For Them That Honour Me

Keeping The Sabbath Day HolyWhen Jill and I were raising our children we taught them that Sunday was the Sabbath Day, a day when our family refrains from recreation and focuses our attention on God.

Well, that was the theory. In practice it must have seemed to the children to be a list of shalt nots stretching into the eternities.

For example, on a Sunday there was no shopping, no television, no video games, and no newspaper (parents were included). When we went on vacation, it was usually from early Monday to late Saturday.

Around twenty-five years ago a pamphlet published by the Church was distributed to families. Today I don’t recall anything about the pamphlet except that it had a list of could dos on one of its pages. I cut out the list, pinned it to the bulletin board, and implemented many of the suggestions.

No doubt my children appreciated the Church’s diligence.

  1. Read the scriptures, conference reports, and Church publications.
  2. Study the lives and teachings of the prophets.
  3. Prepare Church lessons and other Church assignments.
  4. Write in journals.
  5. Pray and meditate.
  6. Write to or visit relatives and friends.
  7. Write to missionaries.
  8. Enjoy uplifting music.
  9. Have family gospel instruction.
  10. Hold family council meetings.
  11. Build husband-wife relationships.
  12. Read with a child.
  13. Do genealogical research, including the four generation program and family or personal histories.
  14. Sing Church hymns.
  15. Read uplifting literature.
  16. Develop appreciation for the cultural arts.
  17. Plan family home evening study and activities.
  18. Plan other family activities.
  19. Friendship nonmembers.
  20. Fellowship neighbors.
  21. Visit the sick, the aged, and the lonely.
  22. Hold interviews with family members.

The list is still there on the bulletin board. I may add number 23: “Blog about the Gospel.”

Hat tip Chariots of Fire

From Muslim To Mormon

GwenGwen, who adopted the name Khadijah as a Muslim, is retired and lives in Portland, Oregon, devoting as much of her time as possible to volunteer work and writing youth and young adult Science Fiction. Gwen publishes on line, but wants to shift to self-publishing in her next book.

It all seems so surreal at times, my how the years have flown past me. From the time I was about 12, I wanted to know how we all got here. I wanted to know how things happened; how all this complexity around us came to be. Somehow, despite the abusive home life, and the darkness about me, I just knew that the beauty and complexity about us all is not an accident, and later I would begin to see that unifying intelligence could easily be called God.

I wouldn’t really address the idea of God again until my late 20’s, when I began to realize that certain things around me could not be random. I also felt that someone had helped me at several points in my life and the feelings became so strong that I began to really want to thank whoever was doing these things for me. So, in a series of what I consider to be God driven incidents I read the Bible and realized that the help must have been coming from God.

Those who are accustomed to the Holy Spirit working in their lives won’t find this surprising and years later it is very clear that Heavenly Father was pursuing me long before I knew it. In one series of events in 1974, one evening I had stood on the porch and marvelled at the astonishingly beautiful sunset; feeling extremely fascinated with how it happened.

Later that night, I watched a program that reviewed the book, “Late Great Planet Earth”, and the very next day, I saw the book laying on my boss’s desk. I borrowed it and spent the next two weekends reading it and comparing the passages quoted with the various versions of the Bible in the house. At the time none of us were Christians and I still do not know how the Bibles came to be there.

Me wearing a traditional hijab

Me wearing a traditional hijab

At the end of the second week end, I was on my knees, praying to God to bring me wisdom, and forgive my sins. After all, I had tiny children and knew that I was not a good parent. I was very worried about damaging them.

Interestingly, in the next 30 plus years, I’d find several different churches, but always felt as if something was lacking. After 9/11, my search for the one true God would even lead me into Islam for several years. I didn’t want to casually worship God, the only one who loved me, but I wanted to do it with devotion and obedience.

Along the way in life were many blessings and heart breaking hardships, yet I kept searching for the true God. In my early experiences with Christianity, many seemed to preach about Jesus on Sunday, but then be against the power there in. In several churches, it all seemed to be a surface experience and I’d repeatedly find that I felt too evil, too lost to ever be a real part of it all. Ever conscious of my own faults and being hated by those around me, I entered Islam.

For a few years, I loved the praying, highly organised and involving absolute prostration before God, I felt as if this was best for me. The problem is that Islam is a very closed society, and if you are not Middle Eastern and speak Arabic you are never really accepted. I loved Allah SWT1 and worshipping him, but was very hurt by the way that some Muslims treated me. No matter how hard I tried, it felt like I was failing God.

So it was, on March 13th, 2011 I found myself in Ohio driving back toward the apartment I shared with two other women in Painesville. I’d been out doing research on the Amish because I’d endured a harsh childhood at the hands of an Amish step father, and wanted to make sense of what I’d experienced.

Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple is a National Historic Landmark, now owned and operated by the Community of Christ

So, this day, in the afternoon, I was driving north and began to pass through the tiny community of Kirtland, Ohio. As I drove, I saw a strange looking building in the distance and gradually realised that it looked like a church.

Something in my heart leapt, and I felt compelled to pull over and look at the structure. I looked Kirtland up on my Android and realised that the structure before me was the first Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Over the years, I’d had several brief encounters with various types of Mormons, but I never got involved.

I was very fascinated with early American history, and knew that I had to see that building; go inside. Well, it was all locked up and the visitor’s center for that church was too; I would have to return another day. Getting back in my car, I started home, realising that I had no idea when it would be open.

Then I passed an LDS church and knowing that they had to be connected, pulled in when I saw cars there. Surely they would not object to just one question from me? At the time I was still Muslim, and dressed appropriately for a Muslim woman to include the abaya and hijab2. I worried that they would be mean and reject me as a terrorist as a few had done.

To my utter astonishment, the missionary sisters warmly received me, even after I said that I was just interested in American History and not becoming Mormon. After all, I was Muslim. One visit became two; two became four and soon I was attending the Mosque on Friday and Mormon Church on Sunday.

It did not take long for the differences and similarities between my two faith experiences to begin to become troublesome. I was certainly sure that the LDS I met were much friendlier than the Muslims I knew, and they spoke my language. In Islam, the way that Jesus Christ was handled always troubled me, and speaking of it, got me in trouble.

The baptism of Jesus Christ

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him

The missionary sisters and church members in the Kirtland area, gradually won my heart and helped me to believe that Christians could be loving and accepting, though I still have reservations about the LDS calling themselves Christian, because the Christian denominations I had previously experienced were certainly not as loving and supportive.

We jokingly settled on the idea that the LDS were version 1.0 and everyone else were version 8.1. It would take me some time to appreciate that the LDS do not speak harshly of other faiths, and that is one of the key issues that attracted me to them. I felt I was ready for baptism, but in reality, I had much to learn.

Almost three months passed, and when it was time to return to my home city of Portland, Oregon, I was convinced that I wanted to become a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. It was difficult to think about giving up my Muslim faith, but no one pressured me, and I am convinced that if I wanted to attend church in my abaya and hijab, no one would say a thing.

I was comfortable with Muslim prayer, my abaya and hijab, and the modesty and devoutness of my life, and still miss the security I feel in my hijab. It is difficult for some to understand; perhaps part of my soul will always be Muslim.

Finally on January 29th, 2012 I was baptised and there were lots of well-wishers there. Two of the sister missionaries who’d been my teachers in Kirtland were now at Provo and they drove up to Portland, Oregon. I was somehow uncomfortable with being baptised in pants, so they allowed me to find a white dress for it. I think that perhaps most of the church attended, including my roommates who are not Christian. It all flew by in a blur for me. I was overwhelmed.

Rainbow that appeared the day of my baptism

Rainbow that appeared in Portland on the day of my baptism


For the first time in my life, I felt loved, really loved for me, not who others wanted me to be. Early on, there had been questions about my believing in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith as a Prophet and the standard things that the LDS believe.

I kept telling them that for me those things were not difficult because I believed in Allah SWT, the prophet Muhammad PBUH3, and the Qur’an, so the step on to the rest of the truth was not difficult. I believe that Heavenly Father still talks to us through the prophet, Thomas S Monson. And, I believe that Muhammad PBUH was one of the prophets.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

  1. SWT is Subhanahu Wa tala and that means “glorified and exalted is he”, it’s an honorific that is seen as required respect when they use the word Allah. Muslims believe in one God, and Allah is merely the word God in Arabic. We worship the same God.
  2. I still believe in the practice of Hijab, but mostly don’t do it nowadays to blend into American culture. This Youtube video provides a great explanation into the real reason for Hijab.
  3. PBUH is another honorific and is used after the name of any of the prophets. It means, “Peace be upon him”. Muslims recognise the same prophets as Christians.

Credits

The Atonement

The Death of Jesus

The Death of Jesus by James Tissot


The Atonement of Jesus Christ, according to The Guide to the Scriptures, means “To reconcile man to God.” Also:

To atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect atonement for all mankind … the only one able to do so. His atonement included his suffering for the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shedding of his blood, and his death and subsequent resurrection from the grave.

Because of the Atonement, all people will rise from the dead with immortal bodies. The Atonement also provides the way for us to be forgiven of our sins and live forever with God. But a person who has reached the age of accountability and received the law can receive these blessings only if he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, receives the ordinances of salvation, and obeys the commandments of God.

The scriptures clearly teach that if Christ had not atoned for our sins, no law, ordinance, or sacrifice would satisfy the demands of justice, and man could never regain God’s presence. (The Guide to the Scriptures, Atone, Atonement)

This week the atonement is the subject of the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School. I have been asked to substitute and an assignment like this can be quite intimidating. Not that the experience of teaching Gospel Doctrine is new to me, for I have often taught about the Old Testament. But still, it has been a while and I never have got used to teaching and keeping the attention of 100 members for 40 minutes.

When teaching, I stay on topic but like to vary how part of the lesson is presented. To that end, it would be helpful to read to the class a few thoughts from you, dear reader, if you are up to it.

Below are the images I will show at the beginning of class, as suggested by the lesson outline. Click on the links below to see images of Christ’s ministry. Look at the pictures and think about what Jesus Christ has done for you.

Sermon on the Mount
Christ Healing The Blind Man
Stilling the Storm
Jesus Blessing Jairus’s Daughter
Christ with the Children
Jesus Praying in Gethsemane
The Crucifixion

Notes

The Death of Jesus courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

Rickety signature

Mesa Easter Pageant – Jesus The Christ

Mesa Easter Pageant palms for Jesus

Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. (John 12:13)

Last Thursday evening found my family enjoying the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant, one of the world’s largest annual outdoor Easter pageants. In Jesus the Christ the story is told of the Savior’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection through speech, music, dance, and drama. The pageant is not a passion play focusing on the crucifixion but rather a celebration of the resurrection of the Savior.

Mesa Easter Pageant our family in our seats

At the pageant: Jill, Rick, Paul, Jake, Sarah, Bryson, Derek

Pageant History

The Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant, from its beginnings as a sunrise performance on the back of a cotton wagon in 1928, has grown into a full-scale theatrical production involving nearly 1,000 cast and crew and a 9,600-square-foot stage. The presentation was not held during some of the war years but has been held every year since.

Mesa Easter Pageant and the temple

The pageant is performed on the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors Center grounds

Mesa Easter Pageant Paul by the temple

Paul by the Mesa Arizona Temple

According to the official website, the pageant is appropriate for children:

It is very colorful and fast-moving. There are beautiful scenes showing Jesus teaching and healing children, as well as scenes which use animals such as sheep, miniature horses, doves, and a donkey. The betrayal, scourging, and crucifixion of Christ are portrayed, but these scenes are presented as tastefully as possible. Although children of all ages are permitted to attend, children under the age of 3 years may not be able to see as well and may be uncomfortable in the chilly weather.

Our grandson Bryson is 2 1/2 and did not watch the pageant for long. He had to be taken from the seating area so he wouldn’t disturb the people sitting near us. We noticed that some of the parents of other very young children had to do the same thing.

Mesa Easter Pageant before the performance

View from the side of the stage towards the audience


Cast members were available for photographs before and after the pageant, in the audience or in the Visitors’ Center. We were allowed to use our own cameras. However, during the performance no flash photography or video photography is permitted. One could presumably take photographs of the performance without using a flash but I didn’t try this — I just relaxed and enjoyed the presentation.

Pageant Costumes

Mesa Easter Pageant father and son shepherds

Father and son shepherds

The costumes are beautiful. I was impressed at the variety, color, and quality. I learned that a 20-person costume staff works year round to research Biblical costumes, create, design, and sew them. No costumes are rented; they are all constructed by pageant volunteers. Most of the fabric is donated (some even coming from Saudi Arabia and Israel). Great care is taken to make sure the costumes are historically correct.
Mesa Easter Pageant cast members
During Biblical times, cultures from throughout the Mid-Eastern World, and as far away as Africa, gathered in Jerusalem — making it a very eclectic gathering place of native costumes of all colors and designs. Of course, the pastoral people dressed more humbly in color, fabric and style. The only scene in the pageant with which is taken creative license for outdoor theatrical costuming is the Dance of the Ten Virgins’ Parable.

Mesa Easter Pageant ten virgins

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1)

The Romans

The Emperor of Rome, with the title Augustus Caesar, confirmed Herod as king of the Jews. Herod owed allegiance to Rome, but was free to do what he wanted within Israel.

Rome ruled all of the known world. Rome was not at war but were prepared for it. Roman soldiers were professionals who had enlisted for 25 years. They were armed with heavy javelins, called pila, and short swords of 24 inches long. They wore helmets and chainmail shirts and they carried large curved wooden shields.

Mesa Easter Pageant Bryson with a Roman soldier

Bryson listens to instructions from a passing Roman soldier


At the time of Jesus Roman soldiers would have been found only around Caesarea Maratima where the Roman procurator lived. They would have been called into use when the great festivals were being celebrated in Jerusalem to prevent uprisings, or they would be needed in the execution of criminals by crucifixion.

Living under Roman rule had some advantages. Generally they allowed freedom of religion and did not interfere with the religious practices of the people they governed. The governors of provinces built temples to their own gods, where sacrifices were conducted daily. But it was the Roman method of taxation that most stung. Provinces had to pay taxes. An amount was estimated and the country split up into tax districts. As Rome had no civil service, taxes were collected by private syndicates who made a large profit by over collecting. Taxes on goods were very high. Not surprisingly, tax collectors were despised. (The Romans in Israel)

Mesa Easter Pageant Jill with a Roman soldier

A Roman soldier, on his way to a scourging (note the flagrum), obligingly let me take this photograph

Attending The Pageant

The pageant is free and runs 65 minutes. No tickets or reservations are necessary, but space fills up quickly, with more than 100,000 people attending over the nine days. Nightly audiences range from about 4,000 to 12,000 people. On the evening we attended it was easy to find good seats but during the second week of performances the seats fill very quickly and I would recommend arriving at least two hours early. See Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant for more details.

Pageant Scenes

Mesa Easter Pageant Jesus and parents

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)


Mesa Easter Pageant Jesus before the teachers

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)


Mesa Easter Pageant Christ resurrected

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. (Matthew 28:6)

Photo Credit The five scenes from the performance: Mesa Easter Pageant Now on Stage
Watch a Video Mesa Easter Pageant Teaches of Christ

Rickety signature

Carl Bloch: The Master’s Hand

Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand

Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand. When we visited, the exhibition was much more crowded

Today Jill and I attended the exhibition Carl Bloch: The Master’s Hand. Featured are five larger-than-life altarpieces. Four of these have come from Lutheran churches in Denmark and Sweden, removed for the first time since they were originally installed in the late 1800s. The fifth is Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda, which was acquired by the Museum from Bethesda Dansk Indre Mission in Copenhagen in September 2001 and remains a part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The paintings, seen in their original size, are detailed and impressive and are a must see. Bear in mind as you view them on this post that the digital images obviously do not do the originals justice. Click on the images to enlarge.

The Doubting ThomasThe Doubting Thomas

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast aseen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 20:24-29

Christus ConsolatorChristus Consolator

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

2 Corinthians 1:5-7
 
 
 
 

Christ in the Garden of GethsemaneChrist In The Garden Of Gethsemane

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke: 22:41-44
 
 

Christ Blessing the Little ChildChrist Blessing The Little Child

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,

Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Mark 9:35-37
 
 
 
 
 
 

Christ Healing the Sick at BethesdaChrist Healing The Sick At Bethesda

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

John 5:8

About The Exhibition

The exhibit runs until May 7, 2011. You need tickets (free) from the BYU Arts website. I recommend that when you visit the exhibition that you rent for $3 an iPad loaded with the museum produced application to enhance your gallery experience.

The exhibition also includes other religious works, as well as portraits, landscapes, genre, and history paintings from many of Denmark’s museums.

Sources

Carl Bloch: Reaching toward Heaven,” Ensign, Apr 2011, 42–47.
Carl Bloch: The Master’s Hand,” Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

James Tissot Paints The Birth Of Christ

James Tissot created a series of 350 watercolors of incidents in the life of Christ. Here I use some of his paintings to illustrate the birth of Christ, along with scriptures from Matthew and Luke.

The Betrothal of the Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph

The Betrothal of the Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 1:18)

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. (Luke 1:30-31)

The Visitation

The Visitation

And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luke 1:39-42)

The Magnificat

The Magnificat

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (Luke 1:46-48)

The Anxiety of Saint Joseph

The Anxiety of Saint Joseph

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. (Matthew 1:19)

The Vision of Saint Joseph

The Vision of Saint Joseph

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 1:20)

Saint Joseph Seeks a Lodging in Bethlehem

Saint Joseph Seeks a Lodging in Bethlehem

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (Luke 2:4-5)

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)

The Angel and the Shepherds

The Angel and the Shepherds

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:8-12)

The Adoration of the Shepherds

The Adoration of the Shepherds

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16)

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. (Luke 2:22-24)

The Aged Simeon

The Aged Simeon

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:25-32)

Saint Anne

Saint Anne

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

The Magi Journeying

The Magi Journeying

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Magi in the House of Herod

The Magi in the House of Herod

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. (Matthew 2:3-8)

The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Matthew 2:9-12)

Notes

Photographs of the paintings courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.
Order of the events adapted from Harmony of the Four Gospels.
Rickety signature.

Seven Artists Paint New Testament Women

The New Testament is rich in the accounts of courageous, humble, beautiful women. The same is true of the women of the Old Testament. These women shaped history with their influence, faith, and … mistakes. Of the seven women pictured here, five of them we do not know their names. We are left to associate them only with their race, deeds, or condition.

The artists I have featured have made the scriptures come alive and added an additional dimension to the New Testament.

Mary

Mary holding child

She Shall Bring Forth a Son, by Liz Lemon Swindle

In the New Testament, a virgin chosen by God the Father to be the mother of His Son in the flesh. After Jesus’ birth, Mary had other children (Mark 6:3).

She was betrothed to Joseph, Matt. 1:18 (Luke 1:27). Joseph was told not to divorce Mary or release her from the betrothal, Matt. 1:18-25.

The angel Gabriel visited her, Luke 1: 26-38. She visited Elisabeth, her cousin, Luke 1:36, 40-45. Mary gave a psalm of praise to the Lord, Luke 1:46-55.

Mary went to Bethlehem with Joseph, Luke 2:4-5. Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger, Luke 2:7. The shepherds went to Bethlehem to visit the Christ child, Luke 2:16-20. The wise men visited Mary, Matt. 2:11. Mary and Joseph fled with the child Jesus to Egypt, Matt. 2:13-14. After Herod’s death, the family returned to Nazareth, Matt. 2:19-23.

Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, Luke 2: 21-38. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Passover, Luke 2:41-52. Mary was at the wedding at Cana, John 2:2-5.

The Savior, while on the cross, asked John to care for his mother, John 19:25-27. Mary was with the Apostles after Christ was taken up into heaven, Acts 1:14. — Guide to the Scriptures

Liz Lemon Swindle

Liz Lemon Swindle began her painting career in first grade. Her first exhibitions were on the refrigerator, encouraged by her father. In the early 1980s she tutored under renowned wildlife artist, Nancy Glazier. In 1992, Liz began painting a subject matter she had long desired to approach: her faith. Her paintings are now held in corporate and private collections around the world and have been published in countless magazines and books. Liz and her husband Jon have five children and thirteen grandchildren.

Of her painting of Mary, Liz wrote:

How great is God’s plan that allows mere mortals to bring His children into the world, care for them, and help them make their way back to Him. How amazing that he trusts us when so much is at stake. How much more amazing and harder to comprehend is the experience of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We worry about our own responsibilities as parents. How much more was at stake to be a parent to the Son of God.

Image source: Repartee Gallery

Lydia

Lydia

She Worketh Willingly With Her Hands, by Elspeth Young

The Acts of the Apostles describes Lydia as follows:

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. (Acts 16:14-15)

The name Lydia, meaning “the Lydian woman”, by which she was known indicates that she was from Lydia in Asia Minor. She was evidently a well-to-do agent of a purple-dye firm of Thyatira, a city southeast of Pergamum and approximately 40 miles inland, across the Aegean Sea from Athens.

As Paul preached, the Lord opened the heart of Lydia to receive the message about Jesus. She believed his words and responded to the teaching. She and the members of her household were baptized. Lydia insisted on giving hospitality to Paul and his companions in Philippi. They stayed with her until their departure, through Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica.

We don’t know if Lydia was married, or single, or a widow.

Elspeth Young

Elspeth Young’s oil paintings express her lifelong fascination with capturing not only the human form, but the wonder of nature. Since graduating from Brigham Young University in 2003, she has worked fulltime as an artist, and while a diverse range of commissions has given her experience in various media, she now concentrates her painting primarily on religious art, in which her natural talent, exhaustive research, and craftsmanship are exemplary. — Al Young Studios

Image source: Al Young Studios

Samaritan Woman

Samaritan Woman

Living Water, by Simon Dewey

The long account about Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well is found in John 4:1-42 and is highly significant for understanding Jesus in several relationships: Samaritans, women, and sinners. By talking openly with this woman Jesus crossed a number of barriers which normally would have separated a Jewish teacher from such a person as this woman of Samaria. Jesus did three things that were highly unconventional and astonishing for his cultural-religious situation:

  • He as a man discussed theology openly with a woman.
  • He as a Jew asked to drink from the ritually unclean bucket of a Samaritan.
  • He did not avoid her, even though he knew her marital record of having had five former husbands and now living with a man who was not her husband.

The disciples showed their astonishment upon their return to the well: “They were marveling that he was talking with a woman” (John 4:27). A man in the Jewish world did not normally talk with a woman in public, not even with his own wife. For a rabbi to discuss theology with a woman was even more unconventional.

Jesus did not defer to a woman simply because she was a woman. He did not hesitate to ask of the woman that she let him drink from her vessel, but he also did not hesitate to offer her a drink of another kind from a Jewish “bucket” as he said to her, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Salvation was coming to the Samaritan woman from the Jews, and culturally there was great enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans (considered a half-breed race by the Jews). Although she was a Samaritan, she needed to be able to drink from a Jewish “vessel” (of salvation) and Jesus no more sanctioned Samaritan prejudice against Jew than Jewish prejudice against Samaritan.

The key to Jesus’ stance is found in his perceiving persons as persons. He saw the stranger at the well as someone who first and foremost was a person—not primarily a Samaritan, a woman, or a sinner. This evangelized woman became an evangelist. She introduced her community to “a man” whom they came to acclaim as “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

Jesus liberated this woman and awakened her to a new life in which not only did she receive but also gave. The Bible says she brought “many Samaritans” to faith in Christ (John 4:39). — Wikipedia

Simon Dewey

“My earliest memory of drawing was at the age of five — my father gave me an old roll of wallpaper and a pencil and told me to fill the entire thing with sketches. I went about my assignment with unwavering commitment, covering the complete roll with a continuous procession of every conceivable image that might enter into the world a five year-old boy.”

As the boy Simon would watch his father’s meticulous brush strokes amidst the aroma of oil paints and the clutter of brushes, stretched canvases, and works in progress, something inside of him spoke of his own future. It was Joe’s passion for his pastime that fostered within Simon the joy of creation for creation’s sake, a true love of art, and an appreciation of the beauty of human form. It was those early values that eventually guided Simon to follow in his father’s footsteps as a portrait painter.

Simon decided to develop his talents with more of a hands-on approach and took a job as a corporate visual-aids illustrator spending his spare time studying the work of his heroes Norman Rockwell, Harry Anderson and Tom Lovell. While working in the heart of the City of London directly opposite the splendid St. Paul’s cathedral Simon honed his artistic skills and quickly became recognized for his exceptional illustration abilities. This led to a position as the sole illustrator in a small design firm where Simon learned to produce detailed paintings under tight deadlines.

In his spare time Simon pursued his real passion of creating family and religious art. As he was inspired, Simon painted renditions of his favorite passages of scripture or images of his own children. Receiving so many requests for copies of these images, he entered the world of published fine art. Simon has become known for his sensitivity towards his subjects which is exquisitely revealed in his detailed and delicate portraits capturing moments in time from the tender to the magnificent. Many marvel at the masterful way Simon portrays the love and compassion in the face of the Savior Jesus Christ, or the devotion in the eyes of a believer. Those close to Simon understand this ability is founded in his own firm and abiding faith. — Altius Fine Art

Image source: Altus Fine Art

Woman Taken In Adultery

The Woman Taken In Adultery

The Woman Taken In Adultery, by Rembrandt

The scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman taken in adultery so that they might entrap Him.

But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:6–11).

The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The magnitude of that Atonement is beyond our ability to completely understand. I know only that it happened, and that it was for me and for you. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can comprehend it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind.

It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life.

May God help us to be a little kinder, showing forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, more willing to walk the second mile, to reach down and lift up those who may have sinned but have brought forth the fruits of repentance, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more. — Gordon B. Hinckley, “Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 81

Rembrandt

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught nearly every important Dutch painter. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

In both painting and printmaking he exhibited a complete knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.” — Wikipedia

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Widow’s Mite

The Widow's Mite

The Widow's Mite, by James Christensen

One of the most humbling and powerful stories from the life of the Savior is that of the widow’s mite. Jesus’ words on this occasion leave us with much to ponder as we measure our generosity against that of a “certain poor widow.”

While Jesus sat teaching in the outer court of the temple, He noticed a lone, destitute woman as she approached one of the 13 trumpet-shaped receptacles provided for the voluntary deposit of contributions by worshipers. It was Passover time, and the temple court was crowded with people from all walks of life. Just ahead of her had been several rich people who had thrown large amounts of money into the basins. As the woman approached, Jesus discerned the hearts of those in the line and called to His disciples.

He pointed to the woman and said, “This poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury” (Mark 12:43). But she had only given two mites, the smallest coins then in circulation in Palestine! Jesus then explained the mystery: “For all the rich did cast in of their abundance; but she, notwithstanding her want did cast in all that she had, yea, even all her living” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 12:44).

It is not the amount of money that we donate to the Church or others that matters to the Lord. Rather it is whether we give of our abundance or of our living. We should give until it is a sacrifice to give.

To the individuals and families of the Church who struggle with finding enough money to pay their obligations, I say: Take care of your financial duties to God, nation, and others first. This may mean that you will have to postpone the acquisition of some of the comforts and conveniences of life you greatly desire. Casting in all that you have will mean that you must “seek … first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

To those who have in abundance, even more than you need, I say: Find happiness in the relationships and service you share with God, family, and others. Resist the feeling of constantly needing things just to entertain yourself and occupy your time. We have the scriptures and books of all kinds available. Conversation and service are a better use of time than watching television. Casting in all that you have will be so much more rewarding than the alternative of personal gratification. — William R. Bradford, “Words of Jesus: Riches,” Ensign, Feb 2003, 52

James Christensen

Brother Christensen is a professor of art at Brigham Young University and enjoys a national reputation as a fantasy artist. His work has appeared in Time/Life Books’ series The Enchanted World, as well as on many book covers and in magazines. He has served as president of the National Academy of Fantastic Art. His paintings are exhibited in galleries throughout the United States.

Have any books influenced your development as a painter?

Many have. When I first read the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis I said, “This person has imagination, whimsy, delight, wonder, exploration, and yet there’s the Savior right at the center of the book. There are metaphors for selfishness, for selflessness, for sacrifice and atonement. There is the gospel put in a nongospel context. And he’s not writing just for a religious audience. He’s accepted out there in the real world.” I found the same thing with J. R. R. Tolkien. This happened while I was in college. The fact that their fantasy was considered as a viable kind of expression gave me the courage to say, “Why don’t I try to do the same sort of thing visually and see what happens?”

Another great influence is the Book of Mormon. I know that it is real and true, but it is also a great epic adventure. There are ancestral swords and directional devices that work and don’t work according to our feelings and attitudes. There are natural disasters and divine interventions and quests and wars and miracles.

You have done several fine religious paintings outside the fantasy genre. Why don’t you do more of that?

The best of my overtly religious painting may be the best things that I paint, but they’re very hard for me to paint because I don’t want to simply illustrate. I have no interest in doing things that are sentimental and one-dimensional. I want my paintings to have layers of meaning within them.

The other reason it’s difficult is that I have very tender feelings on the subject of religion. I have very deep feelings about the gospel and the Savior. What if I put those feelings on canvas and my ability doesn’t reach the level of my belief? Or what if it’s not read correctly by people? What if they say, “That’s not a very good painting?” They’re saying I don’t have a very good belief. It’s too personal to put on the block. It would be like bearing your testimony to somebody and having them say, “So?” — “Windows on Wonder: An Interview with James C. Christensen,” New Era, Aug 1989, 44

Image source: Repartee Gallery

Woman With An Issue Of Blood

Woman with an issue of blood

I Shall Be Whole, by Al Young

In the October 2006 General Conference, Anne C. Pingree said:

I love the symbolism of women reaching out to touch the Savior. We long to be close to the Lord, for we know that He loves each of us and desires to encircle us “eternally in the arms of his love.” His touch can heal ailments spiritual, emotional, or physical. He is our Advocate, Exemplar, Good Shepherd, and Redeemer. Where else would we look, where else would we reach, where else would we come but to Jesus Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith”?

He pronounced: “Yea, verily … , if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive.” His promise invites us not only to reach towards Him but also to take the all-important next step: to come unto Him.

This is such a motivating, cheering doctrine. The Messiah extends His arm of mercy to us, always eager to receive us—if we choose to come to Him. When we do come to the Savior with “full purpose of heart,” we will feel His loving touch in the most personal ways.

A “certain woman” made that choice and felt His touch.

And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. (Luke 8:43-48)

I have asked myself what might have happened if this woman with the issue of blood had not believed in the Savior enough to make whatever effort was necessary to touch the border of His robe. In that throng I imagine getting even that close to Him took some doing. Yet, “nothing wavering,” she persisted.

Al Young

In 1997, Al and Nancy Young founded Al Young Studios for their work in fine art and publishing. Over the years, as their children chose to participate in the work of the Studios, the enterprise has grown to include a broad range of media and publications. Original artworks include oil paintings, print making, stained glass, pen and ink, and water color. Publications include The Storybook Home Journal, Inspired music albums, My Father’s Captivity (historical), The Wainscott Collection (historical fiction), and numerous articles pertaining primarily to home and family life.

Image source: Al Young Studios

Jairus’s Daughter

Jesus Raising The Daughter Of Jairus

Jesus Blessing Jairus's Daughter, by Greg Olsen

There was an incident in the life of the Savior that was mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. A significant part of the story is told by Mark in only two short verses and five words of the following verse. Let me read them to you.

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him [that is, when he saw Jesus], he fell at his feet,
And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
And Jesus went with him. (Mark 5:22–24)

The reading time of that portion of the story is about thirty seconds. It is short and uncomplicated. The visual picture is clear and even a child could repeat it without difficulty. But as we spend time in thought and contemplation, a great depth of understanding and meaning comes to us. We conclude that this is more than a simple story about a little girl who was sick and Jesus went to lay his hands on her. Let me read these words to you again:

“And, behold.” The word behold is used frequently in scripture with a wide variety of meanings. Its use in this instance designates suddenness or unexpectedness. Jesus and those who were with him had just recrossed the Sea of Galilee, and a multitude of people who had been waiting met him on the shore near Capernaum. “And, behold [suddenly and unexpectedly], there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue.” The larger synagogues of that day were presided over by a college of elders under the direction of a chief or a ruler. This was a man of rank and prestige whom the Jews looked upon with great respect.

Matthew doesn’t give the name of this chief elder, but Mark identifies him by adding to his title the words, “Jairus by name.” Nowhere else in the scriptures does this man or his name appear except on this occasion, yet his memory lives in history because of a brief contact with Jesus. Many, many lives have become memorable that otherwise would have been lost in obscurity had it not been for the touch of the Master’s hand that made a significant change of thought and action and a new and better life.

“And when he saw him [that is, when Jairus saw Jesus], he fell at his feet.”

This was an unusual circumstance for a man of rank and prestige, a ruler of the synagogue, to kneel at Jesus’ feet—at the feet of one considered to be an itinerant teacher with the gift of healing. Many others of learning and prestige saw Jesus also but ignored him. Their minds were closed. Today is no different; obstacles stand in the way of many to accept him.

“And [Jairus] besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death.” This is typical of what happens frequently when a man comes to Christ, not so much for his own need, but because of the desperate need of a loved one. The tremor we hear in Jairus’s voice as he speaks of “My little daughter” stirs our souls with sympathy as we think of this man of high position in the synagogue on his knees before the Savior.

Then comes a great acknowledgement of faith: “I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.” These are not only the words of faith of a father torn with grief but are also a reminder to us that whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives.

The words, “and Jesus went with him” follow. We would not suppose that this event had been within the plans for the day. The Master had come back across the sea where the multitude was waiting on the shore for him to teach them. “And behold”—suddenly and unexpectedly—he was interrupted by the plea of a father. He could have ignored the request because many others were waiting. He could have said to Jairus that he would come to see his daughter tomorrow, but “Jesus went with him.” If we follow in the footsteps of the Master, would we ever be too busy to ignore the needs of our fellowmen?

It is not necessary to read the remainder of the story. When they got to the home of the ruler of the synagogue, Jesus took the little girl by the hand and raised her from the dead. In like manner, he will lift and raise every man to a new and better life who will permit the Savior to take him by the hand. — Howard W. Hunter, “Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov 1979, 64

Greg Olsen

Greg was blessed with very supportive parents who always encouraged him and provided opportunities for him to pursue his passion of art. Greg remembers a time as a teenager when he had been hired to paint a large sign for a local grocery store. It was wintertime and too cold to paint in the garage so his parents let him set up a workshop in his bedroom. He promptly spilled two quarts of black and orange enamel paint all over his bedroom carpet. Amazingly, his parents still encouraged him in his artistic endeavors.

From an early age I have always been fascinated by paintings that create mood, emotion and atmosphere; especially those paintings that lift me and transport me to some far off place. These are the elements I strive to create in my paintings. My paintings in many ways record what is most important to me: my feelings and experiences with family and friends along with the spiritual aspects of my life. My hope is that in these images you will find something familiar, something which will resonate and remind you of what is important in your own life. — Greg Olsen

By the time Greg reached Jr. high School he began to take it quite seriously, and when he entered Bonneville High School he was fortunate to have an extremely good art teacher, who perhaps, contributed more to Greg’s art education and desire to make it his life’s work than any other person. — Greg Olsen Art

Image source: Gospel Art Book

Further Reading

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C. S. Lewis on Religion

C. S. Lewis

Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. (Mere Christianity)

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies–these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either. (The Case for Christianity)

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity)

The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort. Now a clearly maintained distinction between what the Faith actually says and what you would like it to have said or what you understand or what you personally find helpful or think probable, forces your audience to realize that you are tied to your data just as the scientist is tied by the results of the experiments; that you are not just saying what you like. This immediately helps them realize that what is being discussed is a question about objective fact — not gas about ideals and points of view. (Mere Christianity)

All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. (Mere Christianity)

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. (Mere Christianity)

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George W Bush on Religion

George W Bush

My main objective in my discussions on religious freedom is to remind this new generation of [Chinese] leadership that religion is not to be feared but to be welcomed in society. (Mon, 04 Aug 2008 Washington Post)

I don’t think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made. (Mon, 23 Apr 2007 New York Times)

I will be your president regardless of your faith, and I don’t expect you to agree with me necessarily on religion. As a matter of fact, no president should ever try to impose religion on our society. (Fri, 05 Nov 2004 USA Today)

Prayer and religion sustain me. I receive calmness in the storms of the presidency. But when I make decisions, I stand on principle, and the principles are derived from who I am. (Thu, 14 Oct 2004 guardian.co.uk)

We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again. (Tue, 20 Jan 2004 State of the Union Address)

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