Bruce C. Hafen

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Bruce C. Hafen, Emeritus General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Bruce Clark Hafen was raised in southern Utah. After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany, he married Marie Kartchner in 1964. They are the parents of seven children. He received an A.A. from Dixie College (now Dixie State University), a B.A. from Brigham Young University (BYU), and a J.D. from the University of Utah in 1967.[1]

After practicing law in Salt Lake City, Utah, for four years, he became an assistant to BYU President Dallin H. Oaks. He was on the original faculty of the BYU Law School, founded in 1973. His teaching and research focused on constitutional law, education law, and family law—particularly the legal rights of children. His professional scholarship was published in such journals as the Harvard Law Review, Harvard International Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Brigham Young University Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, and the American Bar Association Journal. Two of his articles were cited in opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court. [2] One of his central insights about children’s rights was that the legal system “limits children’s [legal] autonomy in the short run in order to maximize their development of actual autonomy in the long run. . . . [To] short-circuit this process by legally granting [autonomy]—rather than actually teaching autonomous capacity—to children ignores the realities of education and child development to the point of abandoning children to a mere illusion of real autonomy."[3]

From 1976 to 1978, Hafen was the Director of Evaluation and Research for the Correlation Department of the Church of Jesus Christ. He served as the President of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University-Idaho) from 1978 to 1985. During this time, he was also President of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities (AAPICU) and a Commissioner on the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities—the regional accrediting authority for higher education institutions in the seven Northwestern states.

Hafen was Dean of the BYU Law School from 1985 to 1989. There he helped to create the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (JRCLS), an international organization for Latter-day Saints and other lawyers. By 2017 the JRCLS had over 10,000 members in more than 100 chapters, a third of them outside the U.S. He also raised donated funds to establish a series of endowed professorships to support law faculty scholarship. The Law School later created an endowed professorship and an endowed annual lectureship in his name.

From 1989 to 1996, he was the Provost at BYU, [4]—the largest religious university and the third largest private university in the United States. As Provost, he worked with the faculty to develop a policy that appropriately blended BYU’s institutional academic freedom as a religious university with the faculty’s individual academic freedom, along with a new policy statement describing “The Aims of a BYU Education.”

Hafen was a full-time General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ from 1996 to 2010, serving as president of the Church's Australia/New Zealand and Europe Central areas. He also served in the North America Central area presidency and as an adviser at Church headquarters to the departments of Church History, Temples, and Priesthood—which included the women’s Relief Society General Presidency.

He has published several books and numerous articles on religious topics, including the Atonement of Jesus Christ, marriage, faith, Christian discipleship, and dealing with ambiguity. Two of his books won the year’s best book award from Deseret BookThe Broken Heart in 1989 and A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell in 2002. At a conference on grace at BYU in December 2017 (“My Grace Is Sufficient: Latter-day Reflections"), Hafen was said to be one of “several key figures in [a] renaissance of grace” who helped “alter Mormon culture by clarifying the understanding of LDS theology [about grace] over the past 30 years.” One conference commentator said The Broken Heart is “the first LDS book that brings to the fore what the LDS understanding of grace is.”[1]

One of his central insights about the Atonement is that it is “a doctrine of human development, not a doctrine that simply erases black marks.” [5] Thus “because of the Atonement . . . we can learn from our experience without being condemned by our experience.” [6] So “the Atonement is not just for sinners. . . . [It] can also heal our other wounds, whether self-inflicted or from sources beyond our control, [and it can] help us become as He is” [7] — all on the condition that we choose actively to “engage in the participatory process that results in our personal and spiritual development.” [8] Moreover, “the temple is an anchor for understanding and applying” the Atonement’s redeeming, strengthening, and perfecting blessings: [9] “While the story of Christ’s life is the story of giving His Atonement, the story of Adam and Eve [the central story in the temple endowment] is the story of receiving His Atonement.” [10]

At an Evergreen International conference in 2009, Hafen urged Church leaders and members to reach out in love to those with unwanted same-gender attraction. In the context of describing the universal fatherhood of God, he said that "Having same-gender attraction is not in your DNA, but being a child of God clearly is in your spiritual DNA." [11] Moreover, “there is . . . no scientific consensus about what causes homosexual tendencies. ‘[N]ature and nurture both play complex roles,’ [But, while] inherited susceptibilities, childhood experiences, and agency all influence a given person’s development, [the] idea that there is a ‘gay gene’ has little scientific support.” Hafen also said that in 1973 the American Psychological Association [APA] removed homosexuality from its official list of disorders “in response to increasing disruptions and protests by gay activists.” The APA took this action by “an open vote in their professional meetings—not because of any change in actual medical findings.” [12] He also wrote that “the empirical research [demonstrates] that a child’s being [raised by] both father and mother is clearly the optimal environment for child rearing.” [13]

On October 2, 2010, Hafen was released from the First Quorum of the Seventy and designated an Emeritus General Authority. [14] He served as President of the St. George Utah Temple from 2010 to 2013.

Books by Bruce C. Hafen

  • Faith Is Not Blind (2018) with Marie K. Hafen
  • The Contrite Spirit: How the Temple Helps Us Apply Christ's Atonement (2015) with Marie K. Hafen
  • A Disciple's Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell (2002)
  • Covenant Hearts: Marriage And the Joy of Human Love (2005)
  • The Broken Heart: Applying the Atonement to Life's Experiences (1989)
  • The Belonging Heart: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family (1984) with Marie K. Hafen
  • The Believing Heart: Nourishing the Seed of Faith (1986)
  • Spiritually Anchored in Unsettled Times (2009)
  • "Beauty for Ashes" and The Restored Doctrine of the Atonement (Classic talk series)
  • Law and the Ordering of Our Life Together (Encounter Series) with Thomas L. Shaffer

Quotes by Bruce C. Hafen

  • "We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more. "
  • "In the long run, our most deeply held desires will govern our choices, one by one and day by day, until our lives finally add up to what we have really wanted most--for good or otherwise. We can indeed have eternal life, if we really want it, so long as we don't want something else more."

General Conference Talks by Bruce C. Hafen


  1. LDS Church Almanac, 2008 Edition, p. 45
  2. "Biography of Bruce C. Hafen". Church of Jesus Christ. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  3. Deseret News Oct. 2, 2012
  4. "Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy", Ensign, May 1996.
  5. "Biography of Bruce C. Hafen". Church of Jesus Christ. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  6. "Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy", Ensign, May 1996.
  7. Pickup, David M.W. (June 10, 2006). "Stake in Hungary Eastern Europe's 2nd". Church News. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  8. "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction". Church of Jesus Christ. 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  9. Groves, Lana; Taylor, Scott (September 19, 2009). "Don't succumb to cultural confusion, Elder Hafen urges". The Deseret News. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  10. Winters, Rosemary (September 19, 2009). "Homosexuality 'not in your DNA,' says LDS leader". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
  11. "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction". Church of Jesus Christ. 2009-09-19. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  12. Scott Taylor (October 3, 2010). "Five Mormon Church leaders given emeritus status". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  13. Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts: Why Marriage Matters and How to Make It Last (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 2005), p. 253.
  14. Scott Taylor (October 3, 2010). "Five Mormon Church leaders given emeritus status". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Retrieved 2010-10-03.