Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Spiritual Experiences--A Tribute to Lamar C. Barrett

I have to give some background on how I met Lamar C. Barrett. In August 1981 I saw an unusual advertisement in the BYU Daily Universe. It stated do you want to be in the top ten percent of your class then you should take Instructional Science 514R. Being a very average student I said to myself "yeah right I am going to go from being a B- student to an A student by taking one class." It gave a number to call so I called and spoke to Dillon Inouye who told me all about the class promising it would do what it claimed. I took the class which was taught by Dillon Inouye, Grant Von Harrison, Harvey Black, Adrian Van Montfrans, and Monte Shelley. We were exposed to all kinds of different things including learning and hearing from Walter A. Gong who was in to exponential learning. Gong, a Stanford education professor, was known for his three person (teacher, learner, other person taught by learner)problem theory which said that learning is broken down into its simplest parts by knowledge, roles, and experience. Harvey Black's way of having us gain experience was to apprentice ourselves to a master teacher for twenty hours a week.

I chose Richard O. Cowan, a blind professor of LDS Church History. I wanted to be an institute teacher and go back some day to work at the BYU religion department so I thought it would be great training. Dr. Cowan already had a paid research assistant Richard Holzapfel so I did volunteer work on LDS Temple research for him. While I was visiting him in his office after a couple of months I ran in to Lamar Barrett. He was a member of a noon time Spanish language class taught by Dr. Cowan that included Donald Q. Cannon, Larry Dahl, Lamar Barrett, and Larry Porter. Lamar Barrett was the head of the Church History Department. Brother Barrett was a friendly and likeable man. He was very interested in what I was doing. He told me that his research assistant was quiting and would I be interested in working for him. He was writing a history of the Armenian Mission. He wanted me to start research on it since he didn't have much time to do much on it.

I was given an office which I shared with Spencer J. Palmer's assistant, Richard Lloyd Anderson's assistant and Truman Madsen's assistant. Bruce Satterfield was one of the assistants and Larry Price was the other but I can't remember who they worked for now. In my office there was a bunch of notebooks on pioneer heritage and some manuscript documents on the Armenian Mission. I came to know names like Jacob Spori, Badwagon Paranian and Joseph W. Booth both early missionary to Armenia. Joseph W. Booth has ten diaries in the Mormon Missionary Diary Collection at BYU. Booth had served three missions in the area in Greece, Turkey and Armenia. I know Lamar Barrett was instrumental in helping them acquire them. He had contacted many of their descendants. They were some of Lamar's favorite people and he would mention them often when he would check up on my library research. He was always enjoying telling people stories about these early missionary pioneers. He and I made trips to the HBLL Library and the Church Archives in Salt Lake City. I made some good connections through Brother Barrett and later with Richard Cowen with Tom Truitt, Jim Kimball, Don Schmidt, Bill Slater, and Glenn Rowe.

He told me about the many years he taught at BYU in the religion department including working in an old quonset hut behind Fletcher Engineering Building. He like to joke that he graduated from the University of Utah. He was great friend with William Bennett who head up the CES.

He had a lot of research completed on the Middle East but was always too busy to sit down and write it. He told me he had too many irons in the fire. I started writing but only wrote twenty or thirty pages. Ilhan Yildiz has a brief paper Missionary Work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Middle East that describes a few of these people. I see that he finally had Blair Van Dyke sit down and write the book using his research. Kelly Odgen helped spruce it up. Now they know there was lot of research done by dozens of graduate assistants also. The book was finally published in 2005 as Holy Lands A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Near East, American Fork, UT.: Covenant Books, 2005.

One day he came in to the office and brought me a copy of his book, Discovering the World of the Bible. He told me about how popular the book was and that to increase sales he had taken off the BYU Press name and it renamed it a subpress called Young House Publishers. It was considered a valuable photographic guide to Israel. He then personally autographed and gave me a copy. He had one of the most extensive photographic collections I ever saw having tens of thousands of slides of church history sites from both the Old and New Worlds. I remember one day someone stole one of his expensive cameras and he asked if I had seen anyone with it. I didn't have anything to do with his office as he had another assistant just for his slides so I said no why. When the campus security cop came he told us there were too many custodians with keys and students going in and out so it would be almost impossible to recover. Even though he was very upset Lamar said if they needed it that bad then they were welcome to it. He never said another word about the camera.

Years after I worked for him he prepared Sacred Places, a series of photographic guides on LDS church history. Alexander Baugh published an interview with him "Making Church History Come Alive." Lamar took out a couple of travel tours when I worked for him. He was a true entrepreneur who actually built up a decent travel industry. He started out working with BYU Travel but developed his own tours later. He said his were the quickest booked tours. He really enjoyed lecturing and teaching as he told me colorful stories that he said only he knew about certain places. His knowledge of the areas he visited was extensive. His favorite place was Israel. He told me he knew the real authentic places to take his LDS travelers. He ended going about fifty times. He was personal friends with many Israeli government officials and along with Truman G. Madsen was involved in helping set up the BYU Jerusalem Center. His contribution were behind the scenes as chairman of the department his people were involved in the negotiations. He had an interest in Israel for many years.

He liked reforming people. We had another guy who came to work for us. The research assistant told me he had been disfellowshipped for collecting anti-Mormon literature but was now again in good standing. He had the guy do some follow up on Russell Rich's masters thesis which dealt with that kind of offshoot stuff. He might have been compiling a bibliography of some sort. Brother Barrett treated him really well. The man turned out to be an okay Church historian. Not too many people especially a BYU religion professor would have have hired someone with prior issues. I even asked him once why he hired the guy. Brother Barrett smiled at me and said I just care about what kind of a person he is now and can he do a good job. In some ways I knew he was also talking about me. He told me when he asked me to work for him that he only hired the best graduate researchers. He even paid us two dollars an hour more than regular BYU student employees. He looked out for his people.

One time he invited me over to his house where he showed me artifacts he collected from religious sites. He told me he personally located the spot where Adam's Altar stood. He had done research on early LDS Church history and when they were excavating Adam-Ondi-Ahman they were digging in the wrong place. He corrected them and a backhoe uncovered a pile of stones. He actually had a piece of the altar, adobe bricks from the Salt Lake Temple, and stones from various other LDS places. He liked collecting artifacts and produced slides from them. His family must have quite a collection. He had a huge library with a specially designed desk. One of his prize possessions was a complete run of the Church News from 1931 to the present. He had all the church magazines with full runs plus hundreds of LDS books on floor to ceiling shelves. There were beautiful orchards outside his house. He had a few fruit trees that he liked to have preserves made from.

He came to my wedding with many of the religion faculty. He was one of the few people that gave me a gift. He was a great man with a ready smile and a happy countenance. He was a man of Zion. A lover of Church History who not only studied it but helped shape it. His students number in the thousands. He was a trusted historian and a friend to the General Authorities as well thousands of students. I will miss him dearly as he departed this world in August 2007.

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