Home / Testimonies / Gary Gillum

It was never my intention, dream, desire, or plan to become a scholar, much less a Mormon scholar. Or even a Mormon, for that matter. During my seventh and last year of ministerial studies for the Lutheran Church, I found myself floundering in both a Biblical Theology class and a Philosophy class, where I was embarrassed to confess to the professors of both that I couldn’t grasp either subject: that I felt like a farm boy who was just learning to read. I simply wanted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and serve Him and my fellow man, leaving the intellectual ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ discussions to those so inclined. I managed to complete my BA in Ministerial Studies, Classics, and Choral Music, and then felt impressed to cease my studies. I went so far as to sign up for the Army, not even fearing that I could be sent to Vietnam. It wasn’t to be, however, but within one hour after being given the word that I had flunked the physical, I was on my way to becoming an Academic Librarian for my life’s career: a lifetime of diversity and variety in work, play, music, and family.

As I blossomed in librarianship, my research interests became polymathic and broad-ranging. My insatiable spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical curiosity embraced anything and everything in and out of time and space. I was eventually called a ‘quintessential scholar-librarian’, truth-seeker, missionary of the mind, wisdomologist, and knowledge navigator, who looked for truth wherever I could find it, and I often felt spiritual serendipity operating in my life, which only the promptings of the Spirit could provide. The greatest adventure in the Gospel is following the surprises the Spirit often gives us—not those invented from our own faulty wills and worldly dreams.

All knowledge became an open canon for me. There are no boundaries. Our latter-day prophets, from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson, have encouraged the Saints to seek and embrace truth wherever they can find it. I have always been an arch-proponent of this principle. I like to think that I embrace a ‘big picture’ or ‘high altitude’ perspective and am not beholden to any one narrow, scholarly methodology. Just as a closed canon of scripture is faulty, so also are closed canons in academic systems. Add to this the more common limitations of superstition, pride, prejudice, ignorance, traditions, academic gamesmanship, and ego and one wonders if anything can be known for certain. But the following statements of testimony come close.

Despite the judgments of others who would prefer me not to believe in Christ if I am other than ‘Christian,’ I do affirm my belief in Jesus Christ as my Redeemer and Savior, who sacrificed His life to atone for my sins, and who, as the living Son of God, made it possible for all who believe in Him to be resurrected and live forever.

I did not leave my previous Church—it left me. Its mythological interpretations of the flood, Jonah, and other Biblical stories, plus excessive ecclesiocentrism (rather than Christocentrism), and theologolatry (or Churchianity), left me out in the cold. I sought a vibrant, warm, living, and forward-moving vehicle for my faith in God, not a still, cool, dead, idling vehicle.

I affirm that “Christianity’s” doctrine of the depravity of man (thanks to St. Augustine) has gone so far afield from truth that it is an abominable, blasphemous teaching in the eyes of the Lord, for it effectively shuts out the fact that we are all created in God’s image. I quickly learned that we should behave as children of God instead of muttering and complaining our whole life through that we are worms and sinners and cannot do anything without the Lord. But neither can the Lord do anything about us without our freedom of choice. Living in the spirit, full of faith, hope, and charity is a cooperative effort between God and man. God is too small if He only created a situation where all men would become good-for-nothing “worms.” Indeed, Jesus could never have said to his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

I affirm that my mission on this earth now and in the future is to cry repentance to the people of this earth—not just to those who think they are sinful and those who are truly sinful, but to every man and woman. Repentance, like perfection, is on-going and dynamic. Repentance literally means ‘change of mind,’ and as we grow upward in faith our outlook and perspective on everything should change our life’s patterns to emulate God’s. We clean our closets, so to speak, and replace old habits with new and receive personal revelation for directing our personal lives.

I believe in a first-hand, personal communication with Heavenly Father, not by way of a second-hand witness of such from a pastor, priest, rabbi, or shaman or as a result of long traditions. A believer must pray with sincerity and real intent in his heart. That act of sincere prayer can change the entire course of his life, as it did mine. No one can complain about my religion or pretend to know it thoroughly until he has received an answer from God through the Holy Spirit.

The truth found in the Church is not to be finally judged through its members as a body, for the organization is administered by imperfect people. Rather, the Church is and will be judged by its pure doctrine and dynamic theology, whose Prophets, Seers, and Revelators seek to be in harmony with the word of God and true personal revelation.

I affirm that I now know the difference between the beauties, choirs, music, organs, art, cathedrals, and liturgy constituting religious aesthetics and the truth, warmth, joy, comfort, inner light, and radiance of true spirituality. While aesthetics can lead to the spiritual, they can never substitute for spirituality.

I affirm, as did my close friend Ron Eddington, who died July 2, 1978, that “death is the most glorious part of life.” Just as we “died” when we left the pre-existence, so we were born into this life. Contemplation of death can bring us closer to a proper perspective of the vast eternal plan and of everlasting life with Our Father. I believe, further, however, that following the resurrection we will be assigned (we will actually have assigned ourselves by the lives we have led) to our future mansion or level of existence, depending upon our faithfulness to Christ’s teachings and the degree to which we overcome weaknesses and trials.

I affirm that trials, tribulations, sorrow, suffering, and temptations are not punishments from God because of our sin, but experiences to be learned from and tested with so that we may grow closer in trust and faith to God and be able to live with Him eternally. In other words, lack of trials in my own life could point to a lessening or stalemate of my faith and spirituality. But there has been no lack in my own life. Losing two wives from cancer and eventually becoming a father of seventeen children and grandfather of 69-plus grandchildren has resulted in my becoming a true scholar of family, borne of experience, not book-learning.

Being of sound and open mind and spirit, fully enjoying the life my Creator has blessed me with, gratefully accepting the free grace a loving Savior Jesus Christ has proffered me and blissfully receiving the sanctifying power, revelation, comfort, and counsel the Holy Ghost has brought to me, I hereby solemnly and reverently pray for and pity anyone who believes that I have been brainwashed or deluded. I have embraced a faith which has been offered me by a living God through his Holy Spirit, through the living prophets since the world began, and through the written (Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and any other new, true records given in the future by the Lord) and living, revealed words of God, regardless of the dispensation or time of their origin or their means of coming to the Lord’s people.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and the Gospel of Jesus Christ which it teaches)—more than any other spiritual or secular organization I have ever studied—makes it possible for me personally to achieve my highest spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional eternal potential, thanks to the abundant grace of my Father in Heaven, the atonement and teachings of my redeemer Jesus Christ, the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost, and the love and service of my fellow Latter-day Saints. I will continue to seek His will (though not always obeying it because of my imperfect nature) and to strengthen my witness of His reality, His blessings to me, and the fulness of the truth, however it may come. This is my testimony, as clearly as I can share it.

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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES:
Academic librarian at Brigham Young University for 38 years, with over 15 subject specialties assigned to me at various times.

Phi Kappa Phi member; Professional Librarian Award for 2006; member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Theological Library Association, Mormon History Association, Mountain Plains Library Association.

Editor, indexer and bibliographer for over 100 works.

Scholarly reviewer of over 60 books for Library Journal, BYU Studies and other journals.

Library assistant to Hugh Nibley for over 30 years; teacher of Honors Nibley classes for 5 years; indexer and editor of several of Nibley’s collected works; bibliographer and archivist of his papers following his death in 2005.

Member of review board for the Oxford Biblical Studies online (2009).

California Anaheim Mission (2009-2010) Vehicle Coordinator over sixty-five cars and Supplies officer for materials in fifty-four languages.

Bass singer for eighteen years in the Utah Baroque Ensemble; business manager for the Utah Valley Symphony; baritone in the Orange County Mormon Choral Organization.

Father of seventeen children from a blended family, with a resulting sixty-nine-plus grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Posted March 2010