Excerpts from Chapter One: A Mighty Change of Heart
Section Three: The Matter of Beauty
by Dr. Herman du Toit
from his book, Coming Unto Christ: Masters of Light, (2016) Springville, Utah, Cedar Fort, Inc.
Ideas about art and beauty have always been closely aligned. However, there are few terms that have stirred more controversy, consternation, and contention in the modern art world than the concept of beauty. Everyone seems to know what beauty is, but there is little agreement as to its expressions, and to how it is manifest in artworks. The term is used in the scriptures candidly, unequivocally, and without qualification. The scriptures do not doubt the reader’s ability to identify, appreciate, and give expression to the notion of beauty.
There is a clear understanding about what is meant when we read in the Old Testament that Rachel, one of Laban’s daughters, was “beautiful and well favoured” (Genesis 29:17, emphasis added). We also have a uniform understanding of what was meant when Artaxerxes was inspired to “beautify the house of the Lord” (Ezra 7:27, emphasis added). Beauty is also found in the manner in which the Lord has ordered and organized the elements of His creations; in the variety with which rivers, plains, mountains, lakes, and seas, were created and distributed across the Earth.
Likewise we have a mental concept of what was meant by the commandment given to the Israelites to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29, emphasis added). This usage signifies another, deeper meaning of the concept. The scripture “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bringeth good tidings” (Isaiah 52:7, emphasis added) tells us that beauty is manifested by the righteous action of prophets who proclaim the Gospel from the mountaintops—an action that dispels fear and hopelessness. Here beauty is seen as a countervailing force exercised in the face of darkness, despair, and ungodliness. Beauty is manifest in the very act of righteousness overcomes evil, is evidenced when love overcomes hate, and is apparent when harmony, order and unity prevail over chaos, discord, and contention. This concept is exemplified in the simple words of the Church hymn: “There is beauty all around when there’s love at home.”
The problem that the modern secular world has with the concept of beauty lies in the fact that the word has attendant meanings that allude to qualities such as charm, grace, loveliness, comeliness, fairness, authenticity, attractiveness, appropriateness, nobility, harmony, and divine order, among others. For Thorvaldsen, Bloch, Hofmann, Schwartz, and other academically trained artists of their period, beauty was a function of all these qualities, rooted in finely executed pictorial realism. These positive and uplifting qualities, associated with beauty, point to universal normative values that are often reflected in righteousness. Aristotle saw this relationship between the beautiful (to kalon) on the one hand, and virtue on the other hand. He argued that: "Virtue aims at the beautiful." It is this relationship between beauty and virtue that has caused consternation in a secularized world that strives to divest beauty of its normative values, or more stridently, to denigrate the very concept of beauty because of its attendant normative values.
In modern times the academic art world in particular, appears to have taken issue with the concept of beauty, and especially the values associated with it. The term is rarely used in college art programs. It invites censure in to say something is beautiful in within a formal academic setting in a secular world that rejects universal values. Such statements are often deemed to be uniformed and unqualified value judgments based on subjective personal sentiment. Contemporary art schools would rather encourage self-expression and the cult of idiosyncratic egocentrism than risk alignment with values that are inexorably and universally linked to beauty.
Art has the capacity to transcend the mundane, providing us with a glimpse of a more perfect and beautiful reality that often lies just beyond our mortal experience. Art has the power to edify and inform us in ways that words cannot, as stated so aptly by David Cassler, a contemporary LDS artist: “Art beckons you to that which we are meant to become. Art points to a time when heart and mind will be unified. It points to humankind's ultimate spiritual potential. Art speaks of a place where we need not look through a glass darkly, where we will know as we are known. It speaks of truth, love, happiness, and beauty.”
Inspired devotional art points us to the universal values associated with beauty through the sillful representation and meaningful interpretation of supernal qualities that abound in Heavenly Father’s creations. It has the capacity to reveal the divine order of all things. Consequently, it has the power to unite Heavenly Father’s children through the commonalities of their appreciation of these things. Hence beauty becomes a handmaiden to the divine precepts of salvation that are carried into the hearts and minds of those who would receive them and who are not blinded by callous ignorance, hubris, egotism, skepticism, and the philosophies of men.
We have been instructed that “Zion must increase in beauty, and holiness” (D&C 82:14). The appreciation and promulgation of undefiled beauty as a countervailing force in the conflict between good and evil, order and disorder, harmony and chaos, cannot be underestimated. It is an antidote to the ungodliness of the unrefined carnal condition of the natural man. Inspired devotional art has the capacity to refine our sensibilities, put us in touch with the divine order of things, including our own divine nature, and facilitate our coming unto Christ.
Excerpts from Chapter One: A Mighty Change of Heart
Section Two: The Power to Promote Faith and Instill New Meaning
by Dr. Herman du Toit
from his book, Coming Unto Christ: Masters of Light, (2016) Springville, Utah, Cedar Fort, Inc.
The process of coming unto Christ is accompanied by a renewal of self, and of seeing others and the world around us, in a new light―the light of the eternal Gospel. “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Images can have the power to mediate between concepts of God and man. According to Colum Hourihane, former director of the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University, “One of the most important functions that an image can have is its mediation between the physical or earthly and the unseen or spiritual.” Hourihane’s observation implies that art can have an instrumental function, meaning that art can actually do something for us. And in so doing it has the capacity to effect some positive change in our disposition both in the way we see ourselves and the the world around us.
In recent years, it has been reaffirmed that good art has the capacity to edify, touch sensitive hearts, and construct new meaning in the mind of the viewers. Art often does this by non-discursive means―in ways that cannot be expressed by the spoken or written word. Elder M. Russell Ballard noted: “Inspired art speaks in the language of eternity, teaching things to the heart that the eyes and ears can never understand.”
Not only can inspired art evoke profound changes in the hearts and minds of viewers, it also has the capacity to reveal new truths and open new vistas of understanding. An artwork cannot force itself upon the viewer; we need to open ourselves to its meaning and allow its veracity to work upon us; we need to “behold” it, in the full sense of this word.
Artworks are able to communicate new knowledge and even new ways of seeing through a process often referred to by novelists and moviemakers as “the willing suspension of disbelief.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the nineteenth-century British poet, coined this phrase to describe the manner in which the challenging representations of an artwork can find acceptance in the viewer’s mind and even enlarge a person’s understanding, in spite of previously held contrary views or disbelief. We can think of the “willing suspension of disbelief” as putting aside our doubts and skepticism in order to embrace a new truth that was alien to our understanding. Coleridge also referred to our openness to accepting newfound perspectives presented by a narrative, a poem, or a work of art, as “poetic faith.” We do this willingly without duress or compulsion when we take in an artwork that is challenging to our current understanding of things, or one that is asking us to consider a truth that may be difficult for us to accept. Inspired artworks provide us with the opportunity to grasp more fully the glorious truths of Christ’s mission and of His role in our personal salvation.
No artwork can fully represent deity, or faithfully recreate the events of Christ’s mortal ministry with the details and veracity with which they must have occurred. The mortal inadequacies of the artist, along with the temporal limitations of technical virtuosity, put limitations on what can be achieved by the artist’s hand. However, when inspired art engages willing minds and hearts, these deficits can be overcome through the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer. It is then that the artist and viewer come to a unity of faith.
Inspired art has the power to invite the Spirit. When an inspired artist creates a work of art with the prayerful and sincere intention to communicate concepts of a sacred nature, as a testimony of Christ, it is highly likely that the Spirit will communicate these things to a suitably prepared and receptive viewer. Not only will the viewer recognize the truths depicted in the artwork, but the Spirit will bear witness to the viewer of its veracity. It is even possible that the viewer will be edified beyond the artist’s expectations and in ways that the artist could not previously have anticipated. Such is the power of reverently viewed art produced by an inspired artist as an act of sincere devotion.
Doubts flee as we see the wondrous truths that lie beyond the painted brush marks of an inspired painting, or as we receive the messages of eternity that lie within the impassive white marble of a finely wrought sculpture. When we are able to apprehend these things, and know they are true, by implication we are coming unto Christ.
Excerpts from Chapter One: A Mighty Change of Heart
Section One: The Power to Strengthen and Convert
by Dr. Herman du Toit
From his book, Coming Unto Christ: Masters of Light, (2016) Springville, Utah, Cedar Fort, Inc.
Painting: Franz Schwartz, Agony in the Garden (1888)
The artwork that the young missionary had encountered was Frans Schwartz’s painting, Agony in the Garden. It depicts the tender moment in the Garden of Gethsemane when the Savior was ministered to by a heavenly being as the awful pangs of the Atonement took effect. “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). The Savior is shown in an attitude of fervent prayer as the angel, having knowledge of what was about to take place, tenderly embraced Him in a gesture of love and compassion. Schwartz had fittingly chosen a female angel for the role of consoler at this crucial moment in His supernal mission. This was one of several paintings of the mortal ministry of the Savior displayed [in the exhibition, Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann, and Frans Schwartz, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, Utah, November 15, 2013 through May 26, 2014]. No doubt this young missionary… will always remember this very personal encounter with a truly inspired work of devotional art.
Some artworks have the capacity to instantaneously penetrate both our minds and our hearts, often leaving indelible traces that affect our thoughts and feelings for years to come.
The young missionary who had such a touching encounter with Frans Schwartz’s painting, and the many other visitors who had similar experiences were “coming unto Christ” in a very real and tangible manner. They were experiencing, or re-experiencing, in some way, and to some degree, the “mighty change” spoken of by the people of King Benjamin after he had addressed them: And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts (Mosiah 5:2).
This mighty change is brought about through a process of soul-searching introspection and empathic engagement with the subject of our faith. As we begin to exercise our faith and come unto Christ, our new understanding and commitment is confirmed by the Spirit.
A testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer is the most important knowledge that we can gain in this world and it holds eternal consequences not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones as well. As we come unto Christ and adopt His ways, obey his commandments, and receive His mind and will for us, we are moved to making sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father in accordance with this new understanding. Inspired art has the capacity to act as a facilitator, or catalyst, in this profound and personal process that leads to personal conversion and a transformation of the most fundamental kind.
Joy at Graduation
Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
From an address given at Brigham Young University commencement August 13, 2015
Painting: Clark Kelley Price, Zion in Her Heart
Father Lehi taught that the children of God exist that they might have joy (see 2 Nephi 2:25). That great truth is fundamental to our philosophy of life. The kind of joy referred to in the scriptures is not the happiness we experience in temporary rushes of pleasure such as we enjoy in today’s recognitions. The joy that is the purpose of our existence is intense and enduring. We may properly say it is eternal.
Where do we find our greatest joy? I suggest that it is in creativity—the process and feeling of creating something.
Creativity in business or in the professions is the same for men and for women. I am not qualified to speak of the joys of creativity in establishing a business or in the practice of medicine or musicianship, but I have some idea of creativity in the practice of law. Much of the practice of law is repetitive drudgery, but there are moments of joy in a new insights or in producing a good piece of legal work, like a letter of opinion. I have also experienced joy in various kinds of English composition as I have tried to express a thought or explain a principle as clearly and persuasively as possible.
You will recognize similar examples of the joy of creativity in other lines of work. Surely the process of cultivating living things and seeing them come to maturity and harvest creates joy in farmers and teachers. There is also joy in writing or creating a work of art or in performance that brings one of these to life for an audience.
But all of these illustrations are only mortal or temporary examples of the joy of creativity. We have no assurance that most of the things that brings us joy in mortality will continue in the next life.
I believe that our greatest joy is found through the gospel of Jesus Christ, which explains our origin as spirits, the creation of the world, our purpose in mortality, and our destiny in eternity. Explanations of the plan of salvation often use the word joy. When the foundations of the world were laid, we spirits “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). The announcement of the Savior’s birth was a message “of great joy” (Luke 2:10). His Atonement and Resurrection “filled [us] with great joy” (Alma 4:14). The love of God is described as “the most desirable above all things” and “the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:22-23). Finally, the Savior Himself described the experience of returning to dwell with God as a “fulness of joy” (3 Nephi 28:10; also see D&C 93:33).
The gospel’s assurance of a continued, embodied existence after this life illuminates our understanding of the ultimate joy of creativity. A favorite illustration of that truth is the Lord’s great explanation that His work and His glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Surely our greatest eternal joy will be in the creativity that lives beyond this mortal life and gives joy after the resurrection and throughout all eternity. That is why, as God has revealed, “eternal life … is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).
For the complete address click here: Joy at Graduation
Your Refined Heavenly Home
Elder Douglas L. Callister
Of the Seventy
From a devotional address given at Brigham Young University September 19, 2006
Painting: Michael Coleman, Wind River
The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things. If we could part the veil and observe our heavenly home, we would be impressed with the cultivated minds and hearts of those who so happily live there. I imagine that our heavenly parents are exquisitely refined. In this great gospel of emulation, one of the purposes of our earthly probation is to become like them in every conceivable way so that we may be comfortable in the presence of heavenly parentage and, in the language of Enos, see their faces “with pleasure.”
Brigham Young said: “We are trying to be the image of those who live in heaven; we are trying to pattern after them, to look like them, to walk and talk like them.” To prepare us to do this, the 13th article of faith encourages: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Refinement is a companion to developed spirituality. Refinement and spirituality are two strings drawn by the same bow.
For the complete address click here: Your Refined Heavenly Home
We Are Creators
Mary Ellen Smoot
Relief Society General President
From an address given at General Conference, April 2000
Painting: Albin Veselka, Creating Atmosphere
I marvel when I think of this world so rich in beauty, so perfect in function. This world was created by Jesus Christ under the direction of our Heavenly Father. Creation is one of the characteristics that defines God. He takes matter without form and molds it into stars, planets, and solar systems. “Worlds without number have I created,” He tells us.
Brothers and sisters, we are children of God. Shouldn’t we be about our Father’s business? Shouldn’t we be creators as well?
We each have to say to ourselves, What will I create of my life? My time? My future?
First, go where the Spirit directs. Be still and listen. Your Heavenly Father will guide you as you draw near to Him. Immerse yourself in the holy word of the prophets, both ancient and modern, and the Spirit will speak to you. Be patient, ask in faith, and you will receive guidance in your creative efforts.
Second, don’t be paralyzed from fear of making mistakes. Thrust your hands into the clay of your lives and begin. I love how Rebekah of old responded to Abraham’s servant who came in search of a wife for Isaac. Her answer was simple and direct, “I will go,”3 she said.
Rebekah could have refused. She could have told the servant to wait until she had the proper send-off, a new wardrobe, until she lost a few pounds, or until the weather was more promising. She could have said, “What’s wrong with Isaac that he can’t find a wife in all of Canaan?” But she didn’t. She acted, and so should we.
The time for procrastination is over. Begin! Don’t be afraid. Do the best you can. Of course you will make mistakes. Everyone does. Learn from them and move forward.
Third, support others along the way. Every person on this earth is unique. We all have varied interests, abilities, and skills. We are each at different levels physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Finally, rejoice. Creation isn’t drudgery. Creation flows from love. When we do what we love, we rejoice along the way.
For the complete address click here: We Are Creators
Harvesting the Light: The 1890 Paris Art Mission
by Giles H. Florence, Jr.
From an article in the Ensign, October 1988
Painting: Lorus Pratt, Pastoral Scene, South Salt Lake City (1890s)
Five Latter-day Saints Sent to Paris to Refine Their Skills
When Latter-day Saints made the Rocky Mountains their refuge in the West, they saw painting and sculpture as integral to their efforts to bring culture, grace, and beauty to their growing settlement.
Unfortunately, LDS artists who wished to contribute to that beautification were isolated from the cultural centers where their skills and gifts could be refined. Consequently, in 1890, two LDS artists, John Hafen and Lorus Pratt (son of Orson Pratt), hit upon a solution. They went to the Church and requested financial assistance so that they and several other promising artists could receive the training they needed. In exchange, they would paint murals in the temples and render other art services.
President George Q. Cannon, of the First Presidency, informed Brothers Hafen and Pratt in June of 1890 that their proposal had been accepted. Three artists—John Hafen, Lorus Pratt, and John B. Fairbanks (father of sculptor Avard Fairbanks)—were soon set apart as art missionaries and sent to Paris; Edwin Evans joined them three months later, and Herman Hugo Haag arrived the next year.
Evidence that these missionaries devoted their talents to the Lord and wished to use them in his service was well demonstrated by John Hafen: “Being a firm believer that the highest possible development of talent is a duty we owe to our Creator, I made it a matter of prayer for many years that He would open a way whereby I could receive that training which would befit me to decorate His holy temples and the habitations of Zion.” (Linda Jones Gibbs, Harvesting the Light: The Paris Art Mission and Beginnings of Utah Impressionism, Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1987, p. 3.)
The conditions these missionaries faced in Paris were difficult: Food and lodgings were obtained at the least expense possible, and the Julian Academy where they studied was crowded, with strict and demanding teachers. The students were in constant competition with others from Europe and America. Still, the artists from Utah distinguished themselves, winning a number of competitions.
The work of these and other Utah artists, prior to their study in Paris, is considered unsophisticated, with inaccuracies in perspective and proportions and showing limited technique. Following their training by the academic masters in Paris in the 1890s, these Utah artists painted with greater proficiency. They not only acquired new techniques, such as a loosening of brush strokes and freer use of color, but they began to see their subjects differently. Painting outdoors, beyond the limits of their studios, for example, enabled them to more clearly observe the effects of light on their subjects. Many of them brought home to Utah the influence of French Impressionism, with its emphasis on landscapes and harvest scenes.
As the name implies, Impressionism seeks to create an impression of a scene or figure rather than an ordered composition strictly rendered. Daubs of strong color in short, broken brushstrokes are often used to capture the atmosphere of a scene or the immediate feeling of the moment. An impressionist landscape often has dramatic contrasts of brilliant, often shimmering, sunlight and shadows in subdued but rich colors.
Because of the economic difficulty in which he had left his wife and children, John Hafen was able to spend only a year abroad. As the first art missionary to return to Salt Lake City, he was the first to begin the Salt Lake Temple murals. He worked alongside Danquart Weggeland, a Danish convert who had taught these artists before their missions and had encouraged them to go. A year later, Brothers Hafen and Weggeland were joined by Brothers Evans, Pratt, Haag, and Fairbanks. By the time of the Salt Lake Temple’s dedication [on 6 April 1893], they had completed the murals in the world and the garden rooms.
For the complete article click here: Harvesting the Light
Elder Neil A. Maxwell
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
From an article in the New Era, August 1982
Painting: Michael Malm, Of Such Is the Kingdom of God
Righteous work is our love of God and of our neighbors being made manifest! Creative work is a special expression, “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31), of showing that love. Creative expression can also represent the celebration of our gratitude to God for our gifts and talents.
When by wise self-management we are creative, then we mortals taste what Pascal called “the dignity of causality,” the capacity to cause that which had not existed in quite that way before! Something pertaining to truth and beauty occurs that would not have happened quite that way without us! Thus as “agents unto” ourselves we use the power that is in us to do good, but also to do it well, whether our creativity involves the use of our voice, our hands, our muscles, or our conceptual powers.
True creativity, as it reflects our capacity to see or to produce something in a new way, represents a restructuring that carries our individual imprint and uniqueness. Such can be equally true of the inventor and the painter, of the pianist as well as the poet.
Thus creativity involves both a process and a result. It springs out of our seeing possibilities that we have not seen before and out of seeing connections between patches of truth and beauty and responding to them in ways we have not done before. Feelings that lead to poetry, mental imagery that leads to painting, and pondering that gives birth to prose are but examples.
Creativity, therefore, is not simply innovation but organization. Clearly self-discipline is required as part and parcel of that self-discovery which is paralleled by the discovery of the universes, vast and small, of which we are a part.
Gospel gladness can give us a precious perspective about all these things and can spur us on to share that beauty which God helps us to create. It is a process that should not trouble itself over much, initially, with questions of originality and utility but, rather, with quality and excellence.
Artistic and creative expressions that occur in conformity with reality and with the sublime and eternal truths help to deliver on that marvelous promise that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25) and help us to “have [life] more abundantly” (John 10:10) by showing us “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).
Since all truth comes from God, when we celebrate truth in creative breakthroughs, whether in new understanding of molecular structure or in the beauty of new sculpture or a new painting or new poetry, we are acknowledging the resplendent order in God’s universe.
Beauty and truth are all about us, beckoning us to respond. But perspiration usually precedes inspiration, and pondering, reverentially, almost always occurs before we make any breakthrough. Creative work is sweet, but it is work!
While true creativity is something that can be shared by those who appreciate the works of creation, true creativity does not depend entirely for its satisfactions upon “consumers.” It is a highly personal experience in which we are grateful to the Lord for helping us to see beauty and truth and the order of things, for restructuring our understanding of things, if necessary, to accord with things “as they really are” (Jacob 4:13). Creative experience is intrinsically satisfying. Then whatsoever appreciation comes from others for one’s efforts—such an added blessing!
The greater our sensitivity to the Spirit, the greater our response to beauty, grace, and truth in all their forms as these exist about us. Our righteousness opens us up like a blossoming flower to both detail and immensity. Sin, on the other hand, closes us down; it scalds the tastebuds of the soul.
After all, was it not the Creator of the worlds who called our attention to the beauty of the lilies of the field, to the power in the tiny mustard seed, and to the leaves on the fig tree?
Was it not that same Creator who also asked us, as we observe the heavens, planets, and stars moving in their orbits, to remember that when we have so observed, we have “seen God moving in his majesty and power” (D&C 88:47)?
There is so much to see and so much to celebrate righteously. Indeed, appreciation for the world (and all in it) which God has given us is but a prelude to adoration of the God who has so gloriously displayed His creativity for us. Creativity permits us to see the wondrous order of things, their infinite beauty, their scope, but also their incredible detail. To use the words of Moses, we then see and feel things which we “never had supposed” (Moses 1:10)!
For the complete article click here: Creativity
Happiness, Your Heritage
by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
From an address given at General Conference, October 2008
Painting: Rose Datoc Dall, Return from the Temple
The Work of Creation
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.
Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.
You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”
If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.
But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy. Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.
You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.
What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.
Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.”
The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come.
For the complete address click here: Happiness, Your Heritage
Centering the Arts in Christ
by K. Newell Dayley
From a devotional given at Brigham Young University, March 6, 2001
Painting: William Whitaker, The Cellist
Will we be willing to place Christ at the center of our work?
During the ministry of Jesus in Palestine, there were many who “believed on him; but . . . did not confess him, . . . for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42–43). The same challenge exists today. Do we believe in Christ but fail to follow Him because we love the praise of men more than the praise of God? Or are we willing to follow Him but uncertain about what that means? “Behold I am the light,” He assured the Nephite faithful. “I have set an example for you” (3 Nephi 18:16).
If we desire to center the arts in Christ, we will follow His example. He asked the Nephite disciples, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” And He answered His own question ever so simply: “Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). More precisely, He said, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). He invites us to be like Him! Not just to believe in Him, but to be like Him—to acquire, in process of time, His righteous attributes.
If we seek to center the arts in Christ, will our artistic endeavors differ from those of others? If so, in what ways will they differ? How might our efforts also parallel the work of others? For what purposes should followers of Christ use the arts? Must they be willing to depart from some of the world’s artistic traditions? If so, will that limit their creative energies or liberate them? Such is the nature of the questions that confront those who would follow Christ.
WHAT ARE THE ARTS?
What are the arts, really? Are they subjects, professions, cultural artifacts, or events to attend? Yes, but that is not what they really are. The arts embody a unique learning process that awakens the very core of one’s being to life’s meaning and beauty. Through the arts we can learn to see, hear, move, and feel with greater sensitivity and understanding. They provide both substance and stimulus for learning the creative process and nurture our capacity to explore the infinite. The arts enable us to communicate important realities that can be shared in no other way. Elder Boyd K. Packer has affirmed that “because of what [artists] do, we are able to feel and learn very quickly . . . some spiritual things that we would otherwise learn very slowly” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord,” Ensign, August 1976, 61).
We separate the arts, perhaps to better understand them. But learning processes called music, drama, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, literature, or film are really parts of a greater whole. They encompass an approach to learning and knowing that is unique. The arts must be an essential core component of a balanced education.
The arts are also a marvelous manifestation of “the light of Christ,” for the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things. [D&C 88:7, 11–13]
The creative flame that ignites artistic creation has its origin in “the light which is in all things.” Christ is the source of the power that is within us whereby we exercise “free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27–28). His light gives life to our creative potential. His love impels us to creative action. Art itself appears because there is a spark of the divine nature in God’s children.
Those who remove themselves from the Light of Christ through pride or disobedience may use the “form” of art to express themselves, but “they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Technical skill becomes the substance of their work because they are unable to receive the power that would give it life and meaning. In contrast, those who seek to follow Christ are free to receive the enlightenment and pure joy that flows through art centered in Him. We are “that [we] might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Art centered in Christ immerses us in joy!
Art That Is Centered in Christ
1. “Inviteth and enticeth to do good continually, . . . to love God, and to serve him” (Moroni 7:13).
2. Persuades us “to believe in Christ” (Moroni 7:16).
3. Seeks the welfare of Zion through service motivated by the pure love of Christ (see 2 Nephi 26:29–31).
4. Plants joy in the hearts of those who are seeking to be like Christ (see 2 Nephi 2:25).
5. Is virtuous and full of charity toward all men (see D&C 121:45).
6. Radiates light and is filled with hope (see Moroni 7:48).
7. Is born of meekness and lowliness of heart. The pure love of Christ is its driving force (see Moroni 7:44–47; 8:25–26).
8. Invites “the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love” (Moroni 8:26).
9. Is created by those who, through faith in Christ, “shall have the power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in [Him]” (Moroni 7:33).
10. Is miraculous in its manifestation of beauty and love.
11. Those who create it desire to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [themselves] of all ungodliness; . . . and love God with all [their] might, mind and strength . . . , that by his grace [they] may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32).
12. Is manifest according to the power of the Holy Ghost (see 2 Nephi 32:2–5).
Forms of Art Created by the Great Deceiver
1. “Inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually” (Moroni 7:12).
2. Persuades us “to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God” (Moroni 7:17).
3. Sets the artist up as a light to the world for the purpose of getting “gain and praise of the world” (2 Nephi 26:29).
4. Offends the sensibilities of those who are seeking to be perfected in Christ (see Matthew 16:23).
5. Is profane, corrupt, vulgar, violent, and blasphemous (see Ephesians 4:22, 29; Moses 8:28–30).
6. Is dark and hopeless (see D&C 10:20–21).
7. Is born of pride and selfishness. Money is its driving force (see 2 Nephi 26:29, 31).
8. Is strong in “perversion; and [those who create it] delight in everything save that which is good. . . . They are without principle, and past feeling” (Moroni 9:19–20).
9. Is created by those who walk “in [their] own way, and after the image of [their] own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol” (D&C 1:16).
10. Is made to appear wonderful, even though it embodies darkness and sin.
11. Those who create it “do withdraw [themselves] from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in [them] to guide [them] in wisdom’s paths. [They] cometh out in open rebellion against God; . . . listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in [them], for he dwelleth not in unholy temples” (Mosiah 2:36–37).
12. Is manifest according to the power of the devil (see Jacob 7:4).
Such are the contrasts that exist between the work of Christ and the work of the deceiver and his followers. There is no middle ground. There is also a simple test. Art that is centered in Christ invites the Holy Ghost to be present during its creation and, again, as it is experienced by others in performance, exhibition, or publication. Satan’s counterfeit has no such power (see Moses 1:12–21).
If we were to labor with all our heart, might, mind, and strength to center the arts in Christ, would we help to bring forth Zion? And would we then enjoy the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost more abundantly? I believe we would. But we must be clear in our understanding. “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise [the Lord] cannot receive her unto [Himself]” (D&C 105:5). We must be willing to give up the idols of the world, abide by the principles that characterize celestial life, and follow Christ.
The Lord has admonished us to “keep [His] commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; 14:6). “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; . . . Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments” (D&C 82:14). What a wonderful opportunity we have to place the arts in service to the cause of Zion. Is this not real? Is this not the very purpose of the arts? As we participate together in Christ-centered artistic experiences, we will be increasingly bound together in singleness of purpose and a love for that which is good. We will become “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18). Is this not Zion?
But there is a price that must be paid. The arts require diligence, sacrifice, and commitment. We have an example in the scriptures of one who imagined a marvelous outcome when he “took no thought save it was to ask” (D&C 9:7). He failed. We must do more. According to President Spencer W. Kimball, “We must take thought. We must make effort. We must be patient. We must be professional. We must be spiritual” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Second Century of Brigham Young University,” Speeches of the Year, 1975 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976], 253). And Elder Packer reminds us that our motives must also be considered: “There is a test you might apply if you are among the gifted. Ask yourself this question: When I am free to do what I really want to do, what will it be?” (Packer, “The Arts and the Spirit,” 63). Will those who seek to serve the cause of Zion work in accordance with “the Spirit of truth or some other way? . . . If it be by some other way,” we have been warned, “it is not of God” (D&C 50:17–18).
What shall we do then? How can we know what is appropriate and useful to the cause of Zion? Nephi gave us an answer that is as precise as it is challenging: I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. . . . Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak [and, I might appropriately interject, “create” or “perform”]with the tongue of angels? And . . . how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, . . . feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. . . . If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ. [2 Nephi 32:1–6]
I pray that we will not deny ourselves access to the power of Christ as we seek learning and edification through the arts. Rather, I hope for the day when all we do will be centered in Christ, that we might then enjoy the spiritual abundance He has promised those who are obedient and faithful.
For the complete address click here: Centering the Arts in Christ
Art & Soul
Articles & Speeches
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