Monday, September 28, 2009

The California Saints

Last night I attended a lecture at the inter-stake center at the Oakland Temple in honor of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Oakland Stake. The guest speaker, Richard Cowan, was a former professor of mine at BYU- I took his course on temples and absolutely loved it. He was the perfect speaker for this anniversary since he co-authored a book entitled The California Saints: Over a Century and a Half in the Golden State. His niece gave one of the most touching introductions with acclamations of praise for his work and service from President Monson, Ann Madsen, and Robert Millet. Bro. Cowan is truly one incredible for he is nearly completely blind. Yet, he received his PhD from Stanford, taught at BYU, chaired the committee for the Gospel Doctrine manuals, and written numerous books and articles. He is so kind and has a great sense of humor. One of his former students submitted this story that was published in Reader's Digest. He uses braille notes and at the beginning of class one day, he had a panicked look over his face for a second while fingering the notes but then exclaimed "Phew- I was afraid that someone had sat on my notes!" He had slides along with his presentation last night and when they became out of sync with the text, he joked "Some people claim that professors can see through the back of their head- well, I can't even see from the front of mine." Truly he is a brilliant scholar and an all around inspiration.

I enjoyed the talk as California has been my "home" for the past two years and probably will be for an indeterminate amount of time. Bro. Cowan recounted the story of Samuel Brannan who lead a group of Saints out to San Francisco on the ship, Brooklyn. The group left on February 4, 1846, the same day as the first pioneers left to go on their trek West. The ship sailed down around South America, stopped in Hawaii, and finally sailed into San Francisco nearly 6 months later in July. There is a plaque commemorating this event in the Chinatown area of San Francisco- I need to go and check it out. He told many other things about the church being established throughout California. There is also a special exhibit about the history of the church in California over at the temple visitors center that I want to check out the next time we are at the temple.


mj said...

I'm pretty sure Ryan had him at BYU as well...and liked his lectures a lot.

Danika said...

How cool! There's also a plaque commemorating the Brooklyn in the Financial District of Manhattan where it set sail.