Imagine a spring morning in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1845. Church leader Willard Richards, his wife Jenetta, and their son Heber John dress in their finest clothes and leave for Lucien Foster’s gallery on Parley Street to have their photograph taken.
Photography is a new invention, and the family approaches the adventure with a sense of excitement. They arrive at Foster’s gallery little understanding what they view as an almost magical process that will record their image onto a metal plate.
Foster poses the Richards family in an affectionate family grouping: Willard sits on the chair; Jenetta sits on his lap, drapes her arm around his shoulder, and leans her head against Willard’s forehead; Heber John sits shyly at his father’s side, leaning his head against Willard’s shoulder. Willard clasps Jenetta’s hand as they sit perfectly still for several minutes in front of the open shutter of Foster’s camera. The resulting family portrait would eventually become priceless to Willard and Heber John because four months later, Jenetta died suddenly.
This daguerreotype, copied into larger format, is the earliest picture in the photography exhibit “A Vision of Zion: Photographs of Latter-day Saint Life, 1845–1991,” currently displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City until 3 February 1992. Like this portrait of the Richards family, each of the more than 275 photos in the exhibit has a story behind it. These stories cover nearly one hundred and fifty years of Latter-day Saint history.
Although the following photographs provide an intimate look at specific moments in the lives of these Latter-day Saints, they also communicate a sense of community. Ordinances such as blessings and baptism link members of the Church together, no matter what the year. From the Willard Richards family in Nauvoo, Illinois, to Enoch Quaye and his young son from Ghana, Africa, the families featured here share a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
[photo] Brother Enoch Quaye Reading Scriptures to His Son, London, England, 1990. In 1990 Brother Quaye, a former chief in Ghana, was serving in the bishopric of the Peckham Ward, London England Wandsworth Stake. The Bible was a favorite source of bedtime stories for his son. (Photography by Mark Philbrick.)
[photo] Family Portrait of Church Leader Willard Richards, Wife Jenetta, and Son Heber John, Nauvoo, Illinois, 1845. Lucien Foster of New York came to Nauvoo and photographed many members of the community in 1845. (Photography by Lucien Foster; courtesy Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum.)
[photo] Platt and Wilma Ward with Their Posterity, Logan, Utah, about 1980. Sitting in the chapel, which was built in the 1870s, the Wards gather with their nine children, their children’s spouses, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren. (Photography by Craig J. Law.)
[photo] Ordinance Workers Following a Morning Temple Session, Logan, Utah, 1987. Morgan and Iva Hawkes, who at the time of this photograph had been temple workers for nearly twenty years, walk from the temple to their home at the bottom of the hill. (Photography by Craig J. Law; courtesy of Museum Collection.)
[photo] Sister Manwaring and Children at Prayer, Springville, Utah, 1903. While serving a mission in England, Albert Manwaring received from his family a copy of this photograph showing them praying for his success and protection. (Photography by George Edward Anderson; courtesy of Museum Collection.)
[photo] Brother and Sister Baird with Great-Grandson, Willard, Utah, 1974. Malcolm and Lola Baird stand in front of the home where Malcolm was born. Malcolm’s father, Robert B. Baird, built the home, so five generations of life are represented in this picture. (Photography by Craig J. Law.)
[photo] Family Evening at Home, Provo, Utah, about 1915. Family values and togetherness have long been emphasized by Church leaders and members, including the suggestion for families to hold family home evenings. (Photography by T. C. and O. Blaine Larson; courtesy Brigham Young University Archives.)
[photo] A Father Blesses His Child, Provo, Utah, 1975. Members of a Brigham Young University student ward, who met in an old meetinghouse, witness the blessing of a baby. (Photography by Doug Martin.)
[photo] Family at Prayer, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 1989, by Craig Dimond.
[photo] Nathan Law on Baptism Day with His Extended Family, Logan, Utah, 1989, by Craig J. Law. Baptismal services may be small gatherings, consisting primarily of missionaries and converts, or large family gatherings, such as this one.
[photo] Portrait of Joseph Freeman, Jr., with His Wife, Isapella Freeman, and Daughter, Kearns, Utah, 1979, by Doug Martin. The Freemans smile as they hold their infant daughter, who has just been blessed by Brother Freeman.