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 eighteen grandchildren.
Sometimes when callings come to us in the Church we are tempted to wonder how we can find the time. We are either raising young families, busy with careers, or caught up in the myriad of good things that take our time.
When the Lord gave Emma the assignment to compile a hymnbook for the church she was busy raising her family and had difficult duties as the wife of the Prophet. How did Emma manage to accomplish all that was asked of her? The answer lies in humble prayer and the desire to accomplish righteousness.
When we look at the good her work has done in bringing music and the Spirit to millions we see that there is no sacrifice in building the Kingdom that is too great when it is given with all of our heart to the Lord.
Driving through a parking lot, I saw a boy and his father coming out of a store. The boy was imagining himself as a mighty hero, but he looked at his father with more admiration than any hero is likely to receive. Right then, I knew I had to paint "Even Superman Needs a Dad."
This father took an interest in everything his son had to say. Every moment seemed magical. While this little boy looked a bit out of place dressed in a Superman cape and red cowboy boots, his father could not have looked prouder. Who was the real Hero? Who was more in awe of whom?
When I look around at the thousands of Supermen who play alone each day it breaks my heart. Looking at these two I remember a wonderful father who took the time to be there for me, who taught me by example what a father should be.
I enjoy watching someone look at the painting for the first time. Their gradual smile tells me they understand the feeling that brought about this painting. For a brief moment they forget there are bills to pay and work to do. They forget their worries and remember for a moment that life is wonderful. That is the joy in painting.
Sometimes I look at my grandchildren and remember being a young mother with five little people. I remember waking up to tiny voices after another sleepless night. I remember sitting down in a mountain of laundry and crying because I felt so overwhelmed and so alone.
At those moments our prayers take on a new intensity. Receiving answers matters. And when we pray in faith He sends the Comforter to remind us that the work we do is His work and our children deserve every sacrifice we can make. This painting reminds me that among the tears and trials of motherhood are moments of wonderful laughter, and that every mother is first a daughter with a Father who still catches her when she leaps.
In the parable of the Lost Sheep the Lord compares Himself to a Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to look for the one sheep who is lost.
It is easy for me to become distracted with things that seem important at the time, only to find that I have wandered away from the Lord and become lost. At those moments I take solace in His words:
"And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." (Luke 15:5-6)
The gift of life is our most precious gift. The privilege to co-create with our spouse and our Heavenly Father is a sacred trust.
After losing a son, Joseph and Emma knew tragedy again in Kirtland, Ohio, when their newly born twins died within hours of birth. Losing children a second time was almost more than they could bear.
A few miles away, tragedy also struck the Murdock family. After bearing twins, Julia Murdock died, leaving her husband not only with the newborn twins, but five other children as well.
Brother Murdock heard of the Smiths’ great loss and called the prophet to his home. There, out of grief and selfless love much like that of our Heavenly Father’s, Brother Murdock asked Joseph to take the twins and raise them as his own.
With difficulty and humble gratitude, Joseph carried the twins back home and placed them in the arms of his weak and grieving wife Emma.
A Father’s Gift portrays the love of three fathers. Our heavenly Father entrusted the twins to John & Julia Murdock. Brother Murdock entrusted them to Joseph, who brought them to Emma. Joseph and Emma loved and raised the twins as if they were their own.
In each of our lives we are faced with confusion. Decisions can be difficult when the answers are unclear. At fourteen years old, Joseph Smith was faced with a country torn be religious revivalism. Preachers of all sects clamored for converts in a battle for men`s very souls. Joseph recounts the following:
"So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong."
Joseph continued to search for answers to his confusion. One evening, Joseph was reading the family Bible in the book of James, first chapter and fifth verse: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberaly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
Joseph arrived at the conclusion that he must either remain in darkness, or ask God which of all the chruches was God`s church. His humble prayer was answered on a beautiful morning, early in the sping of 1820. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the young boy Joseph Smith in a quiet grove of trees.
This began the restoration of the Lord`s kingdom upon the earth. God had spoken to men again, and the silence of the heavens was shattered. This event confirms the reality of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, for Joseph saw Him standing on the right hand of God. This remarkable vision provides the answer for the honest in heart who seek to know God`s truth.
The widow of Robert Thompson wrote of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s kindness to her daughter:
"I can never forget the tender sympathy and brotherly kindness [Joseph] ever showed toward me and my fatherless child. When riding with him and his wife Emma in their carriage I have known him to alight and gather prairie flowers for my little girl." - History of Joseph Smith, p. 225.
I loved the image of the Prophet taking a moment to "stop and pick the roses." He was always so willing to lift another despite the trials he bore. It gives me courage that when things seem dark the best medicine to look outside myself and love another.