This past week my wife and I (Anthony) went to go see a show of forty small paintings of the Savior by LDS artist J. Kirk Richards. Each portrait was a little different, and the artist intentionally left the paintings a little undone or “rough” (not too detailed), which gave an unclear or vague look to each piece. On the drive home from the show my wife and I talked about how we imagine Jesus in our minds is sometimes a little unclear or fuzzy, and that each of us probably has a little different image in our mind of what the Savior looks like. Who knows, perhaps the traditional way we paint him isn’t what he looks like at all. Maybe the mortal redeemer was a little more Middle Eastern looking than we suppose, with darker skin and features. Or, maybe he was fair and “ruddy,” or of reddish complexion and hair like Jesus’ forefather David (1 Samuel 17:42). Who knows for sure? But, what we do know is how we will feel when we see the Savior. We will be overpowered by his love when we see him, not by how he looks. Consider the following two stories:
Artist James C. Christensen relates: “I had the opportunity to visit with President Kimball at his home. I had painted a portrait of him and his wife, and when I brought up the fact that I was working a picture of Christ, we were invited to come to his house with reference material and notes to discuss the painting. My wife and I sat around the kitchen table eating milk and cookies with the prophet and his wife. All the pictures of Jesus I could find were laid out on the table. Sister Kimball had opinions on several of the pictures, but the prophet said nothing. Finally I said, ‘Look, President, I have been around (I was very young and just thought I had been around) enough to know that we’re not going to be given a detailed physical description of the Savior, but if you were going to hang a painting of the Savior in your office, what would you want that picture to be like?’ He took off his glasses and put his face about a foot away from mine and said, ‘I love people; that’s my gift. I truly love people. Can you see anything in my eyes that tells you that I love people? In that picture, I would like to see in the Savior’s eyes that he truly loves people. It is not affected; it is not his job. He truly loves all people’” (James C. Christensen, “That’s Not my Jesus” BYU Studies v39, Number 3–2000).
Elder Melvin J. Ballard relates the following dream/vision he had of the Savior: “I had sought the Lord . . . and that night I received a wonderful manifestation and impression which has never left me. I was carried to this place—into this room. I saw myself here with you. I was told there was another privilege that was to be mine; and I was led into a room where I was informed I was to meet someone. As I entered the room I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious being I have ever conceived of, and was taken forward to be introduced to Him. As I approached He smiled, called my name, and stretched out His hands towards me. If I live to be a million years old I shall never forget that smile. He put His arms around me and kissed me, as He took me into His bosom, and He blessed me until my whole being was thrilled. As He finished I fell at His feet, and there saw the marks of the nails; and as I kissed them, with deep joy swelling through my whole being, I felt that I was in heaven indeed. The feeling that came to my heart then was: Oh! If I could live worthy, though it would require four-score years, so that in the end when I have finished I could go into His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in His presence, I would give everything that I am or ever hope to be!” (Melvin J. Ballard—Crusader for Righteousness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 65-66.)
In the scriptures Jesus promises the faithful that, one day, they “shall see my face and know that I am” (D&C 93:1). What a glorious day that will be. But what will be so impactful will not be what we see, but what we experience—what we feel. The beauty of it all is that we do not need to wait until then to feel the love of the Savior. Through the Holy Ghost we can each feel that now—each day. When the moment does come that we meet Jesus, although his physical appearance might be unfamiliar to us, the love we have felt from him on a daily basis will make him as familiar to us as anyone we’ve ever known.