Category: Mormon Arts

Arts – Music – Poetry – Cinema – Television

A Mormon Image: Joseph in the New York Review of Books

For those ever-so-hip, black-turtleneck wearing New Yorkers in our midst, I felt that I would do what I could to relieve any anxiety that you might have about the potential un-hippness of Mormonism. Hence this image of Joseph Smith, which appeared in no less an oracle of Manhattan sophistication than The New York Review of Books. I have to confess that I am a bit mystified as to the significance of the shovel. A reference to money digging perhaps? Digging up the Gold Plates? Who knows. Interestingly, Joseph did visit New York City once in his life. It has been a while since I read the journal entry, but as I recall he thought it was a facinating place, but full of sin and ready for a good smiting by the Almighty. Not a bad description all in all.

Adam-God in the Hymnal

I made an exciting discovery some time ago. It seems that Adam-God lives on in the pages of the current LDS hymnal. I write, of course, of that well-loved favorite, “Sons of Michael He Approaches,” hymn 51.

A Sunday Poem

Here’s your RDA of George Herbert: IESU Iesu is in my heart, his sacred name Is deeply carved there: but th’other week A great affliction broke the little frame, Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek: And first I found the corner, where was ‘I’, After, where ‘ES,’ and next where ‘U’ was graved. When I had got these parcels, instantly I sat me down to spell them, and perceived That to my broken heart he was ‘I ease you,’ And to my whole is IESU.

A poem you will probably not hear read over the pulpit this Sunday

if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor a fragile heaen of lilies-of-the-valley but it will be a heaven of blackred roses my father will be (deep like a rose tall like a rose) standing near my (swaying over her silent) with eyes which are really petals and see nothing with the face of a poet really which is a flower and not a face with hands which whisper This is my beloved my (suddenly in sunlight he will bow, & the whole garden will bow) –e.e. cummings (as if you couldn’t tell ;>))

An Open Letter to the Blue Planner

Dear Blue Planner, So it has finally happened. You’ve gone the way of Mr. Brown and projection films. I suppose I knew that someday you’d be gone, but I’d hoped against hope that you were somehow less transient than other proselyting aids that have fallen by the wayside. To me, you were nothing less than the platonic ideal of Planner.

A Mormon Image: The Vault

The Granite Mountain Vault lies hidden away on the north face of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City. Built by the Church in the early 1960s, the Vault lies under 700 feet of stone, and was meant to withstand a nuclear blast. Contrary to the ramblings of your crazy uncle, it safeguards mainly genealogical microfilm. There is an manmade lake inside that keeps humidity at the optimal level. Alas, it is no longer open for public tours.

Easter Music

Everyone listens to Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime, but it was originally performed at Eastertime, and the Easter portion of the piece has some gorgeous and infrequently performed gems, like the tenor aria “Behold and see if there be any sorrow” and the soprano aria that follows “But thou didst not leave his soul in hell.” So if you haven’t listened lately, dust off your CDs and listen to the WHOLE THING, not just the MoTab recording of the “highlights.” There are lots of good recordings out there, but I like Christopher Hogwood’s with the Academy of Ancient Music, because I like the chorus with boys instead of women. (yeah, it’s hard to be a feminist and early music critic at the same time!) I also like the clean sound of the smallish chorus, but if you want a big loud sloppy Hallelujah Chorus, you might not like this. I also LOVE Boston Baroque’s recording, which is even lighter and quicker,…

Under-rated Hymns

In the chorister’s thread, some discussion has come up (okay, it’s been mostly me) about under-rated hymns. I think that this is an interesting enough subject to deserve its own thread.

Why do we have choristers?

Rather than hijack the discussion of Russell’s post, I’ll post my question separately: I wonder why we insist on a chorister every time we sing. In most cases no one is really following the chorister anyway; we follow the pianist. Having grown up a Protestant, I know that a congregation can have very good singing with no chorister.

The Times and Seasons Song Contest

Lest anyone miss it, here is a gem from Grasshopper that was hiding in the comments: Jonah was a prophet, swallowed by a whale. When he was on board, the ship just couldn’t sail. So they tossed him over, next thing that he knew, Nineveh repented, Jonah had to, too. Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, won’t get away; Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet; he’ll find the way. I hereby nominate this song and Kaimi’s “Put Potatoes with the Veal” (which I can’t find; what thread was it in, Kaimi??) as the inaugural entries in the Times and Seasons Satirical Song contest. Entries must fit with a hymn tune or Primary song from the LDS canon. Prizes will be awarded on the entirely rational and objective criterion of how much Diet Coke I splurt through my nose while reading the entries. Entries which cause lightning to strike my computer will be disqualified.

Temple Murals Errata

In my post below, I wrongly stated that the Ghana temple was the first one to have murals. My bad. Los Angles (1956) was the last temple to have murals before the recent spat of temple building. The Winter Quarters Temple didn’t have murals, but it has very large, framed paintings in the ordinance rooms. This paved the way for the Columbia River Temple, which was the first recent temple to have true murals. Since then, murals have been included in the temples listed in this comment. In addition, there have been murals in the Monteray, Mexico temple, and the Nauvoo Temple (although these were commissioned after the temple was dedicated).

A Mormon Image: Ghana Temple Murals

Beginning with the Saint George Temple, our temples use to include murals. Generally the endowment would progress from a creation room, to a garden room, to a world room, to a telestial room, and finally to a celestial room. From the Saint George Temple to the Los Angles Temple, the practice was to put murals on the walls of the creation, garden, and world rooms showing some version of creation, garden, and world. Then for a long period of time, these murals disappeared from our temples. With the Ghana temple, they are back.

Q: Do you know LDS artists Greg and Linda Christensen?

We missed a fireside the other evening (ahh, the new joys of a screaming baby) given by “well known LDS artists Greg and Linda Christensen,” who apparently created art for the Manhattan Temple. I’ve poked around online, but I couldn’t find any information about them. Does anyone know of info, images, or work they’ve done? [I do know LDS artist Greg Olsen, who lorded over me in Google searches for “greg” for a long time. Altogether different guy.]

If You Could Hie To Kolob – Lyrics

One of the recurring internet searches (on search engines such as Google) that brings people to this site is “If You Could Hie to Kolob Lyrics.” We get hits from variations of that search at least three or four times per week. So, in an effort to respond to this need and serve our readers, who apparently want to find these lyrics, here they are:

Did Somebody Say Gay? Gay Mormon Art Stolen from SLC Exhibit

An annual exhibition of gay pride-related artwork opened at Salt Lake Community College, and artist Don Farmer’s photos of two RM’s hooking up while wearing their missionary tags became the immediate center of attention. First came shouting matches at the opening, protesters trying to remove the photographs, police being called, and administrators relocating the show from the lobby to a classroom. Then, two days later, the photos turned up missing, stolen. The SLTrib reporter lazily kicks off her article with, “But is it art?” Unequivocally, yes, it is. Is it good or not? Doesn’t matter now; it’s certainly effective.

A Mormon Image: Elijah Abel

Elijah Abel is generally thought to be the first black Mormon. (Click on the picture to the right for a larger image.) He was most likely born into slavery and escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. In 1832 he was baptized by Ezekial Roberts. In 1836 he was ordained an elder, most likely by Joseph Smith. He was later ordained a Seventy and during the course of his life he served at least three proselyting missions. He came west with the Saints, settling in Salt Lake City, where he worked on the Salt Lake Temple as a carpenter, although Brigham Young refused to allow Elijah to recieve his temple endowment. He died in 1884. Both his son and grandson were ordained Elders. For more information on Elijah Abel and other black Latter-day Saints, check out

Most Inspiring Rock Song Ever?

Last week, Kaimi made this Comment: “Possibly the greatest rock song of all time: Hotel california.” This was followed by a few expressions of incredulity, including this from cooper: “Hotel California??????? Ugh! Gross. Blech!” Kaimi defended his choice on grounds that the song had a great guitar solo, and he backed up his assertion with this ranking. When I heard Hotel California on the radio today, it reminded me of this exchange and started me thinking. Rock music can be rated along various other dimensions: best vocal (should we just agree by acclamation that Bohemian Rhapsody wins this?), best drum solo (anything by Keith Moon), best rock ballad (hmm, “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd?), etc. How about the most inspiring rock song ever?

A Mormon Image: Fremont’s Map

Shortly before his death Joseph Smith began making plans to move the main body of the Saints to someplace in the American west. After his assination, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve continued to flesh out these plans, ultimately choosing to move the Saints to the Great Basin. In making their plans they depended on the reports of John C. Fremont and on the maps of the American west that his expeditions had created. Here is one of them.

Amateur Music in the Church

I was recently thinking about music in the church. To be specific, I was wondering about the church policy of not hiring professional musicians, but simply plugging the best available members into any slot where they can conceivably fit. I have been ward organist myself, despite my complete lack of training on the organ. Our current ward organist is Logan’s lovely and talented wife, who has also (I believe) had no formal organ training. This is not to critique her efforts (or my own); we have both done pretty well, I think, especially with liberal use of the Bass Coupler button. I have also, while living in New York, attended the Manhattan First Ward. The organist there is no mere pianist-pressed-into-service, but a bona fide, trained specialist in the instrument. The result — as anyone who has attended that ward can attest — is awesome. It is also, in my observation, the exception rather than the rule. The “Kaimi or…

A Mormon Image: Quilting the Tree of Life

What counts as art is an interesting question. We have a bias toward thinking of art in terms of oil paintings, bronze statues, or marble carvings. One of the unfortunate effects of this bias is that it makes much of the art done by women invisibile. You’ll note that most of the work done in those mediums has been done by men. However, if we expand our sense of what constitutes art, there are mediums where women clearly dominate. Consider quilting.

A Mormon Image: Temple Murals and Art Missionaries

While many members don’t realize it, there is actually a fairly strong tradition of impressionistic painting among Mormon artistists. The origins of the tradition go back to the decision of the Church to send some budding young LDS artists to Paris as “Art Missionaries” in the late 19th century. This painting, a study for the mural in the Garden Room of the Salt Lake Temple, is an example of this impressionist tradition.

A Mormon Image: The All-Seeing Eye

During the nineteenth-century all-seeing eyes were a common Mormon image. They seem to have been borrowed from Masonry and represented the presence of God. Accordingly, the symbol was frequently associated with temples, and appears in numerous places on the interior and exterior of the Salt Lake Temple. This image, however, is much earlier and comes from the St. George Tabranacle.

A Mormon Image: The 19th Ward Chapel

When Brigham Young laid out Great Salt Lake City in the 1840s, he modeled it on the Mormon experience in Nuavoo. Thus, the city was divided into wards, which were combined to form the original Salt Lake Stake of Zion. In all there were nineteen of these wards, and they continued to be the core units of the Church in Salt Lake for many, many years. This chapel, built in 1890, housed one of those original wards.