Angels Who Come to Strengthen Us

My trip to Utah was more than book promotion, it brought perspective change and opportunities to be with those I love. My daughter and I visited Sacred Gifts, the current exhibit at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art.

It’s up until May 10, and you should really make time to see these original paintings of Jesus Christ that the Church has used over the years all in one place. It’s free, but you’ll need to reserve a ticket. And plan to pay the optional $3 for an IPad rental for each individual in your group to walk you through a self-guided tour. It greatly increases the reverence of the experience.

The video presentation that we watched before entering the exhibit—also a must—prepared my heart to understand not only the origins of the exhibit name but also the rare gift in our being able to view these sacred paintings.  The exhibit is called “Sacred Gifts” from the LDS scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 6:10 “…thy gift… is sacred and cometh from above.”

As the exhibit literature says, “Most of these works have never before been on view in the United States, and are being loaned to the BYU Museum of Art under extraordinary circumstances from churches and museums in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and New York.”

As I considered the gifts of time, patience, relationship building, and generosity of  those who made this exhibit possible alongside the creative gifts of the artists themselves, I couldn’t help but see the Hand of the Lord over this creative endeavor in both historical and modern ways.

The Agony in the GardenWith it being Elena’s fourth time to visit, we went straight to her favorite painting, Agony in the Garden painted in 1898 by Danish artist Frans Schwartz that usually hangs in a white 12-century church in Nørresundby, near Aalborg, Denmark.

She didn’t reveal why it was her favorite, but I can guess. This work of art depicts a suffering Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane with an angel physically strengthening Him in His hour of need.

It’s personalized with the feeling of compassion for Him, as the one who comforts and strengthens us in our time of need, and the realization that our ability to come unto Him is made possible through the very act of the Atonement depicted in the painting. I could understand her love of Agony in the Garden.

And yet, even as my eyes flitted to the description card next to it learn more, the sacred connection expanded.

About five years ago our family had developed a plan to visit Denmark and Finland, the home countries of our ancestors. As I plotted a trip to Denmark, I discovered the port city and surrounding area where my great-grandmother Kirsten Marie Sorensen Jensen was born, learned of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a young girl alongside her parents and from there traveled to the United States to be in Zion.

The recession dimmed our dream of visiting Denmark or Finland as a family, but Elena retained it and is learning Finnish, gathering family names of Finnish ancestors and traveling to Finland this year.

But here in this Utah museum as we viewed and gained strength from this new favorite, I discovered another layer of personal significance to this painting. The Danish home of my ancestors? Aalborg, Denmark.

The creative gifts of the artist Frans Schwartz came full circle all the way from the city where my past family members first embraced the gospel to this exhibit where a great-great granddaughter could be strengthened again in her testimony of Jesus Christ.

Have you visited the Sacred Gifts exhibit? If so, which painting became sacred to you?

Sacred Gifts: The Religious Art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann and Frans Schwartz is at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art through May 10.The exhibition features nearly two dozen beloved paintings of the life of Jesus Christ by three European master painters from the late-19th century. 




  1. Twelve Stones from a Book Launch and Tour | Teresa Hirst - […] wrote about my trip to the Sacred Gifts exhibit on my blog. You can read about it here.  Appreciation…

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