Although the Book of Mormon has been a rich source of material for artists for more than 150 years, until now there has not been an attempt to create an accessible and complete list of Book of Mormon art. This lack created several problems: 1) scholars had no way of identifying and researching existing Book of Mormon art in a thorough or systematic way, 2) artists were not aware of all the ways in which scenes have previously been visualized or which scenes have not been depicted as often, and 3) members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tended to default to the same images from easily accessible, limited sources.
The Book of Mormon Art Catalog addresses these needs by providing unprecedented access to visual imagery inspired by the Book of Mormon. The catalog is a comprehensive, open access, and searchable digital database. It brings together for the first time Book of Mormon art from a range of public and private collections, museums, galleries, studios, exhibitions, and publications. In this role, the Book of Mormon Art Catalog supports research and education, promotes a greater knowledge of artists worldwide, provides a study and devotional resource for members of the Church and other interested individuals, and creates opportunities for increased understanding and collaboration.
C. C. A. Christensen, Moroni Hiding the Plates (Huntington/Lamanite Panorama), 1871, oil on linen, Church History Museum.
More than just a list of artworks, the Book of Mormon Art Catalog also includes extensive research. Entries for each artwork include information such as artist, title, date, medium, dimensions, location, copyright, topic, scripture reference, figures, symbols, information on the artist, Church media use, exhibition history, awards, and relevant literature. Users can conduct specific, robust searches of the database, or browse the site by artist, timeline, scripture reference, or nationality of the artist.
These new research tools make possible a more thorough analysis and understanding of Book of Mormon art than has ever been available before. For instance, a scholar can compare how female and male artists have portrayed Nephi. Or an artist can review scenes of King Benjamin that are included in official Church media. Or a Sunday School teacher can find art about the Savior’s visit to America that is done by a South American artist. Do you want to see paintings done by artists from Argentina that include camels? We have filters that will let you see just that. Do you want to know how many Book of Mormon images have been produced every year since the book’s publication? Our Timeline tool will show you. Are you interested in which Book of Mormon scenes have been portrayed the most frequently? The Topics filter can tell you.
Annie Poon, Whispers, 2017, etching and aquatint on copper. Courtesy of Annie Poon.
Perhaps the best part of working on this project has been the interactions with artists and scholars. I am deeply grateful for the generous financial and institutional support of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, part of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. My special thanks go to Spencer Fluhman and Jeremy King at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. I’ve been lucky to have four terrific student research assistants this past year to help get the catalog off the ground: Noelle Baer, Emma Belnap, Candace Brown, and Elizabeth Finlayson. Their hard work and great ideas have helped shape the project. As an art historian, I’ve long wished for a centralized repository for LDS visual art, but the idea to build a database specific to Book of Mormon art grew out of conversations I had with Joseph Spencer, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU, and artist Caitlin Connolly in 2020.
Many artists and curators generously gave us permission to share these images or helped with research. Artists Annie Poon and Kathleen Peterson, for example, gave us permission to post whole collections of their Book of Mormon pieces that can’t be found anywhere else online. Laura Howe, art curator for the Church History Museum, was an enthusiastic supporter and worked with me to locate Book of Mormon artwork in the Church History Museum collection, many of which have not been accessible to the public before now. Carrie Snow, also at the Church History Museum, helped me find images of the art. Tiffany Wixom, Collections Manager at the BYU Museum of Art, assisted with the Minerva Teichert Book of Mormon paintings. Emily Larsen, Associate Director of the Springville Museum of Art, helped us find information on artworks in their collection. Many others offered assistance or gave us permission to post these images, and I’m grateful to each of them.
Jorge Cocco, His Marks, 2019. Courtesy of Jorge Cocco.
Personally, I’ve been enriched by this project both aesthetically and spiritually. While immersing myself in these thousands of images, I gained a greater appreciation for the skills of the artists and considered some familiar scenes with fresh eyes. As I’ve looked at each image to catalog the various figures, symbols, and scripture references, I’ve often had the scriptures open at the same time and the process helped me explore the scriptures in a new and fruitful way. Visual art has a powerful impact on how we think about scripture stories, doctrine, and history. It is my hope that the Book of Mormon Art Catalog will be a resource for scholars, artists, and Church members in their quest to study the scriptures. And I hope that this catalog will inspire new and varied artistic production, including scenes currently underrepresented in the art, to further illuminate the scriptures and bring viewers closer to Christ.
We see this as an on-going, collaborative repository for Book of Mormon art—one that will continue to grow over time. We have a contact form on the website where you can suggest a new artwork (and even upload an image) or let us know if we should add or correct information about a piece. We hope you’ll join us in exploring and building this enriching and beautiful catalog!