After Lehi told his family of his amazing and wonderful vision of the Tree of Life,
his son Nephi wanted to see the things that his father had seen. Because of his
faith and faithfulness, the Lord blessed him with this desire, and he wrote extensively
of the marvelous things he himself saw, all of which testify of the love of God.
The Holy Ghost is a powerful witness, who makes “known [God’s] wonderful works” among
His children. By the power of the Holy Ghost, we may know the truth of all things.
The dove represents a visual witness of what is happening unseen in the heart of
the worshipper—the point of revelation, when light begins to flood the seeker of
This painting represents a portion of the vision the prophet Nephi received concerning
the life and mission of Jesus Christ "to bear record that he is the son of God" (1
After being shown the tree of life, Nephi requested to know the interpretation of
that tree. Accordingly, Nephi was immediately shown a vision of a "virgin...bearing
a child in her arms" and was told that that the infant was "the Lamb of God, yea,
even the Son of the Eternal Father!" (1 Nephi 11:18, 21).
Upon seeing this, an angel questioned Nephi concerning the meaning of the tree of
life. Nephi accurately perceived that the tree of life, or Christ, "is the love of
God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore,
it is the most desirable above all things...and the most joyous to the soul" (1 Nephi
Indeed, the love of God has never been manifested so plainly to God's children as
in the gift of His "only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
This visual representation of this moment from Nephi's marvelous vision seeks also
to testify of the reality and divinty of the Son of God.
Symbolism in Bearing A Child In Her Arms
The figures of Mary and the Infant Christ are depicted very clearly in the midst
of an indistinct background. As befits Nephi's unwavering focus during the vision,
there is nothing in the background to distract the viewer from the message in the
vision. All elements, even color and light, point to the center of our existence,
Jesus Christ, just as the Spirit of the Lord makes it clear to Nephi that the reason
he was shown what his father saw was so that he could bear his own witness of Christ.
The Child is loosely wrapped in the type of "swaddling clothes" in which Mary wrapped
Him at His birth (see Luke 2:7). Other than the barest hint of a golden trim at the
edge of the garment, there is nothing distinctive about the cloth, save its whiteness.
Its brilliance symbolizes His purity--what the Apostle Peter described as a "lamb
without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation
of the world" (1 Peter 1:19-20). The cloth's simplicity is also a reminder of Isaiah's
prophecy that there would be "no beauty that we should desire [Christ]" (see Isaiah
53:2). The Hebrew for "beauty" in this case denotes finery of appearance or indication
of noble rank. Even so, He is clothed only with the beauty of divinity. Additionally,
the swaddling clothes completely hide His noble hands, hands capable of salvation.
Even so, His hands are bound until we utilize our agency to accept His matchless
gift. His invitation is just that--an invitation: "Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation
The viewer is drawn to the Infant's penetrating gaze by the highlight in His eye,
contrasted with the dark shadows surrounding Him. Though partly enveloped in the
shadows of this world, His light is ever invincible. His mission was to descend below
all things and overcome the world--all of the darkness, evil, and despair it has
and ever will afford--to rise triumphant as the light of the world, "a light that
is endless, that can never be darkened" (Mosiah 16:9). The glimmer in His eye also
symbolizes His singleness of purpose in doing His Father's will (see Matthew 6:22
or 3 Nephi 13:22).
Mary's countenance is also radiant, partly from the Heavenly light enveloping the
two figures; partly reminding the viewer of Nephi's description her as "exceedingly
fair and white...most beautiful and fair above all other virgins" (1 Nephi 11:13,
15). Her beauty borne of goodness is also echoed in the words of Alma, who called
her "a precious and chosen vessel" (Alma 7:10).
Mary's hair is seen unveiled, a visual representation of her virginity. In her day,
it was customary for maidens to show their hair in public as a sign of their chastity.
This, among other cultural clues of apparel may have helped Nephi identify her as
a virgin without any help from the angel.
Mary's dress is patterned on traditional Palestinian dress, or shinyar, a costume
silhouette dating back 1500 BC. The embroidered ornamentation on its yoke and sleeves
is typical of Israelite bridal costume, though it is intended here as another visual
symbol of elements in Nephi's vision. The golden motifs embroidered on its sleeves
are a tree of life symbol, while the red and gold banding beneath the trees represent
the rod of iron which Nephi beheld leading, "to the fountain of living waters, or
to the tree of life" (1 Nephi 11:25).
The vessel immediately behind the figures is an oil cask symbolizing the Savior's
mission as the Anointed One, sent to earth to "heal the broken-hearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty
them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18). The cluster of purple anemones beside the cask
are the kind of flower believed by many scholars to be the "lilies of the field"
described in the Sermon on the Mount. Here, they remind the viewer of the Savior's
teachings concerning Heaven's constant watchcare and mindfulness.
The artist said: "I love Christ and I love trees. I see connections between Jesus
and living trees. He spoke several parables about them. My concept is to have the
image of the Savior grow out of the tree. All of my work expresses a love of Jesus,
and as I created this painting my understanding of Him increased."
This working fountain presents the tree of life as a fountain of living water and
invites all to drink and never thirst again. This work contains symbolic representations
of Christ, the Godhead, man's relationship to the Godhead, and the fruit of the Tree
of Life. The themes depicted in the fountain were inspired by this scripture: "And
it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was
the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life;
which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the
tree of life was a representation of the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:25).