Ann N. Madsen has always loved to learn. After living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while her husband Truman pursued his doctorate at Harvard, they returned to Utah for a teaching position at Brigham Young University. This position opened doors for her to expand her personal studies.
“I always wanted to study Hebrew. I loved the Old Testament and wanted to read it in its original language,” she said.
“I took the Bible as Literature from Robert Thomas as a night class, and I came home from that class, needing to learn more—he was such a great teacher, mentor, and wonderful man. He helped the Bible come alive for me; real people, real places, a real creator-God who interacted with them.” At the time, she realized that she truly wanted to learn all about the Old Testament.
After five years at BYU, her husband, Truman, was called to be the President of the New England Mission (which included the entire eastern seaboard and eastern Canada). They happily returned to Cambridge, but this time with their three young children, ages 3 1/2, 5, and 7 years old.
She explained that “after returning from a three-year assignment as President of the New England mission, her husband, Truman, resumed his teaching. With her three children now in school, Ann applied for graduate school to earn a masters degree in Ancient Studies. Five years later, after taking classes during the hours her children were in school, she finished her thesis “Melchizedek the Man, and the Tradition” and graduated from BYU in 1975.
Dean Ellis Rasmussen invited her to join the Ancient Scripture faculty, which she did in 1976, and as she says, “the rest is history.”
After “teaching the Old Testament for several years, my department chair called me in one day and invited me to teach an entire class on Isaiah. In those days, there was only one other Isaiah class being taught,” she explained. Ann got to work creating a full semester course focused on Isaiah, which became her specialty. She has now taught at BYU for more than 40 years and is beloved by her many students. She likes to call herself a “proselyter for Isaiah.”
“I can’t quit yet; I haven’t taught everyone about Isaiah!”
Ann’s goal with each student is for them to develop confidence in studying Isaiah for themselves and believes that “anyone can come to understand and enjoy his teachings if they put forth the effort.”
“My whole theory of teaching Isaiah is that you won’t understand it fully at first reading. Each student has his own set of unique experiences, which inform us each individually. When we pool our individual insights, we teach one another.”
“My view of Isaiah is, that a student needs to engage the metaphors through his own experiences and through the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Anyone who has taken my class will remember my saying, ‘Let the metaphors speak to you.’”
She jokes that some students approach her at the beginning of a semester to say they aren’t sure they know enough to understand Isaiah. She answers: “If you were starting a French class, would you say, ‘I don’t know one word of French’?”
Ann discovered that there were amazing truths in Isaiah being missed because members of the Church skip the Old Testament and the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon.
Ann’s excitement about the project she recently completed with her colleague and friend, Shon Hopkin is palpable. Its title, Opening Isaiah: A Harmony, is meant to be an invitation for the words that are so often skipped. This volume, compares the Book of Isaiah in the King James version of the Bible with the Joseph Smith Translation, Book of Mormon, Dead Sea Scrolls, and New Revised Standard Version, printed in poetry to enable a reader to see the parallel expressions; see sample of Isaiah 48:5 below:
She also released a DVD by the same title,“Opening Isaiah” in 2011. This DVD takes viewers to the Holy Land for a “personal class on Isaiah metaphors and all,” she said.
Isaiah Scholar Skim
- Undergraduate from the University of Utah in Elementary Education with a minor in English
- Masters from Brigham Young University in Ancient Studies with a minor in Hebrew
Sparked focus on Isaiah
- Expanding her Old Testament syllabus one lecture at a time to include additional days focused on Isaiah until it was a full semester’s study.
Isaiah in one sentence
- “There’s no question in my mind that Isaiah was written for our time.”
Memorable Teaching Experiences
- Teaching Isaiah at the BYU Jerusalem Center from a classroom overlooking the city on the Mount of Olives. “I felt that I could be standing precisely where Isaiah spoke overlooking Jerusalem.”
Peers she admires
Books/DVDs/Articles/Chapter by Ann N.Madsen
- “Making Their Own Peace: 12 Women of Jerusalem” (2003)
- “Opening Isaiah” DVD (2011)
- “Opening Isaiah: A Harmony” (2017)
- 14. Melchizedek at Qumran and Nag Hammadi from Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints
- Solomon’s Temple Compared to the Salt Lake Temple from An Eye of Faith