Monday, February 16, 2015

Responses and Answers to Jaredites Posts – Part V

Continuing with the comments that have been received regarding the most recent series we have posted on the Jaredites.
    Comment #1: “In the Book of Mormon painting of the stripling warriors, Helaman is shown riding a horse. However, no horses existed in the Americas at that time.”
As for the horse in the painting of Helaman and his 2,000 stripling warriors, it is not a part of the Book of Mormon. It was not provided by Mormon or Moroni, Alma or Helaman, in their writings and abridgements. It is part of a series of twelve large-scale illustrations painted by Arnold Friberg. The artist, who is probably best known for his 1975 masterpiece “Prayer at Valley Forge,” depicting George Washington kneeling in the snow beside his horse, created the classic paintings on his own.
    In fact, the classic collection was not even commissioned by the LDS Church, or any of the leaders in connection with the Book of Mormon, or to illustrate the scriptural record. The idea actually came from Adele Cannon Howells, the church’s general president of the Primary from 1943 to 1951. She was impressed by Friberg’s 1950 piece, “Pioneer Sunday School.”
Left: Rockwell’s painting of the pioneer Sunday school; Center: Rockwell while painting; Right: Adele Cannon Howells, the 4th Primary President, and previous editor of the Children’s Friend, in which her innovations made the magazine much more child friendly, and encouraged children to contribute dimes for the new Primary Children’s Hospital
    Motivated by a deep love for the Primary children, Howells personally commissioned Friberg to create the collection to mark the 50th year of “The Children’s Friend” magazine. The 12 paintings, costing $1,000 apiece, were scheduled to run each month during the magazine’s 50th year, although they ended up taking much longer. Sister Howells died right after arranging the sale of some personal property to pay for the project—she never lived to see even the first painting.
    “It was a startling task to undertake, for the Book of Mormon had never been illustrated before, at least on any professional level,” Friberg wrote. “There were no precedents.”
    He interviewed numerous Church leaders in trying to get a grasp on the characterization he might use in his paintintgs, regarding such things as hair length, clothing, etc., and found a variation of differing responses. Many suggested that Friberg should illustrate great sermons, but he “wanted to paint heroes that appeared legendary in stature,” which was what Howells had commissioned him to do.
Many have criticized Friberg’s extreme masculine characters over the years, but he defended that by saying in an interview, “The muscularity in my paintings is only an expression of the spirit within. When I paint Nephi, I’m painting the interior, the greatness, the largeness of spirit. Who knows what he looked like? I’m painting a man who looks like he could actually do what Nephi did.”
    An interesting story is told of newly called Stake President Max A.Bryan, who in 1954, while sitting next to Cleon Skousen at a luncheon at BYU noticed a man staring at his face. The man was later introduced as Friberg, who explained he was painting scenes from the Book of Mormon and wondered if he could use Bryan’s face as a model. Skousen had a key to the campus photo lab and three hours later, Friberg had a file of photos of Bryan's face. The men never crossed paths again, but in the decades that followed, Bryan delighted in guiding tours at the Los Angeles California Temple and showing visitors Friberg’s paintings. Looking for and finding Bryan’s facial features in many of the 12 paintings, especially his jaw line, nose and lips, became a source of great pride in his family—a story confirmed by Heidi W. Friberg, the artist’s second wife.
Abinadi before the evil king Noah. The strength of the prophet’s character, willing to die at the stake to tell the truth to Noah and his evil priests, is well captured by Friberg
    In another characterization, Abinadi was developed from an old friend of Friberg’s childhood who came to visit him while he was painting the Nephite prophet. Seeing his friend's vigor at age 70, Friberg took him directly into his studio and used him for Abinadi’s character. After completing the first eight paintings, Friberg took a break to work for Cecil B. DeMille on The Ten Commandmants, after which he returned to Salt Lake City and finished the final four paintings.
    After the completion and their publication in the Children’s Friend, the Howells family donated the twelve paintings to the Church. No one at the time could have suspected that these artistic works would be so inspirational, and that the Church would eventually reproduce them in copies of the Book of Mormon that were translated and sent out worldwide—in addition to hanging in the Book of Mormon gallery at the Conference Center.
    Friberg said that while painting religious art, he “sought divine help and felt that God guided his skilled hand. What I do I am driven to do. I follow the dictates of a looming and unseen force. I try to become like a musical instrument, intruding no sound of its own but bringing forth such tones as are played upon it by a master’s hand.” In that, he has been most successful.
The characterizations of the Nephite converts during baptism by Alma in the Waters of Mormon are perfectly captured showing their inner strength and conviction
    The point is, Frieberg's classic collection, including Helaman on his horse among the stripling warriors, are strictly the artist’s interpretation of events. How accurate they are can only be guessed at by viewers today, but the spirit of the paintings Friberg captured is worthy of the finest of paintings.
    To finish it off, Arnold Friberg died in 2010 at the age of 96, leaving us all a depiction of the scriptural record that will long be loved and admired.
    Comment #2: “Many faithful LDS members, by virtue of the admonition of their leaders, are virtually unaware of the many perplexing and genuine problems contained in the Book of Mormon text and as a result, are usually unable to effectively dialogue with critics without resorting to faith-based claims of supernatural manifestations or testimony, which really carry no authoritative weight for the many dedicated experts in the fields of archaeology, history, linguistics, genetics, etc. LDS need to look further than their leaders for accuracy” Chapman T.
    Response: Archaeologists, anthropologists, linguistics, geologists, etc., have been shown time and again to not always be right—in fact, just as often wrong. The record on genetics is still under review, but so far the blow-up over mitochondrial DNA has been shown to be totally inaccurate as posted in this blog with supporting scientific evidence in the recent past.
The Church school Brigham Young University, of the top 100 universities, is ranked 8th in Undergraduate Engineering Programs; 14th in Best Value Schools; 15th for Great Schools Great Prices; 31st for Undergraduate Business Programs; 49th in High School Counselor Rankings; 62nd in 2015 Best Colleges; 79th in Forbes Top Colleges and 9th among schools with more than 30,000 students. BYU is classed “A” by Forbes, and is known for its excellence in language education of 55 languages, offers 193 graduate programs; has a 4-year graduation rate of 31%; and has the lowest attendance cost of all 100 universities
    In addition, it should be noted that LDS Church leaders have always recommended members learn all they can of the world, sciences, etc. In fact, LDS are probably better educated, per capita, than any other religious group of any size, including a large number of Archaeologists, Anthropologists, Historians, Geneticists, etc. While the average member is not any more knowledgable than an Archaeologists is in a field not his own, LDS can usually support their beliefs with far more than a testimony. My experience has been, traveling all over the country for some 40 years, that LDS are a very intelligent people, capable of discussing far more technically accurate details about their beliefs than almost any critic I have yet met or with whom I’ve debated.

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