This film weaves scenes of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in
Jerusalem with a fictional account of the history recorded in the Book of Mormon
during the same time period. It culminates with the visit of the Savior to His sheep
in the New World.
Prophets throughout the Old Testament had given hints and clues of the coming Messiah.
Just five years before His birth, the Lord revealed to His Lamanite Book of Mormon
prophet Samuel events that would happen in the New World at the Messiah’s birth,
and later at His death.
This song was originally titled “Christmas in Zarahemla.” Illustrated.
While in the Old World angels rejoiced and told the good news of the birth of the
Savior, the Book of Mormon records that in the New World prophets had foretold a
whole night of light in heavenly commemoration of His birth.
“And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according
as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness;
and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night
Mormon introduces himself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who was named
after the land of Mormon. He says that he made this record using the accounts which
were written before his time.
Artist’s notes: “Lehi, his wife Sariah representing all faithful strong
women of this sacred record, and Nephi, Enos, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma the younger,
Ammon, Helaman, Samuel the Lamanite, Mormon, Moroni and the Brother of Jared are
here in a circle representing eternal truths preserved on golden plates and brought
forth for our day, through Joseph Smith.”
3 Nephi 8
3 Nephi 8 – 11
BOOK OF MORMON MUSIC
How Oft I Have Gathered You - Marilyn Arnold and Maurine Ozment
When Jesus visited the people of the New World after His resurrection, He lamented
the destruction that had just taken place, and reiterated to them, as He did to the
people of Jerusalem, that He had been and continued to be willing to gather them
to Him in peace.
Marilyn Arnold, lyricist, and Maurine Ozment, composer, created “How Oft I Have Gathered
You,” available in their book, Sacred Hymns of the Book of Mormon, 22.
The Book of Mormon records terrible destructions that occurred in the New World,
after the crucifixion of Jesus in the Old World. After this, the resurrected Jesus
spoke to the people: “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than
they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted,
that I may heal you?”
Symbolism in “Will Ye Not Now Return Unto Me”
Q: How does the composition express the particular moment chosen for the subject?
A: The composition presents a particularly intimate view of the Redeemer. When He
first spoke to the peoples of ancient America, as part of His personal ministry among
them, they had suffered cataclysm for three days. Their distress was dreadful. They
were as yet engulfed in the close and complete darkness that had not only settled
over the land, but was so dense that no fire could be kindled nor any light seen.
The Savior—in word, in deed, in every way—dwells above the darkness. He is the light
of the world. When He came to the inhabitants of ancient America, He brought that
light with Him. In this painting, He looks toward those who dwell in darkness beneath
the storm clouds at the bottom of the painting. His countenance is the countenance
of peace. He takes no pleasure in the soul that suffers, nor in the misery of anyone
who perishes. He searches for those who need the light and life He alone can give.
In all the moments of our travail in the darkness by which we are so often surrounded
in this world, He alone fills the heaven of our hope. As we suffer, the expansiveness
of our own horizon shrinks until it narrows almost to the snuffing point at which
the wick of our souls expires. This is a painting not only of the moment during
which His voice was heard by all the inhabitants of the land; it is the moment in
any of our lives when hope is all but gone.
Heavenly Father has rarely spoken directly to people. He generally sends angels,
commissions His Son the Lord, or speaks through the Holy Ghost. The New Testament
tells us that God Himself, with His own voice, commended Jesus as His “beloved Son,”
when Jesus submitted to baptism.
The highest point of the Book of Mormon is when Jesus, after His crucifixion and
resurrection in the Old World, visited His people in the New World, His “other sheep.”
God the Father introduced Him to these people at that time.
This song recalls these two times the Father spoke and introduced His beloved Son,
and additionally when God spoke to young Joseph Smith, who was called to restore
the fulness of the Lord’s gospel.
The climax of the Book of Mormon is the wonderful visit of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants
of ancient America. This supernal visit, but dimly recalled in the Great White God
of many of these peoples, is recorded with crystal clarity in the Book of Mormon.
“And it came to pass, as they understood, they cast their eyes up again towards
heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in
a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and they eyes of the
whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even
one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that
had appeared unto them.”
The pinnacle of the Book of Mormon is portrayed in the next work, JESUS CHRIST APPEARS
UNTO THE NEPHITE PEOPLE. Here we witness a glorious scene fulfilling the words of
prophets and holy men from all the ages past; the sublime climactic event of the
Book of Mormon. It is after the three days of darkness and the terrible destruction
upon the whole face of the land that now the darkness lifts, a divine voice is heard,
as the figure of the glorified resurrected Lord descends from heaven to an awestruck
multitude below. It is truly the time foretold.
Here I sought to express in paint the transcendent spiritual glory of the wondrous
thing that happened there that day. I painted the divine figure so high in the air
to fulfill the written description, and yet small enough to avoid any criticism of
trying to paint a likeness of the risen Lord.
“In this piece beloved by Latter-Day Saints, Christ smiles down as Lord of the Western
hemisphere and welcomes its inhabitants with outstretched arms. He invites us to
inspect his wounds–tokens of his Atonement–and witness that he is risen.”
The climax of the Book of Mormon is the wonderful visit of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants
of ancient America. He gave the people an invitation and an introduction:
“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also
that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may
know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain
for the sins of the world.”
The artist’s sister, Janice Kapp Perry, described a special experience her brother
had as he was painting this picture, in an article she wrote for Meridian magazine.
(This painting is the 7th of 9 on the page.)
Jesus told his ancient apostles, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.
Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold
and one Shepherd.” He did not explain to them who he was talking about.
The Book of Mormon answers the question of who these “other sheep” were. They were
the people of Israelite descent who the Lord had led out of Jerusalem before the
Babylonian captivity. These people lived the Law of Moses, but also understood that
it pointed their hearts to their coming Messiah.
After Jesus’s glorious resurrection, He visited these “other sheep” in the Americas,
as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
“And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into
his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet, and
this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gove forth, and did see
with their eyes and did feel with their hands and did know of a surety and did bear
record, that it was he of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.”
The figure of the Savior appears clothed in white, as described in the ancient account.
It is devoid of shadow and casts its own light on the figure of the woman. Such
powerful whiteness is also described in the ancient narrative: And his countenance
did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold
they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold
the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing
upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof (3 Nephi 19:25).
The rock upon which the Savior is depicted as standing is intended to remind the
viewer that He speaks of Himself as the Rock of Heaven (see Moses 7:53) and, as one
ancient American disciple declared: Remember, remember that it is upon the rock
of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation;
that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind,
yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no
power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of
the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon
if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).
The grasses and wildflowers surrounding the figures bloom in the purest white, typifying
the surety of the resurrection and the hope of eternal life.