Thursday, August 20, 2009

Joseph Muren and Me

I came across the passing of Joseph Carl Muren on Tim Malone's Costa Rica Mission Reunion blog. Apparently Tim one of my bloggernacle buddies served under him. There is a good biographical piece on 29 July 2009 on Death of President Muren. Joe Muren was one of the exceptional men in the CES that I knew and liked. I was sad to see of his passing at the early age of 73. I expected him to be here on this earth for a much longer time.

Back in the early 1980s when I was working for Richard O. Cowan, one of the employees a Brother Ernst of the Temple Department in Salt Lake City asked Brother Cowan to do some research he claimed for Boyd K. Packer. Since Brother Cowan was blind he depended on me to do the legwork. One time I ran in to Elder Packer coming out of Elder Ballard's office and spoke to him. He said he heard go things about me and the fact I worked for Richard O. Cowan who was trusted by him and brethren spoke well for me. Brother Ernst said that he heard that there was some very sensitive material circulating and that possibly Joe Muren would know about it and how Elder Packer and his department could acquire it.

At the time Joe Muren was working as the institute director at Weber State University. He had just returned from being mission president down in Costa Rica San Jose Mission. I had set up an appointment through Brother Cowen. Brother Muren told me that he and Stephen Stoker, a chemistry professor had compiled a book that the called Into Your Heart Like Fire. The title came from a quote by Harold B. Lee that your testimony has to go down in to your heart like fire. He made a copy of his book and gave it to me. The compilation was statements about testimony.

He also admitted that he and Stoker had acquired a bunch of sensitive temple documents from Fred Collier. One of the highlighted pieces was an address by John Taylor on the Robes of the Priesthood. He agreed if Elder Packer would vouch in writing for me he would give me copies of all the material.

Brother Cowen and I had a second meeting with Brother Ernst. I felt a bit uncomfortable since researching the topic would put me in to a very dangerous position acquiring underground material. Ernest told me that the temple department would pay me about ten dollars an hour for the work. I told Ernest the only way I would continue my project was if he gained me approval from Elder Packer to do the project. Ernest balked at getting the letter that Joe Muren and Stephen Stoker wanted before they would release the documents. The spirit told me that I was not to do it without written permission so I told Brother Ernst that I would not do any more collecting. That ended my unofficial involvement with the the temple department. Brother Cowen and I never heard from Ernest again. I question to this day whether he was acting for Elder Packer or not.

About this same time I had an unpleasant experience with Derrick Metcalf who accused me of copying some materials. I was working with Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi on Proclaiming the Gospel: Spencer W. Kimball on Missionary Work. Elder Kikuchi was letting me use the machine in the temple department where he was assigned to save money since he didn't have much and was a very frugal man. Metcalf didn't realize I was copying missionary material which I got two floors above from the CES's vertical file and was taking down to the copier near Elder Kikuchi's office. At the time I didn't know who Derek Metcalf even was. Tom Valetta and Bruce Van Orden were working as curriculum writers at the time and helping me gain access to the CES files. The only temple material I received was directly from Elder Kikuchi which were brief histories of all the temples to that time which took up about one hundred and fifty pages in a black binder. The binder was behind Elder Kikuchi's secretar's desk. I provided the material to Brother Cowen which was used as research in his book Temple to Dot the Earth. It was mainly historical material such as dedicatory prayers, architect etc.

Apparently Metcalf had some ultra-sensitive material in his office. I didn't even know where Metcalf's office was and I know I never went in there. His son later disseminated sensitive documents and was disciplined by the church so it was a pretty ironic situation. I wonder to this day who really disseminated the material or if it was disseminated at all. Elder Kukuchi lost face because of the accusation and didn't have much to do with me after that time. He was told not to work with me anymore. I was falsely accused by Metcalf. I wonder if Ernst visit was a test of some kind.

I ran into Joe Muren from time to time after that experience at Sperry Symposiums and CES functions. I never received the temple documents but later Fred Collier published some of them in a few volumes. Much of the stuff you could have acquired from Ernest Strack at Grandpa's Bookstore.

I always remember the friendly and pleasant attitude of Joe Muren. He was a serious scholar of church history and would help a colleague. He wasn't like people like Metcalf who were wound tight and saw conspiracies where none existed. Joe Muren could talk about church history topics for hours and never was bored. He found gospel subjects to be fascinating and lived and breath for the joy of a good gospel discussion.

I viewed a class or two of Joe Murren and he was an exceptional teacher. He made the gospel lively and enjoyable. He did it while helping students to learn church history and doctrine. He had a way with his students so that they confided in him. He was a family man who loved his wife and children. He counseled his students and took personal interest in their lives and the lives of his missionaries. I always remember the glow he had and the smile that was always plastered on his face. He loved life and was quick to laugh. He helped me and was always genuinely interested in me from the time he first met me and the five or ten times I would run in to him he would spend a few minutes catching up. Even as a member of the seventy he had time for people and would stop if he recognized you and chat with you. He always had time for his acquaintances and friends.

I wish more of the general authorities were as accessible as Joe Muren. He was good at what he did and had served in the church in many capacities including facilities management and was a credit to the CES. I am going to miss him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind words about my dad, Joseph Muren. He was a sincere man who had a unique understanding and love for people.