Monday, April 04, 2005

Why Truman Madsen is not an Apostle

Sometimes the smallest things strike the oddest chord. I was driving on a Saturday evening and turned on the radio. Out popped the voice of Thomas S. Monson, speaking at the General Young Women's Meeting. He said, as nearly as I can recall, "That is what we call repentance." If you read that quote aloud you may have no other choice but to mutter it sarcastically—maybe making little “air quotes.” It would be difficult for me to utter it any other way. Repentance is a principle that is so utterly trivial to comprehend at a basic level that I start with the assumption that everyone I speak to understands it. I would think that making such a basic statement would insult the intelligence of my audience. And yet from President Monson it was not insulting. He was totally serious and sincere.

It was at that moment that I realized that it takes something very special to be a General Authority in the church. It takes something that I certainly don't have. It requires that rare ability to explain the basic principles of the gospel a million times, week after week, to huge and impersonal audiences and feel totally sincere.

As a missionary it was different. You were in a very personal setting and every wink of discovery on the part of the hearer was exhilarating and invigorating, motivating you to continue in your instruction. But to stand in front of an audience, largely without personal feedback, and say the same lessons and stories week after week to different audiences must become tiresome. And yet this is precisely the public calling of a General Authority. In most of their public speaking, they are constrained to address the beginner. Sure, there are smaller settings where they may take more liberties, but when their reach is the greatest, their messages are usually the simplest.

All of this realization struck me, as it so often does, in quite a sudden flash. So many thoughts in such a brief instant. Almost immediately after making this realization about President Monson and the very special gift that he has, my mind moved to Truman Madsen. This man, through his lecture series on Joseph Smith, has surely touched the hearts of many more missionaries and members than perhaps he ever could have done in a dozen General Conference talks. My wife and I are currently reading the book form of another lecture series he did on the lives of the Presidents of the Church. It has been a faith building experience for us.

Truman Madsen is one who, no doubt, possesses a witness sure of the gospel and of the Lord Jesus Christ that could easily qualify him to fill the witnessing role of an apostle. And yet he remains, as far as I know, a patriarch in his home stake in Provo. Why such relative obscurity for one so blessed with so many wonderful and powerful insights into the gospel and one who has such a rare gift in sharing gospel stories? But of course the answer is simple. He is not obscure. Most likely you recognize his name. If you don't, you will likely now recognize it the next time you see his name in print. Truman is a man who has been unbound from the shackles of apostleship. Is it really a bondage? In some sense it must be. Truman has been granted the gift of time--time to think and to write and to speak. And not only to speak, but to speak to the faithful and devout. To speak to people beyond the level of the novice. To touch hearts without being constrained to address every comment to the recent convert. I am grateful for the apostles. And I am also grateful for the men and women who are not apostles.


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  • A very interesting and astute observation. Thanks

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/12/2005 1:42 PM  

  • I am in Truman Madsen's stake and just this evening, while waiting my turn with the Stake Presidency, had the opportunity to visit with him. He is a wonderful, witty, charming man who can have you laughing and crying with the very same story. I too am grateful for the men who, while not apostles, have the power to touch our lives and leave their spiritual mark upon them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/07/2005 10:25 PM  

  • I recently travelled from australia and had the chance to meet Truman at his home. His lectures on Joseph helped me gain a testimony some 16 years ago. It was as big a highlight for me as meeting any of the brethren and it shows that to some is given a gift and to others different stewardships

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/09/2006 6:03 AM  

  • I had no idea who he was, other than my Stake President 11 years ago. During the interview I had with him in his home pursuant to my sealing recommend, I was floored by his wit, humor, and spiritual sure-footedness. And this from a man who not 5 minutes prior to my arrival was weeding his carrots.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/15/2006 4:58 PM  

  • Really interesting comments...what a great person, and I beleieve his wife is not one particle behind him.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2006 12:00 PM  

  • Having taken a class from Sister Madsen, I can attest that she is a well-matched companion for her more famous husband. In a culture that values homemaking, that is so frequently the case where a husband is more well known than his equally gifted wife.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/28/2006 6:38 PM  

  • If I remember right, when a Priesthood holder becomes a Patriarch, he is one for life. He is unable to hold any other positions because this is a very deep and personal position.
    If Truman Madsen is a Patriarch, then he has the same calling as Hyrum Smith had and it is truly a blessing for him. He is planning on coming to speak in the Single Adult Campout that is happening up here in the Seattle Area on Labor Day weekend. We are all excited to hear from him.

    By Blogger silverwhit, at 8/03/2007 6:46 AM  

  • I am going to see Madsen speak next Thursday night! It's a moment of "synchronicity" for me because my testimony is surging (I've never lost it) and it just seems too perfect to be coincidence. As Elder Maxwell said, "For God there is no coincidence."

    By Blogger Unknown, at 2/14/2008 9:18 PM  

  • I hope you enjoy the talk!

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 2/14/2008 10:59 PM  

  • Thank you for your comments from Brother Madsen. I recently saw a broadcast while running on a treadmill at the gym. He had me in tears. The talk has become one of my favorites and he tells of a dream he had that is a deep and powerful vision. The talk is called The Savior, Sacrament, and Self-worth. I would love to shake his hand some day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/14/2008 8:42 PM  

  • Someone who has been ordained to the office of patriarch is in no way prevented from concomittantly holding other offices in the Priesthood or positions in the Church. My mission president was an ordained patriarch for instance. An ordained patriarch who is actively serving as a stake patriarch is typically not called to other positions for the same reasons that other people serving in general, stake and ward callings are not typically called to serve in other callings. But it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the calling of stake patriarch being a "very deep and personal position".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/27/2008 12:38 AM  

  • my grandfather is a patriarch. he has been released from active duty and recalled and served missions in between that as well. a patriarch is simply re-ordained, like a bishop. if he is called to another stake he is reassinged, like a missionary getting transferred.
    hyrum smith was patriarch of the church. a calling that only hyrum has ever held. it is entirely different that what a stake patriarch deos. check your church history and you will find that to be the case.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/05/2008 6:14 PM  

  • correction. a patriarch is NOT re-ordained. he holds the office for the rest of his life. i miss typed that one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/05/2008 6:15 PM  

  • Being a General Authority is more of a job than most people realize. I'd never qualify anyones spiritual greatness by their calling.
    Besides, very few BYU Religion teachers break into the ranks of General Authorities. Instead, they have the benefit of researching the gospel and producing things that you probably would never had received had his calling been with the brethren.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 5/29/2009 12:50 PM  

  • I believe your comments are very appropriate, especially given recent events - Truman Madsen Tribute.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/02/2009 1:20 PM  

  • President Uchdorf not too long ago explained there are many who are prepared and worthy to receive various callings but who do not receive them, because that is not what the Lord wants at that time. I have no doubt hundreds, if not thousands of people are prepared and worthy to be called as a General Authority but are not because they are needed elsewhere.

    By Anonymous Dan Simons, at 9/26/2009 2:32 AM  

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