The Mormon Christ

Since 1955, Mormons have been inundated with Carl Heinrich Bloch’s illustrations of Christ.  They are resproduced ubiquitously in LDS magazines, manuals and books, Mormon wall hangings, and in visual aids.  Bloch paints Christ as a pasty-white Scandinavian.

According to Peggy Fletcher Stack, writing the SLTrib (6 Nov 2010):

In 1955, Doyle L. Green, managing editor of the LDS Church’s official publication, the Improvement Era, was searching for images to use in the magazine when he discovered Bloch.

The painter’s depictions, [Dawn] Pleysey [curator of a recent Bloch exhibition at BYU] says, seemed to mirror LDS views of a manly, yet compassionate Christ.

Green got permission to reproduce several of the Danish artist’s Jesus paintings in the magazine that year, and they were an instant hit.  Green, as quoted in the curator’s book, said the works “tell a story of the Savior that can be understood by all.  It is hoped that they will bring much inspiration, joy, and understanding to home and classrooms throughout the church.

Stack goes on the paranthetically state:

(An angel’s wings were airbrushed out of some reproduction, because Mormons don’t believe angels have wings.)

And aparently the Bloch images of Christ have had a strong attraction on recent LDS leaders:

LDS President Thomas S. Monson took the train to Frederiksborg Castle to see the original [Bloch] paintings in 1973 as did the previous Mormon prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, two decades later.

I would like to recommend that the LDS Church drop the Scandinavian look in favor of a more realistic depiction of Christ.  Let’s make him look less like a movie star and more like a real man.  Let’s drop the pasty-white skin, immaculate white robe, and well-groom hair.  Let’s make him look like a Mediterranean who lived 2,000 years ago.  Christ probably didn’t bathe everyday, and hair gel and styling mousse were not an option.  The environment was frequently windy and sandy.

A darker, more realistic Christ would certainly benefit the missionary effort in developing countries.

PS.  Let’s also stop the silly censorship (ie.  taking the wings off angels)

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This entry was posted in Art, images of Christ, mormonism, Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Mormon Christ

  1. shematwater says:

    Question? Are people really so sensitive that they can’t appreciate an artists rendition. And why not take the wings off?

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I have no problem with Bloch painting or illustrating Christ anyway he (or his customers) wanted. Each nationality wants a Christ they can relate to. I do have a problem with the LDS Church and others using it as “their” representation of Christ. If the LDS Church and Christianity in general wants to be a universal church and religion, they need a more representative Christ. And I would argue that a more historically accurate Christ would be an excellent compromise.

    As for the wings, I have no problem with no wings on angels. I do have a problem with airbrushing the wings off Bloch’s angels.

    • shematwater says:

      Why does it matter what picture we use, or what picture anyone uses? That is my question. Why do we need to compromise at all?

      As to the wings, I still don’t see any real problem. Are you going to complain about other pictures that are altered in reproductions, like the five or six different versions of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting?

      It really seems to me to be a rather trivial things to be complaining about.

      • roger hansen says:

        It may seem trivial, but for me the image of Christ is an important symbol. I live part-time in the Navajo Nation and part-time in Uganda (in addition to having a home in Orem, UT). To me a lily-white Christ is a bad memory of apartheid, colonism, racism, “white and delightsome,” “curse of Cain (or Ham),” etc. If Christianity wants to be truly universal then it needs a Mediterranean Christ. If it wants to atone for past sins, then even darker is better.

        I think my friends in Uganda and the Navajo Nation would be better served by a darker-skinned Christ, as would I. But that’s only my personal opinion.

        As for wings, I agree, this is a trivial issue. And as I stated, taking the wings off Bloch’s paintings for me is a no-no. And I’m not a big fan of making second-class reproductions of important art works. I would rather enjoy Da Vinci’s original “Last Supper” than the knock-offs. Should we the Apostle John look less effeminate?

      • shematwater says:

        I think I understand better what you mean on the wings.

        However, on the picture of Christ I think you may be going to far. If you want it more realistic, drawn as a Jew more than a white man, fine. I can understand that. It still seems silly, but I do see where you are coming from.
        However, to say that he should be darker is only taking the same problem to the other extreme, as that would, by your logic, block out the white races in the same manner that the current picture alienates the darker races.
        Correcting a misconception is one thing, but causing another is entirely different.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    As an atonement for colonialism (ie. the Belgian destruction of the Congo), apartheid, segregation, etc., let’s darken Christ. Why should that bother Scandinavians? or English? or Americans? I don’t think that darkening Christ would be cause “alienation” or another “misconception.”

  4. Pingback: What Color Was Christ? | Tired Road Warrior

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