Most Latter-day Saints know about Truman G. Madsen. His Joseph Smith tapes continue to influence the rising generation—and it’s hard to talk about Latter-day Saint theology without mentioning his influence. But his wife, Ann Madsen, is every bit the disciple-scholar that he was. In this interview, she describes the bookend years of their lives—including the three things Truman told her just before he passed away.
Ann Madsen passed away on Wednesday, October 26, 2022.
What kind of a relationship did Ann Madsen have with Spencer W. Kimball?
I grew up two houses away from President Spencer W. Kimball. Even though he was an apostle, I grew up calling him “Brother Kimball.” My father and I would often come out of the house each morning just before President Kimball. He’d come out of his house and call down the street to my father, “Barnard, hold the bus!”
President Kimball helped a young Ann Madsen when her dog died
When I was about 10 years old, I was watching my 7-year-old brother when my parents went out. The last thing my mother said was: “Do not walk up to 21st East to get ice cream at Duffin’s. Do not do that.”
As soon as they left, my brother said, “I think we can go up there. We’d be alright. We only need a nickel for ice cream cones and we’ve got the money. So, should we go?”
And we said, “Sure. Let’s go. We can do it.”
We took Freckles with us—our darling little black-and-white Cocker Spaniel. Now, there are no sidewalks on 13th South, and Freckles was going in and out of the street running and playing with us.
He got hit by a car hard. The guy in the car just left. My brother and I both yelled at the top of our lungs. And Elder Kimball came running across the lot. He said, “I thought something happened to Robert.”
I told him, “It’s our dog.”
Brother Kimball picked up the dog, who was almost as big as he was, and carried her home with us. And then the dog tried to bite him because she was dying.
He put her down and asked, “Where are your parents?”
I said, “They’re out to dinner.”
“We better call them,” he told me.
So, we called them and they came home. That’s when I learned to obey. I loved that dog, and she was gone—all because we made a wrong decision. We made a wrong choice and disobeyed. I mean, if my parents hadn’t given us those instructions, it would be one thing. But they said it, and we didn’t do it. So, that’s one story about Brother Kimball, who was like a father to us.
What role did President Spencer W. Kimball play in Truman and Ann Madsen’s marriage?
He’s the one who made sure we got married. Truman and I came to a place where we had to make some decisions. He’d been away to graduate school at Southern Cal for a year. I was wearing his diamond, but I was also getting tired of waiting.
He was saying, “Well, let’s fast and pray to see if we should get married this summer.”
But my decisions were different depending on when we got married. Should we get married in the summer because I was graduating from the university? And if I graduated, where was I going to teach and what was I going to do?
I remember going up to This Is the Place monument to break our fast and pray. It was quiet and nice.
And we came up with different answers. He thought one thing and I thought the other.
I was so upset. Not because Truman got an answer saying no, but because we didn’t both get the same answer. It felt like I hadn’t been in tune enough, and that the Lord had told Truman the right answer, but I got the wrong one.
I was crying as we drove back. I couldn’t explain it very well. But I tried to tell Truman: “I thought I knew how to pray. I thought I knew what was the right thing to do.”
Just before we got to my house, one of us said, “Let’s go in and talk to Brother Kimball.” So, we knocked on the door. Brother Kimball came to the door in the little house where he lived and he invited us in.
Afterward, I thought, “Oh, he thinks we must have fouled up, that we would come to him like this.” Because both of us knew him very well. But it wasn’t that. It was because we had gotten a different answer.
It took him about five minutes. He started asking Truman questions: “So, tell me, what are the reasons for this? And what are the reasons for that?” Truman started telling him and Brother Kimball stopped him. He said: “Truman, I want you to marry Ann in two weeks. I want you to get married in two weeks.”
Now, both of us would do anything an apostle said to us. So, suddenly, we had the same idea. That’s what we were going to do. I said to Brother Kimball: “I graduate from the university in two weeks. Could you make it three weeks?”
He said, “Yes, but not one day longer.”
And he lectured us not to live with either of our parents. “And if you find you have to,” he said, “Don’t. Come to me. I will give you the money to rent someplace else, because you need to start your marriage together someplace else.” Which we did.
We left and went down to my house. My father and mother were in the kitchen. We walked in. I’d been crying—and I looked like I’d been crying.
Truman said, “We just thought we’d come and tell you that we’re getting married in three weeks.” And my father said, “Well, Truman, it’s about time.”
I remember that so well.
Did Truman ever reconcile his answer about getting married with President Kimball’s counsel?
Oh, yes. It was about four years later—after he’d finished graduate school and received his PhD. We had two children and I was expecting a third. And Truman got an appointment with Brother Kimball.
Truman went in and said, “I just want to tell you, I thought marriage was a shock to begin with. But I also thought I didn’t have much part in it because my dad and I had decided that I needed to be able to graduate and support a wife.”
There was extra gratitude because we were no longer able to have children. He told President Kimball, “Thank you very much. We now have three children that we would never have had if we’d waited four years.”
We were excited and happy, and went on our honeymoon to Southern California to his Aunt Gracie’s cabin at Arrowhead. (We propped open the doors to carry in our luggage and groceries—and let every moth for miles into the house. When we closed the doors, we had attracted hundreds of them.)
So, every night on our honeymoon, Truman would spend the time right after dinner killing moths. And I’d hear him in the room.
It was so romantic. We were reading a book that week about George Gershwin (it was a really good one too). But we’d read for a while, and then Truman would say, “I’ll go get the moths now.” And he’d kill them.
In the middle of that we got a call. We didn’t have cellphones in those days, so if you got a call, you knew it was important—someone had died or someone had been born or something.
It was Truman’s father, saying: “You’ve got a letter here from Harvard. Do you want me to open it?”
This was the second time that Truman applied at Harvard. He didn’t get in on the first try because his grades weren’t very good before his mission. But the second time, after he’d been at Southern Cal, he got straight A’s and won a $1,000 prize for an essay competition (we were so excited about that).
Truman’s dad opened the letter and said, “You’re accepted at Harvard.” And we jumped up and down, packed our clothes, left the moths, and drove back, and decided we’d finish our honeymoon driving to our new home in Boston.
How did Truman and Ann Madsen pay for college at Cambridge?
During the summers we’d go home and work while our families watched the kids. And we came home from college debt free. We also had to sell our furniture to get the gas to come home. (I was so sad to sell my rocking chair. It was a little antique that I sold for $5, and I had used it to rock my babies.)
What did Truman Madsen tell his wife before he passed away?
When Truman was dying and I knew only a miracle would save him, that was probably the darkest time in my life. And I’ve been tried since in lots of ways that I never would have if he were still alive. But when he was dying, I turned completely to God. I was talking to Him all the time about everything.
I made myself the CEO of Truman’s medical problems: every new pain he had, every new medication they prescribed—I looked it up online and made sure it was okay for him to take with the others (because he was taking lots of medications).
One day the doctors came in and said that there really was nothing more they could do. Cancer was everywhere. He had tumors in his stomach that were going around his intestines. There wasn’t any operation or anything that could do him any good. They could only try to make him comfortable.
I remember Truman talking to me when he was very cogent and wide awake and able to feel the pain. He said there are three things that you’ve got to remember—and it wasn’t “we,” it was “me.”
He was giving me my marching orders. (I found this piece of paper the other day):
1. Remain strong
The first thing he said is that the relationships in our family have got to remain strong. And I realized that his family is strong. There’s nobody that doesn’t like anybody. All of the brothers and sisters, the grandchildren—everybody gets along beautifully.
And then immediately I felt the Spirit say, “Yes, but he’s been the one monitoring and making sure that happens. Now, you need to be the one.”
2. One in love
The second thing was that we needed to be one in love. That means that even if relationships deteriorate, we need to love each other. We need to keep loving and forgiving and being kind.
3. Live separately
The third thing he said: “You and I need to figure out how to live separately.” That one was immediate. We needed to figure it out now because we were going to be living separately. And I just didn’t think that was possible. We had gotten so close through 60 years of marriage that I just couldn’t even imagine.
I said to him, “I won’t be able to do that, Truman. There’s no way that I can adjust to that.”
And he said, “Yes, there is. You’ll be fine.”
So, he gave me those three things to do. I went out into the hall and sat in a chair just outside the door. “Heavenly Father,” I said. “I’ve used every research skill I have to try to help him have a miracle. So now, help me to maintain a warm nest where he can die peacefully and help everybody in our household to make that place wonderful.”
And that’s why our house is a holy place to me. It’s sacred.
- Who Was Truman Madsen?
- The Biography of Truman G. Madsen
- Ann Madsen Reflects on Isaiah, Jehovah, and the Temple
- Rev. Andrew Teal Finds Christ in Suffering
- Temples Rising: A Heritage of Sacrifice
- Finding Christ in 3rd Nephi and 4th Nephi
Ann Madsen talks and articles
- Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee (BYU Women’s Conference, PDF)
- Joseph Smith Through the Eyes of Those Who Knew Him Best (BYU-Hawaii)
- Differences . . . “Allow All Men the Same Privilege” (BYU Speeches)
- “What Beholdest Thou?” (BYU-Idaho)
- The Healing and Exalting Powers of Christ Weave Together at Easter (Interpreter Foundation)