In compliance with Hawaii’s social distancing rules, a small group gathered to see a new painting recently placed in the northeast foyer of the BYU–Hawaii Stake Center on June 11. The painting, “I am a Child of God” by artist Howard Lyon depicts the Savior surrounded by children of 28 various nationalities to signify the diverse love of the Savior to His children around the world and on the BYUH campus.
“Our current world situation, which is damaged by social and economic inequality, mistrust, and institutional to personal racism, grossly impedes the invitation of our Savior to love one another,” said Stuart Wolthuis. Wolthuis previously served as the first counselor in the Laie Hawaii YSA 1st Stake presidency.
According to Wolthuis, this painting was proposed to be displayed in the BYUH Stake Center more than six months ago.
The painting was first approved by the former stake president, Mailefihi “Junior” Niutupuivaha. Wolthuis then coordinated with Dan Kehoe, who was the second counselor at the time, of what to do concerning the cost of the painting.
Kehoe then reached out to the Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. After several weeks, it was approved to be displayed in the BYUH meetinghouse.
Wolthuis said the painting arrived in Oahu on March 3. However, due to the global pandemic, many businesses in the State of Hawaii were shut down, including the company framing the art piece.
After several weeks, he received news the painting would be mounted in the BYUH Stake Center northeast foyer on June 11. “This was very exciting for me personally, as June 11 is my birthday. [It was] a wonderful tender mercy,” said Wolthuis.
Kehoe said, “It is special for this campus because it is symbolic for the population it serves.”
Kehoe explained the continuing desire of he and Wolthuis to follow through with this project. He said, “We are doing this even after we were released because it is something we hoped we could accomplish before getting released, but because of the virus, it got delayed.”
Jillian Ruby, a junior from Colorado majoring in elementary education and psychology, said she feels this painting is especially important in light of recent events around the world. “I think that this painting really portrays the important message that everyone is a child of God, and Christ loves all people regardless of nation, kindred or tongue.”
I think that this painting really portrays the important message that everyone is a child of God, and Christ loves all people regardless of nation, kindred or tongue.
Wolthuis said, “We are [living] in a choice place; choice because God has blessed this land, this ‘aina’ and blessed the people in this sacred place. The community of Laie, our surrounding area, and the university Ohana are woven together in a rich tapestry.”
Wolthuis said the painting reminds him of President David O. McKay, and his experience of seeing the children at Laie Elementary School in 1921 and seeing the various cultures, races and nationalities coming together during their flag-raising ceremony.
Ruby called the painting beautiful and said she could feel the love being portrayed through the painting.
Wolthuis said, “My life has personally been enriched by amazing people from many different lands. When we lived in Italy, our Italian friends would say to my Greek wife, ‘Una faccia, una razza,’ meaning ‘One face, one race.’ ... We all are part of a larger family.”