20th Century March Mormon Madness: The Play-In Game

Today’s play-in game is between Clarissa Williams and Sterling McMurrin.

Sister Williams was in the General Relief Society Presidency from 1901 to 1928, serving as the President from 1921 to 1928. She was active in the creation of funds and programs for the care of the underprivileged in the church and the handicapped. She was an able leader and a graceful woman, by all the accounts available in 5 minutes of internet research. For more information on Sis. Williams, please go here, here, and here.

Brother McMurrin was an LDS intellectual whose attempted excommunication has become the stuff of legend. Brother McMurrin wrote The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion (which is sometimes discussed in the bloggernacle), clashed with the brethren over the doctrine regarding blacks and the priesthood, and was briefly President Kennedy’s Commissioner of Education.

Whoever wins will go on to challenge Sis. Okazaki, so I don’t necessarily believe either is long for this earth.

Please vote above and comment below.


  1. One thing that really interested me regarding both of these Saints:

    Bro. McMurrin’s refusal to hold a grudge against Elders Harold B. Lee and Joseph Fielding Smith, who both actively sought his excommunication.

    That Sis. Williams was remembered primarily as a great administrator. Certainly, she did great things in the name of helping the misfortunate, but when was the last time that you heard a female church leader being actively praised for her budgetary decision-making?

  2. Perhaps for some, this will divide on gender lines, like Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But for me, I’ll have to read the links about Sis. Williams, as I have not heard of her before today. Therefore, I am publicly embarrassed. However, reading McMurrin’s Theological Foundations was a major event in my life, and a turning point in the maturing of my testimony. So, I had to vote for McMurrin.

  3. a play in game for sure

  4. I voted for Sis. Williams, because I see the role of women expanding again in the church hierarchy and I don’t know that Bro. McMurrin’s theology has achieved widespread significance in the church.

  5. Ardis Parshall says:

    People can have a real and lasting influence without their names being remembered. Of course Sterling McMurrin is going to win any contest over name recognition, intellectual fireworks, and pride in being familiar with his work, so soon after he made his mark. But I’m not so sure that he wins in the long run, over a leader who helped to set the 20th century pattern of Relief Society, modernizing its approach to social work and scientific health management. You may not know her name, but the fact that we’re not a church stuck in the 19th century is in no small measure owed to Clarissa Williams and her sisters.

  6. Ardis,

    No false pride in being familiar with McMurrin’s work, and not Clarissa Williams. You probably have a valid point about her influence, to which I can only answer that the priesthood and Gospel Doctrine classes never teach us about any other Relief Society presidents than Eliza R. Snow and Emma Smith. What can I say, I’m the product of a broken educational system!

  7. Just so you know, I did some quick reading, and loved this particular quote by Sister Williams:

    “Now I like to feel that I have no regrets, that I have done my work as well as I could”

    All of us would like to be able to say that as we near the end of our lives. Thanks for bringing her to my attention.

  8. Like Kevinf, reading Theological Foundations was a major event for the maturing of my thinking about Mormonism. So he gets my vote.

  9. JA Benson says:

    I am thankful for the Clarissa’s of the world who do so much real work without lasting recognition. I admire McMurrins work and he is also important. Tough call, but I voted for Clarissa WIlliams.

  10. Brother McMurrin’s work has had a greater impact on my personal understanding of the Gospel; Sister Williams’ work had a MUCH greater impact on the Church as a whole, imo.

  11. Brother McMurrin wins handily. The first in the round of 64 will begin on Friday.

  12. kailiala says:

    McMurrin laments the passing of the Talmadge/Widtsoe/Roberts era where strong, intellectually fierce minds and spirits met the great and terrible questions head on. I lament the passing of McMurrin/Nibley/England/Arrington. I tremble at the MBAs attempting to forcefill their shoes.