Oil on Masonite, 13×13″, 2009
In the Smith estate.
People’s Choice Award winner, Eighth International Art Competition, Museum of Church History and Art, Salt Lake City, Utah.
People’s Choice Award winner, 2010 LDS Temple Visitors Center Arts Competition, Washington, D.C.
Featured on the United for Adoption blog.
For a few moments, Mary — mother of Jesus, daughter of God — rest. I will lay aside my preparations for the day and comfort the son of God. For a while longer in the early beauty of the day we will enjoy our time together, the Babe of Bethlehem and me. For a while, Mary, sleep.
This painting shows Joseph enjoying a moment alone with the infant Lord, giving his beloved wife a few extra moments to sleep.
I created “While Mary Sleeps” to honor women in their roles as mothers, but especially to honor and encourage fathers to partake of the joys of fatherhood. Joseph was not the father of Jesus but he was honored to take on the role and he dedicated himself to being the best adoptive father he could. He knew intimately the value of family and the challenges of raising such a son better than any of us, even giving up his homeland to protect him. He was simple and humble, of princely heritage but of lowly circumstances, and Mary must have adored him. The man who stood in those shoes must have been a dedicated father indeed.
The first version of this painting, finished in 2008, was also titled “While Mary Sleeps”. A patron in Pennsylvania acquired it to hang in a church alcove dedicated to her father, who died holding a statue of his beloved Saint Joseph. It was also featured in the LDS Church’s 2008 International Art Competition.
A few comments I’ve received about this painting.
If you have experiences you would like to add to this page, please contact me.
All comments posted with permission of the authors.
Your art is stunningly refreshing. In my view, it has advanced the quality of LDS religious visual expression. And your creativity: Who would have thought to feature the caring Joseph and the Son of God in the gallery of Christmas art and titled it “While Mary sleeps”. Thorval Hickman
Your picture brings me back to the same feeling I have/had about the role that Joseph played in the life of the Savior. I love that picture. Thank you for being inspired to paint it. I think it is wonderful that you are able to hear even a small percentage of the impact your talents have on others!! Cindy Scott. Read about the presentation…
Lester, after seeing our “While Mary Sleeps” picture in the living room, our Home Teacher absolutely loved it. I gave their family one for Christmas which was such a joyful Christmas moment for me. His wife told me how emotional he was when they opened it and it now hangs above their piano…
It was fun to see your picture in Deseret Book amongst the Dell Parsons and Simon Deweys. The one I bought was their last one so it is a well-liked picture. So proud of you Lester for your gift and your ability to portray feelings that perhaps haven’t been shown before…
Just thought I would share with you how inspired your painting is in the lives of all of us. Thank you! Debbi Daffer Hochstrasser. From Facebook messages on 9 Jan 2014.
The first time I saw your painting “While Mary Sleeps” in a painting contest, I was very touched. I am the father of five children and have ten grandchildren plus one more due in January. I love babies! I appreciated the way you depicted Joseph just like any other father doing his fatherly duties. I believe that Joseph has never received the proper credit he deserves for his major role in the birth and upbringing of Jesus. Being an amateur song writer with about ten church songs to my credit, I decided to write a song about Joseph entitled “The Hero of Christmas.” In my opinion, although Jesus is the meaning of Christmas, Joseph is the hero of Christmas because of his active role in the Savior’s birth and as his teacher, mentor, and foster parent.
…Prominently displayed in the room was a breathtakingly beautiful print… The little old lady fairly gasped when she saw the print. It featured Joseph, lovingly holding and cuddling his little step son, for whose mortal welfare he would be charged. What Joseph must have been thinking about that little boy, the Prince of Peace, the promised Messiah!…whom he then held in his arms. The pose in which Joseph sat in the painting, caressing his new born son, and the look on his face, was exactly the same in which the grieving little old lady had found her son with his first born son, newly departed, when she had entered the hospital room several weeks before.
I’ve been searching the internet for a visual for our Christmas service bulletin. I wanted something that showed “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Your “While Mary Sleeps” says it so beautifully…and then goes on to say so much more.
Your painting is my desktop image. It reminds me of Greek icons…works of religious art that are “written”. They tell a story and people like me can sit in a quiet room and meditate/think about the image and what it means in the context of our faith. Your painting is beautiful and conjures up all sorts of beautiful thoughts…especially during this time of Advent and Christmas.
Can we have permission to use your image on our Christmas Eve service bulletin? Even if we can’t use it, I’ll remain happy to be so deeply moved by your art. Leslie Jones, Cathedral Administrator, Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, CT
Each week on our blog, we have an “art exhibit” where we share things that people have created that have something to do with adoption. I would very much enjoy the opportunity to show your painting on the blog during Christmas week. Not only is it topical, but it beautifully illustrates the deep and abiding love that a man can have for a child not his own, a love that is known by adoptive fathers all over. I look forward to hearing from you. UFA United for Adoption
I saw your paintings and was very moved by the spirit and the love they portray.
Hello! I stumbled upon “While Mary Sleeps” in a religious education room while doing volunteer work at a nearby church four years ago. It captivated me. I have never been able to get this subtle, loving image out of my mind (not that I should!) and I want to share it with everyone I know.
I think these are some of the most beautiful religious images I have ever seen. The use of light is amazing, and the images seem so real that I can hear the sounds around them, smell the smells, feel the air, etc. And I have only seen them online! Thank you for sharing your gift!