From winning Olympic medals to creating ornate works of art, many Latter-day Saints have accomplished remarkable feats. A few have even been knighted for their inspiring work and achievements. Here are some of their stories.
Born the last of 11 children to Lilly Annetta Huish and John B. Fairbanks in Provo, Utah, Avard Fairbanks first acquired his love of art in his home. With a father who painted the murals in the Salt Lake temple and artistic brothers, it's no surprise that Fairbanks created his first sculpture at only 12 years old. A sculpture that took first prize at the 1909 Utah State Fair. A few years later, at 17, he became the youngest artist admitted to the French Salon—an exhibition often considered the greatest art event in the Western world.
At 18 years old, Fairbanks received his first major commission and began with his brother J. Leo to sculpt the ornate friezes and statues that decorate the Laie Hawaii Temple. While in Hawaii finishing the project, Fairbanks met, fell in love with, and married Maude Fox.
Image from Meridian Magazine
The commissions continued as Fairbanks began studying at the University of Utah. He designed everything from WWI and Civil War memorials to pioneer and Pony Express statues to busts of President Abraham Lincoln. His work can still be seen today at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Ft. Lewis, Ford's Theater, and many other significant historical sites.
Though his many historical American works are widely admired, it wasn't until he crafted a statue of Lycurgus, the legendary lawgiver of Sparta, that he was recognized by being knighted by King Paul of Greece.
An insatiable scholar and teacher, Fairbanks earned a fine arts degree from Yale, was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship and studied art in Rome and Florence, taught fine art at the University of Michigan where he received an M.F.A. and Ph.D., and later created the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Utah.
Despite his titles, degrees, and accomplishments, however, Fairbanks always saw his work as an extension of his religious beliefs and a way to capture his spiritual ideals. “The gospel was everything to our father,” the Ensign quotes his children as saying. His belief in immortality and the divinity within each of us shines through in his works. In fact, many of his best-known works adorn LDS buildings and celebrate significant moments in Church history—such as monuments honoring the three witnesses, Winter Quarters, the First Vision, and the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood; reliefs on the Nauvoo Bell Tower and on Temple Square; and the angel Moroni on the Jordan River, Washington, Seattle, and Mexico City temples.
So the next time you see any of these iconic works, be sure to let your friends know they were created by a knight.