Norman Rockwell Beyond the Veil

June 25, 2008 | 11 comments

The Lovely One and I went to our ward’s temple sealing assignment last night.

I got to looking around at all of us and the sealing room and realized we were a striking picture. The temple clothing colors; the farmer faces, the slack,white office faces; the expressions of piety, sleep, serious attention, contemplation, worry, merriment; the postures; the very fine handmade lace on the altar that was slightly warped from the lateral pressure of elbows; even the sealer’s clear garment lines. I wanted Norman Rockwell to paint it.

The painting would not be displayed in the normal way. You’d want to keep it in the celestial room of the temple, beyond the veil. But why not? Mormonism knows that holiness in heaven is active and engaged. A celestial room with art and, who knows, little collections of essays and short stories that are all too intimately tied to the temple ceremony to keep elsewhere could be appropriate. Not every piece of worthy art could be appropriate for the peace and contemplation of the celestial room, but some could only be appropriate there.

Which makes me wonder. There are a lot of Mormon artists out there. Are there any paintings and sculptures that already allude to or comment on the temple ceremonies in an esoteric, hidden way?

I can’t find the link now, but at some point I suggested Mormon musical compositions designed to accompany the endowment, so whatever it is that makes me think about Norman Rockwell in the temple has been with me for awhile.

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11 Responses to Norman Rockwell Beyond the Veil

  1. Eric Boysen on June 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

    In the Stake Center in Los Lunas (just down the road from you) there is/was a striking painting of which I do not know the provenance that depicts some temple imagery-both LDS and Masonic. The black and white tiling of the floor and the prominance of the Boaz and Jachin display the latter. Purely Mormon elements are harder to ascribe, but Heavenly Father is there on his throne and is sending forth His agents. I do not remember the details too clearly, but I suggest you drive down and take a look.

  2. Bro. Jones on June 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Way back before the bloggernaccle, when all we had was a lousy newsgroup on Usenet (anyone here remember a.r.m. and s.r.m.?), someone suggested that every celestial room be outfitted with a computer terminal, so that you could chat live with other temple patrons in celestial rooms around the world. On the one hand it seems silly–but on the other hand, how great would it be to have elaborate (quiet) typed conversations with other temple patrons, where each person would be in a proper space and frame of mind to discuss sacred things?

    And definitely count me in for more sacred art in the temple, and heck, just more art that’s not among the LDS “canon” of twenty or so pictures that we use EVERYWHERE.

  3. BruceC on June 25, 2008 at 11:03 am

    How about this one that Ronan posted on by common consent a few months ago. It is hidden or esoteric but it does allude to the temple ceremony.

  4. Adam Greenwood on June 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Eric B.,
    we go to the Los Lunas church and I’m pretty sure there’s no original art of any kind.

    Michelle G.,
    that link takes me to a portal for church art exhibitions. Did you have any specific piece in mind?

  5. Latter-day Guy on June 26, 2008 at 1:18 am

    I love this post. Great ideas!

    As for your final question, yes. The painter Wolf Barsch (who works at BYU) creates paintings with many levels of symbolism. Many of them are temple related. They are abstract in some ways, but often contain words from key verses of scripture, and are very concerned with sacred geometry. Hugh Nibley mentioned him in (I think) Approaching Zion. Fascinating stuff.

  6. Eric Boysen on June 26, 2008 at 7:59 am


    It was there about five years ago. I was in the Los Lunas building occasionally when I lived in Albuquerque and the picture always caught my eye when I passed it. I wish I had an image of it to send you. The painting was very interesting. You might check on where it went. I’m sure someone will remember it if you ask around.


  7. Adam Greenwood on June 26, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Eric B.,
    Would this have been in the old building? The new one was built, what, 6-7 years ago.

  8. Richard O. on June 27, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Some comments about art in temples.
    The art is definitely improving. Many new temples are now getting murals. The ones in the new Rexburg Temple are very nice. If you live anywhere close to Twin Falls, go to that temple when it opens. The murals that are being installed in that temple are among the finest murals ever put in a Mormon temple.

    Another major aesthetic improvement in some of the temples built during the last ten years are the stained glass windows. Some of my favorites include Palmyra, Nauvoo, and Winter Quarters. If you live in the Southwest, check out superb antique Tiffany stained glass window of Christ and the Children in the Snowflake Temple.

    As to framed eisle paintings…. There are some very nice landscape paintings that are now being placed in temples. One of the nice patterns is that most of these new landscape paintings in temples depict landscapes from the region where the temple is located.

    A very encouraging development is that some of the top LDS painters, particularly those that are nearing their “golden years,” are now going on part time “temple art missions.” On these missions, the artists continue to live at home, but paint anywhere from one to eight paintings a year for temples as their mission. The time that they spend creating paintings for the temples is very flexible. Getting approved to be on an art mission is not easy. But the improvement in temple art is starting to become apparent.

  9. Eric Boysen on June 27, 2008 at 8:57 am


    The building I am talking about was not very old, next to the railroad tracks (just west of them) and not far from the Luna mansion. The Albuquerque South Stake had conference there when I was a member of the Haines Ward. I am sure it is what you are calling the new building. I moved to Washington four years ago, so the time frame is right. The painting was in the foyer when you entered the building on the east side.

  10. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Thanks, Eric B. Perhaps I’ve overlooked it all this time.

    Richard O., that is very interesting news. In the Albuquerque temple I have noticed some original Southwestern landscapes and a theme in stained glass of the breastplate of Aaron.


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