Truman Madsen was a Christian philosopher, scholar, writer and speaker, whose teachings had a lasting impact on many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For us who learned from him, he will remain a loved and honored figure whose voice will be greatly missed.
The following coverage of his funeral appeared in the Mormon Times today.
Truman G. Madsen liked to say “love and blessings” as his personal way of saying goodbye.
At Madsen’s funeral Tuesday, June 2, in a full Provo Tabernacle, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the LDS Church’s First Presidency; Elders Jeffrey R. Holland, Richard G. Scott, Dallin H. Oaks and Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve; family friend and former BYU quarterback Steve Young; and several family members said their goodbyes.
Madsen died Thursday in Provo at age 82 after a year-long battle with bone cancer. He had retired after 37 years as a professor of philosophy and religion at BYU, where he held the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding.
He had been a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also director of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.
Madsen was best known for his writings and lectures on philosophy, religion, Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at the funeral of Truman G. Madsen. Photo: Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
President Eyring called Madsen “one of the great witnesses of the prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m absolutely sure the prophets will crowd around him,” President Eyring said, trying to imagine a heavenly reunion.
Elder Holland recalled when, as a “wide-eyed and bushy-tailed” undergraduate student, he first heard Madsen and his wife, Ann, speak at BYU.
Elder Holland called it a privilege to have known Madsen and now to be able to celebrate “a magnificent life filled with faith, filled with devotion, filled with example, filled with idealism and hope, faith and charity.”
Elder Scott spoke about Madsen’s love for LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.
“I don’t know of anyone who has done more to fulfill the statement (in a popular Mormon hymn) that ‘millions shall know Brother Joseph again’ than your beloved Truman,” Elder Scott said.
Elder Oaks said Madsen “influenced a generation of Latter-day Saint thinkers, was a revered teacher at BYU, was a powerful ambassador for the church and made such superb use of the tools of the academy to show that Mormonism has good answers for the great questions of philosophy and life.”
Elder Nelson recalled times he spent with Madsen in Boston more than 50 years ago.
“None of us then could fully appreciate the spiritual strength that he demanded of himself on getting his doctorate at Harvard,” Elder Nelson said. “There, his unshakable conviction would have been measured against the traditional philosophy and standards of the world, yet Truman blossomed and flowered in that clenching and challenging circumstance.”
Young said Madsen represented “so many who feel as members of the family.” He recalled meeting Madsen in Israel — an experience, he said, that changed his life.
“It was not long before he was feeding my soul and teaching me things I’d never dreamed of,” Young said. “I began to feel deeply the marvelous life of the Savior.”
Young said he asked Madsen once what his favorite scripture was. After thinking a while, Madsen told him it was Doctrine and Covenants 50:40-46, which reads in part, “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.”
Several family members took turns during the funeral services to share their experiences and memories of Madsen.
Emily Madsen Reynolds, a daughter, recalled 15 years ago visiting the garden tomb in Jerusalem, believed by some to be the place where Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
After dropping her off there, Madsen, who was director of the BYU Jerusalem Center, later returned.
“He came to me, and entering (the tomb) he stopped and read the words on the door: ‘He is not here, for he is risen.’ On the last couple of words, his voice broke and he put his arms out to me. I stepped into his embrace and we stood there weeping together,” Reynolds said. “So (now) he is gone — but not very far and not for a very long time.”
Larry Kee Watchman, a foster son, was a 10-year-old Navajo child when he was placed with Madsen’s family about 40 years ago.
“Some people have a gift, by the tone of their voice, to bring comfort to those who are in need of comforting,” Watchman said. “My dad is such a person — with his deep, big voice.”
Barnard N. Madsen, a son, based his talk on his father’s simple, but typical last words. “His final words, last Wednesday afternoon, after one of his granddaughters tried to make him more comfortable, were ‘thank you,'” Barnard Madsen said.
His father had written about suffering, Barnard Madsen said. “He told me a year ago, after his bone cancer diagnosis, that he realized that what he knew intellectually (about suffering), he was now going to learn in his very bones.”
After talking about the many things that made him thankful for his father, Barnard Madsen told how he had taken a philosophy class from him. “He taught us, and not just in that class and not just with his words, that philosophy asks the ultimate questions, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ answers them. And for that crucial understanding that he gave us, we give thanks.”
Madsen’s brother, Gordon, said in a prayer “he was all that ever could be hoped for … in a brother.”
Last week, as the family gathered around Madsen’s hospital bed, someone suggested they sing the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.” Daughter Mindy Madsen Davis was surprised when her father joined in the singing.
“I was sitting cross-legged, facing him on the bed,” Davis said. “At one point, he put his hand up to my face and cradled it in his hand as we sang. Such tenderness. We love him because he first loved us.”