Local artist celebrates pioneers through art in Payson Temple

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Lucinda and James Pace were early converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James Pace helped build the Nauvoo temple before he journeyed west with his family. They settled the city of Payson with two other families.

Decades later, art depicting Lucinda Pace adorns a wall at the Payson Utah LDS temple, which will be dedicated on June 7.

Utah artist Elspeth Young was inspired by these pioneers and the sacrifices they made for the early church.

“In my research, I have wept over the pioneer accounts of sacrifice, challenge and miracles of hope,” Young said. “I want to celebrate the hope and tender mercies experienced by these noble souls, rather than merely cataloging their sufferings. … I want to express in painting what will help those in our day, to pick up their own burdens and journey.”

Young has two paintings featured in the Payson temple: “Blessed, Honored Pioneer,” which features Lucinda Pace, and “Thou Didst Hear Me,” which hangs in the sealing room waiting area.

Young said many who have viewed the paintings in the Payson temple open house have given their own interpretations of the symbolism behind the design.

“I try to make my art universal enough that everyone can relate,” Young said.

In the painting “Blessed, Honored Pioneer,” Pace is portrayed holding a daughter in her arms. Young said the model used to depict Pace is directly descended from early Payson pioneers.

Pace wears a homespun kerchief over a traditional American work dress topped by a decorative apron. The young girl wears a traditional frock dress, covered by a red pinafore. Because of poverty, many pioneers who made the trek walked barefoot as depicted in the painting.

The daughter, safe in Pace’s grasp, has evidently been gathering sunflowers. Some of the flowers have fallen onto the path alongside the cottonwood trees in the distance of the painting. Young said that while the child cradles the promise of the future, Pace is mindful of the loved ones fallen by the wayside.

“Thus are met — in the composition of this painting — not only the past, the present and the future, but the multitudes of people who belong to them; met in the only place on earth where there is power to heal all of them: The House of the Lord,” Young said.

Young said we walk where the pioneers have walked — whether physically or spiritually — and we follow that legacy.

Young sees the people as the symbol of the temple, walking representatives of Christ. “We can see people for who they are and what they can become because of the temple.”

Young expressed his admiration for the early pioneers. “The pioneers really got it; they understood the temple and sacrifice. That’s why they left their homes and left loved ones along the way,” Young said.

Young wonders if it is often easy for people to be past feeling and not even realize it because of the pace of their lives. The pioneers knew how to be at peace and could see what the gospel could bring to them.

“We can see ourselves and see what we can really become through the eyes of the pioneers. That’s why they are inspiring. We have something to learn from them,” Young said.

Young’s other painting in the temple, “Thou Didst Hear Me,” is a reproduction giclee. The original oil painting of “Thou Didst Hear Me” was acquired by the LDS Church and currently hangs in the Johannesburg, South Africa temple.

The model is a young woman native to Ghana, Africa, and is the granddaughter of the first member of the church in that area. Elspeth used the same model for a painting of early church pioneer Jane Elizabeth Manning, a faithful friend of Joseph Smith, entitled “Till We Meet Again” which currently hangs in the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

“It has been my wish that all who come to the temple may see themselves in the art depicted there, a reminder that ‘God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in,'” Young said.

The title of the piece comes from a scripture, by the ancient prophet Zenos, from the Book of Mormon. Young chose the title because that is what she feels when she worships at the temple.

“I always leave the temple sessions feeling that even if I return to the same pile of challenges I left outside the temple doors, that I leave knowing that I have transferred that burden to the Lord and that he will untangle it for me. I gain confidence and peace knowing that all will be taken care of in his own time and way,” Young said.

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