John A. Tvedtnes was born into a Roman Catholic family in Mandan, North Dakota, on 26 January 1941, and spent his early years living in the states of North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington, part of the time on the farms owned by his grandparents. During part of that time, he attended Bible classes at the Assemblies of God church. His family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1949, and it was here that, at the age of 8, he first read the Bible from cover to cover. He was taught by LDS stake missionaries and baptized less than a month before his ninth birthday and was confirmed on New Year’s Day 1950. (No, none of the others joined.) While studying with the missionaries, he received from his devout Catholic grandfather a copy of the Book of Mormon. (John credits his grandfather with teaching him to pray—real prayers, not rote—and for making him promise to never smoke.) At the age of 12, he read the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. As he physically matured, his love of the scriptures grew as well.
John graduated from high school in 1959 and was immediately called as a stake missionary, where he served for two years, until leaving on his full-time mission to France and Switzerland in June 1961. He served in that mission until January 1964, when he returned and attended the University of Utah, from which he received several degrees:
BA in anthropology, 1969
Graduate certificate in Middle East area studies, 1970
MA, linguistics (specializing in generative-transformational grammars and Semitic languages, with minor in Arabic), 1970
MA, Middle East studies (Hebrew), with minor in anthropology/archaeology, 1971
During these years, he also took courses in Hebrew at the BYU Salt Lake Center and studied Arabic and linguistics at the University of California (Berkeley).
In the summer of 1971, John moved to Israel to work on his doctorate in Egyptian and Semitic languages at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, taking his family of six with him. Two more children were born in Israel. The family returned to the Utah in December 1979.
John taught at the University of Utah (1969-71, 1980) and in the BYU Jerusalem (1972-79) and Salt Lake (1970-71, 1980-84) programs and at two high schools in Jerusalem. He has also lectured at two other universities in Israel and has delivered dozens of papers at symposia held in the U.S. and Israel. To date, his publications include ten books and more than 300 articles. His last position was as senior resident scholar at Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, which includes the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, where he spent 12 years before retiring in January 2007. Later that year, he and his wife moved to Bella Vista Arkansas, where he continues to do research and writing.
Over the years, John has served as counselor and president in two elders quorums, assistant and leader in several high priests groups, gospel doctrine teacher in the Sunday School, first counselor in the Jerusalem Branch presidency, and other positions. He has also served one full-time and two part-time missions in four nations, and currently teaches an adult institute of religion class in the Rogers, Arkansas, stake. For a current list of John’s published works, click here.