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Leonard Knight's Salvation Mountain

Leonard Knight, salesman of biblical messages.

by Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

On the flats close to San Diego, where you least expect it, you will find Leonard Knight the creator of Salvation Mountain.

Leonard is a man who is able to live his dream. He lives a simple life in a small house he built on the back of an old truck. Leonard has only one message - "God is love" - but he is not a religious fanatic.

His vision and dream is to make as many people aware of God's love as he possibly can. I guess you could say he is a salesman of biblical messages. Leonard is not a church-goer, but he loves them all - every denomination has something going for it and he respects that.

Born one of six children in Vermont in 1931, Leonard Knight grew up on a small farm near Shelburne Falls. At age 20 he was drafted into the army were he received training as a mechanic and after his stint in the forces, he tried his hand at all sorts of work, from being a mechanic in a auto dealership to driving trucks. In 1966-67 he lived in his car while traveling across the U.S. and while doing so, he began to think a great deal about God and Jesus.

Realizing that God was probably an important part of his life and the life of others as well, Leonard then looked for ways to get this message across. In the 1980's, he tried his hand at building a very large air balloon with the message "God is Love" on each side. But when he tried to launch the 300 foot high balloon, he never did get it of the ground. Leonard then moved on to California and it was there, in a community on the shore of the Salton Sea, that Knight had a revelation. While standing in front of a 50 foot high sandbar, he decided to paint his vision.

Salvation Mountain stands three stories high and one hundred feet wide. Completely painted with about 60 thousand gallons of paint, this superb creation is a celebration of life and is full of warmth and beauty. However, don't mistake this bright bit of land for a work of art. Knight has been heard more than once saying that his mountain is not art, its just something that God told him to build.

If you visit Leonard Knight (and he loves the company), be sure to bring paint (acrylic is his favorite) of which he is in constant need. Salvation Mountain is an ongoing work that will continue to occupy Leonard Knight’s time and life. He would not want it any other way.

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Text © Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder; Photos Reprinted with Permission

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