Joseph Smith Sphinx

When I was in Utah this past month, I visited the Gilgal Garden, which supposedly is on a lot of tourist information for Salt Lake City, but that very few local residents are even aware of. It’s this odd statue garden where a man named Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. handcrafted huge stones into sculptures that represented his beliefs. The garden contains a variety of sculptures, including “The Monument to the Trade” and “The Monument to the Priesthood,” though my two favorites are the “Captain of the Lord’s Host,” which is a carved figure with a big boulder for a head (how can you not like a statue that just has a big boulder for a head?) and the Joseph Smith Sphinx.

I don’t really have any profound thoughts on any of this–I just wanted to introduce everyone to the Joseph Smith Sphinx because I thought it was cool and slightly odd, while totally making sense to me as a Mormon piece of folk art.

Anyone else want to share strange or interesting experiences with Mormon folklore, folk art, etc.?

(The image I posted is a picture by Robert Hirschi, which can be found on the Gilgal Gardens website.)


  1. I love it. I can’t believe that in all my years living in Utah, I missed this. Is there a Joseph Smith riddle to go with it?

  2. When I was at the UofU a friend took me to gardens. I like bring it up at Mormon gatherings to sound SLC-underground. Who knew it made tourist guides? I guess its no longer privileged information.

    By the way, my favorite is the side of the ‘mountain’ with scattered body parts. Also, who could not the love the swords into plowshares imagery?

  3. aws and serenity valley, It’s good to know that some others know about it.

    aws, The scattered body parts are good too (there’s just so much good stuff there!). And, of course, the sword into ploughshares is good too. Right now my choir is singing Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, and so when I saw the ploughshares, the last movement popped into my head: “Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more…”

    Lynnette, I don’t think there’s a riddle, but maybe you can come up with one!

  4. Growing up in SLC, we’d go by there every 6 months or so. It was a really wierd vibe because you didn’t know if it was illicit or hyper-faithful.


  5. The riddle of the Sphinx:

    What is taught in the morning, tested at midday, and teaching at night?

  6. I remember visiting from Colorado 15 years ago, some friends took me there in the middle of the night. I felt like we were breaking the law or something, we probably were. I remember being a little freaked out by the whole thing.
    That same night they took us to a place called “Midget Village”? I know that is not socially correct to say. I guess it was a neighbor for little people. Has anyone been there?


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