In the late 1990s as work on the LDS Conference Center neared completion, a decision was needed regarding the broadcast capability of the new 21,000-seat structure adjacent to Temple Square. Distance from KSL studios upon which the Church had traditionally relied for General Conference and other broadcasts originating from the Tabernacle and new FCC regulations meant the Church needed its own broadcast resources for the new building. As different options were considered, the Church turned to an unlikely source for counsel, the director of the Church Correlation Department, Edward Brandt.
Decades devoted to teaching the gospel in academic settings and later having purview over every printed document advanced by the Church didn’t keep the Idaho native from following a passion for the broadcast industry – a passion and interest that prepared him to advise President Gordon B. Hinckley to bring cutting-edge digital technology to the Conference Center when it opened in the Spring of 1999. Some considered the move risky preferring tried-and-true analogue technology, but the enhanced broadcast quality of programs coming from the Center for nearly 14 years now is a testament to Edward’s counsel.
Born and reared in Pocatello, Idaho, Edward later met and married Carol Bartschi, also from Idaho and together they raised eight children, all of them girls except seven – as Carol loves to say.
Edward commenced his Church service as a seminary teacher in Brigham City, Utah in 1964. Four years later, he moved to Southern California providing gospel instruction at the Glendale Institute of Religion, the Van Nuys Valley Community College Institute of Religion, the Burbank Stake Young Adult class, the Glendale Stake class, and the institute class at Oxnard College, Cal Tech, and in Palmdale near Edwards Air Force Base. After two years of non-stop driving and many evenings away from home, the Brandts returned to Utah for a Sabbatical of sorts so Edward could complete his doctorate while teaching at Brigham Young University. Then, two years later, he was assigned to the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah where he also served as the associate director for 16 years.
During those 18 years at the University of Utah, the Brandts began leading tours of the Middle East focusing on the traditional Bible lands of the New Testament. In 1978, Edward was invited to be the director of the tours which allowed him to bring his 14 years of gospel study and instruction to bear on student and adult forays into Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and, of course, Israel. Seven of these tours were for Church Educational System teachers and their wives. In addition, several of these tours included BYU Travel Studies groups.
“There’s a special spirit in Israel,” Edward shared. “It’s the spirit of the land and the most remarkable thing is that it opens up a view and understanding of the scriptures like nothing else. For instance, most people don’t realize how close Bethleham is to Jerusalem. You can stand in Manger Square and see the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.”
On these tours Edward was careful to point out that many of the experiences of the early Apostles in the New Testament occurred outside Palestine.
“We would take tours to the Maritime Prison in Rome where Paul was held and his writings take on a new meaning as he addressed those early Saints while in prison and while the Church was being persecuted so heavily.”
During summers when the University of Utah campus was quiet and activity at the Institute minimal, Edward was assigned go to Church headquarters and work on curriculum. His abilities led to an invitation in 1989 to work in the Evaluation Division of the Correlation Department of the Church. This department supports the Church Correlation Committee which is the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. This new assignment put him in direct contact with the leading counsels of the Church.
“In the Evaluation Division, our responsibility was to evaluate all the materials produced by the Church for distribution: manuals, handbooks, posters, student manuals, forms, labels for Deseret Industries products, magazines, and everything posted online,” Edward said.
With a staff of only six individuals, the division literally touched every item produced by the Church for public consumption. Their task was to ensure that everything was doctrinally correct and in harmony with policies and procedures of the Church. This is no small task given the Church’s global footprint and the fact that the vast majority of its leadership in nations worldwide serve voluntarily. This magnifies the challenge to keep the Church as doctrinally and procedurally correct in the meetinghouse just blocks from Temple Square as it is in the struggling branch meeting in a rented structure in the interior of Nigeria.
In his role at Church headquarters, Brandt served as secretary to two general authority committees. The Communications Evaluation Committee reviews all correspondence going out to stakes and districts throughout the world. Before the letters leave Salt Lake City, they are reviewed by the committee to ensure gospel harmony and confirm they measure up to current Church policy. The Correlation Executive Committee which accomplishes the “nuts and bolts” of the work, as Edward described it, is led by two members of the Twelve. Their assignment is to ensure every manual, brochure, pamphlet, and document produced in a printed format and online meets accepted Church practice and doctrine.
In the last few years, for instance, this duty included the recently completed Chuch handbooks of instructions for ward, stake, and general officers of the Church. This committee had the task of overseeing the preparation of the new handbooks and had as its head Elder Dallin H. Oaks as chairman and President Thomas S. Monson as the final reviewer. As with the handbook, nothing of consequence left Church headquarters without Edward or his team reading every word and measuring it against current Church policy and long-standing doctrinal concepts.
“You don’t appreciate the wisdom of the brethren and their devotion to keeping Church doctrine pure and in line with revelation until you stand before members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to report on the handbook’s progress and development,” Edward said all too knowingly.
In between correlation assignments, Edward, an electrical engineering student in college, dabbled in his hobby of keeping up with the latest technology used by broadcasting outlets. His interest extended to attending the yearly National Association of Broadcasters conventions. And, to be honest, he more than dabbled. He became an expert on the evolving technology and was an early advocate for digital format rather than analogue broadcasts. Hence, these were among his contributions as an engineering adviser for the Conference Center.
With such accomplishments in his more than four-decades of Church service, it’s no wonder that President Boyd K. Packer of the Twelve postponed Edward’s normal retirement date and might have succeeded in keeping him on indefinitely at Church headquarters if not for a decision by the First Presidency in the late summer of 2010 to assign the Brandts to preside over a temple.
Meanwhile, in the late fall of that year as Richard and Pam Christensen completed their three-year term as president and matron of the Columbus Ohio Temple, speculation among Church members and especially temple goers focused on who might fill their shoes in November. If precedent held, the new couple would exhibit strong Ohio ties. That had been the case with the first three presidents and there seemed to be an unspoken qualification to serve as a temple president here – there had to be some of “The Ohio” in the blood!
Instead, Edward and Carol were called by the First Presidency to assume responsibility for the temple and no one in Columbus knew them. The selection of dyed-in-the-wool Utahns with no apparent ties to Ohio surprised a few, but as details of Edward’s many years of service to the highest levels of Church leadership and Carol’s administrative skills emerged, it became apparent the Brandts would add in their own unique way to the rich heritage of leadership with which the Columbus Temple had been blessed since its dedication in 1999.
The Church Office Building’s loss was the Columbus Ohio Temple’s gain and for three years he and Carol led the temple’s more than 700 volunteer workers and thousands of attendees with the same exactness and love that accompanied their other assignments throughout their married life.
“This has been a most wonderful experience for us,” Carol said, “We have grown to love the people here in Ohio.” Edward added, “Our experiences have been enriched by the people we worked with at the temple and we’ve gotten to know so many of the patrons as well.”Now, more than three years since the Brandts arrived in Columbus and just a couple of months after their return home, it’s important to address “the Ohio” thing. If there was any concern among temple workers in November 2010 when the Brandts stood to address a temple fireside in the Columbus Gateway chapel that these Utah natives might be outsiders, Edward put them to rest when he referred to the passage in the Doctrine and Covenants and exclaimed what a blessing it would be to serve in “the Ohio.” And then, at their last temple fireside in November 2013, the Brandts confirmed what everyone already knew – “the Ohio” was now indeed in their blood and would always be.