Just minutes ago, I received word from one of his daughters that Arnold H. Green, our friend since we lived in Egypt between 1978 and 1982 — he was the president of the local branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a professor at the American University in Cairo — passed away earlier today.
Arnie was a historian of the modern Middle East, having been trained at the University of California at Los Angeles by such eminent figures as Gustave Von Grunebaum, Nikki Keddie, Stanford Shaw, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot, P. J. Vatikiotis, Louis J. Cantori, Abdallah Laroui, and Peter Von Sivers.
Because he had served as a missionary in France, he spoke fluent French as well as Arabic, and he wrote his dissertation on the ‘ulama’ or religious leadership of Tunisia, based upon research in both French and Tunisian archives.
His first full-time academic position, I believe, was at the University of Miami. He was a demanding teacher, with a very, very dry sense of ironic humor that — I know for a fact — some of his rather intimidated students missed altogether but that I and others found absolutely hilarious. Thereafter, he spent a postdoctoral research period in Yemen before being appointed to the faculty of the Department of Arabic Studies at the American University in Cairo.
Finally leaving Egypt after spending eleven or twelve years there, he joined the faculty at Brigham Young University where he served for a while as chairman of the Department of History. He also spent several years as director of BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. After retirement, among other things, he and his wife, Lani, went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a service couple, called by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to work at the behest of the family of the late King Faisal (who had been tragically assassinated by his possibly deranged nephew in 1975) on personal history materials relating to the king. (I was involved at the early stages in setting that project up and, somewhat guiltily, in suggesting Arnie and Lani as the perfect people to lead it.) He also spent time, at the request of Church leaders, compiling the history of the Church in various portions of the Middle East.
Some readers here may find this 2002 article of his to be of some interest:
And here is a 2005 devotional address that he delivered at Brigham Young University:
But Arnie wasn’t merely a careful scholar and a valued teacher. (I think that I myself took one class, and only one class, from him in Cairo. His personal advice, though, helped me make a crucial decision related to my own course of graduate study.) He was a good friend. Funny, helpful when asked, dedicated to the cause of the Gospel, devoted to his wife. A very, very competitive basketball player. A tremendous raconteur, with a fund of side-splittingly funny stories and experiences garnered in multiple countries. With his wife, a perfect comedy team. Capable of making the best limeade on Planet Earth.
Arnie had been in terrible health for months, so his death this morning wasn’t altogether unexpected and — easy for me to say, of course, since I’m neither his wife nor his child nor his grandchild — perhaps not entirely unwelcome. (Certainly for him: He is free now, able to express himself and to move again, beyond pain.)
But his passing is nonetheless deeply sad. And it’s personal for us, too, far down the list as we definitely are: He and Lani have been an important part of my life and of my wife’s life since just weeks after we were married, when we first showed up as newlyweds in the Cairo Egypt Branch — our lifeline in a very foreign city — which, for a long time, met in the Greens’ home. We will miss him very, very much. And we pray for his family.
Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection. And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:45-46)
Posted from Canmore, Alberta, Canada