Truman Madsen, 1926 – 2009


UPDATE–a note from Barney Madsen: We look forward to sharing in a wonderful service honoring our dad on Tuesday. It should be viewable live on the Web at beginning at noon (Provo time). It should be available later at the same website as a podcast. Please pass the word for those who would like to attend but can’t make the trip.
Mormonism lost a spiritual and intellectual giant this morning.

Truman Madsen was a respected and influential philosopher, professor, and writer. His wildly popular lectures on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith have achieved near canonical status for millions of Church members over the decades. He served as a full time missionary in the New England Mission, and later as a mission president over the same mission. He later served as director of the BYU Jerusalem Center, and at the time of his passing was serving as patriarch in his stake. He earned a PhD from Harvard University and, at BYU, held the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding. The power of his ideas and writings — including his famous Four Essays on Love — were only surpassed by the appeal of his personality. His influence on the faith and understanding of Latter-day Saints was profoundly positive and far-reaching.

Bookmark Truman Madsen, 1926 - 2009


  1. Steve Evans says:

    What a loss. A great man. And who can forget those Joseph Smith tapes!

  2. Kristine says:

    Also, the “Every Member a Bird-dogger” tapes!

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I think my first exposure to Truman was on my mission, when I liistened to a tape of his “Are Christians Mormon?” It was a clever idea, and more recently David Paulsen has teken that basic idea and run with it in a more sophisticated way.

    Then at BYU I took a philosophy of religion class from him.

    But for me his most profound influence was the series of conferences he organized at BYU, at which absolutely top flight non-LDS scholars came to campus to discuss Mormonism. These conferences were unprecedented and never would have happened but for the personal relationships Truman had fostered under the rubric of the Evans Chair. The first of the conferences happened while I was on my mission and gave rise to Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels. But there was then a series of follow-on conferences which I was able to attend.

    Fostering such dialogue among Mormon and non-Mormon scholars was one of Truman’s great gifts, for which I am grateful.

  4. BHodges says:

    Is this so? This is difficult news for me, I knew he was battling cancer but I didn’t know what the condition was other than that it was not particularly well. Brother Madsen had an incalculable effect on me as a missionary. I got a hold of some of his lectures on boot-legged tapes that got passed around. I listened to the Joseph Smith lectures and the Timeless Questions, Gospel Insights recordings many times. Who can forget that voice, somehow firm and soft and hard-hitting? A wonderful saint, a wonderful guy. I regret I was never able to meet him in person.

  5. I never knew or even ever had the chance to speak one-on-one with Truman Madsen, despite the many lectures of his I manged to listen to during my years in Utah. But I can say this–for more a great many Mormon scholars, of any number of different disciplines or political and/or theological persusions, Madsen’s little collection of essays, Eternal Man, was the starting point in our intellectual journeys. For me, it was the first time I had ever read any serious attempt to apply the tools and history of philosophy to the claims of Mormonism, and it gave me, and many others, a starting point for applying our own inchoate doubts and ruminations to the real questions of ethics, epistemology, and much, much more. Madsen was not, I think, in the long run, a truly great philosopher…but he was a tremendous popularizer of philosophy, and a thoroughly Mormon one at that, and that is more than any accomplishment I’m likely to have in my life. Requiset in pace, Truman.

  6. Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels

    A great addition to his accomplishments, Kevin; thanks for noting it. That book, which I still sometimes consult, is probably the single best, most serious and informed, collection of general religious scholarship which any organ of BYU has ever published, and it was Madsen who made it happen.

  7. Truman Madsen made a huge difference in my life with his book “The Highest In Us.” I think that’s the title. He spoke at a Special Interest Conference I attended in 1980 about the possibilities of godhood. He had the audience absolutely spell bound. It’s the best talk I’ve ever heard in my life about the gospel and hope. I would say he was a truly great philosopher, Tussell. I think he knew what God was really all about and I’m so grateful he shared that.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    I didn’t realize that he was Heber J. Grant’s grandson.

    Nor that he was called to preside over the New England States Mission (the same mission where he had served without purse or scrip under S. Dilworth Young) at age 35(!) Yowza, that’s young!

  9. CS Eric says:

    I never really knew Truman, but I got to be friends with his son in college and law school. I mourn with the rest of the Church, but I also mourn with a friend.

  10. Kevin Barney says:
  11. His Joseph Smith tapes were fantastic. Sorry to hear about this.

  12. jjackson says:

    RIP, Truman Madsen.

    Go, Richard Bushman!

  13. As much as I had quibbles with his historical work, his philosophical writings were top-notch; truly one of the great intellectuals of the Church.

    Sad day.

  14. I’m sorry to hear about his death. Yes, I remember listening to his tapes about Joseph Smith as a teenager and how excited and impressed I became of the Prophet because of him.

    For me, one of the important parts of Madsen’s life and work was that he was allowed to sort of think aloud. He did it in a faithful way, but with a dramatic, poetic style that was intriguing and different. Yes, the Church needs more Richard Bushmans, but we also need our Truman Madsens.

    May he rest in peace and may his family be blessed.

  15. This my first exposure to the tape everyone seems so familiar with- does anyone know if they are still available- perhaps on cd or as a download?

  16. Mark Brown says:

    I lived in his ward once for just a few months in the Summer. His calling in the ward was teaching Sunday school to some teenagers. I hope they had at least some idea how lucky they were.

    I remember reading, or at least trying to read, Eternal Man as a freshman. It was challenging for me, but I loved it. Every Member a Birddogger and Are Christians Mormon? are classics, but my all-time fave is the one about Babette’s feast.

  17. In 100 years I believe that his most lasting contribution will have been the popularization of the tripartite model.

  18. Pedro A. Olavarria says:

    I absolutly loved a book he wrote about latter-day prophets that one of my roomates owned.

  19. Scott B says:

    Those Joseph Smith tapes kept me entertained and alive during some of the coldest darkest months of the winter in Finland during my mission.

    A great man, and a phenomenal contribution to Mormonism.

  20. This is a sad day indeed. My dad bought the Joseph Smith the Prophet tapes when I was a teenager and we listened to them as a family while driving through the Missouri church history sites. It was a foundational experience that contributed to me later pursuing history as a career. Whatever complaints historians (including myself) have concerning Truman’s research and delivery style, I know that he reaches far more people than most academic historians can, and therefore provided an irreplaceable service. I was lucky enough to meet him just last year, when we both just happened to be in the waiting area at the Utah County Credit Union. We chatted a bit about the status of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and other projects dealing with Church history.

    May our prayers be with his family and friends at this time.

  21. Oh, yeah, I should add his Presidents of the Church lectures were fun to listen to as well. As Ben said, one doesn’t really expect the most rigorous historical analysis in those lectures which are more faith-promoting, Truman still approached some difficult issues and brought some interesting stories to light I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

    Stapley: Interesting prediction.

    Here’s Truman’s “Are Christians Mormon” piece he did for BYU Studies:

    Click to access 15.1Madsen.pdf

  22. Happy day for Brother Madsen, he finally gets to reunite with his Savior! We should be jealous, not sad.

  23. On my mission I listened to tapes over and over. He has had a profound influence on my life for good. He will be missed.

  24. I will miss him terribly.

    I have been reviewing his ‘Eternal Man’ articles on my blog. I recommend about anything this guy said or wrote.

  25. Nate Oman says:

    One of the wonderful things about Madsen was his delivery style. I think that he still operated in a more oral Mormonism, one where good preaching was prized. He was a gifted professor, but he was really a great preacher.

  26. Mark Brown, was it the Pleasant View 1st Ward in Provo?

    I lived in the Madsens’ home ward for about 14 months while finishing up at BYU. During this time Truman was Gospel Doctrine teacher, and it was wonderful. I remember him mentioning climbing at least one Mount of Transfiguration candidate with Elder/President Gordon B. Hinckley. I also recall him commenting one day on his PSA level being elevated. I’m glad he got another 5+ years.

    When my wife was asked to give the introductory RS lesson on Heber J. Grant, Truman (who, as mentioned above, is a grandson of HJG) contributed some interesting info on his grandfather.

    I’m not very familiar with the work he did as a philosopher, but I personally continue to treasure the work he did as a neighbor and ward member.

  27. Mark Brown says:

    Ben, that’s the ward.

  28. C Jones says:

    Russell says:
    “Madsen’s little collection of essays, Eternal Man, was the starting point in our intellectual journeys.”

    This is completely true for me. Truman Madsen had such a gift of making complicated ideas seem accessible to the least saint like me. He, along with Elder Wirthlin, helped me form my testimony and helped me on my journey back to church activity years age. Now they are both gone.

  29. Steve G. says:

    Truman Madsen was to Mormonism what Carl Sagen was to Science. He brought mormon history to the level where it could be enjoyed by the average man and woman. Where it was once stagnant and distant, he made it vibrant and familiar.

    I first came across his tapes Jesus of Nazereth while preparing to go on my mission. I don’t know how many times I listened to those and they brought me so much closer to my saviour. While on my mission I got a hold of a bootleg copy of the Joseph the Prophet series. How I loved listening to them over and over at night. When I returned home one of my first purchases was a legitemite copy of the same.

    I’ll miss him, I’d listen to him now, but I no longer have a machine that plays tapes without chewing them up. Guess I’ll have to look for some cds or mp3s.

  30. Steve G. says:

    for those wanting to hear some of his speeches you can download a few of them in mp3 format from the BY Speeches homepage here:

  31. I usually don’t comment at BCC, but in the memory of my good friend Truman I am more than willing to make an exception. I met Truman when I took my first philosophy class at BYU before my mission. He taught the section to intro on philosophy of religion. I was so enthused by what he taught, by his love and criticism of Augustine and his grasp of the real problem of evil, I was hooked. He actually took steps to get me a scholarship at Harvard (which I later turned down to accept a mission call).

    My favorite class I ever took was his philosophy of ethics class. Ethics was Trumans real forte and he loved the issues. He was a great and entertaining teacher. I learned more from him about how to learn and study that anyone else.

    After I wrote the article on the expansion theory of the Book of Mormon, Truman called me and wanted to see if I was still true to the faith. We had many long talks about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and Joseph’s insights into the world of ideas that had plagued philosophy and religion from time immemorial.

    I remember particularly meeting with both Sterling McMurrin and Truman Madsen when they both spoke at the SL Library and we went out for dinner together. That was one of the most interesting experiences I have had. The mutual respect and love of these truly gentle men for each other was what struck me most — and Sterling’s true admiration for Joseph and Mormons that Truman was able to humbly reveal is still a vivid memory for me.

    My heart is pained at the loss of a close friend who has impacted my life greatly.

  32. Brian B says:

    I had a brief but memorable personal interaction with Brother Madsen several years ago. Like many, I listened to Brother Madsen’s tapes over and over as a missionary, in my case in the Netherlands in the early ’90s. Ten years later, I returned there with my wife. We were touring the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam when I recognized a Church member I had known, walking around with an older couple. We greeted each other, and he mentioned that he was now a stake president and was giving Brother and Sister Madsen, who were in the Netherlands for some Church function, the grand tour. On our introduction, Brother Madsen joked (I hope), “We noticed you and your wife walking around. I thought she was a Mormon, but I wasn’t sure about you.”

  33. Like some many others, I was introduced to his JS lectures as a missionary. Those, and his Four Essays on Love were instrumental in my own understanding and love of LDS history and the gospel.

    Four years ago, while touring church history sites with my family, we ran into Br. Madsen in Nauvoo. I was a fairly recently-returned missionary and was awe-struck. He was kind, gracious, and humorous. Though with his family, he took time to chat with me and my father for about 15 minutes, which meant a lot to me. My great-grandparents served as a senior couple during his time as a young mission president. He remembered them well and shared a few stories with my father of their time in New England. He spoke, even in that personal conversation, in that calm but engaging voice that I first encountered via lectures on JS as a young missionary. It still is one of the more memorable experiences of my life.

  34. S.P. Bailey says:

    My Truman Madsen memory:

    My family drove across the country in 1984, six of us packed into a copper-colored Ford Grand Torino station wagon with faux wood paneling, from one church history site to the next. We listened to Madsen’s Joseph Smith tapes as we drove. (Did he have a slight whistle in his speaking voice?) Anyway, he contributed our pilgrimage considerably.

  35. Kristine says:

    Here’s my Truman Madsen story, with apologies for irreverence–when I was about 4, he came to visit our branch in NC to give a fireside. My dad invited him to dinner at my parents’ little grad school apartment, and when he sat down on one of our 70s “Harvest Gold” plastic chairs, it totally fell apart. (He’s not a big man or anything, it was just a cheap chair). So my memory is of him sitting on our kitchen floor, laughing his (sore) a** off.

  36. I usually don’t comment at BCC, but I’m more than willing to make an exception to point out how big it is of Blake to make an exception to his general rule.

  37. Mark B. says:

    I remember the stories he told (in the Book of Mormon class I had from him as a freshman at BYU) about his misspent youth in SLC, and his continued difficulties with the traffic laws.

    If I remember correctly, his mother died when he was quite young, and there were no females in the family, just his father and a brother or two.

    That’s when the pool table moved into the front room.

    And his driving was fast and exciting, so much so that he was in jail for the latest of his many traffic tickets when his mission call came.

    Some years later another judge in traffic court made a deal with him: if you will write a list of all the traffic tickets you’ve ever received, the fine for this latest one will be waived. Since he had taught seminars on improving memory, etc., he figured that it would be easy, and happily accepted the judge’s offer. But when he was done, he had left out about half the tickets he had received.

  38. He will be missed. I have worn out a copy of Eternal Man, and in particular there is an article, not sure where it was published originally, on the Temple and the Atonement that has been of particular impact for me.

  39. Steve G. says:

    Mark, my grandfather who served in the same mission as Madsen (without purse or script as well) told me stories of Madsen’s speeding. I was going to mention it, but had no way of corraborating the story. According to my grandfather, Madsen was faced with a choice of a lot more jailtime or a mission, in which he chose the latter. It seems there was another prominent son of a general authority prominent in the same story, but I can’t remember who it was now.

  40. Steve G: I can corroborate the stories about Madsen’s speeding tickets . . . and wrong U turns, turns without signals, wrong way on a one way street etc. etc. etc. He was just notorious. But he had a lot of fun!

  41. I first came to know Truman when I was assigned to be his TA for Intro to Philosophy in the Fall semester of 1971. I’d heard him lecture before, but I don’t think I’d ever met him.

    He was a great teacher–and as Nate points out, more of a preacher than a teacher, even in philosophy class. He made philosophy fun, something that is not always easy to do. Working for him was part of what made me first think about becoming a philosophy professor.

    Truman and I were not best friends, but whenever we met he acted as if we were. He was kind and generous and smart, and his testimony of the gospel was fervent. I will miss him.

  42. Very sad news.

  43. Thank you, for being the first to report on the passing of Truman Madsen. Truly, IMNSHO – our greatest Mormon theologian EVER!

  44. barcelo says:

    Thanks for reporting this news, sad though it is.

    I went on my mission with a firm testimony of the atonement, but on reflection no testimony of Joseph Smith. Up to that point, what I knew about Joseph Smith came from standard sunday school lessons but conversely a fair amount of anti stuff that I’d somehow gotten hold of. On my mission I got hold of Truman G Madsens Joseph Smiths tapes. These re-adressed the balance. They didn’t give me a testimony of Joseph Smith’s mission on their own, but they neutarlised the soil that allowed that seed to grow. I became then, have been since and always will be a fan of Truman G Madsen.

    The only time I met him was at an institute fireside in England. What I remember about that evening was the following:

    His wife spoke first, I particularly remember her expressing her gratitude for Truman G Madsen, and specifically his fidelity. That struck me. As I wasn’t married at the time, I decided that when I was married, I’d do my best to let my wife say the same.

    I remember him saying in his talk that night, that Joseph had been advised to read James 1:5 by a minister of another faith. This has relevance to me because just a week earlier I had raised this point in my institute class and it had been disputed by our long-serving institute teacher. When Truman G Madsen spoke the words, my institue teacher, who was seated on the stand and I, who was seated right at the back of the crowded chapel, both looked up and made eye contact. My institute teacher, who I respected greatly, gave me a subtle nod of approval. I probably said ‘thanks Truman’ under my breath.

    Finally, at the conclusion of the fireside I was able to cue up and have my 2 minutes with the man himself. Being slightly starstruck, the best I could manage is I really love your tapes, I always listened to them on my mission. He must of heard that 100s of times. his response was ‘oh that’s great…did you buy them?’ and then moved on. I have the genuine thing now, but I reckon the sales of those tapes/CD’s are 1 tenth of the number of people who actually own them, poor guy.

  45. After I got home from a mission in France, I got the Joseph Smith tapes myself.

    I read about him in Hugh Nibley’s bio and then got Madsen’s book Five Classics, of which I like “Twenty Questions” very much.

    A member from my ward once asked another one to bring the cd’s on Joseph Smith from the States. I started one of the lines from the Joseph Smith tapes “where the sky is clear”, which he was able to finish correctly, “and the milky way is milky”.

  46. Jacob B. says:

    Last year he and his wife came to Claremont CA at the invitation of the Howard W. Hunter Chair at Claremont Graduate University. As a student there, Richard Livingston, has pointed out, that may be his last professional lecture/appearance as a scholar (at least at a non-Church school; I don’t know about BYU). I had the opportunity of picking him and his wife up at the airport. They subsequently invited me to lunch, just the three of us. On the way to the restaurant Ann asked me if I attended Sunstone. Now, that’s a loaded question. I was scheduled to present at Sunstone West the next month; but as I had never actually *yet* been to Sunstone I said no. She said, “neither have we. We’re BYU people.” Truman said nothing, just smiled. At the restaurant he gave a prayer over the food while most of the patrons watched. We discussed my family, philosophy, the state of Mormon studies…It was a sacred experience. I will miss him.

  47. Melanie2 says:

    Tracy (15) – the CDs are available on Deseret Book’s website and Amazon has used copies. I also suspect there is at least one copy floating around your ward or stake somewhere!

  48. Who knew his tapes on Joseph Smith were so hugely popular with the BCC crowd. Interesting. I haven’t listened to them in years, but have his book. I might go back and listen again – this time with the kids.

    (Mark Brown and Ben Pratt: I was also in the Pleasant View 1st Ward while at BYU, but it sounds like it was before your time. When we lived there, Madsen was serving in a calling outside the Ward at the time, and we almost never saw him at church. You are lucky to have had him as Gospel Doctrine. My coup de grace is that I was able to take a Family History Sunday School class from Eugene England, also in that most amazing Ward.)

  49. Err…make that just “coup”….not “coup de grace.” Oops.

  50. Bro. Madsen and Sister Madsen were in charge of the Jerusalem Center when I was there. Towards the end of our five months, all the students got a little bit antsy because of all the rules about not walking off by yourself, not being able to date, etc. This restlessness was expressed in a variety of ways.

    One of my roommates decided to shave his head. I came in to our room while he was doing that and decided I’d shave my head too. Then another roommate decided to do the same thing.

    The admins weren’t too happy with us – but there weren’t any rules in the book against shaving your head – so they couldn’t do anything.

    After that there was a new rule, in bold type in the Jerusalem Center book that said students could not shave their heads.

    I’ll never forget Ann Madsen looking at me woefully when I was passing her on the Jerusalem Center steps and her saying: “Why did you do such a stupid thing?”

    I mentioned something about reading that as a scoutmaster, Ezra Taft Benson had allowed his scout troop to shave his head. She just shook her head at me. She wasn’t buying it.

    Anyways, I still remember the Madsens fondly. They were in my grandpa Hall’s ward and so I’d run into them from time to time while visiting my grandparents in Provo. They both showed up to my grandfather’s funeral but I could tell Bro. Madsen wasn’t feeling too well. Sister Madsen was watching him closely and keeping him from getting into too much contact with people – I think his treatments were hurting his immune system and she didn’t want him to catch anything.

    They will be missed by all who got to know them.

  51. Er, he will be missed. Sorry Sister Madsen.

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    You weren’t allowed to date while at the Jerusalem Center? Really? I had no idea they had a rule like that there.

  53. OK Westover says:

    I was blessed to serve in the New England Mission while President Madsen was there. We were having a youth conference in Bangor Maine and President Madsen had to leave during the conference to catch the plane to Boston.
    I was the “limo driver” (1961 Rambler American). We were running late so I did my best to get him there on time. When we arrived at the airport he said something about “thats my kind of driving” Being the positive minded person I am I took it as a complement but now after reading comments re. his driving I’m not sure. We all love president and sister Madsen.

  54. Posting on behalf of my husband, who’s been in e-mail contact with me while I’m in Indiana. Bruce Young’s tribute:
    Yes, Truman Madsen died this morning. He had bone cancer. I first heard about that a day or two ago. I can’t remember where or from whom I heard it, but it was somebody who knows a relative (maybe a son?) of Truman’s and who was aware that he had only days or weeks to live.
    So it didn’t come to me as a surprise, but it did come with a great sense of sadness and loss. You may remember that I took one of my Book of Mormon classes from him, and of course I’ve read lots of his stuff and listened to him on tape. There was no one quite like him.

  55. I never met the man, but I love his writings.

    Also, Mindy probably won’t read this, but . . .

    Thank you, again, for everything you did to help an out-of-place RM and his wife have a place to stay until they found an apartment of their own when they landed on the other side of the country from their families and knew absolutely nobody. You told us not to worry about it – to open our own house for others in need. We’ve done that to the extent that our house is known as the “Hotel” by our kids’ friends and our friends – and it all started when you let us crash for six weeks on the floor next to your piano. With two young children and a husband in med school, that was a huge sacrifice we didn’t appreciate fully at the time.

    We will be grateful forever, and you were a wonderful tribute to your father (and mother). May your entire family be comforted in your grief.

  56. I can’t remember how I was first introduced to the writings of Truman Madsen, but I remember it was like the time I was introduced to John Stuart Mill in high school. I didn’t know he had a background in philosophy and if I had, I wouldn’t have known this was the reason I was drawn to him. All I knew was that he talked about the kinds of problems I was interested in and he approached them in the sorts of ways I was searching for. I remember looking up all the articles and books by him I could find in the BYU library. At some point I figured out I liked (lay-) philosophy because of Truman Madsen and John Stuart Mill.

    Like everyone else, I listened to the Joseph Smith tapes one million times on my mission and then when I got back, I took a class on Isaiah from Sister Madsen. She is wonderful as well. At the end of the semester, she had the whole class over to her home and Truman was kind enough to stick his head in to make an appearance. (Sister Madsen made it clear at the beginning of the course that she was not going to put up with people talking about her husband all the time in a class *she* was teaching. Obviously she was fully aware of his celebrity status and I thought it was nice that she had him come in so we could say we met Truman Madsen.) I love them both and my prayers will be for Sister Madsen and family tonight. We have lost someone special.

  57. What great man we lost! but his writings is still available for all that love the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Denelson from Brazil

  58. Janiece says:

    I was Truman Madsen’s favorite grad student.
    I recognize someone else might want to contend me on this point. This might not have reflected reality, he likely had many favorites. But he called me his favorite and more importantly I felt like I was.
    As my stake president he was consistently there for me at a critical time in my spiritual and scholarly progression. He patiently answered all my questions as I tried to create a bibliography for each institute class he gave. He patiently waited for me to receive answers for myself that he had already figured out. He lifted my soul with his words.
    I won’t be the same kind of historian that Truman was and I could never be the philosopher he was, but he inspired me to begin to understand my own path and helped me to move down that path. I will be forever grateful for that.

  59. Janiece says:

    p.s. Kristine – Love the chair story. It’s perfect.

  60. Ron Scott says:

    Supposing Sister Madsen and other members of the family may appreciate having all the tributes to President Madsen in one place, and noting that none of their missionaries have commented publicly so far, below I have combined items I posted elsewhere this week. I could write a book about him.

    It is ironic, haunting even, that Truman Madsen would die the same week the Cambridge Ward burned. He was and is so much a part of everything that is New England and Mormon.

    He served here as a missionary, way, way back. He returned as a graduate student, then came again with his young family to serve as mission president; then as a visiting scholar.

    The lives of we who served under him as missionaries are the richer for it, in ways that some of us can not fully fathom, even now.

    The prescient reaction of a prospective, discerning convert from 1965 –a real Sister Brown from Pease Air Force Base, outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire — sized President Madsen right: “His eyes seemed to be windows into God’s mind.”

    I would add: if they were portals into to his own mind only, you would, nonetheless, be within striking distance of God’s.

    Earlier today, I responded to a comment from his son, Barnard:

    Barnard (if he was going to name you after a women’s college, you’d think a Harvard father like yours would have had the presence of mind and loyalty to have named you Radcliffe ) I remember you at the dinner table, while your dad tried to convince green missionaries that they could memorize the lessons verbatim.

    We stumbled into each other again a few months later at a mission-wide conference in Cambridge – after we’d bequeathed those rusting, collapsing, bubblegum-and-a-prayer Romney Rockets to Back Bay Rambler. The day ended with an impromptu “after conference” in the mission home for those of us compelled to stay overnight, privileged, as it turned out. Into the wee small hours, your father held forth on various gospel principles, then painted lucid visions of the role parents will play in the resurrection.

    An excerpt from my journal dated 3/30/1965 reads: “President Madsen is going to become an apostle someday soon. Not only is he brilliant, but he is humble. The Spirit of God is with him always…because he commands it so. We left Cambridge filled with the Spirit. These were truly great days in my life.”

    In short, Barnard, many of us – even those you do not remember — mourn with you, your mother and the rest of the family.

    Ron Scott
    Boston, MA

  61. Ron Scott says:

    Correction. I missed the post from OK Westover. I think his first name back then was “Elder.”

  62. Ron Scott says:

    This has got me going. The dam has burst. The TGM memories are spilling out.

    As has been noted, he had a fabulous memory, which he worked on constantly. He was my President but for six months. Years later—at least a dozen years later—I bumped into him (Truman and Ann, actually) at that restaurant atop the Wilkinson Center. They looked at me and said “we know you.” I acknowledged that they did. They couldn’t remember my name but when I divulged it he said: “right, February 1965 group. You were a pre-med student at the U. then, worked in a hospital, the oldest of eight children.” All of this was correct. He was overjoyed that I had made New England my permanent home.

    A week or two ago a friend of mine sent me a thank you gift. It was a printed copy Madsen’s farewell speech (How To Be Loved and Beloved) to the youth of New England, which he delivered in Amherst, Massachusetts a week or two before they returned to Utah. It is quite wonderful. I handed it to my college age daughter. She read. She wept.

    The only problem with having him as your mission president is this: He’s a very, very tough act to follow. Even his successor, President Boyd K. Packer, seemed a littled awed.

    This predates me a little and I can not confirm this as being 100 per cent accurate (perhaps Elder Westover can shed some light ) but it was reliably reported that when he arrived in New England as mission president, all of 32 years old, looking more like a missionary than the president, he moved the mission offices out of the church in Longfellow Park to offices in Harvard Square, next door to The Harvard Coop, above Brigham’s Ice Cream (1430 Massachusetts Avenue to be precise). If he didn’t have meetings or outside appointments, he made it a practice to hang out in the offices in blue jeans, tweed sport jacket and sockless Weejuns. Franklin D. Richards finally suggested that he consider wearing a dark suit, regularly.

    It was quite clear to me that he absolutely adored the missionaries, loved having fun with them. He once formed a compansionship of Elder Dummer and Elder Smart. And paired an Elder Smith with another Elder Smith, which led to a little doorstep burlesque. “Good morning, mamn, I”m Elder Smith,” one said. “And, I’m Elder Smith,” said the other. Which prompted the woman to respond: “Will the real Elder Smith please stand up?”

    Such a mentsh.

  63. Darlene Norris Peterson says:

    Truman Madsen was my favorite bishops brother, Gordon. I got to know their parents, when they lived in my ward as they were growing older. Bro. Madsen was a real nice man. Edna was my moms favorite, my mom, Clara Norris visited her often. Edna would have Truman and Ann bring books to my mom and dad, Fred & Clara Norris. They always loved the visits and I send my sympathy to the whole Madsen family. …Darlene Norris Peterson

  64. Jared Christensen says:

    We loved listening to him talk about the prophets and church history! What a great man!

  65. York McLane says:

    He was my stake president and friend. I will miss him very much. His testimony changed me forever. He will never know the profound affect he had on my life.

    York McLane

  66. H Hannesson says:

    My life was more illuminated for having known Truman Madsen. I look forward to a happy reunion. “Dear Truman – you have now joined the company of Joseph, Socrates and many notables, whose genius and inspiration you are every equal.” Always your student and friend, Hugh

  67. OK Westover says:

    I can’t confirm Ron Scott’s story as I was in Maine and Nova Scotia my whole mission. I arrived April’63 and was immediately sent with Elder Smart to Farmingdale Maine to expand the number of missionaries in that small branch from 2 to 4. In the next 6 months that number expanded to 8 or 10. Branch President George McLaughlin was constantly asking President Madsen for more missionaries. President Madsen was a tremendous inspiration, example, and teacher for missionaries, local leaders and all he met.

    Elder M. Russell Ballard referenced this branch and period in his April 03 conference talk:

    “Some years ago a faithful convert, Brother George McLaughlin, was called to preside over a small branch of 20 members in Farmingdale, Maine. He was a humble man, driving a milk delivery truck for a living. Through his fasting and earnest prayer, the Spirit taught him what he and the members of his branch needed to do to help the Church grow in their area. Through his great faith, constant prayer, and powerful example, he taught his members how to share the gospel. It’s a marvelous story, one of the great missionary stories of this dispensation. In just one year, there were 450 convert baptisms in the branch. The next year there were an additional 200 converts. President McLaughlin indicated: “My job as branch president was to teach [the new converts] how to be Mormons. I had to teach them how to give talks and lessons in church. I had to teach them how to teach the gospel to their children. I trained the new members to become strong members.” Pretty simple.
    Just five years later, the Augusta Maine Stake was organized. Much of the leadership of that new stake came from those converts in the Farmingdale Branch. Now we might ask why there was such great success in those days, and the answer may be because of the urgent need to strengthen the Church. Let me assure you that that same urgency in all units of the Church is every bit as critical today as it was then”.

    Sorry for the length. I love to reflect on my missionary experiences and lessons learned from a great leader.

  68. Ron Scott says:

    Pardon a private exchange. Brother Westover: We probably know many of the same people: Perkins, Draney, Brown, Cragun, Grow, Grey, Bunting, Kent Larsen, South, Dame. Here’s my e-mail address: I’d love to hear from you privately

  69. Truman Madsen was a remarkably humble man and a lover of people. I remember seeing him as a veilworker in the temple, and accompanying his wife to Institute training classes. He attained some fame, but he seemed rather unaware of it.

  70. The Joseph Tapes have been transcribed into a book. It’s available at your local LDS bookstore- at least mine was yesterday.

  71. His fear of nothing certainly resulted in something. Casting his bread out on the waters brought it back a thousand fold. As one of countless students who sat at his feet studying philosophy during his sojourn at BYU, I’ve left a personal tribute here:

  72. Greg Sears says:

    I served a mission in the New England area in 1974 – 1976. Our mission president, Allen C. Rozsa had a visit from Truman Madsen and he spoke to many of the missionaries serving in the Boston area. I still have the notes I took from his talk. He caused me to think about things I had never considered before. During a question and answer period afterwards, one of the missionaries asked Truman if he had the D&C memorized. I remember thinking what an inappropriate question that was. Truman responded by saying, “If I tried to quote the entire D&C I would get some things out of order, but I can quote every line in the D&C.” He had a fantastic memory because he worked hard at it.

    What a strong and reasaoned testimony of the gospel and Joseph and the Savior he bore.

  73. Rita L. Spencer says:

    His testimony and spiritual strength affected my family positively on several fronts and quire a few occasions, here and in Israel.
    He and Ann deserve a medal just for what they have done for my family.
    He will be missed!
    Keep your chin up Ann–life is just a blip in Eternity!

  74. I’m late to this party, but thought I’d share one memory of Truman. I was at the old church historian’s office when it was on the third floor of the church administration building. This was about 1971 or a bit later. The microfilm machines were out in the hall and I was reading some journal, I believe it was Woodruff’s. Anyway, Laritz Petersen [sp?], the research director was out in the hallway standing near me when Truman came up and started talking to LP. He said he had taken the elevator up and happened to be a co-passenger with Joseph Fielding Smith, then church president. He said in a low voice that while they were coming up (Pres. Smith had pushed the button) that he (JFS) exclaimed something like “darn, I meant to go down!” Truman said that the elevator stopped midfloor and went down. I thought he was telling a joke and was going to laugh but I looked up and saw strange expression on his face, no laughing.

    I was a New England missionary a couple of years after Madsen was gone. I still have pamphlets he produced there, they were great. It was a hugh mission by today’s standards.


  75. Of course, I meant “huge mission.”

  76. Ron Scott says:

    WVS: The contrasts between your mission president (my 2nd MP) and TGM were starkly striking. Your anecdote about Joseph Fielding Smith is quite wonderful, apocryphal almost. I should note that TGM’s delivery of wry stories and double entendres was always deadpan. He expected listeners would either “get it” or not. As often as not, they either did, or did not.

  77. Ron, I only got some “flavor” of Truman as MP. People just didn’t talk about him much. Missionaries who had been out longer (but could not have intersected with him personally) seemed to regard him with a mixture of awe and fear, awe for alleged spiritual happenings and fear for alleged disregard of rules in some way. My memories of Elder Packer are that he was a sort of Madsen antidote. The opposite of flamboyant. I was there for his last year, then had Paul Dunn for a year. Another deep contrast again. As far as the JFS thing, I think he was being serious, but of course he could have been pulling LPs leg for some reason.

  78. Ron Scott says:

    Missionaries viewed Madsen with “fear and awe?” I can understand the latter, a little, but not the former. Obviously, I didn’t need an antidote for Madsen. Had I, I suppose BKP would have been it, although too was neither particularly fearsome nor overwhelmingly awesome (Yes, I know many would beg to differ). I wouldn’t have considered Madsen “flamboyant,” although any charismatic could easily be misidentified as “flamboyant.” “Inspirational, motivational, dramatically spiritual?” Absolutely. Unquestionably. That said, I would have loved to witness a debate or discussion between TGM and Billy Graham. I’m have no doubt the JFS elevator incident occured. Witnessing such an uncanny, well-timed malfunction, TGM would have milked it for all it was worth. Afterall, he was the MP who put Elders Smart and Dummer together.

  79. OK Westover says:

    The story regarding the unusual matching of missionary’s names came from a mission news letter where President madsen humorously discussed the possibilities. Some others were Elder Shirley and Elder Maby. I believe I was included in that little exercise but I can’t remember who I was matched with. I wish I had kept all those newsletters.

    Our mission was so large (six states and four provinces )that we didn’t see President Madsen nearly as often as we would have liked to. He treated us to an all mission conference held at Sharon Vermont (the Prophet’s birth place) where he and Hugh Nibley spent the day in front of the stone shaft monument speaking to us about the Prophet Joseph. President Madsen was my only mission president. And I don’t remember experiencing any fear except for the morning we backed out of the drive into the middle of the street and the front wheel assembly fell off of our Rambler. There was no need to fear. He asked me to have a wrecking yard haul it off and see if he would buy it. The wrecking yard offered $400 for it. In the states you couldn’t get $100 if you drove it in to the yard. When I reported that price to President Madsen, he wanted me to ask how many more he would take. As it turned out he bought several old ramblers.

    The fear and awe puzzled me. I understand the awe but I would replace fear with “Love” which I consider the opposite as a motivating force. President Madsen’s abounding love for the Savior and the Prophet Joseph was manifest in his interactions with his missionaries, members and all he came into contact with. He was a loving man.

  80. Ron Scott says:

    The Rambler (Romney Rocket) yarns are more than apocrypha. Westover may remember the mission conference, the summons to bring all the driveable Rockets to Boston for inspection, while the missionaries conferenced across the river in Cambridge.

    Ours survived the three hour drive from New Haven with a screwdriver jammed through its thermostat, only to blow a radiator and hose as it pulled into the drive of Back Bay Rambler, across Commonwealth Avenue from Boston University.

    As each car arrived, a mechanic would scoot under it to check it for basic structural integrity. A split moment or two after he’d slid under a car that had just completed the 8 hour journey down the coast from New Brunswick, the mechanic scooted out in rush as the frame of the car gave way and the car collapsed on the garage floor.

    This and several other similar incidents prompted one mechanic to offer something predictable about “angels watching over us” and “miracles” and all that.

  81. OK Westover says:

    In reflecting on my mission experience with President Madsen, I now realize the growth experienced. Upon arriving by train in Boston I was concerned about getting on the MTA. There was a popular song “The man who never returned” that kept running through my mind. My faith grew through missionary experiences until near the end of my mission late one evening a gentleman (maybe not so gentle) called and told us we was bringing his 12 gage to “take care of us”. He lived about 2-3 miles from us and we had no reason to doubt him. In response to my Junior companions query “What shall we do” I said “Say our prayers and go to bed”. I had to assured him that was probably what President Madsen would suggest if asked. After an uneventful nights rest, we found out the guy had taken his gun and shells out to his pickup truck which wouldn’t start. He then returned to his home. After raging for a while he decided to walk, after all it was only a couple of miles. He picked up his gun and shells and began his walk, then (no surprise) we had the worst blizzard of the year. I don’t have any more details but the blizzard must had a cooling effect as he was never again a concern.

  82. Looks like the website says the funeral will not be broadcast to the public after all.

  83. I never met Dr. Madsen, but he had a profound influence on my life. I still remember reading his books and some of his writings both before and shortly after my mission. He will be missed on this side of the veil – Truman Madsen Tribute.

  84. OK Westover, if you are related to the multi-generational Edwin line of Joseph City, AZ, good to hear from you, cousin. :)

  85. OK Westover says:

    Cousin Ray, You Pegged me. I lived there 14 Years.

  86. Nancy/Fixthepain says:

    What kind of a man risks his own life to show his love and concern for the family of a deceased neighbor and friend? TGM would. Having an impaired immune system from the cancer treatments, he insisted on attending the viewing of my father, H. Tracy Hall last July 2008 while fighting his own battle to live. It has been such a priveledge to know and love Truman. Mindy’s comments at the funeral couldn’t ring truer;” We love (Truman), because he first loved us.”

  87. “Christ and the Inner Life” was a great book. Especially loved the piece on “Twenty Questions”.

  88. Kari Chittenden says:

    Madsen was a great man. But what would he say about Joseph Smith in light of the overwhelming documentation in George D. Smith’s recent book Nauvoo Polygamy that raises serious credibility problems with respect to Joseph’s actions and doctrines? Pres. Hinckley had indicated the unwelcomeness of such probes, apparently for good reason. The information absolutely forces a theological adjustment. Personally, I have no problem adjusting. Would Madsen?

  89. Kari, I think he would probably say of [George] Smith that his book is very underwhelming, yawn and go back to understanding our history in a better way than most of us ever will.

  90. Kristine says:

    Kari, there’s actually nothing any more distressing in GDS’ book than what people–especially experts like Truman Madsen–have known for a long time. You have to figure out a way to assimilate difficult historical information pretty quickly if you’re going to do serious inquiry and remain a believing Latter-day Saint. Fortunately, many very smart and very wise people (including Madsen) have done this and talked about how.

  91. Eric Russell says:

    He just might show up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupt George Smith having fondue with the Tanners.

  92. Steve Evans says:

    Eric FTW!

  93. RB Scott says:

    TGM knew Joseph Smiths about as well as any person on the planet, including George Smith and Richard Bushman (his good friend, as I recall). I’d guess he had things sorted out long before George Smith started writing. As for President Hinckley: I recall he was more concerned about what people would react to the history rather than he was worried about the history itself. Kristine has the matter sized right, I think.

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