Saints at Devil’s Gates that Opened My Eyes

July 17, 2020

Throughout my childhood, I was often taught about my ancestors-the Mormon Pioneers-and the suffering they went through in order to travel to America, and then to Utah. Because of my religion this was something that I had always known. Consequently, when I was fifteen years old, I didn’t even stop to think about how affected I would be by taking a short walk through the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. As an artist, as a lifetime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as it was something that I had done numerous times in the past, I assumed it would be nothing more than a peaceful experience where I could look at the artwork and clear my mind.

However, the first thing I saw as I walked into the building was a beautiful banner that read, “Saints at Devil’s Gate: Landscapes along the Mormon Trail”. I was slightly taken off-guard, for it was not the usual exhibit held in the building; nonetheless, I continued into the museum and began my usual route through its rooms, wondering what they might have changed about an already beautiful exhibit. Then, as I examined the new paintings on the walls, every thought in my mind fled and I was left to wonder in awe at the paintings and the unique stories they told. Each piece portrayed a different aspect of the pioneer’s lives that I had never before imagined. Fear, hopelessness, pain, beauty, and even joy, played large roles in the works of art, and my heart trembled at the surplus of emotions.

Through this experience I felt the enormity of the world, and the colossal number of people that have lived, and do live in it, just like me. I began to appreciate other people’s experiences and their own creations of artwork more; for in the paintings I saw not only my ancestors’ lives, but the artist’s lives as well. Each brushstroke showed me a small piece of what the artist was going through as they completed their magnificent paintings. The painter in me was amazed by the sheer talent and care taken to create the artwork. I was touched to see the time and effort the artist’s had put into telling a stranger’s story, and my own heart longed to do the same.

My humanities moment in the “Saints at Devil’s Gate” exhibit, changed the way I view the world and the people around me. Since this experience, my purpose as an artist has changed, and my purpose as a human being has changed. I now search for new experiences and new stories to tell, whether they be mine or someone else’s. I have gained a greater sense of what I am involved in by simply being a part of this vast world and it would never have happened if I hadn’t stumbled upon the Saints at Devil’s Gates that opened my eyes.