Expressions of Faith (page 2 of 2)

Treasures of American History

Expressions of Faith (page 2 of 2)

Butsudan, 1942–45

Made in a Japanese American internment camp in Poston, Arizona, during World War II, this butsudan, or Buddhist home shrine, provided a comforting connection to faith in a time of crisis.

Despite the freedom of worship guaranteed by the Constitution, many religious minorities have endured prejudice and persecution from mainstream Christian society. During World War II, Japanese American Buddhists were pressured to abandon their religion and convert to Christianity to prove their loyalty to the United States.

Sunstone from Mormon Temple, 1844

Inspired by a vision described by Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), this celestial limestone carving was one of thirty that adorned a grand temple built at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s.

In 1844 an anti-Mormon mob murdered Smith, destroyed the temple, and drove the congregation out of Nauvoo. The Mormon community relocated to Utah, where it flourished in the isolation of the West.

Bible Quilt, around 1885

The work of Harriet Powers, this renowned quilt depicts eleven stories from the Bible, including Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the murder of Abel by Cain, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Last Supper.

Powers was born a slave in Georgia in 1837. Like many enslaved African Americans, she infused the practice of Christianity with expressions of her cultural roots. Her Bible quilt features appliqué figures similar to those found on west-African textiles.