The Story Behind “The Lost Lamb” Painting by Del Parson
“The Lost Lamb” is one of the most famous LDS paintings in the Church. There are probably few who wouldn’t recognize one of Del Parson’s most well-known pieces. In the painting, Del captures a tender scene of the Good Shepherd retrieving a lamb from an environment full of treacherous cliffs and rugged mountains. The lamb now rests safely in the strong, yet gentle hands of the Savior.
Sometimes in life, we make unwise decisions and ignore the guidelines given by Heavenly Father. Just like a lamb that has wandered from its flock, we find ourselves lost and surrounded by unpleasant circumstances. It is during these times we must turn to the Savior.
The Lost Lamb by Del Parson
In this painting, the importance of the individual is shown. The Savior loves and cares for each and every one of us. When we have faith and repent, He will search for us. He will find us and carry us back to the fold.
As with many works of art, and especially LDS art, there is a story that goes along with it. Today we want to share that story with you.
Del originally wanted to paint this scene because it shows Christ’s love for each of us. He then found a model in his art class at Dixie College. He kept an eye on him during a couple of class periods. He was taller than average and had great disposition. He agreed to pose for Del.
As they drove to pick up a newborn lamb, Del wanted to get to know his model better. He told me that he liked to play sports. He had already been the quarterback on Dixie’s football team that year and was now a pitcher on their baseball team. He said that he was having a phenomenal year and had been offered a contract to play professional baseball. Del thought that was amazing and he asked him when he would start playing professionally. He said he wasn’t going to accept the contract. His reply really surprised Del, and he asked him, “Don’t you like baseball?” “I love baseball,” came his answer. “But I’m going to serve a mission.”
And suddenly Del understood. The conversation told Del a lot about this young man. Del thought about his willingness to give up everything – including something he loved so much and a huge salary – to serve his Heavenly Father. While Del was painting “The Lost Lamb”, the young man’s attitude of love and devotion kept coming back to him, and the painting largely developed around these feelings.
Del originally had a different pose in mind for the painting. He wanted to show the Savior carrying this lost lamb on His shoulders. But the little lamb they had picked to photograph was small and sick. They tried a number of times to get the pose Del wanted, but the little lamb’s head kept drooping down, unable to support itself. Del kept helping the lamb by holding its head how he wanted it, but before he could get a photo, its head would fall again.
As it started to get dark, Del felt like it just wasn’t going to work. Then it was time to go home. He gathered his equipment and the young man followed him back to the car with the lamb. When Del looked back and saw the model cradling the lamb and comforting it in his arms, he told him not to move — that was what he needed. That was how the Savior would love and care for the lamb.
When the painting was finished, Del himself said, “This painting is much more personal than I had originally envisioned. It not only depicts the lamb’s rescue, but the tender comfort and love that the Lord extends to us all when we lose our way and are too weak and frail to return on our own.”
You can see more of Del Parson’s LDS art here.