Cherubim and the Flaming Sword is a painting by J. Kirk Richards, as shown on the right. A few years back my good friend Aaron bought three framed prints of this painting: one for himself, one for our other good friend, Ben, and one for me. As I recall, a couple of points were mentioned as justification for this display of gift-giving: 1) the fact that there are three cherubim in the painting was symbolic that there were also three of us friends, and 2) there was a really cool sword depicted in the painting, something we all three could appreciate. Thus through Mr. Richard’s painting our friendship was locked in a kind of everlasting “triumvirate,” as we came to call it.
In all seriousness, I love the painting. It depicts what I find to be a very interesting element in the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from innocence. As it’s described in LDS doctrine, the cherubim and flaming sword were placed “to keep the way of the tree of life […] lest [Adam] put forth his hand […], and eat and live forever” (Alma 42:2-3). This was not done to deny the gift of eternal life to Adam and Eve, but rather to ensure them a “probationary time” (v.4), a “space for repentance” (v. 5). Instead of being a hindrance, the barrier enabled them to make preparations to receive the great gifts their Father had in store for them.
So, among other things, this painting has been a reminder to me that at least some blessings are not blessings at all if granted prematurely, and that true success cannot be “shortcutted.” At times it has helped me see life’s obstacles in an entirely different light.
Thanks, Aaron, for a great present. It really is a cool sword.