Salvation Mountain

By Janita Krayniak
Posted 4/18/24

Not long ago I came across a quirky song on a Lauren Daigle album called “Salvation Mountain.” It is the kind of song I would never feel comfortable singing in public, but I am a great …

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Salvation Mountain


Not long ago I came across a quirky song on a Lauren Daigle album called “Salvation Mountain.” It is the kind of song I would never feel comfortable singing in public, but I am a great car duet partner! In this soulful gospel song Daigle sings of being “on her way to Salvation Mountain.” I looked it up and this is actually a real location in Niland, California, and it is just as unique and beautiful as the song.

Imagine my surprise to find out that Daigle’s song was based on her own visit to Salvation Mountain.  

Though I have never been there, in the pictures I found online it looks to be a rather hodge-podge, eclectic, artsy creation made from adobe and painted with gallons and gallons of vivid hues of paint.

The creator of Salvation Mountain, Leonard Knight, at age 35 encountered the risen Christ as one day, out of the blue he prayed the sinner’s prayer, "Jesus, I'm a sinner, please come upon my body and into my heart."  

From that moment on, he felt the incredible love that can only be given by God. As he began to explore ways to express just how much love God had given to him, Salvation Mountain began to take shape. 

What a gift! What a witness! What a testimony! 

It was in the midst of this search, the song and our recent walk to the empty cross of Easter, I began thinking about salvation.

As a United Methodist, the official stance of our denomination is that salvation is God’s response and offer of love which is freely offered to all … but not all will choose to accept it. United Methodists affirm that through the death of Jesus Christ, God has made salvation available to all persons. That does not mean we believe that all persons will be saved. God does not force or choose certain people to receive the gift of salvation, rather we have free will … a choice. It is in choosing love, we choose to live in the love of God, and it is amazing and beautiful. We should want to choose that love, not walk away from it. Just as the song suggests, we are on the way to Salvation Mountain.  

Do you remember when you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? For me, I was the tender age of 8 years old, as I walked forward to the altar rail at Pleasant Hill Congregational Christian Church in Roberta, Georgia. Just as the lyrics in the Daigle song, I had walked alone down that aisle, I had taken that walk in the hopes I would be changed, in the hopes I would be free from the fear and sadness that weighed me down. I remember crying, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy, as I realized what Jesus had done for me … me! When I left the altar rail and returned to my pew, I knew I was no longer walking the journey alone. I had found my own Salvation Mountain.

It is in climbing the mountain where we can choose to receive the free gift of grace and forgiveness given to each of us, but that is not where it ends. Just as Leonard Knight will never be able to show the magnitude of God’s love for him on “Salvation Mountain,” when Jesus truly does come into our hearts, our lives, our souls, there is no going back to the way it was. There is no keeping it under wraps. Instead of art, my expression of God’s love was first through singing, then teaching and ultimately preaching; but no matter how loudly or how extravagantly I proclaim God’s love for me, all I say and all I do, can never fully express the breadth and the depth of God’s love for me … and God offers that same kind of love to you. 

Perhaps you are reading this column and have never once taken the chance to walk up that mountain to receive God’s love. Perhaps you have traipsed up that mountain once, a long time ago and you feel like you have fallen out of love with God. The choice is and always has been yours, but I invite you to choose to come with me on a little road trip. Where are we going? You guessed it … Salvation Mountain!

(Janita Krayniak is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Powell and United Methodist Church in Lovell.)