It was a heist that, in retrospect, was unlikely to escape without notice.
Four thieves drove a truck with a large trailer into a parking lot in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and stole a bronze statue weighing approximately 700 pounds that depicts two Mormon prophets sitting on a park bench in midconversation.
And not just any two Mormon prophets.
One is the faith’s founder, Joseph Smith. The other is Brigham Young, the man who led church members to Utah. Both were stolen in the city where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its headquarters.
It took Salt Lake City police less than 14 hours to track the work of art down.
“After a long day of #detective work we’re happy to report that the bronze statue has been recovered,” the police tweeted around 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Salt Lake City police Det. Robert Ungricht said as many as five detectives were involved in the search for the missing Mormon leaders. Time was of the essence — not necessarily because of who they were, but because of what they were made of.
Ungricht said police feared the thieves would find a foundry along the Wasatch Front Range to melt the bronze down — a fiery doom for a statue valued at $125,000.
He said there was some incorrect speculation that the case was given a higher priority because of who was depicted in the statue. He said there was no pressure brought on the department by the church. The pressure, he said, stemmed from a case a few years ago: Another bronze statue was stolen from a school and never recovered.
“We wanted to get to the statute before the unthinkable happened and it was melted down,” Ungricht said. “I didn’t want the dirtbags to get away with it.”
Reminders of Smith and Young are ubiquitous in Utah — the latter with a large college named after him and the former revered as the faith’s founder. When word got out that the large statue had been stolen, local…