From the thundering pages of holy writ have come man’s supreme inspiration for his most sublime achievements in literature, drama, music, and art. Through the ages such works have been inspired by the divine events as well as the soaring words and poetic cadences of the Holy Bible.
The masterpieces of art in the great cathedrals were done often for a largely illiterate congregation. Who can measure their worth in building and strengthening those people’s faith in the great truths of the Holy Scriptures?
The Book of Mormon being, as it surely is, the divine and parallel witness to the Bible, it is only right that the majestic words and events therein recorded should find pictorial expression in equally mighty and dramatic works of art. The twelve original paintings in this series were a pioneering effort to fulfill this pictorial expression.
To create such a monumental series of pictures requires more, even a great deal more, than the skills of drawing and painting. It demands the talents of an artist with the vision and the devotion to set down in paint all the power, the color, the human drama, and above all the deep moving spirit and great ringing beauty of the mighty scenes recorded in the Book of Mormon. Such pictures can never be achieved by any artist unless they are done with faith and labor and with a burning conviction of truth.
In addition, the artist must be endowed with that indefinable inborn quality of what can only be described as a feeling for antiquity. The people pictured, though clothed in the garments of another age, must live and breathe as though they were alive today. They cannot look simply like some individuals dressed up in period costumes. As we view the pictures, we must feel a kinship with those people, even though they lived so long ago. We must feel that we know them.
The Book of Mormon is strongly Old Testament in feeling, as of course it should be. For Lehi and his people left Jerusalem in Old Testament times, the time of Jeremiah, just before Israel was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and sent into the captivity of Babylon.
Those who left with Lehi and followed the Liahona across the great waters to the promised land were of Israel. While they kept the customs and the rituals of the law of Moses, they looked forward, steadfast in faith to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, their promised Messiah.
It is this continuity of Israelite culture that the artist sought to imbue into these paintings, rather than the strange appearing Aztec and Maya cultures found in ancient America, which flourished as much as a thousand years after the Book of Mormon. So it is perfectly right if these pictures are sometimes taken for Bible scenes. For they are of the same peoples, the same cultures, the same beliefs.
Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon stand alone. Surely their words require no works of art to verify their truth. Yet pictures can be of great worth in building an enhanced appreciation and understanding of the written word.
While the pictures in this classic series have been widely published and loved by many, yet even at the time of their first publication there has been no published account of their background or history of how they came to be.