I saw a few minutes this morning of a film of Truman Madsen talking about the Prophet Joseph Smith:
It reminded me how very much I miss Truman.
He was a huge influence on me at a pivotal point in my life, and he ultimately became a friend.
When I was just beginning to come into activity in the Church as an early teenager, sometime between 1966 and 1969, some kind ward members took me to Education Week in Covina or West Covina, California. (Back then, they did three-day — or perhaps four-day — “Education Weeks” at far flung locations in the West, at least.)
It was an intellectual feast for me, just at the time that such a feast would have the greatest impact. As I recall, Daniel Ludlow was among the speakers, and even Elder Bruce McConkie (then of the presidency of the Seventy) lectured to us. At least, I think he did. Perhaps Hugh Nibley was even there, as well. (I know that I heard him over in Whittier once, and that too was a transformative experience. But I think he may have been at this one, too.) And the 3Ds sang Mormon pioneer songs, including some very moving pieces, and some very funny satirical tunes, that I still remember (and sometimes sing and play) down to this day.
But the speaker who blew me away on that occasion was Truman Madsen. Each evening he spoke to a packed audience. One night it was on “Logical Positivism,” of all things. Another night it was on “Existentialism.” The topic(s) for the other night or two have slipped from my memory.
But I was thrilled. Here was Mormonism with an intellectual face, with depth. Heady stuff. For me, life-changing.
I bought his book Eternal Man. I purchased a subscription to BYU Studies. And I decided that I wanted to attend Brigham Young University, where such scholars — both very brilliant and very Mormon — were to be found.
Much of my subsequent career and professional focus can be traced more or less to that encounter with one of the greatest speakers and teachers that the Church has ever produced.
As I said to my friend Cory Maxwell following lunch today, I’m so very, very glad that Truman’s voice (both literal and metaphorical) has been preserved. (The same thing is true, of course, for Cory’s father.) And his testimony can be found here, on Mormon Scholars Testify.