JOSEPH SMITH AND THE PLATES: 9 LATTER-DAY SAINT ARTWORK PIECES
The jury is still out on whether any Joseph Smith photographs are really in existence. Several possible candidates have circulated the internet. But none have secure evidence that they indeed represent the prophet of the last dispensation.
However, other historical items and accounts give us a fair idea of what he might have looked like and, more importantly, what his character was like. Enjoy these beautiful LDS art pieces honoring this martyred prophet and servant of God, perfect for your Come Follow Me family studies or the 2021 Youth Theme.
Joseph Smith Portraits
We’ll start with some portraits of Joseph Smith. Two of our well-known artists, Simon Dewey and Joseph Brickey, have brought their unique insight, skill, and testimony to these paintings.
Simon Dewey’s style is easily recognizable by its smooth textures and flawless brush strokes. In this painting of Joseph Smith, the prophet appears to be facing a soft, direct light, implying that he is witnessing a vision or receiving revelation as was common throughout his lifetime. God has always had much to say to His children and Joseph Smith was an instrument in His hands in teaching and establishing important, forgotten doctrine.
Perhaps that is why, in this Joseph Smith portrait, there is a distant gaze and a soft expression of amazement. Joseph was coming to know God and His grand eternal purposes for His children. For all the persecution heaped upon Him, this portrait speaks to what he concluded as a teenager:
“For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” (Joseph Smith--History 1:25).
Joseph Brickey’s sketch shares some similarities with another well-known Latter-day Saint artist, Arnold Friberg. In Arnold’s paintings, individuals from the scriptures are often depicted as very broad and muscular to communicate their spiritual strength. Likewise, in this sketch, we see Joseph as a powerful person and leader. He is depicted with broad shoulders, a strong neck, and a solid jaw.
While we do not know the exacts of how tall, short, wide, or broad the prophet was in reality. However, Joseph Brickey’s LDS art piece is an inspiring tribute to the prophet's strength of character. Against all odds and relying on God, he succeeded in restoring important keys and doctrines. Many of which had become lost or misconstrued after the deaths of Christ’s twelve apostles.
Cary Henrie chose to do more than paint the prophet. Characteristic to his style, he ties in different layers of meaning and textures. In this piece, we see blueprints for the Nauvoo Temple and other buildings of worship, the symbolism of the three degrees of Heaven, the first page from one of the first prints of The Book of Mormon, and a line of music from the tributary hymn Praise to the Man.
God is the author and instigator of each of these events and revelations. But we will always honor the person who sacrificed so much in his role to help God’s work to move forward. We love the masterful way Cary tells the story of Joseph Smith’s inspired leadership all in one well-woven image.
Joseph Smith Paintings and Artwork
Many of our artists have made church history the subject of their best pieces. We love the variety of textures, colors, and insights that each brings to the gallery. These next LDS art masterpieces were done by three different artists, each with their own flair for style and spiritual symbolism.
Joseph Brickey does more than sketching, and he does more than portraits. We love this piece. It showcases the artist's talent for painting and for capturing the essence of an individual. In contrast to the earlier sketch, Joseph Smith does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. He looks like an average frontiersman who had spent a life of physical labor to provide for himself and his family. It is an honest and simple depiction of someone who was certainly not flawless but worked hard to please his Maker.
We see this in the book he holds in his hand, symbolizing his deep devotion to God. Joseph Brickey even included the detail of the prophet holding his place in the book rather than holding it closed. It echoes the amount of deep studying and pondering that he performed throughout his life, like any faithful prophet of God.
Annie Henrie Nader is a true storyteller with her LDS art triptychs. In this one, she starts with Joseph Smith’s First Vision in the Sacred Grove and ends with the first printed copy of The Book of Mormon. In the middle, and perhaps the true focus of the work, is the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood. It is also known as the restoration of the keys to perform the ordinance of baptism.
Annie’s artistic decision to format her work into a triptych reflects the vital truth we read in the scriptures: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Nephi 28:30).
Christ’s gospel wasn’t restored all at once, but it came piece at a time as people became prepared to receive it. Likewise, our individual spiritual growth is not one big destination so much as it is a continual journey.
Scenes like this one often get overlooked in LDS art. Most of the time, the focus is on extreme trials or mind-blowing miracles. However, Robert Barrett brings to life a moment that was somewhere in between. It was a miracle in that Joseph Smith and Emma were able to eventually get the gold plates back to their home in safety, and a trial in that in Joseph Smith was pursued by dangerous men and attacked before reaching that safety.
But it is the teamwork that we love most about Robert’s painting. Joseph was indeed an inspiring man, but he could not have accomplished what he did on his own. Emma’s comfort, bravery, and companionship played a vital role in the restoration of the gospel.
Church History Artwork by Simon Dewey
Simon Dewey’s masterful LDS artwork makes up for a large part of our selection. This is especially true on the topic of Joseph Smith and the Restoration. Enjoy these next few paintings that bring the story of the first latter-day prophet to life.
Preserved by the Hand of God by Simon Dewey
This LDS art picture of Joseph Smith appears to focus on his youth when he was led to the gold plates that would soon be translated into The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The prophet appears inspired and assured but also young, inexperienced, and likely unaware of the growing intensity of tragedies and trials he and his family would continue to face in the future.
Simon’s painting of Joseph Smith and the gold plates echoes the teachings of Paul to the Corinthians: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
By the Gift and Power of God by Simon Dewey
The reality that Joseph Smith was able to translate the gold plates as a simple farmer is miraculous. However, there were no flashing lights or choirs of angels. The task required just Joseph, the tools God had given Him, and an assisting scribe. This Joseph Smith painting captures that idea. He is wearing very ordinary apparel and sitting in a very ordinary room for that time period. The area is lit only by a small candle and a window. Joseph Smith’s story is a true illustration of the doctrine we read in the book of Alma:
“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord 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 37:6-7).
Prophet and Seer by Simon Dewey
This last picture of Joseph Smith combines the inspiration and humility portrayed in the previous ones. However, the artist has also included some interesting details that often get passed over. For example, on the desk we see a silhouette portrait of his wife, Emma Hale, alluding to her stalwart faith and support.
There is also a collection of books. Even though Joseph, growing up on a farm, was not much of a writer or reader. However, he was a studier. Even from a young age, he asked questions and sought after truth. That pattern led to further revelations long after the Church's establishment.
“Small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”
For more pictures of Joseph Smith or Church History and Restoration themed art for Come Follow Me 2021 or the 2021 Youth Theme, read on or visit our gallery!