Temples are the most sacred of Latter-day Saint houses of worship. Temples provide a place where “the Son of Man might … manifest himself to his people” (D&C 109:5). As such, woodwork, carpeting, and art—including hand-painted murals—provide a beautiful and sacred setting for the pinnacle of Latter-day Saint worship.
In 1890, after nearly 40 years of construction, the Salt Lake Temple was nearing completion. Wishing to provide the finest murals for the temple, Latter-day Saint artists John Hafen, Lorus Pratt, John B. Fairbanks, Edwin Evans, and Herman Haag asked the leaders of the Church for financial assistance to study art in Paris. The five were called as art missionaries and sent to study at l’Académie Julian in Paris. During their time in Paris, the art missionaries did not attempt to preach the gospel but focused on developing their talents. Upon returning to Utah, they worked to complete the interior murals—covering the walls and ceilings of three large assembly rooms—prior to the dedication of the temple on April 6, 1893.