October 20, 2016
While in New York, my husband and I attended church with my brother and his wife. Their chapel happened to be in the same building as the temple, and lining the hallways were some of most incredible paintings. The artist, Walter Rane, chose stories from the Book of Mormon, and illustrated them through his paintings. They were so touching and made the Book of Mormon come alive for me!
The Book of Mormon is an ancient record starting with a family that sailed from Jerusalem around 600 b.c. and is an account of them and their ancestors as they began their lives in the Americas.
This first illustration begins as their father, Lehi, receives direction from God to take his family and flee from the city of Jerusalem just before it was invaded by the Babylonians. In an action of faith, their family packed all the belongings they could and set off into the wilderness, following their fathers guidance.
After many months in the wilderness, and after having to return to Jerusalem twice, they received direction from on high to build a boat to cross the sea. Nephi, Lehi’s most obedient son, has a very personal experience with Heavenly Father in which he receives specific instructions on how this boat must be built. They are told that they will be protected and guided as long as they are obedient and faithful to the commandments the Lord has given them.
After the boat is constructed and they set sail, Nephi’s two rebellious brothers, Laman and Lemuel, make light of the commandments, and lose the favor of the Lord. As Nephi exhorts them to repent, in anger they tie him to the mast. This painting is a depiction of the storm that ensues after their disobedience to the Lord and Nephi’s pleadings. As you can see, Lehi (their father) is heart broken by his sons rebellion and all of their lives are put at peril by this storm. After 3 days of this vicious storm, Laman and Lemuel realize they aren’t going to survive, and immediately untie Nephi and repent of their sins. The storm abates and they are saved.
Many generations later, after establishing themselves in the Americas, an account is written of Enos, and his search for forgiveness and guidance from God. He retreats to the forest one day to seek his Creator, and after many hours of prayer and soul searching, he has a very touching spiritual experience. In this encounter he learns of God’s love for him, and receives a remission of all his sins. It’s such a beautiful testimony of God’s desire to forgive us, and His all encompassing love for us.
This story is of Alma in the courts of the wicked king Noah. The king, in his unrighteous rule, murders a prophet of God who comes to the city preaching. Before the burning of this prophet, he is questioned before the king’s court, in which he prophesies of the divinity of God, explains the commandments and condemns the king for his evil practices. Although the prophet does not escape, his testimony is carried on through Alma, who upon hearing the prophet, flees from the court and goes into hiding.
The king, enraged that one of his men has believed the preachings, sends an army out to kill Alma. Alma successfully avoids the king’s attempts to find him, and begins to preach in the forest. Many believe the words Alma teaches them and wish to repent. Alma was able to baptize all who wished to become part of the church of God, and over 200 people joined the church that day.
King Noah is eventually killed, and Alma becomes the high priest of the land, guiding in righteousness. However, Alma’s son (Alma the younger) begins to create problems as he rebels against his family and God, and goes about wrecking havoc among the believer in the church throughout their city. His parents pray for many years on his behalf, and they plead with Heavenly Father to somehow help their son return to the faith.
One day, Alma the younger and his friends are stopped in their tracks by an angel of God, who commands them to stop the wickedness they are doing (very much like Paul’s vision in the New Testament). Alma falls unconscious from the shock of the experience, and his friends carry him back to his house. The title on this picture is “and his father rejoiced”. His parents knew the Lord had answered their prayers. The saints all prayed and fasted on Alma’s behalf, and after 3 days he awoke, proclaiming his adoration for his Savior and testifying of the gospel. During those three days he had a very personal experience that he explains in detail in the Book of Mormon. He made a complete turn around, and spent the rest of his days preaching and trying to undo the damage he had done.
Alma and his sons go about preaching in the land, but after time their begins to be contentions, and the righteous are forced to create an army to protect themselves from those who wish to destroy the church of God. Wars break out throughout the land, and those who believed in Christ began to call themselves “christians” to distinguish themselves from those who wished to destroy them. This touching painting is of Moroni, the captain of the army, who refuses to be tricked by the lies and deception of their enemies. He rallies the troops of the army, and swears to God to help these faithful believers protect their religion, their families and their lives.
After hearing of many saints who fall away from the church because of the lies of unbelievers, Moroni rips his coat off and writes on it “in memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children”. He then ties it to a pole, and uses it as a symbol of devotion to their cause. Many covenant with Moroni to defend all that they hold dear, and with the help from God, victoriously take back their land, and peace is once again established.
During Alma’s sons preachings, they had converted a city of very wicked people, who had been accustomed to murdering, secret oaths and all other sorts of evil. Upon their conversion, they realized how horrific their actions had been, and swore to God they would never take up the sword again. Because of their oath, they were unable to defend themselves, so the christians promised to always protect them from their enemies. During the battles however, they saw the desperate need for soldiers, and began to contemplate breaking the oath they had made to God to be able to help the christians defend themselves. They were convinced not to by their leaders, but their sons that had been too young to make the oath at the time, volunteered to go to war.
This touching account explains the pure faith and determination that these two thousand young boys had as they stepped onto the battle field. Many were humbled to see the valiant courage they showed as they truly believed God would protect them. Because of the faith of these men, the prayers of their mothers and their steadfastness, not a single of these two thousand warriors were killed in battle. Although many had severe injuries, they were all miraculously saved, because (as the title of the painting says) they “put their trust in God”.
These touching stories of valiant individuals are just a few of the many that are written about in the Book of Mormon, but between and throughout all these beautiful events, there are prophets who spend their time testifying of a Redeemer. Like just in the Bible, the Book of Mormon is an account of prophets exhorting their people to repent and prepare for the day Christ would be born in Jerusalem.
They testify of the need that we have for this Savior, and who He would be. The testimonies of Christ and His future birth which are throughout the entire book, are beautiful demonstrations of the truthfulness of its contents. While the Bible was being written on the other side of the world, we had prophets in the Americas testifying of the same thing. God didn’t just prepare one nation for the birth of His son, but two.
One specific prophet that testifies of the birth of Christ is Samuel. He dedicated himself to the Lord and went from city to city proclaiming that the birth of the Savior would be soon, and that the people needed to repent and prepare themselves for His coming. He testified that although the Savior would be born on another continent, the people of the Americas would still receive a sign of his birth, and that on that day, there would be a day and a night and a day without darkness when the sun set. He also testified of the appearance of a new star in the heavens. As he went from place to place, he was continuously rejected, spit upon and cast out. In this painting, it portrays a very important moment, when Samuel was once again kicked out of a city, and was walking back dejected. As he was returning to his own land, he was stopped in his path by an angel of the Lord and was commanded to return to the city to preach about this event that soon would come.
As commanded, Samuel returned and once again explained to them about this sign that would prove the birth of the Lord. Those who reviled him, decided to put his testimony to the test, and on the day that he had testified of, they told all those who believed him that if the sun set and it got dark, all would be murdered. The faithful believers who knew Samuel was telling the truth had their faith put to test. On the eve of the day Samuel had predicted, a beautiful miracle occurred. There was a day a night and a day without darkness, and a new star appeared, testifying that the Savior had indeed been born. There was much rejoicing among the Christians, and many of those who had ridiculed and mocked fell in shock and fear. Many more were baptized into the church, and began to believe all the prophesies that had been given.
Along with Samuel’s prophesies about the signs we would receive about the birth of the Savior, the prophets had also testified of the time Christ would come to visit the inhabitants of America. Although he would live and die in Jerusalem, He would come to visit His people in America as a resurrected being. Towards the end of the Book of Mormon we come to the crowning event of the visitation of the resurrected Christ. The testimonies of those present and the teachings from Him that are recorded, are beautiful accounts testifying of the divinity of our Savior.
When He appeared, He allowed all present to feel the wounds in his hands, and see the wounds in His feet, as a testimony of his crucifixion. He preached to them, and many of the teachings He shared are found in the Bible as well. He shared with them all He’d shared with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and blessed them for the faith they had shown in His coming. Along with His teachings he established the church in its complete form with twelve apostles and the authority to act in His name. He also instituted the ordinance of sacrament, to remember His sacrifice and continually receive a remission of sins. When it was time for Him to depart, upon seeing the sadness of those who didn’t want Him to go, He asked for all the sick and afflicted to be brought to Him so that He could heal them.
In this next image, we have a depiction of the sweet moment when while the Savior was there, He asked for the little children to be brought to Him. As the little children were brought to him, the people stood in awe as they witnessed the heavens open and angels came down and encircled them about and ministered to them.
Before His departure He commanded them to continue to record all that they have witnessed, so that the Book of Mormon, with this incredible event, could come forth in the last days before His second coming, to strengthen and prepare all His children. The event is recorded, and the inhabitants are left in awe. They continued in righteousness and peace for hundreds of years after Christ’s visitation, but with time, wickedness and unbelief once more began in the land.
Vicious war broke out, and there was no longer enough righteousness in the land to receive all the divine help they needed to be victorious. As the Book of Mormon comes to an end, all the righteous either abandon their ways, or were killed. The Book of Mormon was hid up in the ground to come forth at a later date when the earth was once again ready for guidance. This last image is one of the last prophets, as he mourns the death of his father, Mormon, and of all his people.
The Book of Mormon is another witness that Jesus Christ lives and is the Savior of the world. This book has inspired me more times than I can count over my lifetime. It sheds so much more light on the Plan of Happiness given us by our Heavenly Father, and helps us understand how He communicates with His children.
To find out more about it, visit LDS.org