3 LDS artists paint landscapes along Mormon Trail as tribute to pioneers, faith

John Burton still remembers how freezing he felt as he kneeled on the edge of the Mississippi River.

He was completing a sketch of the place where Latter-day Saint pioneers started on their trek from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City.

“I painted as fast as I possibly could so I could get back in the warmth of the car and then go get hot cider or a hot chocolate,” Burton said. “I only spent a few minutes out there, but it made me wonder, ‘What was it like when (the pioneers) were out there waiting to cross, knowing that they weren’t going anywhere warm?’”

It was the journal writings of his pioneer ancestors that gave Burton an appreciation and love for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Latter-day Saint artist John Burton’s pallet as he paints outdoors along the Mormon Trail near Council Bluffs, Iowa. His works are part of a new exhibition at the Church History Museum. | LDS Church

Although he has pioneer heritage on both sides of his family, Burton grew up knowing very little about the church. A significant part of his conversion was learning about the experiences and sacrifices of his ancestors.

After his conversion, Burton, who is a landscape artist, had a desire to paint the Mormon Trail as a way to add his own testimony and faith to that of the pioneers.

With the help of friends and fellow artists Josh Clare and Bryan Mark Taylor, Burton’s dream became a reality.

The artists traveled along the Mormon Trail from 2011-2016, braving all types of weather to create contemporary paintings of these historical sites. Their work culminated in an exhibit at the LDS Church History Museum that features landscape paintings depicting the 1,300-mile route that Latter-day Saints traveled between 1846 and 1868, according to a news release. The paintings are paired with journal excerpts that offer…

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