Last night while watching the news, I learned that Truman G. Madsen recently passed away due to cancer. The following is a short tribute to his lasting memory. Dr. Madsen’s biography states:
Truman G. Madsen is a philosopher, essayist, teacher and biographer. He is emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University, and was Director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem. He held the Richard L. Evans Chair in Religious Studies at B.Y.U. He has been guest professor at Northeastern University, Haifa, and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He sponsored several symposia on comparative religion published as Reflections on Mormonism, The Temple in Antiquity, and Chosenness and Covenant in Judaism and Mormonism. Among his volumes on Mormon thought are: Eternal Man, Christ and the Inner Life, Four Essays on Love, The Highest in Us, The Radiant Life. Five Classics, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, Defender of the Faith, a biography of B. H. Roberts and On Human Nature. He is one of the editors and a contributor to the five-volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Mormonism. He is married to Ann Nicholls Madsen. The couple has three children and a Navajo foster son.1
Dr. Madsen has had a profound influence for good in my life, through his writings as well as through those whom he directly influenced. As I perused his web site, I came across one of his talks called “Foundations of Temple Worship”, an excerpt of which appears below:
I’d like to talk today out of fifty years experience in participating in temple worship, but also in interviewing literally thousands of people for temple recommends, and in conversation about their experiences. I’d like to talk in a way that I hope will sink more deeply into you than ever, to motivate you to focus your lives on temple worship, and on the power of Jesus Christ, which is there. So I’m going to give you an acronym, a few ABCs, and use each of those letters as a lead-in, a memory peg, for my remarks and testimony.
Let’s begin, then, with “A,” which, in temple focus, may mean both Atonement and Anointing. I have learned in the Holy Land that those two words are almost synonymous in Hebrew. The word kipper, which is the word for atoning, or atoning influence, means, among other things, to smear, literally, anointing with oil, but it also means to cover, and in the Christ awareness that means to overcome and heal, to cover up and replace sin in our lives with light and healing. The ancient high priest went into the temple only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, yom kipper, and the idea was that he would cleanse the temple, and in that very process, cleanse the people, unless, peradventure, they were beyond repentance. Well, we have been taught by modern revelation that Christ is himself the Great High Priest,2 and that when he promises that he will place his name and his seal and his glory upon his sanctuary, then all who enter therein must come as worthily as they can and leave even worthier. He is the power of repentance, and all the first principles are manifest in the temple: faith, repentance, baptism, and the power of the Holy Ghost.3
He went on to speak about the power of covenants made in the temple and elsewhere:
Let’s go to “C,” Covenants. The temple is a house of covenant-making. I recall in my own earlier days, just before my mission, when I began to understand how deep-reaching and far-reaching these covenants are; I remember shrinking in a way, inwardly, and saying, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready to make that kind of promise.” I am now convinced, brothers and sisters, that the earlier you can give your whole heart to covenant-making, the greater can be your expectations of the Lord’s blessings. I believe that as long as we say, sometimes dishonestly, “well, I don’t want to make a promise like that; I’m afraid I couldn’t keep it,” that’s only beginning to get ready to think about anticipating, and it does not bring any strength. It’s when you make a covenant in the presence of witnesses and even in the sense of the presence of God that the heavens begin to shake for your good when you mean it, and then he promises with absolute conviction and trust in you, “I make the same covenant with you, and I will never break it.” Ultimately he asks us to give our all in covenant-making, with the promise that then and only then, he will give his all in our behalf. Every blessing that is possible to receive will remain with us and down the road in greater and greater fulfilment as we live. The everlasting covenant, the new and everlasting covenant centers in his sanctuary, the temple.
The entire talk is a beautiful message that seems to capture the essence of Truman G. Madsen.
2 June 2009 update: A stirring tribute from someone who knows Dr. Madsen personally can be found at In Remembrance: Truman Madsen, 1926-2009.