“GATHER THEM IN”
“You were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing. This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.”-Russell M. Nelson
Last year, after my wife heard this quote from our prophet she said to me, “You need to create a gathering image for our home.” At first I was unsure what elements I wanted to include. I knew the Savior would be the center of it, and that Jerusalem should be the backdrop. I then chose the Mount of Olives as the location. Orson Hyde had knelt on the Mount of Olives and dedicated Jerusalem for the gathering of scattered Judah (Israel) in 1841. And, scripture tells us that the resurrected Savior will again stand again on the Mount of Olives when he returns. I had extensively photographed Jerusalem, including The Mount of Olives a few years ago, so I had all of the elements I needed to create an accurate representation of the view of Jerusalem, minus distracting elements like fences.
I wanted to use sheep in the picture, but which sheep should I use? The Awassi sheep are often used in biblical paintings because they indigenous to the area. I already had photographed them in Israel, as well as other sheep breeds the U.S. and in Peru. I decided to use the sheep from all 3 areas to symbolizes the gathering of Judah, the scattered tribes of Israel, and the Gentiles who accept the gospel, all part of the Gathering of Israel. There are more symbolic imagery left for the viewer to discover.
The most important element is of course, the Savior, himself. I wanted the viewer to feel the Savior's love as he invites us to participate in the Gathering of Israel. This turned out to be the most laborious endeavor that I have ever taken on. In order to come up with this digital painting of the Savior, I used the eyes, face, chin and neck from different models as a foundation for his features (I am grateful to each one for their help!). For many months I worked on the image of the Savior piece by piece, sometimes leaving it for a time and coming back to it days or weeks later with renewed perspective. I studied and prayed for inspiration, and also received valuable input from trusted friends and family members. I just kept at it, until in my heart I could look at the picture and see Him. I just kept remembering the scripture John 17:3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." How wonderful to know we will see him someday, and that we can know him today by following him and joining him in his great work!