Who Holds the Keys?

Thorvaldsen’s “Christus” in Copenhagen


I think it fascinating — and significant — that the Visitors Center at the Rome Italy Temple will feature not merely a reproduction of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus, but, accompanying it, full-size reproductions in Carrara marble of Thorvaldsen’s twelve apostles, who will surround Christ on either side just as they do in their original home in the Church of Our Lady (the Vor Frue Kirke) in Copenhagen, the national cathedral of Denmark.  (For details on plans for the statues, see the short video here.)


Part of the inscription at the base of Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s Basilica


Tu es Petrus, reads a giant Latin inscription running just below the ceiling around the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam et tibi dabo claves regni Caelorum.  “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . .  and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).


St. Peter’s is, among other things, a massive monument to, and a bold public statement of, the authority of the bishop of Rome, the Pope, as, in the Catholic view, the successor to Peter the apostle.  And reminders of Peter and his keys are everywhere:


St. Peter outside of the Basilica, holding the keys


St. Peter inside the Basilica, holding the keys


The Papal Coat of Arms, omnipresent in St. Peter’s Basilica and throughout Vatican City


In that light, consider this story, recounted by President Boyd K. Packer:


“In 1976 an area general conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Following the closing session, President Spencer W. Kimball desired to visit the Vor Frue Church, where the Thorvaldsen statues of the Christus and of the Twelve Apostles stand. He had visited there some years earlier and wanted all of us to see it, to go there.


“To the front of the church, behind the altar, stands the familiar statue of the Christus with His arms turned forward and somewhat outstretched, the hands showing the imprint of the nails, and the wound in His side very clearly visible. Along each side stand the statues of the Apostles, Peter at the front to the right and the other Apostles in order.


“Most of our group was near the rear of the chapel with the custodian. I stood up front with President Kimball before the statue of Peter with Elder Rex D. Pinegar and Johan Helge Benthin, president of the Copenhagen stake.


“In Peter’s hand, depicted in marble, is a set of heavy keys. President Kimball pointed to those keys and explained what they symbolized. Then, in an act I shall never forget, he turned to President Benthin and with unaccustomed firmness pointed his finger at him and said, ‘I want you to tell everyone in Denmark that I hold the keys! We hold the real keys, and we use them every day.’


“I will never forget that declaration, that testimony from the prophet. The influence was spiritually powerful; the impression was physical in its impact.


“We walked to the back of the chapel where the rest of the group was standing. Pointing to the statues, President Kimball said to the kind custodian, ‘These are the dead Apostles.’ Pointing to me, he said, ‘Here we have the living Apostles. Elder Packer is an Apostle. Elder Thomas S. Monson and Elder L. Tom Perry are Apostles, and I am an Apostle. We are the living Apostles.


“‘You read about the Seventies in the New Testament, and here are two of the living Seventies, Elder Rex D. Pinegar and Elder Robert D. Hales.’


“The custodian, who up to that time had shown no emotion, suddenly was in tears.


“I felt I had had an experience of a lifetime.”


These statues in Rome will make a statement.  They are, I’m sure, intended to make a statement.



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  • http://www.beigemaze.blogspot.com Tiffany W.

    I love that story. I’ve been to Var Fru Kyrkan in Copenhagen a few times. The statues are magnificent and well worth seeing. A friend of mine pointed out to me during one visit that the church is very unique for Scandinavian churches because it is white and light, as opposed to dark and dim. The Cristus depicts the resurrected Christ as opposed to the dying Christ on the cross. The inscription above the statue is also unique as it refers to the scriptures that says, “I am the way, the resurrection, the life.”