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.
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