Sis­ters bring unique ap­proach to Book of Mor­mon al­le­gory


Three sis­ters - Chris­tine Lay­ton Gra­ham, Joan Lay­ton Mer­rell and Carol Lay­ton Og­den (of Springville) - bring an orig­i­nal ap­proach to the Al­le­gory of the Olive Tree found in Ja­cob 5 in the Book of Mor­mon through their book “The Olive Tree.” Pub­lished re­cently by Cedar Fort, the book is es­pe­cially timely for this year’s Book of Mor­mon cur­ricu­lum.

At 3,834 words, Ja­cob 5 is the long­est chap­ter in the Book of Mor­mon. It is beau­ti­ful and im­por­tant but dif­fi­cult to fol­low. To make the story ap­proach­able while re­tain­ing the rich­ness and spirit of the He­braic po­etry, the sis­ters pooled their tal­ents. Chris­tine is a writer, Joan a cal­lig­ra­pher, and Carol a painter.

Chris­tine worked with the orig­i­nal text to sim­plify the story. The Olive Tree ac­count is un­der 1,500 words, closer to a pic­ture book. The po­etic syn­onyms and rep­e­ti­tion are fo­cused to make the nar­ra­tive eas­ier to fol­low while re­tain­ing the fla­vor of the scrip­tural text.

Joan, an ac­com­plished pro­fes­sional cal­lig­ra­pher, hand-let­tered the en­tire book, in­clud­ing the copy­right page. The shapes of the let­ters re­call the col­ors and shapes of olive leaves and fruit. Work­ing with the edi­tors at Cedar Fort Pub­lish­ing, she mir­rored the col­ors of the il­lus­tra­tions in ways that high­light the mean­ing of the text.

Carol, a painter, re­searched an­cient olive cul­ture and cre­ated richly col­ored il­lus­tra­tions that por­tray graft­ing, cul­ti­vat­ing and har­vest­ing. More than that, pic­tures con­vey the deep love the Lord and his ser­vant feel for the trees as they try again and again to nur­ture them into pro­duc­ing good fruit.

Re­view­ers have said the book is “a vis­ual de­light and a beau­ti­ful keep­sake for in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies” (Te­quita An­drews), “a trea­sure trove of art and al­le­gor­i­cal lit­er­a­ture” (June Maf­fin), and that it “makes a good com­pan­ion book for scrip­ture study or a fam­ily home evening/church les­son” (Francesca Nishi­moto).

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