The Purpose of Life

For the longest time, in the South visitor’s center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, hung the following mural by Robert Oliver Skemps (click the image for a larger view):


New I-Center Mural

It depicts God’s plan for our existence on earth, a probationary period during which we  have the opportunity to obtain a physical body to experience life’s blessings and challenges, and be tested to see if we will exercise our free agency to choose good or to choose evil. From left, the seminal events in our life are birth – our arrival in this world from our previous existence with God; instruction in the home; education; marriage; work; family; adversity; fulfillment; and finally death – our return home to the God who gave us life.

It’s a beautiful painting, but at some point the Church decided that it had a “dated” look – it definitely looks like something out of the 50s, and was originally commissioned for display at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. After being removed from Temple Square, the painting was sent to the Hyde Park Chapel in London where it hung for many years, until it was carefully removed by Scott M. Haskins and lovingly restored. It is now displayed at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Taking its place in the visitor’s center was a new version by Joseph Brickey. In a communication with me, he mentioned his challenge in “updating” such an iconic painting. Church authorities wanted the same painting with modern attire, and Mr. Brickey indicated that he solved the problem by advocating for “metadating” instead – that is, going backward in time to a pioneer setting that would be timeless and resonate with people of any generation.

I was able to go home to Salt Lake early this month, and took this picture (potato quality because it was shot with my ancient Galaxy S5, but good enough to give you the idea – click the image for a larger view:)


Purpose of Life Painting 2

The message – this time presented from right to left – remains the same, but the pioneer motif definitely seems more appropriate to past, present, and future.

As mentioned in this blog post, there is another version of this mural, also by Robert Oliver Skemps, depicting the purpose of life with Asian models, which hung in the visitor’s center of the Hawaiʻi temple. I once saw a thumbnail of it, but have been unable to locate it again. It was salvaged during the demolition/reconstruction of that visitor’s center, but I’m not sure if it was ever acquired by the Church. If it is ever restored, I’ll do my best to get it up here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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