The Study of Last Things ~ Utah State University BFA Thesis Project ~ Logan, UT


And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent… for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not…  And they that believe not [go] unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not.
– Doctrine & Covenants 29

I was raised a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church that believes we are in the last dispensation of the fulness of times. Members teach that, in 1820, the Lord called modern-day prophet Joseph Smith to restore the One True Church and begin the gathering of Israel for Christ's imminent return. LDS youth and young adults are entrusted as the key guarantors of spreading this truth and congregating “gentiles” as the world prophetically begins to decay.

As I sought to have faith and become a righteous gatherer I grew into doubts and felt estranged in my lack of religious worthiness. Because I did not wish to spread a truth that caused me such debilitating fear and self-loathing, I chose to neglect my calling. My trepidations led to an investigation of the Church’s legitimacy, and consequently the Church deemed my doubts as apostasy and my questions as a “spiritual sickness.” According to LDS doctrine, I would become one who “the Lord God will send forth flies upon” whose “tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets” (D&C 29).

Facing conflicting political and moral beliefs as well as doctrinal and experiential dilemmas, many members of the Church share my experience and are stepping away from what we have been taught is the only true thing on the face of the earth. By conjuring eschatological imagery, somber landscapes, esoterica and visual allegory, The Study of Last Things narrates an ongoing and unresolved pilgrimage of lifted burdens brought about by a derelict testimony and self-discovery amid uncoerced isolation.



The Installation



As the main visual piece for my thesis exhibition, I displayed an installation of photographs in a salon style. My self-portrait, a dark silhouetted figure, sits in center amongst a sea of eschatological imagery. Little Bailey may think she is all-consumed by her prophetic fate – but in actuality is amidst the narrative of a corrupt belief system and an acceptance of moving away from it.

In the chaos of the hazy, isolated, emotional landscape lies a system of biblical iconographies. There are serpents, rivers of blood and demolished structures. There are skies that begin to fall and grounds which begin to warp. But in it all, there are small glimpses of hope. An image of a wooden dove is placed in the top right corner of the arrangement, flying away, or waking up from a reality which turned out to be just a nightmare. 

The installation  became an act of revealing myself to the masses. Along the back wall, a large, sheer veil covers an image of myself at just four or five years old, unaware of what is ahead of her. Just as a bride does on their wedding day, I show little Bailey underneath the veil as a person of a past life. Once the veil is lifted, I am no longer the same. To me, stepping away from the LDS church became a rite of passage and revelation, just as a marriage, or going through the temple might be for someone else.

The Study of Last Things, if anything, is a project about honesty. The final piece of my installation includes a pedestal displaying a pamphlet of rules and standards I was meant to follow. The page is left open to one talking about honesty and repentance. The final paragraph states “Don’t rationalize that wrong is right, even though many people around you may think there is no harm in being dishonest. Being honest requires courage and commitment to do what you know is right.” In some strange, convoluted way, I think making this work is my commitment to being courageous and doing what I believe is right.

The work is a confession which reveals my apostasy not as an act of rebellion, but one of necessity. The installation reveals my experience as a pilgrimage – one from a place of fear, and a place of not ever feeling good enough, to a place of safety, security and becoming the person I felt comfortable being.