Father Lehi and the Tree of Life
A Latter-day Lamanite Paints the Tree of Life
Some time ago, my friend Lehi Sanchez, a Native American, released a painting that he had worked on for quite some time.
But more than that, when I read the story behind the painting, I was deeply touched and I wanted to help Lehi share it with others. So, despite crazy schedules and the fact that we both live in different states, Lehi and I have managed to worked together to bring you this video. My thanks to Moroni (Lehi’s brother) for the filming. This video has quickly become one of my favorites.
Lehi Sanchez, wrote this about his painting:
“Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.”To see more of Lehi’s artwork, please visit: http://www.lehisanchez.webs.com
With these words, the prophet Lehi reveals a divine vision that testifies of God’s love for His children and His desire that they return to His presence. The plan of salvation is beautifully laid out before Lehi’s eyes through symbols and metaphors.
A few years ago, Elder Robert C. Gay approached me at a fundraiser banquette to inquire if I would be willing to paint him a picture of Father Lehi. I accepted his offer and many months later I completed the painting, which I titled Father Lehi & the Tree of Life.
Little is known of Lehi’s background before he and his family left Jerusalem. However, what we do know is that he was chosen to be the father of a great nation and was given a land of promise. As I read the account of his vision, I contemplated the glimpse we are given of his symbolic journey to the tree, which may very well be a metaphor of his life.
Lost and alone, Father Lehi finds himself wandering in darkness for the space of many hours. Finally, he calls upon his Creator for help. As soon as he does this very act, the darkness was chased away by the light of an exceedingly beautiful tree. He notices white fruit, and not knowing what it is, he reaches up to partake in its goodness. As soon as he does this, his soul is filled with immeasurable happiness. This part of his vision especially caught my attention.
There have been times when I have felt lost and alone in my life, almost to the point of hopelessness. But in God’s goodness, every time I have humbled myself to petition divine intervention, a light of hope has appeared to chase away the darkness. Our mortal walk through this life can sometimes seem unbearable, however I testify that we are not alone. If we look to the Lord we also will find his light, which will lead us out of the darkness.
Just like Father Lehi, my earthly father, Ezekiel, was also lead by the Lord to take his family to the desert. He left his dream job at the Missionary Training Center, scholarships for his children’s future education, and a comfortable home in order to start a wilderness program for troubled youth in the deserts of Arizona, ANASAZI Foundation. My father has always been my hero. This is why I chose him to be my model for Father Lehi in this painting. I want this painting to honor him and his sacrifice. I want this painting to honor all great men who have chosen to follow the Lord, regardless the sacrifice, who have not only partaken of the fruit themselves, but who turned their eyes around searching for others to share in their joy.
The tree represents Christ. You will notice the branches reaching outward, like arms beckoning us toward the light. The base color is red, representative of sacrifice and royalty. The rays of light were added later, to not only illuminate the tree, but also to represent the light and love of Christ which “sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men.”
This painting is a message of hope. My father once told me, “It doesn’t matter where you are in the path of life, you can turn around and walk forward towards the light. It is never too late to have a new beginning.” Just like Father Lehi, when you find yourself surrounded by darkness, turn to the Lord and He will guide you.
To learn more about ANASAZI Foundation, read The Seven Paths, a beautiful book about our spiritual journey home.