Minerva Teichert’s subtle Book of Mormon lessons

The August issue of the Ensign features four pages of photos of Minerva Teichert’s Book of Mormon work. Each work has a caption next to it with the title as well as an excerpt from a Book of Mormon verse. Titled “And Thus We See,” the article states that “lessons learned from stories in the Book of Mormon are sometimes clearly stated after words ‘and thus we see’ … yet other lessons learned from the Book of Mormon may be more subtly taught” (40).

Readers are then urged to “turn to the scriptures for the full account of each story” depicted by Teichert and “identify the powerful lesson each story teaches” (40).

Of the nine works represented in the article, I had only previously seen four of them. I was particularly struck by “The Earthquake” (Alma the Younger and Amulek in prison), “Treachery of Amalickiah” and “Trial of Abinidi.”

The Ensign‘s art direction is sometimes criticized in Mormon cultural circles. Often justly. But I think it should also be applauded when it delivers. Yes, readers are asked to learn lessons from the cited scriptures, but the focus on Teichert’s work is also a powerful reminder that these same words have inspired wonderful art. And this is especially true since her work isn’t necessarily as easy to digest as most of the other paintings that appear in the Ensign. Or at least it isn’t for me.

The August issue hasn’t been posted online yet, but here is a link to Minerva Teichert’s Book of Mormon works (BYU Museum of Art). Note that there are 45 results that come up with that search so hopefully the Ensign does the same exact story in three to four years, but with a different set of paintings.

8 thoughts on “Minerva Teichert’s subtle Book of Mormon lessons”

  1. One of my favorites is actually the marriage of Ishmael’s daughters. Guess I just took it as a celebration of how life and love go on, whatever the circumstances they find themselves in.

  2. .

    Teichert, for me, is the gold standard in Mormon Art So Far, where “Art” is referring to the visual arts.

    Until I was 10 we lived in Montpelier, Idaho and in the local tabernacle was an oversized Teichert rendition of (correct me if my memory is wrong; the painting has since been moved) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Aaronic Priesthood. I’m guessing that canvas has influenced my taste a lot because I still am wowed by her excellence.

    Of course, it might also just be because she’s great.

    As for the Ensign, I think we’ve seen a big improvement the last couple years, notably in the art-based articles. I need to find our copy–I know it came this week.

  3. I too was excited to see the several pages of Teichert paintings in the new Ensign. I have always loved her work, particularly her portrayal of women. She lived on a ranch just east of Montpelier, Idaho (in Wyoming) for most of her life, so it makes sense that one of her paintings would be in the tabernacle there. It would be interesting to know what happened to that painting.

  4. I am looking for a Book of Mormon edition put out about 8 years ago by Desert Book that is an heirloom quality BOM with Minerva’s paintings only used as illustrations. I am not sure of where to track one down.

  5. I don’t know if you’re still around, Tamra, but the edition you’re looking for has the ISBN 1570087512. Right now, Amazon lists seven copies for sale (2 new, 5 used), starting at around $100.

  6. .

    Interesting story: A high-end Salt Lake design firm decided to make an heirloom edition of the Book of Mormon. Or, more accurately, several editions, all beautiful, ranging from the affordable to the very expensive.

    The head of the firm specifically undertook the project so he could have a scriptural object that he could give to his friends that they could first appreciate as a work of art. A plain blue BoM would disappear without second glance. Something aesthetic might be thumbed through again and again. Which could perhaps lead to something greater.

    (The book was to use Teichert paintings, which is what makes this apropos.)

    Although the Book’s text is in the public domain, the gentlemen who wished to make this book first consulted with the Church in hopes of gaining their blessing.

    They were given a firm no. The Brethren said that the Book of Mormon should never be released in a form that might be beyond the financial reach of some members of the Church. Scripture itself should never become a status symbol.

    And so the gentlemen shelved the project.

    A few years later, Covenant came out with its gauche 50-buck version and that opened the way for a flood of mostly not-that-well-designed “heirloom”/”family” books of scripture into the Mormon market.

    I wish a beautifully designed book had led the way.

  7. While I’m sympathetic with the message that scripture shouldn’t be beyond the financial reach of the average member, there’s enough high-priced LDS kitsch out there to justify the existence of appropriately-priced, beautifully designed works of art (in my opinion).

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