A WALK THROUGH THE SACRED GROVE
Joseph Smith’s First Vision brought to light key truths about the nature of God and the deep love He has for His children. The event has inspired many, including our artists who have made the First Vision a main subject matter for their LDS art pieces.
We are excited for the Come Follow Me church history theme. It carries many timely accounts of faith and conviction from which we can draw strength as we strive to hold to what we know during uncertain times such as these.
That's why we are excited to share with you some of our artists’ most inspiring sacred grove pictures.
Sacred Grove Landscape Art
One of the remarkable things about the forest where Joseph Smith prayed is that, initially, it wasn’t remarkable, at least in comparison to the similarities of the surrounding landscape. It was simply a place near young Joseph’s home where he knew he could be alone to pray.
Heavenly Father and Christ’s appearance made it significant to this young man and to millions of Church members since. In that way, the grove symbolizes that “God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:7).
In this photo, we see the the forest in a way that young Joseph Smith must have seen it: quiet, inviting, and cut off from the noise of the world and the confusion he had been facing.
Beyond taking an actual photograph of the location, Robert has also added an artistic sense of light, reminding us of what the First Vision means: God still speaks to His children.
Here we see the same image, but after taking a step or two back. This panoramic view of the Sacred Grove captures more of the lush forest. The contrast between the light and dark is more defined, quietly highlighting the light and clarity that the First Vision brought to the world.
Additionally, The thickness of the leaves and intertwining branches seem to represent the sort of tangle of opinions and doctrinal confusion that first led young Joseph to seek Christ, the author of truth.
Sacred Grove - panoramic by Robert A Boyd
“God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:7).
This second picture by Robert takes a different approach, depicting the forest how it might have looked in the direct light of that miraculous vision.
The entire photograph is full of light, changing the entire color tone of the trees and foliage. It carries a message of clarity and hope, much like Joseph Smith’s First Vision did.
We love this photo of the sacred grove for its unique view of this historical site.
Radiant Beams has the same idea, but with a much more subtle execution. Here, we see the heavenly beams shining gently down on the forest ground.
It’s a bit of an in-between when compared with the previous LDS art pieces by Robert. We see a clear picture of the forest landscape as well as the hope and spiritual light that came to that sacred spot where Joseph prayed.
Sacred Grove - Radiant Beams by Robert A Boyd
Cary has a style all his own, and we love it! In this unique piece of LDS artwork he includes the beginning lyrics and line of music from the loved hymn Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning.
You can’t help but hear the music as you gaze at the painting. The art itself fits the lyrics well, depicting a beautiful, golden-lit forest.
Cary adds a variety of different textures in his LDS art, such as the crosshatching as the paint behind the line of music fades out.
The dark silhouettes of trees draw the eye and add to the vertical composition while the complementing orange and blue tones tie the piece together nicely.
Robert works chiefly in photography, while Linda is a painter. We love her depiction for its realism. In her work, there is no shining beacon, just the forest on a spring morning.
Linda also chooses an interesting angle for this piece. While many sacred grove pictures focus on entering the patch of forest, Linda has chosen the angle of exiting. After all, as miraculous as the First Vision was, nothing really happened until Joseph Smith acted on the revelation he had received.
It was not until he put his trust in God, stood up for his beliefs, and put his whole soul into the task God had given him that more individuals were able to come to know their Savior.
In this instance, Linda not only captures the sacred grove, but if you look closely, you can spot young Joseph praying. Interestingly, he is not a huge focus in the painting. In comparison to his surroundings, he is quite small.
Linda’s artistic choice here speaks a lot for what the First Vision really means. There is a common misconception that members of the church worship Joseph Smith when, in reality, we don’t worship him any more than we would worship Moses. We see both individuals as revered prophets of God. They were humble instruments in His hands who, despite their human weaknesses, helped to free God’s children, whether physically or spiritually.
Linda’s LDS art piece demonstrates that the First Vision is less about Joseph Smith and more our loving Savior who wants to communicate with us.
First Vision Paintings
We’ll start with another one of Linda’s paintings. In this artwork, we see more of the First Vision. Characteristic of Linda’s style, the colors and lighting are soft and gentle. The scene feels peaceful and even personable, reminding us that Heaven isn’t so far out of reach after all.
We also love this LDS art piece because Linda chose to place Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ close to the forest floor. They are still in the air, as Joseph Smith describes in his personal account, but they are also close to the Earth. It’s a subtle message of God’s love for His creations and of Christ’s condescension in coming to Earth.
Madison is one of our newer LDS artists. Her art is easy to spot because of her unique use of shapes when she paints. In this picture, the various shape patterns bring a sense of rhythm.
For example, the blue sky is full of more color and movement, suggesting a busy world outside of the miraculous vision. The grass has even tighter shapes which speak of the long and confusing journey that led to Joseph approaching his Father in Heaven in prayer.
And there are the large, evenly-toned shapes within the beam of light. The rhythm here is slow and calm. It ties the picture together with clarity and stability.
Kelsy and Jesse Lightweave do just as their personal brand suggests: they weave light. Desires of the Heart is a perfect example. Joseph is only visible through the light shining through the forest trees. The contrasting dark and light, and the stunning pattern of trees make this piece stand out from most First Vision art pictures.
We especially love that the focus of the image is the light shining into the forest. In other words, the focus is Christ. This artistic choice is a reminder that light is available to all of us. We can find answers as well if we make time and space in our lives to turn to God.
Desires of Heart by Kelsy and Jesse Lightweave
As you’ve seen so far, most of these pictures depict Joseph already praying. We like this piece because it shows young Joseph before that. We still see the sacred grove, but it is in the distance.
Instead, most of the image is of young Joseph crossing a field or meadow. Lightweave’s choice in subject matter slows our thoughts. It reminds us to reflect on the fact that Joseph didn’t just pray, he pondered. He read. He planned a time and a place to approach God, even though he admits to never having prayed vocally before. In short, it reminds us what we can do to find our own answers.
Spring morning by Kelsy and Jesse Lightweave
Simon’s art is popular for it’s smooth textures and precise details. Let Him Ask in Faith is no exception. Simon not only captures the forest setting of the sacred grove and the descending light, he also captures Joseph’s expression.
We love this aspect of this painting. It reflects the mood of Joseph himself in his personal account: humble, surprised, and grateful all at once. We also like the sense of peace Joseph seems to feel. It speaks to the character of God that His presence brings a feeling of self-worth and calm, not smallness or fear.
Jeff brings a very modern, minimalist style to LDS art. In this sacred grove picture, we don’t see the surrounding forest at all. The entire focus is on the vision itself and, more particularly, light.
The darkness surrounding Joseph Smith is symbolic of the world before Christ restored His gospel to the earth in its fullness. The First Vision occurred during a time of great religious excitement and even conflict in the United States. In Jeff’s painting, we see that Joseph’s vision was enlightening and clarifying.
We also appreciate Jeff’s artistic choice of warm colors to depict Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s appearance. The event must have been initially startling to a boy so young, and yet the message was one of peace, purpose, and love.
Jorge, another artist with a modern flair, created his own style of this miraculous event. His LDS art has a lot of character. In fact, he has even come up with a name for his unique cubism-inspired style that he uses for his religious artworks: “sacrocubism”. First Vision is just one example of sacrocubism at its finest.
Jorge doesn’t focus too much on the visual details of the event because his goal is to help people look past any historical or technical accuracy to find deeper meaning for themselves. That being said, what do you see in this painting?
Joseph Smith Paintings
While these next pieces of LDS art do not necessarily bring you through the sacred grove, they are beautiful tributes to Joseph Smith and the sacrifices he made to fulfill all that God asked Him to do. We are excited to study Joseph Smith’s life more closely in Come Follow Me this year and we hope these images enhance your individual and family scripture study.
What are some of your plans for studying Come Follow Me 2021? Share in the comments!