A former Episcopalian, and having grown up in Fairfax, Virginia, Dr. Purse converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 40 years ago. His interest was sparked by a visit to the Washington, D.C. Temple Visitor’s Center. After his baptism in Northern Virginia, he transferred from VA Tech to BYU, and then went on a Spanish-speaking mission to New York City. He then returned to BYU where he met his wife, Martha Campbell, in the Sunday School class Gary was teaching. Martha is from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and she and Gary have been married for 35 years and they have 5 children; a son and four daughters. They also have six grandchildren.
Dr. Purse has a B.A. and M.A. from BYU, and a Ph.D. from Ohio University. During his 34-year teaching career he has taught scripture courses to High School and University Students on campuses in Wyoming, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and has been responsible for training hundreds of Religion teachers from several Eastern states. For the past 21 years, Dr. Purse has taught in the Religion Department at BYU-Idaho, teaching scripture courses and World Religions. He also teaches Eastern Philosophy and a Great Books Literature course. In August 2000 he co-directed a Humanities tour to Europe, and he has been a director and assistant director of 4 BYUI European Religious History Tours since then.
Brother Purse enjoys most sports, hiking, reading/studying, traveling, and spending time with his family.
“I am a practicing Christian deeply anchored in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I do believe that through His Spirit, He is, and has been, the promoting force for everything good, virtuous, wise, and joyful in this world. His influence can be seen in the praiseworthy teachings found in almost all religions and spiritual practices promoting goodness and virtue on earth.
My approach to meditation however, is not a sectarian or dogmatic attempt to push my Christian views on anyone. In addition to my background in Christian teachings, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the teachings of Eastern philosophers—especially the Buddha’s teachings as presented by the early Pali Canon, Buddhist monks and nuns like Thich Nhat Hahn, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Reverend Bikhu Kusala, Gil Fronsdal, Andrea Fella, Sakyong Mipham, Yongey Mingur Rinpoche, Analayo, Ahjan Chan, and Ahjan Amaro, to name a few. I also have been significantly strengthened by the principles found in the Eastern sacred texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, and the Tao Te Ching. The Hindu yogi Paramahnsa Yogananda has also been informative in my spiritual understandings. For the past 15 years I have taught thousands of students in World Religions and Eastern Philosophy courses at a major American university. Additionally, I have conducted hundreds of meditation forums and classes, and I have practiced daily meditation for 15 years. I have also been privileged to travel multiple times to spiritual gathering places all over Europe, Israel, Egypt, India, and Nepal. These trips have expanded and deepened my appreciation and respect for people all over the world seeking spiritual enlightenment.”