The four-year-old was lying comatose and at death’s door with pneumonia. The doctors had given up hope when his mother promised Heavenly Father that if
her son was saved, she would do all she could to see that he served the
“It was at that tender age that I received a witness
of the truthfulness of the gospel,” recalled Elder John M. Madsen, of Seventy, during an interviw with a reporter from the Ensign. “I had been in a coma for two days, and the moment my father put his hands on my head to give me a blessing, I became conscious.”
John Max Madsen was born April 24, 1939 in Washington, D.C. to Louis L. Madsen and his wife, Edith Louise Gunderson. His father was employed by the United States Department of Agriculture and raised the family in a faithful Latter-day Saint home. They remained in the area around Washington until John reached the age of six. At that time his father was transferred to a position with the Utah State University in Logan. Still later, after his father had risen to the position of President of USU, the family moved again, this time to Pullman, Washington, so that his father could accept the position of Dean of the Institute of Agriculture and Applied Sciences at Washington State University.
Being raised in a faithful LDS home, John was baptized as a child and received the Aaronic Priesthood as a youth. John recalled a life-changing experience he had as a youth. "My father, then president of Utah State University, was invited to attend the
funeral in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. I accompanied him," Elder Madsen reflected. "That was the first time I saw President McKay, who presided and spoke at the funeral. I will
never forget the feeling I had as I listened to President McKay speak. At the conclusion of
the funeral, I hurried down the side of the building, where I thought the Brethren might exit
the Tabernacle behind President Smith's coffin. I remember looking up and seeing the prophet
and all the Brethren passing before me. I have never wondered since that important day
whether or not we were led by living prophets. I have found wonderful blessings in being
obedient to the voice of the Lord's servants. I have loved their words and have tried always to be obedient to their counsel."
Some time later, after his family had moved to Pullman, Washington, John was introduced to the Seminary Program of the Church. He explianed, "Dale T. Tingey, whom I had never before seen, came into my Sunday School class the day before I was to begin my junior year in high school," Elder Madsen recalled. "Brother Tingey announced to us that we were going to have Seminary. I had never heard of the program and didn't know what was involved, but on Monday morning my sister Patricia and I attended our first early morning Seminary class with Brother Tingey. For the next two years, I never missed a day. It was during those early morning Seminary classes that my personal testimony was strengthened, and I decided that I was going to serve a full-time mission, marry in the temple and serve the Lord throughout my life." Brother Tingey's influence would return years after John graduated from Seminary.
It was as a sixteen-year-old attending Seminary in Pullman Washington that John met his future wife, Diane Dursteler. "She was the younger sister of my seminary teacher's wife and was visiting in Washington during spring break at her high school in Ogden, Utah. I was 16; she was 15. Eight years later, on Aug. 16, 1963, we were married in the Salt Lake Temple." They would have six children, one of whom died at birth.
John's earlier life-threatening bout with pneumonia notwitstanding, John was an all around atlete in high school, playing in football, basketball, and baseball, and competing in track and swimming. He continued to improve his athletic prowerness in college through his sophomore year and earned a scholarship in football. But then the test came... in the form of a letter from President David O. McKay extending a mission call to the North Central States. Without hesitation John informed his football coach that college would have to wait.
Elder Madsen served a mission in the North Central States from 1959-61 before returning to college. Elder Madsen graduated from Washington State University
with a major in zoology and a minor in chemistry. Meanwhile in 1963 he and Diane were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
Originally, the Madsens planned to head for dental school after graduation. But at this point his old Seminary teacher, Brother Dale Tingey re-entered John's life. Elder Madsen explained, "I received a telephone call from Joe J. Christensen, who was then institute director in Moscow, Idaho, which is about eight miles from Pullman. He told me Brother Tingey had become ill while returning from Canada and had stopped in Moscow. Brother Christensen asked if I could assist in giving Brother Tingey a blessing.
"After we administered to Brother Tingey, he asked me what I was going to do next year. I told him I was intending to go to dental school, to which he responded: "What are you going to do that for? . . . You come do the work of the Lord.' As a result of the feeling I had at that moment, I knew that I was going to work with the youth of the Church." Elder Madsen then began his career as a teacher in the Church Educational System. But then the test came again. Only two weeks after accepting emploment as a Seminnary Teacher, John received a telephone call offering him a job with a four-fold increase in his salary. But the course was set; the decision made; and the answer given even before hanging up the phone. And instead of going to dental school, he took his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Education from Brigham Young University. His next thirty years would be as an employee of the Church Education System.
John's service to the Lord was not only as a professional with the C.E.S. Along the way, he served in a variety of positions with ever increasing responsibility. He taught in several auxillaries, served as Stake Sunday School President, Stake Mission President, Bishop, Regional Representative, and after serving in several Church General committees, also served on the General Boards of the Young Men and the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA.
In 1968 he was sent to England to introduce the Seminary program to the British Isles. While there, he accepted the call to return to full-time church service as President of the England Bristol Mission. It would not be his last stint in full-time service on the ecclesiastical side, as he was called into the Second Quorum of the Seventy for a six-year term as a General Authority in August 1992. His work there must have been superlative for in the April Conference of 1997 he was given an indefinite call as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. As a General Authority he has served in Area Presidencies in diverse Areas of the Church. He also served as Second Counselor Young Men's General Presidency.
Elder John M. Madsen served in the First Quorum of the Seventy until being honorably released and designated aan Emeritus General Authority in the October 2009 General Conference.