Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Brigham D. Madsen (1914-2010)

Brigham D. Madsen (1914-2010)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 25, 2010

Brig Madsen, Western historian, professor of history and one-time vice president of the University of Utah, author of at least eight books and editor of several more, passed away on Christmas Eve, 2010.

His award-winning books include Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor, North to Montana! Jehus, Bullwhackers, and Mule Skinners on the Montana Trail, The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre, Studies of the Book of Mormon, and his autobiography, Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Western Historian.

Best known among Bloggernaclers as one of the so-called Swearing Elders, Madsen served a mission in the Eastern States in 1934-36, later becoming a religious skeptic if not an outright disbeliever, but retaining a lively interest in Mormon theology and practices. “Some people are able to compartmentalize logic and reason from supernatural and spiritual beliefs. I do not have that facility,” he wrote. “I do not criticize the compartmentalizers. Many of them are highly intelligent and, in other respects, have high criteria for truth; I, however, … cannot surrender my independence and rationality to such a process but must follow the road where reason and evidence take me. I have only my mind and its tools to reveal reality to me. … I cannot deny myself the opportunity of venturing into the unknown where there may be a God with ‘body, parts, and passions’ or, more likely, nothing but this temporal life where all of us should be helping each other in the ‘pursuit of happiness’ toward a good life in the present.”

An idea of the breadth of his interests and experiences can be found by a quick perusal of the finding aid for his papers held by the University of Utah.

No funeral will be held. I will link to a formal obituary when one becomes available.



  1. Thanks for this, Ardis.

    Comment by Chris H. — December 25, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  2. Thanks for this, Ardis. I was just reading an essay of his last night…

    Comment by Mina — December 25, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  3. This is too bad. Madsen was writing Indian history before it was really popular. His book on the Shoshonis and the Bear River Massacre remains the work on the subject. He’ll be missed.

    Comment by David G. — December 25, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

  4. Thanks, Ardis.

    Comment by Jared T. — December 25, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

  5. He was always kind and encouraging to me as a graduate student at the “U”.RIP, Dr. Madsen.

    Comment by MARJORIE CONDER — December 25, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

  6. Brig’s obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 29, 2010 @ 9:57 am