Painting honors stonemason ancestor

Ronald D. Hales has known for many years of the role his great-great-grandfather, Stephen, played in sculpting the "Hands of Fellowship."

The sculpture depicts two masculine hands clasped in a handshake of brotherhood. The long shirtsleeve on the one hand, coupled with the robe on the other hand, denotes a friendship that extends across the veil. Identical carvings are positioned above the center windows on the east and west sides of the Salt Lake Temple.Even though Brother Hales knew about his ancestor's artistic contribution, it has taken 20 years for the bits and pieces from various family histories to come together to document the story.

But after years of research, and armed with more than 200 pages of personal histories, Ronald Hales painted a painting depicting the struggle and the process of the carving as a tribute to his ancestor.

The painting hung in the Museum of Church History and Art as part of the international exhibit during the summer.

Through years of research, Brother Hales and his wife, Lorraine, learned that Stephen Hales was a skilled stonemason who was born in England in 1820. He immigrated to Canada as a young boy where his family met Parley P. Pratt, who was serving a mission at the time, and was baptized a member of the Church.

The only known record Stephen Hales made of his life is a short synopsis written while he was a seventy in Nauvoo.

Other people, however, frequently refer to him in their journals. They describe his efforts in fending off persecution in Far West, Mo., in accompanying the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith to Nauvoo following their martyrdom, and carving the oxen in the baptismal font of the Nauvoo Temple. William Phelps' journal notes how he and Stephen Hales chased stray horses back into camp.

Stephen Hales made the trek from Iowa to Salt Lake City as part of the Garden Grove Company in 1851. It was reported that he danced at Brigham Young's home, and was involved with a number of building projects throughout the valley. His skills as a stone cutter and mason were employed on the building of the Salt Lake Temple.

In the painting, Stephen Hales is featured in the foreground carving the "Hands of Fellowship," while the temple is shown under construction in the background. The painting details the craftsmen's tools and methods used to hoist the stones into position.

Ronald used two of their seven children, and a granddaughter, as models.

For accuracy and authenticity, he relied on a compilation of 200 pages documenting Stephen's life prepared by Lorraine Hales, as well as a large portrait showing Stephen with a forked beard.

To give a "correct sense of sunlight and shadows," Ronald sculpted a replica of the hands in modeling clay. The painting is titled, "Stephen Hales: Father, Stone Carver, Pioneer" and was entered in the Church museum's Fourth International Art Competition.

Ronald has long held an interest in art, using his artistic skills to create renderings as an architect for 30 years. But it wasn't until he retired in 1992 that he pursued his interest in painting, particularly portrait.

"Artistic talent is a family trait," said Sister Hales, who discovered during the international exhibit at the museum that three other artists - unknown to them before the competition - are also descendants and were honored for works relating to Stephen Hales.

"I thought it extraordinary that this family should be represented by four pieces in the show," she said.

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