In 1971, forty year old Leonard Knight was picking apples on a farm in Vermont when he looked up and saw a hot air balloon advertising a beer company. He closed his eyes, had a vision, and exclaimed, “I gotta build a balloon that says, ‘Jesus’ on it!” For the next 15 years, Leonard crisscrossed the country in a multi-colored truck covered in Bible verses trying to launch a balloon he sewed together out of bedsheet-sized scrap material that read “GOD IS LOVE,” in giant tattered letters, but never got it off the ground.
Leonard eventually ended up destitute in a remote squatter’s camp in the sweltering California desert where he decided to build a “GOD IS LOVE” mountain to proclaim his testimony. Fellow squatters coined the work, “Salvation Mountain.”
Humble, stubborn, artistic and outspoken, Leonard spent most of his life in isolation. Despite being orthodox in his theology, his quirky eccentricities were never appreciated by what he called “the big churches.” Reminiscent of a modern day John the Baptist, Leonard was a rock star to seekers from every walk of life and societies misfits. He had to continue on his solo path to fulfill the purpose God had planted in his heart while fending off illegitimate attacks from the county, state, and EPA. But the proud left broken, and the broken left with hope, and by 2009, thousands a week were traveling from all over the world to personally hear “the humble desert hobo” share his “love story.”
In his final years, already blind, deaf, and slipping into the abyss of dementia, Leonard’s ministry would face it’s greatest opposition yet, which he faced undaunted with his child-like faith.
The Love Story of Leonard Knightis an affectionate exploration of his humble beginnings, his years wandering, the moment he received his calling, and his quirky artistic project that was described in 2002 as a “National Treasure” in the US Congressional Record, and is today considered possibly the largest Biblically inspired art-installation on earth.