Art for 1 Nephi 12-22 in the Book of Mormon

Musical Book of Mormon Tour Artistic Book of Mormon Tour God in the Book of Mormon Book of Mormon Library Weblinks - Book of Mormon Websites Home

Home    Music    Art    God    Library    Network    Contact

Book of Mormon Feast

An Artistic Tour Through 1 Nephi 12-22

1 Nephi 16

1 Nephi 16:7


I will Go Before Your Face {A Daughter of Ishmael} - Elspeth Young

I Will Go Before Your Face {A Daughter of Ishmael}

Elspeth Young

Artist’s Comments:

The story behind I Will Go Before Your Face

"For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou, Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.  And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.  And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord.  . . and it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness.  And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious, things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness...

And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness...And it came to pass that the we went up unto the house of Ishmael, and we did gain favor in the sight of Ishmael, insomuch that we did speak unto him the words of the Lord. And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael, and also his household, insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness to the tent of our father...

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife, and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife...And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness...And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness, and our women did bear children in the wilderness.  And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.             And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled.  And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness...yea, even eight years...and notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore..."  1 Nephi 2:1-4, 7:2-5, 15:7, 17:1-4, 6

1 Nephi 16:10


Lehi in the Wilderness Discovers the Liahona

Arnold Friberg

Thus far in the Book of Mormon story the family has been near their home in Jerusalem, in familiar territory.  But as they were about to embark into the dry and desolate Arabian wilderness, the Lord provided them with an instrument which would guide them safely through.

“And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass.  And within the ball were two spindles, and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.”

Artist’s Note:

As might be expected when confront with subjects never before pictured, there were opinionated, personal versions on almost every detail. Little things like the color of Nephi’s hair were open to debate and everyone had an opinion.

A baffling question involved the picturing of the Liahona. Of course any reader of the Book of Mormon knows the very limited description of the instrument. To illustrate the problem between words and pictures, let us consider a speaker (perhaps a BYU professor) who is known as an expert on the Book of Mormon. Let’s call him Mr. Words.   He delivers a speech on what a marvelous device was the Liahona. After the lecture come questions from the audience.

Question:            “Just how large was the Liahona?

Speaker:              “Oh, we’re not told that. But it was round and had these pointers inside”.

Question:            “How did they see the pointers? Was there open work in the design for them to see through? Or was the top hinged to open up for viewing?”

Speaker               “We are not told that either. But it was a wonderful instrument, working according to their faith.”

Question:            “What did they do with it when not in use? Was there a bag or a stand to keep it in, or did they just let it roll around on the deck of the ship?”

Speaker               “Oh, we’re just not told that. But it was of curious workmanship, etcetera.”

Now, Mr. Words hasn’t told us anything any reader of the book doesn’t already know. But he’s off the hook. He’s still an “expert” so to speak. Dealing only in such words as we read, he hasn’t had to really tangle with the answers. Now comes Mr. Pictures. He’s the artist, who doesn’t know the answers any more than Mr. Words or anyone else. But he can’t duck. No, he has to grit his teeth and paint something. There is no tube of oil paint Labeled ‘when you don’t know, use this’.  So I painted something that seemed reasonable, of a size easily handled, and designed a suitable tripod to rest it on.

When asked “How do you know the Liahona was that size?”

I answered, “I don’t know.”  

“Then how can you paint it that size if you don’t know?”

It was G.K. Chesterton who once said: ”Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.”  

At last I decided that an historical painting was not a wax-works museum reconstruction. If every detail had to be proved, there would be no creative work of any kind, and strict orthodoxy must yield to some degree.”

1 Nephi 16:10


The Liahona - Lowell Fitt

The Liahona

Lowell Fitt

Worked Metal and Wood.  Fitt’s intricate Liahona, winner of the Church art competition of 1990, displays a tree of life on the top.

1 Nephi 16:10


Joseph Franklin Brickey

1 Nephi 16:17-32


Nephi Hunting

Steve Nethercott - Real Heroes Posters

As Lehi’s family traveled through the Arabian desert they had to provide food for themselves.  The Book of Mormon recounts an occasion when their principal bow broke.            

Many in the party sat and complained, but Nephi made a new bow and arrow, and, with direction from the Lord, was able to hunt and bring home much-needed food for the families.

Real Heroes (Real people, Real power)

1 Nephi 17

1 Nephi 17:1,2


Daughters in the Wilderness

Steve Nethercott - Real Heroes Posters

The Book of Mormon gives an idea of the difficulties Lehi’s family faced as they traveled through and lived in the Arabian desert for eight years.  Nephi records, “And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.  And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.”

Real Heroes Poster, (Real People – Real Strength)  

1 Nephi 17:8-10


Nephi’s Courage” – Bill N. Hansen Jr. & Lisa T. Hansen

The Lord gave Nephi’s family another challenge on their quest to find and inherit the Promised Land:  build a boat to cross the great waters.  While his brother complained and mocked him, Nephi’s only question was “Where shall I go to find ore to make tools?” He did not doubt that the Lord would help him.

Enjoy Ryan Heywood’s haunting base vocal presentation of this song, accompanying himself on the guitar.  

Children’s Songbook, 120

1 Nephi 17:53


Young Nephi Subdues His Rebellious Brothers

Arnold Friberg

The Lord gave Nephi instructions on how to build the ship, but he needed his brothers’ labor as well.  They didn’t want to work for little brother, and did not believe that they would be able to build a ship.  After the Lord gave them a sign they could understand, then they put their hands to the work:

“And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: Stretch for thine hand again unto thy brethren, and they shall not wither before thee, but I will shock them, saith the Lord, and this will I do, that they may know that I am the Lord their God.”

Artist’s Notes:

“In  YOUNG NEPHI SUBDUES HIS REBELLIOUS BROTHERS, Nephi is in the very first stage of building a ship. Building a ship!!! Of course his brothers thought he had taken grandiose leave of his senses. Before construction could begin, Nephi had to take ore from the mountain and build a primitive forge to make the tools to build the ship. Talk about starting from scratch! Since we don’t know what Nephi looked like, I of course couldn’t paint a portrait. So what I did paint was the image of a man who looks as though he could do what Nephi did. This, of course, required quite a man. I made Nephi strong, not only in body but in spiritual power, as his bullying brothers soon learned.”

1 Nephi 18

1 Nephi 18:4


Nephi’s Courage” – Bill N. Hansen Jr. & Lisa T. Hansen

Nephi was successful in building the boat to carry his family to the promised land, as he knew he would be, because he was instructed of the Lord, and followed those directions.

Front Porch Acappella presents an informal mashup of this song, preparing for a ward event.

Children’s Songbook, 120

1 Nephi 18:6


Loading the Ship

Minerva Teichert

“The ship that will carry Lehi’s family to the promised land fills the center of the picture. The scene is calm and purposeful, with the men hoisting provisions and the women waiting to board. At the right, three graceful women carrying jars resemble a row of Greek statues, while a woman at the left holds her child in a pose like a madonna. As the artist developed the final version of the scene, she added distinctive details of “curious workmanship” to the ship (1 Nephi 18:1), including an unusual prow and sails sewn together from many small pieces of fabric. Although propped firmly in place, the ship leans toward rough seas. Its sails billow lightly as though it is about to move toward the clouds beyond the horizon–a foreshadowing that the faith impelling the family to build a ship and sail it to an unknown land will be tested.”

1 Nephi 18:11


They Did Treat Me with Much Harshness  

Walter Rane

Oil on board.

While on their trans-oceanic voyage, Nephi’s brothers became rude.  When he chastised them, the Book of Mormon records, “And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.”

1 Nephi 18:22,23


An Angel Came to Joseph Smith” – Anna Johnson & A. Laurence Lyon

Lehi’s family has arrived in the Promised Land – America.  The rest of the Book of Mormon describes the spiritual history of this great civilization until its downfall a thousand years later.  The Lord delivered this record to our civilization by an angel, and we can read about and learn from these people, and their triumphs and failures.

Children’s Songbook, 86

1 Nephi 18:23


Lehi and His People Arrive in the Promised Land

Arnold Friberg, 1913-2010


After troubles upon the water, Lehi’s family finally arrives at the Promised Land, where they will settle and grow and spread.

Artist’s Notes:

The question when painting LEHI AND HIS PEOPLE ARRIVE IN THE PROMISED LAND was, how to picture Nephi’s ship. In the Book of Mormon we read the puzzling words that it was not built after the manner of men. So what did it look like? Again, Mr. Words can duck, but Mr. Pictures can’t. He must paint something that somehow satisfies us as looking real and reasonable. Faced with this decision, I reasoned that God, who works by natural laws, not in defiance of them, isn’t going to instruct Nephi to build a bizarre oddity defying all engineering logic, just to be different from man’s usual designs. Just to conjecture, God’s instructions to Nephi might have revealed something merely in advance of its time, unknown in that period of ship building. Possibly such a simple thing as the steering rudder, not yet invented in Nephi’s time, might have made his ship “not after the manner of men.” At least we may be sure that they did have sails. For we are told they “were driven forth before the wind.”

In the picture of the ship’s arrival in the promised land, I added a bit of interesting detail: the flying birds are not seagulls. They are the swallow-tailed Roseate Terns, included because they are found in the waters off Central America, thus adding a touch of geographical authenticity without trying to pinpoint any precise location. In the painting, Father Lehi holds the sacred Liahona in his hands. It is the symbol of the Lord’s fulfilled promise to His people. Illustrating as it does the Book of Mormon, this picture may rightly be labeled as “religious art.” Yet, far from expressing mere piety, it is filled with the bursting excitement of an adventure story, bringing to our ears the joyous cry of “Land Ho!” The sacred Liahona held by Lehi has fulfilled the Lord’s promise to His people, and has truly led them to the shores of the promised-land.

1 Nephi 18:24


The Promised Land

Minerva Teichert

The Book of Mormon records the joy and excitement when Lehi’s family began to explore their new home, the Promised Land, which we now call America.

2 Nephi

1 Nephi 16              1 Nephi 17             1 Nephi 18   

1 Nephi 8-11