A Labor Of Love by Elspeth Young

A Labor Of Love

{ Evelyn Kleinert }
Pre-mounted Giclées on canvas (gatorboard)
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14" x 18"$175.0016" x 20"$215.0016" x 24"$252.0018" x 24"$280.00
Giclées on canvas (unmounted canvas roll)
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18" x 27"$230.0020" x 30"$278.0024" x 36"$388.00
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16" x 20"$73.0018" x 24"$93.0024" x 36"$168.00
16" x 24"$84.0020" x 30"$122.00
Other products
Other options including the original artwork, bookmarks, and limited edition prints.
Original oil painting$20,840.00 Sold
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For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

The story behind A Labor Of Love

Here we have found faith, loyalty, and devotion unsurpassed in the annals of Church history.  Only through a testimony that God lives and has revealed himself from heaven and established his Church can men and women stand...with hope and courage...[and] continue with spirits sweet and hearts free from bitterness. — Ezra Taft Benson, Farewell Address upon completion his ministry in Europe, January - December 1946 (see A Labor of Love: The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson (Deseret Book, 1989)
An example of such devotion was Evelyne Kleinert, praised by her contemporaries as one who "spent herself immeasurably to relieve and comfort Saints and friends" and "a soul undaunted by misfortune, strengthened by having been able to overcome temptation and the obstacles of life...a source of power and faith for all those who know her."  (See Church News, Deseret News, December 10, 1966, p. 16) and the Max Wheelwright Missionary Papers, 1934-1938, in the Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

Evelyne Marie Charlet was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1878.  In October 1896, she was the second member of her family baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She subsequently emigrated to the United States and worked there as a seamstress, but met with illness, heartache, and disappointment.  In the decade before the outbreak of World War II, she returned to Europe where she met and married Swiss-born Charles Kleinert.  Though not a member of the Church, Charles supported his wife’s devotion to her baptismal covenant.  The couple lived in Paris.

In Europe, during World War II, local and regional operations of the Church were severely curtailed.  In France, as elsewhere, Church members worshipped and ministered as best they could in fragmented organizations as well as straitened and dangerous circumstances.

In June 1940, the Church closed its headquarters for its proselyting and administrative activities in France.  The Paris branch of the Church diminished to only a handful of faithful women. Evelyne, who was serving as the secretary to the Relief Society in the branch (the womens’ auxiliary of the Church), was assigned to oversee the welfare of the members of the branch.  She and her husband opened their home for weekly Church meetings and became the hub of the small LDS community in Paris.  This involved welcoming military personnel to their home, holding tithes and fast offerings received from members (against the day when Priesthood leaders would return), and distributing welfare packages among the needy.

As the strain of war consumed the health and means of the little band of Parisian women, Evelyne and her sisters continued Church service by correspondence, teaching and encouraging each other through weekly letters.  During this time of prolonged suffering, she wrote a pleading letter to Leon Fargier, the "only active member of the Priesthood in France."  He lived in Valence, an impossible 300 miles from Paris; nevertheless, notwithstanding his long history of arrests by the Gestapo and the personal danger of crossing enemy lines, he found a way to meet with members remaining in Paris.  (See Ensign Magazine, September 1991 and the Deseret News, December 10, 1966, p. 16).

This painting presents Evelyne on the morning previous to Leon’s visit as she lovingly and joyfully prepares bread to be used in the only administration of the sacrament she and others in the branch had not been able to receive for a very long time.  This task had long been a tradition carried out by the women of the Relief Society, and likely fell to Evelyne’s charge that day.  Using precious rations to supply the bread is just one symbol of devotion and selfless sacrifice of the women of the Paris Branch, and of Evelyne’s own life filled with selfless, Christlike serving.

Symbolism in A Labor Of Love

The stack of letters tucked into Evelyne’s apron pocket with her spectacles represent her personal ministry as a faithful member of the Relief Society, whose motto is Charity Never Faileth.  The envelopes are covered in period-accurate censor stamps, which typify the harsh constraints under which she served.  They also remind us of the importance of faith, courage, and resourcefulness.

Dealing with the aftermath of the War, Evelyne wrote that our bad days are not yet past and the storm is yet upon the earth, making commotion and causing the miserable to suffer.  But with the joy of the restored Gospel, we go forward...ready for the struggle.  We are but a small flock, but we have love, charity, and peace in our hearts and a firm hope in progressing (Paris Branch Minutes, May 1946, translation courtesy of Grant Emery).

The light present in Evelyne’s countenance and surroundings—even the shadows within the painting—reflect the shining highlights of the traditional French interior in which the figure finds herself, but than that, the light reflects something Evelyne wrote about the Sacrament and its ability to strengthen and encourage: What joy to have anew the communion of the sacrament by the Holy Priesthood...what comfort, what spirit of encouragement we have received from our Lord (December 1944).  Such sentiments echo the inspired farewell remarks of Ezra Taft Benson, already cited: If the clouds gather for a moment, be assured that behind every cloud for you there is a smiling Providence.

The color scheme of the painting was carefully selected by the artist to mirror the modern French flag, itself a symbol of hope and freedom.

Seven blue iris in a pitcher near the figure symbolize Evelyne’s seven fellow sisters participating in the wartime Paris Branch: Elise Brenkle, Helene Maillet, Marie Martin, Marie Roze, Louise Beaucantin, Madeline Tournant, and Mormon heroine of the French Resistance, Louise (known as Lucille) Victorine Fabres.

While the vintage kitchen scale painted at the lower right of the composition could easily be included in Evelyne’s kitchen because of its daily importance in cooking and bread-baking, it is included here as a representation of the perfect balance of justice and mercy available through the Atonement of the Savior (symbolized by the bread being prepared for the Sacrament).  The scale reminds the viewer of verses penned by Eliza R. Snow in 1871: In mem’ry of the broken flesh we eat the broken bread, and witness with the cup, afresh, our faith in Christ, our Head.  How great, how glorious, how complete Redemption’s grand design, where justice, love, and mercy meet in harmony divine!
© By Elspeth Young, All Rights Reserved. You may not print, copy, or reproduce this artwork or make derivative works from it without the prior written consent of the copyright holder. For permissions, please review our FAQ page.

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