Temple Square and the Visitors Center

Salt Lake City, Utah
As someone who lives in the sheltered outskirts of Mapleton the city of Salt Lake is always an adventure in and of itself. The trip would have invoked emotions of anxiety except for its suppression by this morning's pill of Celexa. After tediously finding a free parking spot I stepped outside to what seemed to be an over-sized world filled with super massive buildings. I felt like the buildings looked down on my puny body in a condescending way. In fact I could actually hear their voices telling me how powerful they were. They told me that they were more important than me because of how many important people they housed. They told me how influential they were by their design and structure. They told me how high ranking and prominent they were because of their titles. The Conference Center, the Church History Library, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Visitors Center told me that  I was small.

Scaled Down City of Jerusalem
As I entered the Visitors Center I was greeted with holy angelic music as I stood upon a landing raised so high that I could gaze the whole of the 1st story building. As I stood there I found before me a massive scaled down rendition of the entire city of Jerusalem that made me feel large and important. With the music playing, my standing on the raised landing coupled with the scaled down city of Jerusalem, I felt for a few seconds almost godlike. I made my way down the steps and past the modeled Jerusalem to find massive colossal paintings of Jesus Christ ordered from his birth to his resurrection. Comparable to the buildings outside I soon felt small but the contrast of feelings that I experienced here were far greater and uplifting than what the buildings outside had to say to me. I was mostly impressed with the painting labeled, "Jesus Appearing to the 500," by Grant Clawson. As I sat on a surprisingly comfortably cushioned chair my mind became occupied, my heart began to have feelings and my eyes became heavily fixed on the painted Jesus. As if my thinking was previously disabled through some kind of imperfection and flaw of mine, I felt an activation and motivation of ideas that which never occurred to me upon the looking at the previous paintings. The fact that I had to look up at the titanic sized painting was symbolic in a way that we need to look up to God as he is the source of all strength. The painting was boxed in by two large columns painted with stripes of gold signifying power, importance, prestige and prominence. Jesus was portrayed in the middle being taller than anyone else of his disciples which even they like me had to look up to see his face. His arms were opened widely which told me to, "come unto him."
Paintings at the LDS Visitors Center

My six year old daughter came to my side and I asked her if she could identify who Jesus was. She said, "the guy in the middle." I asked her why she thought that and she replied, "because he is in the middle and he's wearing white." This provoked me to take a second look at all of the paintings to see if there were similarities of what Jesus looked like. There were a total of eleven paintings. One as an infant, one as a boy and then nine of Jesus in his prime adulthood. All of the paintings accept for one were created by the world renowned Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch. The nine paintings of Jesus' adulthood had many similarities. Each painting had Jesus taller than any other human which used to ornament the story being told. He wears a white robe which distinguishes from the rest of his disciples. In every painting Jesus is portrayed as having long hair, a beard, pale skin and blue eyes. Exactly how I remember him as a child. This I could relate to because it was embedded in my culture as the only correct and true visual of Him. Any other painting not describing Him this way would be distasteful, foreign and offensive to my experience, understanding and involvement with what I consider to be sacred and holy. It's not that the painting is in and of itself holy, for it is just a material piece painted by a man with colors. It's the coupling of the painting and the surrounding elements that make it holy and sacred. As a child my teachers would hold up a painting of Jesus and, "bear their testimony," express their love, sing songs of praise and glory thus compelling and binding me to its image. I ask myself the question: "Does Jesus really look this way?" and I answer, "Does it matter?" It's the experience that we have, the love and honor we feel, the involvement we are engaged in and the familiarity we develop through a combination of forces. Whether one believes Jesus to look one way or another should not matter as long as that person absorbs himself/herself in His teachings of love, compassion and service to others.


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