Spencer J. Palmer

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Spencer John Palmer (October 4, 1927 – November 27, 2000)[1] was a chronicler of the development of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Asia as well as a major player in these developments. He was a historian of Korea, a scholar of comparative world religions, and wrote many books on these and related topics.


Palmer was born in Eden, Arizona on October 4, 1927. He was raised in Thatcher, Arizona. He studied at Eastern Arizona College before transferring to Brigham Young University (BYU) where he received his bachelor's degree. Between his studies at these two institutions Palmer served as a missionary for the LDS Church in the California Mission. He then studied at the University of California, Berkeley where he earned a master's degree in East Asiatic Studies and a Ph.D. in Oriental History. In 1956 Palmer married Shirley Ann Hadley in the Salt Lake Temple.

Palmer served in the United States military as a chaplain in both Japan and Korea. He was the president of the Korean Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1965-1968. During this time he often traveled and worked closely with Gordon B. Hinckley, who was then the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, responsible for overseeing the operation of the LDS Church in Asia. As mission president Palmer also purchased the site where the Church later built the Seoul Temple. Palmer served as a bishop, a counselor in a stake presidency, as a Regional Representative of the Twelve in Southeast Asia, and was president of the Seoul Korea Temple from 1988 to 1990.

For many years Palmer was a professor at BYU, where he served as director of the World Religions Division at BYU's Religious Studies Center and director of BYU's Center for International and Area Studies. This was the predecessor to the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at which Palmer served as a director.

In 1991 Palmer donated his collection of over 5,000 books on Asian and religious topics to BYU's Harold B. Lee Library, a collection that included about 1,500 rare books in Korean.[2] In 1993 Palmer worked for six months as a visiting professor in China teaching comparative world religions to students from local ethnic minority groups at the invitation of the Chinese government.[3]

The Palmers were the parents of four children: John, Dwight, Jennette, and James. John Leroy Palmer, which was also the name of Palmer's father, died as an infant, but the other three outlived their father.


  • The Expanding Church. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978.
  • The Church Encounters Asia. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970.
  • Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View (with James A. Toronto, Dong Sull Choi and Roger R. Keller)
  • The Korean Saints, Personal Stories of Trial and triumph, 1950-1980. This book is a compilation of the stories of many people. Palmer's wife Shirley was a co-compiler of this book.
  • Mormons and Muslims: Spiritual Foundations and Modern Manifestations Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1983.
  • Confucian Rituals in Korea
  • Korea and Christianity, The Problem of Identification with Tradition
  • New Religions of Korea


  1. ^ "Obituary: Spencer John Palmer". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. November 30, 2000. Retrieved 2009-03-18.
  2. ^ "Religion Professor Gives 5,000-Volume Library to Y". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. December 28, 1991. Retrieved 2009-03-18.
  3. ^ "BYU Professor Accepts an Invitation to Teach Course on World Religions For 6 Months in China". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. February 3, 1993. Retrieved 2009-03-18.


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