Open main menu

Paul Van Hyer (June 2, 1926 – January 22, 2018) was a professor of Chinese History at Brigham Young University (BYU) and the founder of the Asian Studies Program at that institution. He was also a key figure in the growth of the LDS Church in Taiwan.


Hyer was born in Ogden, Utah. During World War II Hyer served in the United States Navy in the Pacific Theatre.[1] As a young man Hyer served as an LDS missionary in the Japanese mission located in Hawaii from 1946-1948. While in Hawaii Hyer set up a system to train missionaries in the Japanese language in an organized manner.[2]

Hyer received his BA in history from BYU in 1951, followed by an MA in Asian history and Asian Social Institutions from the University of California, Berkeley in 1953 and a Ph.D. in Asian History, also from UC Berkeley, in 1961.

Hyer wrote the book A Mongolian Living Buddha which was a biography of Kanjurwa Khutughtu along with Sechin Jagchid.[3] Hyer also wrote Mongolia's Culture and Society with Sechin.[4]

Besides his long period as a professor at BYU, Hyer also taught for three years in China.[5] Hyer has also published several articles on the history of Inner Mongolia within the People's Republic of China as well as on Japanese-Tibetan relations and Lamanist Buddhism in Japan. He also contributed an article on the prospects for the LDS Church in Asia to the first volume of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Besides living in China and Taiwan, Hyer and his family also lived for a time in Japan.

From 1982 to 1985 Hyer served as president of the LDS Church's Taiwan Taipei Mission. From 1988 to 1990 he served as president of the Taipei Taiwan Temple. During the time between these two positions in Taiwan, Hyer served as bishop of a BYU ward. Later Hyer was involved in the negotiations leading to the LDS Church getting recognition in Mongolia.[6]

Hyer and first wife, Harriett Johns Hyer, had eight children and 36 grandchildren. Harriet died on July 2, 1990, while she was serving as matron of the Taipei Taiwan Temple.[7] He was remarried to Karen Emily Claus, also a professor at BYU, who taught Business Ethics and Public Administration at the Marriott School of Management. They were married at the Salt Lake Temple on March 27, 1991, by Marion D. Hanks, Hyer's World War II companion and long-time friend.

In 1993, Neal A. Maxwell gave a speech at BYU which mentioned that Hyer and his wife would soon go to teach at a university in Beijing.[8]

Hyer has also served as president of the International Society, an organization of professionals who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that works to promote the programs of the LDS Church and Brigham Young University on an international basis.[9]



External linksEdit