Artwork encourages religious unity

A recent gathering at the Friends of the Library monthly luncheon in Palmyra was a landmark occasion, made so by the contribution of a missionary.

The mayor, the village historian, the ministers of the famous four-corners churches (the church of a different denomination on each corner of an intersection), and the priest of St. Anne's Catholic Church were all present as Sister Karron Whittaker donated her original oil, "Reflections of Early Palmyra," to the Kings Daughters Free Library. Also present were Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy and president of the New York Rochester Mission, and Robert L. Stephenson, the Church's director of historic sites in the area.Sister Whittaker and her husband, Allen, were Historic Sites missionaries in Palmyra before returning home to Spanish Fork, Utah, after their recent release.

Palmyra, in upstate New York, was an important setting in the early history of the Church. Among the historic sites in the area are the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah, the Joseph Smith home, and the Grandin Building where the first Book of Mormon was printed.

In the library ceremony, framed, signed and numbered prints of Sister Whittaker's painting of Palmyra's unique churches were presented to the ministers and priest to be hung in their sanctuaries. Another was given to the mayor for the village. The prints were accepted with great enthusiasm.

The picture was painted from an old photograph taken from Cannon Hill which showed the four churches on the corners and included a view of St. Anne's Catholic Church on Church Street.

"Since coming to Palmyra, I have been intrigued with the four churches on the corner," Sister Whittaker said at the luncheon. "The churches represent Christian fellowship and unity. Existing in such close proximity to one another exemplifies this. I wanted to portray that in my painting. Reflections of the early faith of our country are captured in the towering spires of our churches and temples throughout our nation.

"Although diverse in faith, every line of the sanctuaries expresses enduring love of God," she continued. "That love can bind a village, a town, or a country with threads of compassion. Tolerance for differences unites."

Dixie Prittie, president of the Friends of the Library, said when receiving the painting in behalf of the institution: "We will treasure this painting and are placing it in an honored spot over the fireplace in the fiction room. The picture of Pliny Sexton has hung there for many years. I'm sure he won't mind if we replace him with this picture of the four churches. We appreciate our Mormon friends and we miss them when they leave."

Elder Jensen said: "Bridges of friendship have been built in the village of Palmyra today. Sister Whittaker's love and willingness to give so freely of her talents, coupled with Elder Whittaker's unselfish service, has broken through decades of feelings in Palmyra. This audience, comprised mostly of the elders of this village, remember the past. They were warmed by this gift given to them today with such love. Today is a testimonial to the value of community service."

Sister Whittaker has given 150 signed and numbered prints of the painting to the library for a fund-raiser. She also donated an oil entitled "Along the Erie Canal" to the Wayne County Historical Museum. It was used as a fund-raiser as well.

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