Prehistoric Mammals in the Manti Temple

By December 5, 2016

Three years ago I wrote about prehistoric reptiles in a mural in the Manti Temple: ?Things I Did Not Know: Dinosaurs in the Manti Temple?. This past summer I went back and, this time, noticed some prehistoric mammals.

I was not able to find images of the particular murals [1], so… with the usual caveats about memory and eye-witnesses of a mural I saw in from across the room in July while doing something else, the animals I saw were:

  • Deinotherium (looks like an elephant with downward curving tusks),
  • Megacerops (looks like a rhinoceros with forked horn),
  • Xiphodon (looks like a camel)

There was also a goat in the same panel, but I didn?t notice anything to distinguish it from a present-day male Alpine ibex (Capra ibex).

The murals in question were painted by Carl Christian Anton Christensen (1831-1912; usually CCA Christensen) in 1886-1887 and depict facets of creation up to, but not including, humans. Below I have included images from  Louis Figuier?s La Terre avant le déluge (1863, French; 1872, English), which seems, upon casual inspection, to be a candidate for one of Christensen?s sources. [2]. (Hat-tip again to Mina for pointing out Figuier when I posted about Mesozoic Reptiles.)

The Deinotherium is related to modern elephants but, among other differences, were somewhat bigger and had downward-curving tusks. The name means ?terrible beast? (deino is an alternate spelling of dino as in dinosaur (?terrible lizard?). They (including the known but not-yet-distinguished as different Prodeinotherium) lived in Eurasia and Africa from about 20 mya to about 1 mya (mya = million years ago).


English: Fig 159, ?Dinotherium?, p 340; French: Fig 274, ?Dinotherium?, p 289.


English: XXIV.?Ideal Landscape of the Miocene Period. French: Fig 290, ?Vue idéal de la terre pendant la période miocène?, p 301.

The Megacerops (?big horn face?) looks like a rhinoceros but is more closely related to the modern horse. I don?t know exactly which animal CCA intended, but if you?re Googling, some other useful names for this or similar creatures are Brontotherium (?thunder beast?) and Titanotherium (?Titan beast? or—with 19th-century meaning of ?titan?—?very large beast?). They were present in North America from about 38 mya to 34 mya. Figuier does not have an image of a Megacerops. Two Brontotheres appeared in Ice Age (Blue Sky Studios, 2002).


(Presumed brontotherium on the left, embolotherium on the right.)

The Xiphodon (?sword tooth?) looks like and is closely related to the present-day camel. Christensen put it in the background. It and close relations lasted from 40 mya to 34 mya.


English: Figure 155, ?Xiphodon gracile?, p 324; French: Figure 256, ?Xiphodon gracile?, p 275.


English: Plate XXIII, ?Ideal Landscape of the Eocene Period?, p 328; French: Fig 271, ?Paysage idéal de la période éocène?, p 281.


[1] I started with Richard L Jensen and Richard G Oman, C. C. A. Christensen, 1831-1912: Mormon Immigrant Artist, an exhibition at the Museum of Church History and Art (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1984). The blog, Historic LDS Architecture, has several of the Jensen/Oman images.

[2] The images included here are from the 4th edition (Paris: Librairie de L. Hachette et cie, 1864); the linked English translation is The World before the Deluge, revised and translated by HW Bristow (London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1872).

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Few things are worth more celebration than Edje returning to blogging. Hoorah!

    Comment by Ben P — December 5, 2016 @ 8:03 am

  2. To me both this and your dinosaur post suggest that Christensen might have been embracing the older earth model and was incorporating the greater length of the earth’s history into the creation as a lead up to the creation of Adam and Eve. Sort of like Fantasia (what I understand was used in an early temple video) or the Tree of Life movie.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 5, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

  3. So cool. Thanks, Edje!

    Comment by Jeff T — December 5, 2016 @ 12:45 pm

  4. Thanks, Ben P, Jeff T, and Steve Fleming.

    Steve: I think you are right.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — December 5, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

  5. If so, that would suggest a pretty quick embrace of all that science that so many other Christians (and a lot of Mormons) fought so hard against.

    Can’t help but to be curious to know more about the intellectual conversations behind all this.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 5, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

  6. CCA Christensen slightly predated the unfortunate Mormon flirtation with Young Earth Creationism. I think he’s the tail-end of “seeking truth from wherever it may come,” before the fundamentalism espoused by JFSjr.

    And what Ben P said.

    Comment by Ardis — December 5, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

  7. Thanks, Ardis, for both components.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — December 5, 2016 @ 9:04 pm

  8. I think I hear dinosaurs roaring in the background of the new temple films. Anyone one else?

    Comment by U240 — December 7, 2016 @ 5:15 pm

  9. U240: I don’t know how a dinosaur roar sounds. I haven’t noticed anything in the new videos that makes me think ‘prehistoric reptile’.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — December 7, 2016 @ 6:57 pm

  10. Though… I’m open to any evidence or observations anyone has made.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — December 7, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

  11. Great fun as usual, Edje!

    Comment by WVS — December 8, 2016 @ 12:29 am

  12. Thanks, Edje. Extraordinary.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 9, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

  13. […] posts this year have had a decidedly animal theme. Recently Edje Jeter wrote a post titled ?Prehistoric Mammals in the Manti Temple? which describes some of the animals pictured in the murals in the temple. Besides just being plain […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » JI Highlights from 2016 — January 1, 2017 @ 6:20 am


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