Friday, October 24, 2014

In Memoriam of Matthew Brown (1964-2011)

[The following are some brief remarks I gave  at the "Temples on Mount Zion" Conference in held at the Provo City Library in Provo, Utah on September 22. 2012. This annual scholarly conference was conceived and initiated by my friend Matthew Brown, who passed away in October 2011].

    This Conference was originally conceived and organized by Matthew B. Brown. Matt, who passed away in October 2011 hoped that events such as these would help to promote faithful Latter-day Saint scholarship and increase understanding about the Temple. On behalf of Matt’s wife Jamie, thank you to all those who have helped to bring this event to fruition. Matt had a deep love for the truths of the restored Gospel. As a scholar, an author and an able defender of the kingdom, Matt brought an enthusiasm and excitement to his research that were contagious. I saw reflected in his life and activities a deep respect for the Prophet Joseph Smith and a sense of wonder and love for the ordinances of the Lord’s House.

    In one of his parables, the Savior speaks of disciple-scholars who seek to more fully understand and expound the wonders of the Gospel. “Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52). Matt, like the householder in the Savior’s parable was blessed with an intuitive gift for research and insights into the Temple and other aspects of the Restoration. Happily, he was able to combine this gift with a genuine respect for sacred things and the added ability to sensitively express these things in writing for the benefit of others. Such contributions are a treasure and a blessing to the Saints.

    The Redeeming life and work of Jesus Christ have always been central to Latter-day Saint temple worship."Each of the ordinances of the Lord's house,” explained David B. Haight, “bears witness of him who triumphed over the grave--of the reality of his atonement and his resurrection. We are taught of immortality and eternal life through his atonement. We are blessed by covenants and ordinances to prepare us to eventually reenter his divine presence" (David B. Haight, "Come to the House of the Lord," Ensign 22/5 (May 1992): 17).  "Even in the endowments," according to Heber C. Kimball "there is not a solitary thing but what is an imitation of the Son or the Father in some way or other; and all this is done to keep us in remembrance of him" (Journal of Discourses 10:44). If one cannot see the work of Christ in the ordinances of the temple, one has simply not understood Latter-day Saint temple worship.

    Shortly before Matt passed away last October, David Keller expressed the following personal reflections which I shared with his permission at Matt’s funeral service.

    "I have recently been thinking that the process of writing for publication is like composing a song. The notes, or ideas, are inspired by research and analysis, but often are jumbled inside my head. Only with great care can these notes be selected and arranged in a proper sequence to create a symphony that will resonate with others.
    "As Elder Cook spoke last conference (Quentin L. Cook, “The Songs they could not sing,” Ensign 41/11 [November 2011]: 104-107), I thought of my friend Matthew Brown, condition ever worsening, with his faithful wife at his side, soon to pass to the other side of the veil. I mourned the loss of not being able to hear any more songs from Matt . . . .
    "I recall frequently encountering Matt in the religion and family history section of the Harold B. Lee Library. While I would casually work on blogs and articles on priesthood, revelation, marriage and temples, Matthew would be furiously working to meet one book or article deadline after another on much the same topics. We would give each other updates and encouragement on each other’s projects. Once I expressed frustration about how long it was taking me to complete an assignment dealing with priesthood and the apostasy, and how I wished he could take over. To rephrase his response using Elder Cook’s metaphor, “I already know what songs I have been called to sing and I don’t have enough time as it is.” His encouragement helped me believe that I was still up for the task.

    "I remember seeing Matt meeting his wife, Jamie, for the drive home at the end of a long day. It dawned on me that Matt could not possibly be receiving adequate compensation for all the writing he was doing to explain and defend the Church. Matt’s family was clearly sacrificing greatly as he was, yet when I looked for any hint of complaint from Jamie, I saw none, Instead her countenance quickly shed its world-weariness and lit up as she was reunited with her husband. I could sense she took pride in his accomplishments as we were introduced. As I watched them ascend, side by side, from the library’s underworld into the glass pavilion illuminated by the sunset above, I had the impression I was witnessing the ascension of a king and his queen such as might be found in a scene from one of Matt’s books on ancient temples. As they passed by the security guards standing as sentinels above, I marveled at the rock their relationship was built upon and which will no doubt prevail against a temporary separation caused by death."

    Latter-day Saint temple worship is a source of tremendous comfort to the Saints. John A Widtsoe explained that the blessings of the temple “bestow great honor upon a person who can understand” as “realities are exhibited in figures, and those who have the Spirit and understand, derive great comfort and consolation from that source."“No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand" (John A. Widtsoe, "Temple Worship," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine [April 1921]: 62). Paramount among these are Christ’s victory over sin and death – His redeeming life and the power of His redemption in our own lives as we seek to follow him and keep His Gospel covenants. Recognition of the reality of that power, restored through the Lord’s faithful servant Joseph Smith and faithfully administered by apostolic authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today is a reason for hope which extends beyond the grave and throughout eternity. Thus, while with Alma, we “truly mourn for the loss” of our friends and kindred,” yet we also “rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness” (Alma 28:12).

Thanks Matt for your scholarship, your service and helping us to more fully appreciate the treasures both old and new.

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