It feels like yet another giant among us has "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." Truman G. Madsen, 82, died from cancer yesterday. His writing and teaching, and most especially his ordinariness, have influenced my life for almost twenty-five years.
I first discovered Dr. Madsen while serving as a missionary in Arizona. I believe a companion had a copy of his talks on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and we'd listen to them during the evenings or on P-days. It was as if I was being introduced to a man I'd never even heard of before - they are still (IMHO) required listening for anyone serious about not only knowing that Joseph was a prophet, but knowing why he was. More amazingly, I just learned yesterday that he gave all of the lectures without notes. It was all in his head!
I could go on and on (don't you know it!?) but will instead encourage any who may read this to instead visit the BYU Speeches website and search for some of his talks to either read and/or download. They are all classics and will no doubt enliven and invigorate your faith...promise! A favorite recent talk he gave was on patriarchal blessings at BYU-Idaho in 2000. You won't think about your blessing in the same way again after reading it.
One quick story (okay, two): I had a roommate who was taking a religion class with Dr. Madsen, who I understand rode his bike to class most days. As the class began, someone was asked to pray and stood to do so. As the prayer began, my roommate took a peek at Dr. Madsen, who stood in prayer with eyes still closed, combing his hair!
I met him on several occasions, but the first time was probably the most memorable. We happened to be in a restroom at the same time, doing what people do in restrooms...I mentioned that I loved his work but had been unable to find a copy of his book "Eternal Man." He seemed very concerned by that and asked me to please contact him directly in order to make sure I had a copy...very typical of him.
A memorial service is planned for next Tuesday at noon in the Provo Tabernacle. No doubt it will be packed. I hope to attend and pay my respects. Most importantly, his passing compels me to strive more diligently both as a gospel scholar and as a disciple. He would kindly suggest I reverse the order, no doubt.