The theme for the 12th International Art Competition at the LDS Church History Museum is "All are Alike Unto God." This comes from a passage found in the LDS book of scripture, the Book of Mormon, in 2nd Nephi, chapter 26 verse 33. It says:
"And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."
I am really excited to participate in this year's exhibit (running from March 17 - Dec 30, 2022) with my painting "Her Ox Goes Marching On - LFA." The painting is specifically about women, their use of the priesthood power, and the early church member Mary Fielding Smith.
The hands over the oxen's head represents a moment when Mary was crossing the plains with her children, step-children, and other members of the church. Her husband (Hyrum Smith) and brother-in-law (Joseph Smith, Jr, the founder and first prophet of the church) were recently murdered. While Mary was fleeing out West, one of her wagon-pulling oxen fell lame. According to member lore Mary didn't hesitate, but placed her hands upon the oxen's head, blessed, and healed it. The oxen would then finish its journey to the Utah valley.
Sadly and a little ironically, it turns out this story is not true. Ha! The oxen was blessed, but not by Mary. Mary very clearly states in her own journal that the oxen was blessed by her brother. That being said, every mormon knows the incorrect version of this story. Ask them. There is something about Mary and her exercising her God given healing right that has spread and seeped into our collective psyche. This is why, even though the story is wrong, I still painted it. It strikes a chord that all members know.
"Her Ox Goes Marching On" is both a take on the song "When the Saints go Marching On," and the title of a most excellent article by Lavinia Fielding Anderson. The article is about Mary, this story, and both the destructive and healing power of heroic role models. You can read it here.
The flowers along the oxen's head are all Utah Native flowers, representing the oxen's and Mary's eventual arrival in Utah. The flowers are: bull thistle, sego lily (Utah's state flower), cactus flowers, and stream orchids.
If you are in Utah and see the exhibit, send me a message. I would love to hear from you!