Wise or Foolish: Women in Mormon Biblical Narrative Art

Volume 57:2 (2018)
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Wise or Foolish: Women in Mormon Biblical Narrative Art

Author Jennifer Champoux

Images that are seen as officially endorsed by the LDS Church can affect the way members interpret scriptural stories or historical Church events. For example, LDS artwork often portrays biblical women as simplified, didactic figures. With particular focus on depictions of Mary and Martha, this essay examines the limited instances of groups of women in common LDS biblical narrative art to highlight the challenges and implications of how art is created for and viewed by general LDS audiences and to reveal how these canonized portrayals of biblical women have largely adhered to traditional Christian interpretations and artistic styles rather than to a uniquely Mormon understanding of scriptural stories. While most institutional images of Mary and Martha adhere to only one interpretation of the story and largely follow the early Christian tradition of seeing Mary as passive and heroic and Martha as active and foolish, Minerva Teichert's painting of the sisters leaves the meaning open for interpretation and incorporates distinctive and particularly Mormon ideas about agency, personal study, the balance between faith and works, and the primacy of scripture.