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A Photograph: The Book of Mormon Comes to Life in Syria, 1925

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 09, 2013

Latter-day Saints of Aleppo, Syria, costumed as Book of Mormon characters to celebrate the Jubilee of the Mutual Improvement Association, 1925:

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17 Comments »

  1. What a melange of cultures! Latter-day Middle East Saints . . . dressed as the New World ancestors of ancient Middle Eastern figures. [head explodes]

    I should add that their costuming has quite a sense of authenticity (whatever that word means in this context). Oh, and love the curlicued mustaches! Great find.

    Comment by David Y. — September 9, 2013 @ 10:18 am

  2. Yeah, I thought there was an extra edge of authenticity … or something. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 9, 2013 @ 10:37 am

  3. I am intrigued by the mustaches. Most of the Book of Mormon individuals portrayed in paintings don’t have facial hair, which on the other hand seems pretty characteristic of middle eastern cultures in general. Obvious exceptions, courtesy of Arnold Friberg, are Lehi, Abinadi, King Noah and his crew of yes-men. Nehpi? Nope. Ammon and Moroni? Not them either. It would be fun to go in and photoshop a bunch of those paintings and add at least mustaches like we see here.

    Comment by kevinf — September 9, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

  4. Great photograph, Ardis. Any accompanying text or anything like it? (YMMIA? No women? Can’t tell about the person seated to the left of the white-bearded gentleman.)

    Comment by Gary Bergera — September 9, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  5. I have no further information right now — I am going through a handwritten source that might report this, but it is slow going.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 9, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  6. I think some guy decided to grow our his beard and wax it into a handle-bar mustache,then all the other guys thought it looked cool and decided to grow theirs the same way.Probably not the real answer.

    Comment by Maurine — September 9, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

  7. Oh, that is outstanding!

    I have portrayed Nephi several times for Primary classes. They always seem to ask me; I guess I’m the most swarthy guy in the ward…

    Comment by Kevin Barney — September 9, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

  8. An instant classic of historical Mormon photographs!

    Comment by Grant — September 9, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

  9. This is a wonderful photograph, for a lot of reasons. One thing that strikes me about it, and the rest of the stuff from Turkey/Syria/the Ottoman Empire, is how “foreign” it all seems. We’re accustomed, at least these days, to seeing pictures of Latter-day Saints who are East Asian or African or Hispanic or Tongan or Samoan or Maori, along with the western and northern Europeans who make up the majority of church members in the United States these days. But Arabs and Turks and Armenians? There just aren’t very many in the church still, and the political situation in Arab and other majority Muslim lands suggests that it may be a long time before there are. So these photographs are like a view into a world that has vanished, which we may not see ever again, and which has left very little mark on the church today.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 9, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

  10. Exactly, Mark. Thanks for putting it so well.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 10, 2013 @ 5:00 am

  11. Great, important observation, Mark.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — September 10, 2013 @ 9:37 am

  12. Like Grant said, classic! Great photo.

    Perhaps you’ve already mentioned, but did these Saints convert from other Christian faiths, with the exception of Saim Effendi?

    Comment by Amy T — September 11, 2013 @ 8:09 am

  13. Yes, as Armenians, they had been born into the Armenian Church, a many-centuries-old apostolic orthodox church. I don’t know the original faith of the few German converts, but none of them would have been in Aleppo.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 11, 2013 @ 8:38 am

  14. I served my mission in Madrid, Spain, and there is a solid core of Armenian members there–all of the immigrants to Spain who joined the Church either there or in Germany (their first stop between Armenia and Spain). I did not know much about Armenia before my mission but I fell in love with the Armenian members and their faith, love, and generosity (and food!)

    Comment by FoxyJ — September 11, 2013 @ 10:33 am

  15. It must be a woman to the left of the white bearded man because that would have been Sarai. Have any of you read the history of the mission president Wilford Booth who saved the Armenian saints in Aleppo from the Turks by getting them out of the country. He died there and is buried in a decrepit grave in a Greek Orthodox cemetery in Aleppo.

    Comment by Bobbie Coray — September 11, 2013 @ 10:43 am

  16. The two Mormon graves in the Aleppo cemetery (President Joseph Wilford Booth, and Elder Emil Huber) are cared for periodically by Mormon visitors. This 2009 blogpost by such a visitor has color photographs of the graves — it’s safe to say that as of four years ago, they were well tended.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 11, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  17. James Goldberg has come up with identifications for many of those pictured:

    top row (left to right): Joseph Bezjian, unknown, Hagop Asaian, Abraham Hindoian, Yacob Berberian, unknown
    front row (left to right): unknown, Garabad Junguzian, Khanum Policajian (yes, a woman), unknown, Joseph Ouzounian, unknown

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 9, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

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