Conversations with Ken McCarty and Thomas Wayment

Brent R. Nordgren

A Conversation with Ken McCarty

Interview by Brent R. Nordgren

Q: I think our readers would like to know what you do, and what is your official title?

A: My title is assistant dean, Religious Education. My assignment is to raise funds for approved priorities at Religious Education and other Church-related charities. I have been deployed from LDS Philanthropies (LDSP), which is a department of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church, to assist with fundraising at Religious Education.

Q: How do you locate people who are willing to donate to these causes?

A: We are fortunate at Religious Education to have a national volunteer committee called “Friends of Religious Education” to help us identify individuals that may be willing to help us with our funding needs. We have been instructed that we should always allow donors to direct how they would like their charitable gifts used. Our responsibility is to educate donors on our priorities and let them select where they would like to help.

Let me give you an example of how it all works: I had a call this morning from an individual who was looking to make a $10,000 gift to BYU but wanted to give to an area that would have special interest for him. When I found out his wife had served a mission to Germany, I called Dr. Roger Minert because he is working on a book to highlight members of the Church who lived in Germany during World War II. Dr. Minert is sending this donor a proposal to finish his research and publish the book. This may be the perfect project that the donor is looking for.

Q: That leads me to the next question: With the economy more volatile lately, does that make your efforts more difficult?

A: People use their discretionary funds to make charitable gifts, and when discretionary funds go down, charitable giving normally follows. But in our case, donors mostly give to build the kingdom. So their focus is not tax deduction or recognition. Their focus is to help build and bless the kingdom. So unlike “public charities,” the donors who give to the Church continue to give during good times or bad times. There are also gifting vehicles that provide donors income for life—such as charitable trusts and charitable gift annuities. During a tough economy, some donors feel safer getting a check each month from a charity instead of a bank or insurance company. In many cases, a lot of our donors set up planned gifts so that they actually benefit from giving. That makes their gift a win-win.

Q: Do you have any interesting stories that you can share since you’ve been doing this?

A: Probably the most meaningful thing I could tell you is that it is not one story but a lifetime of stories. I’ve worked for the foundation for almost thirty-five years. During that time I have learned the blessings of charitable giving are told in the lives of people lifting others through generous acts of kindness. It’s a story about a couple giving a scholarship for a young girl who lost her father. It’s a story about a widow providing the funds to complete a critical research project for a struggling professor. It’s a story about thousands of donors banding together to build the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center. It is a thousand stories of thousands of people reaching deep in their pockets to use their treasure to lift and bless others.

Q: Wow, that’s great!

A: The sacrifice and generosity of good people allow the Lord to do his work—good people with big hearts make great things happen.

Q: We know that giving benefits the recipient, but how does charitable giving benefit the giver?

A: From an eternal perspective, the donor probably is the most blessed. The spiritual gifts promised to those who give, it seems to me, generally exceed the blessings of those who are on the receiving end of the gift. Some people think charitable giving is a win-lose relationship. You give money to a charity and you end up with less than you started with. But in almost every case, with a true charitable gift, it’s a win-win situation. Not only does the recipient get the help they need at trying times in their lives—the donor receives a host of special blessings from the Lord. Among others, the blessings come in the form of a glad heart, an enlightened spirit, and the warmth that comes from caring about someone else. Other blessings that come to donors are sacred and personal—special feelings that are between the donor and their Heavenly Father.

One needs only to consider the many promises given in the scriptures to get an idea of the importance the Lord places on seeking out those who need our help.

Q: So, in all this time, what has surprised you the most?

A: What has surprised me the most at first, but not any longer, is the direct involvement the Spirit has in the lives of those who are charitable. There is no doubt in my mind that people are prompted to give. As in all things, some people follow those promptings, and some people don’t. What surprises me the most is how often people do give. When the promptings come, people reach deep and give generously. It’s truly amazing to be a part of that process.

A Conversation with Thomas Wayment

Interview by Rachel A. Morris

Thomas A. Wayment (thom_wayment@byu.edu) is an associate professor of ancient scripture at BYU.

Rachel A. Morris (cougvolleyball_r@hotmail.com) is a senior in English language at BYU.

Q: Why did you and Dr. Holzapfel decide to begin the Easter Conference, and what did that first conference focus on?

A: It was a joint decision over lunch a number of years ago. We decided to put together a single volume on the last week of the Savior’s life because of some of the things that were being said in the popular media at the time. We were really excited about who contributed. Dr. Holzapfel had the idea that since we speak frequently at BYU and a lot of people down here know us, he wanted to reach out a little bit further, so we went to the BYU Salt Lake Center. It was an amazing day. We literally had people standing in the aisles. We filmed some of it, and we had literally every seat in the house full. That led us to think, “Wow, if people are that excited, maybe we’ll do it again.” That’s where it all started.

We put out a book that covered the last week of Jesus’s life entitled From the Last Supper through the Resurrection, published by Deseret Book. The conference highlighted the chapters from that book, so we had the authors who had written in the book come to Salt Lake and give a presentation. At that time we did thirty-minute presentations, and they basically covered what the authors had said in their chapters. The book was fresh at that point—it was brand new. Not everyone came. Not everyone was able to participate. But the majority of the contributors did.

Q: So then after that first conference, you started holding it in Provo?

A: We did. We actually had two more books come out as part of that series—a three-part series. We had conferences in conjunction with volumes two and three. We did a conference each year with the same format, so that people contributed to the book and they also contributed to the conference. In the more recent past—the last three years—we’ve expanded it to accept other proposals that are entirely separate from the ensuing publication. We had people who were interested in certain topics of their own choosing. When Richard Holzapfel and I originally did the first three books, our idea was to focus on a very specific area. But when we opened it up in the last three years, participants could present on any aspect of Easter. The more recent volumes that the RSC has published are broader in focus.

Q: What has been the response to both the books and the conferences? Has there been a good response from the faculty and the student body here?

A: I believe so. The books have done well. We’ve had great feedback. We’ve had some critical reviews that have been very favorable. It’s always hard to judge, but from reader comments and from the few reviews we’ve had in print, I would say they’ve had a very strong impact. We’ve had a lot of nice things said. As Latter-day Saints, we don’t typically celebrate Easter extensively because it often coincides with general conference, which happens to fall that week. A lot of people thanked us for coming together and talking about Easter in a scholarly way, which we had sometimes overlooked in the past. I’d say from those reactions, it’s been positive overall.

Q: Over the course of the conference, what are some of the things that you have learned to appreciate more about Easter and the life of Christ?

A: One thing that I think is a theme that comes out of every conference is there is always someone who offers the idea that Easter should be the most important holiday. It’s not that it’s a novel idea, nor do I think the person who says it thinks it’s a novel idea, but there’s something about our North American culture that emphasizes Christmas, and Easter takes a back seat. One thing I really appreciate about the Easter Conference is that it helps us refocus, rebalance. The birth is absolutely important, but the birth doesn’t mean a whole lot without the Resurrection.

Q: Because you’re not as closely connected to the Easter Conference now, what are your current areas of research?

A: Right now, what I work on most closely are the papyri of the New Testament and non-canonical books. I’ve been putting together some new editions of papyri and gathering them into a book for scholars to use. When we pick up the New Testament, as a scholar you want to know what manuscripts are behind it and why it is you’re seeing the text in English that you do. No one has done that for the non-canonical works with the same energy and effort that has been given to the canonical books. I’m going to put together a book that will show the earliest fifty-five non-canonical New Testament–period texts.