John Widstoe wrote a book in 1939 called "The Word of Wisdom - A modern
interpretation." It captures all of the scientific evidence proving the
WOW was inspired and includes many principles of health most of us still don't
understand today. It's a great read, if you can find a copy.
My favorite LDS author without a close second is M.Catherine Thomas author of
Spiritual Lightening. Her insights and ability to teach remind one of C.S.
Lewis. While I am sure she would be embarrassed to be called an intellectual to
me she is brilliant and inspiring.
To Doctor:Your comment about Joseph Smith smacks of your ignorance,
not his. This article isn't about any person's beginnings, but their
achievements over their lifetime. Certainly you are "smart" enough to
The general definition of intelectual is someoen who makes their living from
pursuits related to the mind. I would say in some ways, if we mean intelectuals
who happen to be Mormons, Stephen R. Covey should be on the list.In
theory all general authorities can be counted as intelectuals. Also all
educators, editors, writers, advertising executives and arguably poets as well.
Some others expand the definition to those who gain their fame from
intelectual pursuits even if they are not gaining their income from such.
Oner question is what are we measuring. How influential the intelectuals were,
or how much they effected Mormon thought. If we are measuring the later Joseph
Smith has to lead the list, and Joseph Fielding Smith and Ezra Taft Benson can
not be excluded for the top 20. Richard Lloyd Anderson might well make the top
20. Robert J. Matthews is also a major figure who can not be forgotten, and the
same could be said for Noel Reynolds. Among other things the fact that an
apostle mentioned a teaching of Reynolds in General Conference probably adds
some weight.John Taylor might also be a top 20 contender. Some of
his works were quite seminal.
The claim that Roberts had doubts about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon
is false. He wrote material on problems with it because he fully believed it
was true and that the best way to spread this knowledge was to deal with the
problems raised by its opponants. He clearly continued to testify of the Book
of Mormon until the end of his life.Daniel Peterson and William
Hamblin would be in the running in my book, but since this is a 42 year old
list, I am not surprised they are not on it. Emiline B. Wells is also an
intelectual who is worth considering.
The fact the list was created in 1969 probably explains several omissions, such
as that of Madsen, Maxwell, Oaks and Bushman.Joseph Smith began as
an ignorant farm boy but he clearly developed into an intelectual. I would also think David O. McKay would have a place in this list.
How tiring.I read an enjoyable article on some very intelligent men and
reflected on some of their books which I have read and then was foolish enough
to think that some of the comments on it would also be intelligent. These are
some of the most petty, critical and self serving that I have read in a long
time. Some of the commenters actually seem to think that they are as
intellectual as the list. They are certainly not the only intelligent people in
the church, Give them all the honor they deserve.
James Taft Fredette
Eliza R. Snow for the women
Any women intellectuals?
Hugh Nibley, Truman G Madsen, Henry Eyring, Neal A Maxwell, in no paticular
I think G. Homer Durham belongs on every list of Mormon intellectuals.
I would define intelligence as not only the sure handed grasping of the stick,
but in the weilding of it to great works and effectively influencing others to
do the same. Not just to know, or be able to discuss, but to do. That's why I
like Parly P Pratt on the list, and I would add Brigham Young, David O. McKay.
Two problems with this discussion:1. Being an honorable person, a
good leader and/or holding a high priesthood office does not equate to
intellectual attainments or contributions. The case for being an intellectual
can readily be made for Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith and the Pratt's. But Ezra
Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley? 2. Cleon Skousen, while
celebrated by some on the extreme political right, did nothing as far as serious
scholarship. Even conservative intellectuals do not take his work seriously, to
say the least.
Joseph Smith an intellectual?Self taught in Hebrew, Greek and
perhaps other languages.Set the pattern (following the design of
Cincinnati), of cities being laid out in square blocks.Inspired
architecture magnificent in its day.Moved tens of thousands in his
day, millions since, to action.Whether taught by God or self-taught,
Joseph comprehended issues and proposed philosophies and solutions superior to
theologians, politicians, sociologists, city planners, health and medical
experts from his generation up to and beyond ours.
Although B.H. Roberts was a very intelligent writer in his official capacity for
the Church, I am extremely ashamed and disappointed that the Deseret News puts
him on this list, let alone giving him the top spot ahead of Orson Pratt and
Joseph Smith. His later works are cited by anti-Mormons for apostacizing later
in his life. The very idea of a top 10 "intellectual" list implies
that the author feels he is qualified to judge what is most intellectual. The
process in and of itself is offensive. The forgotten teachings of Joseph Smith
dwarf the combined works fo all of these men put together, including the
brilliant writings of the Pratt brothers.
How did the Dnews not include me on the list? Fail article
Alex G. Oblad held patents on processes to create high octane fuel and foams
that are still used in beds, couches etc as well as the absobant material in
baby diapers. He taught at the U for almost 30 years and he was a dean of the
school of fossil fuels. Look him up....and I may be biased because
he was my grandpa.
@doctorMy understanding of why people took Joseph to be intelligent
has more to do with his wisdom (something that even the very young and ignorant
are capable of yielding) than pure intellectual capacity.As a
counter example, Nibley was super intelligent in a scholary sense. His knowledge
of the gospel was unmatched, but for all of his gifts he lacked a mature level
of wisdom, which explains his absurd social commentary.
I'm confident that the ONLY possible reason Joseph Smith, Jr. is not #1 on this
list is that church members (who were the ones being polled) are more likely to
think of Joseph as an inspired prophet rather than consider him an intellectual,
which many in the church would see as an unimportant attribute - almost an
insult, along the lines of "when they are learned they think they are
wise."But if you don't believe he was a prophet, you have to
recognize him as an intellectual if you have a shred of intellectual honesty
yourself. If you could poll the several true intellectuals who are independent
of the church and unbiased about it, I'm sure that they would agree with Shipps
and say that Joseph Smith was an intellectual of the highest order - one who
changed the world with his religious and philosophical genius. Only a dozen or
less Americans who were not President have had such a significant influence on
the world. I heard as much from an historian at the Smithsonian who had been
part of the group (committee, I presume) who had outbid the church to acquire
the best surviving sunstone from the Nauvoo temple.
Joseph Smith was more than a intellectual, he was a genius.
Does it seem weird to anyone else that there are no women on this list? Do
female intellectuals even exist in the church today? If so, who are they?
Seriously, I cannot think of one, let alone ten. Anyone?
1969 is a long time ago.. How about the top 20 of the last 75 years?
Philo Farnsworth should get a look..
With all respect to Arrington, Parley Pratt was likely more
"intellectual" than his brother Orson, if you take into account
Parley's groundbreaking and original thinking. Orson was more of a magpie,
collecting insights from his reading but not as good a writer or thinker as his
older brother. BTW, Nibley is by far the number-one genius of Mormonism, other
than the Prophet Joseph himself.
Its interesting to me that some take issue with Joseph Smith being on this list.
I once saw a documentary about him. There was a non-LDS professor (Jan Shipps,
I think), who had spent her life studying Mormonism. When she was asked how she
would explain Josephs long list of accomplishments, she replied that he was
clearly a genius.
The list should include Arthur Davis Hassler, Lehi native, who became the most
respected fresh water biologist or Limnologist in the world. Professor at the
University of Wisconsin, the successor to Berge and Juday he trained more
leaders in Limnology who have lead the way in fresh water research for over 65
I'd put Hugh Nibley way ahead of Sterling McMurrin. Kingon Skousen wouldn't
make my top 20. Joseph F. Smith would be in my top 10.
Brigham Young is highly underrated. Given the great things he revealed he
deserves to be high on this list. Given that he credited Joseph Smith for the
great knowledge he had Joseph Smith deserves to be at the top of the list. There
are many little known doc trines revealed to Joseph Smith that are lost for the
most part to the church and the worldAll matter has consciousness and
therefore life. Life as we understand it is a pattern that has existed eternally
it was not created. In accordance with this the earth was seeded by the gods
life was not created what the bible Says about mankind being children of
the gods is to be taken literally. God or Elohim is plural and we are partpart
of that plurrality. Joseph SmithSmith intended this church to be a church of
people of great understand but the LES people were not ready for much of the
higher knowledge he tried to teach. However knock and it can be opened. If
people will ask and knock all knowledge can be accessed.
Holy cow, Talmage is #1. No brainer.
Interesting list for 40 years ago. Let's update it, and I know we can find some
women to add.
Also, McMurrin was an agnostic even though he never left the LDS church. David
O. MacKay put an end to a potential court.
Stirling McMurrin and BH Roberts are tied at #1. Nobody else should be on the
I guess the writer of this column is not an intellectual. It's not "John
Hopkins" university. It's Johns Hopkins, named after a Quaker railroad
baron named, not John Hopkins, but Johns Hopkins. Come on, D'News. Hire an
My list:10 - Sterling McMurrin09 - George Boyd08 - Henry
Eyring07 - Harvey Fletcher06 - Louis Midgley05 - Mike Ash04 - Chase Peterson03 - Lowell Bennion02 - Daniel Peterson01
- Joseph SmithI think this is a fair assessment, and think a new
poll should be taken, accounting for the great work done at NAMIRS.
My man Neal Maxwell. Not sure about his academic pursuits, but he could turn an
insightful phrase with Shakespearean aplomb.
The Prophet Joseph Smith is #3?? HA! What?? The man who communed with Jehovah-
who had more pure revelation than any man in earth's history with the exception
of Jesus Christ himself? Read the Doctrine and Covenants and then ask yourself
if anyone even comes close to the Prophet Joseph. These other men are mere
children compared to Joseph Smith and his Mt Everest sized mountain of
Inexcusable exclusions:Harvey Fletcher (Millikan stole his Nobel Prize)Eugene EnglandHenry EryingJuanita BrooksEliza R. SnowRichard Bushmanand I would guess that Bushman himself would argue for
the inclusion of Fawn Brodie.
Being an Intellectual can mean excommunication. Don't ever forget the
How is Joseph Smith an intellectual? What did he write on his own? What
intellectual treatise did he write.Surely if he wrote the BofM wfrom
plates and the Doctrine and Covenants from revelations from God and Christ,then
They are the intellectuals, not him!As far as I am aware everything
he produced is supposed to have been from revelations-so he can't be an
intellectual. A plagarist perhaps!
First, let's define "intellectual". Is Academic experience the main
criterion? There are a lot of academics (most?) who can't run an organization.
I'd like to see a list which has half the people listed who are still alive.
Many good suggestions for additions or alternatives. I'd like to add Gene
England, Jr. Taught at Stanford, St. Olafs, the U, the Y, and UVSC. Thoughtful
Love the list Onandagus. Would like to see more people create an entire 10 like
this--the readership's collective opinions would maybe show some interesting
modern tendencies. More lists, please...
I'm not so sure I would place Orson Pratt so high on the list, however I do
believe he deserves a place. My top ten of Mormon Intellectuals, considering
that each held a significant place in their own time, would be (but I must admit
a bias toward historians as I am one):10. Leonard Arrington9.
Orson Pratt8. Truman G. Madsen7. Hugh Nibley6. B.H. Roberts5. James E. Talmage4. John A. Widstoe3. Henry Eyring2.
Richard Bushman1. Joseph Smith, Jr.
Just for fun--(and come on people, just because someone (Nibley) says something
you don't agree with doesn't mean they are not scholars...and if they saomething
you do, that doesn't mean that they are.)10 Leonard Arrington9
Truman Madsen8 BH Roberts7 Eliza Snow6 Richard L Bushman5 J Ruben Clark Jr4 Hugh Nibley3 Henry Eyring2 Orson
Pratt1 Joseph Smith, Jr.--my sense of "intellectual" is using
your intellect. I think he more than passes. None of the above are using
anything other than God-given gifts, so why does revelation not count? The
D&C make it clear that Joseph had to struggle through philosophical and
psychological issues like we could never imagine to get the training he did.
Interesting to see Roberts listed at #1 since he had doubts about the
authenticity of the Book of Mormon.I would include Dr. Michael Quinn
in the top 10.
Roberts, Ericksen, McMurrin, Eyring: absolutely yes. McConkie,
Benson, Smith, Nibley, Skousen, Joseph F. Smith: absolutely not.
Joseph Smith was a true prophet of god!
J. Reuben Clark.
Henry Eyring not on the list? He would have won the Nobel Prize if it had not
been for religious bigotry. Also, where is Skousen?
When I was younger, I thought these "lists" were authoritative,
somehow conveying some sort of scientific rigor. Then I realized that someone
(probably a journalist) just "made it up". It really isn't
"news" although it is an easy way to provoke thought.That
having been said, any list of "Mormon 'Intellectuals'" that does not
contain Neal A. Maxwell is severely lacking to the point of being invalid. Richard Bushman was another very poor oversight. Also, what about Eliza
Being "smart" or "educated" does not make one an
Intellectual. Look up the definition.
Sadly no women - probably a matter of history and culture.But what
is more troubling is that among the current generation of young Mormon women
(20-35) there are some very educated and talented thinkers.But we
haven't in the church figured out what to do with them so they are wondering in
the wilderness when they could be contributing mightily, if we just created
space for them to flourish in our culture.
So, to make this list apparently all you have to do is teach at the University
of Utah? Not much of a standard is it? Makes me think of youth soccer or little
league where everyone gets a trophy, even the last place team. Makes the point
of having a trophy kind of meaningless.
Like every body else,I have my own opinion on who should be on the list. I
would like to have seen Brigham Young mention. After all look what he accomplish
as Prophet of the church. Thank You.
A couple of other typos in the names of elite universities. It should be:
Berkeley and Johns Hopkins.
I'd add Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, Cal Rampton and Oscar
McConkie.The only way Cleon Skousen or Ezra Taft Benson would ever
get on my list is if you make it the top 5,000 intellectuals. Even then Skousen
would be a hard fit.
What about Truman Madsen? I took a BYU philosophy class from him in the 1960s
and thoroughly enjoyed his insights and love of Stan Kenton. From then until he
died, he continued to pursue knowledge avidly and has made some significant
I would add Sidney Sperry to the list. His work, though not prolific, is well
within the accepted guidelines for defining an intellectual.A couyple of
other honorable mention candidates could be:Milton Backman and Hyrum
One might consider that the number is simply that, and not a reflection as to
the degree of "intellectualism" that person achieved. My reasoning is
that of all mentioned, Joseph Smith, Jr., was by far the most intellectual of
all, having been given his knowledge and wisdom regarding Mormonism directly
from a heavenly source, and his place in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ to the Earth. All other achievements of mortal men pale in comparison.
What about Philo T. Farnsworth?
Where's Eliza R. Snow!!!
Placing Hugh Nibley at #8 is questionable. He deserves to be much higher on the
Truman Madsen would be one of my strong choices. I enjoyed the list and think
narrowing it down to ten would be very difficult.
Several commenters asked how the list was created. The opening statement
answers that. It was created in 1969 by asking "50 prominent Mormons"
to name the five most eminent intellectuals in Mormon history.I'm
guessing the order of the list was created by the number of times that
individual was mentioned, rather than by their accomplishments. It's
interesting to note that only three of the 10 were still alive in 1969, so even
then dead individuals were given more weight than living ones.I
would love to know who the "50 prominent Mormons" were. I bet quite a
few of our modern nominations were in that group of nominators.
I would heartily agree that Henry Eyring needs to be on the list. Certainly NOT
Cleon Skousen, as someone suggested above - his "grasp" of actual
history is tenuous, at best, and ridiculed by authentic historians, at worst.
I suspect "intellectual" is in quotes for two reasons:1) It is
rather loaded in LDS culture, frequently having the implication that the
individual is in danger of excommunication.2) The various definitions of
"intellectual" have somewhat different nuances, ranging from
"possessing mental capacity, especially to a high degree" (under which
Joseph Smith qualifies) to "conveys the general notion of a literate
thinker" (under which Joseph Smith, at least as a youth*, does not
qualify).*Though later in life, as Truman G. Madsen illustrated,
Joseph Smith became much more literate, ranking as one of the best students at
the School of the Prophets.
Isn't this an exercise in vanity? Depending on the definition of
"intellectual" the list would expand or contract. If we believe what
is stated in the scriptures we are told that those who qualify for celestial
glory will know all things. Therefore, everyone who qualifies for that reward
will be far more intellectual than anyone listed on the lists, at least in this
life. If only viewed from the mortal perspective, then the only measure of
intellectualism would be one's renown, which is a pretty poor determinant.
Interesting article. This is the first time that I've ever heard anyone, even
the Mormon Church, refer to Joseph Smith as an 'intellectual.' I guess just as
long as one puts that phrase in quotation marks, we're OK.
Agreeing with Skousen and Nibley can get you onto shaky ground with the Church
Why not come up with many more lists. The intellectuals of Business, The
intellectuals of Medical Science, the intellectuals of Religious and Scriptural
Studies,and on and on and on.I know those who were listed may have touched on
some of these areas but we would call attention to many many more great minds in
the church.Especially the "greats" in our current society. There are
many. One should not have to be dead in order to achieve
Lists are never perfect, but this one and the order of ranking seems a bit
ridiculous. IMO, it seems to be thrown together without really properly
weighing the body of work compiled by each man. That would take some time and
perhaps a little "intellect." As it stands, this list is only
slightly above pulling names out of a hat.
Cleon Skousen.Although I grew up with the idea that he should be viewed
with some suspicion, after having read some of his stuff, I am impressed.
@ Doctor | 6:32 p.m. June 10, 2011 Joseph Smith started out
intellectually as a humble farm boy but died possessing great intellectual
knowledge and wisdom. That's what happens when the Spirit of God lives within
you for decades.I once had the false assumption that Joseph Smith
was a poor businessman based on a quote I had read only to find that the one who
said that statement only meant that Joseph was too soft-hearted and kind to make
money as his primary goal of being in business, not that he didn't have the
academic intelligence to succeed. I've since read MANY sources that claim that
every single thing Joseph told others to do in business related matters led to
their financial succes IF, repeat IF, they followed what he counseled them to
LOVE Parley P. Pratt!That guy is truly an unsung hero of the
Restoration of the Lord's Gospel!Solid as a rock, he was.
Taylor: Ezra Taft? Lowell Bennion is the only one that belongs on
I'm not sure how this list was compiled, other than "Let's find Mormons who
once taught at a school."Joseph Smith was an incredible figure
in modern American theology; calling him an "intellectual" is a
stretch. An intellectual is one who obtains a living from his intellect, and not
simply an educator. Talmage, Widtsoe, and Nibley are all fantastic examples.
Parley P. Pratt? How did he beat out Oliver Cowdery?Richard L.
Bushman is an inexcusable omission- he has done more for the positive portrayal
of Mormon academics than perhaps any person living. Truman Madsen seems like a
more reasonable candidate than Orson Pratt, as well. Among current GA's, I could
go for Elders Holland or Oaks.Plus, I find it ironic that an
article on Latter-day Saint intellectuals has so many typographical errors. The
"Univeristy of California"? " "Reading, writing and the
restored gospel *become* Roberts passions." Who writes these
Why the use of quotation marks around the word "intellectual?"Isn't that the equivalent of calling these men "allegedly
smart?"Glad to see McMurrin and Bennion on the list.
Neal A Maxwell, Hugh B. Brown and Bruce R. McConckie. All had great intellect.
ed in az:I completely second the thought that Henry Eyring should be
on that list. The guy came super close to winning a Nobel Prize for his work in
Chemistry and is just absolutely brilliant. I believe Elder Oaks referred to him
as the greatest Mormon scientist. And the thing I like about Henry Eyring the
most is that whereas other "intellectuals" seem to complicate the
gospel, he simplified it.I've said it on the message boards before,
but I'm willing to bet that most people who leave the LDS church for
"intellectual" reasons, haven't read and or understood the basic
principles contained within Henry Eyring's books "The Faith of a
Scientist" or "Reflections of a Scientist".
Joseph Smith may have started an ignorant farm boy. We all come into this
worldly experience ignorant. As a result of gazing into heaven for quite a bit
longer that five minutes, his grasp of everything from theology to physics
became profound. Joseph Smith was truly a "Renaissance man, also called
Universal Man, Italian Uomo Universale, an ideal that developed in Renaissance
Italy from the notion expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives,
Leon Battista Alberti (140472), that 'a man can do all things if he will.'"
(quote from Encyclopedia Britannica)Joseph Smith was a Universal Man
in his person, but a Prophet by his calling. We can only imagine what he might
have been if he had been schooled by academia instead of by angels. Thankfully,
that was not his calling, but rather he gave his life serving his Lord and his
I would add, in addition to those already mentioned:Bruce
McConkieJoseph Fielding SmithDallin OaksBoyd
PackerGordon HinckleyEzra Taft Benson
How about Karl Mazer
Other then Nibley, Michael Ash quotes little to none of these men's work.
Interesting view the J. Smith was an intellectual giant, I thought he was an
ignorant farm boy.
Jack H AdamsonHenry Eyring