The Statue In Front Of The Provo City Center Temple
I fell in love with the Provo City Center Temple when I first took a tour of it on a group date; it was late at night and cold, but it was amazing. A few days later when my sister asked me to go with her so I could help with her kids, I gladly agreed to go again. It was during the day so I was able to walk around the temple with my nieces and nephew. That is when I saw it…A statue of a child walking from her mother to her father with the Provo City Center Temple in the background. I felt that was the embodiment of Temples, the Plan of Salvation, and why we came to earth. I felt connected, I loved that statue.
A week later I was working at the Mount Timpanogos temple. And I was talking with another Temple worker when he decided to share the story of that statue, as it was his story. As he told me the story I wept, I asked if I could come and talk with his wife and get the whole story, he agreed. Here is the story behind the statue.
The Story Behind “In The Family Circle” aka “Melissa Walks”
July 14th, 1976 Keith, and Teri Wilson welcomed a new baby girl into their family, Melissa.
In September of 1976, they were approached by a member of their ward, Dennis Smith. He had been charged with creating a statue for the church, they were preparing to present a tribute to Womanhood in Nauvoo.
Dennis asked Keith, and Teri if they would model for him and once Melissa was walking if he could model her as well. The goal was that by the time he was done modeling them Melissa should be about the age to walk. So they started modeling. Basically, every day he would work with one of them as he did a jawbone, a hand, or their hair.
But everything changed on January 10th, Melissa had not been acting normal so the Wilsons took her to the doctor and they were told. Melissa had Cerebral Palsy. The doctor said, “Melissa will never walk.”
The Wilsons were devastated they spent all their time working and helping Melissa. The thought of the statue did not even cross their mind again. After all, Dennis needed a little girl who could walk for this statue, they could not help him.
In the words of Dennis
“Needless to say, I felt very awkward about the sculpture we had been working on together. Up to this time, I had been mulling over a title for the sculpture, though I had not said anything to them about it. I had wanted to call it, “Melissa Walks.”
But suddenly that image was filled with painful irony”
In April of that year Dennis approached them and asked them to model again, he was ready to finish the statue. In his words he said.
“When it came time to work on the large sculpture, I had them come to the studio and bring Melissa with them. By this time, she had been outfitted with body braces just to hold her up her head…I knew the Relief Society would want a more universal title, and this sculpture became known as ‘In The Family Circle.'”
In the years that have passed this statue has been placed in Nauvoo, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Los Angles, and in other nations around the world including Spain and the German Democratic Republic (For President Monson’s story about that click here.) Along the way it has had some edits to the original design, the most recent edition and the one we all recognize is the one in front of the Provo City Center Temple.
On October 19th, 1995, at the age of 19 Melissa returned to her Father in heaven. On Christmas Day that year Dennis came to Keith and Teri’s house to present them with a gift. The church had asked him to make a small scale of the statue for President Jimmy Carter, but he requested that they do 3 castings. One for President Carter, one for himself, and one for the Wilsons. He gave them the statue and told the world the story behind the statues name. In the words of Dennis “I told Keith and Teri, for me it would always be ‘Melissa Walks” (For the Article Dennis Wrote wrote for the Deseret News Click HERE)
3/16/2016 Keith and Teri Wilson, with a picture of their daughter Melissa.
After Talking with Keith and Teri they told me that nearby was Dennis Smith’s art studio, and there I could see a full-size cast of the original statute, and see the tributary plaque by Dennis Smith.
“In The Family Circle” aka “Melissa Walks’
In Memory of Melissa Wilson of Alpine, who, with her parents Keith and Teri Wilson, modeled for this sculpture in 1977 before it was discovered that Melissa had Cerebral Palsy.
Melissa never walked, but lived to the age of nineteen with loving support from her parents and siblings, Jodi, Jason, Justin, and Rebecca.
This sculpture is dedicated as a memorial to Melissa and all others who minds or bodies keep them as Children while upon this earth.
Free from the bondage that held her captive, free from the struggles that challenged her mortal years, the love she received from others and gave back again a hundred fold is finally open to new horizons.
Somewhere, at last, Melissa Walks.
Melissa Walks tributary plaque by Dennis Smith
When I visited the Wilson’s and they showed me pictures and told me the full story behind this statue I wept.
This statue which I held felt was symbolic of the Plan of Salvation, was not just symbolic but it was an embodiment of the Plan of Salvation, The Temple, it is why the Jesus Christ came to earth. It is a story of hope, love and how Families are Eternal. And that story continues when we shall see Melissa, and we will exclaim Hallelujah! Melissa Walks.
If you like this story you will love Philip’s Egg.