Anthony Sweat: Repicturing the Restoration

Wed Nov 04 10:00:29 EST 2020
Episode 105

Our understanding of religion, whether it be scripture or history, is greatly influenced by art. The depictions we see impact not only how we picture certain passages, but also which passages we know at all. In his new book, "Repicturing the Restoration," artist Anthony Sweat felt a desire to capture some of the lesser-known parts of our Church history in hopes of expanding our understanding of the Church’s founding. Today, we talk with him about how Restoration art can change our perspective of this pivotal period.

Let's embrace all good, all truth. Let's learn. Let's grow line upon line, precept upon precept. Let's maybe alter some ideas we have that may not hold up under the test of time, that need to be rearranged or remodeled. Let's tackle difficult issues and celebrate the glorious achievements.
Anthony Sweat

While existing artwork that portrays the Restoration is rich and beautiful, until now many key events in Latter-day Saint history have surprisingly never been depicted to accurately represent the historical record. The purpose of this volume is to produce paintings of some of the underrepresented events in order to expand our understanding of the Restoration. Each image includes a richly researched historical background, some artistic insights into the painting's composition, an application section providing one way this history may inform our present faith, and an analysis section offering potent questions that can be considered for further discussion. Through these new paintings, artist, author, and professor Anthony Sweat takes readers through a timeline history of pivotal events and revelations of the early Restoration. This book is not just a wonderful art book; it is also a pedagogical book using art as a launching pad to learn, evaluate, apply, and discuss important aspects of Latter-day Saint history and doctrine as readers repicture the Restoration.

Painting: "Abinadi Appearing before King Noah"

Article: Prayer at Valley Forge, fact or fiction?

Video: "No John Trumbull" rap from Hamilton

Talk: "The Gospel Vision of the Arts" by President Spencer W. Kimball

Book: First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins by Steven C. Harper

Show Notes:
2:55- Passions Combined
5:24- Role of Art in Religion and Christianity
8:33- The Influence of Art on How We Picture Scripture Stories
11:58- Why Representation in Art Matters?
14:45- Serving Two Masters
18:30- Source Amnesia
31:33- First Baptism for the Dead
25:40- Portraying What We Didn't Experience Firsthand
29:19- Process in Painting
34:40- "No John Trumbull"
42:48- Things as They Really Are
45:20- What Does It Mean To Be "All In" the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones 0:01
In the prologue of his new book Repicturing the Restoration, author Anthony Sweat writes: "We have primarily shown the same Church history images over and over: The First Vision, Joseph with Moroni, Joseph and Oliver with John the Baptist or Peter, James and John and images of pioneers. It is for good reason that these scenes are repeatedly painted, since they are central to our founding Restoration narrative. But important and instructive Latter-day Saint history is often more diverse than these handful of events. As I have taught about Church history seeking to help learners develop a broad, deep, historically informed and doctrinally mature faith, I have longed for paintings to visually accompany these types of discussions," End quote. So, Anthony Sweat set out to paint some of these events from Church history, but he didn't want to just put them in a nice art book. He wanted the book to serve as a launching pad to learn, evaluate, apply and discuss important aspects of Latter-day Saint history and doctrine. That is also the goal of our conversation today.

Dr. Anthony sweat is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. He is also a practicing artist, receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Utah before going on to earn his PhD in education from Utah State University. Anthony is the author of numerous best-selling books and is a regular speaker at Latter-day Saint events and conferences. He and his wife Cindy are the parents of seven children.

This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am honored to have Anthony Sweat on the line with me today, Anthony, welcome.

Anthony Sweat 2:01
I am so honored to be with Morgan Jones. I feel like I'm with a rock star right now. I'm so excited to be on this podcast with you.

Morgan Jones 2:10
This is so ridiculous. We're gonna have him stop right now with that kind of talk because it's so unnecessary

Anthony Sweat  2:15
That cannot be edited out of this podcast.

Morgan Jones 2:17
It actually could be, but maybe we'll leave it in there. So, I have been so excited about this conversation, I was telling my mom this morning all about your new book Repicturing the Restoration, and I am so excited about it, because I think that it is – I think that the text at the beginning of the book is so powerful. And then the images as you work your way through the book, it just kind of – the Restoration and Church history starts to come to life in a way that it hasn't before, and that's kind of the way that you set it up in the very beginning. And so before we get into that, though, first, I have two questions for you.

Anthony Sweat 2:59

Morgan Jones 2:59
How did you first become interested in art, and how did you become such a good artist? That's a little sub question. And then secondly, when did you become super interested in Church history?

Anthony Sweat 3:12
Yeah, that's a great question. Because this book is kind of bringing all of my passions together in life, you know, as a, as a teacher of Church history and doctrine as a writer, as a speaker, and as a painter. I'm excited that you're excited about this book, because this is kind of like my – all the things I love coming together in one book, and I have been interested in art from the time I was a little kid. I drew thousands and thousands of pictures of Michael Jordan growing up.

Morgan Jones  3:45
The G.O.A.T.

Anthony Sweat 3:46
The G.O.A.T. Yes, all the LeBron people out there will want to argue that, but –

Morgan Jones 3:50
– and they can come at me. I'm willing to debate it.

Anthony Sweat  3:54
That's right. And I, you know, I just always loved drawing. I would seriously sit in sacrament meeting, and people thought I was this attentive listener as a kid, but really all I was doing is drawing pictures of the person who was speaking. And just kept drawing all through junior high and high school, and then I went on to major – when I had to choose a major for my undergraduate degree, I went to the University of Utah and thought, you know, "I love this, I'm okay at it and I want to develop it." So that's my, my bachelor's degree is in painting and drawing. My original plans were to be a full-time artist, and I joke that God saved me from a life of poverty and led me into the big money of religious education instead. But I also – to answer your second question – I have also always just been drawn also to Joseph Smith and Church history. I've always had a deep admiration for those who are part of the founding events of the Church and the founding actions of it, and that really developed when I went on my mission. I just devoured every book I could about Church history, Joseph Smith, and that kind of has always informed – as I went on to get into my full time career, as a religious educator. I always just kind of honed in on Church history, Church doctrine. And so, you know, these worlds have kind of naturally come together always for me.

Morgan Jones 5:15
Yeah. So I love that you said that this book is combining all of your passions, my passions combined in a book would not be nearly as exciting. But I love how you, you start out the book, and you talk about the role that art plays in our understanding or our perception of religion or of Christianity – talking about the role that Christianity or the role that art played in Christianity from hundreds and hundreds of years ago, but then you say "from 1830 – so that's when the church was organized – to 1900, there were fewer than three dozen images dealing with Church history or doctrine published in tens of thousands of pages of church periodicals. The first painting of the First Vision was not printed by the institutional church until 1912. Those born after the turn of the century are the first Latter-day Saints who have been raised on an abundant visual Church curriculum." And that kind of blew my mind a little bit because I have been born in to that. And so to me, like, of course, we have artistic portrayals of these things. But how has art contributed to our understanding of our religion as Latter-day Saints?

Anthony Sweat 6:28
Yeah, Morgan, that is such a great question. I want every listener to understand and grasp because we are surrounded by images today in the Church, the Church very effectively uses art and uses imagery and film. But as I wrote there, we're the first generations to really have that. If I could put it this way, our Church was kind of slow on the uptake of using visual imagery. There were a lot – obviously, Catholicism and other early forms of Christianity have used visual imagery heavily. But it wasn't until the turn of the century that our Church kind of started saying. "We should, we should show some pictures of this." And there's lots of reasons for that, I won't get into all of that right now. But I think what is important to grasp is, you know, if you're alive today, you're one of – you are part of the first generations of Saints that have had visual images – to grasp that. But then to also understand then, that really, our canon of visual imagery is fairly new. It's only a few generations old. And so we're just still scratching the surface of the visual, institutional imagery that we can use to help people grasp the Restoration. That's an important idea to also understand.

Morgan Jones 7:44
Yeah, well, and I think part of it probably is that we sometimes I think, in the Church, we get afraid of getting it wrong. And so it's like, "Oh, well, I don't know, I wasn't there in the grove with Joseph, so how would I portray that?" And I think that gets, that gets tricky. But I think having a wide range of portrayals of that gives us the ability to connect with whichever one we feel the spirit when we look at.

Anthony Sweat 8:15
Yeah, totally. That's one of the beauties of having a lot of imagery, is we don't start to say, "Oh, that's the way that it happened, or that's the look that it has to have." Which is why we need more and more art from more and more people of more and more subjects, which is part of what this book is trying to do.

Morgan Jones 8:32
Yeah. So one thing that you talk about, and I loved this, you said, "When you picture Abinadi, what do you picture?" And then you said, "If you picture a super ripped older man, then you've likely seen Arnold Friberg’s painting. And that's why that is what comes to your mind." So how does whether a story has been portrayed artistically or how a story has been portrayed artistically affect our knowledge of particular stories from the scriptures or from Church history?

Anthony Sweat 9:08
Yeah, that's – it's the beauty of art and the drawback of art. Like the moment you mentioned Abinadi, most listeners – you automatically pictured a shirtless man, you can't help it. And none of you pictured like a soft dough-y face 20 year old. And King Noah is automatically slightly-large sitting on a throne. And if I even said to you, you know "What pets does he have?" You would say, "Leopards." "How many?" "Two of them, on both sides of the throne," right? And that's because Arnold Friberg created such a masterful image of that, and then the Church has used it in all of our missionary copies of the Book of Mormon, printed millions of times. So with that, the power of that is now we all know that story. That's the power of art. The drawback of it though, is that is how we picture the story. And that is not necessarily how the scriptures itself – you know, the scriptures don't tell us anything about Abinadi's age. They don't tell us anything about King Noah's pets or his weight. You know, same with if I said to most listeners fill in the blank, you know, "In the millennium, the blank will dwell with the lamb." Almost every listener will say, "The lion will dwell with the lamb," but that's –

Morgan Jones 10:20
Yeah. That's what I would have said,

Anthony Sweat 10:21
– but that's not what the scriptures say, not that it matters, but this is just a point it, it says, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb." But we have all those paintings hanging above, you know, flowered sofas in every church foyer of a lion and a lamb together, or we sing our hymn, "The Spirit of God," "How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion –" so art gets things into our mind, that's the power of it, but sometimes we translate art as literal scripture or literal doctrine, literal history. And it's not always meant to be, and it can limit our understanding of things also. Just as one example, you know, if I say picture, the First Vision, well, the First Vision has been painted a ton. It's one of the most oft painted images of the Restoration. But I kicked off this book with a different take of the First Vision, because normally we picture the First Vision, two beings standing above Joseph, but the sources actually say that one being appeared, and then shortly thereafter, another one appeared. It wasn't a side by side appearance. The sources themselves say that Joseph also saw many angels in the grove. We don't have a lot of images showing that. The sources say, "I saw a pillar of fire" fires were. But we don't often depict fire. So sometimes, if we only rely on images, it can limit our understanding. So the very first painting in this book is me re–picturing the First Vision, showing fire, the Father and the son aren't standing next to each other, the Grove is filled with many angels, so that's the power and the drawback of art right there.

Morgan Jones 11:58
Yeah. So when it comes to this project, and you just already kind of introduced us into the first painting, but you go on to represent many moments in Church history –significant moments, but many of them things that we are familiar with, because we haven't seen them portrayed artistically. Why is having these different parts of our history represented in art important?

Anthony Sweat  12:28
Because – I would say to that, art is a launchpad for understanding. Art launches us into questions. You know, art isn't always meant to, to give answers. One of the beauties of art is art causes us to, to think and to ponder and to wonder. And there's a power – there's a reason why we say a picture's worth 1000 words, because the moment you put an image in front of somebody, it can tap into things that words cannot, and that these images can. And so, the reason why I think this is so important, and why I'm so excited for this project, and this book, and I hope others are too is because when we have images that we've haven't painted before. Images, like faithful women performing a healing blessing, a Relief Society healing, women did that for 100 years in our Church. Well, that opens up a whole new way to think about God's power and the gifts of the Spirit and ministry. It opens up great discussions and understanding. Or when we look at images of like Q. Walker Lewis, a Black man who was ordained to the priesthood in the 1840's. Well, a lot of people don't know that Black men were ordained to priesthood offices.

Morgan Jones 13:49
Prior to 1979, right? We're like, "What?"

Anthony Sweat  13:52
Yeah, a lot of people think that, that they never were ordained. But that – so that opens a whole new discussion. "Well, then why were they and who was this man? And what did he do? And when did it start? And why did it happen? And why did it go away?" And so the reason why I think it's so important to have images like this is because it helps us broaden our understanding of history, Church history, and it helps us broaden our understanding of Church doctrine. And it does what art can do best, which it launches us into better analysis and thinking and discussion.

Morgan Jones 14:27
Yeah. So one thing that I find fascinating about this project, and we've already talked about how it combines your two passions, but I feel like your two passions are a little bit of an anomaly. So you are an academic, but you also are an artist and a creative. And there's this quote, you say in the book, and I shouldn't say a quote you wrote it, I think, says, "History wants facts, art wants meaning. History wants to validate sources, art wants to evoke emotion. History is more substance, art is more style. History wants accuracy, art wants aesthetics. The two disciplines often love and hate one another as they strive to serve their two masters." I think this quote has a lot to unpack. But how would you explain what you mean by this?

Anthony Sweat  15:19
Well, what I mean by that is, being an academic and an artist is a little bit like being a professional racecar driver and a policeman, you know? They, they, they need each other. Art needs history, to paint meaningful images, and history also needs art to help people learn history. The goals of the two disciplines often pull in different directions. I talk to my artist friends often and they'll just be like, "Oh, historians just need to lay off and quit, quit wanting us to, to be perfectly historically accurate" – because by the way, it's impossible to be perfectly historically accurate, first of all, and then secondly, artists, that's not their goal. It's lower on their priority list sometimes. Art is trying to provoke, it's trying to inspire it's trying to express. You know, art is at its best when it causes this kind of introspection, and reflection, like, think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel and God touching the finger of Adam. What a beautiful image. Now, that's not historically accurate. But man, I'm so glad he painted it that way. So sometimes artists are like, "Well, leave me alone. Let me just express and let art do what art does. And leave facts and history to the historians." But then the problem is the historian’s say, "Yeah, but your art changes history. It – when people consume the art, they start to assume," – and maybe that's on us as, as viewers, we need to be better at being visually better at not always consuming art as historical fact. So historians say, "I just wish artists would be more historically accurate." So there's a tension there, always a tension. And in this project, I'm trying to bridge those two. I'm trying to use history and use research to inform my images. But I'm not leaving myself bound to be 100% perfectly historically accurate, because that's impossible. So that's what I'm trying to get at with that quote.

Morgan Jones 17:24
Well, and I think I think you touch on something very important. And I think this is true of the way that we consume pretty much anything, there is a responsibility with the consumer of whatever it is art, television, a podcast, there's a responsibility within the person receiving it, to think about, you know, "How do I feel about that?" Maybe do a little bit of research on your own see what is historically accurate. I am kind of a nutcase when it comes to movies. If it's based on a true story, I always check afterward, and I'm like, "Okay, what was true in that and what was not?" The bad news is that this can really ruin a movie. So I just will give that disclosure. But I do think it's important because, I mean, you have, well, I'm not going to ruin – I'm not going to ruin a movie that a lot of these people probably love. But another thing that you talk about in the book is you talk about something that you call "Source amnesia."

Anthony Sweat 18:29

Morgan Jones 18:30
And you give an example of yet another painting that I think people will immediately be able to visualize in their minds –

Anthony Sweat 18:39
Oh I already know where you’re going. People are going to get mad when they hear this one.

Morgan Jones 18:42
They really are going to get mad. My dad has it hanging in his office at work. So if you could share what this concept of source amnesia is, and then maybe share a little bit about the example of Washington's prayer at Valley Forge.

Anthony Sweat  18:56
Yeah, thanks for setting me up to get a bunch of people – who, who are passionate – mad at me, Morgan. I appreciate that.

Morgan Jones  19:06
I'm not trying to make enemies for you, but –

Anthony Sweat 19:09
No, I'm just teasing you. It's an important – it's a good example of it. And, you know, source amnesia, I use that phrase – it's from my friend and fellow colleague, Steven Harper, a great historian who says we learn things, but we often can't track down where we learn them from. And visual imagery is a great source of learning, but we confuse it. So if I said to every listener right now, “I want you to picture the prayer at Newburgh,” – that means absolutely nothing to you,"The prayer at Newburgh."

Morgan Jones 19:38
Yeah, I got nothing.

Anthony Sweat 19:39
You got nothing. But if I said, "Picture the prayer Valley Forge," it automatically – you can picture, you can even do the pose on one knee, you know.

Morgan Jones  19:47
Basically the Heisman.

Anthony Sweat  19:49
Yeah, it's basically the George Washington's Heisman pose. The reason why is because there have been so – not just Arnold Friberg's painting of it, which he did. It's one of the most oft reproduced prints in American history, but there have been paintings of prayer at Valley Forge for, you know, 100 years or more. The problem is, is there are no credible sources for the prayer at Valley Forge. It was likely a story made up after Washington's death to kind of valorize him and show that God was involved in the founding of the American nation, and that Washington was a religious man. That's why we love the image. And let me just say, that's why the image is powerful, back to what art does. It speaks to those ideals for us. And so I'm not negating that, but like you know, the 1918 Valley Forge commission, for example, they rejected a sculpture being placed at Valley Forge, because in poring through every letter, every diary, every historical correspondence that happened during the time of Valley Forge, there is not one single source to substantiate the tradition of Washington's prayer at Valley Forge. So, I mean, and if I said to you, "Where did you learn about the prayer at Valley Forge from?" It's likely that you can't pin it down now, and it's likely through the imagery. So that's just an example of source amnesia. And again, I'm not undermining your love for the American nation, I'm not saying Washington wasn't a religious man, and the God wasn't involved in the American nation, I'm just saying, that's a great example where we learn things, but we don't quite know where we learned them from. And none of us have really checked the sources on it.

Morgan Jones 21:31
Right. Absolutely. Okay. So one thing that people should know, as they begin to dive into this book is that you present an image, a painting that you've done, and then you break it down into different sections. So there's a section that's called a background, which gives the history of the image, and then an image which gives artistic insights into the painting that you've created, and then an application which talks about how the image can inform our faith. And finally, you have an analysis, which gives some discussion questions for further, further exploration into the painting. So I wondered if we could go through the first couple of these, the background and the image, and maybe you could share with us just to give people an idea of kind of what to expect.

Anthony Sweat  22:26

Morgan Jones 22:26
– A favorite painting that applies to this. So first, background, which painting in the book has your favorite historical background? And can you tell us a little bit about it?

Anthony Sweat 22:37
That is a great question. Probably my, my favorite one would have to be the first baptism for the dead with a woman named Jane Neyman. Now, think of baptisms for the dead, work for the dead. That's a huge thing in the Restoration. And yet, most people don't know when or how baptisms for the dead started. So I did a painting called "The First Baptism for the Dead," and it shows a woman named Jane Neyman being baptized in the Mississippi River by a man named Harvey Olmstead, and the witness is a woman named Vienna Jacques who rode into the river on horseback to observe and witness the baptism. So number one, cool foundational story that's never been visually depicted. I mean, a woman on horseback in a river as someone gets baptized, how could it be cooler than that? But number two, the great thing about the story is, the woman was baptized for her son. So it's a woman being baptized for a man, it's happening in a river, not in a temple, the elder made up the prayer on the spot – there was no set prayer, and the witness was a woman on horseback. And when Joseph Smith heard that, that, likely first baptism for the dead had been done, he asked how it was done. And when he heard he basically said, "That counts." And to me, it's just a cool example that God accepts of our righteous efforts, even in our imperfections. And, and that, that our history like – can inform us of things like that. And so for example, too, when the Church recently just changed their policy to allow women in the temple to act as witnesses for ordinances, my first thought was, "Well, we've been doing that from the very beginning." That's actually nothing new if you know our history, which is why images like this matter, that they help us understand things more broadly. So that's just one story of one cool Church history story with a great background behind it.

Morgan Jones  24:40
That's super cool. So I have a question. Yeah. So then from there, did Joseph seek revelation on baptism for the dead or how did that evolve?

Anthony Sweat  24:50
Yeah, see, so this is a great see what you're doing right now. Morgan, this is the point of the book is it's to get you to start thinking of questions like that, like, "Whoa, I didn't know that's how it started." So then how did it you evolve into what we have today? And what we see is that like a lot of practices in the Church, God didn't deliver the thing perfectly packaged, wrapped up in a, in a bow. Things developed line upon line. It took a few years before Joseph started to say, "No, we need to record these. We need to say the prayer the same way. They need to be done in the temple when it's done not in a river." It wasn't until Brigham Young that Brigham starts saying, "We should have men be baptized for men and women be baptized for women to keep it gender specific." So, line upon line, those things slowly started to develop. Fascinating.

Morgan Jones 25:38
So interesting. Okay, so then artistically as an artist, somebody that loves a good visual, which painting is your favorite, and why?

Anthony Sweat 25:48
I would say one of my favorites is called "The Voice of God in the Chamber of Father Whitmer." And again, another really important story. If I could give a twenty second background of it, in Section 128, of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith starts to list all these angelic messengers who have delivered the priesthood to him, so to speak. He talks about Peter, James, and John and John the Baptist and Moroni coming, and then he starts, and then he – right after Peter, James, and John, he says, "And the voice of God in the chamber of Father Whitmer" – and most of us, as Latter-day Saints just read that and we're like, "Oh, don't know that story – moving on." But Joseph actually explains in his history, that what he and Oliver Cowdery were praying for was the authorization to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost upon each other. That's what they were praying for in the chamber of Father Whitmer, and that God spoke to them, and gave them directions on how to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. I mean, talk about a huge seminal moment. I even had a missionary one time say to me, they wrote me an email and said, "Okay, we know that after John the Baptist came, that Joseph and Oliver wouldn't baptize each other. After Peter, James, and John came, when did Joseph and Oliver give each other the Holy Ghost?" And this Elder, you could tell, he was like, "Ah, I've never heard that." And so I wrote him back and said, "Well, it seems like it's related to God speaking to them in the chamber, or the bedroom of Peter Whitmer – the Peter Whitmer home – when Joseph was staying there, finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon. So A: – Cool history. Never been depicted – B. C: I chose to paint this one a little bit more abstractly, not quite so realistically, because it's kind of an abstract moment in our history. We don't quite know how it fits in, scholars debate it – what it means. And we don't quite know how it fits into our narrative of church history. But I painted like God, His head is poking kind of through the heavens, because how do you depict the voice of God? And then I painted kind of this yellow, swirling fire-ish thing coming down that's going into Joseph and Oliver's hearts, as they're praying, and I kind of used, you know, exaggerated perspective lines, like Vincent van Gogh did, to show kind of like this, you know, kind of heavenly feel of other-worldly feel. So, anyway. It's just a fun, artistic image to look at visually.

Morgan Jones 28:25
Yeah, well, I think I think it's so cool because, like you said, you don't know what exactly that looks like, and it's been disputed, but you took a stab at it. And I think that that's important. I think that it's important for us to try and to portray these things.

Anthony Sweat  28:45

Morgan Jones 28:45
So if I tried, it would be really bad, so I'm glad you are.

Anthony Sweat 28:49
Oh, you should try, Morgan.

Morgan Jones 28:50
No, I should not.

Anthony Sweat 28:53
Thank you, and I hope other artists paint these images. Because again, the more – I don't want anybody to think, "Oh, well, that's the way it was, because that's how Anthony Sweat painted it." This is just my interpretation, my, my take my approach. If I painted the same scene, I might paint it differently the next time, and other artists would take different approaches, so I do hope other artists approach these.

Morgan Jones 29:19
So when you are working on a piece like that, how do you, how do you decide how to paint it? Is it, do you spend time researching – obviously, I would think – and then praying about it, or what is the process there?

Anthony Sweat 29:36
You know, I think we have this kind of romantic narrative that artists and musicians and you know that things just fall right out of heaven. You know, we hear the story like I just woke up and I have this picture right in my mind or that's more rare than common. Kind of like revelation in our own life and inspiration, you have to work at it. You have to try, you have to fail. There are starts and stops, fits and jolts – most of these images follow that same pattern. I hear something, I think about it, I sketch out a rough idea in my mind about how it could look, visually, that would be interesting visually, and then from there, start to try different approaches and do compositional sketches and photograph people. And sometimes it comes together really well. And sometimes it doesn't. It's kind of like life as a whole.

Morgan Jones 30:27
Yeah. We had, we had Rob Gardner on this podcast – I'm not sure if you're familiar with "Lamb of God," but he talked about how when he was writing that he said, you know, "People seem to have this idea that, you know, these amazing compositions come together, you know, they come to somebody in their sleep."

Anthony Sweat  30:47

Morgan Jones 30:47
And he said, "That's never been my experience." And so I do think it's important for us to realize that sometimes, we really have to put in work. And even these really incredible things that people do that we maybe think, "I could never do that," Well, maybe you could never do it, like I said, stick figures are like as far as it goes for me with art, but I think anything worth doing, for the most part is going to take some work. And so thank you, for the work that you put into this book.

Anthony Sweat 31:18
Oh, thank you. I mean, with everything, with your podcast, or whatever great work that the listeners are that they're engaged in at home, it will be – you know, it's cliche, but it's true – it will be 99% perspiration. And I can say that because my last name, "Sweat." And then the 1% inspiration pops through and we're so grateful when heaven does seem to part and the answer does seem to come. And while a lot of these images, there was just a lot of work – there's just no way around it, it was a lot of work – I would be remiss if I also didn't say that there were there were times when I did feel heaven kind of settle on me, and I felt like I was, you know, being blessed or helped to produce an important image.

Morgan Jones 32:04
How long did it take you to create all of these paintings?

Anthony Sweat 32:07
You know, some, some of them were quick. Some of them are more illustrative scenes. Like maybe something like “The Burning of the Nauvoo Expositor,” for example, which is a scene that, you know, we know that Joseph Smith was martyred. A lot of people don't know why Joseph Smith was arrested and taken to Carthage Jail. And he was arrested for destruction of property and inciting a riot because as mayor, he ordered the sheriff to destroy a printing press that was printing negative things about him in Nauvoo. And so that's what led to his arrest and being taken to Carthage. So that painting I did just in a day or two, it's more illustrative. It's called "The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor" and shows them burning the press out in the streets, which is what the sources say happen. Other images literally took months and months of work. Like my painting of the Book of Mormon translation of Joseph using a hat with –

Morgan Jones 33:05
I like that one a lot.

Anthony Sweat  33:05
Thank you. I did – that was the first image that kicked off the series. I painted that back in 2013 – 2014. And I may have been maybe the first Latter-day Saint artists to try to faithfully depict that scene. And I wanted to do it right, and I wanted to do it well, and that one took a few months. Same with images, like the Relief Society healing, or the ordination of Q. Walker Lewis, or another one, Michael detecting the devil on the banks of the Susquehanna River which is an important historical scene. You know, one more –

Morgan Jones 33:41
Wait, what's that one about? You can't tease it like that Anthony.

Anthony Sweat 33:47
I can! Now see, go pick up the book and take a look at the image. So there's this really interesting line in scripture where Joseph says that one time the devil tried to deceive, tried to appear as an angel of light on the banks of the Susquehanna, and deceive Joseph Smith. And then Michael – who Joseph says is Adam – appears, and gives Joseph Smith keys to use Joseph's word's, to detect true messengers of God from false messengers of God. And that becomes an important Latter-day Saint teaching that was, later makes its way into some of the teachings had in the Latter-day Saint temple. So again, really important historical and doctrinal images that have just never been depicted.

Morgan Jones 34:31
So interesting. I want to come back to something that you said really quickly, because I cannot be the only one thinking this. Why is it a positive thing for us, and how can we faithfully approach a story like Joseph Smith burning that printing press?

Anthony Sweat 34:53
That's a great question. Can I tell another story of a painting that's in there?

Morgan Jones 34:58

Anthony Sweat 35:00
So President Kimball gave a landmark talk on the gospel that his vision of the gospel and the arts, and it was basically a challenge to artists to faithfully portray the great moments of the Restoration in epic artistic scenes, paintings and film and, and I'm so grateful for the women and men in our history who have attempted to fulfill that vision. But one thing that – one part of it that we've kind of overlooked is President Kimball talked about not only the majestic parts of the Restoration, but he also said we should depict the apostasies, the difficulties. He called them the revolutions and counter revolutions of the Restoration as well. We kind of are, we like art that is heroic and triumphant, but we kind of shy away from art that deals with difficulty, or ambiguity. And until we can embrace things like that, I don't think we can really get a handle on the way the Lord is working in the Restoration as a whole. If we think it's always victories and triumphant and without problem, then we get a false narrative in our mind.

Morgan Jones 36:26
And then when things get messy for us, we think –

Anthony Sweat 36:30
"– Well then God's not with me. Why? This isn't the way it happened for every other inspired person." And the reality is no, it is how it happened. Like, I'm not going to rap on your podcast right now, but using an American history example, the great artist John Trumbull painted the signing of the Declaration of Independence and when John –

Morgan Jones 36:50
But we all want you to rap Hamilton right now.

Anthony Sweat 36:50
– I just might. Um, and when John Adams heard that Trumbull was going to paint it, he said, "Please don't re–make history of this happy scene." He basically said, you know, "Show the fights and the arguments. There the child was born ," Is what Adams says to Trumbull. "There the revolution commenced. And he said, "Let not our posterity be diluted by pretenses under graphical license." And so when Hamilton the musical came out, there's a song that's in the mixtape album that The Roots sing, and it's called "No John Trumbull,” and it says, "Have you ever seen a painting by John Trumbull? Founding Fathers all in a line looking all humble, patiently waiting to sign a declaration no sign of disagreement, not even one grumble." And then it says, "The reality is messier and richer, kids. The reality is not a pretty picture, kids. Every cabinet meeting a full on rumble. What you're about to see is no John Trumbull." And duh dun dun. You can put the beat behind that on the podcast.

Morgan Jones 38:05
I'm also just going to take a moment. [Clapping]

Anthony Sweat 38:05
That was from memory, I wasn't reading anything. But why that's important – to give a long answer – take for example, one of the paintings in here that is not a mantle piece painting, meaning you likely do not want to hang this up in your living room, shows Joseph Smith and Emma in front of a fireplace late at night, and Emma is holding, in this low lit scene, Emma is holding the revelation on plural marriage. And Joseph – I painted Joseph sitting in a chair, kind of uncomfortably looking away from her. And the painting is called purgatory. Because in the historical record, Joseph and Emma – understandably so – they could not reconcile the revelation on plural marriage. It put a rift in their marriage that I'm not sure ever was fully healed. They deeply loved each other. Without any question. They deeply love each other, but they couldn't reconcile this. Joseph writes in his journal that for about three days he was at home, he and Emma arguing over this revelation. And on the third day, his scribe writes in a shorthand that the last three days have been hell or purgatory, for he and Emma. Now, the reason why that's important, to me, it's not a lesson about plural marriage, I wanted to include that painting so that you can understand the difficulty that people sometimes have when they're trying to implement revelation. The difficulty that – about maybe give some insight into why Emma Smith did not come West and follow Brigham Young. Because Emma just couldn't quite – I hear people sometimes say, "Well, the reason why Emma didn't come West was because she was exhausted and tired and had been through too much." That may be the case but I'm not sure I subscribe to that narrative. Mary Fielding also had her husband Hyrum murdered and she came West. The difficulty was plural marriage, and Emma knew that the Quorum of the Twelve, as they continued to leave the church that they, they were practicing it, and they would likely continue the practice. So, if we, if we look at paintings like the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, Joseph and Emma struggling over plural marriage, or if I can just tell one more story, I did a little painting –

Morgan Jones 40:32
You can tell as many stories as you want.

Anthony Sweat  40:34
K, there's a great painting when Joseph gets into a fistfight with his little brother William. They were at a debate and Joseph censured William, his little brother. And like a lot of families, they had some sibling rivalries, you know, we'd love our siblings, but sometimes, we just have difficulties with our siblings. And William Smith became so enraged that he jumped up, and Joseph saw that William was going to attack him, and Joseph tried to take his coat off to fight him, but couldn't get his coat off, and William Smith beat the tar out of Joseph Smith. Like so much so that for the next day, Joseph was in bed all day and couldn't get up without help. And for the next number of weeks, Joseph and William are – their relationship is ruined as anybody's would be who got into an actual physical altercation with their sibling. And it takes a family intervention, a few weeks later with Joseph's father, Martin Harris, they have a family intervention where they bring Joseph and William together in person, both of them confess their faults, both of them admit where they were wrong, they freely forgive each other, Joseph writes, "The tears flowed fast, and the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness was over all of us." Well, that's beautiful, beautiful, because that's, that's life. And if that ruins somebody's image of the Prophet, I might be so bold as to say, then maybe you don't really know the Prophet. And maybe you need – and I need – to get to know Joseph Smith, not just as a prophet, but as a person. And all these other people also, because it helps us see that God is working through regular people who are doing great work, but they're still struggling with difficulties. And if he can work through them in their imperfections, and their struggles, then he can work with me, and he can work with you in our imperfections in our struggles. That's why I think scenes like this are important. And that's how I hope a viewer approaches some of these non-mantle piece images that I painted and illustrated in the book.

Morgan Jones  42:40
I could not agree more. I love that. I feel like you've kind of touched on this, but how was your testimony, personally, of the truthfulness of the restored gospel strengthened? And as you worked on this book?

Anthony Sweat 42:55
Yeah, that is a great question. It definitely was. You know, I wrote in the introduction, that faith is a choice. In today's information age, ignorance is not. And so I hope that as people look at these – I painted, there's 25 paintings in here – from things going from Joseph finding a seer stone when he's young, when he's a teenager, to, you know, angels ministering to Joseph delivering priesthood keys like Raphael, who's, who's the angel Raphael? I don't know! I'll give you a million dollars if you know.

Morgan Jones 43:31
I wish I knew. I don't.

Anthony Sweat 43:31
I wish I knew. We just have this subtle reference to it. But we don't quite know what power Raphael restored. My hope is that, like I said, faith is a choice, and faith is a gift. And what I hope when people look at these scenes and what happened to me as I researched and wrote and painted them was my faith was strengthened. I saw God work with people line upon line precept upon precept. I saw the Lord expand my understanding to see things more broadly. You know, Joseph Smith, one time said, "Mormonism is truth." And I love that because truth – the scriptures say that truth is a knowledge of things, as they really are, not as we wish they were. And truth is a knowledge of things as they are as they were, and as they are to come. And so it can't just be the things that that we hope are true, it also has to be the things that really are and really were, and as I learned these things and painted them, I feel like my mind expanded and I got a better feel for that phrase of "Mormonism is truth." Let's embrace all good, all truth. Let's learn. Let's grow line upon line, precept upon precept. Let's maybe alter some ideas we have that may not hold up under the test of time, that need to be rearranged or remodeled. Let's tackle difficult issues and celebrate the glorious achievements. And that's what painting and writing Repicturing the Restoration did for me. It deeply and greatly strengthened my faith in the Restoration.

Morgan Jones  45:18
Thank you so much, Anthony. Well, we have reached our final question. Thank you so much for sharing so many, I think – hopefully, people are as excited like I said, I got like a few images in and I read all of the text at the beginning. But I'm excited to totally dig into this book. But in conclusion, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Anthony Sweat 45:44
I love that question that you end this podcast on. And I knew you'd ask that one. And so as I thought about it, I've, to me, what it means to be all in in the Gospel means to be a consecrated Saint. I think that living the Law of Consecration is what God is trying to get us all to do. And by that I don't want us to get confused with that some economic system. By consecration, I'm using the simple definition, that we dedicate our time that we have, we dedicate our talents and we dedicate any means or abilities we have, to try to build up the kingdom of God and help the Lord's will be done on this earth – like it is done in heaven. And the beauty of that is like with this project, is, I take my time and talents and means and take them to the Lord and say, "Lord, what is it that you would have me do with my time, talents and means?" He directs me in my own small little sphere and in my own small stewardship. And I am confident He can direct every one of your listeners, that if they will take that question to the Lord, that He'll also direct them about how they can use their great gifts and their opportunities to help build the kingdom. So to me, that's – if I had to summarize what it means to be all in, it's to be a consecrated saint in that way, trying to use the great gifts that God has given us on this earth and the great opportunities that are ours, to do His will and build His kingdom to bless His children.

Morgan Jones 47:18
Thank you so much, Anthony. It's been a delight to be with you. And thank you so much for all your work on this book and many others. So thanks.

Anthony Sweat 47:26
Thank you so much.

Morgan Jones 47:30
A huge thank you to Anthony Sweat for joining us on today's episode. You can find Repicturing the Restoration on deseretbook.com. A big thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this – and every – episode and thank you so much for listening.

View More