Article published Aug 7, 2005
Mormon takes prophet's call, spurns Harvard for Idaho
Getting a 34-year Harvard man to abandon one of the nation's most prestigious business colleges for an Idaho church school would seem to demand nothing short of divine revelation.
For Kim Clark, whose last day as Harvard Business School dean was July 31, it was nearly that.
It came in the form of a phone call last May to Clark, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member, from Gordon Hinckley, the 95-year-old leader of the Mormons. Hinckley asked the economist to head Rexburg's Brigham Young University-Idaho, which just five years ago was a two-year junior college.
"You have to appreciate what this is like," said Clark, 56, of Hinckley's call. "We behold him to be a prophet. Imagine yourself getting a call from Moses."
"LDS people are pretty responsive to that sort of a direct call, a mission call, almost," said Lawrence Foster, a religious history professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
And Clark's move, viewed from inside the church, could be seen as a promotion: Some say this establishes Clark, a Mormon bishop, as a rising star. His predecessor, David Bednar, was named in 2004 to the "Quorum of the 12 Apostles," a church governing body considered by Mormons to have the same authority as the 12 Biblical apostles.
"If one were thinking for the church either about university matters or future ecclesiastical office, Kim Clark is clearly on the radar screen," said Philip Barlow, a Mormon and religion professor at Indiana's Hanover College.
The church's education director, W. Rolfe Kerr, calls the BYU-Idaho presidency a "paid job," not an "ecclesiastical calling."
Still, a request from Hinckley would be a difficult to refuse, church members say.
"If Gordon Hinckley called and said, 'What I need you to do is go work on the grounds crew at BYU-Idaho,' I would say 'Yes,' " said Paul Pugmire, president of the Rexburg City Council (Miller, "Tuscaloosa News," Aug 7, 2005).
[TBC: A Mormon "apostle" still exercises considerable power. Now deceased Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote: "The President of the Church is the mouthpiece of God on earth. Thus saith the Lord: Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith." (Doctrine & Covenants 21:4-5 - McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 309.)”]