April 1-14 - "Thou Art the Christ"
Elfie Caroline Huntington (American, 1868-1949)
Joseph Daniel Bagley (American, 1874-1936)
Gelatin silver print from a gelatin dry plate negative
Public domain; courtesy L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). What does it mean to take up his cross? Not the Savior’s cross, but anyone’s? Elder Marvin J. Ashton said in 1987, “The Lord’s message to us is ‘Take up your cross.’ Take yourself the way you are, and lift yourself in the direction of the better. Regardless of where you have been, what you have done, or what you haven’t done, trust God. Believe in him. Worship him as you carry your cross with dignity and determination…. But what kind of cross do we each bear? What is its shape, weight, size, or dimension? The crosses we may carry are many: the cross of loneliness, the cross of physical limitations—loss of a leg, an arm, hearing, seeing, or mobility. These are obvious crosses…. But there are many crosses in life that, though real, are not always recognized or visible.” (BYU Stake Fireside, May 3, 1987)
In 1872, Elfie Huntington was a four year old girl in Springville, Utah who contracted scarlet fever and lost her hearing. In adulthood, she discovered photography and worked with George Edward Anderson. In 1903, she and another of Anderson’s assistants, Joseph Bagley, formed their own studio, Huntington & Bagley. For 33 years, the studio took thousands of portraits and documented the lives of people in their community. Surely a cross that Elfie bore was her deafness. But she was also a single woman, a business owner, and an artist. Joseph, too, bore crosses—of being a widower, having a child die at the age of four, and struggling to hold his family together with his work as a photographer and a beekeeper. Perhaps because of their shared struggle, the photography of Huntington & Bagley reveals a vulnerability and honesty in their portraits of early Utah residents.
A mother at the funeral of her severely disabled child began the service with a tribute to her daughter. The girl had spent her seven years unable to control her limbs and never able to speak. She was entirely dependent upon others. The mother asked those in attendance to not look away from someone like her daughter, as if she were invisible, but rather to make eye contact and acknowledge the person as a child of God. This portrait by Huntington and Bagley presents startling "eye contact" with someone with an obvious cross to bear. How can you help others to take up their crosses, even when doing so feels uncomfortable, and your instinct is to instead look away?
Are crosses easier to bear when they are obvious to others or when they are hidden? ("In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that they eye can't see" Susan Evans McCloud, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee," Hymns, no. 220.)
In the process of carrying your own cross, how have you become better able to follow Jesus?
Tell us what you think. How do you like the Come, Follow Me (Art Companion)?