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Every year around the time of general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think about the column I wrote about trying to be more like Mary instead of Martha. The column was inspired after visiting Thanksgiving Point and looking at the beautiful miniature bronze statues created by artist Angela Johnson.
Recently, Thanksgiving Point opened a new Light of the World Garden featuring Johnson’s work. Miniature no more, the statues are now monument size and feature 14 scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, as well as Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
I woke up early last week on a beautiful, clear fall morning and decided to take my boys to see it.
I was anxious to see what they would think. Before the garden was finished, we would walk around the preview garden and I would point out the little scenes, reciting the scriptures and briefly explaining what was depicted. Most of the time, my boys were reverent and attentive — a rare occurrence.
I pushed the stroller up to the gravel path. Soft grass waved in the barely there breeze, and the smell of wet leaves and rich soil encircled me. The feeling in the garden was immediate: peace.
We walked up to the first scene, a beautiful image of Christ with the woman from Samaria at Jacob’s well.
“Jesus asked her if she could fill his cup so he could drink,” I pointed out to my boys, showing them the sculpted cup and vase. “And he said, ‘the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’”
“Was Jesus thirsty?” my 3-year-old asked.
“Yes,” I said. “But he said that if we believe in him and come unto him, that we won’t be spiritually thirsty anymore.”
We walked on, and I wondered if they understood.
We saw Christ sitting by a hen and her chicks, watching her gather them in. I explained how Christ also opens his arms wide and wants to gather us in, to keep us safe.
We saw others depicting the healing of a leper and the miracle of Lazarus, the agony of Gethsemane and the burden of carrying the cross. I marveled at how clay could be sculpted so beautifully to depict the pain and complete submissiveness of Christ as he suffered. My heart felt heavy watching him struggle with the heavy beams, willingly walking to his death to sacrifice himself for all of us. For me. I grew quiet.
“Mommy, is that heavy for him?” my 3-year-old asked, pointing to the cross.
A lump formed in my throat. “Yes, Briggs. That was very heavy and difficult.”
“Jesus died for me?” he asked.
“Yes, he did,” I said.
“Because Jesus loves me?”
My heart felt close to bursting. “Yes, he does,” I said gently. “He loves you so much.” I watched my little son holding tightly to the stroller in front of me, perfectly innocent and believing — and realized he does understand.
We stared in wonder at the resurrected Christ appearing to Mary, and then came to the last scene of the Savior standing with arms outstretched and his pierced chest and nailprints in his wrists and hands visible.
“See? He is resurrected now! Look, Beckham,” I walked up to the statue. “You can see the nail prints here.”
A wave of emotion hit me and tears instantly sprang to my eyes. I looked up into the Savior’s eyes, gently touching the prints on his hands and wrists and felt as though I was one of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon whom the Savior appeared to. I could picture what it would be like one day to stand at the feet of my resurrected Lord, and it took my breath away.
Many of my friends have shared pictures of their children also standing at the feet of the Master, tiny arms reaching. Johnson, the artist, and owner Karen Ashton were inspired to create an incredible place where people from all walks of life can come and catch a stunning glimpse into the life of the greatest man who ever lived. I believe he is still standing, waiting for us with arms outstretched, to come unto him.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former “American Idol” contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is email@example.com.
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