LDS missionaries share faith through graffiti

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Elder Scott McIntyre (left) and Elder Jacob Burgoyne (right) spent two days painting a mural of the resurrected Christ. The missionaries participated in Paint Louis, an event where select graffiti artists can legally paint on a 1.9-mile flood wall in St. Louis. (Matthew Franck)

Passersby in St. Louis last month witnessed Mormon missionaries sharing the gospel in an unconventional yet creative way: spraying graffiti on a flood wall.

Elder Jacob Burgoyne and Elder Scott McIntyre participated in St. Louis’ graffiti event, Paint Louis, on Sept. 22 and 23.

During Paint Louis, graffiti artists gathered to paint on a 1.9-mile stretch of flood wall along the Mississippi River. Paint Louis is now one of the biggest street art events in the country, according to Matthew Franck, a regional media representative for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Burgoyne said he saw pictures of the graffiti event on one of his companion’s cameras and immediately became interested.

“I knew they had people applying from all over the world for that, but he really wanted to do it,” said Dan Burgoyne, Elder Burgoyne’s father.

Paint Louis is an invitation-only event. After submitting some of his work to Paint Louis, but before hearing back from them, Elder Burgoyne met with his mission president, Michael Bateman, to propose his ideas.

The brainstorming process began in January 2017. Burgoyne said he was playing around with a few ideas before he decided to depict the resurrected Christ.

“We talked about two or three of these ideas,” Bateman said. “The suggestion was, why don’t we take a look at depicting the Savior as a resurrected being, because that’s really our message — that he lives.”

The inspiration behind the design was 3 Nephi 9:18 — “I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Burgoyne said the planets, Christ as a light source and everything else was designed around the scripture.

Once the design idea was finalized and Burgoyne was accepted, the design process began.

Matthew Franck
From left: Elders McIntyre and Burgoyne spent 20 hours painting the mural of Christ. Each of the five layers took over a week to cut out. (Matthew Franck)

The entire design was magnified to a large scale and included five layers of stencils. Each layer was cut out on poster board with X-Acto knives. Burgoyne placed a template on top to help in cutting out each layer, a process that took more than a week per layer.

“Most of the work was in the preparation,” Burgoyne said.

Then on Sept. 22 and 23, Elders Burgoyne and McIntyre spent about 20 hours painting the design on the wall.

Elder Burgoyne said things didn’t go as well as they thought it would the day of the event. The heat and humidity created issues with the adhesives and created more work than the missionaries anticipated.

But Bateman said there was a “camaraderie” among the different artists during the 20 hours the missionaries were painting.

“It was really fun to go down there and meet all the different people from the different walks of life,” Elder Burgoyne said.

“We were just so blown away by the outcome,” Dan Burgoyne said.

Bateman said the other missionaries in the mission have been supportive of Elder Burgoyne’s and Elder McIntyre’s involvement in the graffiti event.

“They all went down on preparation day to look at it,” Bateman said. “It’s become somewhat of a destination point.”

The mural has become a great way for church members and missionaries in the St. Louis area to share the gospel by bringing friends, family members and coworkers to see the mural, according to Elder Burgoyne.

“We want members of the church to know we stand for Christ and we are here to spread his light and his love, regardless of what others say,” Elder McIntyre said. “We believe in Christ, we love him and worship him, and we want all to feel his love.”

The missionaries’ mural of Christ creates a completely different feeling than anything else on the wall, according to Bateman.

“It’s like having this sacred section of the flood wall; that’s how you feel,” Bateman said. “Even in the midst of graffiti, there was this spirit of faith.”

Missionaries are commonly known for walking the streets, knocking doors and teaching others about the LDS Church and the gospel. The Paint Louis event gave Burgoyne and McIntyre an opportunity to use their talents to share their message.

“I was able to see that interests and talents are things you can actually apply to missionary work,” Elder Burgoyne said.

Carol Burgoyne, Elder Burgoyne’s mother, said it was special to have her son share his talents and beliefs at the same time.

“I thought it was so neat that he was able to show his peers — people his age who are interested in art like he is — what he believes in,” Carol Burgoyne said.

Elder McIntyre said the experience inspired him to look for unconventional ways to share the gospel.

Elders Burgoyne and McIntyre said they hope people who see the mural will take away the message that the LDS Church and the gospel focus on Christ.

“He is the beginning; he is the end. He’s everything, really,” Elder McIntyre said. “Regardless of whatever religion we are, if we focus on Christ, we can have (peace and joy) in this life and hope in the next life.”