Tom Holdman was the artist in charge of the stain glassed windows in the new/rebuilt Nauvoo Temple. The Nauvoo Temple was not the first temple Tom Holdman worked on, he started with the the windows of the Palmyra Temple and then worked on the Winter Quarters Temple. Tom said that he felt that those two temples gave him the experience he needed to learn to ultimately work on the Nauvoo Temple.
It is pretty fascinating to learn about the faith of Tom Holdman. With the importance of the windows of the temple Tom puts a lot of importance on prayer and revelation. With hard work, prayer and revelation Tom said he can always feel good about what he presents to the brethren, for the final decisions on the temple windows.
There is a large wall in the Nauvoo Temple baptismal room that Tom Holdman was asked to fill with a stained glass window. All he was told was the size of the area that needed to be filled, but there was no other direction.
After seeking for revelation and lots of prayers Tom came up with the idea to have the Savior getting baptized, and once that idea got the go ahead the work began. It was a pretty challenging piece of art that Holdman was asked to do and he said he worked on the sketch for this one piece of art, for 7 months.
Because the Nauvoo temple in intended to be a replica, to the original 1840's building, there were even more steps than usual to create these beautiful stained glass windows. They were trying to keep the Nauvoo Temple as close to the original as possible and this was the same with the stained glass windows too. They were only to use antique glass made in Germany, like what the pioneers would have used. This meant a painstaking process of painting and firing to achieve the appropriate shading and texture required for the conceived detail, in addition to the usual sequence of steps.
Getting The Christs Face Perfect
Tom Holdman did not have a lot of experience drawing faces. Taking on the face of Christ was something that Tom wanted to get perfect. He wanted to make sure he captured what had truly happened all those years ago, and get as close to the look that Christ would have had at that moment.
It took a lot of pondering and trying to get it just right, here are Toms words about how it was done:
“It was a very, very humbling experience to have to sketch Christ being humble and submissive to His father. I had attempted it a couple of times, but all of the emotion just wasn’t there. He didn’t look humble yet majestic enough. The brethren kept telling me to retry, saying ‘We feel this will be your best work, but it is not there yet. Keep trying. It will come.’ So, after all those attempts, I got down on my knees and I prayed to God, saying ‘Heavenly Father, this is an overwhelming responsibility. I haven’t really had any art training per se, except that which you have given me here. Help me draw this experience as it needs to be drawn.’”
Tom’s supplication led to promptings to draw a more traditional Christ with a more Jewish face. Christ’s eyes are closed with his head bowed in reverence to the Father. His hand is open, signifying his preparation to receive the Holy Ghost in addition to symbolizing his invitation to us all to do as he is doing. Tom spent almost one full night painting the head of Christ.
“I kept fooling around with his eyelashes, his eyebrows, and his nose. It was 4:00 in the morning. I just kept doing more; adding things. I stood back, looking at the work, and I felt the Spirit say, ‘Do not put one more brush stroke on there. This is how it needs to be. This will capture how Christ is humble; how he is strong. He is powerful, but yet he is at peace. So, put down your brushes right now and put it in the kiln.’ I did. And it was right.”
It is amazing how God guides and directs each of us, today. Tom Holdman worked hard to be in touch with Heavenly Father through the whole process of making these windows and it shows in the spirit you are able to feel when looking at the art. God guided Tom to make this these windows the way God needed them done to be in His Temple.
The work, the time and the effort to get these pieces of art ready for the temple for us to look at and enjoy is really priceless. Heavenly Father works through His sons and daughters to bring the world His goodness and this is evident in these beautiful windows.