Truman G. Madsen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the second son of Axel A. and Emily Grant Madsen, and a grandson of LDS Church President Heber J. Grant. He was married to Ann Nicholls Madsen and they had three children and a Navajo foster son.
He obtained his undergraduate degree in speech and a masters degree in philosophy from the University of Utah. He also studied philosophy at USC, and earned a PhD from Harvard University in the history and philosophy of religion. Early in his studies at Harvard he determined to “give religion equal time,” and studied the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith as deeply as he studied philosophy.
He was a professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University for well over thirty years, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem for three years, held the Richard L. Evans Chair in Judeo-Christian Studies for twenty years, was a guest professor at Northeastern University in Boston, University of Haifa in Israel, and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and lectured at over 100 universities in the United States and over 50 universities around the world.
He served in the LDS Church as a missionary, district presidency counselor, Sunday School teacher, bishop, mission president, Sunday School general board member, stake president, and patriarch.