In Revelation, John sees a vision of “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). This woman has widely been interpreted as Mary, especially alongside the description of how “she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5). Nephi also sees a vision of Mary in 1 Nephi 11. When he asks to know what the tree in his father’s vision meant, he sees “the virgin [who]… is the mother of the Son of God” (1 Nephi 11:18). In other words, the Tree of Life is Christ. Mary is the seed from which He sprouts.
John’s description of Mary has set the precedent with which she has been depicted for hundreds of years. Often, she is portrayed clothed in light and standing on a moon, either with a crown of stars or with stars on her clothing. This is the iconography the Book of Mormon Art Catalog’s own Lucy Knight Lacanienta draws on in her illustration of 1 Nephi 11 entitled Tree of Life Icon. In it, Mary is shown in front of a cross and gold background, holding a young Christ. She is clothed in a blue robe with stars on her hood and on both shoulders, a reference to her crown of stars. She gestures to her Son, both referring and recommending the viewer to Him. Lacanienta’s inclusion of the cross with a vine blooming around it serves the same purpose, not only creating a link between Christ’s crucifixion and the Tree of Life, but also in reiterating His description of Himself as the true vine.
This Christmas season, I would like to join my voice with Mary’s and Lacanienta’s in testifying of Him: I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that He lived for you, but, more importantly, that He died for you. He is aware of you, He loves you, and He is so proud of you.-Emma Belnap, research assistant