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Truman G. Madsen

Truman G. Madsen is a philosopher, essayist, teacher and biographer. He is emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University, and was Director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem. He held the Richard L. Evans Chair in Religious Studies at B.Y.U. He has been guest professor at Northeastern University, Haifa, and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He sponsored several symposia on comparative religion published as Reflections on Mormonism, The Temple in Antiquity, and Chosenness and Covenant in Judaism and Mormonism. Among his volumes on Mormon thought are: Eternal Man, Christ and the Inner Life, Four Essays on Love, The Highest in Us, The Radiant Life. Five Classics, Joseph Smith, the Prophet., Defender of the Faith, a biography of B. H. Roberts and On Human Nature. He is one of the editors and a contributor to the five-volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Mormonism. He is married to Ann Nicholls Madsen. The couple has three children and a Navajo foster son.

Truman G. Madsen has had a lifelong appeal to both the scholarly and popular sectors of the Church, and has been similarly appreciated outside of the Church. He has written and spoken on an astonishingly wide range of topics about the Restored Gospel. Born in Salt Lake City, a grandson of Heber J. Grant, he early on evinced a fascination for his heritage as a member of the Church and for the world of concepts. Much of his attraction has been his ability to compare and contrast the gospel with the live alternatives in the world.

In his youth he served in the New England Mission under Elder S. Dilworth Young, of the First Council of the Seventy. The mission included the six New England states and several part of Eastern Canada. His mission president required the missionaries to labor in their assigned areas, like the disciples in the primitive church, without purse or scrip. This daunting challenge planted in the young missionary a robust faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather early in his career, at the age of 35, he was called to preside over the same mission where he had earlier served. He and his wife Ann were told by President Henry D. Moyle that the brethren had great optimism for the success of missionary work in New England, and under his leadership a dramatic growth in converts began. Brother Madsen has always had an invigorating interest in missionary work, both for the scholar and for the every day person. Yet he has always been respectful of friends with divergent opinions.

One of his first church assignments after the release of his first mission was to be a counselor in the Ensign Stake genealogical committee. It was a crucial turning point in his life. Although he had experienced a welcome first experience receiving his endowment before his mission, he nevertheless had reservations about the nature of temple ritual. He initially considered the assignment in his new calling to attend the Salt Lake Temple once each week to be a drudgery. But in time attending the temple became his joy. He studied and pondered the spiritual nourishment gained in the House of the Lord, and became thereafter a prominent exponent of temple spirituality. He and the other two members of the genealogical committee gave a series of firesides in the stake, and the speeches were met with an enthusiasm unexpected by the stake leaders. He has often informed LDS audiences that he and Ann Nicholes experienced a temple courtship as they prepared for their marriage.

His academic studies in the history of ideas, and particularly of philosophy, took place at the University of Utah, University of Southern California, and Harvard University. At each place he was alert to the views of many top-notch thinkers in the Western world, with emphasis in the Christian tradition, and he constantly checked out the renowned propositions against the scriptures and the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Throughout his adult life he has studied the life and teachings of the Prophet, and has thrilled countless audiences as he has shared many of the insights gained from the Prophet’s staggering outpour.

While at Harvard he cherished at least three things to keep him focused on a commitment to his heritage. One was to have a picture of the Salt Lake Temple on his wall, another was to balance his academic studies with the literature of the Restoration, and the third was to accept and fulfill whatever calling in the Church his local leaders might assign. Since that time, in the midst of his constant speaking and teaching invitations he has maintained leadership positions. In addition to those already mentioned, he was counselor in the Altantic district presidency, a young bishop of the BYU 11th Ward, a member of the Deseret Sunday School general board, BYU 5th Stake President, and he is currently a patriarch in his stake.

Much of his success has been due to his personal appeal. Though as a boy he and his two brothers were vigorously grilled by his father in the arts of language and presentation, he was blessed with an ideal speaking voice and what a young Cuban convert called a “sparkling personality.” He has a nimble mind and a capacity to grasp profound issues and yet convey them to the comprehension on layperson levels. He has a corps a top-level scholar friends, to whom he can communicate the insights of Joseph Smith on their own level. Virtually all of his presentations are exptemporaneous, and he is a master of this dying art, which is now yielding to the teleprompter and power point. It will probably never be known how many people he has touched and moved in areas ranging from casual to profound, but the number is large. His demand as a speaker began early in his career and has remained intense to the present time. He still travels all over the world to inform and inspire audiences about the exhilarating experiences associated with the gospel of Christ that invite our embrace.

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