Ancient Voices, Modern Light

“Ancient Voices, Modern Light,” Ensign, Dec. 2000, 38

Ancient Voices, Modern Light

The inner beauty and power of scriptural text is the essence of these paintings by a Latter-day Saint artist.

Danish-born Johan H. Benthin is a third-generation artist and a first-generation Latter-day Saint. Born and reared in Copenhagen, young Johan combined his study of painting with work as a timber merchant. In 1964 he opened a studio in Italy. Since then, he has lived in Europe and Scandinavia, producing and exhibiting hundreds of paintings as well as murals and furniture. He and his wife currently live in Bangalore, India, where he serves as president of the Bangalore India District.

Above: Ancient Love Story, 1995, acrylic on canvas with collage. The Old Testament story of Ruth and Boaz can teach us of love and redemption. Their union brought forth Obed, grandfather of King David and part of the ancestral line of Jesus Christ. Symbolically, theirs is a story of redemption (which means “to buy back”). The scriptures state that Boaz “purchased” Ruth (Ruth 4:10), and we see a parallel in the life of Jesus Christ, who “bought” us with His blood (1 Cor. 6:20). Using characters from 13th-century Jewish writings found in northern Bavaria telling of Boaz and Ruth, this work captures the soberness and softness of a love story renowned even today.

Center: The Golden Plates, 1991, acrylic on canvas with collage. Ancient prophets in the Americas recorded the story of their people on golden plates. Translated in modern times by the Prophet Joseph Smith, this record is known as the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. While the plates of gold are represented here, only a few characters, of the artist’s invention, appear on the surface to symbolize knowledge hidden in the ancient text until revealed to the Prophet Joseph. (Courtesy of Niels and Charlotte Valentiner.)

Right top: The Reformer, 1993, acrylic on canvas with collage. Numerous religious performers helped prepare the way for the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel. One of them was Huldrych Zwingli of Switzerland. On 11 January 1528, he wrote his beliefs in a letter to his wife. Here, Zwingli’s letter is the brightest light on the painting and is symbolic of truth. The background, which represents people’s understanding of scriptural doctrines, is made up of pages from the Bible and grows lighter as it moves toward Zwingli’s letter of reformation. (Courtesy of law firm Helge Noerrung, Copenhagen.)

Right: The Two Books, 1993, acrylic on canvas with collage. Here we see the Bible (the stick of Judah) and the Book of Mormon (the stick of Joseph) joined together in fulfillment of the words of Ezekiel 37:15–17: “Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.” One of these treasured books basks in greater light, “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion,” as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught.