20th Century March Mormon Madness

There has been some recent controversy regarding influence on the church in the twentieth century. Rather than arguing the historical facts, the doctrinal shifts, and the devotional adjustments, I say that we use the power of the internet to decide.

To that end, I am proposing 20th Century March Mormon Madness. A webpoll tournament to decide who the most influential 20th century Mormon is. I (and my crack team of Mormon bracketologists) will take your top 64 suggestions and pit them against one another. We promise fabulous bragging rights to the person with the most accurate bracket (when we promised a prize last time, I don’t think we followed through). The question that will be asked of each candidate is “Which 20th century person has had the most influence on the 21st century church?”

You have until Friday to submit your suggested influencers. The bracket will be developed over the weekend and the first rounds will be conducted next week sometime, I think, maybe. In any case, get excited!


  1. Philo T. Farnsworth. Eat it, SUCKAS!

  2. Will there be a non-American (including Canada) in the bracket? No. I officially boycott the bracket. Only a Dieter/Helvecio final will do.

  3. Or a Head/Evans final.

  4. A tentative list
    Hugh Nibley
    BH Roberts
    Joseph F Smith
    Heber J Grant
    George Albert Smith
    David O McKay
    Harold B Lee
    Joseph Fielding Smith
    Bruce R McConkie
    Spencer W Kimball
    Ezra Taft Benson
    Howard W Hunter
    Gordon B Hinckley
    Thomas S Monson
    Boyd K Packer
    Neal A Maxwell
    Marvin J Ashton
    Paul H Dunn
    Jan Shipps
    Fawn Brodie
    Leonard Arrington
    Belle Spafford
    Emmeline Wells
    Chieko Okazaki
    Janice Kapp Perry
    Arnold Friberg
    Minerva Teichert
    Greg Olsen
    Liz Lemon Swindle
    Lowell Bennion
    Eugene England
    Hartman Rector
    Vaughn J Featherstone
    John Sorensen
    Steve Young
    Danny Ainge
    Danny White
    Dale Murphy
    Wally Joyner
    Orrin Hatch

  5. “non-American (including Canada)”

    oh, Ronan

  6. I refuse to square off against an illegal in the final.

  7. Brad,
    Return in 100 years: “Which 21st century person has had the most influence on the 22nd century church?”

  8. You can include any non-Yank you feel is worthy of inclusion

    For instance
    Helvecio Martins
    Hugh B Brown
    Yoshihiko Kikuchi
    Helmuth Huebner

    I think President Uchtdorff is more of a 21st century influencer, myself

  9. Canucks don’t count. Anyway, the lamentable thing is that Helmuth, saint though he was, has had zero influence on the church.
    My point is that there aren’t non-Yanks of influence.
    Except, perhaps, Billy Johnson. Yeah, Billy Johnson!

  10. To add a few names to John’s list:

    Orson Scott Card
    Sheri Dew
    Hal Eyring
    David M. Kennedy

  11. Bathseba Smith
    Amy Lyman
    The guy that wrote Work and the Glory
    Sherri Dew
    JR Clark
    Mike Quinn

  12. Steven Covey

  13. Let me be the first to say:

    Donny Osmond!

  14. Don’t forget Marie. We need a little bit country!

  15. “The guy that wrote…”

    Don’t we need to actually use their names for this to work?

  16. Ok, Gerald Lund.

    And while we’re at it:
    Robert Kirby
    Calvin Grondahl

  17. Jack Welch
    Mike Quinn
    LaVern Parmly
    Richard Bushman
    Naomi Randall
    Dan Vogel
    Carol Lynn Pearson
    The Tanners
    Clair Middlemiss
    Mark E Petersen
    Robert Millet
    Margaret Toscano
    Janice Allred
    Ogden Kraut
    Andrew Ehat
    Tom Rogers
    Gary Browning
    Don Jarvis
    Dong Sull Choi
    Aurelia Rogers
    Ernest Wilkenson
    Sherrie Dew
    Sterling McMurrin
    O. C. Tanner
    Lavina Anderson
    Stephen Robinson
    J. Reuben Clark
    Marjorie Hinckley
    John Huntsman
    Sonia Johnson
    Susan Easton Black
    Brian Evanson
    Mark Hoffman
    David H Burton
    Leonard Arrington
    Dallin Oaks

  18. definately Lavina.

  19. Covey, Kirby, Lund, and Card were all glaring omissions on my list. Let’s not forget Peggy either, since, arguably, her provocative reporting on Sunstone led inexorably to its exile back in the day.

  20. Elder Holland. SSS was one of the most influential talks of recent history.

  21. Tal Bachman :)

  22. What about alleged Mormons? We could add Steve Martin.

  23. Well, I would call him an “alleged” Mormon.

  24. David Knowlton
    Avraham Gileadi
    Lyman Dayton
    Janeane Brady (I don’t know if she’s actually LDS, bet her influence speaks for itself)
    The Jets

  25. Steve Martin

  26. Terry Tempest Williams

  27. Underprivileged says:

    Steve Evans still tops the list.
    Nicht Wahr?

  28. If you all insist, I will add Steve to the list, but I consider LANGUATRON at least as influential.

  29. TTW definitely, along with LT Ulrich and Jill Derr.

  30. Researcher says:

    Jan Shipps keep showing up in these discussions. I guess she’s an honorary Saint.

    It’s not clear from the original post whether you want our lists submitted as comments, emails or dribbled into the discussion one by one such as the first comment?

    When Brad says “The Tanners” I imagine I know which Tanners he means, but there are a lot of Tanners in the church. I want to go on record as taking offense at being generically lumped together with that particular branch of the family. On the other hand, I could assume that he really does mean the entire Tribe of Tanners. That’s another contest, though. Smiths vs. Tanners. Hinckleys vs. Romneys. Etc.

    And as far as the bracketing goes, that sounds complicated. You could totally rig the voting by pitting (for example) Liz Lemon Swindle against David O McKay and Mark Hoffman against Sherrie Dew. Heh. (As you guys tend to say.)

  31. As long as we have included some other non-Mormons so far, C. S. Lewis.

    I don’t see her name, but Laurel Thatcher Ulrich should be in the field. Apologies if I missed her.

    And how about the folks, who in spite of repeated warnings not to send letters to the FP and Qo12, continue to supply Pres. Monson with all his stories?

  32. Josh Smith says:

    This is awesome. John C., I take back anything derogatory I may have said about your posts in the past.

    Georgia Wahlin Bello. She has to be on the list.

    Also, the architect who made it possible to sit under a basketball hoop while renewing your baptismal covenants. Whoever it was influenced the religious experience of millions. (I’m not sure whether the influence is good or bad, but I think the influence is undeniable.)

  33. Smoot
    Christina Aguilera

  34. Researcher,
    You are allowed to vote both early and often at this stage.

  35. George Romney
    Marriner S. Eccles
    Levi Peterson
    Sterling McMurrin

    And in the “Now I know I’m reaching….”
    Lavell Edwards
    Ernest Wilkinson

  36. Josh Smith says:

    John C.,

    I think you’ve stumbled upon a fascinating book. Maybe you better close down the post so nobody steals your idea.

    Deana, without Peter Cooper Mormons are reduced to funeral potatoes and dinner rolls (that they eat under a basketball hoop I would add). Perfect. I hope he receives at least a 16 seed.

  37. Gordon B. Hinckley, Gordon B. Hinckley, Gordon B. Hinckley. His name should appear in each of the four quadrants.

  38. Gordon B. Hinckley has to top the list at this point, unless Spencer W. Kimball does for the revelation lifting the Priesthood ban. As I said on the other thread, I think this list should exclude apostles and Presidents. They simply are too hard to dispute given the power they wielded.

    Farnsworth, although his contribution would have been made by someone else
    Sheri Dew
    Ardith Kapp
    Lavell Edwards isn’t reaching as much as it might seem

    The question said “person” not “Mormon”, so I definitely would add Jan Shipps and C.S. Lewis. In that light, I also might add Mike Wallace and Larry King.

    Not influential, but I’d like to see Katherine Heigl on any list.

  39. I second the nomination of Richard Bushman. However, it is likely that we won’t know the overall impact of RSR for another generation or so.

  40. Harvey Fletcher

  41. Zane Gray – His best-selling “Riders of the Purple Sage”, with its description of the evil Mormon Bishop kidnapping the virtuous heroine only to be killed by the hero Lassiter, had an enormous influence on anti-Mormon sentiment.

  42. Oh, wait, the question was influence on the 21st Century. Sorry, scratch #42.

  43. Brad Wilcox

  44. Kurt Bestor (Temple film score, among other, less notable contributions)

  45. Melissa S. says:

    You know what I really like about this list? As someone who has just recently discovered the intellectual side of church dialogue and church history, these names are a good starting point for me to learn more about the Church.


  46. I hope I’m not reaching too much, but would Kim B. Clark be on that list? President over Harvard Business School, now president of BYU-Idaho? I had a chance to meet with him this morning.

    But then I guess his influence would be 22nd century, since BYU-Idaho became a 4 year after 2000.

    scratch that then

  47. Wufanda says:

    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!
    Susan Easton Black!!!

  48. John Deacon says:

    Bruce R. McConkie

  49. sister blah 2 says:

    #39–The question said “person” not “Mormon”, so I definitely would add Jan Shipps and C.S. Lewis. In that light, I also might add Mike Wallace and Larry King.

    Might as well throw Lawrence Welk up there too, if you’re including these two (and assuming my grandmother’s tastes are representative).

    #44–Brad Wilcox

    And John Bytheway. As a teen, I seriously thought the guy was perpetually just minutes away from being translated.

  50. Kris Larsen says:

    Joseph Smith III – died 10 Dec 1914

  51. sister blah 2 says:

    Riffing on the Mike Wallace, Larry King, Lawrence Welk theme–I think this would be a very interesting separate category–Non-LDS Who Have Had (Seemingly Inexplicable?) Heavy Influence on LDS Culture, esp. Utah LDS Culture.

    Mike Wallace
    Larry King
    Lawrence Welk
    CS Lewis
    Robert Welch Jr (founder of John Birch Society)
    William Goldman (author and screenwriter of Princess Bride)
    George Nissen (invented the trampoline :-))

    On a serious note, maybe some philosophers and religious thinkers who influenced early church and Joseph Smith. One could also include Enlightenment/Revolutionary War/Founding Fathers figures.

  52. I’m seconding Harvey Fletcher.

  53. Is that the same as Mundungus Fletcher?

  54. While I was doing gradwork, it wasn’t uncommon for a chemistry professor upon hearing that I was Mormon state, “Henry Eyring was genius.”

  55. Well, Henry Eyring was, in fact, a genius. Not sure exactly why he never got a Nobel nod, though I think he was nominated. I know I’ve heard many people say he deserved one. He was an incredibly prolific scientist, and amazingly creative. I can’t find the story online, so I’m hoping I’m not mixing him up with someone else, but I seem to recall in some of his early work he mixed two gases that were thought to be extremely explosive (hydrogen and florine, maybe?) and showed that, by the absence of an explosion (until the vessel was opened and atmospheric oxygen caused the two gases to react), a catalyst was required for the reaction. Definitive proof for the existence of activation energy for a reaction.

  56. “William Goldman (author and screenwriter of Princess Bride)”


    How about George Lucas for giving us Spencer W. Yoda?

  57. larryco_ says:

    A musing regarding “influential”: With the passing of Bruce R. McConkie I’ve noticed that general authorities spend much more time speaking of principles than doctrines. I don’t see this changing in the near future. I wonder if current G.A.’s can have the influence that the Talmadge’s, Robert’s, J. F. Smith’s, Widtsoe’s, and others have had. What, specifically, will be remembered 50 years from now about the teachings of current apostles and prophets?

  58. Having received my BS in chemistry in the Henry Eyring Building, and having had a class from his son, Ted (who made PChem enjoyable [now, if that isn’t a paradox, I don’t know what is]), the sentiment of several different faculty, members and non-, for why Dr. Eyring never did make the trip to Stockholm was that he was in Utah. Nobel Prizes are allegedly something of a lobbying effort. By moving to Salt Lake and building the U of U’s department, instead of a more prestigious institution, he damned himself.

    By the way, did you know that the “double-dagger” symbol was meant to be an asterisk, but his secretary simply didn’t have an asterisk on her typewriter, and changed it to the “double-dagger?”

    And Juanita Brooks still needs to be on this list.

  59. Although I think GB Hinckley will eventually win, alhough I think he fits more in the 21st century- or was a change agent INTO the 21st century.

    So, for the 20th century I nominate

    Jonathan M. Browning- LDS Gunmaker

    W/o whose inventions, Eisenhower cited that we would not have won WWII.

  60. Researcher says:

    I’m working on my list and came back to see if people like Stephen Covey were fair game. I see he’s listed twice already…

  61. Last Lemming says:

    Blake Roney, who has made multilevel marketing seem legitimate.

  62. Researcher says:

    Some serious, some tongue in cheek, some just my favorites to mention…

    Joseph F Smith
    Heber J Grant
    David O McKay
    Joseph Fielding Smith
    Harold B Lee
    Spencer W Kimball
    Ezra Taft Benson
    Gordon B Hinckley
    Martha Hughes Cannon
    James Talmage
    John A Widstoe
    Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    J Reuben Clark
    Jake Garn
    Orrin Hatch
    Jon Huntsman Sr
    Jon Huntsman Jr
    David Kennedy
    Michael Leavitt
    J Willard Marriott
    Harry Reid
    George Romney
    Mitt Romney
    Reed Smoot
    Don Bluth
    Jared Hess
    Kieth Merrill
    Avard Fairbanks
    Arnold Friberg
    Calvin Grondahl
    Robert Kirby
    Greg Olsen
    Del Parson
    Walter Rane
    Mark Hoffman
    Dale Murphy
    Jack Dempsey
    Alan Ashton
    Stephen R Covey
    Jay Seegmiller
    Rex Lee
    Glenn Beck
    Donny and Marie Osmond
    Henry Eyring
    Harvey Fletcher
    Carol Lynn Pearson
    Janice Kapp Perry

    I could probably keep going, but I really do have other things going on…I’ll try to get back to some of the twentieth century women, but I can’t promise anything, maybe Ardis?

  63. Three entries on the music category:
    Gladys Knight
    Christina Aguilera
    and Jewel, who is reputed to have said, “I used to say to people who drank to get rid of their problems, ‘That won’t work.’ Now I’ve lived a little bit, and I say, go for it.”

    And finally, the primary instructors who gave Katherine Heigl and Amy Adams their first lessons in drama/performance.

  64. Well, as far as worldwide influence in and of itself, Brother Evans is obviously right. No one has out-influenced Philo T.

    But are we talking purely Mormon influence? I suppose it would be Spencer W, Bruce R. and Gordon B.

    How about Marriott, for putting BoMs in all the hotel rooms?

  65. Matt W. says:

    Truman Madsen and Ann Madsen
    James Talmage
    Gordon Hinckley
    Camille Fronk
    John Widtsoe
    SW Kimball and Camilla Kimball
    David O. McKay
    Terry Warner
    Orson F. Whitney for his vision of Christ

  66. Last Lemming says:

    Normally, I would denounce the following as a bad idea. But given the backstory of this tournament, I think it is worth proposing.

    Consider categorizing your brackets as follows:

    * The “Presidential” Bracket (12, including Snow and Monson, plus 4 other members of the first presidency who exerted president-like influence like Clark),
    * The “Other GA” Bracket,
    * The Non-GA Men’s Bracket, and
    * The Women’s Bracket.

    Different kinds of influence were exercised by members of each bracket, so those who place greater weight on one type of influence over another could get some satisfaction from seeing a winner in the relevant bracket instead of seeing all of their favorites eliminated in the first round.

  67. Again, I’ll say Douglas Stewart and Lex de Azevedo. Seriously. I’m betting just about all adult Mormons (at least on the Wasatch Front) owe they way they think about the pre-existence, marriage, and families to the theology of Saturday’s Warrior.

  68. How is it that nobody has nominated J. Golden Kimball yet?

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