George W. Pace

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George W. Pace was a professor of religion at Brigham Young University and was a popular writer and speaker on religion. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was born in 1929 in Burley, Idaho. After his high school graduation, he attended Utah State Agricultural College and later earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from BYU. His first teaching experience after his graduation was as a Seminary teacher in his hometown of Burley. Five years later in 1961 he was appointed as director of the Institute of Religion adjacent to Colorado State University in Fort Collins. While there, he completed his master’s degree. In 1964 he became Institute director adjacent to Stanford University, and in 1967, he began teaching religion at BYU. While there, he also completed a second master’s degree and his doctorate degree in religious education.

Not only did he appeal to many students at BYU, typically drawing crowds that overflowed his actual class size, he also was a popular speaker at Education Week and in the Know Your Religion programs. His lectures were also available on cassette tapes.

One of the most well-known, life-altering incidents in his life came in March 1982. in 1981, Pace had published a book entitled What It Means to Know Christ and had widely taught about developing a personal relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ. It had been taught in his Know Your Religion lectures and eventually expanded and published in book format.

As a frame of reference, a duty of an apostle includes interpreting scripture and correcting doctrine that is taught. Bruce R. McConkie, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, delivered a BYU devotional address, “Our Relationship with the Lord,” that corrected some of Pace’s teachings. In his introduction, he said,

I shall expound the doctrine of the Church relative to what our relationship should be to all members of the Godhead and do so in plainness and simplicity so that none need misunderstand or be led astray by other voices.
I shall express the view of the Brethren, of the prophets and apostles of old, and of all those who understand the scriptures and are in tune with the Holy Spirit. . . .
Now, it is no secret that many false and vain and foolish things are being taught in the sectarian world and even among us about our need to gain a special relationship with the Lord Jesus. I shall summarize the true doctrine in this field and invite erring teachers and beguiled students to repent and believe the accepted gospel verities as I shall set them forth. . . .
There are yet others who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous.[1]

Although Elder McConkie did not mention Pace by name, the effects were immediate. Pace’s popularity diminished, attendance at his classes dropped, and his book sales plummeted. Pace revised and republished his book with the corrected doctrine and an apology. The public reproof affected his and his family’s lives.

Pace remained a faithful member of the Church, continued his professorship and taught at BYU until his retirement in 1993, and remained loyal to the leadership of the Church. What It Means to Know Christ was republished by Deseret Book in 1988 under the title Our Search to Know the Lord and in 1996 as Knowing Christ. What It Means to Know Christ remained in print through Cedar Fort, Inc., and a new edition entitled Knowing Christ was issued in 1996, with a paperback following in 2007.

In 2000 BYU Magazine printed his nomination for professor of the century.