individuals and groups have taken poetic and artistic licence in every culture
and it has not changed today over religious matters. Enough prayer and work
with Christ will bring about exact surrealistic structure for Jesus Christ is in
all truth and as a whole we who read such tend to exaggerate characters in such
books as to the position they hold in our lives.
I was a religious cynic when I was an Art History student and developed a love
of religious art and held as a goal to paint biblical characters in
non-conventional, out of character locations. Why? because there are many
tricks, in any art, music, film, etc. to focus the subject and take the viewer
on a ride. Art is filled with deception, mind tricks and button pushing
conventions and anti-conventions. Art (even photography), like fiction
literature, heck, like first person accounts, is false, fake, fabricated, what
have you. We can never know the full truth of anything by way of another
person's description no matter the media. Is it lying? Meh! One of the first pieces of deceptive art a student sees is Mantegna's
Lamentation of Christ. Christ is dead and laid out on a stone. The viewer may
not notice that the artist shrinks his feet and legs so as not to overpower the
scene with feet. They are freakishly small no man could stand on them. Lies!There are so many inaccuracies and anachronisms in religious/historical
art that has driven the narrative of Christianity for 2 thousand years. But to
castigate the Catholic, or Mormon church because of artist liberties? Really?
The problem in the Church is all the Book of Mormon art depicts a Mesoamerican
setting. As the article points out, Christian art depicts the Bible in a variety
of settings, but LDS art fails to do the same. That has led people to assume the
Mesoamerican setting is officially approved.In fact, if you visit
the North Visitors Center on Temple Square, the exhibits explicitly depict the
"two-Cumorahs" theory, with Mormon working on his abridgment surrounded
by Mayan glyphs and Moroni off in the distance burying the plates in New York.
This contradicts what Church leaders since Joseph Smith have consistently taught
about Cumorah in New York.
There is no right or wrong in art. It's art!
Artists often take liberties with historical facts, and historians,
unfortunately, at times, do so also.
When Brueghel and others presented Biblical stories in contemporary settings or
with commonly-accepted symbols of Christian concepts (like keys, for instance),
they did so knowing that they were employing artifice. They did so knowing that
they were not capturing an historically accurate representation of the scene.
And their audience would've known this, too. No one would see a picture of
Jesus giving keys to Peter and therefore assume Christ gave real keys to Peter.
The audience would've rightly known that this was symbolic. European
artists of this period were utilizing the symbolic/allegorical approaches of
both Greco-Roman and Medieval artists. Artists were not meant to create
historically accurate images devoid of symbol and allegory. That came later in
the history of art. And artists took a beating for doing so at first, because it
wasn't consider very artistic to do so. Mormon artists who
created these images for manuals and lesson plans were not working in this way.
It sounds like you are saying that a representation of actual golden plates is
an obvious symbol for a rock in a hat in the same way that keys symbolically
@beowulf,Too many posters are trying to portray artist as innocent
detached conveyors of their works. That is seldom the case, as a picture is
worth a thousand words and the purpose of the art is to send a message and
influence, true, or false information and with purpose. Art is, and always has
been a powerful tool of propaganda. Any educated person will realize that the
art depicted in the Book Of Mormon or other esoteric works are rendered with
purpose of convincing and to promote an image and believe. To be awake to
reality is not cynical, to be ignorant of reality is sad because it is not real
RE: Tyler D The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 1978 signed by
approximately 300 evangelical scholars at a conference sponsored by the
International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The statement was designed to
defend the position of Biblical inerrancy against trends toward liberal (&
LDS) conceptions of Scripture . The signers a variety of evangelical
denominations.No ancient literature has survived in its original
form; everything we have is derived from copies of the originals. The NT is no
exception. However, in comparison with any other ancient literature, the NT is
without a peer—both in terms of the chronological proximity and the
surviving number. Several ancient authorities are preserved in only a handful of
ms. Not so with the NT. There are approximately 5,500 Greek witnesses, ranging
in date from the second century AD into the middle ages. Besides the Greek
evidence, there are nearly 30,000 versional copies (e.g., Latin, Coptic, and
Syriac).and over 1,000,000 quotations from the NT church Fathers. NT textual
criticism has always had an embarrassment of riches unparalleled in any other
field.” I have several Greek apparatus’s that I study.
@CMTMEverything you’re saying is, in the end, an orthodox
belief (e.g., other early Christian sects had different beliefs) and not a fact.
That’s why it’s called “faith.”There are plenty of reasons to doubt the veracity of the Bible (I’ve
only scratched the surface) both in terms of accurately conveying events and
what was said by whom, and in framing a proper understanding of what Jesus was
actually teaching (far more likely he was either an apocalyptic preacher or a
misunderstood mystic or both).@KevinSim IMO gets it right –
your project on this forum is irrelevant. Rather, how does the Bible speak to
your heart?For me, it doesn’t (except when it teaches
objectively good ethics). It’s filled with contradictions, barbarism,
tribalism, and moral relativism. For these and many other reasons I believe
mythic religion is an inherently divisive and destructive enterprise.But if it makes you a better person, great!Perhaps you should
stick with that rather than trying to prove that it’s all
“true” because the Bible says so (which is a logical fallacy called
circular reasoning or “begging the question”).
NoNames..."I'm sorry there are those whose parents or lay
church instructors did not know LDS Church history or doctrine well enough to
teach it accurately. "Church prophets, and paid CES instructors
are not laity in any sense of the term.Also, those images are
printed in editions of the book of Mormon. Beart "Did he look into a hat, as has been recorded? Probably."He most certainly did. This is not disputable." Did he use the
translators? Probably, but maybe not all the time, as he himself also said he
reached a point at which he didn't need them."What would
this look like in a painting? I'm genuinely curious. Of note,
the plates were essentially never in the vicinity. One wonders why lengths had
to be gone to to create and preserve them.Baowolf,"When Joseph is portrayed as poring over the text, is this false? "Yes, according to Bushman, and all involved in the process, it is
Once again Dr Peterson draws false equivalence. Painting events from
1000-1800 years, or more, is not the same as what we see in
"restoration" art.We see a continuous organization, with
leaders seemingly hiding the oddity of their origins (for example Joseph using a
rock in a hat to "translate" plates that were not in the vicinity). Frieberg was nearly a contemporary of Joseph Smith's
contemporaries.The church prints these images in their holy
scripture, and the depiction is wholly erroneous.For example, not
one person described the events of the BoM "translation" as being even
remotely similar to what we see in the endorsed artwork.People are
put off, and rightfully so, when they pick up Bushman's book and find the
image they informed their faith with, to be divorced from historical facts.
Excellent article. Neither the church nor the artist is lying, and it is
foolish for anyone to say so. Art is usually a lofty interpretation of an
important event, meant to commemorate and not to represent historical accuracy.
Even trained historians often misrepresent by emphasizing a specific point of
view about an historical event, which could more likely considered lying than
anything an artist could produce. Did Joseph work directly fro the plates?
Probably. Did he look into a hat, as has been recorded? Probably. Did he use
the translators? Probably, but maybe not all the time, as he himself also said
he reached a point at which he didn't need them. The point is that
translation is commemorated in works of art, that represent the faith and
understanding of the artist. Let art speak for itself and enjoy the finished
product. We should let our faith focus on the truthfulness of the event itself
and not on artistic representations.
RE: Craig Clark. The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic
title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.
When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to
Himself. The Jews would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and
to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah. E.g.., You
have heard his ’blasphemy”= (They get it)’ Mark 14A second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is that Jesus was
truly a human being. A son of a man is a man. Jesus was fully God (John 1:1),
but He was also a human being (John 1:14)RE: Tyler D. The good
news=(Gospel, G. euaggelion) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of
God has drawn near; repent and believe the good news(Mark 1:15). “The differences between the Gospels,’ show the independent nature
of the writings.’ The independent nature of the four Gospel accounts,
agreeing in their information but differing in perspective, amount of detail,
and which events were recorded, indicate that the record that we have of
Christ's life and ministry as presented in the Gospels is factual and
reliable.” The N. T. documents are they reliable. F. F. Bruce.
CMTM,“ RE: Tyler D - The Son of Man” are in 3rd person,
suggesting Jesus may not have been referring to himself. Wrong, Jesus identifies
Himself as the Son of Man (a Messianic title)in Daniel 7:13-14,"____________________" Whosoever shall confess me before men, him
shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: (Luke 12 8) "In this passage, Jesus appears to be using the term Son of Man to refer
to someone other than himself. It’s worth noting that Jesus invariably
refers to the Son of Man in the third person rather than simply saying I, me, or
myself.In ancient Hebrew writings, the term “one like a son of
man” is used. We find it in both the Old and New Testments. Son of man is,
of course, an English transliteration of the Hebrew bar nasha, a word of
imprecise and ambiguous meaning. In its most basic usage, it can simply mean a
man or a human being.
Aside from artistic license, correcting LDS art inaccuracies has been done by
The works of art depicted in our missionary flipcharts in which we showed
investigators was no to reflect on art or artists interpretations, we were
showing them artistic facts. It is more than obvious the leadership decided it
"looked better" to depict events without the hat, seer stone or Other
means to avoid questions. However, it doesn't really matter how or what
Joseph used, nor does it matter if we "polished" the story or
didn't share specific facts. I wasn't converted by pictures or
stories. In fact, I felt the whole story of Joseph Smith was false, until one
night in 1974 the spirit bore and undeniable witness to the truth. Joseph Smith
was telling the truth, Jesus is the Christ and God lives. I felt eternity that
night. The Church is true but is flawed. The Keys or authority lies with the
sometimes fallible apostles and prophets. We don't believe the doctrine of
infallibility but many members mistakenly do. But I believe and know this is the
true church, with all its "misteps", and policies & procedures that
are not doctrine but sincere efforts to follow the teachings of the Savior. He
does not guide us in all things and leaves us to do our best in many things.
CMTM posted:=A side by side comparison between the two main text
families (the Majority Text=and the modern critical text) shows agreement
a full 98% of the time.Of the=remaining differences, virtually all yield
to vigorous textual criticism. ==This means that our New Testament
is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text=of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines
are in doubt about 400 words), and none affects=any significant doctrine
or to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.The amount of
agreement between the texts, or the textual purity, are irrelevant. The only
thing that's relevant is the role that God has told you He wants the Bible
to play in your life. CMTM, has God told you what the role is He wants the Bible
to play in your life?
Ditto for replicas of the Golden Plates of Cumorah; the witnessed descriptions
lacked the precision for the reconstruction of a completely accurate model or
replica; besides the cost of the gold for a single plate would be over $1,000 in
today's market in addition to the cost of fabricating 100 plus plates and
the engraving labor. Daniel's insights are always "right on",
thanks to him and the Deseret News for bringing them to light.
@CMTM I don’t think we have any idea what Jesus said to the
Jewish authorities on the night of his conviction – does anyone actually
think they sat down with the author of Mark (decades after they killed his
beloved teacher) and told him exactly what was said? I seriously doubt
If we focus on the sayings of Jesus that don’t appear
to be invented by subsequent followers, the verdict is much more ambiguous
– in Mark, Jesus only ever uses the term “Son of Man” (and
never refers to himself as God) and always in the 3rd person. If he
was simply one of many Jewish apocalyptic preachers, talking about a future
“cosmic judge” (not necessarily himself) would be consistent with
his 3rd person utterances.PS – I have no doubt that his
followers thought Jesus was the Son of Man but what they wrote (e.g., about
conservations they could not have been privy to) is very different than what
Jesus actually said.
Skeptic writes: It seems the message here is that just like there is fake news
today there was fake art in yesteryear's. It seems man just can not escape
his penchant for being two faced. Who are we to believe.Me: What a
remarkably cynical view of the world. Dan's point is that artists choose
subjects that they are familiar with to portray their art. Nobody is
"lying" or creating "fake news". They are being totally sincere.
I once saw a fresco of Jesus and the Apostles taken from a monastery circa 8th
CE along the Silk Road (now part of China). Guess what? The faces were all
Asians. It is an idiotic assumption to say that the artist was lying. LDS artists are the same. When Nephi is portrayed as muscular, the artist
explained that this was to show his spiritual muscularity. Is it therefore
false? When Joseph is portrayed as poring over the text, is this false? No. It
shows his sincerity at his task in a way that the viewer (us) can understand.
The stone-in-the-hat, while true, is too foreign for us sophisticated moderns,
so we substitute. So?There is no lie here. Or fake news. Or whatever
else people use to denigrate other people's expression of thought.
Karen R. said "I don't believe church leaders are claiming ignorance of
the stone in the hat." You are correct. Anti-Mormons have been
pointing it out since at least 1834 and the Church has known about it all along.
In my lifetime it was called a lie fabricated by enemies of the church to bring
ridicule. We were taught through official curriculum that the Urim and Thummin
was the instrument of the translation. Historical references to the stone in the
hat were not considered credible by top LDS leaders. The difference now is that
it is no longer disputed.
RE: Tyler D - The Son of Man” are in 3rd person, suggesting Jesus may not
have been referring to himself. Wrong,Jesus identifies Himself as the Son
of Man (a Messianic title)in Daniel 7:13-14,‘Are you the Christ, the
Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I(Ego) am(Eimi*), and you will
see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds
of heaven.’Jesus answers the question, he not only uses the
Greek verb* but He also uses the pronoun, He wants the hearer to clearly
understand the answer) the high priest tore his garments and said, ‘What
further witnesses do we need? You have heard his ’blasphemy”= (They
get it)’ Mark 14:61-64.16 places in Mark that point persuasively to
Jesus’ deity when taken together, By James White E.g
beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1).2.
John the Baptist applies Isaiah 40:3 (which is about Yahweh) to Jesus.“. .
. the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight’” (1:3).3.
the Spirit descending
on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased’” (1:9-11)
A problem with LDS art as I see it, is that it is often commissioned. Like most
commissioned art the purchaser often has input or endorsement of the creation.
As others have pointed out, the artworks that are admittedly
"wrong" from a historical perspective are used in "LDS curriculum,
as well as,
in LDS Temples and Visitor's Center[s] etc. " In
these venues, there is, "oversight by committees of General
Authorities," including Apostles and the First Presidency who review the
works created and the materials they are presented in. There typically, are not
disclaimers, they are meant to tell a particular story or convey a certain
message. If the case is to present a more open or honest history,
or even defend the faith, why are not the ancient Christian catacomb arts
presented with Christ using a Magic Wand, or renditions of Orpheus as the Good
Shepard labeled as such? Because they don't help the Mormon or Christian
narrative. It is undeniable that art, correctly portrayed or not,
is used to present a certain apologetic, theme, or view. Why deny it?
@ Craig Clark"Art tells us more about the artist than it does
about his chosen subject matter."I would say two things in
response to this:One, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the
art consistently used to depict an allegedly historical and foundational event
tells us something about the beliefs of those presenting it. When this might be
an exception: Where the truth wasn't known. I don't believe church
leaders are claiming ignorance of the stone in the hat.Two, absent
that ignorance, it's a little shabby (IMO) to then turn around and blame
those who took the messages to heart. It reminds me of the responses I
sometimes get to the BoM passages about skin color. "It wasn't meant
to be taken literally!" some will argue. Except that it was, through
generations of LDS leadership.
@NoNamesAccepted Please don't try to lay blame on parents or "lay
church instructors". Lack of knowledge of LDS Church history or doctrine was
not the reason or cause for why they said the stone in the hat was an
We shouldn't expect these artists to show exactly what happened. They were
not working from life or even photos. They were painting things as they pictured
them from what they knew. I'm sure that no two people would
paint the same scene the same way. We see things from our own perspectives. How
would any of us depict things that happened in the Garden of Eden? Did anyone
here witness it? And even eyewitness accounts aren't 100% reliable. I was taught in high school that we take from the written page what we
take to it. I believe that applies to art as well.
@NoNamesAcceptedThe matter of the rock in the hat did not involve just
"lay church instructors". It wasn't in LDS curriculum, only in
anti-Mormon materials which we were forbidden to read. Articles in the
Improvement Era of the 1950s disputing the rock and hat had a tremendous
influence on faithful members. In the 1960s "Modern Microfilm" (Gerald
and Sandra Tanner) published many truths. My own father showed me that source.
When I asked questions of LDS members and leaders, every single one told me that
the rock in the hat was an anti-Mormon lie published by anti-Mormons who were
under the influence of Satan. All were telling me what they had been taught and
was backed up with LDS published articles in the predecessor to the Ensign. It does matter that what Joseph Smith did as a young man with a rock in
a hat was against the laws of New York and caused his arrest. It matters because
the same method and at times even the same rock was allegedly used in the
translation of the Book of Mormon and that fact was concealed and denied even by
an LDS apostle (and later prophet) in my lifetime. Like I said on my earlier
comment, the problem isn't with artists or art.
I'm sorry there are those whose parents or lay church instructors did not
know LDS Church history or doctrine well enough to teach it accurately. I was
blessed to have parents and local leaders who knew church history, understood
church doctrine, and were quite comfortable teaching it to me and my fellows.
I've never had any major upsets in learning church history from any source
since.We've learned more details in some cases. I've
learned that there are multiple sides to most encounters. But at the core, I
was taught accurate church history....and accurate secular history.I
think the recently published 11 essays that discuss some of the challenging
aspects of LDS Church history or doctrine are great. Ditto the collecting and
publication of the Joseph Smith papers.Churches, like individuals
and other organizations, grow and mature over time. It doesn't mean the 30
year old man is bad because at 15 he did things differently. So too, a church
isn't false because it was less open about certain things in 1960 than it
is in 2015.
Art shapes perceptions even when it gets it wrong. We have no idea of what Jesus
looked like but virtually everyone imagining him sees a familiar iconic face in
his mind’s eye. For all we know, Jesus might have been short, portly, and
bald-headed. But that’s not the image we know.No physical
description of him is in the gospels. The closest a canonical verse comes is in
Revelation 1 describing him as “one like unto the Son of man, clothed with
a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His
head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as
a flame of fire.”But that was in a vision and not taken
literally. Early Christian art avoided portraying him in images which was
prohibited by Mosaic law. Early medieval artists ventured to put paint to stone
on walls of tombs, then frescoes in churches, then later on canvas. Artists
copied other artists influencing still other artists and an archetypal image
began to emerge, one that we’re all familiar with today.
Art, in various forms, speaks to the human soul in ways that literal prose or
actual photographs cannot. I do not know that Oskar Schindler ever actually
witnessed a little girl in a red coat. But those scenes from Schindler's
list convey a truth far larger about the Holocaust than any individual encounter
that Oskar did or didn't have.As an active LDS, I believe the
closing scenes in C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" are full of
doctrinal inaccuracies regarding the physical nature of God. But those scenes
convey to me a sense of truth regarding my relationship with the Almighty more
powerfully and accurately than any doctrinal dissertation I've ever
read.Similarly, I know angels don't have wings but the typical
Christian depiction of winged angels conveys powerful truths about their ability
and character.Music and poetry often touch us in ways that the
spoken word cannot. With good reason is the phrase "literary license"
not typically negative.Black and white movies are less accurate than
full color and yet sometimes convey mood and emotion more honestly.With art, literal accuracy often gives way, properly, to accurately conveying
@CMTM – “A side by side comparison
shows agreement a full 98%
of the time.”Non-evangelical bible scholars find not only less
agreement but increasingly incredible claims as we move from Mark through John
(precisely the results we get from the Telephone Game).In Mark,
Jesus is a mysterious teacher (Rabbi) who no one can figure out and who never
refers to himself as God. Even his references to “The Son of Man”
are in 3rd person, suggesting Jesus may not have been referring to himself. Compare this earliest account to John (written decades after Mark). In
John, Jesus proclaims himself God all over the place, and his glory so great and
obvious that only “the blind” would fail to recognize him as such.
Other than the chronological facts of his life, it’s like
you’re reading about two totally different people. If
John is accurate this would indeed be the greatest story ever told and thus we
should expect to have countless more accounts of his magisterial and miraculous
life from non-Christian sources (e.g., Romans). Curious that we
don’t have any
RE: Tyler D . Simon Greenleaf, a well-known and accepted authority on what
constitutes reliable evidence in a court of law, examined the four Gospels from
a legal perspective. He noted that the type of eyewitness accounts given in the
four Gospels—accounts which agree, but with each writer choosing to omit
or add details different from the others—is typical of reliable,
independent sources that would be accepted in a court of law as strong
evidence.Daniel Wallace on the N.T. notes that although there are
about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this
number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely
inconsequential--spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side by side
comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern
critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.Of the remaining
differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This
means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of
20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt about 400 words), and none affects any
significant doctrine or to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.
Art tells us more about the artist than it does about his chosen subject matter.
The problem isn't the art or the artists. In my youth I was taught that the
stone in the hat was an anti-Mormon lie. The fact it is Joseph Smith did it,
using the same stone that he had earlier used to fraud people with claims of
buried treasure. He was even arrested for that prior antic. So instead of an
article about art reflecting history it would be more appropriate to address how
important it is to tell the truth when presenting history.
It seems the message here is that just like there is fake news today there was
fake art in yesteryear's. It seems man just can not escape his penchant
for being two faced. Who are we to believe.
And, in LDS curriculum, as well as, and especially so, in LDS Temples and
Visitor's Center, there is very heavy oversight by committees of General
Authorities, including apostles and often first presidency review, so that the
art work is especially more attuned towards accurately and truthfully reflecting
what actually occurred and/or what God wants us to see and feel. Or maybe not?
Artists “taking liberties” is like the Telephone Game (Google
“Chinese Whispers”) on steroids – both of which make one
wonder just how much the facts “evolved” in the decades between the
death of Jesus and the earliest Gospel (Mark) let alone in the centuries since.
A brilliant article for articulating precisely how easy it is to
turn facts into fantasies. Well done!