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Project Commentaries: Till We Meet Again by Elspeth Young

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Elspeth working on her painting of Jane Elizabeth Manning
Elspeth's next painting for our Pioneer Fine Art Collection features Jane Elizabeth Manning.

The character featured in this new painting is heroic by any standard.  At the age of 21 and in company with close family and kin, Manning trekked the 800 miles from Wilton, Connecticut to Nauvoo, Illinois to join with Church members gathering in Illinois.  Destitute upon arriving in Nauvoo, she found true friends in Joseph and Emma Smith, who provided room, board, and a new wardrobe for their guest.  Jane drew close to the Smiths and resided there more than year, helping the family with washing and other household chores.

She endured persecutions leveled at Church members in the 1840s, and when the Church and its members were driven from Nauvoo in 1846, Manning was among those who endured the mid-winter hardships of expulsion from Nauvoo as well as the ordeal of the 1300-mile trek to the desert valleys of the Rocky Mountains.  Selecting a moment in which to portray such a life was difficult, but out of all Manning endured perhaps the most poignant moment of grief came June 1844 when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred in Carthage, Illinois.

Manning once described Brother Joseph as "the finest man I ever saw on earth," a man of kindness and caring who "never passed me without shaking hands with me wherever he was . . . Every time he saw me, he would say, "God bless you."

This full-length portrait presents Manning as she might have appeared in the brilliant sunshine of that June day ("smitten and mourning" as one contemporary described Nauvoo's inhabitants), standing in the deathly hush as the creaking of the wagon bed moved slowly down the street, bringing home the marred and blood-stained bodies of Joseph and Hyrum.  "I liked to a died myself," said Manning.  "I will never forget that time of agony and sorrow."

The moment in this painting is the moment when Manning, like everyone in Nauvoo, stood at a crossroads.  Some turned away from the awful scenes and eventually fell away from the Church, but when Jane turned away to pick up the threads of a shattered life, she gave herself anew to that for which these brothers died and never did turn back.  All the heroism that followed, and there was much, flowed from the decision she made then, and kept making, through the all the days and all the moments ever after.

Tags: Till We Meet Again, 2013, Pioneer Art Collection, Project commentaries

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