The Quest for Zion
Pioneers are a fascinating subject. As a category of people, pioneers are those brave souls to who “boldly go where no one has gone before”. Pioneers are trailblazers, metaphorically or literally speaking. This month’s entry is about a series of paintings I have done over the past few years titled “The Quest for Zion” inspired by a client of mine who wanted to envision the full journey of the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Their journey begins in upstate New York and ends in the Salt Lake Valley. While it is hardly possible to capture their experience in just six paintings, it is my hope that the viewer grasps an inkling of the monumental faith, sacrifice and effort of the early pioneers.
Quest for Zion: Painting I
How Lovely Was the Morning
This is a painting of firsts. The paintings all read from left to right, as it will throughout the entire series of The Quest for Zion. It begins with the First Vision, with a slight indication of Joseph Smith praying in the woods near his home in upstate New York. Rays of light pour down indicating the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as they answered his prayer. This is the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The central panel reflects the first baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The last panel indicates the first published copy of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Quest for Zion: Painting II
This painting is meant to show movement and joy - the restored Church is just being formed, and missionaries are beginning to teach others about the gospel. The small cabin in the first panel shows the first gathering and formation of the Church, and then the early members beginning to gather together in the central panel. What a joyful thing it would have been to be among the first to hear of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! The last panel indicates the very first temple of the Church established in Kirtland, Ohio.
Quest for Zion: Painting III
“His house shall there be reared,
His glory to display,
And people shall be heard
In distant lands to say:
We’ll now go up and serve the Lord,
Obey his truth and learn his word.”
High on the Mountain Top Hymn No.5
This painting depicts the construction of the temple in Nauvoo. The left panel depicts the blueprints and planning stage of the temple, the central panel depicts the temple mid-construction, and the right panel depicts the temple in completion. This painting may also represent our lives in mortality- that we were given a blueprint, and much of our mortality is spent in the building and construction of our lives, in the hopes of the Lord reviewing our work and saying “ Well done thou good and faithful servant” in which he makes our lives a holy work. The right panel then represents our work perfected and made holy. Angels watch over the central scene of mortality and construction, and represent the sacred connection between this life and the hereafter.
Quest for Zion: Painting IV
"And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion" 3 Nephi 21:1
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people." Exodus 13:21-22
An exodus is defined as a departure or migration of a large number of people. This painting describes the incredible gathering of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The top portion of the painting indicates the full journey across the plains from Nauvoo, Illinois to the eventual arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. The left panel shows their crossing the Mississippi River in late spring. The central panel represents the passage of time and traversing the plains mid summer, with a faint indication of angels accompanying them. The right panel shows approaching winter and the efforts of later parties as they begin to traverse the Rocky Mountains.
Quest for Zion: Painting V
Light of Grace
"Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!"
Come Come Ye Saints Hymn 30
This painting attempts to capture the beauty of miracles in the toughest of times. Here the saints continue onwards despite the wind and snow. Light pours down from above indicating the presence and awareness of heaven.The pioneers don't quite see the angels that are supporting and encouraging them onward. However, they do continue to move forward in faith and trust that in the end all will truly be well.
Quest for Zion: Painting VI
Holiness to the Lord
"That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house; And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.” D&C 109:12-13
This painting represents the arrival of the saints in the Salt Lake Valley. What a relief it must have been to come to the end of the journey, but how exciting as well to start to envision what the Salt Lake Valley would eventually become! Brigham Young in the left panel looks to the center panel as if seeing the building of the Salt Lake Temple. Rays of light stream down from above representing light and love from heaven as the saints would eventually undertake the task of designing and building the house of the Lord. The panel on the right represents the completed temple and invites the viewer to step inside to experience the house of the Lord.
It's amazing to see this all come together over the accumulation of nine years. I am happy with how it turned out, and I hope you enjoyed this 'quest for Zion'.
Wishing you the very best,