In the book of Alma, an “exceedingly curious” man named Hagoth built ships and headed out to sea. Many more followed and “they were never heard of more.” Though lost to the Nephites, the people of the isles of the sea were never lost to the Lord. “Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea ... and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?”
My husband had the privilege of being one of those who brought the word of God to the isles of the sea when he served his mission in French Polynesia from 1994 to 1996. As he was leaving, the people he loved placed leis made of seashells one by one around his neck until they stacked up to his chin! I have used many of those shells along with those I have found - and many sent to me by family, friends and even online strangers - (over 25,000 seashells total) to create a portrait of a Polynesian girl at the rededication of the Laie Temple in 2010. (I obtained rights to the photo upon which the piece is based from Deseret News). I believe there is no better proof of the Lord’s love than placing temples among all people.
My friend Mami and I spent countless hours and miles scouring the gulf coast from Alabama to the southern tip of Florida looking for anything interesting I could use. A woman i have never met in Arizona went to Mexico to collect for me also because she was excited about the project. My friends, my in-laws, my sister and strangers on Instagram sent me shells they found in the colors and sizes I was lacking. I filled my bathtub for weeks cleaning and oiling the shells. Then I sorted them into hundreds of containers by color. My heart soars just to look at them! Finally, I have spent almost 200 hours creating a piece of art almost as tall as I am out of my treasures. It lays flat as I work and I have to stand on a chair to take pictures with my phone above my head to see how it’s coming along and to know what to do next.
Some of my favorite treasures are now adhered to this piece. I love every shell. It’s hard to let some of them go, but I know that each one has a part to play in the overall portrait. Similarly, the Lord has let us go and come to the earth to fulfill our purposes. Especially during this past year of isolation due to COVID-19, many of us have felt as if we are on islands - lost to our society. It’s comforting to know that the Lord has not and will not forget us.