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.
As a little girl, I remember my mother and her friends sitting around a quilt while I lay underneath. I would watch their hands cast shadows across the different color swatches, their needles bobbing up and down. I felt safe listening to their laughter float through the room.
As a young woman, I waited with anticipation for the time when I would be allowed to take my place at the quilt. I remember my mother patiently showing me how to stitch and tie. I watched in amazement as her hands glided across the fabric and I longed for the day when I could do what she did.
As a mother, I sat listening to the women wander effortlessly through years of shared memories and took comfort in knowing I was not alone. As time passed, I noticed my mother’s hands growing old and I realized for the first time that her worries, her tears, and her laughter were tied into her quilts.
As a grandmother, I move a little slower and see a little further. I remember those friends who have gone on before. I appreciate the simple joys in life. I smile as I watch my own daughter noticing my wrinkled hands and I understand that quilting is more than just stitching fabric together. It is stitching hearts together. Looking back, I see that the most important lesson I learned was not how to quilt… but how to love.
Joseph recorded the experience of meeting the Angel Moroni as he was given a part of his mission on earth:
“On the evening of the…twenty-first of September 1823…I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God. While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room… When a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air…
“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues…”
One need only enter “Joseph Smith” into any internet search engine to see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Truly the world has used Joseph’s name for good and evil. How blessed we are that he was true to the faith to his last breath.
The greatest message of hope is not found in the crucifixion but in the empty tomb. When Mary arrived on that first Easter morning she found the stone rolled away and two angels standing inside. One turned to her and said, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” - Luke 24:5-6
Like Mary, each of us will face the loss of a loved one. One does not live long without experiencing the sorrow that comes with death and the longing for a glorious reunion. The miracle of the empty tomb is not just that He rose, but that because He did we will too. Each of us will leave our own empty tombs and be reunited with those we love.
It is the promise and hope of our own glorious resurrections that we hear in those angelic words, “He… is risen.”
As the Lord suffered in darkness in the Garden of Gethsemane, “…there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43)
Though nothing like the Savior’s sacrifice, there are moments in each of our lives when our suffering seems insurmountable, our burdens unbearable, and our anguish overwhelming. In these dark moments, we too can find strength from heaven.
Jesus has promised us He will not leave us alone. His miracles did not end with the tomb. He is still giving sight to the sightless, hope to the hopeless, and love to those who feel lost and alone. He is still carrying us through our darkest hours and in His love we are encircled about in Heaven’s Arms.
This project required us to photograph many situations with Joseph and children. Several accounts in early church history demonstrate that Joseph loved children and took many opportunities to foster his relationship with them. He was known to have wrestled, participated in snowball fights, pulled sticks, played ball and fished with the youth. Many children and especially the LDS boys, recorded looking to Joseph as a hero, a role model. I cannot imagine a better role model for children than the prophet Joseph Smith.
It strikes me that you cannot truly follow someone you truly do not know. When I think of my own relationship with my Savior, it becomes clear to me that when He said “Come follow me,” He was inviting me to know Him. I am convinced that He loves each of us in such a personal way that he is overjoyed when we come to know Him and sorrows when we make him a stranger. Joseph is an example of someone who knew the Savior and followed Him.
Heroes: Like Nephi of Old began in the summer of 1991. My original idea was a picture of a father and his young son reading The Book of Mormon. I asked a young boy, Nathan, to model for the painting. Before we started, we talked about his favorite Book of Mormon characters and Nathan told me about Nephi. When Nathan spoke of him, he talked as if Nephi lived next door. The longer I listened, the more I came to understand that Nathan truly knew Nephi. Heroes: Like Nephi of Old emerged from this experience. Listening to Nathan started me thinking about how close the heroes of the past are to those who listen. As I look around I am reminded that we clearly live in a world where righteousness is seldom the standard by which heroes are measured. Nathan reminded me that heroes are only heroes if they give more than they take, if they lift more than they hinder and love more than they hurt. Nathan taught me that our greatest heroes never emerge from the pages of a comic book, but are found in our past.
In the story of Lazarus, Martha tells the Lord he is too late and her brother has already died. Christ reassures her that her brother will rise again. She replies, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." With perfect clarity he declares, "I am the resurrection." – John 11
For most of us the thought of death is far distant, but for those whose trials come through physical illness and disability the reminders of mortality are not easily ignored. For them, and for my son, I pray the Savior will come quickly and bring the promised resurrection and an end to their pain.
In the parable of the Ten Virgins the Lord compares His Second Coming to a wedding feast in which ten virgins are invited to wait for the arrival of the newly married couple. Knowing that the wait might stretch into the night each virgin brought a lamp, but only five brought extra oil.
When the wait for the bridegroom stretched longer than anticipated, the five foolish virgins ran out of oil and were forced to go to the market in search of more. While they were away the Savior came and went in with His guests to the feast. When they returned the door was shut and they called to the Lord to open. He said simply, "I know you not."
Can you imagine the moment when they realized that they would not be admitted. Some might express anger at having waited so long, it was His fault for not coming sooner. Others might have dismissed it as having never wanted in to begin with. I wanted to capture those who cry out recognizing the finality of those words, "I know you not."