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BY THE LIGHT of the golden moon, a statue is silhouetted atop a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kansas City, Mo.

Crowds gathered to watch the statue of the angel Moroni be hoisted atop a tower of the new temple, which was dedicated in 2012.

Moroni is key to the rapidly growing church’s theology. He’s believed to have completed the writing of its sacred text, the Book of Mormon, and, as a heavenly messenger, to have appeared before church founder Joseph Smith in the 1820s.

By moonlight or sunlight, Moroni statues crown LDS temples all over the United States and from Peru to Japan and the Ukraine. The church is now active in more than 100 countries and boasts 15 million-plus members.

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Given the church’s proselytizing zeal, travelers could run across missionaries in places far, far away from its big temples. In the West African city of Ouagadougou, where I stayed years ago, two earnest young men knocked on doors on a hot, inky night. Along a sandy street dancing with reflections and shadows from outdoor cooking fires, they sought new souls for their church.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at