Joy For Mourning by Elspeth Young

Joy For Mourning

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The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61

The story behind Joy For Mourning

Rebecca Bearse Reed (1785-1848) and her husband, John, were among the first to be baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830.  A direct descendent of Massasoit and of mixed Native American parentage, Rebecca is also believed to have been one of the very first Native Americans to become a member of the Church.  The Reeds were converted through the instrumentality of what was known as the mission to the Lamanites (see Doctrine and Covenants Section 32) begun in late Autumn 1830.  Parley P. Pratt later wrote of that time:In two or three weeks from our arrival in the neighborhood with the news [of the gospel and the Book of Mormon], we had baptized one hundred and twenty-seven souls, and this number soon increased to one thousand.  The disciples were filled with joy and was strong, joy was great, and persecution heavy (Pratt, Parley P., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1995, 36).

The Book of Mormon: Another Witness for Jesus Christ was instrumental in the family's acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The family subsequently endured the storms of heavy persecution and discrimination that followed.  John and Rebecca were among those who suffered repeated persectuions by mobs in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, so that each time they established a home and began to prosper, they were rendered destitute again.  In an affidavit published in 1839, John recorded his family's ordeal after they escaped the persecutions of Ohio, only to trade them for the cruelties of Missouri (spelling and punctuation has been standardized):
“This may certify that I, John Reed, in consequence of the late difficulty between a portion of the people of the upper counties of Missouri and the Church of Latter-day Saints have suffered the following losses in the year 1838:

“In the month of June I moved my family to the County of Livingston and in the Fall was ordered by the inhabitants to leave the place in 15 days or be massacred. I then for my safety moved to Daviess County, from thence bought the betterment of 260 acres of land.  While I was making preparations to take possession of the place, a mob tore down the house that I intended to occupy and I was compelled to live in an uncomfortable shanty in the most severe cold and stormy weather.

“From this place I was ordered by the militia to go back to Caldwell County, but in consequence of having been appointed with 11 others to settle with the inhabitants, I remained in Diahman [also known as Adam-ondi-Ahman, or Spring Hill] after our people had left and at this time received great abuse both by threatening my life and stealing my property--such as clothing, household stuff, tools, etc. together with one cow and calf. I, in this situation, was obliged, in compliance with the Governor's orders, to leave the State with but one horse and a large family on my hands.”

John Reed, Blacksmith

Johnson, Clark V.  Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833-1838 Missouri Conflict (Religious Studies Center Monograph Series, Vol. 16, 1992, p.524-525).
John and Rebecca were firm friends of the Prophet Joseph Smith and frequently helped hide the persecuted leader in their home, at the peril of their own lives.  While the poverty occasioned by their sacrifices prevented precluded the education of their smaller children, the Reed family's association with Joseph Smith enabled the children to learn at his feet.  They sacrificed greatly to build the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples, and the couple was sealed for time and eternity in 1846.  John died in a cholera epidemic during the Nauvoo expulsion of the saints, and Rebecca soon followed her husband, succumbing during the exodus to Zion, with faith and hope unshaken that all the mourning she had endured would turn to songs of everlasting joy.

Symbolism in Joy For Mourning

Rebecca reads a first-edition copy of The Book of Mormon in the morning light of the Reed farm in Rome, Ohio.  The light bathing the figure symbolizes the light of Spirit of the Lord touching her soul as she learns the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Cradled in her hands are Ohio native wildflowers, commonly seen in late fall.  Blossoms include the Native American herb echinacea—symbolic of Rebecca's history; and whitlow grass, a member of the mustard family, suggesting the Savior's teaching that if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed...nothing shall be impossible unto you Matthew 17:20.

Rebecca's costume and hairstyle are the artist's interpretation of early American and Native American styles—a visual reminder of Rebecca's heritage.  The intricate patterns on the shawl are traditional motifs of Wampanoag costuming.
© 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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Serendipity and solutions

By Elspeth C. Young Joy for Mourning (Rebecca Bearse Reed) was painted by the artist in the studios at Ben Haven.

Dimensions (unframed width x height)
14 in. x 18 in.


Research commences - August 2018
Painting completed - December 2018

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Elspeth C. Young completes new oil painting - "Joy For Mourning"

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