Monday, May 26, 2008

Keith Meservy

Keith Hansen Meservy, one of the kindest and nicest men that I knew from my day's in the BYU Religion Department recently passed away on the 27 April 2008 after a fight with leukema. He was born in 4 Dec 1924 in Provo, Utah, to Edward Southwick Meservy and Lucille Hansen. He attended Provo schools, graduating from Provo High School. He enlisted as a private in the army on 11 Sep 1943 in Salt Lake City. I remember he had a picture of himself in uniform on one of his bookshelves in his office.

I knew Brother Meservy because I took a religion class and a Hebrew Class from him during the late 1970s. I spoke with him many times over the years up until I left there in August 1987.

I was perusing the bloggernacle and I discovered a blog written by Keven Crenshaw called a Personal Tribute to Keith Meservy that spoke about his recent death. Crenshaw's sister is married to his son Mark. Crenshaw said about him that "His quiet, encouraging manner and careful attention to spiritual things left their mark on me."

I know how Crenshaw feels I spent many a pleasant day in Meservy's office talking to him on different religious issues. He would bring out some details to some interesting details in the Old or New Testament. He and I had a chat about Elijah were I was able to show that at the very day and hour that the Jews were expecting him he came to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple if you consider that the seder actually is celebrated a day later here in diaspora. I passed that on to Dr. Cowan who expanded on it in his writings. Brother Meservy was talking about the Jews and Diaspora when I put the two together. Later Dr. Cowan and I spruced up the concept Meservy got a kick out the fact that we put it together just by his going on about what the Jews do in Disapora. Some of the faculty actually used to get together at the Madsens for a seder meal I think that was how it even came up.

He used to have a passion for Hebrew and he would say little phrases to me and others like David Seeley and Richard Holzapfel I met Meservy's son Mike who went with his dad on one of his trips to Israel. Keith used to be like Lamar Berrett and take out travel tours to Eygpt and Israel. At one point he was the chairman over Ancient Scripture while my boss Lamar Berrett was the chair over Church History. Keith was chair right before George Horton. The two men Brothers Barrett and Meservy took out travel study groups during the year. I remember Brother Meservy telling me about some of his trips and occasionally showing me some of his slides.

I took his famous Hebrew class in Fall 1977 with Dave Seeley, Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Jenny Holzapfel (engaged at time I don't remember her maiden name but she was cute with braces at the time), me, and Margaret Potter (Toscano). There might have been one other person in the class but I don't remember who it is anymore, it could have been one of the Madsen kids. The four of us in Winter 1978 took Margaret who taught Greek and had an office in the Talmage building right above where the class was held. She was dating Seeley at the time. It was before he went out with George Horton's daughter. I thought Hebrew was tough well Margaret's class was even tougher. Kevin Barney the famous LDS blogger and a lawyer also took Brother Meservy's class in a different year. Barney graduated in 1982 in classics from BYU. I believe he copublished an article in Dialog with him.

I remember many days walking with Brother Meservy from the Religion Building after my Religion 421 class to our class in the Talmage Building. He would joke with me about being a returned missionary and dating.

Russell B. Swenson and Sidney B. Sperry 1943

One day he told me how he was inspired to teach Hebrew by the example of one of his own professors Sidney B. Sperry. Brother Meservy related how he knew him in an issue of Book of Mormon Studies:

"In 1932 Brother Sperry began teaching at Brigham Young University. It was here that Robert Patch began his association with him. Visiting Utah for the centennial celebrations in 1947, Brother Patch was walking by Brother Sperry’s office when he was invited in to visit, whereupon Brother Sperry hired him on the spot, about the same time that he hired Reid Bankhead and Calvin Bartholomew. For the better part of three years, Brother Sperry was their Hebrew teacher. Brother Patch recalls that Brother Sperry was a major influence in their study of the scriptures. One colleague asked him if he believed in what he was writing, and he answered, “Categorically affirmative.”

Keith Meservy met Brother Sperry a year later, in 1948, upon returning from his mission. He recalls that when he needed a class in biblical Aramaic, Brother Sperry willingly agreed to teach him one on one, since there were no other students. He remembers that Brother Sperry was an organist for the Provo Fourth Ward (having been one of the last students of John J. McClellan, organist at the Salt Lake Tabernacle) and that he had been a boxer in his younger days. Brother Meservy tells an interesting story about a race sponsored in Provo for a course from Provo to Manti via Nephi and back. The object of the race was to use the least amount of gas, and Brother Sperry in his Volkswagen won this race at least twice.

Brother Meservy has a favorite anecdote concerning Brother Sperry’s writing habits. He reports, “One day when I went into his office to see him, I found him working on one of his books. He had a pile of papers neatly stacked on the right side of his desk. Each sheet was written in long hand. When I learned that this was the manuscript of his next book, I looked in amazement at the unruffled stack of papers lying there. (In those precomputer days, I not only typed out whatever I wrote, but also double-spaced it to make sure I had enough room to make corrections. Handwriting anything, knowing that it would all have to be rewritten, was too laborious and time consuming a way to write to my way of thinking.

The thought of writing a whole book by this process amazed me.) When I made an observation to this effect, he chuckled and noted that a friend of his had recognized his lifelong disposition to write well-composed paragraphs by nicknaming him ‘One-Write Sperry.’" Sperry passed his skills on to guys like Richard Cowan and Keith Meservy.

Sidney B. Sperry in his Book of Mormon Compendium thanked Keith Meservy for the help he gave him in reappraising the Book of Mormon:

"I am indebted to two of my former Hebrew students, Dr. Ellis T. Rasmussen and Professor Keith H. Meservy, now my colleagues in the College of Religious Instruction of Brigham Young University, for looking over my work on the Isaiah text in the Book of Mormon and for offering helpful criticisms and suggestions, a number of which I have adopted. They are not, however, to be held responsible for any errors, or slips in the interpretation of the Isaiah chapters which may be found in this book. I am hopeful that my work on Isaiah will, in a measure, help to bring about the fulfillment of one of Nephi's prophecies that in the latter days men shall understand Isaiah's words. (2 Nephi 25:8.)

In this volume I have reversed my views, held many years ago, that the Hill Cumorah, around which the last great battles of the Nephites and Jaredites took place, was in the State of New York. The book of Mormon data are very clear and show quite conclusively that the Hill (Ramah to the Jaredites) was in the land of Desolation, somewhere in Middle America. I have summed up my arguments and conclusions in connection with the discussion of Mormon Chapter 6. My conclusions have been tested in a number of classes of graduate students who were challenged to demonstrate their falsity. Up to the present time, no one has done so. The Hill Cumorah in New York, from which the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the Nephite plates, may have been so named by Moroni in commemoration of the Cumorah in the land of Desolation, around which his father and fellow Nephites lost their lives in their last struggles with the Lamanites."

We used a large grey or silver Hebrew text in his Hebrew class. In fact I still had that book and my wife BiV used it to self-teach herself Hebrew years later when she worked with some Jewish scholar on a mechanical translation of Isaiah. I'm sure Brother Meservy would get a kick out of that. I remember how we all labored so hard in his class to learn how to point the vowels. I remember the joy he had in reading to us the Old Testament brief passages and our going over them again and again. He liked saying the word for king mulek as we read passages from Isaiah. I remember I almost dropped the class because it was a pretty tedious class and I wasn't sure I would pass. Holzapfel told me not to sweat it and he would pass me no matter what if I tried hard. Sure enough I pass the class. Back then I thought I would be the next Hugh Nibley and taking Keith Meservy's class was on my path to getting a degree in religion. The funny thing was when Duke accepted me later I couldn't afford to go and pursued a different field for my doctorate.

Keith Meservy had a love for learning and was especially good at languages. He was in study group with Larry Porter, Don Cannon, LaMarr Berrett, Richard O. Cowan, Larry Dahl, and occasionally Truman and Ann Madsen who studied Spanish on their lunch hours for over twenty years. I believe they might have allowed David Boone Flake and Bruce Van Orden to join them on occasion in the later years. I believe Keith had also conducted a Hebrew class for the group during their many years of studying together. Members of the group with bring a brown bag lunch and would meet in one of the professor's offices as they munched and learned in a very casual atmosphere.

I remember another of his sons was in my ward when I lived up in Palymra Bean Packer and Thane Packer's basement on Sego Lane which I think was in the Pleasant View 3rd Ward. His wife might have even been related to Palymra who was also a Bean. I remember that Merrill Bateman lived in the same ward as did Barney and Mindy Madsen, the children of Ann and Truman Madsen. Barney was the elder's quorum instructor and gave some good lessons. He ended up going to Law School.

Brother Meservy and his wife Arlene had four children: Mike (Sally Oxborrow, dec.), Marcia (Dan Wheeler, the fisherman), Mark (Jileen Crenshaw,) and Lynda (Greg Schaelling), twenty grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

I remember Keith son Mark looked a lot like him and was kind of a mellow guy. He had a great sense of humor like his dad which was on the dry side. He might have married one of our home evening sisters I can't remember but he was in my home evening group when I attended the local ward for about a year. I liked some girl that ended up marrying Bateman's son but she was a challenge at the time as I drove her mad. I think the kid was on a mission so that was why I could tease her so mercilessly. I remember seeing Brother Meservy occasionally on Sunday. He liked to wear this grey sports coat with elbow pads. I always thought he looked like the absent-minded professor with those metal glasses and his gray hair blown all over with that preppy coat. On Sunday he sometimes wore a pin-stripe suit but I remember that one particular sports coat that he liked so well.

An example of Keith Meservy's humor was provided by Gary Begera in his BYU: A House of Faith:

Eight months later in May 1974, religion professor Keith Meservy gave some of his classes copies of a parody attacking not only evolutionary theory but biologists in particular. Written by Kent Peterson and entitled, "The First Book of Moses Called Genesis," Meservy's handout read, in part:

But God did look down from his heaven, and did speak with anger; saying: "Is this the man to rule the earth? A monkey's brother? A half ape? Lucifer, Son of the Morning, what mischief thou hast wrought upon my world!" . . . And he spake a curse upon the ape-man, and upon all his seed forever, "Behold, upon thee shall I set a mark, and all men shall know thee by thy speech, and ye shall use great words for small things, great Latin words for tiny creatures, and this is thy mark and thy curse. And ye shall be called biologists, which is to say, those who know much, and understand nothing."

Keith Meservy joined the Ancient Scripture faculty in 1958. Brother Meservy received his B.A. in 1951 from BYU and his M.A. in 1966 from Johns Hopkins University. He is an acknowledged scholar in Old and New Testament studies. Brother Meservy served on the Gospel Curriculum Committee for many years that was head up by Richard O. Cowan. I remember his giving Brother Cowan some drafts for Sunday School lessons when I worked for him as his research assistant during the 1980s. Brother Meservy was also a member of the bishopric of the Pleasant View Third Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake. He taught on occasional class up until about six years ago but was an emeritus faculty member in Ancient Scripture since the early 1990s.

In the Daily Herald Obituary it said that the family preferred contributions to the Perpetual Education Fund which is something that Brother Meservy would have approved of.

List of Church Publications
1.Ezekiel’s Sticks and the Gathering of Israel

Keith Meservy Ensign February 1987 Many critics have long frowned upon the Latter-day Saint interpretation of sticks in Ezekiel’s prophecy as two books of scripture—the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

2.The Peaceful Life through Reconciliation: Five Stories from the Old Testament

Keith Meservy Ensign July 1986 As we seek to develop a Godlike quality in our lives, we daily come into contact with conflict—conflict within ourselves and conflict with our fellowmen.

3.Life in Ancient Biblical Lands

John M. Lundquist

John M. Lundquist Ensign December 1981 Israel—ever-changing, yet timeless. Indeed, some of Israel’s scenes have succumbed to time and history; yet others have remained constant and are as familiar to modern inhabitants as they were to the

4.“This Day Is This Scripture Fulfilled”

Keith Meservy Ensign April 1987 We anchor our faith with the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, or in other words, the Messiah.

5.Four Accounts of the Creation

Keith Meservy Ensign January 1986 All authentic accounts of the earth’s origins have a single source—the Creator of all things, whose explanations come to us through prophets.

6.Jerusalem at the Time of Lehi and Jeremiah

Keith H. Meservy Ensign January 1988 Lehi abandoned the doomed city of Jerusalem in the first year of Zedekiah’s eleven-year reign.

7.I Have a Question

Ensign October 1973 Richard Lloyd Anderson 03036_000_010 I Have a Question Ensign Oct. 1973 28 What Old Testament books are most quoted by the Savior? Richard Lloyd Anderson : Jesus showed impressive ability both to use the Old Testament and to

8.I Have a Question

Keith H. Meservy 03041_000_017 I Have a Question Ensign Feb. 1974 38–39 What have our authorities said about the account in Joshua 10:12–14 about the sun standing still? Keith H. Meservy Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University In his book Evidences and Reconciliations (Bookcraft, Inc., 1960), pp. 129–30, John A. Widtsoe says that: “A miracle is an occurrence which, first, cannot be repeated at will by man, or, second, is not understood in its cause and effect relationship.” If it is repeatable at will by man or explainable t...

9.LORD = Jehovah

Keith H. Meservy Ensign June 2002 We are frequently told that Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament (see Bible Dictionary, “Jehovah,” 710–11). Keith H. Meservy is an emeritus professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and a member of the Pleasant View Third Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake.

10.Ezekiel, Prophet of Hope

Keith H. Meservy Ensign September 1990 Ezekiel lived at the close of an age.

11.I Have a Question

No doubt there were many others who, under the direction of the Lord, could have done that work; but the Lord selected the one that pleased him, and that is sufficient.” 15 Keith H. Meservy 92904_000_029 I Have a Question Ensign Apr. 1992 60–61 What does the phrase “blood on one’s head or on one’s garment” mean? Keith H. Meservy , professor emeritus of ancient scripture at BYU, a member of a Church writing committee, and a member of the bishopric of the Pleasant View Third Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake.


Bored in Vernal said...

BiV, Kevin Barney here; can you pass this on to your husband? I wasn't able to post it on his blog directly.

Thank you so much for posting this notice; I was not aware until just reading it that Keith had passed away.

As you note, I took Keith's Biblical Hebrew course in the Fall of 1980. I had a conflict for the next semester, but I had a friend in the class, so every Saturday I would meet with my friend and keep up that way. Keith's class was my only formal training in Hebrew, but his teaching was so good that with only that formal training I was still able to teach a Biblical Hebrew class for my local institute twice.

The large gray text book you mention would have been Thomas Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, which was also the text used in my class. When I later taught my own class, I wanted to use that same book but by then it was extremely expensive, so I used Page Kelly instead.

It was fun for me to read about your Hebrew class; I would later be good friends with Dave Seely (we were both in classics) and some of the other names you mention I knew at the time even though they were a little ahead of my time.

--Kevin Barney

Anonymous said...

Kevin thanks for your post about my dad. Don't know how this will work but I am going to try to give you a list we have compiled of the things he has published.

1 1984 B Studies in Scripture Vol 1 (The Doctrine and Covenants) New Testament Items in the Doctrine and Covenants
2 1985 B Studies in Scripture Vol 3 (Genesis to 2 Samuel) The Good News of Moses
3 1986 B Studies in Scripture Vol 5 (The Gospels) The Worth of a Soul
4 1987 B The New Testament and the Latter-day Saints Jesus and Josephus Told of the Distruction of Jerusalem
5 1988 B A Sure Foundation (Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions) Did Ezekial's Prophecy about two "sticks" foretell Book of Mormon
6 1989 B The Pearl of Great Price (Revelations From God) Gaddiantonism and the Destruction of Jerusalem
7 1992 B Encyclopedia of Mormonism Vol 1 Bibilical Prophecies about the Book of Mormon
8 1992 B Encyclopedia of Mormonism Vol 2 Elohim
9 1993 B Studies in Scripture Vol 4 (1 Kings to Malachi) God is with US
10 2003 B Book of Mormon Reference Companion Various Topics

11 1965 M The Instructor -- March Few Are Chosen
12 1966 M The Instructor -- October Unto a Perfect Man
13 1968 M The Instructor -- August Missing Scriptures of Old Testament Times

14 1973 M Ensign Book Review: A Plainer Translation
15 1973 M Ensign -- October Questions
16 1974 M Ensign -- February Question: Blood on ones head or garments
17 1977 M Ensign -- September Ezekiel 'Sticks'
18 1986 M Ensign -- January Four Accounts of the Creation
19 1986 M Ensign -- July The Peaceful Life Through Reconciliation: Five Stories from the Old Testament
20 1987 M Ensign -- February Ezekiel Sticks and the Gathering of Israel
21 1987 M Ensign -- April This Day Is This Scripture Fulfilled
22 1990 M Ensign -- September Ezekial, Prophet of Hope
23 2002 M Ensign -- June Question: Lord = Jehovah

24 1978 S Sidney Sperry Symposium Job: Yet will I Trust in Him
25 1978 S RES CES Book of Mormon Symposium The Writing Boards of Ezekiel and What They Mean
26 1978 S SEHA Newsletter -- November Discoveries at Nimrud and the Sticks of Ezekiel 37
27 1979 S RES CES Science and Religion, The So-Called Modernist Controversy
28 1979 S RES CES Evolution and the Origin of Adam
29 1983 S RES CES 7th Annual The Old Testament, The Higher Critics, and the Korihor Syndrome

30 1950 Paper -- Undergraduate A Study of Ante-diluvian Apostasy
31 1974 Paper -- Proposal for Gospel Doctrine Lesson It's What We Are and Not What We Used to BE
32 1990 Retirement Retirement Speech
33 2008 Lessons from the Scriptures A Conversation with Keith H. Meservy

Again we appreciate your kind words. I have just gone through the process of tracking all these things down and now have a master copy of them all. Is a pretty nice compilation. . . .


Mike M.

John/Dad Naomi/Mom said...

Thank you for this very nice tribute to my brother Keith. I am his youngest sister and he teased me about being his "best brother". He was right because he was my only one. He was always good to me but older sisters got lots of teasing. I knew he wrote for the church and remember reading his articles but I was surprised by this list Mike complied. T
Thanks, Naomi Meservy Riding