the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be unlocked fully.”
Fairbanks recognized how important the details of the sculpture were, and Elder Eyring recognized that the art could be translated in many different ways. He suggested that the people who see this statue view it as a significant moment for how it shaped the future of the Latter-day Saints.
Each statue holds artistic, educational or spiritual value and adds life to campus.