There was a time in Chad Hawkins' life when his dream was to be a dentist. His artwork was just a hobby that helped pay for college.
An unexpected confrontation in a church parking led Hawkins to change his mind.
More than 20 years later, temples represent a major aspect of Hawkins' life.
The Kaysville native has visited more than 100 temples around the world, collected a small museum of artifacts and souvenirs, used his artistic talents to create a variety of temple-related products, and published several books. The husband and father of five most recently released "Temples of the New Millennium: Facts, Stories, and Miracles From the First 150 Temples" (Deseret Book, $32.99), representing more than two decades of research, interviews and countless hours of artwork.
"I believe strongly that temples are one of the reasons I'm here on the earth," Hawkins said. "It's why I'm here. It's who I am."
The first one
Drawing is something Hawkins has always done. As a kid, his parents bought him a chalkboard and he spent hours drawing on it.
"It's always been my thing. I've always loved it," Hawkins said. "I don't think of it as work — it's too fun."
As a kid living in Virginia, Hawkins' elementary school class toured the U.S. Capitol and he was fascinated by the large murals featured in the rotunda. The curator told the children about hidden images and symbols in the murals, which made an impression on Hawkins. He started hiding things in his own drawings, he said.
When Hawkins was a junior in high school, he wanted to hide something in a picture of the Salt Lake Temple, but wasn't sure what would be appropriate. He started to research the temple's history and learned about Brigham Young's decision to replace the original foundation due to cracking.
"He wanted the temple to stand through the millennium. I am going to show the hand of the Savior holding the temple in his hand to illustrate a firm foundation," Hawkins said. "From then on I started researching temples before drawing them."
Selling this and drawings of other temples paid for Hawkins' LDS mission to Frankfurt, Germany.
After his mission, Hawkins' artwork helped pay for his college education. He also had a fascination with science and wanted to be a dentist.
After speaking at a fireside in 1994, Hawkins was headed to his car when a man approached and asked about the direction of his art career. When Hawkins reiterated his plans to be a dentist, the man's response surprised him.
"Who do you think you are to bury your talent? Heavenly Father has given you a talent and you need to share it," the man said, poking Hawkins in the chest with his finger.
"It was so bold that it got me thinking in a different way," Hawkins said.
After personal prayer and reflection, Hawkins devoted himself to art, primarily focused on conveying the beauty and spiritual power of Latter-day Saint temples. Within a few years, to Hawkins' delight, then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced plans for the church to build small temples around the world, providing Hawkins with an abundance of artistic opportunities for decades to come.
"I had no idea we would ever be at 100 temples, let alone 50, in my lifetime. Looking back, that decision was kind of the leap of faith," Hawkins said. "Once they started announcing all those temples, it was a tidal wave of work. That's why I say President Hinckley and his vision of temples have had a direct impact on my life."
'Monuments of faith'
Over the years, Hawkins has developed friendships with key people and been granted special access to temple construction sites normally closed to the public. It's primarily how he gathers the facts and stories that go with his artwork in books like "Temples of the New Millennium," he said.
Along the way, "sacred blessings," such as meeting certain people at random places and times, have supplemented his efforts, he said.
Hawkins became acquainted with the architect of the Frankfurt Germany Temple while serving in the man's LDS ward for nine months as a missionary.
Flying from Honolulu to Kona, Hawaii, for the temple dedication in January 2000, Hawkins realized he was sitting next to the temple's architect. They shared a cab to the hotel, where the architect found out the hotel was overbooked and he didn't have a room. Hawkins' room had two beds, so he invited the architect to be his roommate. For the next three days leading up to the dedication, Hawkins shadowed the architect and gathered a mountain of information about the new temple. Before falling asleep each night, Hawkins would place his recorder on the nightstand and capture experience after experience recounted by the architect, Hawkins said.
"He gave me a signed copy of the blueprints and a piece of stone from the temple. I gave him my original drawing of the Kona Temple," Hawkins said. "I work hard at what I do, but I realize my efforts only go so far. No lie, miracles and doors have opened up to me. I've had so many experiences and I don't take them for granted. Those are sacred blessings."
In addition to sharing the little-known facts and anecdotes, Hawkins offers his temple books as a tribute to faith and sacrifice of nameless members and workers who make temples possible.
"Temples are more than stone and mortar," Hawkins wrote in the introduction of "Temples of the New Millennium." "They are built of faith and fasting, of trials and testimonies, and are sanctified by sacrifice and service."
"What I try to do with my books is bring to light the effort and sacrifice and dedication of the people that make these temples possible," Hawkins said. "Temples are monuments of faith."
One of Hawkins' favorite memories comes from drawing the new Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
Years before the temple was completed, even before the groundbreaking, Hawkins was in Nauvoo on June 27 at about 5:16 p.m., so he could get a sense for the setting and climate at the very minute the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Then using an architectural rendering, he painted the Nauvoo Temple. If you look closely, you can see the clock tower reads 5:16 p.m., and there is a hidden image of Joseph Smith holding the Book of Mormon just left of the temple, Hawkins said.
About three years later, President Hinckley announced the Nauvoo Temple would be dedicated at the same time on the same historic date.
"President Hinckley thought that was important enough to make a tribute to the Prophet Joseph in the City of Joseph," Hawkins said.
Hawkins was honored when his original work of the Vernal Temple was selected for permanent display on its restored walls. Other pieces of his art can also be found inside at least 16 temple cornerstones and hanging in other temples, he said.
In addition to selling temple-related products, Hawkins' portfolio includes commissioned pieces. He also creates portraits for missionaries, weddings and mortuaries. His portfolio is available online at ChadHawkins.com.
Hawkins shared two tips that have contributed to his success. First, it helps to make a niche for yourself. What sets Hawkins apart are his temples and hidden images, he said.
Second, artists need to help market their work, which means getting out of the studio comfort zone, meeting people and introducing their art, Hawkins said.
"You can be an amazing artist and still not make a living at it," Hawkins said. "I'm grateful for what I do, and the fact that I get to share it with others is a dream come true."
Did you know? "Temples of the New Millennium" features a section of 150 facts about LDS temples.
"You could pick any temple and I could tell you something about it," Hawkins said.
Here are some examples of interesting facts that turned up in Hawkins' research:
• At a time when thousands of citizens were recruited to act as covert informants for the German Democratic Republic, at least 21 undercover "Stasi," as they were called, were assigned to monitor the Freiberg Temple's 1985 open house, according to Hawkins' book.
• Next to the Oakland California Temple is a large meetinghouse that features a large auditorium and massive cultural hall. It originally served three stakes in the area. When the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors moved to San Francisco in 1962, they used the building as their practice facility for a brief time, Hawkins wrote.
• On July 29, 1988, a bomb exploded outside a door of the Stockholm Sweden Temple. No one was injured and the temple only suffered minor damage, Hawkins wrote.
• Elder William R. Walker, an emeritus general authority and former executive director of the LDS Church's Temple Department, told Hawkins that church funds are set aside to promptly pay for a temple. "We would not build a temple unless we could pay for the temple as the temple was built," Elder Walker said.
• While excavating the foundation for the Cebu City Philippines Temple, workers discovered interconnected tunnels about 15-20 feet down with bombs and other items left over from World War II. The tunnels were filled with at least 28 truckloads of concrete, Hawkins wrote.
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