The Graven Image in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

An analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction must do justice to these relationships, for they lead us to an all-important insight: for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. . . . Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics. –Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

As of today, it appears, the art in meetinghouse foyers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be limited to 22 officially approved reproductions. Most of the paintings will be familiar to Latter-day Saints. They are mainly the ones by Del Parson and Harry Anderson that Mormons have been using for years. But there are a few newer ones too, including one of Jesus in what appears to be the African Savannah holding a black child. I call this one “Diversity Jesus.”

All of the Jesuses in the approved collection are lilly-white and vaguely Scandanavian. Diversity Jesus is the whitest of all, with shoulder-length hair and piercing blue eyes highlighted by his equally blue robe. If someone told me that this was a painting of Kenny Loggins circa 1975, rather than a Middle-Eastern Jew from the Ancient Roman period, I would not be terribly surprised.

I don’t want to pile on too much here. The truth is that, for most chapels in the United States, not much is going to change. These are the images of Jesus that many of us grew up with. The Jesus of filmstrips and flipcharts. We are comfortable with this Jesus, and I think that, if we are going to stock our foyers with mass-produced art that makes us comfortable, then paintings of Jesus are the way to go.

But this is as good an excuse as any to talk about meetinghouse art generally, and about the way that Church-approved art depicts of Jesus Christ in particular. And about the general understanding of, and uses for art in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pretty much all of which is mass-produced and comfortable. Let’s pause for just a minute and ask the obvious question of why we want mass-produced art that makes us comfortable. The answer is not at all obvious from either an aesthetic or a Christian point of view.

The mass-production of art is the topic of perhaps the most famous essay by the Jewish Marxist/Mystic philosopher Walter Benjamin, who was loosely associated with the midcentury critical movement known as the Frankfurt School. Benjamin was interested in what happens when modern photographic and printing technology made something like a painting, that had once been a one-of-a-kind original thing that existed in only one place–and made it a commercial commodity that could be reproduced infinitely.

In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benjamin argued that the uniqueness of art creates an “aura” that is deeply connected to cultural practices and rituals. This is why most of the art produced in the world’s history has been connected to some kind of worship or cultic practice (like decorating the foyers of a meetinghouse). Art and religion grew up together.

But when art is mass-produced, it loses the aura and, with it, the connection to ritual. It then becomes a largely political thing. And this is when, he suggests, we need to examine its underlying ideology in order to understand it.

I don’t want to go too far down this road, since it has a lot of big words and controversial arguments. But I think it is relevant to what we are discussing. A directive to use an extremely limited pool of mass-produced images in a religious context is, on its face, an ideological proposition. Both the images themselves, and the sameness–the fact that the next generation of Latter-day Saints will experience these and only these images of Jesus in their houses of worship–we see the uncomfortable outlines of the sort of thing that Benjamin was talking about.

When we look at the images themselves–which differ very little in their portrayal of Jesus from a decidedly white and decidedly Western perspective–we might be tempted to see the ideology behind the enterprise as having something to do with white and Western cultural values rather than completely religious ones. There are other perfectly good options available,even if we wanted to draw from a limited pool of images. And there are arguments for letting congregations around the world choose their own original artworks local or sentimental significance. Catholics have been doing this for a thousand years, often with stunningly good results.

Both the corellated images themselves, and the very fact that images are corellated in the first place, have ideological overtones that may prove problematic in a global Church. But to be fair, this is not what most American Latter-day Saints thinkabout when they see these images. They see the face of a loving Savior–someone who spent his life ministering to others and who gave his life for our salvation. These images make us comfortable. How can that be a bad thing?

Short answer: where Jesus is concerned, being comfortable is almost always a bad thing. Jesus is hard, and the whole point of the gospel is to make us uncomfortable with things as they have always been. When we catch the vision of Christ–the vision of the Kingdom of God–we aren’t supposed to be comfortable living anywhere that is NOT the Kingdom.

This, I think, is the logic behind the Second Commandment–the one about graven images. Graven images were the closest that the Bronze Age could get to mechanical reproduction. They were tangible, familiar, and largely the same from house to house. And they took the awful and inexplicable power of God and put it in a comfortable everyday object. They were comfortable–not, perhaps, in their content (though most Canaanite idols were pleasant, plump harvest/fertility figures) but in their tangibleness and their availability. But the tangibelness and availability are what made the idols sinful. They took the awsome and unfathomability of deity and domesticated it–turned it into something safe and knowable. Nobody had to stretch their spiritual imagination to understand a graven image.

There is something about this comfortableness in the 22 approved images. They are all nicely representative pastoral scenes that do not challenges us to imagine a God, or a Jesus, much different from ourselves. They don’t stretch our spiritual imagination or ask us to imagine the very different world that Jesus talked about. They don’t extend our vision of either divinity or humanity or teach us anythng about compassion outside of our in group. They don’t ask us to do anything difficult or outside of our comfort zone. The paintings are easy; Jesus is hard.

I am not saying that paintings of Jesus are bad things, or even that putting these 22 prints in foyers is a bad idea. We should always think of Jesus, and if these images help spur us to deeper contemplation of the Savior, then they do a valuable thing, But as we contemplate, let’s not lose site of the fact that Christian discipleship is supposed to stretch us and that other kinds of art, music, and literature can also add a depth to our worship that White-Kenny-Loggins Jesus partially eclipses.

Art is not supposed to make us comfortable. Neither is Jesus Christ. And art about Jesus, I would suggest, should stretch us and disorient us a bit–and make us more uncomfortable than we can bear.

Comments

  1. I hate this move so so much.

  2. Preach it!

  3. joshua h says:

    This may not be the point of your piece but what I find more disturbing about official LDS art is how it often reinforces false narratives. Think of the images we all saw growing up of Joseph Smith “translating” the BOM. What was presented in this art was something very different than the reality.

    Do the 22 approved pieces of art also depict something different than reality? If so I think it’s unfortunate at best. Some people look to the Church for comfort. I’m looking for truth. Maybe that’s the difference that needs to be examined.

  4. Thanks for this, Michael. I confess I’m uncomfortable with describing anything church-related in terms of ideology and power, but there does seem to be some truth here. I’m reminded of the article “Should Christ look like a tennis-player or a movie star?”, which suggests that our depiction of Christ tracks with our idea of “the perfect man,” which I think parallels your argument about comfort.

    Does anyone know if a meetinghouse can request particular art, and how that’s done? I’m hoping this change can spur a renewed interest in meetinghouse artwork generally, i.e. in the hallways and rooms where I assume more diversity of artwork is permitted. I’m curious how easy/difficult that process is.

  5. As an art historian who has primarily studied religious imagery of one type or another, I find this incredibly sad. Correlation has tamped down so many of our wild roots. Only authorizing 22 images means that they will become so familiar (if they are not already) that they will be background noise. That’s the least harm they can do. The best thing I can say about them is that they are boring. They

    The worst thing I can say is that these images limit our thought about the nature of God, and create in our Mormon imaginations a Jesus and God that are bound to the idea of middle-American whiteness and white supremacy.

  6. Only three, or at best four, of these paintings are “art” IMO. The rest are illustrations, with a didactic purpose and a mechanical or imitative technique. The Vatican isn’t going to worry about this collection, but anyone with a soul will.

  7. Kristine says:

    Joshua, I sympathize, but I also get a tiny bit tired of this complaint about this one painting. Are there any other examples? (Aside from the circumference of Nephi’s arms in Freiberg’s paintings ;))

  8. Many years ago, the ward I attended had an unusual painting of Mother Eve on the wall of the Relief Society room. She was portrayed wearing a one-shouldered dress made of fur and a flowing 1970s hairstyle. I wondered if it had been painted by a previous member of the ward. I liked looking at that painting when the class discussion got boring, and I was very sad when it got removed from the wall because of art correlation. I think we will miss out on a lot of wonderful, thought-provoking art now. Such a shame.

  9. I find it somewhat ironic that we are focused on displaying more Christ-centered art in our buildings so people know that we worship the Savior, when in our area we are forbidden from having group worship services on Sundays where we, you know, actually worship the Savior…

    Also, we have some lovely Karl Bloch reproductions in our buildings that are Christ-centered, but no on this approved list, and it makes me sad that we might lose them.

  10. Andrea Jay says:

    We have quite a few pieces of art hanging in our building that won’t met this new standard, I hope someone turns a blind eye. It will be a loss if they come down.

  11. Fair argument, but I believe the church is trying to solve a larger problem here: chapels that have images of Joseph Smith or the First Presidency as their foyer centerpiece. Or worse, framed presentations of their “Stake Goals” (yes, I’ve seen that).

    So yes, these approved artworks are mass-produced and make us comfortable. But at least they Jesus.

  12. Bad news all around for church buildings, which were architecturally uninspiring enough already, but at least they’re getting rid of that stupid First Vision production with the twinsies Father-and-Son duo talking to Joseph. If we must have white-bread corporate art in our buildings, at least it’ll be white-bread corporate visions of Jesus, as opposed to white-bread corporate visions of a wing-nut interpretation of one version of our tradition’s founding moment.

  13. In other words, what BW wrote right above my comment.

  14. Michael Austin says:

    BW and RAF,

    To be fair, I did say

    I don’t want to pile on too much here. The truth is that, for most chapels in the United States, not much is going to change. These are the images of Jesus that many of us grew up with. The Jesus of filmstrips and flipcharts. We are comfortable with this Jesus, and I think that, if we are going to stock our foyers with mass-produced art that makes us comfortable, then paintings of Jesus are the way to go.

  15. Carsten says:

    The choice to limit the selection of imagery to 22 approved paintings is embarrassingly provincial, unnecessary, and oppressive. Although it is a small change, it really bothers me. Not only does the scope of approved art lack artistic merit, it feels like a physical manifestation of the church’s smothering culture of uniformity. For the church to thrive and fulfill its mission, it will need to open space for individuals to express their individuality and validate differences instead of constantly demanding conformity on matters of no consequence. Imagine the potential for good that the church could have if it worked with a qualified art historian (see D&C 124:26) to commission some of the talented LDS artists out there to create an unconventional and diverse selection of thought-provoking art.

  16. Aussie Mormon says:

    Given the existing artwork guidelines https://aec.ldschurch.org/aec/design_guidelines/SupportDocs/MeetinghouseArtworkGuidelines.pdf which also talk about getting authorisation first, the only difference is the new ones specifically reference the foyer and the entrance, whereas the old ones didn’t.

    I’m seeing a lot of leeway in the new letter.
    Put artwork depicting Jesus in the foyer.
    Move other artwork elsewhere.
    *IF* you need new artwork, it needs to be from the approved list.

    Chances are most church buildings with existing artwork will already have something suitable, and thus not need to resort to buying anything new, and so whether it’s on the new approved list or not won’t matter.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Some years ago I was talking to a young black member of the Church who expressed to me his dismay that he never sees a Jesus at a Church that looks at all like him. I managed to find such an image of a black Jesus in John Turner’s Mormon Jesus: A Biography (as I recall the image came from one of those international art competitions the results of which get displayed in the Church Museum). He was thrilled with the image and appreciative of the artist for creating it. That is the story that rushed to my mind as I reviewed the correlated images.

  18. Agree that it’s positive this will mean no more first vision, first presidency as centerpieces. Agree that it seems stifling and smothering to have to pick from a list of 22.

    I get that the FP is doing a lot to emphasize how very Christian we are. But a more effective route might be to act more like Jesus. To love all, to stop worshipping the heteronormative nuclear family and obsessing over gender roles, and to care for the poor and needy.

  19. Loursat says:

    Among members of the Church (at least the ones I know in the Mormon Belt), a common bit of praise about the global Church is that wherever you go it is “the same.” The same lesson every week in a globally coordinated curriculum, the same hymns, the same meeting schedules, the same familiar phrases uttered during testimony meetings, the same styles of architecture, the same artworks hanging in the buildings.

    I think the people who praise the Church in this way find this sameness comforting. Being comforted is good. We all need comfort. Jesus promised that in his absence we would have the Holy Ghost, whom he called the Comforter.

    On the other hand, I think there are different kinds of comfort, and one of the differences lies in the source of comfort. It’s one thing to be comforted by the ministrations of the Spirit, which brings understanding and feelings of love. I think it’s rather different to be comforted by sameness. The comfort of love brings heightened feeling and the desire to serve. The comfort of sameness is more likely to dull our senses and lull our minds. Which is to say, I doubt that the comfort of sameness is what Jesus intended when he spoke about the Comforter. I also suspect that the blander the sameness, the further from holiness it will be.

  20. Buildings are getting handier all the time. Not only are the restrooms easy to find in every building whether you’ve been before or not, but now you aren’t slowed down by looking at a picture you’ve never seen before. On a related note, the wall art in the temples is being standardized too. The paintings will not be available to view outside of the temples. I’m having a hard time liking most of them.

  21. Wondering says:

    Make them all the same and they become nothing but wallpaper.
    Some of the choices of approved paintings are as regrettable as the upholstery fabric on the sofa in the example picture – a fabric that became nearly ubiquitous and even the person who chose it has been said to have regretted it, stating it was chosen from a small sample. Oh, well. I don’t go to church for aesthetic edification — can’t stand that level of repeated disappointment. And, of course, at present I don’t go at all. :)

  22. Mark Olmstead says:

    My wife and I follow a simple formula when searching for new art to put in our home depicting Christ:

    1. It’s not in the meetinghouses
    2. It’s not at Deseret Books

  23. “But when art is mass-produced, it loses the aura and, with it, the connection to ritual. ”

    Film is never art in your book based on your criterion, I suppose.

  24. lehcarjt says:

    I can’t believe Parson’s Jesus with Mary and Martha made the cut. Apart from the 1980s hairstyles, the sexual symbolism in that piece is so blatant that I cant look at it without laughing. Which I won’t describe in detail, because once you see it, you can’t unseen it.

  25. Jpv

    If the church announced that the only films suitable for viewing in church buildings had to come from the Star Wars catalogue they too would become as salt that lost its savour in short order….yea, even baby Yoda.

  26. Indeed, Talon.

    Correlation seems to have a bias for Del Parson’s Christ–shame they couldn’t have included this image of Him: https://www.ldsart.com/heavenly-mother

  27. Yeah, I know it’s not perfect, but what a welcome reprieve from the worshipful images of the First Presidency that adorn most areas of the church. As mentioned above already. I am grateful for the baby steps – even if they are only baby steps.

  28. John Taber says:

    At least Freiberg’s “The Prayer at Valley Forge” will be coming down. It’s in both my meetinghouse and the stake center and is the largest picture in each building.

  29. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I’m torn on this one. I agree with nearly everything Michael says in the post, and always yearn for greater flexibility in, well, everything done at the local levels. Also, art is important to worship and is a reflection of our bias, so we should strive to include art that has the power to be expansive and inclusive. At the same time, as noted by many above, those framed pictures of the First Presidency that adorn many foyers are pretty creepy and tasteless. They had to know that, by issuing this directive, they were scrubbing themselves from the walls of chapels. I’m sure that was even one of the reasons for doing so, which is somewhat admirable. I think I can give them a pass on this one, while hoping it’s not policed so vigorously that we lose some of the truly magnificent art that already adorns the walls of out buildings.

  30. Wondering says:

    I’ve never seen pictures of the First Presidency in foyers — only in high council rooms and stake presidents’ and bishops’ offices. I do remember a picture of George Albert Smith in a foyer. Yeah, I’m that old. Perhaps I’ve been lucky. We’ve had pictures (correlated, but not the now approved ones) representing Christ in our foyers for decades.
    I am amused that we apparently want to get announcements and notices out of foyers where they would be expected and seen. I see we still don’t want representations of Christ in our chapels. (Of course, I wouldn’t want any of those 22 in there anyway.) I wonder who may get the message that the Word can stay out of worship spaces where we worship the word from the pulpit. Of course, the pulpit being the center of attention rather than the sacrament or other reminder of Christ has been a minor source of amusement or irritation, depending on mood, for decades. It was not always so in our older church buildings.

  31. I have yet to see a depiction of Jesus on the walls of the meeting house that I think is historically accurate. Admittedly, I haven’t been in many meeting houses since joining the church. And while the paintings are sweet and I appreciate the emotion they are trying to convey, they always make me cringe a bit.

  32. Caroline says:

    I vote for the “Diversity Jesus” in every foyer as an improvement on what we currently have, although of course the diversity comes from the representation of the child, not the white caucasian image of the Saviour. But I doubt this will happen. I can’t believe we have to stick to outdated Del Parson and even Harry Anderson paintings from 20-40 years ago.
    But as others have said, the idea of Jesus being the focus when we walk into a chapel is a good one, and that is currently not always the case. I’m horrified that “Prayer at Valley Forge” is in any chapel. Thanks for the article Michael Austin.

  33. Left Field says:

    Back in the ’80s there was a particular temple that displayed a picture of Christ and the children, then about a six foot gap, and then another slightly smaller version of the same picture of Christ and the children. I wonder if the new rules recommend not having two copies of the same painting right next to each other. You’d almost think it wouldn’t be necessary to make such a rule.

  34. It is probably human nature to invest Jesus with a physical appearance similar to our own. But as Christians we believe in the real, objective existence of Jesus of Nazareth. I personally wish we saw more depictions of Him as a middle eastern man, and that the “approved list” included some of these. But the fact is that we do not know what He looked like, unless some of us (and there are some!) have seen Him. This discussion brought to mind a song by James Taylor. If it’s permitted, here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s49gEmTlOTk

  35. References to Freiberg’s depiction of Nephites being ripped or buff as a problem make me laugh. I would ask the following: If Nephi built a ship from scratch, and then fought half of his family for survival in the new world, and finally carved words onto metal plates into 2 separate records…what would his arms look like?

    John Scott Peterson

  36. Brother Sky says:

    Great post and sad, if perhaps not unexpected, news. I’m currently writing a book about Mormonism, art and the body and the LDS religion/culture has had a relationship with art that I argue isn’t really supported by its theology concerning the body and embodied empathy. There is such a richness and complexity of human experience, emotion and empathetic connection that Mormon theology supports and argues for, but that the institutional church ignores. Thanks for a great post, Michael.

  37. Wondering says:

    Sometimes people need to be taught to view art as symbolic and not as if it were a substitute for historical photographs neither retouched nor photo-shopped. Complainers about Friberg’s Book of Mormon paintings often seem ignorant of both the purpose of those paintings (they were illustrations for The Children’s Friend), the difficulties faced by Friberg in terms of multiple inconsistent views of Church leaders as to Book of Mormon historical settings, and of symbolism of showing someone as “larger than life.”
    Friberg “wanted to paint heroes that appeared legendary in stature” … “The muscularity in my paintings is only an expression of the spirit within,” Friberg said in an interview …. “When I paint Nephi, I’m painting the interior, the greatness, the largeness of spirit. Who knows what he looked like? I’m painting a man who looks like he could actually do what Nephi did.”
    https://www.deseret.com/2012/5/21/20502627/insight-into-arnold-friberg-s-book-of-mormon-paintings#arnold-fribergs-young-nephi-subdues-his-rebellious-brothers

    Sometimes critics just need to get over themselves. Like my older friend who hates Minerva Teichert’s “Rescue of the Lost Lamb” because the lamb is black. My friend’s notion of blackness seems to have arisen from the racism of her childhood rather than from the idiom “black sheep” used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group, typically with negative implications implying waywardness. She misses the message of Christ rescuing the sinner (each of us).

    If our Church were to display art outside the limits of pseudo-realism, perhaps it would be easier to teach symbolism and how to look at it.

  38. @Wondering, While I strongly agree that “people need to be taught to view art as symbolic,” Friberg’s art is not a strong example of symbolic art in anyway. I mean, he even undercuts that in his own comments. He’s basically saying, it’s not meant to be an accurate representation, it’s symbolic–but, also, only someone who looked this this could do that. Ignoring that, however, is the problematic fact that his “less spiritually great brothers” look the same way physicality.

    Him calling his paintings “symbolic” doesn’t excuse them of their problems. His work in general doesn’t draw anywhere close to engaging with symbology on a meaningful level. Other artistic principles (his favorite being directional line), sure. But symbols? Difficult to understand how he would even claim such a thing. It’s a very poor and easily deconstructed claim.

  39. The Logan Utah First Ward has a great painting of Mormon pioneers looking up to heaven in thanks as the seagulls appear on the horizon. The foreground of the painting is woman and daughter at her side. It is the epitome of strong can do woman this church believes its women to be. This painting is the center piece behind the speaker almost like the beautiful dark wood trimed chapel was built around it. It is about 11×6. If it comes down there will be a huge white vacancy. The Mormon pioneer chapel will lose a jewel. (There are also some wood hand cart motifs in the chapel)
    Spending 25+ years worship in the chapel I love it. I have a “reprinted” photo of it in my study. I reminds me of my Mormon pioneer heritage.

  40. 1. Twenty-two is not enough images for selection, but the whole idea of “approved” images of the Savior makes me want to vomit.

    2. I too would be happy to see framed portraits of the First Presidency kicked out of the most prominent areas in our meetinghouses, but that’s easy enough to do without limiting the pictures of Jesus we’re allowed to put up.

    3. I’m not a fan of the First Vision painting by Del Parson (in point of fact, I actually hate it), but if the PTB find that painting inappropriate for a meetinghouse foyer, maybe they should say, “This image is inappropriate for the foyer,” and then (try to) explain themselves.

    4. When I visit other churches and even other ward meetinghouses, one of the things I like to see is evidence of their community. I would much rather have a foyer cluttered with bulletin boards, Relief Society donation boxes, and random unapproved artwork–if I could just experience a greater focus on Jesus once I entered the chapel.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    So if we’re going to put this much emphasis on muscled up, handsome, vaguely Nordic, flowing locks Jesus, does that mean we’re going to extend that to our discourse over the pulpit? Because I can’t remember the last talk I heard specifically about Jesus at church. Visitors could come and, if you edited out the sacrament prayers and the formulae in prayers and to conclude talks, they would have no idea we aspire to be thought of as Christian. The most Christ centered talk I’ve ever heard over a local pulpit was one I myself gave decades ago. We happily include him as window dressing, but we rarely devote our full focus and attention to him. I perceive more Prophet-love than Jesus-love in a typical church service. So I would be delighted if this emphasis affected more than just our foyer art.

  42. Amen, Kevin.

    Before the pandemic, I often listened to meeting through an investigator’s ears and my main takeaway was, without fail, “Man, I don’t know how this Nelson guy is, but you guys sure can’t stop talking about him.”

    I would definitely think the church cared more about what he said than anything Jesus did.

  43. Good! I have found interesting things here

  44. I think the real point of interest we should discuss is how to get a copy of that amazing black velvet painting of Jesus and Elvis!

  45. Michael Austin says:

    Brian, weren’t you paying attention to the post? That’s Elvis and Kenny Loggins.

  46. “Art is not supposed to make us comfortable. Neither is Jesus Christ. And art about Jesus, I would suggest, should stretch us and disorient us a bit–and make us more uncomfortable than we can bear.”

    Thanks for the challenge. While I know this is far afield from the practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for my own spiritual practice I have long found the cross an image of comfort and peace, and long found the crucifix disturbing. I have adopted the one and avoided the other. Now I am caused to rethink.

    As for foyer art, in real life I suspect I will most notice the departure of some really troubling work (in the nature of a McNaughton painting) and will celebrate. But at a policy level, I would choose bare walls, or Islamic-inspired calligraphy or geometrics, over a set list of 22 Anglo Jesus figures. But that’s the opinion of one lone voice.

  47. Mortimer says:

    In our Rameumpton Art frenzy and foyer-clean-out, no one is asking, “where will the lost and found box go now?”

    Just kidding. I think it’s interesting g to consider what did NOT make it into this list of 22 rameumpton works:

    -First vision
    -atonement
    -crucifixion (which isn’t typically Mormon)
    -Mary at the tomb (women witnessing is a sore subject right now)
    -Pentecost
    -parables, including prodigal son and that beautiful father embrace
    -Jerusalem
    -Adam Ondi ahman (landscape- very appropriate for Midwest stakes)
    -Nauvoo (landscape)
    -temples
    -tree of life
    -Moses seeing G- face to face
    -Adam and Eve
    -nativity
    -Jesus standing on the alter in the Kirtland temple (zero pics of Jesus from the D&C, zero pics of the PoGP)
    -Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist
    -Jesus being seen by In the temple as a baby
    -Jesus as a child teaching in the temple
    -Jesus with poor children under his robe (Bloch)
    -Jesus raising Lazarus (granted, this might be creepy)
    -Isaiah writing of the messiah
    -Jesus with the children and the pet goat (the one president no son told that cute story about)
    -the finger of Jesus lighting the stones for the brother of Jared
    -Jesus and the temptist
    -Jesus and Peter walking on water
    -Jesus at the wedding
    -woman w an issue of blood touching his robe
    -Jesus overturning the money-changers
    -preexistence, war in heaven, councils in heaven, heavenly mother

    Of all these “misses” and omissions, I think the most significant lost opportunities are scriptural instances where the father, son and holy ghost appear together (atonement, first vision, Moses on Sinai, baptism of Jesus).

  48. nobody, really says:

    Went through our building. Not a single painting or photo in the foyer is on the approved list. One in a hallway is on the approved list, but it is the wrong size. Christ, as a boy with Mary, will have to be relocated.

    I was once in a Greek Orthodox church that had a bulletin board at the entrance – businesses could pay to have business cards posted. Major contributors could have an 8 1/2 x 11 poster with business cards attached. They also had a list of families on the roster, sorted by who were tithepayers, who had contributed to the building fund, and who hadn’t contributed anything in the past 12 months. The chapel, on the other hand, was filled three stories high, top to bottom, with some of the most incredible iconography I have ever seen. One could practically read the entire Old Testament and New Testament given a pair of binoculars and a rudimentary understanding of Greek.

  49. Bob Rees says:

    We tend to forget that Jesus likely was not the striking handsome person we see in these idealistic portrayals. We need to remember that Isaiah said that he “would have no beauty that we should desire him.” From what we read in the New Testament, Jesus could slip in and out of crowds without being recognized. According to the book A Stranger in Jerusalem, Jesus likely was quite short in stature. In other words the portrayals we are being presented likely have little in common with the real Jesus. One of my favorite paintings of Jesus (possibly in the Tate Gallery in London) shows him walking across a typical London street. He is dressed in his robe and sandals. No one notices him! Bruce Bawer’s book “:Stealing Jesus” is instructive when it comes to how we portray him. We have made him in our own idealized image when he belongs to all races, all people, all time. When we finally see him we are likely not to recognize him except by the light and love in his being.

  50. Excellent observations. Thank you.

  51. Larry Mann says:

    I suspect that the directive to use just the 22 approved pieces is mostly a solution – bureaucratic, admittedly – to what has probably been a continuous source of tension in lots of wards: art that some people love and others hate, such as the horrid, horrid political/religious propaganda by McNaughton that Chris Kimball mentions. When you consider that for many members of the church, their conservative political leanings far eclipse their spiritual understanding, the 22 approved pieces reduce tension even if they don’t inspire spiritual discomfort and yearning.