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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Historiography”

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On March 10, 1929 Brother John R. Seaton, appointed chairman of the genealogical society of Twin Falls, with the permission of Bishop Roy Wood, appointed a genealogical committee for the ward consisting of Callie B. Arrington, secretary; Harold C. Howell; Plato D. Frazell, William P. Miller, and Virginia Christopherson.  It was an active committee and the minutes of the committee taken by Callie Arrington have been deposited by her in the Archives of the Church.  Under the influence of this group a junior department was organized and they were under the impression that this was the first organization of the Church of a junior genealogical class.  It may have been, although Callie Arrington Ward told me on January 24, 1974 that she had heard there may have been one earlier.

At any rate, on November 10, 1929 at 8:00 a.m. was the first meeting of junior genealogical people and according to the minutes, I was present at this breakfast and meeting even though at the time I wad only twelve years old.  They apparently invited those from twelve to fifteen to be in attendance.  Others in attendance included my cousin, Velma Arrington, and my friend, Freddy Babbel.  There were apparently fifty young people in attendance at this meeting.  

At any rate, they started a series of monthly classes in genealogy, which went at least until the fall of 1930.  They gave us each a project to do each month in preparation for the next monthly meeting.  As I recall, our first project was to fill out a pedigree chart for ourselves; the second project was to fill out a family group sheet for our family; the third project was to write our own life history.  They even instructed us how to do this.  We were to begin as Nephi of old, “I Nephi having been born of goodly parents.” And so on.  

And my own life history as I wrote it at that time is in my genealogy book beginning the same way.  I have been under the impression for many years that I was thirteen or fourteen, but according to this record, I must have been only twelve at the time I began my Book of Remembrance.  Under their direction we began books of remembrance and this began my interest in genealogy.  There is a picture in this minute book of young people in genealogy and I am one of those who is included in the shot.  I am including at this point a program, which Aunt Callie supplied to me.

This led to my writing to Aunt Myrtle for material on the history of the Corn and Kelso families and indeed occasioned an interest in genealogy, which continues to this day.  Who would have ever predicted that out of that first class in our junior genealogy would have emerged the Church Historian!

The committee seems to have been dissolved in mid-1930.  According to Aunt Callie, the committee members were all released in the summer or fall of 1930 by the new bishop, Mitchell W. Hunt, or possibly earlier by Bishop Wood.  She says they were released because they exceeded their authority.  They were carrying out a program, which was not authorized and planned by the church in Salt Lake City.  The Genealogical Society of the church wrote a number of letters to the committee praising the program and ultimately it was adopted as an official program of the church.  But because the Twin Falls committee were engaged in a program, which had not been approved, they were all released and the program was discontinued.  

[LJAD, Leonard J. Arrington Diary- November 10, 1929, Dictated on January 25, 1974.]


The Twin Falls Ward Genealogical Society entertained at a breakfast and program in the new Relief Society rooms in the Stake tabernacle, recently, in honor of the junior members of the church.  Arrangements were made to form a junior members genealogical society, members between the ages of 12 and 17 to meet each month to receive instructions in preparing personal journals and instructions in research work, and compiling material for the next junior temple mission to be held in July.  The group adopted the slogan “A Junior Genealogist in Every Family”  Sixty-eight members were in attendance.  This is the only known ward in the church to adopt such a plan for junior members.

We commend this ward on this great undertaking, and wish them success in their new field of labor.

[LJAD, Taken from Deseret News, Sat Nov. 23, 1929]

October 18, 1930

Junior Genealogical Classes to be Organized.

Classes in genealogy for the young people have been so decidedly successful wherever they have been organized. That the board of directors of our society has now decided to make this junior movement a definite department of our work.  

[LJAD, appears to be taken from a publication from the Genealogical Society of Utah]

National Association of Letter Carriers

Idaho State Association

Harold C. Howell


October 12, 1930


Honest old pals I have never felt so good for a year, it’s a darn good thing you can’t see these little salty tears trinkling down my care-worn cheeks.   It is almost mid-night, I just wrote a long epistle to the Genealogical office, DID YOU SEE IT??????????  REALLY CALLIE FRONT PAGE AND EVERY THING?



There is only a few who even knows in part the inward battle that has taken place within me, when I was told that instructions had been given to cut out the kid work in genealogy until given authority from Salt Lake  It just crushed me,  Newel price said tonite “Gosh whats the idea of not letting us learn something in genealogy.”

My dear friends, I have had some peculiar manifestations, and have been sorely tried in more ways than one, I have fought the good fight and have kept the faith even in the face of odds that seemed to have completely crushes all hope of life out of my soul.  I have been given a promise that I if I stood the test I would be called upon to perform a great work, and that those who conspired against me would be placed under my heel, But I was warned not to injure them.  I know it will all come. it is truly said “That patience is bitter but sweet is her reward”.  I just had to express my self tonite and I knew you would understand in part.  

HC Howell


[LJAD, typed letter, signed by H.C. Howell]

March 6

I went to see the show “The Life of Louis Pasteur.”  I could not describe its effect upon me.  It made me think, as it must all conscientious young men, that I had a service to render to humanity.  Just what that service is, I cannot say.  I must develop my talents, sharpen my mind, increase my store of knowledge.  Only then will I know my duty.  I shall prepare.

March 12

I have been somewhat troubled of late about choosing a vocation.,  There seem to be four possibilities:  Maintain the same course, majoring in Ag Econ., change over to the Law school, major in Political Science, or major in education (either religious or civil).  I am going to get everybody’s idea on this problem.  The decision may make me or break me.  At any rate I hope to be of service to my fellow men..

March 13

Today, I have listed another prospective vocation with the one mentioned above:  Zoology.  I have been getting quite good grades in Zoology, and I am very much interested in it.  Life is so marvelous, so wonderful, so miraculous.  It overwhelms me.

[LJAD, March 6, 12, 13, 1936]

Kenneth Walter Cameron

Department of English

State College

Raleigh, North Carolina

April 2, 1942

My dear Jimmie,

I am delighted with the copy of the History, which you were so thoughtful to present last night, all the more because it recalls to my mind many pleasant associations.

Your plan, one day, to edit the book of Mormon has continued to interest me, and I shall hope that nothing prevents your accomplishing the task.  I should think that volume would be well received—after the blare of bugles and the ruffle of drums have ceased from among us.

Kindly remember me to your little group of loyal associates.  A Happy Easter!

Sincerely yours,

Kenneth W. Cameron

[LJAD, letter from Kenneth Walter Cameron, Department of English, State College, Raleigh, North Carolina, April 2, 1942]

Incidentally, in regard to Brodie, I have the impression that with regard to the early pamphlets, she pretty well relied upon the apostate and anti-Mormon.  This may have been either due to the fact that most libraries have only the scalawag literature on early Mormonism (and the church’s collection was not of easy access), or she may have early formed her opinion of the prophet and simply selected these materials that seemed most likely to fit in with that interpretation.  In some respects the church is at fault for the widespread use of Brodie, Linn, etc., because it has done nothing to encourage (and has done much to discourage) the use of the Mormon pamphlets and documents.  We seem to have rested on the Pratt-Smith collection in the so-called documentary history and done nothing to add to our side of the case since.  And I did find things that help to explain some of the more questionable early activities.

[LJAD, letter to George, 22 October 1956]

19 November 1956

Dear George:

Yesterday Grace and I were invited out to an afternoon and evening with Dr. Austin Fife and his wife Alta.  They are the authors of the recent book on Mormon folklore, SAINTS OF SAGEBRUSH AND SADDLE.  I had met him previously at a meeting of the History Guild—a quarterly meeting of all the history professors in southern California.  He and I were both guests of the affair, which on this occasion was held at Occidental College, where he is professor of modern languages.  He grew up in Idaho Falls, so we have much in common.  His wife comes from Bountiful.  We were also invited Friday night to the home of Cliff Kroeber, a professor of History at Occidental, and Fife and Alta were also in this group.  Hence the invitation to his home yesterday.  The other invitee:  Faun Brodie.  (Her husband had been invited but was unable to come.)

Faun lives at Pacific Palisades, an exclusive residential area fronting the ocean just above Sunset Beach.  Her husband, Bernard, is employed by Rand Corporation.  He works on various kinds of projects for the government, having to do with military history, international law, etc.  The Brodies have three children, a boy about fourteen, one about 12, and a girl about 5.  They are not bringing the children up in the church.  We got the impression that their children have never been to an LDS church and have never discussed it at home.  They go to this church and that with their friends, but usually do not go at all.  Faun said that she had asked her oldest boy what he answers when people ask him his religion.  He said he replies, I’m just a sinner,” and then laughed.  Faun said he was just getting to the age when she began to wonder whether she had done the right thing; because he misses the social life he could get in church and in the mutuals.

During the afternoon and evening, we of course, discussed Faun’s book.  I gather that she never did go thru the Journal History for the period she covered.  She did most of the work in Chicago, Independence, New York Public, and Library of Congress.  She did virtually all of it before she went to New Haven.  I also gather that she had done most of it before marrying Brodie.  Her family were well aware of her heretical tendencies during all of this period, but her father, not knowing how to cope with it just closed his eyes to it and simply wished it were not so.  He never attempted to cope with the reality.  Faun said that she had gotten very little from the Church Historian’s Office.  She did get to see the Wasp and Nauvoo Neighbor, which at that time was not available elsewhere on microfilm.  She also asked to see Joseph Smith’s manuscript history of the church, which she had heard had been gone over by Brigham Young and others before publication in the Millennial Star.  She had heard it had been expurgated.  Well Bro. Lund asked Joseph Fielding, and Joseph Fielding talked to her father and her father decided to have David O. talk to her.  David O. was also well aware of her heretical tendency.  She told him the nature of the work; that he would not like her approach, etc., etc.  They had quite a long session, and he was very angry.  It was a tearful session, but she remained defiant, and he stalked out.  Later she got a letter from him, which would authorize her to use the full facilities of the Historian’s Office.  But she thought this was too much, and she wrote him back saying she was not going to do so because she knew he did not want her to.  And she never went back to the Historian’s Office, and never saw the said Joseph Smith manuscript.  David O. apparently was most afraid that she would spend all her time with the church’s anti-Mormon collection—“the best anti-Mormon collection in existence,” he had said.  But she says that she had no intention of using anything except the Joseph Smith manuscript history and, if all went well, she was going to ask to see the minutes of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, which she had heard they possessed.  She had heard from a person or two who had seen the Masonic minutes and these had said that they bear out many of the contentions of John C. Bennett.

The people who felt she had really betrayed them, she said, were the Reorganites.  They had turned over to her freely everything they had, and she made extensive use of it.  And while they were friendly during all of the her research, and while she thought she had made her position fully clear to them, they had turned on her full force after the book appeared.  “The Brodie Atrocity,” they called it.  In the last printing of her book she includes some materials with reference to the Purple materials, which strengthen some of the information about Joseph Smith’s first trial—in an appendix.  (Bowen had asserted, in his review of the book that the document pertaining to the first trial was a forgery.  But she says the Purple and other newspaper accounts in the possession of Dale Morgan fully sustain the view of the document from which she quotes.  With regard to Joseph Smith’s plural wives, she says that as the book was in print she got information about other wives of Joseph Smith.  I’ve forgotten where she said she got the information from, but she decided to go ahead and include it in the book as finally published.  To make these additions cost her $300 extra.  These wives cost her more than Joseph Smith, she asserted!  She seems to be fully convinced that Joseph Smith was a debauchee.

Faun has done nothing to keep up with the field.  She had originally thought of doing a Brigham Young biography when she completed the Joseph Smith one.  But she gave that up without doing anything towards it.  As she expressed it, the Joseph Smith biography was a kind of cathartic—an expiation—and now she has no desire to do any more writing on Mormon subjects.  She decided some 8 years ago to do a biography of Thaddeus Stevens, and she says she is now fully engrossed in the Civil War.  She believes that she has no particular interest in keeping up with the Utah or Mormon picture.  She has not read any of the recent literature, does not review books, etc.  She did not know any of the names of current scholars.  She did not know my name, Ellsworth, Gaylen Caldwell, or in fact any name that I called out having done work since the war. (1946).

Faun is tall, pleasant face, large brown eyes and dark hair, with fair skin.  Pleasant personality and voice.  Sincere, somewhat detached, not emotionally involved in things as she apparently was when writing the book.  From stories she told I have the idea that complete objectivity was not possible because once she had made up her mind on the fundamental character of Joseph Smith she was bound to assert that character regardless of what anyone might present to her.  She has the McKay personality all right.  She is very intelligent, very literate, but seems to have been more interested in getting her views across with regard to Joseph Smith than in trying to discover, for truth’s sake, what went on in the early church.  Her knowledge of Utah Mormonism is almost nil.  Her knowledge of the present generation of Mormon scholars is also nil.  She knows Dale Morgan, Juanita Brooks, Wilford Poulson, Francis Kirkham, all of that older school.

Grace came away from the session feeling a little sad for her.  Feeling that emotionally she still can’t overcome her training, even though intellectually she has long since dismissed Mormonism as a fraud.  My feeling is that if she had remained the true scholar, she would still be doing work in the field.  She is more the artist, painting a portrait.  Once she has painted it, she forgets it and begins to paint another.

[LJAD, letter to George, 19 November 1956]

I want to be sure to say that your approach to AP sounds good and that I am particularly happy that you are working on it first and trying to get a draft of the whole thing through before you start on anything else.  In many ways I wish you didn’t have the Utah history so you could go right in to the History of Missions.  The more I work in the field the more important I feel the Mission history to be.  In fact, I am almost to the point of writing a letter to the authorities to suggest it as a topic for a manual in one of the Sunday School, priesthood, or MIA classes.  I won’t write the letter, of course, but I feel more than ever the necessity of getting the mission philosophy back into our thinking and literature.  We are still provincial and narrow—Salt Lake centered—in many ways.  Our faith rests to a large extent upon parents, grandparents, etc. and the Utah experience.  How much broader our concepts if we could see our history in terms of presenting the gospel in far-off Singapore, Cape Town, Hong Kong, and Jutland!  What a pleasant and rewarding way of learning geography, customs, world history!  Huntington would be an ideal place to work on the mission history.  If you could get your AP done in draft form before you get here, you might be able to spend much of your time here working on the various missions—that is the background information—of course; your basic source would have to be the CHO in SLC.  And what an opportunity to present the world interest of Mormonism in professional journals by doing stories of the presentation of the gospel in different countries.

[LJAD, letter to George Ellsworth (and Maria and Family), Wednesday, 30 January 1957]

In relations to Cumming, congratulations!  Stout has a number of entries in regard to him that are very interesting.  You’ll want to see them when you get around to doing the article.  I feel that Cumming has not been appreciated sufficiently by Utahan’s.  Of all the carpetbag governors, he tried hardest to understand the Mormons; and, I think, came closest to doing so.  He, above all, knew when to turn the other cheek, and he did so frequently.  The Mormons could never respect him for his drinking; but if any of his successors had come in under the same circumstances as he, and had had to take what he took, there would have been war in Utah!  There are many, many occasions when he was cursed at and treated roughly, but he chose to take the favorable interpretation and give the Mormons the benefit of the doubt.  He really did many things for us.  

[LJAD, letter to George Ellsworth (and Maria), 9 February 1957]

Incidentally, I finally received the Bill Mulder lecture and it was superb.  Good tone throughout and incomparable style.  I also learned that Carl Carmer sometime ago was “invited” by the church to write a history of it in his own inimitable style.  He has been back for some months to New York and Vermont and some months in Salt Lake, and is now here in southern Calif. finishing it up.  He has been to the library a few times but I haven’t had a chance to meet him yet.  He is telling people that the church turned over to him everything he wanted and left him free to write it his own way except he agreed to let them see it before he published, reserving the right to make the final decision as to what went in and what didn’t.  I hadn’t realized the church had quite such a good sense of public relations.  One peculiar thing is how they’ll turn over materials to Gentiles like Carmer and will give the cold shoulder to people like Bill Mulder and Juanita Brooks.  Considering Carmer’s other works I shall be interested to see how much history and how much folklore there is in the finished product.  I’ll let you know the intimate details if I ever get to see him. I’ve posted everybody around here that I want to see him; but he hasn’t come around yet.

[LJAD, letter to George Ellsworth, 25 February 1957]

Oh, one more item.  I think you are acquainted with Utah Magazine, published by the Godbeites, 1868-1869.  A “liberal” Mormon magazine, literary in character, until the excommunication, and then converted to Mormon Tribune, and later Salt Lake Tribune.  Well, there were three or four editorial-like articles by Tullidge, which I thought I would like to have copies of.  Huntington has a microfilm obtained in 1948 from Church Historian’s Office.  CHO had required Huntington to promise that no reproduction would be made without permission.  Well, I applied to Huntington for a Photostat of seven pages.  Huntington (Bliss) then wrote to Bro. Lund for permission to make the Photostats for me (mentioning me by name and specifying that I did not plan to publish them but to use them for personal reference).  Lund replied today to Bliss somewhat as follows:  “We cannot give you permission under any condition to make Photostats of this or any other rare book material obtained from us by microfilm for Brother Arrington.  We know that Brother Arrington will do as you say, but we cannot grant such a request for him or anyone else.”  Bliss was flabbergasted!  My feeling is that it was just plain stupid.  After all, I can go right downstairs and copy the seven pages in a half a day—I was just trying to save myself that trouble by ordering copies.  Well, I hope fortune smiles better on you today.  The course of scholarship is not a bed or roses, said Metophoris.  Somehow [I hate myself for saying this], I feel that the appointment of Preston Nibley was a step in our direction.  His first task, I understand, is to gather the current histories of all the wards, stakes, and missions.  Ultimately, however, he will take over Lund’s place; and might, come the deluge, take over Joseph Fielding’s.  As I say, this could very well be a step in the direction of eliminating the proprietary attitude.

[LJAD, letter to George Ellsworth, 17 April 1957]

Today I gave the following talk to the Timpanogos Club of Salt Lake City:

I should like to start out this evening with a comment about the very great interest in European universities in American economic history, because this increasing regard and admiration for American economic achievements has much in common with the increasing American regard for the economic achievements of the early settlers of Utah.

My assignment in Italy last year was to give a series of lectures and teach a class in the economic history and development of the United States.  This was frankly an experiment, conducted by the Fulbright Commission, the Italian Government and the College of Economics and Commerce at the University of Genoa.

To put the matter mildly, we discovered tremendous interest in this subject—not only among the students at the University, who kept demanding additional reading material—but also among other groups in other cities.  I was invited to address groups in most of the major cities of the country, and some in small towns and villages.

Partly as an outgrowth of this experiment, the Italian government, which controls all universities, passed a law permitting any university to set up a chair in American economics.  The University of Genoa did so.

Well, what did they see in the American economy?  They see it as the most productive, and yet the most humane economy in world history.  They see that we had eliminated the old boom and bust pattern that used to characterize capitalistic economies, and that we have managed to protect the individual from extreme exploitation, thus confounding Karl Marx.  They see it as a system, which has been democratized through systems of mass production and mass distribution so as to provide the great mass of the people with the necessities and comforts of life.

Above all, they indicate their desire to learn from us something of the principles of organization, which is the most serious lack in Europe.  How to organize on a grand scale, as we did during World War II, with such beneficial results to the Western world.

I had many conversations with European intellectuals, both young and old.  I had read many things they had written in years past, and I was not quite prepared for this new admiration of America and things American.  In the past, these people had been apologetic or envious about America’s material power or economic strength.  They condemned our love of the dollar, our race to wealth, our interest in material objects; they deprecated our worship of size, and deplored our boastfulness about steel tonnage, grain production, and output of machinery.  Their historians and writers intimated that America had neglected cultural and spiritual values; that it had grown too fast, too coarsely, to muscularly.

Looking back at events of the past few years, they now see that this attitude was in part erroneous.  The nation grew none too fast.  All of this wealth, all of this strength was needed to meet the succession of world crises which has plagued Western civilization in this century.  Had we applied restrictions to keep our economy small, tame, and timid we would have lost World War I.  Had the United States not possessed the mightiest oil industry, the greatest steel industry, the largest automotive factories, the most efficient machine-tool industry, the best technological schools, and the most ingenious working force in the world, we would undoubtedly have lost World War II.  Were we significantly weaker today in technical skills, in great mills and factories, and the scientific knowledge, which gave us priority with the atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb, all Western Europe, would be cowering—we ourselves would perhaps be cowering—before the (lash, whip, scourge, knout) held by the Kremlin.  Recognition of this fact has led to new interest in and admiration for the great architects of American’s material growth—men like Eli Whitney, Cyrus McCormick, George Westinghouse, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, James J. Hill, and Henry Ford.  European as well as American historians are beginning to see them, for all their faults, as builders of a strength which civilization found indispensable.  

If the world has come to a better appreciation of American economic history, Americans, for much the same reasons, have come to a better appreciation of Utah history, and of such early stalwart frontiersmen as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George Albert Smith, Orson Pratt, and others.  Increasingly, Americans now see pioneer Utah—not as a place where people practiced a peculiar marriage principle; not as they once did, as the locale of a group of religious fanatics; nor even as the place where people, by diligent labor, made the desert blossom as the rose.  If the American educators I’ve been talking and writing to are representative, they now find in Utah (a) what was probably the most highly perfected social organization in 19th century America; (b) the development of a remarkable effective set of social institutions which have great meaning today; and (c) at a time in our national life when all is being standardized according to a common pattern of belief and action, they find the diverse pattern of pioneer Utah not only to be interesting in demonstrating the diversity of our origins, but instructive that this diversity is beneficial, for many agree that Utah’s pattern has produced the very highest kind of citizens:  young people who are well-educated, energetic, cooperative, and loyal to their work.

I wonder, even, if we ourselves appreciate our history as much as Americans generally?  Utah people, it seems to me, very often tend to think of Utah history as being part of their family history, and as having no significance for anyone except them.

Utah history has significance to members of the LDS Church, of course, because of the close connection for so many years between Utah history and their own church history, but do they appreciate that it has national significance?

The local feeling of the unimportance of Utah history seems superficially to be confirmed by an analysis of American history books.  One can search almost in vain for mention of Utah and the Mormons in general American history books.  A brief search yesterday afternoon of 12 leading works on American history found the Mormons mentioned in only two of the 12.  In both of those the Mormons are mentioned briefly in connection with colonization.

The same is true of the texts in American economic history.  Of the eight leading texts on American economic history, the Mormons are mentioned in only one, and that, again, in connection with colonization.

This seeming neglect of the Utah’s pioneers in our general American literature, however, does not necessarily reflect a low opinion of their achievements or an inadequate appreciation of their institutions.  Several years ago I was fortunate enough to secure a six-months grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel through the East and study Utah’s economic history in the Library of Congress, National Archives, New York Public Library, Yale Library, and Harvard Library.  During this period, I obtained interviews with a number of the leading American economic historians to talk about my project.  Of the dozen leading economic historians of the nation, I probably had a chance to talk with more than half.  And I must say that I was surprised to find not only that they knew a great deal about Utah and Mormon history, but also that they had a profound respect for its importance.

One older person—who had taught a whole generation of younger men like myself—told me he thought the history of Utah was second only in importance to the history of Massachusetts among the States of the Union.

I learned that Ralph Henry Gabriel, probably the foremost intellectual historian of the nation, devoted a full three lectures—a full week—in his class on American Ideals at Yale—to the achievements of the Mormons and Utah.

The Committee on Research in Economic History of the Economic History Association, received a grant to do some pilot studies of the economic history of key states in the country, and it is interesting to learn of the importance they gave Utah.  They sponsored studies of Massachusetts, representing New England, Pennsylvania, representing the Middle Atlantic region; Georgia, representing the South; Illinois, representing the Midwest; and Utah, representing the West.

A number of these authorities told me that they had attempted to get some of their brightest young men interested in doing research on Utah’s history, but had failed.

The question naturally occurs:  if they feel this way, why is Utah not given more importance in their writings.  I asked some of them this very question, and their answer was that so little of a scholarly character had been written about Utah.  Things don’t get into the textbooks until there is a significant body of scholarly writing about the subject.

So we come against this impasse in which the truly great educators of the nation know that we have a great story to tell, but hardly do more than say this much.  The scholars who provide the foundations for the story shy away from our subject because of the lack of authentic source materials from which to work.

We need some biographies of prominent early Utahans, John D. Lee—Juanita Brooks, Erastus Snow—William Mulder, written by sound scholars.

We need some documentary histories, in which would be published letters, instructions, minutes of meetings, and official diaries of leaders.

We need to publish some diaries of such men as Wilford Woodruff, Hosea Stout, George Q. Cannon, and other prominent pioneer leaders.

We need to publish the histories of companies and enterprises, industries, and organizations.

As a Utahan, I am ashamed that the only important Utah diary that has been published with scholarly notes and introductions is the diary of John D. Lee.  What about Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, George A. Smith, Brigham Young, Charles C. Rich, and others?

As a Utahan, I am ashamed when I see eastern foundations publishing the complete works of Franklin, the Adamses, Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, and others, and find no effort being made to publish even a small part of the documents pertaining to Brigham Young.  And yet here is American’s greatest colonizer in a nation of colonizers!

I open the pages of the Business History Review and find treated the histories of picayunish little business in the East, overlooking the important large enterprises, which were initiated here in our own state.  Missiles, Uranium.  West Air Line.  Rosenblatts.  Irrigation.  We need a history of Utah Copper, which furnished one-third of the copper used in World War I and II.  This needs to be written by our own Utah people who have an understanding of what went on.

The greatest lack of all, however, is in the lack of treatment of Utah history in this century.

Utah produced one-third the copper used in fighting World War II.  Where is the history of this enterprise?

Utah has advanced remarkably in industrialization in the past few years; where is anything available in scholarly literature on this achievement?

Utah has the finest educational system in the nation, but has this story and the reasons for it penetrated the pages of historical journals?

We must write history to be remembered in history.

We have got to encourage our historians by providing them with materials and by allowing them freedom to tell our magnificent story.

Well, what is that magnificent story, and why is it so important?

Because Utah’s pioneer society was one of the few in our national history which was founded for a religious purpose, dominated by religious sentiments, and managed by religious leaders, Utah’s history can tell us something of the relation of religion to social progress; some of the contributions that can be rendered to social development by religious values and by a determined church, and the relation of democracy to cooperative activity.

Second, the history of this region is significant because it illustrates the problems connected with the settlement of an isolated, mountainous, and semi-arid region.  It is doubtful that any such region in world history has faced up more resolutely to the particular problems involved in irrigation agriculture, and documented the story more completely, than has Utah.  As a result, these mountain valleys flourish, and their history and development are objects of study by scientists and technicians from as far way as Africa, Iran, and Australia.

Third, Utah’s history is significant because it was virtually the only part of the United States developed without outside capital.  In fact, Utah’s history is a model case study of how a region can be developed with its own capital—what the pioneers called bone and sinew.  The Atlantic Coast states had extensive commercial connections with England, northern Europe, and the West Indies.  The Southeast built its economy by exporting to England.  The Midwest was developed primarily by eastern capital, while West Coast development was stimulated and financed by exports of gold, lumber, and wheat.  Even most of the valleys in the Mountain States were developed by eastern and Midwestern capital.  For example, Wyoming range cattle industry was largely financed by easterners and Englishmen, and the mining industries of Montana, Colorado, and Nevada were largely induced by the in-migration of mining capital from east of the Mississippi.

Utah, on the other hand, was settled by people who did not have capital when they came, and did not attempt to attract outside capital because they wanted to control their own communities.  Yet, they made remarkable progress-and their progress in turn made possible the extensive development of mines in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada, and, indeed, the eventual completion of the transcontinental railroad.  Because of its prior settlement and success, the Mormon community could provide many goods and services needed by the more specialized mining and other communities in the non-Mormon West.

Fourth, Utah’s institutions were not those typical of the laissez-faire capitalism, which prevailed throughout most of the West.  The Mormons had distinct market institutions, distinct property institutions, distinct concepts of enterprise, and distinct economic objectives.

Despite these differences, however, despite the unique elements in Mormon economic organization and development, the Mormons had much in common with American development generally.  And this leads to a fifth reason why Utah’s history is significant—it represents in so many ways the pioneering experience which was typical of all America.  One student of American character, Dr. Ralph Barton Perry, regarded the Mormons as a kind of symbol of America.  “Mormonism,” he asserted, “was a sort of Americanism in miniature; in its republicanism, its emphasis on compact in both church and polity, its association of piety with conquest and adventure, its sense of destiny, its resourcefulness and capacity for organization.”  For it was the dream of all Americans to escape from the feudal world of Europe and to build on this continent of new society—a good society—a Kingdom of God.  The history of Utah is thus a kind of summation of American history, a heightening, a more explicit formulation of that history.  Utah history is a study of American problems, of human problems, of the problems of all individuals making a living on the frontier of civilization, whether in Western Canada, in Argentina or in New South Wales.

Finally, Utah’s history is so significant because one can find out so much about it.  One doesn’t have to dig and dig to come up with a little bit of information, as is true in so many areas of the country.  No part of the United States, and perhaps no part of the world of this size unless it is Israel, has a history that is so completely documented.  Preserved in Salt Lake City and elsewhere is almost complete documentation.  Preserved in libraries, museums, and universities in letters, minutes, speeches and sermons, account books—everything.  The problem, as I mentioned, is one of accessibility.  Above all, from these documents, the story can be told from the view of the ordinary participant.  There is a personal history or diary of almost every pioneer—an unbelievable thing to most historians.  And, of course, they kept diaries and journals—they left memoirs—because they knew they were doing important things.  They were partners with God in subduing the earth and making it fruitful.  They were engaged in the great task of building the Kingdom and making the earth ready for the second coming of Jesus.

For these reasons, then, we are justified in paying particular attention to the achievements of the pioneers of Utah.  Not only did they make the desert fruitful, and a delightful place in which to live, but they also developed an effective (magnificent) set of social and economic institutions which are unique in American history, and which have great meaning today.

Interesting factors and events in Utah history to the scholar:

1.  The immigration system—the greatest single enterprise involving the pooled labor and income of Mormon villagers.  The emigration of converts from Europe—some 100,000 members moved over a 40-year period, across the ocean, up the Mississippi, across the Plains, and into the Great Basin communities, which could use them.  Well-regulated system.  Bull Mulder “Homeward to Zion.”

2.  Colonization system—organized in companies and well planned.  Milton Hunter.

3.  Settlement in villages and holding of property—Lowry Nelson

4.  Public works system.

5.  The system of finance, functioning under the tithing house.  Villagers were expected to contribute 10 percent of their increase in kind and those who had surpluses were expected to contribute more.  Colonists delivered butter, eggs, calves, and chickens; they contributed a tenth of their labor; they hauled in a tenth of their hay and grain; they brought molasses, wolf skins, and lead ore.  And if a colonist was fortunate enough to earn some gold or green backs by freighting or by selling produce to a passing group of packers, he donated a tenth of the cash.

These tithing receipts were expended under church direction of projects of interest to the local community of church as a whole.  They might be used to provision workers on a school building or a tannery; or to buy materials for a cotton factory or gristmill; or to construct roads to the timber of feed a passing tribe of Indians.

Some idea of the financial problems involved can be had by imagining what it would be like if the receipts of General Motors consisted of steel, used tires, labor, soft drink bottles, cast-off clothing, mohair, magazines, and necklaces.  And if it be remembered that Mormons, as with all peoples, were inclined to apply Gresham’s Law by passing off the cheap and keeping the dear, the improvisation task of Mormon empire builders is appreciated even more!

Brigham Young said in 1855:  “Some are disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you will find a man who has a cow which he considers surplus, but generally she is of the class that would kick a person’s hat off, or eyes out, or the wolves have eaten off her teats.  You will once in a while find a man who has a horse that he considers surplus, but at the same time he has the ringbone, is broken-winded, spavined in both legs, and has the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung.”  Building templates of butter—Hong Kong newspaper.

6.  Pony express system.  Earlier by four years than the Pony Express we are celebrating this year.  And they called it a pony express.  Pioneered the pony express set up adopted by Russell, Majors and Waddell.  This venture, known to the people of Utah at the time as the YX Company, was a bold and well-conceived venture, which, if it had not been halted by the Utah War of 1857 would have changed the whole structure of western development.  It was designed to provide way stations for handcart companies and other immigration, to carry the U.S. mail between the Missouri Valley and Salt Lake City, and to facilitate the movement of passengers and freight between Utah and the East.  In the summer of 1857 stations were established at 9 points between Salt Lake City and Independence, Missouri.  At each of these stations, a village was laid out, grain and vegetables were planted, mills and shops, storehouses, corrals, etc. were erected or under erection.  Supplies of food were freighted from Utah to supply the workmen and immigrants until the first crop was produced.  Ultimately, there were to be stations every 50 miles or so.

A huge investment in labor and property—the building of stations, fencing of yards and pastures, the manning of the stations, the horses and mules and wagons, feed for the animals, provisions and supplies for employees and passengers.

These largely provided by consecrations of labor, animals, and equipment.  An estimated 500 persons contributed labor, livestock, provisions, and supplies.  Wealthier Mormons donated horses, wagons, and complete outfits.  The leather makers of the territory worked to furnish boots and shoes, harness leather, saddles, and etc.  Butchers, blacksmiths, flour millers, and others worked to furnish the company.  “Aunt” Laura Kimball contributed 1 pair socks for some grateful driver, while Joseph Busby furnished 2 old bridles.  A $6.00 quilt by Sister Elizabeth Foss, a $75.00 grey horse by John Bagley, a $20.00 revolver by Heber C. Kimball, a wagon cover by Marriner W. Merrill—these are some of the items, strictly accounted for on the company’s ledger.  Total value of all contributions in excess of $100,000.

Nearly all villages sent men as “missionaries” to assist with the enterprise.  But then Utah War forces them to withdraw completely. 

7.  Telegraph system

8.  Railroad construction

9.  Cooperative system—general stores, woolen mills, tanneries, livestock herds, etc.

10.  United Order

11.  Edmunds-Tucker Act—enforcement of federal authority over the territory.

12.  Early currency experiments, and coinage.

13.  Agricultural price control.

14.  Public utility regulation.

15.  Gold Mission of 1849, lead mission at Las Vegas

16.  Fighting a war by using paper money based on livestock.

17.  Promotion of hydroelectric power production—Ogden and Big Cottonwood.  Role in iron and sugar and salt.

Well, these examples might be multiplied all evening.

Here were people who settled in one of the most unattractive and unlikely sites for settlement in North America.  The annual rainfall varied from 8 to 16 inches per year and was everywhere insufficient for the growth of crops; timber was scarce; grazing facilities were limited and there was little wild game; the terrain was rocky and uneven, making it difficult to travel from one point to another; there were no navigable rivers; the region was occupied by 8 to 10,000 hungry Indians; and the principal habitable valleys were located 1200 miles from the nearest States-side markets.

But the Mormons wanted to stay here anyway.  The territory might not be a good place for the production of wheat and corn, but it was a first rate place to raise Latter-day Saints.  But they had real problems.

In the summer of 1848 crickets ate most of the first crop, but in the next fifty years, crickets and/or grasshoppers visited the Mormons settlements on the average of one year in three, and devastated from a third to half of the entire crop each year an infestation occurred.  The first mild winter was followed by many severe ones, and on at least two occasions more than half of the territorial livestock herd perished from the cold and heavy snow.  Alternating drought and floods throughout much of the region seriously limited the production of crops and required more or less constant repair of dams and canals. And the Indians made regular and heavy incursions into the community herds, forcing each tiny settlement to erect protective forts and maintain guard patrols, at great cost of human labor.  Because of the inadequacy of the food supply, the Mormon community resorted to rationing five years out of the first ten they were in the Great Basin, and food conservation measures were in force until as late as the 1880’s.

If course, there were certain advantages in the Great Basin location which compensated from some of the handicaps.  For one thing, the Mormons were located astride the continent, so that emigrants moving west in 1849 and succeeding years usually found it desirable, if not necessary, to travel by Salt Lake City and other Mormon settlements before proceeding west to greener pastures.  One ritual in this layover was the exchange of worn-out oxen, broken-down wagons, and oversupplies of consumer goods from the States for fresh animals and improved equipment in the adobe and sagebrush capital of Deseret.  For many years, certain states goods sold in Salt Lake City at prices almost equal to those in St. Louis.  Moreover, the Mormon settlements were located in the center of the great mining frontier opened up in 1859, enabling Mormon farmers and laborers to find good markets for their produce and labor in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada.  Finally, the Mormons were able to profit in a major way from the construction of the transcontinental telegraph and railroad lines and from the supplying of the overland mail and stage companies and federal army installations.

Counteracting the above “windfalls” to a certain extent, however, were the obstacles placed in the way of the territory’s growth by a hostile and restrictive government.  The failure of the government to make appropriations to which the territory was entitled, the refusal of appointive officials to sanction developmental projects in which the Mormons were interested, the occupation of the territory by hostile federal armies in 1858-1861 and 1862-1866, the Morrill Act of 1862 which limited the amount of property the church could own to $50,000, the antipolygamy “crusade” of the 1880’s which caused most of the leading men of the territory to be incarcerated in jail, and the confiscation of the economic properties of the Mormon Church during the period 1887-1897—all of these interfered with the rapid development of the territory by the Mormons.

Nevertheless, under their remarkable and interesting policies and institutions, which decidedly differed from those that applied in Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, and other Western States, Utah’s pioneers, by the end of the century, had two solid accomplishments to their credit:

1.  They had provided the basis of support for half a million people in an area long and widely regarded as inhabitable.

2.  Utah’s pioneer agriculture and industry, stimulated by an activist group of enterprisers, Mormon and non-Mormon, supplied the burgeoning economies of Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada—not to mention the construction gangs of the transcontinental railroads and telegraph lines—with veritable lifeline of flour, beef, fruits, and other goods and services.  The spectacular development of the Mountain West was attributable in significant measure to the early and substantial achievements of early Utahans.

[LJAD, talk given to the Timpanogos Club of Salt Lake City, 7 January 1960]

So many Utah people tend to think of Utah history as being part of their family history, and as having so significance for anyone except them.  Or, if they are devout LDS, they find significance for Utah history only in the contribution it makes toward an understanding of church history.  And this feeling that Utah history has no great national importance is reinforced by a perusal of American history books.  A brief search of 12 leading works on American history found the Mormons and Utah mentioned in only two of the 12.  In both of these the Mormons are mentioned briefly in connection with colonization.  The same is true of the texts in American economic history.  Of the 8 leading texts on American economic history, the Mormons are mentioned in only one, and that, again, in connection with colonization.

At the suggestion of Dr. Durham the other night, I was looking in Toynbee’s monumental 10-volume history of civilizations.  Utah and the Mormons are mentioned three times, each time with a line each.  Once in connection with plural marriage; once in connection with the trek West, and once by mentioning the Book of Mormon.

Now I feel certain, on the basis of conversations I have had with some American authorities, that this seeming neglect of Utah’s pioneers in our general American literature does not reflect a low opinion of their achievements or an inadequate appreciation of their institutions.  On the contrary, it seems to result simply from the lack of good, scholarly, monographic literature on which to base their material.  Things don’t get into the textbooks until there is a significant body of scholarly writing about the subject that one cannot ignore.  And who is to blame for this?  No one but ourselves for not doing our homework adequately and effectively.

We need some biographies of prominent early Utahans, written by sound scholars.  I rejoice that a biography of John D. Lee by Juanita Brooks is about to appear; and that a biography of Erastus Snow by William Muller is being subsidized by the American Association for State and Local History.

We need some documentary histories in which would be published the letters, instructions, minutes of meetings, and official diaries of leaders.  As a Mormon, I am ashamed that the only important diary that has been published with scholarly notes and introductions is the diary of John D. Lee.  What about Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, George A. Smith, Brigham Young, Charles C. Rich, and others.

As a Mormon I am ashamed when I see eastern foundations publishing the complete works of Franklin, the Adamses, Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, and others and find no effort being made to publish even a small part of the documents pertaining to Brigham Young.  And yet here is America’s greatest colonizer in a nation of colonizers!

We need to publish the histories of companies and enterprises, industries, and organizations.  I open the pages of the Business History Review and find treated the histories of picayunish little businesses in the East, overlooking the more important enterprises, which were initiated here in our own area.  And I hold my own head in shame for not doing something about it.  We produced one-third of the copper used in fighting World War II.  Why is there not a history of this enterprise?  We produce most of the uranium—even the radium used by the Curie’s in their famous experiments.  But where is this told?  Our industrial growth, our educational system, so many things need to be written, and I suppose we shall have to depend upon you to do it.  If you wish your church and its people to be remembered in history, you must write that history.  And here I would enter a caveat that I believe our history should be written by those of our own people who have gained perspective enough to see the thing from the standpoint of the independent scholar, and yet have not lost the touch which gives them the sympathy and intimate understanding of what they are writing about.  We have a magnificent story; we must tell it; and, moreover, the church must permit us to tell it objectively and truthfully because my testimony is that we should not be satisfied with less than the truth and we have nothing to fear from the truth.  The farther I carry my own investigations the great my respect for our church fathers and the mission they tried to carry out.

Reasons for the Significance of Utah and Mormon History

1.  Because Mormon society was one of the few in our national history which was established for a religious purpose, dominated by religious sentiments, and managed by religious leaders, a study of our history can tell us something of the relation of religion to social progress; and some of the contributions that religious values and a determined church can make to social development.

2.  Our history illustrates the problems connected with the settlement of an isolated, mountainous, and semi-arid region.  It is doubtful that any region in world history has faced up more resolutely to the problems involved in irrigation agriculture, and documented the story more completely than the Mormon Country.

3.  Our history illustrates the techniques, and demonstrates the possibility of development without outside capital.  It illustrates how a region can be developed with its own capital—what the pioneers called bone and sinew.  Not only did we succeed where others failed, but by our success and early settlement we made possible the success of many other more specialized Western settlements—mining communities, cattle towns, and so on.

4.  Our history demonstrates that at an early period Americans were experimenting with various kinds of institutions to improve the social economy.  We developed distinct property institutions, market institutions, concepts of enterprise, and distinct economic administration and goals.  And since Mormons were American, this is all a part of the social experimentation, which is such an important part of the American heritage.

5.  Finally, our history is so important because we can find out so much about it.  No part of the United States, and perhaps no part of the world this size, unless it be Israel, has a history that is so completely documented.  Preserved in Salt Lake City or somewhere are letters, minutes, speeches, sermons, account books, diaries—everything.  And this makes it possible to tell the story from the view of the ordinary participant.  The pioneers knew that they were doing something important, and they kept a record of it.

6.  As an economist, I should like to add two other characteristics of our Mormon economy in the West that has significance to the West, nation and for that matter, the world.  The first is that the Salt Lake Valley settlement, and the colonies which it spawned, that is, the historic Mormon community, represented what might be termed a whole society—an entire, well-balanced community—with many industries and types of activity, each recognized as an integral part of the whole, and far more capable of independent, self-sufficient existence than most other Western communities, which tended to be dominated by one particular type of activity—mining, lumbering, cattle-raising, or wheat-raising.  This can be demonstrated quantitatively by examining the decennial census, which has included tables on occupations in the states and territories since 1850.

In general, these show that Utah, as the center of Mormonism, had a diversified society, and was prepared for a balanced, well-ordered economic life.  Actually, 85 different occupations were being practiced in Utah in 1850, ranging alphabetically from architect to woolen manufacturer.  There were butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers; colliers, jewelers, and machinists; cabinet-makers, gunsmiths, and tanners.

In contrast, other Western economies were all highly specialized.  The 1850 census, for example, reports 75 percent of the occupied persons in California to be engaged in mining gold.  In 1860, the percentage occupied in mining was 82 percent in Colorado, 51 percent in Nevada, and 38 percent in California.  Again in 1870, when only 1.3 percent of the nation’s work force was employed in mining, the percentage was 60 percent in Idaho, 48 percent in Montana, and 31 percent in Nevada.  Decade by decade, the evidence is overwhelming that Utah’s relatively well-rounded economy stood in sharp contrast with neighboring states and territories, and thus she was called upon to service Overlanders and other Westerners in a wide variety of ways.  It would be easy to defend the thesis that without the Mormon economy, the development of the remainder of the West would have been halted for many years.

7.  The final point is that the Mormon economy, undertaken in one of the most difficult colonizing regions of the world, was planned and organized; and partly for this very reason did not fail.  The Mormons did not require their members to face individually the hazards of the wilderness, but sent them out in carefully organized companies to localities chosen with a view to the advancement of group interests.  And the bulk of their early activities in each of these settlements was cooperative in nature.  

The success and suitability of the Mormon pattern appealed to national leaders who loved the West and sought its conversion from a wilderness into an empire.  Theodore Roosevelt, Richard T. Ely, Thomas Nixon Carver, Ray Stannard Baker, William Smythe, and others made repeated references to the Mormon example in their speeches and writings.  Eventually, voluntary associations, corporations, and state and federal bureaus came to apply policies, which were frankly suggested by Mormon experience.

One other point.  Until you get away, you don’t know how well organized we are—or rather you know we are well organized but perhaps don’t appreciate what it has done for us.  If we are characterized by anything it is by a high degree of spontaneous and voluntary or organized cooperation.  Men must pursue common purposes and pursue them effectively.

[LJAD, talk given Phi Alpha Theta and History Majors, Brigham Young University, 17 May 1961]


By Leonard J. Arrington

Utah State University

Thirty years ago, during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, my father was a potato farmer in south central Idaho.  The price of potatoes at the farm had declined from $1.75 a sack in 1929 to 75 cents a sack in the fall of 1932.  Obviously, 10 cents a sack hardly made it profitable to harvest the crop, and many of the farmers left their potatoes in the ground to rot.  But my father had a large family of boys, with a labor cost of zero, and he decided to dig some of the best acres.  The family needed the income, no matter how inadequate.

Always interested in affairs around him, my father suggested that I write out some slips of paper stating how much we were selling the potatoes for, and requesting the buyer to return a letter telling how much he had paid.  We put such slips in a dozen or so bags.

The result was quite a lesson in economics:  We received three or four replies, all from cities in California, and the prices they reported paying varied from a low of $1.50 a sack to a high of $2.70 a sack.  I recall one letter saying, “You say you received 10 cents; we paid $1.85.  Yet the freight from Idaho to this town is only 75 cents.  Something is wrong here!”

Something was wrong there—but why?  And what could be done about it?  This was the experience that impelled a 15-year-old Idaho farm boy to become interested in economics.  At the University I began with a major in agricultural economics, and later switched to general economics.

But what converted a budding economic theoretician-and theory was my specialty, both at the University of Idaho and at the University of North Carolina—what converted a student who had become interested primarily in economic theory into a specialist on Mormon and Western history?  (And, incidentally, I review this personal history only because it illustrates how a student may be stimulated and influenced and how eventually books get written.)

To begin with, the farming area in which I grew up was decidedly non-Mormon.  There were no Mormon schoolteachers; no Mormon businessmen that I recall; and no close neighbors who were Mormons.  I was acquainted with some Mormons to be sure, but had no knowledge of Mormon communities or of the so-called Mormon way of life.  I did gain some adult understanding of Mormonism while at the University of Idaho, but my interest in Mormon history did not flower until later.

Paradoxical as it may seem, the decisive experience in this regard was the offer of a Kenan Teaching Fellowship at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  First of all, there was the shock of moving from one cultural setting to another.  And the cultural shock then was far greater than it would be today, for this was before the war “mixed the nation up,” so to speak, and before improved education, improved transportation and communication, and nation-wide television had ironed out many of the geographical diversities in American culture.  I was immediately struck with the sharp and significant differences in the way of life in the South and the West—or, to be more specific, with the differences in the way of life in Idaho and North Carolina.

As with most persons transplanted from one cultural setting to another, I was completely fascinated with the South.  Like a gourmet who has discovered a new kind of food, I enjoyed every morsel—partly because it was new and therefore exciting—and partly because I was simply charmed by it all.  Eagerly, I devoured books on the South, engaged people of all walks of life in conversation and became an infatuated Dixie-phile.  Among other things, for example, I read the Southern Fugitives, as they were called, and was particularly stimulated by “I’ll Take My Stand,” Who Owns America? and other works by the Southern Agrarians, and by such books as Divided We Stand by Walter Prescott Webb.

Eventually—and this again repeats the experience of countless others—the excitement of this personal discovery of the South began to wane and I came to look upon the region with more equanimity and objectivity.  (However, not with complete equanimity, I suppose—I did marry a southern girl!)

Now it was in these years that North Carolina and other scientists were, in a sense, rediscovering the South.  Howard W. Odom, Rupert Vance, Milton Heath, and other southern social scientists were surveying in depth the economy and culture of the South and accumulating the mass of statistics, which eventually went into that monumental Volume, The Southern Regions.  These scholars had two main postulates, as I understand them:

First, the United Stats was a nation of cultural and economic regions, and was comprehensible only by knowing its regions.  And second, since the national culture was a compound of impulses from many regions, each region should be given the same intensive study, which had been given the South.  And this should not be done by “outsiders” but by those who were reared in the region and understood it best.

It was a part of this regionalist philosophy that students should begin their understanding of the world by beginning with the world around them—their family, community, state, and region.  All culture was local culture, and all history was local history.  Rather than begin with Greece and Rome, one ought to begin with one’s neighborhood—one’s mountain or valley.  The more one understood about the culture in which he lived, the closer he came to understanding humanity.  The historian, the playwright, the novelist, should write about one’s locality, one’s fold, one’s culture.  The direction of all of these should be toward the universal, but the universal ought to be wrapped up in a particular way of life.  In short, the kingdom of God was within you, or at least around you, and not a far-off string of neon lights that may not, after all, really exist.

The meaning of all this to a Westerner doing graduate work in the South was that it was my responsibility and opportunity to participate in the rediscovery of the West.  And now, experiencing some nostalgia for my native region, I turned to the literature on the West.  While much had been written about the “frontier” west, literature on the contemporary west was surprisingly meager, particularly the Mountain West in which I had been reared.  There were, of course, lots of things by Bernard deVoto, a native of Ogden, Utah, and son of the apostate catholic father and an apostate Mormon mother.  But perhaps because of my immaturity I saw DeVoto as one who had become disenchanted with the culture of the West—as an expatriate iconoclast who was emotionally incapable of an objective treatment of his homeland.  And anyway, according to my thought, he was more a literary critic than a historian.

The point is that there was no systematic scholarly appraisal of the region; nothing equivalent to what had been done and was being done for the South.  And, as far as that goes, there has not been such a study yet, at least for the Mountain West, although Morris Garnsey of the University of Colorado gave an excellent economic portrayal in his book of several years ago:  American’s New Frontier.

Here was a challenge to a young Westerner—almost a lone Westerner at Chapel Hill.  And, following the regionalist philosophy, my advisers specifically and strongly encouraged me to enter into a study of the West.

At this time, the Mormons were very much in the news because of their highly touted Church Welfare Plan.  This was a plan to provide gainful employment and income for all their members receiving government relief.  A historical novel about the Mormons by Vardis Fisher, titled Children of God, was a contemporary best seller, and I read The Readers Digest condensation (and later the original) with intense interest.  Here was a religion, I thought, whose story had epic proportions.

Somewhat accidentally, I came across three other things that increased my interest and curiosity with regard to the Mormon way of life:  These were some studies by the rural sociologist, Lowry Nelson, on the Mormon plan of settlement—since published by the University of Utah Press under the title The Mormon Village; an article in the American Review—the journal of the Southern Agrarians, on the Mormons and their love for the land; and an article in Harper’s on Mormon irrigation in southern Nevada by Juanita Brooks, a modern historian and biographer who is herself a Mormon pioneer.  I also recall running across a statement by Leo Tolstoy, who admired the Mormons, that they taught “the American religion.”

The effect of all these was to whet the appetite—to suggest that there was something worthy of study—something which had not heretofore been studied from the viewpoint of the economic historian.

By now, I suppose, most Americans are familiar with the general outline of the Mormon story.  During the 1820’s, An uneducated but intelligent and sensitive Vermont-born farm youth, named Joseph Smith, claimed to receive visitations from heavenly beings and to have “translated” from gold plates a 600-page record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas called the Book of Mormon.  His prophetic powers were accepted by a small group of relatives and friends and, on April 6, 1830, in western New York State, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized.  (It was nicknamed Mormon Church because of its emphasis on the Book of Mormon.)  Some notable conversions were made, the church grew, and communities were built in northeastern Ohio, centering around Kirtland; in western Missouri, centering around Independence; and in Illinois, centering around Nauvoo—a town which, incidentally, is now being restored.

Within a few years after its founding the church had developed a systematic theology.  Briefly, the church claimed to be a restoration of primitive Christianity, and its religious beliefs included worship of a personal God, acceptance of the Bible and Book of Mormon as divine scriptures, emphasis upon education and upon group activity, and conviction that divine authority had been granted to Joseph Smith and his associates to establish the “one true church.”  (Most of the early members of the church, and virtually all of the early leaders who shaped the faith, were born in New England or were of New England parentage, and, a few scholars to the contrary, Mormonism was not a “frontier” religion in the usual meaning of that term.  On the whole, the creed and practices of the Mormons were relatively conservative and unemotional.  Having been founded—or “restored” as the Mormons prefer to say—in the Western Hemisphere, the Mormons had a strong belief in the destiny of America—it was the Promised Land—a “land choice above all other lands.”  As Americans, the Mormons felt a strong sense of duty, a passionate yearning for knowledge, and possessed an unshakable confidence in their own high destiny.  As with many other Americans, the Mormons regarded it as their mission to build on this continent a good society—a kingdom of God.

A number of Mormon beliefs and practices, however, infuriated Americans of other persuasions, and the early history of the Mormons was tempestuous and violent.  Subjected to repeated assaults and physical danger, they were driven from community after community with a violence which today provokes shame and disbelief.  It was perhaps as the result of these early trials and persecutions that the Mormons welded the strong social organization, which was a marvel of 19th century America.  Eventually, 6,000 strong, they sang their way to the Salt Lake Valley, on the edge of the Great American Desert, and settled in mountain oases where they were relatively protected from hostile neighbors.  They occupied a broad area 2,000,000 square miles in size—including Utah, Nevada, parts of Idaho, California, Arizona, and Wyoming.  There they built some 500 communities partly by an effective immigration system, and developed interesting and unique institutions with respect to marriage and the family, the ownership and management of property, cooperative enterprise, and education.  Stubbornly, they resisted integration into a national pattern, which they thought unworthy.  To paraphrase Brigham Young, their necks were not given to the halter.

The normal reaction of most Americans today to the Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, as they prefer to be called, I suppose, is that they are honest, law-abiding, industrious citizens—although perhaps in the mind of many they take their religion a little too seriously.  But what is the justification for a pair of lectures on the Mormons in a series on American civilization?

There are five reasons why, it seems to me, the Mormon story is significant and vital to students of American history.

1.  The first is that Mormon society was one of the few in our national history which was established for a religious purpose, dominated by religious sentiments, and managed by religious leaders.  Thus, a study of Mormon history can tell us something of the relation of religion to social progress; and some of the contributions that religious values and a determined church can make to social development.  This was not only true of pioneer Utah, but has relevance even today; for secularism, which has made inroads almost everywhere, is still stoutly resisted wherever the Mormons are dominant.  That is to say, the Mormons have sought to act collectively, as well as individually, as Christians, and a religion’s influence on economics, politics, education, recreation, and other phases of life is still evident in Mormon Country.

2.  The corollary of the above is likewise significant—that Mormonism, perhaps because of its American origins, is one of the few religions, which throughout its history has exalted economics and economic welfare into an important, if not indispensable, element in religious salvation.  Scholars like Weber and Schmoller in Germany, Bousquet in France, Katherine Coman and Frederick Jackson Turner in the United States, have found the essence of Mormonism—or at least the essential contribution of Mormonism—to be in the elevation of economics into the sphere of religion and spirituality.  Despite their amazing growth and success, the Mormons successfully integrated the church into their daily lives.  Religion, the Mormons believed, was not only a “matter of sentiment, good for Sunday contemplation and intended for the sanctuary and the soul,” but also had to do, as one of their leaders said, with “dollars and cents, with trade and barter, with the body and the daily doings of ordinary life.”  “It has always been a cardinal teaching of the Latter-day Saints,” wrote one of their prophets, “that a religion which has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here on earth cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually and exalt them in the life to come.”  “In the mind of God,” said the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith (and this was repeated often by their second prophet, Brigham Young), “There is no such thing as dividing spiritual from the temporal, or temporal from spiritual; for they are one in the Lord.”  One of the early apostles put the matter a little more bluntly.  “When we descend to the matter of dollars and cents,” he said, “it is also spiritual.”

An excellent example of the practical application of this philosophy was the occasion, in 1856, when a group of Mormon converts who had crossed the Great Plains with handcarts arrived at the edge of the Salt Lake Valley while services were being held in the Mormon Tabernacle.  Word was taken to Brigham Young sitting on the stand, that these immigrants, cold, tired, and hungry after about 2 1/2 months walking on the trail, were about to arrive in the Valley.  The President arose and dismissed the congregation with these words:

I wish you go to home and prepare to give those who have just arrived a mouthful of something to eat, and to help them bathe and otherwise minister to their needs. Were I in the situation of those persons who are just coming in, I would give more for a dish of pudding and milk or a baked potato and salt, than I would for all your prayers, though you were to stay here all afternoon and pray.  Prayer is good but when baked potatoes and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place.

On another occasion Brigham Young said:

If a bishop calls a man to go into the canyon after a load of wood for the poor, and he goes there, with his heart uplifted to God, and with his eye single to the building up of the Kingdom, and gets the load of wood, and lays it at the door of the poor, he is just as much in the line of his duty as though he were on his knees praying.

3.  A third significance is the Great Migration to the West.  Beginning in the dead of the night in February 1846, and continuing to Missouri, and subsequently to the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormons carried out one of the great migrations of history.  It was also one of the best planned and executed, and over a period of years some 100,000 persons were organized and assisted across the ocean, the lakes and rivers, and across the Great Plains to the Salt Lake Valley, and thence to one of the 300 or more Mormon communities in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, California, southern Alberta, and Sonora and Chihuahua.

4.  Mormon history illustrates the problems connected with the settlement of an isolated, mountainous, and semi-arid region.  Few peoples in world history have faced up more resolutely to the problems involved in irrigation agriculture, and documented the story more completely than the Latter-day Saints.  Mormon history also illustrates the techniques, and demonstrates the possibility of developing such an inhospitable region without outside capital.1 

Indeed, Utah’s history can be regarded as a kind of model of how a region can raise itself by its own bootstraps through what the pioneers called “bone and sinew.”  The Atlantic Coast States had extensive commercial connections with England, northern Europe, and the West Indies.  The Southeast built its economy by exporting to England.  The Midwest was developed primarily by eastern capital, while West Coast development was stimulated and financed by exports of gold, lumber, and wheat.  Even in the Mountain States the Wyoming range cattle industry was largely financed by Easterners and Englishmen, and the mining industries of Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Nevada were largely induced by the in-migration of mining capital from east of the Mississippi.  The Mormon West, on the other hand, was settled by people who did not have any significant amount of physical capital when they came, and did not attempt to attract outside capital because they wanted to control their own communities.  Yet, through organized cooperative endeavor they made remarkable progress—and their progress in turn assisted the extensive development of mines in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada, and, indeed, the eventual completion of the transcontinental railroad.  Because of its prior settlement and success, the Mormon community could provide many goods and services needed by the more specialized mining ad other communities in the non-Mormon West.

5.  Despite a number of unique institutions, the Mormons had much in common with American development generally.  Indeed, the Mormons help to dramatize and document what many have long suspected, that social experimentation was an important part of the American heritage.  One student of the American character, Ralph Barton Perry, regarded the Mormons as a kind of symbol of America.  “Mormonism” he asserted, “was a sort of Americanism in miniature; in its republicanism, its emphasis on compact in both church and policy, its association of piety with conquest and adventure, its sense of destiny, its resourcefulness and capacity for organization.”

Above and beyond these, however, is the basic fact that the Mormons illustrate the vicissitudes and perils of the struggle for unity and conformity in American life.  Here is a group which was hounded, driven, and despised; their prophet and his brother murdered; groups of them killed by mobs and their homes burned; and when a man in one of the mobs raised a question as to saving the children, he was told to kill them all:  “Nits make lice.”  Even after they moved to the Great Basin and settled on land, which nobody else wanted, the Mormons were not left alone.  Federal troops came to quell them in 1857, and occupied the territory under a kind of military law for three yeas.  Congress passed act after act to take away their sovereignty and to force a change in their way of life.  The federal officials appointed to govern them were moved by essentially the same impulses as those who “reconstructed” the South after the Civil War, and showed amazing ineptitude and petulance.  And all of this was capped by the passage in 1882 and 1887 of the Edmunds and Edmunds-Tucker Acts, as the result of which the Mormons were disenfranchised and prohibited from holding office or serving on juries, their leaders placed in jail, the properties of the church confiscated, their immigration system disbanded, and their political life placed in the hands of a federal commission.  Even after they had been granted statehood in return for certain major concessions, the United States Senate conducted a three-year investigation in what is known as the Smoot trial, as the result of which the church found it necessary to sell virtually all of its business properties, abandon its traditional promotion of cooperative ventures, and in general adopt a “line” consistent with the dominant policies of the nation.

Thus throughout its history the church was under constant pressure to alter its practices to conform with dominant national patterns.  Isolated anti-Mormon demonstrations lynching, and tar and featherings have taken place even in this century, and I myself witnessed as a child one “march against the Mormons,” as it was termed, and have seen evidences of ant-Mormon prejudice and discrimination in many parts of the country.

That a remarkably high percentage of Mormons are now in important leadership positions—presidents of large corporations and of universities, government officials, and respected educators and scientists—would seem to indicate both the futility and the unwisdom of sectional and personal conformity.

This failure of Americans to tolerate the peculiar beliefs and idiosyncratic practices of such groups as the Mormons is hardly consistent with the cultural pluralism of which we Americans have long been so proud.  There is room for many eccentricities and differences in thought and way of life; and the attempt of some groups to make everybody and everything over according to one image impoverishes national life and is destructive of our highest ideals.  A policy of cultural pluralism offers vitality, strength, a variety and richness, which can enable us “to escape the doom that seems to hang over national cultures as soon as they pass their peak of self-conscious unification.”

*The first of two lectures on the Mormons delivered for the University of Texas TV Series on American Civilization, 1963.

1 Speaking of inhospitable, one is reminded of Harriet Young’s remark upon he first view of the Salt Lake Valley in 1847:  “Weak and weary as I am,” she said, “I would rather go a thousand miles farther than remain in such a forsaken place as this.”

[LJAD, lecture on the Mormons delivered for the University of Texas TV Series on American Civilization, 13 September 1963]

6D-380 Wymount Terrace

Provo, Utah 84601

September 22, 1969

Dr. Leonard J. Arrington

810 North 4th East

Logan, Utah 84321

Dear Dr. Arrington:

In my historiography class here at Brigham Young University I have been assigned to do “a study of the life, professional career, and an evaluation of a prominent historian, and his contribution to historical method, interpretation, and concepts of history.”  With your permission I would like to write about you.  I have learned a few facts about your life from reference books in the library and from talking to a former professor of mine, Dr. Thomas G. Alexander.  There is much information that I would like to get in order to do an adequate treatment of the subject.  Therefore, would you please answer some questions for me?

1.  What is your personal history?

a.  My information reveals that you were born in Twin Falls in 1917, and that you received your Ph.D. of Economics from the University of North Carolina in 1952.  What grade schools, high schools and other colleges have you attended?

b.  Describe your childhood and youth.

c.  What have been some of your accomplishments?

d.  Where have you lived and taught?

2. What is the history of your writing career?

a.  I know you have written The Great Basin Kingdom, which by the way, first acquainted me with your work.  Also, that you have written numerous articles about Utah and the Mormons.  Why do you write economic history?

b. What are some of your first works and what is forth coming?

c.  What do you feel is your personal contribution to historiography?

d.  What is your philosophy in writing history?

I ask that you pardon my intrusion into your life.  I approach the writing about you and writing this letter with apprehension.  However, I have been impressed with your writing and feel I would like to know more about you.

I would also like to visit with you for the purpose of an interview if that would be possible, hopefully on Saturday, October 11, because I will be attending classes during the week.  Also I hope that you will give this letter as prompt attention as possible because the paper is due October 20.  Thank you.

Respectfully yours, 

K. Bradley Monson

[LJAD, letter from K. Bradley Monson, BYU History Student, 22 /September 1969]

A friend has asked me to explain how I became interested in writing history—the economic history of Utah.  Let me say first that it was not the outgrowth of stimulus by an undergraduate professor of history.  I did my undergraduate work at the University of Idaho, and, as a part of my undergraduate training in economics took a number of classes from Dr. Frederick C. Church.  He was a favorite of my advisor, Dr. Erwin Graue, had a certain reputation in the field of European history, and, of course, my advisor recommended two of his courses.  The two, which I took, were The French Revolution and Recent European History.  To this day I cannot remember a single thing which the honorable professor said in either class except on one occasion, when he observed me exchanging notes with a young lady nearby, he said, “I don’t know why it is, but when two people of opposite sex sit next to each other, a certain amount of electricity is generated!”  He was uninteresting, lacked interpretive ability, never discussed problems, or methods or bibliography, and, from my point of view, taking his class was a complete waste of time.  If my experience with history had been confined to this experience at the University of Idaho, I would have gotten as far away from it as possible.

Actually, my own interest in history was generated by a colleague, Dr. George Ellsworth.

The three factors, which led to, my interest in researching and writing western economic history were:  My interest in the economic life of people; my interest in the West; and my interest in Mormonism and its history and culture.  I grew up as a Mormon and a Westerner, but my intellectual interest in these three was in the order stated.  My interest in economics was first challenged by the depression of 1930’s, debate topics in high school and college, reading of articles by Neil Caruthers of Lehigh University in Am. Magazine & elsewhere.  I thought his carefully reasoned, and pithily stated arguments for different policies were just what I would like to do.  I remember hunting up & reading every article he ever wrote.  I never once saw them in the setting, of examples of classical or neoclassical economics, which, even at the time they were written, were out of date, I liked the way they were written and their persuasiveness by deductive reasoning.

[LJAD, diary entry, 22 September 1969]

October 15, 1969

Mr. K. Bradley Monson

6-D 380 Wymount Terrace

Provo, Utah 84601

Dear Bradley:

Here are some provisional answers to your questions. . . .

I attended the University of Idaho on a Union Pacific Railroad Scholarship with a general agriculture major.  I was a reporter for the University of Idaho newspaper, the Argonaut, for the College of Agriculture.

I got along all right in my course work, but took a passionate dislike to chemistry.  Since all Ag majors had to take two years of chemistry, and since I passionately refused to take a second year, I switched to the College of Arts and Sciences.  During that year I took economics and enjoyed it so much that I completed an undergraduate major in that field.

It was now the depression years, and since my family did not have the money to send me to school, I received support for work from the National Youth Administration.  I worked on the dairy farm pitching “gold dust”, our euphemistic name for cow manure.  I also washed beakers in the “ag” chemistry lab; later worked in the library; and still later I graded economics papers.

I participated as a member of the University debate team.  I lived at the LDS house, along with some 40 or 50 other LDS students.  I was active in student politics and was elected to the Associated Students Executive Board—the governing council of the student body my senior year.  I was Chairman of the Independent Students Party for one year.

I was not very active socially and do not remember very many dates.  I studied hard and graduated with high honors.  The only course, which I positively disliked, besides chemistry, was history!

I was awarded a Kenan Teaching Fellowship in Economics at the University of North Carolina and went there in the fall of 1939.  I had hoped for a Rhodes Scholarship and became Idaho’s nominee for the same, but did not win out in the Regional.  This proved providential when the war broke out and most of the Rhodes Candidates had to return home to the US to study.

I enjoyed very much my years at the University of North Carolina.  It gave me the opportunity to become thoroughly immersed in a different culture.  After a couple of years of graduate work, I taught school at North Carolina State in Raleigh and then volunteered for the Armed Services, but was consistently rejected—either I was too short or I had physical and health defects.  I then volunteered to work for the Office of Price Administration as an Economic Analyst.  After six months on the job I was drafted and inducted at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

In the meantime, I had been a member of a small LDS Branch in Raleigh, North Carolina, and had become Branch President.  I had also been going steady with Grace Fort, a Raleigh girl.  We were married on my first weekend pass from Ft. Bragg.  After a few weeks at Ft. Bragg and a few weeks at Ft. Custer—and without basic training—I was sent Overseas with the 442 Prisoner of War Processing Platoon to process Italian prisoners.  We operated in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa for 18 months.  I was only a PFC. I then volunteered to make the invasion of Southern France and was transferred to the Finance Division of Allied Military Government, but at the last minute, just as we were about to sail, General DeGaulle decided that Frenchmen should do this work and we were sent instead to the Replacement Depot in Italy.  On a weekend pass, I contacted Dr. Harlan Cleveland, Director of the Allied Commission and he had me transferred to work with him on some Economic Studies in Southern Italy.  I served as Allied Controller of the Central Institute of Statistics in Rome.  This was a sub-cabinet position and I am sure must have been the finest job for a PFC in the US Army. I remained in Rome in this capacity for eight months.  I was part of the force, which invaded Northern Italy in 1945 and arrived in Milan in time to see Mussolini and Clara Petacci hanging by their knees from a Milanese Gas Station.  I was assigned to the Committee for Price Control in Northern Italy and remained in Milan for eight months.  I was returned home to North Carolina in January 1946 and discharged from the Service.

After teaching Winter and Spring Quarters at North Carolina State and at Meredith College—a Baptist girl’s school in Raleigh—my wife and I came to Utah State University and we have had an appointment here ever since.  We purchased an old home, repainted it, planted lawns, gardens, etc., and remained in it for 17 years until we built our new home in 1963.

Our first child, James Wesley Arrington, was born in 1948.  Our other children are:  Carl Wayne, born in 1951 and Susan Grace, born in 1954.  James is now a missionary in the South Brazil Mission.  He is interested in the theater and is a very fine actor.  Carl is a freshman at Utah State University and is primarily interested in journalism.  He has a regular column in USU Student Life.  Susan is a sophomore in High School and is active in music, theater, and debate.  Carl was Editor of the Logan High School Grizzly and Susan won a retold story contest at Logan Junior High.  Grace, who became an LDS convert after we came to Logan in 1946, has been active in Relief Society, often a counselor in our 10th Ward.  She is a fine cook and charming hostess.

We took a leave of absence to spend an additional year of study at the University of North Carolina in 1949-50.  Upon completion of the Dissertation in 1952, I received the Ph.D. in Economics.  The Dissertation was entitled:  Mormon Economic Policies and Their Implementation on the Western Frontier, 1847-1900.  Some chapters of this Dissertation have been published, but you should know that there is very little relationship between this Dissertation and Great Basin Kingdom.  

After another year at USU, we went to Italy where I was Fulbright Professor of American Economics.  I gave a class in American economic history at the University of Genoa, published a “dispensa” or text in American economic history, and spoke to student and other groups in Turn, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Bari, Naples, Messina, Palermo, Civitavecchia, and perhaps other places that I don’t recall now.  Anyway it was a pleasant and exciting year.

The last leave of absence was during the 1966-67 school year, when we went to live in Pacific Palisades and where I served as visiting Professor of History at U.C.L.A.  I taught classes in Western American history and various senior and graduate seminars with emphasis on the American West.  In addition, I taught three summers at BYU, sometimes in economics, occasionally in political science, and in history.

I am enclosing a list of my publications, which will help you to trace my writing career.  You will see that there are three essential kinds of publications:  1.  Various articles for historical journals on Mormon and Utah economic history; 2.  Various articles on the American economy in Italian for Italian audiences; 3.  Various publications about Mormonism and Mormon culture.

You will see that I began writing with a strong emphasis in economics, then gradually moved into history and have been toying in the last year or two with literary history, biographical studies, and even some psychoanalytical studies.  Some of these are underway and I hope to publish later.

If I have made any contributions to the area of historiography, it has been by way of contributing the insights of an economist to historical events and their interpretations.  Secondly, contributing the insights of a Mormon to various historical problems, and the insights of an “outsider” to students in Mormon country.

Finally, I here bear my testimony that a reasonably objective Mormon history is possible, whether written by Mormons or non-Mormons and that it should make no difference whether it is written by Mormons or non-Mormons.  Out history is our history and persons of understanding ought to be able to write it, whether members of the church or not.  The greatest compliment which anyone can pay to a Mormon historian is to say that his work is scholarly, sophisticated, and does not betray the conviction of his soul as to the divinity or non-divinity of the work in which the church is engaged.

Let me know if you need anything more.


Leonard J. Arrington




P.S.  In reading this dictated draft over, I see a thousand “I’s,” but see no point in redrafting it since you will use it only for information.  Perhaps I should also add that I have sought to play a role in the university and civic community in Logan.  I have served as president of our Faculty Association, as Chairman of our Professional Relationships and Faculty Welfare Committee, and as a member of the Faculty Senate.  I have been (and am) a member of Rotary, and am chairman of a Special Advisory Committee to the Logan Board of Education.  I have believed it part of my responsibility to join good causes, and have thus serve as an officer of Western History Association, Organization of American Historians, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, Agricultural History Society, and Economic History Association.  I am an Advisory Editor of Dialogue:  A Journal of Mormon Thought, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Institute of Mormon Studies at B.Y.U.  I have been active in the Utah Historical Society and Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, as well as the Sons of Utah Pioneers.

As an active member of my church, I have been a Ward MIA Superintendent, Senior President of the 367th Quorum of Seventy, member of the High Council of Utah State University Stake, and member of the Presidency of Utah State University Stake.

[LJAD, letter written to K. Bradley Monson, BYU History Student, 15 October 1969]


Dictated:  December 13, 1971 (Monday)

This seems a convenient opportunity to record some thoughts and reflections about our late prophet, David O. McKay.

No prophet in the history of the Church was so well prepared in every way to serve as president of the Church. When he became president in 1952 he had served as an apostle since 1906, as general superintendent of the Sunday Schools of the Church, as Church Commissioner of Education, and as counselor in the First Presidency to President Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith, Jr.  I have the impression also that he was in the general superintendency of the YMMIA for a period.  Physically, he was tall and strikingly handsome throughout his life.  He had the sweetest smile and warmest personality of any president since Joseph Smith.  He was widely traveled, well-educated, interested in people, and had a remarkable capacity to elicit loyalty, activity, and religious feeling.

Nevertheless, President McKay was not without faults.  His personal charisma—greater than that of any president since Joseph Smith—led to the development of what might be called a personality cult.  To a greater degree than any president since Joseph Smith, people associated their testimonies, religious feelings, and religious loyalties with President McKay.  They tended to associate all his utterances with the prophetic calling, and found it impossible—indeed, did not wish to do so—to separate the man from his office and calling.  The unquestioned adoration of the hundreds and thousands of members, plus his own susceptibility to vanity, reinforced and strengthened the personality cult in the Church.  His statements were scripture to almost every member.  He was subject to flattery, and there was a tendency during his last years for a group of sycophants to surround him.  Some of his appointments would seem to have been influenced by his susceptibility to vanity and flattery.  These people in turn, depending upon him rather than on the forces of their own personalities for involvement, tended to accentuate the personality cult. 

President McKay was also a stubborn person in insisting upon his own way.  For many years he had been a second counselor when J. Ruben Clark, Jr. was first counselor—under President Grant and George Albert Smith.  President Clark was himself, a strong personality, and tended to “run the church” during the last years of President Grant’s administration and during the George Albert Smith administration.  President McKay gave the impression of one who had been frustrated by his relative importance under President Clark, and, therefore, sought to exhibit his own authority when he became president.  Even during his last years, when he was infirm and not in a position to be well acquainted with conditions, he often gave the impression of stubbornly insisting upon his prerogatives.

As a product of the frontier village of Huntsville, and of his manly struggle to make a name for himself at the University of Utah and in his early mission, President McKay seems to have developed a great admiration for other men who “made it on their own”.  He admired fighters, and he admired people who had acquired wealth.  He himself had been plagued with financial troubles during his earlier years, and found it difficult to occupy the status he thought he deserved on the allowances, which he received as an apostle.  He was often in debt, and often humiliated by the necessity of asking the Church to come to his financial rescue.  Most of his appointments consisted of men who had acquired large sums of money.  He perhaps had unjustified admiration for financiers.  He also admired men who served with him in the cause of Church education when he was Commissioner of Education, such as Adam S. Bennion, Obert Tanner, and others and could not be dissuaded from this admiration in subsequent years when some people felt these men had engaged in questionable activities.

With the exception of the Prophet Joseph Smith—whom President McKay resembled in many ways—no president contributed more to the growth of the Church than President McKay.  He was admired and adored by all kinds of people—the highly educated, the poorly educated; top business executives, poor farm hands, high government officials, the lowest clerk; aged temple workers, children in the primary.  Somehow, he attracted the support of every age and type of person, and each person felt he had a special affinity for President McKay.  He built temples for the temple minded—the Church Educational System for the educators and students—missions for the missionary minded—and helped businessmen, farmers, laborers, and all kinds of persons with their problems.  He refused to make dogmatic doctrines, and thus left the way open for the support of people of all beliefs.  Among his most important accomplishments were the following:  the building of Brigham Young University to be a great university, the inauguration of student wards and student stakes, the modification of a MIA program to make it more practical in an era when most of the young people went to college.

Two problems he failed to solve at a time when they might have been solved as minor problems.  And the failure to solve them thus leads them to become major problems.  One of these was the so-called Negro problem, which threatens to divide the church regardless of the solution eventually worked out.  The second is what might be called the problem of John Bircherism in the Church.  President McKay would seem to have been capable of avoiding both of thee problems, and yet failure to resolve them will make it more difficult for future church leaders to handle them.  Considering the universal adoration of President McKay it would seem that he was the right person to have resolved these problems.

Transcribed by RaNae Allen

Corrected by LJA 12/15/71

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 13 December 1971]

At dinner I sat next to Homer Durham with interesting conversation. . . .

Brother Durham says that he has the diary of Dr. Widtsoe, which he began to keep when he was in Logan after graduation from Harvard.  Early entries are quite candid and complete.  Later entries, particularly after appointment to the Quorum of the Twelve, are designed for the reader, carefully evasive, and become more and more perfunctory.  As his life progressed, he wrote less and less and ended up the last years of his life simply filling out little black books with entries like:  Went to conference today in Rapid City—spoke on forgiveness.  Took train to Chicago.  In essence these last years are largely itineraries—notations about where he has been.

I asked Homer whether he had decided where he would place these journals, and he said in a half serious, half joking manner—probably BYU.  Then he said more seriously, I guess I’ll have to give them to someone who has an acre of space and will furnish me a desk to work on them for the remaining years of my life.  I asked him to remember the Historical Department, pointed out the greatly amplified space we shall have in our new facility, and that we would be happy to work with him in making him a member of the staff.

Dr. Widtsoe accumulated one library of rare materials and left it to the University of Utah provided they house it separately and employ his daughter as the librarian.  They did so for many years, but apparently it became unbearable to retain his daughter, and they secured family permission to arrange for another curator.  Then they amalgamated the collection into the Western Americana Division of the library.  After giving that library to the University of Utah, perhaps also with a monetary settlement, he said he began to accumulate another library, and I gather that is in the hands of Homer.  Homer said he also has a lot of correspondence and papers collected by Dr. Widtsoe.

Dr. Widtsoe was obviously a very cautious person.  Perhaps he had to be.  My own impression, which may be subject to alteration, is that we can be far more candid and free in our writings than we could perhaps in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Moreover, Dr. Talmage demonstrated how courageous one could be in expressing ideas, which to some people were unorthodox.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday 22 June 1972]


Last night I was invited to attend a meeting of a Federal Heights study group at the home of Dr. and Sister Robert Vance.  I had been invited by Darrell Deem, a former USU student in business who is owner and operator of the Juliette Shops in Salt Lake City.  Brother Deem said that the study group had been studying Great Basin Kingdom for the past year that he had been the study leader, and now that they had completed the book it would be appropriate for the author to respond to questions and talk about the book.

I do not recall the names of all those present, but the following couples come to mind:  Owen Hall, _______ Heiner, Richard Walker, an attorney, Owen Smoot and others.  I think all of them had once been in Federal Heights Ward, but some were now in Ensign Stake wards and others.

The evening ended after 2 ½ hours of discussion.  Everyone seemed too intense.  I wondered afterward if there were members in the group who have had or are having doubts about the gospel.  I cannot imagine that persons completely secure in the gospel would be so serious over such an extended period, particularly in a group in which they were well acquainted and felt at ease.  But then again it may have been me that was in a sense on trial.  They may have been very serious in attempting to find out whether I had a testimony, whether anyone as well acquainted with Church history as I am is completely secure in his testimony.  Perhaps there is a certain doubting of persons who attempt to intellectualize the gospel and look at history in naturalistic terms.

We spent a little while at the end of the discussion talking about the responsibility of Church historians.  To what extent are we obligated to tell all of the truth?  One person contended quite warmly that it was one thing to say that the General Authorities have human failings.  It is quite another to be explicit in suggesting what those failings were.  We should point out, she said, that Brigham Young made mistakes and may have had defects in character, but do we need to say that he chewed tobacco or that he had favorites among his wives.  She recognized that President Lee probably had weaknesses, but she didn’t want to know what any of them were and didn’t see any reason why anybody should.  She would never tell the weaknesses of any General Authority to young people in seminary class for fear that they might use it as an excuse to do likewise.  Another person in the group felt exactly the opposite—that we must point out human failings and weaknesses in order for young people to be able to identify with them and also to prepare them for all of the nasty things they will hear from non-Mormons and anti-Mormons.  We must make them credible.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday 10 July 1972]

This morning Harold Jenson, the son of Andrew, came into my office to congratulate me on my talk yesterday—as a number of others have done—and made a few comments worth remembering.  Said he worked as a secretary for his father in this very office and that his father almost literally worked him to death.  Then Brother Penrose, editor of the Deseret News asked him to come and be a reporter for the Deseret News, at first on a part-time basis and later on more fully.  He said very little original research and writing on Church history had been done since his father died; that Joseph Fielding Smith made no attempt at it.  He said that his father and Joseph Fielding Smith did not get along well.  As he expressed it, “they hated each other.”  He said that if Joseph Fielding’s sister had not married him (Harold Jenson) that his father Andrew would have been Church historian instead of Joseph Fielding Smith—and his father should have been Church Historian, he said.  He said that Joseph Fielding Smith had done more to discourage historical research and writing than any other conceivable person would have done.  He seemed enthused at my own appointment and glad to see some things being done. He said he had some remembrances of Utah’s pioneers that he would be glad to turn over to us.  I think we had better get him on tape through the oral history program.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday 25 July 1972]


From time to time people have brought problems into me in relation to ferreting out information either by oral interview or from the acquisition of written sources.  Most have been very hesitant about asking for approval to interview persons with unfriendly or unfavorable stories and facts and information and they have kept checking with me to be sure it was all right to accumulate such information—as if they expected our office to approve only the acquisition of information that was favorable to the Church.  This suggests to me that perhaps a long standing policy has been for the Historian’s Office to avoid going out of their way to accumulate information which might be regarded as deleterious to the Church and its interests and image.

On each occasion I have assured these persons that we must be interested in obtaining all the information possible about personalities and episodes, even if in the opinion of a current researcher it might be harmful to the Church’s interests.  If we are anything, we are an organization dedicated to finding the truth about the Church and its history and we have complete faith that the Church will in the long run not suffer as the result of this activity.  Perhaps this attitude is partly a product of my long years in a university setting, but I do not see how we can successfully counteract anti-Mormon articles and books without knowing the extent to which they are based on correct information, nor can I conceive of persons having confidence in our own publications unless they know that we are pursuing all avenues in the attempt to find out what really happened.

With regard to the taping of oral interviews, which might be unfriendly, I cannot conceive that the Church would excommunicate anybody for providing us information, which is not consistent with the “official” account of what happened.  In our publications, of course, we shall have to use good judgment in the manner in which we present our findings, but at least we must be honest, we must recognize the existence of contrary facts and ideas.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 23 August 1972]

I had a telephone call this morning from Dick Poll …

He told me of an episode, which cast a little shadow on him—an episode which apparently occurred in the 1950s when he was a teacher at BYU.  When Man, His Origin and Destiny came out, he made some critical remarks about it in a little informal study group.  He apparently made a similar remark in a semi-public meeting of the Mormon seminar in Salt Lake City, which was devoted to a debate on the book by academicians and Bruce McConkie and Melvin Cook at the University of Utah who is also a relative of President Smith.  After he had made these critical remarks he was called in by President Joseph Fielding Smith who explained his point of view and the doctrines of the Church.  For good measure he and Gene, his wife, also had a conference with President McKay.  After these conferences he wrote up notes about the conferences.  Among other things President McKay said categorically, “This book, Man, His Origin and Destiny, does not necessarily represent the point of view of the Church.  It is President Smith’s opinion about these matters, and while he is regarded by his relatives and friends as the greatest scriptorian in the Church, he does not necessarily express the official point of view of the Church on these matters.”  President McKay then expressed his own point of view, which was substantially different from Man, His Origin and Destiny.

On a later occasion when Dick was asked to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting, he among other things remarked that there was a difference of opinion among General Authorities on some of these matters like evolution, the origin of the earth, and so on.  In the audience was Joe Bentley, at that time a vice president of BYU.  After the meeting, Joe Bentley came up and called Dick a liar.  This made Dick angry, and so he did a very unwise thing.  To prove his point he loaned notes of these interviews to Joe.  Whereupon Joe showed them to Church authorities—probably Joseph Fielding Smith or Bruce McConkie or Melvin Cook, or all three.  Dick thinks that “the brethren have long memories,” as someone said, and that he has been vetoed for various positions because of the circulation of those notes which have embarrassed both President McKay and President Smith.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 25 August 1972]

On Friday I received the draft of an introduction to the writings of Joseph Smith prepared by Richard Bushman.  One important point he makes in his introduction is that Joseph Smith, despite his role as prophet and leader in this dispensation, was still preoccupied in his earlier years with his own personal salvation.  I suppose this is an important point for us to make in our history and biographic writing, that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and the rest of the prophets, while guiding the Church, still were seeking their own personal salvation.  Illustrative of this I was told a story Friday by someone whose name I don’t recall that J. Reuben Clark, Jr. at the age of 84, or whatever it was when he died, was ill (This was the illness from which he died), and one of the General Authorities visited him.  As they were about to leave President Clark said to him “Will you please pray for me that I may be valiant and true to the end?”  Meaning that President Clark, even at the age of 84, was still prayerful and apprehensive about his own personal salvation.  This important point can be made to illustrate that the prophets are human and have the same human problems that we all have and one reason that they are prophets is simply because they are concerned with their salvation and have learned to overcome the temptations with which they are confronted.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 28 August 1972]

Davis Bitton told me today at lunch that two or three weeks ago a friend of his who instructs the High Priests in one of the wards in Salt Lake asked to borrow a copy of the first issue of BYU Studies in which my article on the Word of Wisdom appeared, and said that they were going to use that article as the basis for the High Priests’ lesson on the Word of Wisdom.  I have also heard of a number of instances in which my paper in Dialogue, “Blessed Damazels,” was used as the basis for a Relief Society lesson.  What a change in the aspect of affairs!  I should recall in this diary that the appearance of my Word of Wisdom article in the BYU Studies caused consternation in BYU official circles and they suspended the magazine for one year.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 28 August 1972]

I had a dream Friday night that I was removed from my job as Church Historian.  This may have been prompted by eating too much barbecued chicken and/or by a telephone call I received from a sister Vy Bishop, apparently a member of the Lyman family, who was quite upset about the treatment I gave Amasa Lyman in the chapter in To the Glory of God.  The Lyman family seems to be completely uninformed about the spiritualistic activities of their grandfather Amasa.  There is apparently nothing about this in the biography of Amasa by Albert R. Lyman who had Amasa’s diaries at his disposal in writing the biography.  He glossed over the entire spiritualistic phase of Amasa’s life—a period that lasted for 10 or 15 years.  He gives the impression that Amasa had given a speech in Dundee, Scotland on the atonement of Christ, which caused him to be reprimanded by Brigham Young, and this was followed by a period of mental turmoil during which he was excommunicated.  The facts are that Amasa held séances two or three times a week for years, that he invited spiritual mediums to come to the territory, and he sponsored them as they toured the territory.

He accepted the presidency of the Zion Church set up in opposition to the Lord’s Church and conducted political and religious activities against the Church.  Indeed for several years he was the chief force of opposition against the Church and this was all the more galling because he was not a Gentile but a former brother who at one time was announced as a member of the First Presidency of the Church.

Apparently none of this has been told to the Lyman family and this helps to demonstrate the problems that can be created when families hush up unwelcome aspects of the lives of their forebears.  

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 11 September 1972]

I received a telephone call today from Tom Fyans, who is in charge of communications of the Church.  In his office was Mrs. Phillip Bullen who is trying to get the Church to, as she puts it, be honest about polygamy.  She is the daughter—or perhaps the granddaughter of one of Heber J. Grant’s plural wives.  Apparently the January issue of Ensign (or New Era) had a feature on the prophets.  In connection with Heber J. Grant they mentioned only the first wife, leaving the impression that he did not have other wives.  A nasty letter was written to President Lee by Senator Wallace Bennett whose wife is a daughter of Heber J. Grant by a plural wife.  Did she not exist?  Was not her mother a wife?  Was not Heber J. Grant her father?  Could she be written off the list so easily?

Apparently all of the Grant girls from plural wives are trying to stir up enough sentiment that they will get the Church to admit officially in its magazines and books that Heber J. Grant and other Church leaders had plural wives.  Anyway, Brother Fyans wanted me to assure him over the telephone, so he could assure Mrs. Bullen, that so far as the history is concerned we are writing it like it is and recording it like it is.  He said he would discuss this with me privately on some other occasion.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 12 September 1972]

Today I was invited to lunch at the Lion House Pantry by Brian Kelly, Editor, and Lowell Durham, Jr., Associate Editor, of the New Era.  They made the following points during the luncheon discussion.

As to what they can publish in the New Era they use their own judgment, which must then be checked by Brother Green, which must then be checked with the Correlation Committee.  Where there are serious disagreements between them and the Correlation Committee, these are then submitted for a decision to the three members of the Quorum of the Twelve—Thomas Monson, Gordon Hinckley, and Boyd Packer.  There are definitely certain things they cannot do.  For example:

(1) They cannot have a Latter-day Saint doing something he shouldn’t do in any fictional account, whether it be smoking, lying, being disobedient, etc.  If we were to send him an article on Brigham Young’s letters to Indian chiefs, they would cut out Brigham Young’s references to the sending of tobacco to the chiefs to smoke.  They also avoid references to polygamy.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 12 September 1972]


Chris was ill yesterday so I’ll mention a couple of things that I did not get to dictate yesterday.  Wendell Ashton, Director of External Communications for the Church, telephoned to ask if he could come over to bring a book for me to comment on.  He came over immediately and brought Ellsworth’s Utah’s Heritage.  He asked me whether Ellsworth was a member of the Church.  I replied, “Of course, he is, and a very good one.  He served on our University Stake High Council.”  This pleased him but perplexed him, because he said there were several little things in the book that bothered him.  He said he had also talked with Milton Weilenman who was also a little disturbed by some things in the book.  Obviously, neither one of them had read all of the book, but apparently the section, which they had read, was number seven, page 314ff where he discusses the Godbeites and other sensitive matters.  Places he had marked where Ellsworth seems to have gone overboard include a couple of sentences on page 315, two or three sentences on page 317, a paragraph or two on page 319 and 320, the word “peculiar institutions” in the section heading on page 321 and 324.  He asked me if I had read the book, and I replied quite honestly “no,” and he asked me if I would mind looking at the book to see if it was sound enough for us to accept or whether we should make some complaints.  I see also a paragraph on page 6 which he marked as being questionable.

If he is going to object to statements of this type, what will he do when he finds our own Historical Department making statements far stronger.  I can see we are going to have some problems with this director of external communications—I almost slipped and said director of excommunications.  Maybe that is what we ought to call him!

After he had handed me that book and made his comments, I asked him a number of leading questions to learn his opinion.  He said there was a complete reversal of the attitude of President Lee on the Welfare Plan news releases.  Perhaps at the urging of Brother Ashton, President Lee had decided to move out aggressively, taking the offensive, and show to the world that the Welfare Plan is saving money to the city, county, state, and nation—that the amount of tax revenue exempted is only a fraction of the relief money which the Welfare System saves to local and state governments.

This suggests to me that my piece on the Welfare Plan, which had once been accepted for publication in BYU Studies and was then cancelled might be revived.  He said this revised thinking would permit the use of definite statistics and so on.  He did not think that this thinking spilled over into Church business and finance affairs.  He thought that they still would be close-mouthed about a complete revealment of Church financial statistics.

I attempted to direct some questions, which would give him an opportunity to say whether he thought he had a right to tell us what kind of history we ought to publish.  He never intimated that, and at all times suggested that we were on an equal administrative level and that he would not at any time try to tell me what we ought to do here.  But I have a suspicion that he will let us know when we publish things he thinks improper.  And I am sure there are things we will publish in that category, if his reaction to our work is consistent with his reaction to George Ellsworth’s history.

I asked him just what his duties were, and this apparently is not yet solidified.  Brother Cannon, the Director of the Church Information Services, resigned when Wendell’s appointment was announced, which means that Wendell is for all practical purposes Director of Church Information Services.  The same staff remain there and presumably the same activities.  Wendell intimated that Brother Cannon had a farm in Idaho, was planning to retire to it, and had taken that opportunity to do so.  Wendell will also have some influence upon Deseret News, though he refrained from saying that he was in charge of them.  He will also have something to say about Bonneville Radio Club, though he refrained from saying that he was in charge of that.  He will also have much to say about LDS exhibits, historical sites, Temple Square Mission, and in general our relationships with the world.  He seems to have the full support of President Lee in all that he does.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 20 September 1972]

An interesting thought to contemplate.  Two young women, each heading in quite different directions and in a quite different way, have forced a change in Mormon culture.  Maurine Whipple is the first native Mormon writer to produce a realistic novel of Mormon life.  If she had written the book today she would be acclaimed as one of the great novelists of the Church and in the West.  If she had come from Salt Lake City she would have found a wide basis of support even when she published it.  Then, of course, she never would have written a book like that except in a place like St. George.  That young girl still in her 20s absorbed Mormon culture, understood Mormon culture and tapped the universals and wrote a great novel of Mormon life back in the late 1930s.  In a sense she prepared the way for Virginia Sorensen, Juanita Brooks, and others.

The other young woman is Fawn Brodie, whose book forces a new approach to Church history, which is more honest, more realistic, and prepares the conditions for what we are now doing in the Historical Department.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 25 October 1972]

We were having a conversation yesterday about the chief requisites to be a good Mormon historian.  We listed three:

1.  A good Mormon historian will sincerely believe that religious experiences are possible.

2. The good Mormon historian will be able and willing to play with ideas and explanations even though they may threaten his values or beliefs.

3.  The good Mormon historian will have a capacity to see events and people in perspective.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 9 November 1972]

During the period we spent together Wendell [Ashton] said how strongly he felt that we need to get some unbiased and authentic Church history written for non-members of the Church.  He said he had taken back a copy of Great Basin Kingdom to the offices they had newly established in New York City.  I asked him whether he thought the Church Historian should write a one-volume history for non-Mormons.  He answered immediately yes.  I then asked him whether it should be published by the Church or by a national publisher.  He answered immediately and very strongly that it should be a national publisher.  He also said that many of the books put out by our own press, such as by Deseret Book, were not helping the Church—they were too propagandistic and defensive in nature and superficial.  I agreed with him on this but was surprised to hear him say it.  Maybe he was really testing me to see what my own reactions would be.  I don’t see Wendell as being the kind of person who is willing to go along with a philosophy of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 27 November 1972]


Brother Olson came in and he and I talked for the first time about the appointment of Brother Anderson.  Apparently Brother Olson knows more about this than I.  Brother Olson apparently had been informed of it several days ago.  I didn’t ask him who had informed him.  It might have been Brother Hunter or it might have been President Lee.  I do know that Earl went to see the First Presidency about materials in the First Presidency vault last week and maybe it was mentioned to him at that time.  He said Brother Hunter and Brother Kimball had not been consulted on the action and were very surprised by the decision.  He said it represents very definitely the wish and desire of President Lee, and that the purpose of it was to cause us to be more restrictive in the material we make available to researchers and in the material we publish.  Brother Olson says it represents a definite about-face on the matter of openness of records and freedom in publication.  He said that Brother Anderson is taking over as of today—that Brother Dyer has been given a leave of absence and that means he has absolutely no responsibilities with us.  Nor do we have any obligations to consult him.  He also said that the First Presidency had asked Brother Anderson whether the First Presidency should give to us materials in their vault and Brother Anderson had said no.  Earl said that they are thinking of finding possible places to put Brother Anderson, and that this decision will have to be made this afternoon so he can move over immediately.

Brother Hunter telephone Earl to notify everybody in the department to meet in ten minutes with Church officials who would then announce the change in the directorship.  Brother Hunter brought Brother McConkie and Brother Joseph Anderson.  Brother Hunter took charge of the meeting and explained the following:

1.  That because of Brother Kimball’s many responsibilities, Brother McConkie had been assigned to take his place as an advisor to the department so that Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie would be our two advisors.

2.  That in view of Brother Dyer’s illness, the First Presidency had asked Brother Anderson to be Assistant Managing Director and that Brother Dyer had been given a leave of absence during his convalescence.

Elder Hunter then asked Brother McConkie to say a few words and then called on Brother Anderson and then Brother Olson and myself.  In the meantime we heard the following things:

1.  That Brother Anderson is very concerned that certain items such as letter books of the Presidency being once more placed in the vault.

2.  That access to certain of these materials be restricted.

3.  That Brother Lee was very disturbed about the publication of documents of the First Presidency in James Clark’s book Messages of the First Presidency.  President Lee wanted to know who had given him permission to do this.  Lauritz and Earl looked up the records and were able to show a letter of the First Presidency, which gave this permission, and to show that President Lee himself was the person who interviewed James Clark to give him the permission.  President Lee had completely forgotten this.  Also that President Lee was disturbed over recent articles published about the Church.  We don’t know just which articles he had in mind except Earl remembered that one of them was an article about Frederick G. Williams in BYU Studies.

Both Earl and I expressed our support and the support of our people for Brother Anderson and whatever counsel he may choose to give.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 13 December 1972]

Brother Anderson has no objection to items for publication in the Ensign and the New Era, but felt discretion should be used in such articles.  The brethren are particular about some things and there had been a question in their minds about an article that recently appeared in one of the Church magazines where reference was made to a dispute between the Prophet Joseph and the president of the Twelve.  Brother Arrington explained that the article was in the BYU Studies and was not prepared by anyone on the staff of the Historical Department.  Control of information published by writers was discussed and caution was advised by Brother Anderson.

5.  Brother Anderson asked regarding the Mormon Heritage Series.  Brother Arrington explained that they are the publication of documents in the archives with proper introductions and footnotes and explanatory notes.  Brother Anderson asked who passed on them and Brother Arrington explained that the arrangement that had been worked out was that preliminary clearance would be obtained on each publication, and that the manuscript would be finally approved by the Church Historian and that he would have it read also by the two Assistant Church Historians and by our editor.  It was decided to leave the matter with Brother Arrington and his assistants.

Brother Anderson asked regarding “Brigham Young’s Letters to his Sons” and also letters of Joseph Smith and his wife Emma Smith, and again urged that discretion be used in their publication.

Questions were raised regarding the publication of various volumes of the Heritage Series and brother Anderson urged caution on their publications.

6.  In regard to the publication on individual items in our archives by some authors, editors and publishers, it was agreed that someone should read the material before it is published, and that every precaution to avoid criticism should be taken.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 2 January 1973]

LJA DIARY January 1, 1973

Here is a memo I made to myself about the above date.  I entitled this “Special interests of LJA as Church Historian.”

4.  Establishing precedents with respect to the more honest approach to history.

6.  Writing or sponsoring good biographies—biographies which portray people as they were, wards and all.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 1 January 1973]

Elder Hinckley is large, clear blue eyes that are penetrating.  They seem to stare at one—almost disapprovingly:  Strong, searching, inquisitorial, judgmental.  Occasionally a twinkle and smile and joke.  He was pleasant, if not charming; more formal and businesslike than relaxed and playful.  He was always in command; we were invited to give comments, but after a discussion, he always summed up and gave the policy decision and the manner of implementing the policy without asking whether we approved.  These were off-the-cuff but carefully worded statements as if dictated to a secretary—some of them were dictated letters.  From my point of view, he was always “right.”  And I like the efficiency with which he conducted the business.

During the discussion he was interrupted by a telephone call from Warren.  I feel certain it was Warren Pugh, president of the Senate, and I feel sure it was a request to him to help prepare a bill to preserve all that could be preserved under the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling of the old Utah abortion statute.  The wording of his remarks during the call would suggest that the Governor Rampton desired that this be done and that other Republican leaders also desired it; also that Dallin Oaks of BYU had been consulted to get his help.  Elder Hinckley clearly is a voice of the Church in policy affairs of Utah.  He is obviously intelligent, articulate, knows how to say things in a careful and palatable manner.

As for history, my judgment is that he is more interested in telling it like it has been told traditionally than as it may have been in fact.  On a plaque to be erected at Garden Grove, he suggested for one side the famous quote of Eliza R. Snow about the nine babies born the first night out of Nauvoo.  Ed Lyon pointed out that this cannot be verified; in fact, it is almost certainly wrong.  She was not there; she reported it from hearsay; and the other evidence suggests this was not the case.  Why would the Church encourage women who were in advanced stages of pregnancy to leave Nauvoo that February 6, 1846 when they were not compelled to leave at that time?  No doubt the nine babies are those reported by Patty Sessions—nine she had delivered over many days of the move—and that later in the year.  Brother Hinckley wanted to accept the Eliza Snow quote.  I spoke up to verify Brother Lyon’s conclusion about it.  Brother Hinckley, all in good humor, said, just as you are skeptical of the authenticity of the Eliza R. Snow statement, I also am skeptical of the doubts expressed about it—and I am skeptical on the Lord’s side!  Anyway, I think we raised enough questions that the quote will not be used.  We must look for another.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 8 February 1973]

When James and I were riding over to Stanford, we were talking about the writing of church history and how there are some facts that are embarrassing to publish.  James used a nice comparison.  He said perhaps it is like in Animal Farm where all the animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.  That all truth is good, but some truths are greater than others.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 5 March 1973]

At the fireside of high councilmen and wives at Lewis Cardon’s place last night were approximately thirty persons.  We were interested to meet all of them.  They included Jim Jensen, a new member of the High Council who is the famous archeologist written up recently in Time, Salt Lake Tribune, and on television for having discovered the oldest dinosaur bones in the United States; Noel Reynolds, the young head of philosophy at BYU; Grant Williams, a Comanche and his wife who is a Navaho; Nephi Griggs, who is a classicist who reads Hebrew and Egyptian and works with Hugh Nibley.  Perhaps others I’ll remember and add later.

I talked about the activities of the Historical department.  Noel asked me what audience we were aiming at in our comprehensive history.  I told him university students, faculty, and professional historians.  He seemed to agree with this goal and then he said, “How do you get across the spiritual side of Mormonism in a book which will have to handle things naturalistically?”  I told him that we could always explain these things in the words of those who explained them and also give the rationale of the detractors so that we could report both points of view.  This would be satisfactory to the Church members and non-Church members alike.  He did not seem to think this would be easy to do and wished us good luck.  Obviously it won’t be easy to do, but we are entitled to inspiration in solving our problems just as bishops and stake presidents and General Authorities are in solving the problems that they confront.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 26 March 1973]

It is said that a sense of humor is a handicap in politics.  It is also a handicap to one holding a high office in the Church, and above all to one entrusted with writing official history and giving officially sponsored sermons and fireside talks.  I have long noted that our church officials devote most of their sermons to quoting the scriptures; occasionally long quotes, interminable passages.  Or, if they editorialize occasionally, they do so in solemn, abstract remarks, or in simple homilies intended for children.  Can one exhibit the humor in a situation?  How dangerous it is to express oneself cleverly and concretely—to attempt wit and humor!  There is so little that could be described as the presentation of ideas, the clever playing with ideas that might stimulate and help one understand, and give perspective.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Saturday, 12 May 1973]

We learned last week that The Golden Legacy by Tom Cheney of BYU, published last month by the BYU Press, has been withdrawn “for corrections.”  Two of the anecdotes in the section called “Salty Slips and Anachronism” will be eliminated—also an anecdote in another section that uses the word “God damn.”  The two anecdotes to be eliminated from Salty Slips: are presumably those that refer to J. Golden Kimball boasting that he could “piss” farther than Heber J. Grant.

I talked to Tom about this over the telephone.  He said that as near as he could make out, Bob Thomas, Academic Vice President of BYU, had complained about the three offensive stores.  He was certain that they would be offensive to General Authorities and members of the Church in general.  He had demanded that the books be withdrawn and the changes made before it was placed on sale again.

Recognizing our office must have a copy of the first printing for the archives, I tried to obtain one by using all the pressures I could when I was at BYU last Wednesday.  I could not obtain one from the BYU Bookstore nor from BYU Press nor from Deseret Book.  All of them said that not one could be released for any purpose to any person. Fortunately, I already have my personal copy, as do some others.  Tom said there was to be a meeting of Roy Olson, Director of BYU Press, himself, and the editors of BYU Press who approved his manuscript. Tom says the editors object to any changes.  Tom said he was willing for minor changes to be made, but if they wanted any significant change, he would withdraw the book himself and publish it through a private press.  The problem is that the book has already been sold to several dozen people and it is impossible that the withdrawal and changes will not become known to people like Sam Weller and others who would spread it.  Would it improve matters to have withdrawn it and then reissue it, since it has already been sold to a considerable number of people?

I feel sorry for the editors of the BYU Press.  This will certainly act to make them more cautious about accepting and publishing material.  It might even cut the budgetary request of BYU Press.

I had written a letter to the press congratulating them on a fine job of bookmaking.  I had also written to Tom congratulating him on the book.  I had done this on the basis of reading most of the book, but as it happens had not seen the three items that Bob Thomas regarded as offensive.  Apparently when Tom was first informed of the withdrawal, he went straight home and got my letter (It must have been the only favorable letter he had gotten) and took it back and waved it in the face of Roy Olsen, telling him that the Church Historian approved of the book, so why should it be withdrawn?  I can be grateful for all such friends!

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 14 May 1973]

Last night Grace and I had dinner in Provo with Gene and Beth Campbell, Dick and Jean Poll, and Ken and Ruth Cannon.  Very enjoyable affair.  Among other things, we learned from the Cannons that BYU had printed 10,000 copies of The Golden Legacy and under orders from the BYU administration 9, 800 copies had been shredded, so we will now see what the next development is in The Golden Legacy.  

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 1 June 1973]

Davis, Jim, and I had lunch with Brian Kelly and Lowell Durham of the New Era, and we were interested in some of their experiences with regard to correlation and censorship.  It appears that the cover of the December issue was most objected to by the secretary of Bruce McConkie.  She took the liberty of tearing off the cover from the copies of the New Era on the desks and sofas in the general Church Administration Building, and she sent copies of it to members of the First Presidency and others with a letter asking, “Isn’t this horrible?”  Nobody knows whether she did this with or without the consent of Brother McConkie, but in any case she stirred up enough opposition that the editors of the New Era were called in and given a severe dressing down for running the cover even though Doyle Green had previously approved it.

In my article on Arizona women they had to change the word coffee grinder to small mill.  They also had to change the word adultery to infidelity.  In the special mission issue, they had hoped to run a splendid article on missionaries’ experiences in the Philippines, and he had started out by saying he hadn’t been prepared for the cockroaches.  They had to eliminate that because nobody wanted the mothers to know that their missionary sons would be sent out where there were cockroaches.  

They said Church News does not have to go through Church Correlation, so they are somewhat freer.  The said they plan to run a review of Carol Lynn Pearson’s book, Daughters of Light.  They said it is impossible to run an unfavorable review of any book.  They try to do some selecting in advance of books, which they would feel comfortable about having a favorable review.  They cannot publish articles that discuss problems or conflicts although they say that they just got through correlation the use of the term braless in one of their articles, “To go braless in not healthful.”  That had originally been stricken, and they asked how they could say it any other way.

We also learned through Brian Kelly and Lowell Durham at lunch that the Church News a week ago last Saturday, June 2, had distributed a few copies of an issue then the copies were all pulled back and came out again a few hours later.  One of those who kept a copy of the original compared it with the reissued copy and discovered the item omitted on page 13 was entitled, “Which:  Genesis or Geology?” by William Lee Stokes.  Apparently when the issue was first distributed somebody saw this, objected to it, and it was eliminated, and two other items were substituted for it on the bottom of page 12.

We found one of the original copies and xeroxed the Stokes article and herewith place it in my diary for the benefit of future generations.

Davis and Jim and I discussed for an hour or more the concerns we have with relation to Michael Quinn’s thesis.  It is an outstanding job of organization and research and writing.  It features a historian at his best and its contributions include not only the insight he is able to provide on many aspects of Church history but also first-time use of man heretofore restricted unknown sources.  He cuts right through the mass of evidence to come out with definite interpretations and insights.

The problems that we see in the thesis are as follows:  (1) He has used and cited for the first time many sources previously unknown or unavailable;  (2) He has used these in a context which deals directly about conflicts, disagreements, tensions, changes, and so on;  (3) He uses these materials to cover his subject in an honest and straightforward manner regardless of the consequences.

This means that much intimate material appears which was previously not only unknown but no one would have dared publish it if it had been known.  There is material, which is favorable—other which is unfavorable.  There are little bits that Jerald Tanner would seize upon with glee.

Because of these concerns we are trying to work out some alternatives:

(1) Is it possible that the University of Utah will allow Mike to restrict the thesis so that no one can see it without his approval?   Davis will investigate the possibilities here.  This would have to include library copies and department copies.

(2) Is it possible that Mike could be induced to delay the final completion of the thesis for a year or two until we can accustom the Mormon reading public to this kind of an approach and to the sources?

(3) Is it possible we could induce Mike to with this material as the basis for a later book and use for his present thesis three or four essays, which he has written or might in the future write?

(4) Is it possible Mike might be satisfied to get a masters degree without thesis as some have done at the university?

We feel reasonably certain that if the thesis is completed this September as Mike expects and if it is made immediately available, it will prove so shocking to historians, students—members and non-members alike—that it will be damaging to Mike and his position in the department and also to the department itself.  It might button up the use of these materials once again making them restricted as they have been for so many decades.  It might even bring enough censor against us for permitting him to use the material and write it that not only might he be forced out of his job, but all of the rest of us as well.

We all feel that the material would not seem nearly so shocking and damaging if presented in a context with other material, which would be more conventional, and faith promoting.   What he has written might represent the framework for a book on the administrative history of the Church or it might be built upon my material to comprise a one-volume history of the Church for non-members.  What I am suggesting is that we ought to encourage him to finish his plan and do so on Church time, since what he is finding is so interesting and valuable, but when it finally appears it must be deluded with other things which help to show the spirituality, the divine leadership, the cooperation and good will along with the rest.

Davis, who has read the three chapters, agrees with my feeling, and he will allow Jim to read the chapters so that he may have a better impression of what is involved.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 11 June 1973]

When I was meeting with the Utah Academy Board of Fellows yesterday, Sterling McMurrin told a story about President Tanner that is worth recording.  The Church had put a considerable sum into the reconstruction of the Pioneer Memorial Theater, and when they came to the end of the campaign a considerable sum of money needed to be raised.  President Tanner volunteered to raise that last sum of money.  As they held a meeting of persons of considerable wealth to try to obtain donations, some persons in the group began to raise a question, “Should we be trying to furnish money to this group which have put on some filthy plays, used obscene language in plays, and had smoking on the stage, and so on?”  According to Sterling, when two or three others started saying yes or amen, President Tanner cut them off very sharply.  He said, “We are not here to talk about that; we are here to talk about raising money,” and he would not permit any further complaints of that matter.

Keith Engar then told a story about President McKay and the theater.  They had produced “The Male Animal”’ in which the leading actor gets gradually drunk throughout the play.  President Olpin noted that there were two prominent LDS leaders—President McKay and one other (he probably mentioned who it was, but I don’t recall.)  The next morning after the play, one of the other leading Church members telephoned Keith Engar (who produced the play) to say what a terrible thing it was to be producing a play of that nature.  Shortly after his call President McKay telephoned and said, “I saw your play last night.  It was marvelously done.  I was particularly struck with the talent of the lead actor and the marvelous way in which he portrayed a person getting slowly drunk.  You know, Brother Engar, that is not an easy thing to do, and I was pleased to see how well he handled the part.”  This said Keith, helps to demonstrate the broad-gauged nature of the higher Church authorities.

Keith says that in his many years of directing plays he has had absolutely no attempt by the Church to exercise censorship or influence the plays that they have produced and the manner in which they have done it, and he has also mentioned the support that the Church has given to the University of Utah theater program.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 27 June 1973]

I talked to President Oaks about the tremendous burden Marvin Hill is carrying as he seeks to write a new interpretation of Joseph Smith. The problem he faces is that the more traditional minded don’t understand what he is saying and the professional scholars show intolerance for his Church commitment. He is in between both. I expressed to President Oaks the hope that he would help Marvin to share that burden and be sympathetic with him. President Oaks said he was aware of the problem, had discussed it some with Marvin and said that he was especially pleased that I was aware of it and felt kinship with him on this. 

[LJA Diary, 3 Oct., 1973]

You probably expect me to make some suggestions, and I offer the following: 

First, write the history of your own life and times as well as that of your ancestors. And that means keeping your own diary and history. What each of us is individually doing will be just as important to the next generation as what the previous generation did is of interest to us. We should help older persons write the histories of their lives by means of tape-recorded interviews. We should encourage our children and grandchildren to write the histories of their lives by keeping diaries or compiling Treasures of Truth books. 

We are trying to avoid the temptation to wrap ourselves around the materials in our archives and neglect current trends in the church. I hope it will never be said of us as Sir Walter Raleigh wrote of the scholars of his day:

The industrious scholar bars his doors and windows, and shuts himself up in his room, that he may bequeath to future ages his views on the primitive church or Egyptian dynasties. His works, too often, go to swell the dust heap of learning. And what is passing in the street, on the other side of his shutter, is what future ages will probably desire to know.

Second, in writing histories of ourselves and of our grandparents, we should recognize that a part of life always did and always will involve traveling on rough roads, but that the joys of life are worth it. Writing the history of the pioneers is partly a matter of recording the rough roads they traveled over, and partly a matter of capturing the vision which they had. Our pioneers had great visions of building the Kingdom of God, of inaugurating a beautiful Zion, of setting things in order for the Millennium. But before these visions materialized, they traveled some rough roads and we need to record both sides.

When Brigham Young was bringing the saints to the valley of the mountains, he said:

If any of you had a vision of Zion, it was shown to you in its beauty and glory after Satan was bound. If you reflected upon the gathering of the saints, it was the spirit of gathering that enlightened you, and when your minds were open in vision to behold the glory and excellence of the gospel you did not see a vision of driving cattle across the plains and where you would be mired in this or that mud hole. You did not see the stampedes among the cattle, and those of a worse character among the people. But you saw the beauty and glory of Zion that you might be encouraged and prepared to meet the afflictions, sorrows, and disappointments of this mortal life and overcome them and be made ready to enjoy the glory of the Lord as it was revealed to you.

Third, in writing history we should be true to ourselves and to our ancestors. We should respect them for what they were–we shouldn’t try to make them over into something they weren’t or could never be. We should not be too intent on proving them to be something they weren’t. We should enjoy them as they were and get meaning and inspiration from their lives.

Perhaps we have made then more serious and more slicked-up than they were. The diaries in our archives show that the pioneer period was rich in humor. The satire of Hirum Clawson, the stories of J. Golden Kimball, the religious spoofs of Parley Pratt, the tall tales and humorous expressions of Heber C. Kimball, the wit of George A. Smith–these were not just exceptions but characteristic. With all the tragedy and pathos of their lives, the poverty and loneliness, the conflict and occasional dissension, humor thrived, and perhaps explains their success and persistence. They were amused by an incredibly wide range of situations and objects.

We have an exceptional history; we have been part of a fascinating epic: the founding of communities in the West, the drama of conflicts with the Indians, the Federal Army, the Godbeites, the anti-polygamy raiders–so much of drama and pathos–of human interest, moral passion, and divine intervention. There is nothing in American history to equal it.

And despite the problems of overcoming nature and hostile neighbors, the problems of founding new communities and establishing the basis for successful existence, the pioneers were nevertheless fruitful in their cultural achievements. Their letters and diaries are magnificent. Their achievements include the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, the poetry of Sarah Carmichael, the exalted rhetoric of Orson Whitney, the salty humor of J. Golden Kimball, the sculpture of Cyrus Dallin and Solon Borglum, the etchings of Mahonri Young, the histories of Edward Tullidge, the musical compositions of George Careless and Evan Stephens, and the primitivistic paintings of C.C.A. Christensen. In short, pioneer Latter-day Saints attempted to forge their own literature, establish a godly educational system, and establish a culture suitable for a kingdom of God. In their experiments with social systems and cultural patterns they demonstrated astonishing creativity in such areas as technology, the performing arts, literature, education, arid social relations. Much of this achievement was the work of incoming converts from Great Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, and elsewhere. Our society had an attraction to people who were revolted by the ways of Babylon. I am not talking only, or even mainly, in terms of high culture but of popular culture–the culture of the folk, whether it be the practicality and imaginativeness of their fence designs, hay derricks, and quilts; their diaries, letters, and reminiscences; their folk art like that of C.C.A. Christensen; their folk humor, their inventiveness in farming and crafts; their hymns and folk ballads. Their stories were innovative and imaginative. Essentially they were an escape from the hard reality and isolation of their life. An escape, as is all ritual, for the literalness of life–an attempt to penetrate the rich inner recesses of life.

Our pioneer history is enormously important. It can help us to remember and preserve values which can improve our society. Our view of the past conditions the way we act in the present; it shapes our programs and attitudes. Thus our pioneer history can help us mold society into something that is praiseworthy and beneficial. It can nourish and support good causes, help to create righteous values, and help us to understand each other. In this sense, the Sons of Utah Pioneers–and the Daughters of Utah Pioneers as well–are performing a most important function in holding society together, in preserving our best values, and in bringing out the best in all of us. 

I like the symbolism in a story given in the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Nehemiah felt that it was a disgrace for Jerusalem to be in ruins and helpless, her wall all broken down, her gates burned, and with no spirit or pride. And so he sought to restore pride–and a measure of sovereignty–to the people by getting them to repair and reconstruct the walls and set up the gates once more. Obviously, the various enemies of the Israelites weren’t going to take this lying down; they plotted and planned various measures to prevent the rebuilding of the wall. But Nehemiah and his builders were prepared for them. Half the men went on with the work and the other half held the spears, shields, and bows. The builders of the wall were also armed, says the chronicler, carrying on the work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. As Nehemiah described it: “While the building was going on, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon in his hand.”

This is a magnificent symbolism. It suggests that we must never slacken in our defense of our heritage. Sometimes it has been important to fight in a physical way; but the great need today is for us to proclaim our heritage in ways that are more sophisticated, more deeply spiritual, more artistic and imaginative. The arts–teaching, writing–literature and music–are at once the modern weapons of our defense and the tools with which we build a better society. We must craft the tools with care, and hone the weapons finely. Let us, then, go about our assignments with open souls and keen intellects–with a symbolic pen in one hand and the sword of truth and accomplishments in the other. In this way, in expressing our deeply-felt intellectual and spiritual experiences, we shall properly honor our pioneer forebears. 

[Annual Convention of National Daughters of Utah Pioneers; LJA Diary, 6 Oct., 1973]

Last night I spoke to the opening session of the 1973 annual meeting of the Pacific Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers. I spoke for about 30 or 40 minutes on the Great Basin, Utah, and the Mormons. Told them a few stories and discussed briefly five periods in Utah’s history and some interesting aspects of our culture and history. The talk was well received. I was introduced by Brigham Madsen.

Thursday afternoon at 5:00 the Deseret Book Company and Jim Mortimer sponsored a dinner for the sesquicentennial authors and their wives. Also invited were Glen Leonard and his wife and Maureen. Elder Joseph Anderson and his wife were present as were Elder Thomas Monson and wife. Jim Mortimer was kind of a master of ceremonies. Early in the meal I was called on to introduce the various authors and say how important we regard the project. Elder Anderson spoke briefly also on the importance of the project and after the conclusion of the meal Elder Monson talked for perhaps twenty or thirty minutes. His talk was in the category of what might be called an inspirational or devotional talk rather than intellectual. He did not emphasize the importance of doing careful research and writing. He did not emphasize the importance of working out proper interpretations and advancing scholarly explanations. What he did emphasize was having a prayerful spirit, being careful in making judgments, being sure that their writing was approved, and so on.

I talked to some of those present afterwards and they were not exactly encouraged by the talk. They were fearful that he was implying that they ought to write the Sunday School manual type of history which was cleared in every stage and nothing permitted that might offend any person or set them wondering. Nevertheless, I feel sure that Brother Monson will be one of our supporters and that we need have no fears for the project’s future on the basis of this talk.

[LJA Diary, 12 Nov., 1973]

Yesterday afternoon Davis, Jim, Dean, and I met with Jay Todd and Doyle Green in the office of Brother Green. This meeting had been arranged by Jay Todd as he thought it would be helpful for us to understand the policy of the Ensign in relation to the articles which we have and will be preparing for publication there. I really think that the underlining motive of Brother Todd was to have us there to persuade Brother Green to be a little more lenient in permitting publication of items that we prepared. The experience which occasioned the meeting was the editing of an article on Brigham Young’s writings by Dean Jessee. In editing this article they had done two things: first they had eliminated all references to the plural wives of Brigham Young; nevertheless they had left in references to his forty-six children that had grown to maturity. Second, they had corrected the spelling of the quotations from Brigham Young’s diaries and letters.

In explaining these changes to Dean he had offered some arguments in favor of leaving them in, but had not been insistent. Jay felt it necessary to defend them to me, and again I offered some arguments in favor of leaving them as they were, but was not insistent. This apparently created some kind of a controversy among Jay’s staff. At least Lavina Fielding came down to talk to me about it. She was apparently looking for reasons why she ought to carry spelling as in the original. I gave her several arguments. She apparently reported these to Jay so I think Jay was hoping that my associates and I could persuade Brother Green who had apparently been adamant on these points.

Brother Green explained in the meeting that he had checked with Brother Dan Ludlow, head of correlations who said that he agreed with him entirely. 

Many interesting things were discussed in the meeting. Brother Green mentioned that his training had been under Dr. John A. Widtsoe and under Richard L. Evans, and they had represented a school of thought that was perhaps more protective than would be thought desirable today. Brother Green said that at one time he had suggested a number of changes in the policies of The Improvement Era and that Brother Evans had vetoed these. He had then appealed to Apostle Widtsoe and suggested that we ought not to follow a policy so conservative that we never made mistakes. It was more important to be innovative and bold even if occasional mistakes were made than to be timid and insipid and not make mistakes. He said Brother Widtsoe gave a genial grin and said, “Richard L. Evans never has and never will make a mistake.” During the twenty years Brother Evans was editor of The Improvement Era neither the word sex nor the phenomenon of sex could be mentioned nor could polygamy or plural marriage or the phenomenon of plurality.

Marba Josephson, who complained about these restraints, said she always wondered how Richard L. Evans ever got his wife Alice pregnant considering his prudery. Also The Improvement Era never could use the eternal triangle in any fiction they ran. It was not just something they would permit. The Church magazines today have inherited this policy plus additional restraints–no discussion of the Negro question, play down the Missouri persecutions (since this reflects on our enemies), don’t permit a characterization of the Indians as the bad guys.

Brother Green thought that reproducing the misspelled words of the prophets tended to discredit them. We had quite a long discussion on the subject, and I think persuaded Brother Green that there was circumstances that reproducing a document required integrity in publishing it precisely as it was in the original. Whether or not it discredits the prophet depends on the context in which it appears. We discussed in some detail the desirability of publishing the diaries of Hyrum Smith, which we now have, and publishing it with the original spelling and so on. Brother Green seemed to agree that if this was presented properly it might appear with the original spelling. However, Brother Green seemed uncertain on this and went out to get Dan Ludlow. Dan came in and gave us a rundown on the policies of Church correlation, and we had a nice discussion. It would appear that what Jay Todd can run depends upon what he thinks Brother Green will approve, what Brother Green will approve depends upon what he thinks Brother Ludlow will approve, what Brother Ludlow will approve depends upon what he thinks “the brethren” will approve, what the apostle advisors will approve depends upon what they think President Lee will approve, so all the way through everybody is second guessing the one next above him in authority. Everybody seemed to be terrified that if he makes a mistake the prophet will lash out like a watchdog demanding to know “Who authorized that,” and the responsibility will be lodged with some particular person.

The thing that disturbs me is so what? What is the Prophet going to do to you if he finds that you have made a mistake? Is he going to ship out his bowie knife and cut you down? Is he going to put you in jail? Is he going to peremptorily fire you? Surely of all people in the world the Prophet is most compassionate and most understanding, so if we make a mistake in the process of doing something great–or in the process of doing what our inspiration tells us is the right thing and the best thing, surely he will not be vengeful and hold that against us the rest of our lives.

Anyway, we had an understanding which will be a guide to us in writing articles in the future and will help them understand our point of view. I do not see that this discussion changes anything in what we have intended to do. 

[LJA Diary, 4 Dec., 1973]

Last night Grace and I went to Cannon-Hinckley Church History Club where John Edmunds, President of the Salt Lake Temple, gave his talk on “The Son of God.” He had organized a large number of scriptures and the entire talk was a memorized sequence of scriptures which in essence told the story of Christ. 

Grace and I sat at the same table with Alice Evans (Mrs. Richard L. Evans), Brother and Sister Russell Nelson of the Sunday School, and Brother and Sister Wendell Ashton. I had a rather lengthy discussion with Brother Ashton about public communications and writing. He said that public communications does not employ any writers nor does it pay writers to write for the Church. His objective is to plant the ideas of articles with magazines and then get them to employ acceptable freelance writers to prepare articles. He has done this, for example, with Readers Digest where he suggested an article on the family home evening movement. They accepted it and employed a person–non-Mormon but friendly to the Church–wife of a member–to write the article. He mentioned a number of other cases similar to this. He has terminated the relationship with Bob Mullen in which the Church subsidized public relations favorable to the Church.

I asked Brother Ashton if he should have a piece prepared for publication whether he had to clear it through correlation. “Heavens no,” he said. “I would never submit anything we prepared to correlation. They would ruin everything,” he said. I shook his hand on that proposition, and he said that he had been a member of Church Correlation Committee before and he objected to this reading for subject matter. He said the psychology is all wrong. Correlation makes so many suggested changes and it is so difficult to get certain matters through Correlation that the auxiliary leaders sponsoring manuals give up their responsibility and assume that a task is completed when it has passed Correlation. Brother Ashton said something could pass Correlation and still not be well written or stimulating or instructive or thought provoking or accomplish any of the tasks the auxiliaries wanted to accomplish in their manuals. In short, something could pass Correlation and still be dull. I shook his hand on that proposition too.

I talked to him somewhat frankly about the problems we have in writing good biographies and regretted that we had not produced better biography and said that I doubted we could do very much about it as long as family members and church officials are so sensitive about giving realistic appraisals. Sister Ashton, whom I have tended to regard as one of those in favor of close supervision and censorship asked me why we want to employ Church people to write biographies and histories–why don’t we let them be written by independent persons who can tell the story honestly. She asked me in writing history and biography if we have to consider what the church will think. I said, “Certainly.” She said, “Then your writing can never be as objective and straightforward and honest as that of someone who doesn’t have to consider the wishes of the Church.” She said how much she enjoyed Juanita Brooks. She said if she wanted to get a straightforward account of something, she would read from Juanita instead of from the Church Historian’s accounts.

I said, “What is wrong with letting our own people have the freedom to write things honestly so that the members of the church can depend on what they say?” She apparently feels that that is an impossible dream. 

It is peculiar to find a Church leader’s wife preferring Juanita Brooks because she gives an honest account while at the same time her husband and other Church leaders are preventing the rest of us from giving the same honest account. It shows the great need we have to convince Church leaders of the necessity of writing honest history.

[LJA Diary, 19 Dec., 1973]

I have been amazed at the number of reports of people reading Nightfall at Nauvoo by Sam Taylor. This suggests how starved members of the Church are for dramatically written historical material. It also shows their curiosity. They are not buying the seminary version of Church History. It must not be the whole story. So they are reading something that may give them the lowdown on what really happened. 

[LJA Diary, 30 Dec., 1973]

It is getting near the end of the year, and it seems appropriate to appraise the work of our office and department. Here are some random reflections on our work during past months and reflections on the work of the months ahead.

It is clear that the position of Church Historian in an ecclesiastical sense has diminished or declined. With Joseph Fielding Smith, who was known as Church Historian perhaps more prominently than he was known as an Apostle, the position had power and terrifying influence, respect and recognition. After two years, and despite my appearances to thousands of audiences here and in Idaho, California, and Arizona, it seems clear that very few persons know the name of the Church Historian, and remain half skeptical when someone introduces me as Church Historian. It’s like a seminary teacher in California expressed it to me: “You are a Church Historian, of course; but you aren’t the Church Historian, are you?” Some of this will be remedied as we publish books and articles. But we shall never again, I hope, have the “cult of personality” connected with the office that we have had with George A Smith, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and Joseph Fielding Smith. The move to a professional historian is good and makes the history stand on scholarship and judgment rather than on the basis of the authority of the Historian. I think the move of splitting the Church Historian up into Church Archivist, Church Librarian, and Church Historian is a good one, and the conducting of all three divisions on a professional basis something which was inevitable and desirable. Moreover, the sharing of my responsibilities by having our articles published under the names of our various staff members rather than under mine is healthy. It will take time for the members of the Church to get used to it, but will be sounder for the history and the manner in which it is viewed.

We have not yet had the test which will inevitably come as we begin to publish books. To this date we have published in professional journals (which are not widely read by church officials and members) and in Church magazines, where the determination of treatment and subject matter is left to the magazine editors and their correlation committee. What happens when we publish books including material which they have studiously avoided including in church magazines? What happens when we revise standard accounts of church history? What happens when we have treatments of polygamy? There are three topics which the church magazines studiously avoid: polygamy-any mention of plural wives; masonry-any mention of the extensive masonry activities of Nauvoo; and such other controversial items as Mountain Meadows Massacre, Negroes and the Priesthood and practices connected with the temple. There are persons who tell me that it is impossible for a Mormon, let alone a church employee, to write a reasonably objective and complete history. This must be done by a non-Mormon, because he has neither internal nor external restraints on what he writes.

Sometime ago, at my suggestion, Dean Jessee prepared an article for the Ensign on Brigham Young as a writer. A splendid article. The Ensign accepted it, and it now turns out that through the influence of Doyle Green, and correlation, Dean must eliminate references to the plural wives of Brigham Young and must correct the spelling mistakes in his letters and diary excerpts. But if we were publishing it, we would leave both in. Should we fight these changes or accept them? I took the attitude that we should concede to them the right to establish their own policies for publishing in church magazines. We should not appeal. If we did so, then Higher authority would enter into it, and the first thing we knew, they would be telling us how we should publish as well. I should prefer for us to be left independently. If we had to go through correlation and get approval from higher ecclesiastical authority for all we publish, then we might as well close up shop. If history is going to be an aspect of doctrine and missionary work, then our department should not exist. 

I am as fully persuaded as ever–have a perfect assurance-that my two assistant church historians were ideal for the position. With completely firm testimonies, they are fine professional historians. Both are fine writers, though very different; both are honest counselors, though they represent diverse points of view; both cultivate goodwill from the public, though from different types of people. Both are completely loyal and harmonious; both offer sound advice and are readily available for any task or assignment. Both are selfless and dedicated. In the work of the Lord in this part of His vineyard, both are as valiant as any persons who have ever been Church Historians or Assistant Church Historians. I hope that I shall never lose the services of either.

It is one of our goals that every professional member of our staff have at least one publication during the year, and I hope we can achieve that. I also hope we can maintain a good balance between publication in professional journals and in church magazines, and between books and articles. We have yet to publish our first book, but look forward to at least one in 1974, and at least one every year thereafter. In 1974 we shall publish Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons and, hopefully William Clayton Diaries and the biographies of Charles C. Rich and David Eccles. We hope Maureen and Jill will have finished the Eliza R. Snow biographies and the James H. Moyle family history. Bill has published his guide to oral history. Richard Jensen will have a couple of publications in 1974, as will Mike Quinn and Gordon. We hope the one volume history of the Church by Glen Leonard and others will be ready by the end of the year, and perhaps Davis and I will have our volume well underway. 

[LJA Diary, 1 Dec., 1973; file under 1 Jan., 1974]

18. Brother Anderson called attention to an article which recently appeared in the Ensign magazine, written by Michael Quinn, Senior Historical Associate, on Edward Partridge, stating that Edward Partridge was not the first Presiding Bishop of the Church as has always been taught. Brother Anderson thought it was questionable wisdom for such a statement to be made as it tends to cause confusion among the members of the Church. After considerable discussion it was felt that if the history is wrong it should be corrected, but that it should be corrected through the proper channels.

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 22 Jan., 1974]

We have been taught that the Ensign is an official publication of the Church and what appears therein has the sanction of the presiding authorities of the Church. That the Ensign is not like the Dialogue magazine wherein intellectuals, so called, can air their divergent philosophies. However, if the Quinn article now represents the official Church position as to the calling and bishopric of great grandfather Edward Partridge, please know that we will sustain it and carry forward accordingly. If, however, the Quinn article does not represent the official position of the Church, then in all fairness we feel that a retraction should be printed.

Thank you very kindly for the time and consideration afforded us.

Very truly yours,

Asael Lyman

Copies: Elder James E. Faust, Elder D. Arthur Haycock and George E. Lyman, Esq.

[Asael Lyman to Elder Joseph Anderson; LJA Diary, 21 Jan., 1974]

Brother Jay Todd 

The Ensign 

24th Floor 

Church Office Building

Dear Brother Todd:

Several months ago bother Michael Quinn, a dedicated member of the staff of the Historical Department of the Church, prepared a carefully-researched paper on the history of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church. At my suggestion he submitted it for publication in the Ensign.

Unfortunately, because of its length the full documentation could not be published. The article was exploratory in nature and did not pretend to be an official statement of the Church, the Ensign or the Historical Department. We wish to offer this clarification for the many persons who regard every historical statement in the Ensign as official.


Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian

[LJA to Brother Jay Todd; LJA Diary, 4 Feb., 1974]

The other day Brother Anderson said that he was very disturbed at the answer to the question on who was the first presiding bishop submitted to the Ensign by Mike Quinn. This is in the January 1974 issue. Elder Anderson said that he did not think that it was proper for one of our employees to change the Church history on such an important matter without the approval of the First Presidency. I gave Elder Anderson the background on the article. I said that Mike had submitted a fully documented article to me and that I had suggested to him that he submit it to the Ensign for publication. The Ensign without consulting with us, had eliminated much of the explanatory and documentary material and published it as simply the answer to a question. In a way, the Ensign abridgement had made it appear to be a statement that Edward Partridge was not the first presiding bishop, without giving adequately the reasons why he believed this to be true.

Earl got into the discussion somewhat and made the suggestion that perhaps on such important matters, we ought to clear them with our advisors and with the First Presidency. I responded that this placed us in an impossible position. I said that we are coming out with dozens of new facts and interpretations in all that we write and will have thousands of them perhaps in the new 16-volume history. I said that it would be impossible for us to clear all of these changes in our history and that I did not think we could determine the truth of what had happened in history by having somebody like the Quorum of Twelve vote on it. You do not determine historical truth by counting noses. I also pointed out that the term presiding bishop was not used and no one was sustained in that position until 1847, which is after Edward Partridge had died. Edward Partridge was bishop of one congregation and Newell Knight of another so that one was not presiding over another. 

Brother Anderson was obviously disturbed and a little emotional on the issue. He said that a descendant of Edward Partridge had visited with him and had persuaded him that Edward Partridge was the first presiding bishop and the Church had always affirmed this and that it was improper for an article to appear in the Ensign saying this was not true unless the Prophet agreed that it was not true. Brother Anderson said that the descendants, whose names were Lyman-obviously descended from Amasa Lyman and Eliza Partridge Lyman, were to write him a letter and he would provide me with a copy of it.

We talked at some length on this without any particular resolution of the problem.

The next afternoon, Elder Anderson came into my office saying that he had just had a conference with President Kimball and in the course of the conference he had brought this up. He gave me a copy of the letter which the Lyman family had written to him complaining about Mike’s article and said that he had read it to President Kimball and that he and President Kimball had agreed that I should write a letter of apology for publication in the Ensign. He specifically used the word apology although at the time I could not see anything to apologize for. We were right in the facts. It was not our fault it was published the way it was, and it was not our fault that the article had not been cleared since nobody has suggested that we ought to clear all of our articles with the First Presidency.

Anyway, I wrote a letter, a copy of which is included here, for publication by Jay Todd. I gave a copy to Brother Anderson Monday. I have heard no complaint from him about the letter since and if I hear none by tomorrow I will forward the letter to Jay Todd. At that time I will also write a letter to Mike Quinn explaining the reason for the letter. 

I feel very strongly that we should not fight this matter but roll with the punches on the theory that any confrontation would result in a directive that we would have to clear all of our articles with somebody, and I want to avoid that at all cost.

[LJA Diary, 6 Feb., 1974]

Brother Anderson came into the office to say that he had called Jay Todd about the letter I wrote about Mike Quinn’s article and ask him if he thought it was all right. Brother Todd said he did not like the letter and specifically he did not like the last sentence, so Brother Anderson proposed a new concluding sentence for the letter which I redrafted and sent up to Brother Todd.

I did not have a chance to talk with Jay about it but gave it to him to read later. I said, “What didn’t you like about the earlier draft?” He said, “I didn’t like the word exploratory. We did not regard anything from your office as exploratory and would not run an article if we knew it was exploratory.” I replied, “That means you do not want any of our articles, because every single article of ours are exploratory.” He said, “What do you mean by exploratory?” I said, “It explores new interpretations, new ideas, new facts, new approaches.” He said, “Oh, well maybe I ought to talk with you further about this.” So that is the way it was left. 

[LJA Diary, 13 Feb., 1974]

This afternoon Earl [Olsen], Don [Schmidt], Brother [Joseph] Anderson and myself met in Brother [Howard] Hunter’s office with Howard Hunter and Bruce McConkie. . . . We discussed the Bob Woodford dissertation.  Brother McConkie said he had cleared it with the First Presidency and the dissertation has their approval to be released to be filed and used in the same manner as any other dissertation at BYU.

[LJA Diary, 16 Apr., 1974]

The advisors reported that approval has been given by the First Presidency for the Brigham Young University to distribute copies of Robert Woodford’s dissertation on the Doctrine and Covenants.  Brother Woodford’s dissertation will be filed in the Historical Department and no restrictions will be placed upon it.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 23 Apr., 1974; LJA Diary]

Brother Arrington reported for the information of the brethren that Brother James Allen has also been requested to attend the meetings to be held under the direction of Doyle Green, Director of Church Magazines, which meetings are being called for the purpose of giving consideration to the publication of articles in the Church magazines pertaining to changes in revelation.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 21 May, 1974; LJA Diary]

I recognize also that there is not full agreement among Latter-day Saint leaders as to items that ought to be included in our books. Not long ago I was in a study group, made up of important Church leaders (but not General Authorities were present) in which there was a dispute over the wisdom of telling seminary students that Brigham Young once chewed tobacco. One person contended that the story of his victory over the habit was faith promoting, and besides the fact of his use of tobacco is so well-known that the student will find it out sooner or later and he will have more confidence in the material presented if this is told to him in advance. Another person disagreed completely and said that students will use this knowledge as an excuse for their own sins.  There are arguments on both sides of this and other questions. Whatever we do will not be accepted completely by everybody but we do seek for credibility and for general confidence.

To say this another way, I recognize that some of our history cannot and should not be told. Judgment and discretion should be exercised. I recognize also that our history needs to be told honestly so that our people will have confidence in reading it–we must allow for the human equation. I regret the widespread tendency of our fine members and their youth to read books like No Man Knows My History, Nightfall at Nauvoo, and 27th Wife under the assumption that they are getting the real lowdown on our history and that our own works do not carry conviction as being the real story.

[LJA Diary, 22 May, 1974]

Brother Schmidt reported having received a request from Eldon Watson for permission to publish a certain letter of Brigham Young having reference to the Adam-God theory. It was decided to inform Brother Watson that since we do not have the original copy of the letter in question, we cannot approve or disapprove its publication; that, therefore, if he publishes it he must do so upon his own responsibility.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 23 May, 1974; LJA Diary]

After having read a copy of the sermon of Brigham Young regarding the Adam-God theory which was left with him by Eldon Watson, Brother [Joseph] Anderson stated that he will advise Brother Watson that he and Brother McConkie are of the opinion that the sermon should not be published.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 28 May, 1974; LJA Diary]

This morning at 8:30 Elder Howard Hunter, Bruce McConkie, JosephAnderson,

Earl Olson, Don Schmidt, and myself had a meeting scheduled with the First Presidency.  . . .

The next item raised was about the screening committee for the volumes of the sesquicentennial history. Brother Hunter asked me to explain the background. I explained the background extemporaneously, summarizing the letter I had written to Elder McConkie on May 22, 1974. I made clear that with the advice of Brother Dyer and with the assumed approval of the First Presidency we had established a screening committee consisting of the Church Historian, the two Assistant Church Historians, and the editor of the Historical Department. I pointed out that we had already been functioning for manuscripts prepared by our office and also for manuscripts prepared by others not in our own office who wished to obtain our judgment on their writing. At this point Brother Romney said, “How fast do you read, Brother Arrington?” I replied

that the reading of manuscripts required about half my time, but I was pleased to do it and thought it my responsibility to do it and took the responsibility very seriously.

President Kimball asked a series of questions about the sesquicentennial history. He asked me to list the names of each of the sixteen authors and what their connection was. When I had completed the list, he said, “That is a fine group of writers. I need to raise a question about one of the persons you mentioned–Brother Eugene Campbell. I do not know him personally and have not read much of his writing, but I have heard people say that he was not completely orthodox.” I replied that the contracts issued to each of the authors of the sesquicentennial history provided that their manuscripts were to be read by, altered, changed, revised when necessary, by the Church Historian as general editor of the volumes and said that I would be assisted by the two Assistant Church Historians and the general editor of the Historical Department in doing this. I said this would give us the opportunity to read carefully what was written by each individual author and make whatever changes we thought were necessary. I said with respect to Brother Campbell that I knew him personally and knew that he had a testimony of the gospel and also that he has been an active member of the Church serving on the high council, as a member of a bishopric, and previously director of two Institutes of Religion. I said, “If there is any problem with his writing, I will expect to go over it and change it as necessary.” This seemed to reassure President Kimball on that. He did not raise any questions about any other writer. He showed recognition of several of the authors as I mentioned their names.

President Kimball asked about the editor, and it was clear that he was thinking that the editor of the Historical Department would be the editor of the volumes. Brother Hunter said he wanted to make that correction so that President Kimball would understand that I, Leonard Arrington, was general editor of the volumes, and that the two Assistant Church Historians, Davis Bitton and James Allen, were assistant editors. Then I explained that the Historical Department editor was Maureen Ursenbach, who was gifted with proper phrasing and would particularly help us to word the manuscripts in a way that was interesting and also discreet and proper. President Kimball nodded his head in understanding.

President Tanner then said, “You will obviously have gray areas where there will be things in our history where you will be in doubt as to whether they should be included—whether it would be good policy to mention these items. Should you not seek the advice of some of the General Authorities of the Church on these matters?” I said that “my associates and I will have the opportunity to discuss these matters in great detail on what should be included, how much treatment is required, how it should be worded, and so on.” I said, “This is true on matters like polygamy and politics. President Romney interrupted to say, “Yes, things like the Danites and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.” President Kimball added, “And, of course, the Negro question. We are faced with that every day. We cannot avoid mentioning it. You will have to say something about it, but we try to be very careful about the way we bring these matters up.”

President Kimball asked, “How far will you bring this up to date? You say that it should all be out by 1980. Are you going to bring it up to 1980?” I said, “Fortunately the brother preparing the last volume is James Allen, our Assistant Church Historian, who is on top of new material that is coming out, and we will do our best to include the latest information when we publish the last volume so we will try to make it as much as possible up to 1980. This seemed to please him.

President Kimball asked, “When each volume is prepared and approved by you, would you be willing to submit it for the information and approval of these two men (meaning his two counselors)?” I started to nod my head, and President Tanner interrupted to say, “I should think he would be delighted.” I said I would, of course, be delighted. I said, “If you brethren have time to read these, that would be wonderful.” I said, “It takes a great deal of time to read all of these manuscripts, but I am glad to have you brethren, Brother Hunter, Brother McConkie, and Brother Anderson, and any others who would care to look at them and make suggestions, to do so. President Tanner broke in to say that, “I should think that for most of the material it would be sufficient for you to raise controversial questions with Brother Anderson.” I said, “Of course, if there are problems that Brother Anderson wishes me to consult the advisors with, we can discuss these matters when we meet with the advisors.” Neither Brother Anderson nor Brother Hunter nor McConkie made any remarks on this.

There was a momentary lull in the conversation and Brother Hunter said, “Do we have your approval on this matter?” I added, “Specifically, do you approve of a screening committee consisting of myself, Brothers Allen, Bitton, and Sister Ursenbach with the arrangement that matters in which we need counsel we feel free to go to Brother Anderson or Brother McConkie or Brother Hunter on this?” President Tanner and Romney raised their hands as if to vote yes. President Kimball said, “Yes, I think this is fine, but I think we should counsel Brother Arrington on the other side of the matter. I think Brother  Arrington should get a person who is not within the inside—a person who is on the outside of the office to read each of these manuscripts and give a critique which will enable us to know what outsiders will say about the books after they are published. We want to know in advance what reviewers are going to say about these works so we can have a chance to alter them or improve them before publication if possible. I said, “President Kimball, Brother Dyer felt very strongly and it was my understanding that President Lee felt the same way, that we should keep our contacts with professional historical associations and follow the professional journals so that we would know persons to consult.  My colleagues and I have already determined that we would consult at least one outside person on a preliminary basis.”  President Kimball said, “1 should think that would be very desirable. You might consider having as a member of the initial screening committee someone from the outside, someone who can be objective and will be honest—perhaps someone from the Dialogue group—so that we would be able to take into account these criticisms before the work is published.” I said I would be delighted to do this and it would be no problem at all in getting a suitable person to do it.

Brother Hunter then said, “Do you then approve this recommendation of ours?” And he said, “Specifically in having Brother Arrington as the chairman of the screening committee?” President Kimball looked at each of his two councilors and each nodded affirmatively to him and he said, “Yes, I think this is one of the most important projects we have inaugurated in the Church in many years. Our history needs to be written responsibly and I am very glad that we had this discussion I am very glad you are going ahead with this, Brother Arrington, and we offer you our support.” Brother McConkie then added, “And I feel so good that Brother Arrington will not have to carry the full responsibility of all this–that he will be able to have the help of others who can help bear the responsibility with him.

After the meeting on this point we were ushered out of the office. Elder McConkie looked straight at me and said, “I think it is wonderful that we have had a thorough airing of Brother Arrington’s recommendation and that it has been thoroughly approved and now there will not be a basis for criticism or at least there will be less criticism from other brethren who maybe disturbed by what comes out in these volumes. 

Q: Any implication that this outside person had to be a member of the Church. 

A: No, this person could be a non-member. 

Q: Could there be a different person for each volume? 

A: Yes.

This suggestion was one I did not make. This was a suggestion of President Kimball.

There is a question raised in my mind as to when I should go to different persons—at what stage. 

Q: When should President Tanner and President Romney see it? 

A: If these brethren would like to read it we would encourage it. This means that after it has been approved we ought to allow two or three weeks before we turn it over. At this point we should write a letter to President Kimball saying that we have received the manuscript and it is now ready for publication, and that we propose to send it to Deseret Book on such and such a date. 1f any brethren wish to read it during this period, we would be glad to provide them with a copy. That would give them a deadline and also an opportunity to read the manuscript if they wished.

Question as to how much should be reported on policies made, such as for the Brigham Young book. A general report to the advisors will be written up advising them what has been decided. The Brigham Young book will not be mentioned. If they have questions they can raise them.

At least twenty minutes was spent talking about the screening committee issue and the total time allotment was 30 minutes. Brother McConkie said, “We have already taken our half-hour.” President Kimball asked his secretary, “Who comes in next?” and the secretary said, “The Presiding Bishopric.” President Kimball said to Brother Hunter, “Go ahead, they can wait.”

The next item brought up was the “Distinctive Documents in Mormon History Series.” I explained briefly what we had in mind and gave examples of what we planned to include in the series mentioning the Hyrum Smith diary and Mary Fielding Smith letters, Mt. Pisgah Journal, Iron Mission diaries of George A. Smith specifically. President Kimball said, “I see no objection to this at all and see many advantages to it. Would you be the editor of the series?” I said, “Yes, I would.” “Would they be sold at a reasonable price?” I said, “That was the intention.” I said, “Our people are searching for good reading material. I am almost ready to think they will buy anything and we have an obligation to provide information and interesting material to the members of the Church.” He said, “When I was growing up, I learned a great deal and enjoyed very much the Faith Promoting Series and maybe you ought to consider including some material for young people—aimed at them directly—so we have something like the faith promoting series books. Brother Hunter said that the problem with so much of our publications were that “It is just duplicating what somebody else has already said or published.” I said I would be glad to consider items that would be appropriate for young people. He approved going ahead with it. He asked me how much we would sell the sesquicentennial books for and I said I thought around $7 each. I said I thought every attempt would be made to get them down to a reasonable price. He asked how many pages. I said 300 to 500 which would mean from 400 to 600 pages in typescript. He asked if the sesquicentennial series would be illustrated. I said, “Yes,  we are planning to use photographs in our collection and others we can find.” He said,, “Fine.”

President Kimball asked each of his councilors if they approved. President Tanner said, “I enthusiastically support this idea,” and President Romney indicated his support as well. President Kimball said, “That will be fine.”

Brother Hunter then brought up the question of who should be the General Church Recorder. There was a little discussion on that and President Kimball suggested that we hold a meeting with a representative of the Presiding Bishop’s Office, the Church Data Processor, and with Brother Olson, Brother Anderson, and Brothers Schmidt and myself present to make a firm recommendation to bring back to the First Presidency for approval.

We left at about 9:30 and shook hands with the Presiding Bishopric on the way out.

After the meeting we asked Brother Anderson if he would make contact with the secretaries of the First Presidency and see if we could get the excerpt from our minutes covering our portion of the meeting so we would know how they recorded it and understood it.

[LJA Diary, 29 May, 1974]

Dear Elders Hunter and McConkie:

To follow through on our recent meeting with the First Presidency, I take this opportunity to report for your information some of the guidelines our screening committee has adopted for our publications.

Both in the Heritage Series publication of original sources and in quotations in the sesquicentennial “History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1980,” it is essential for us to follow consistent guidelines in the printing of original handwritten material in the Church Archives. Desiring to follow the highest scholarly standards, we have consulted the procedures followed in such prestigious publications as the Benjamin Franklin Papers. Consistent with such national scholarly series, we have adopted the following working rules:

1. Quotations from (sesquicentennial history) or complete publications of (Heritage Series) letters, diaries, and other handwritten documents will be reproduced in a form which as nearly as possible reflects the character and views of the originator. In the case of the writer not being the originator, such as in the case of Brigham Young’s scribes, this policy may be waived, since the clerk is not significant any further than he represents the originator.

2. In the case of all handwritten documents, for the sake of readability, every sentence will begin with a capital and end with a period. All proper names of persons and places will be capitalized, and all obvious slips, such as a given word appearing twice, will be corrected.

3. Otherwise the documents will not be “doctored” or “improved.” The works will be printed as they were hand written by their authors.

4. Since omission of “sensitive” phrases and sentences often has the effect of calling greater attention to them than if they were left intact, such passages will be printed in their entirety. We shall offer any necessary explanatory comment in the footnotes. We feel that it is to the best interest of the Church that our productions gain the respect of the scholarly world and general readers so that they will be placed on university course reading lists. If omissions are necessary because of space limitations, they will be signaled by ellipses.

We hope these decisions are satisfactory and proper. They are being adopted in our first publication, due late this summer or this fall, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, edited by Brother Dean Jessee.


[LJA to Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie, 29 May, 1974; LJA Diary]

Had a talk this morning with Gene Sessions, who met yesterday with James Moyle about the Moyle project. We have asked Jim Moyle for another $2,500 to help support the Moyle project. Gene says it will take him another three weeks to finish the draft of the James H. Moyle memoirs. Then it will take him another month or so to provide an introduction and footnotes and then some extra time to finish some other Moyle projects. He thinks he can have the entire thing wound up by November 1. When he finished the complete text of the memoirs he will submit it to me to read, and I will in turn submit it to Davis and Jim. We will then determine the circumstances under which we may encourage the family to have the memoirs published.

In a way it is kind of a bombshell because of Moyle’s frankness in talking about Reed Smoot and other prominent political and Church leaders. On the one hand we want to avoid any libelous statements. On the other hand we want to avoid including anything that is not historically relevant but at the same time we want the memoirs to reflect Moyle’s own views. Jim says Henry Jr. and Alice Moyle Yates will not approve of publication of the memoirs because they are still “climbing” in the Church and wouldn’t want anything to reflect on their father or on their own careers in the Church.

[LJA Diary, 13 Aug., 1974]

We had day before yesterday a nice talk with Merlo Pusey, who was here with

his son David. He said that he had done a history of George A. Smith, John Henry Smith, and George Albert Smith, which was completed except for tying up a few loose ends. He had submitted the manuscript to Peregrine Smith. They had read it (Davis said he read it) and had accepted it for publication. I got the impression that he had submitted it earlier to Bookcraft or Deseret Book and it had been turned down as being too controversial; that is to say, he mentioned a few things which were not 100 percent favorable to the Smiths and the Church.

Davis said that there was nothing wrong with the manuscript—really no problems. The tone throughout was favorable and friendly and the so-called controversial portions were mentions of relatively minor problems. The book is based upon original journals of the three persons.

Merlo said that the Smoot book had been held up because he refused to eliminate the diary entries which related to the criminality of his son, but he said he thought the book still might appear soon since all of those who felt keenly on this matter had now died. He said he could not avoid mentioning this nor was it libelous nor did it mention anything that had not been widely published in newspapers or magazines.

Merlo said that he had long had the desire to do a biography of Joseph Smith. He asked if anyone else was doing one. We told him about Marvin Hill. He said that he (Merlo) thought he was too old to get involved in it and that he did not contemplate doing it himself anyway. He just wanted to make sure somebody was working on it since he thought it was very important.

He seems to have a good, honest, straightforward approach to Mormon history. He is a fine biographer—a Pulitzer Prize winner in biography—and maybe we ought to consider giving him a fellowship to come out and work on some biographical study…

[LJA Diary, 30 Aug., 1974]

Yesterday afternoon from 2 pm to 3:45 pm the executives of the Historical Department met with our advisors from the Twe1ve.  There were present Elders Hunter and McConkie, Elder Anderson, and Earl, Don, and I. . . .

Some of the specific points brought out in that discussion in the Twelve were:

Earl asked whether the last paragraph of Elder Packer’s letter meant a recommendation that we should channel all of our material through the Correlation Committee, or did it mean there should be a reappraisal of the programs in general.  Elder Hunter said he thinks Elder Packer would like to see both.  That is, he is very fearful of the sesquicentennial history project, and would like to see it discontinued.  Also that he couldn’t see why everybody else had to go through Correlation, but we didn’t.  Both Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie reacted negatively to both these suggestions.  Elder McConkie declared, with strong emphasis, “We have to write history.  We cannot avoid that responsibility.  And as long as we have to do it, we have to get competent professional people.  We cannot expect it to be done by an 8th grade Sunday School teacher or someone not trained.”  Elder McConkie said all General Authorities had been sent copies of the recent issue of Dialogue, and he had read the Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach interview with Juanita Brooks and the Bob Flanders article on the new history.  He said he could see nothing wrong with the former, and he was very interested in the latter.  He mentioned that Flanders had mentioned my book, Great Basin Kingdom, as an example of the new history.  And he assumed this was an attempt to improve upon books like Essentials of Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith, which gave more or less a one-sided view of our history.  He assumes this means that in writing our history, Flanders would recommend giving the side of the Missourians and the Illinoisans, as well as that of the Church.  He commented on this without any pejorative connotations.  In discussing Arrington and his work as an example of the new history he was not necessarily saying it was bad or the wrong thing.  I made no comment myself except to say I also had read the article. . . .

On the matter of having our material go through correlation, Elder McConkie also reacted strongly.  He said they were given their assignment to read manuscripts for manuals—for presentation in Sunday School and Priesthood classes.  To be sure that the doctrine was right.  Here, he said, we have something different.  If one of our books was to be used as a manual then presumably they would go over it, and eliminate this and that and change, but for the uses we had in mind, he thought they had to be read and approved by people who knew history.  He did not think the Brethren would approve asking Correlation to do something they were not prepared by training or knowledge to do.  Elder Hunter echoed this sentiment.

Elder Hunter asked us to consider the letter and its implications, not to be too fast about responding.  And let our recommendations and reactions come back through proper channels—through Elder Anderson and through the advisors.  They set the next meeting for December 17 and 2 pm in Elder Hunter’s office.  He said he did not favor us taking any drastic action.  I said the letter was thoughtful and expressed some concerns that we ourselves had expressed, and that I did not feel that the letter was unwelcome.  Elder Anderson said that some of the criticism went too far.  The use of first names, like Joseph and Brigham, had been traditional in the Church, and he could see nothing wrong with that.  And as for the statement about Brigham Young advising his son not to smoke while on his mission, he thought that wasn’t bad—thought Brigham Young’s phrasing was rather good, and the effect of his advice to his sons was positive and good and would have the same effect on young men reading it today.

I pointed out the letter we had from one of the Twelve, who I didn’t identify, congratulating us and Jack Adamson on the introduction to the Brigham Young book.  Elder Hunter said he looked forward to getting the minutes of the meeting of the Twelve to see how the secretary summed it up.

In essence we have a vote of confidence from Elders Hunter, McConkie, and Anderson, and they see the letter as posing no threat to us or our program.  They will carry to the Twelve in their meeting today some responses expressed in the meeting yesterday, and point out that we are taking the letter under advisement.  My own reaction is:

  1. Keep down our involvement with Dialogue, Exponent II, and Sunstone; the less visibility with these periodicals the better.
  2. Increase our visibility with church periodicals and BYU Studies.
  3. Keep a steady flow of positive articles to balance the controversial ones.
  4. Keep reassuring people about the screening done by our present screening committee.
  5. To say absolutely nothing, by hint or otherwise, about the letter or the discussion to anybody but Davis, Jim, and Maureen, and to caution them to say absolutely nothing about it to anyone.
  6. To carry on as usual except for the points above.

[LJA Diary, 27 Nov., 1974]

October 24, 1974

The First Presidency –


Dear Brethren:

On several occasions I have expressed in our council meetings, my concern for some projects being undertaken by the Church Historian’s Office and some of those who have been engaged to work on the projects. May I state with emphasis, as I have in our meetings, that my concern does not deny in any way that these brethren are active members of the Church. It is a matter of orientation toward scholarly work—historian’s work in particular—that sponsors my concern.

I have come to believe that it is the tendency for most members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research, to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and history, by the principles of their own profession. Ofttimes this is done unwittingly, and some of it perhaps is wholesome. However, it is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic training to consider the Church with the principles he has been taught in his professional training as his measuring standard.

In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extended academic studies, to judge the professions of men against the revealed word of the Lord.

What concerns me about the Historian’s Office is that, unless I am mistaken, the direction they are taking is to judge what should be good for the Church and for the operation of the Historical Department against the rules set down for historians.

We have evidently authorized a series of publications in order to make available to all members of the Church much information that is in the Archives and in the Historical Department. This, I think is a very commendable project. I do feel however, and feel very deeply, that some tempering of the purely historical approach needs to be effected. Otherwise these publications will be of interest to other historians and perhaps serve them well, but at once may have a negative affect upon many. Particularly can they affect our youngsters who will not view the publications with the same academic detachment that a trained historian is taught to develop. I have seen how such published information has disturbed young students in the Church.

The first, I understand, of many such publications, is now off the press.  It is entitled, My Dear Son, and is a compilation of letters from Brigham Young to his sons.  In glancing over it I find much in it that is warm and wonderful and encouraging.  My fears however, about the viewpoint of the historian, have not been assuaged by glancing through the book.  Let me cite one or two illustrations by way of example, with the admission that no one of them by themselves is serious, but they are indicators of a direction that can be very serious.

For example, in the biography of Brigham Young, Jr., on page 20 you’ll find this statement.  “After the death of his father, Brigham Jr. was named one of the administrators of the estate, an assignment that caused him much sorrow when members of the family brought litigation against the Church in a public spectacle before the final settlement.”  This “public spectacle” is referred to elsewhere in the book.

I simply ask the question: Since this is a book of letters from Brigham Young to his sons, why should this unfortunate thing that happened after the death of Brigham Young be germane at all to the book?  It seems to be introduced gratuitously and is the kind of thing that many historians for some reason savor.  Such things also provide currency for apostates and critics of the Church.

On page 32, in a letter from President Young to his son Brigham Young, Jr., we find, “In all probability you will be able to entirely omit the use of tobacco while on your mission, if you have not already done so.  In such case I trust you will be wise enough not to resume its use on your return . . . but permit us to welcome you with your mouth and breath free from the use and smell of tobacco.”  I question the wisdom of printing that under Church sponsorship, since it will be understood in an entirely different light by our young people of today, who do not know the full circumstances of the early era; nor need the question be raised if we did not print it.

In the biography of Phineas Howe Young we find this: “At age fifteen he became tragically addicted to drugs following the administering of morphine during hospitalization to relieve suffering from typhoid fever.  He struggled all his life to overcome the habit and finally died at age forty-one.  His father likely newer knew of the addiction since the illness occurred about the time of Brigham Young’s death; hence he was not alive to help the young man cope with the problem.”

Please, I ask them, why bring that up?  I think his descendants may have some reason for being injured with such a thing included in a book published under the auspices of the Church.

Reference is also made to reports from Brigham Young, Jr. as a mission president.  “Within one year he reported nine cases of serious deviation.  In relating a particularly grievous case in which one elder had been guilty of drunkenness, immorality, and assault and battery, which resulted in a two-months prison sentence, etc. etc. etc.”

And again the question, why should the Church publish that?

I agree with President Stephen L Richards who once stated,

“If a man of history has secured over the years a high place in the esteem of his countrymen and fellow men and has become imbedded in their affections, it has seemingly become a pleasing pastime for researchers and scholars to delve into the past of such a man, discover, if may be, some of his weaknesses, and then write a book exposing hitherto unpublished alleged factual findings, all of which tends to rob the historic character of the idealistic esteem and veneration in which he may have been held through the years.

“This ‘debunking,’ we are told, is in the interest of realism, that the facts should be known.  If an historic character has made a great contribution to country and society, and if his name and his deeds have been used over the generations to foster high ideals of character and service, what good is to be accomplished by digging out of the past and exploiting weaknesses, which perhaps a generous contemporary public forgave and subdued?”

There are references in the book to Brigham Young’s divorce, introduced evidently as “honest reporting” or that the “facts should be known,” though they are not germane really to President Young’s letters to his sons.

I wince also at the introduction by Brother Adamson, simply because he refers to President Young exclusively as Brigham.  “But unschooled men have their blind spots, just as clerks do.  Brigham’s mistrust of men of words, his perception of limitation of clerks, sometimes let him into strange positions.”  In another statement we read, “In the Kingdom of God,” said Brigham, “an idler shall have no place.”  The reference to the idler, of course, is from the 75th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  It is attributed to President Young.  This, I think, is poor scholarship.

I just can’t see the Church publishing a book about President Harold B. Lee with an introduction which speaks of Harold doing this and Harold doing that.  There is nothing in the introduction or commentaries that shows the respect that we ought, in the Church, to pay to those who hold the highest office that the Lord bestows upon a man in mortality.

You may now be surprised for me to say that I think the book on balance is all right.  I enjoyed reading the history.  I think there is a warm and wonderful message to be drawn from President Young’s letters to his sons.

However, if I know scholars at all, it would be my opinion that this first book is something of a test.  And if I am not mistaken, and I think that I am not, if the things I have mentioned go unnoticed, it will be an invitation to put in print many other things from the Historian’s Office.  Such information will do precious little good and may do a great disservice to individuals both past and present.

I mentioned that I have raised this subject before.  Each time the Historical Office has been discussed in our meetings, I have expressed my concern.  I think that very often I do not do very well in speaking in council meetings and perhaps my shortcomings there do injury to the very position I am trying to endorse.  I make these comments without intending to be critical of any individual. I think our brethren in the Historical Department are wonderful men.  Nor would I mind if you were to show them this letter, for they know that I regard them very highly.  It is the principle that concerns me.  I agree with them that books such as this fill a niche.  For they are most interesting to those who are delving into history.  I just suggest that it is a very narrow niche and question whether we as a church are obligated to fill it.  To do so, I think, is not essential to the central purpose of the Church.

If we determine that we should continue to publish information such as this, that itself will be an interesting bit of history.  For the brethren who have preceded us were very careful to do just the opposite.

Please forgive me if this letter has been too lengthy.  There are other examples I might have included, but out of respect for your time will not.

I have lived in academic circles, have observed the tendencies of highly “schooled” Church members; have seen how perversely such information as this is often used, and wonder if these projects ought to be carefully reviewed before they continue.

Sincerely yours,

Boyd K. Packer

[Boyd K. Packer to First Presidency, 24 Oct., 1974; LJA Diary, attached to entry of 27 Nov., 1974]

Today we held the meeting our executives with Brother Anderson, and at the end of the meeting Earl dictated a record of our meeting with the advisors on November 26. The last item discussed was the letter of Elder Boyd Packer, which I placed on that date in my diary together with the comments of Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie about it.

Brother Anderson then volunteered, not for the record but for our information, his own comments. His comments were made at extenso and Earl has agreed to save the tape of our meeting together to preserve these.

First of all, Brother Anderson said he could hardly accept the two criticisms of Elder Packer criticizing Jack Adamson for using the term Brigham to refer to President Brigham Young. He said he had often referred to him as Brigham or Brother Brigham and the prophets and General Authorities he was associated with had done the same. The same with the Prophet Joseph. In the second place the criticism of our inclusion of Brigham Young’s advice to Brigham, Jr. to cease the use of tobacco while on his mission. Brother Anderson said he didn’t see anything wrong with people knowing that and with Brigham Young, Jr.’s posterity knowing about that. People should understand that our emphasis on the Word of Wisdom today has not always applied. It is true that the Prophet Joseph Smith drank wine after he received the Word of Wisdom revelation. It is also true that Brigham Young used wine, even fermented wine, both at his table and in the Sacrament. I added that was true as late as Lorenzo Snow, who administered the Sacrament in the Salt Lake Temple with wine–and Brother Anderson added not just with a little glass cup but with large goblets so that the authorities drank more than just a swallow.

Brother Anderson in regard to this pointed out a number of General Authorities who as late as his day were not as strict on the Word of Wisdom as we are today. He mentioned President Penrose, one of the most beloved persons in Church history, who being English loved his ale and continued to use it more or less regularly to the end of his life and as I recall he died about 1923 or ‘24. He mentioned Patriarch John Smith, who continued to use tobacco and liquor and had certain problems with both to the end of his days, and yet he was patriarch to the Church. Brother Anderson mentioned President Ivins who used wine, having grown up with its use in Mexico and continued to use it at least many of the years in the 1920s.

Brother Anderson mentioned that the Word of Wisdom was not the only thing that we have changed our emphasis upon–other things as well. An example is birth control and contraceptives.  As a secretary of the First Presidency he had been designated to respond to many of the questions that came into the First Presidency.  On the matter of the use of birth control devices he had always responded that the Church had been opposed to the use of these devices except when the health of the mother was involved. That included both the physical health and mental health, and he always added a sentence at the end which said in the last analysis this is a matter for individual decision by the family involved. That is the way President McKay had wanted the letter to read, but after his death, he was advised to leave out that last sentence by Joseph Fielding Smith, who tended to be the most strict–the most strict of all the brethren–and by president Harold B. Lee.

In recent years there has been a tendency to announce the Church’s opposition to birth control devices without adding the phrase “without the health of the mother” being a consideration. Brother Anderson said we have to use good judgment on these matters and if it comes down to an individual case, the authorities will almost always say this. He mentioned the counsel he had given to a sister in Washington who had six children under nine years of age. Her physical health was good, but she was very nervous and was coming unstrung and he counseled that she should protect her mental health by appropriate measures, and he thought that was the proper advice to give and the Christian thing to do, He said President McKay was much more lenient on birth control and abortion and other such matters than Presidents Smith, Lee, and Kimball.

The same was true with President McKay on the Word of Wisdom. He told a story about President McKay and Brother Widtsoe on the Word of Wisdom that I cannot

for the moment recall. In essence Brother Anderson defended our judgment on publishing some of these things. He said, of course, you will have to be discreet and use good judgment, but said he thought we were the proper ones to exercise judgment on this, and we could not expect to be as strict as Brother Packer’s letter implied on these matters.

[LJA Diary, 3 Dec., 1974]

This morning Joe Christensen asked to chat with me a few minutes.  He really had three things in mind. First was Reed Durham’s talk on Mormonism and Masonry at the Mormon History Association meeting in Nauvoo. The second was the first issue of the Journal of Mormon History .The third was the general orientation of our Church history achievements. I have the feeling that he was led to conduct this conversation as the result of conversations with Neal Maxwell and possibly Boyd Packer as well.

He has received a good deal of criticism of Reed Durham’s talk during the past or three weeks. He asked me for my appraisal of it. I think he was trying to find out if we had read the talk in advance and approved it–I assured him we had not–and whether I thought it was sound historically. I told him we had serious reservations. He said the manner in which he presented this showed bad judgment on Reed’s part and it would “put a millstone around his neck the rest of his life” because certain of the younger General Authorities will never be able to forget it.

He said he was disappointed that the Journal of Mormon History chose to begin its first issue with Jan Shipps’ article as a lead. He said he did not think it was a very important article and made no great contribution. I told him that I did know it was being printed and I did not object to its being printed but I did not know that it was going to be the lead article. I told him that I hoped the brethren would be patient with us. It will take

us another year or two to work up books and articles on things in our archives which are enriching and inspiring. Until we get this out people will still work over the same subjects like Mormonism and Masonry, polygamy, and so on. I told him that we do have a lot of rich material and we are working on it. But because it has been held on a restricted basis for so long, we haven’t had a chance to come to grips with its significance and it will take awhile for this material to percolate out into professional articles and books.

He said that Reed would be taking a sabbatical leave next year.  I encouraged him to give Reed off fulltime so he could work fulltime on his volume of the sesquicentennial history he is assigned to write.  I told him I regretted that Reed had not chosen to devote time to the one-volume history.  He was surprised to hear that.  He said he did not know that Reed had withdrawn from that project and he was disappointed to learn that Reed had not spent any time on it last year.  They had made arrangements for him to spend the time, but he had not chosen to do so or had not done so.  The whole discussion was in a friendly, earnest spirit, and I am sure was not intended to be a warning to me or a criticism, but he merely wanted to see how we were reacting to some of the same things that he was concerned with.

[LJA Diary, 12 Dec., 1974]

In talking with me on the telephone Dilworth Young said he had heard the rumor that they had stopped the sesquicentennial history which we were writing.  I said that was news to me.  Nobody had said anything to me about it and it was my understanding that it was still full steam ahead.  He said “I am glad to hear that.  I think you ought to ask no questions and just go right ahead and do it, but of course use good judgment in what you say.”  He said he had heard that some of the Brethren were disturbed about what might be said and for that reason had caused us to drop the project.  I told him nothing had been said to me about it.

[LJA Diary, 13 Dec., 1974]

Yesterday Earl Olson took me aside to tell me that he had gone to the reception for Tom Fyans’ daughter last Friday. While there he happened to sit at the same table with Boyd Packer. Boyd Packer asked Earl if he had seen the letter which Elder Packer had written to the First Presidency about our Brigham Young book and other projects. Earl said he had seen it and we all had seen it. Earl added that we appreciated seeing a copy of it and appreciated his concern.

Boyd Packer repeated very strongly his concerns to Earl and said that we must find some way of preventing the printing of these things from occurring in the future and said that unless we can come to some agreement on it we would have to change the management. I asked Earl what that meant–whether it meant getting a new Church Historian or getting a new Assistant Managing Director or just what. Earl said he was not sure, but he thought he meant that he would seek to have another advisor rather than Brother Hunter or perhaps another Acting Managing Director rather than Brother Anderson. I said to Earl, “Does that mean that Brother Packer himself wants to be our advisor?” Earl said he thought that was the case.

Earl said something about clearing things through correlation. I said that would be the worst thing that could happen. How can they possibly judge us on what is good history and what is bad history? Earl said that we may be forced to it. I said I thought the Twelve would outvote Brother Packer if he made such a suggestion.

At any rate, it seem clear that Brother Packer is making some kind of crusade out of it and will not be satisfied to leave it in the hands of Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie. Earl said as a minimum we ought to bring it up with our advisors at our next meeting and get their counsel of what if anything we should do. Earl says Brother Packer expects some kind of an answer and we need to raise this with the advisors.

[LJA Diary, 31 Dec., 1974]

The advisers asked Brother Arrington if he would care to make an explanation regarding the policy followed by him and others with reference to the book, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, and additional books which have recently been published.  Brother Arrington made a statement at some length and the advisers expressed their approval of what had been done.  They suggested to Brother Arrington that he endeavor to have an interview with Elder Boyd K. Packer in order that he might have a better understanding of the situation.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 23 Jan., 1975; LJA Diary]

At the meeting with the advisors, Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie, I took occasion to mention the difficult position we are in having in mind two goals which are sometimes incompatible: (a) Writing informative and inspiring history for members of the Church; (b) writing sound books and articles for professional and university use. I mentioned the importance of the latter by indicating what sources on the Mormons are presently being used in university classes I mentioned examples of articles in Encyclopedia Britannica and other such basic reference works. I pointed out that we are often criticized both by the scholarly world for being too pro church and by the Church people for bending over too far to get the support of the scholarly community.

Brother McConkie said, “Don’t worry, we are not criticizing you; we’re not being critical of what you do”

[LJA Diary, 4 Feb., 1975]

I have always thought it was unfortunate that we did not have any good LDS biographies—that the only really fine biographies, historically speaking, were Juanita Brooks’ biography of John D. Lee and Hal Schindler’s biography of Porter Rockwell.  This seemed incredible in view of the meticulous journals kept by many of our important leaders and of the enormous interest in the lives of these people demonstrated by LDS readers.  I have assumed that the reason we have not had good biographies is the inability of good scholars and writers to get access to material in our archives, and I have thought once these archives were opened up, we would get things of quality.

Another reason for the lack of good biographies has become clear to me in the months and years that I have been Church Historian, That is the problem posed of dealing with plural marriages and plural families. Half of a man’s life is that which relates to his wife and family. This offers problems enough to an ordinary monogamous person, but the problems are enormously complicated in dealing with multiple marriages and multiple families. It isn’t only a question of dealing with these in some satisfactory way. It is also a question of family tension, hatreds–the family desire to suppress, forget, and cover up. Nearly every important Mormon entered into plural marriage and in nearly every instance the first wife, though formerly giving her approval for the second marriage, privately opposed the second marriage and privately was jealous of the second wife. While she attempted to sublimate her feelings, these were recognized by her children and these were magnified by them so that it was impossible for them to look upon the second wife and second family in an objective way–as the children of a brother or sister would look upon aunts and uncles and cousins. Feelings developed between first, second, and subsequent families. Privately, not publicly, they made snide remarks about their “aunts”. Wives would tear pages out of husband’s diaries that referred to the other wives and family. They would destroy letters to or from the other wives and families. Bitter complaints would h made which were passed onto children and great-grandchildren.

With this kind of atmosphere family members, regardless of whether first or second or third family, would not want to undertake a full biography or history, nor would they want anyone else to do so, nor would they cooperate and so for Mormon figures with “images” to protect–apostles, members of  First Presidencies, General Authorities, etc.–the histories simply didn’t get written because the family did not want certain things published which would inevitably have to be included and this probably explains why the only successful biography–works which were more than hagiographies–were of apostates or characters whose image was already destroyed or tarnished.

I have of course tried to deal with this problem in a satisfactory way in the Charles C. Rich and David Eccles biographies, and Maureen is dealing with it in her biography of Eliza R. Snow and we are trying to deal with it in the case of the Woolley biography. Also, Dean Jessee has dealt with it in the Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, but we are going to face real problems with the family of every single person we do–problems which will be even more serious than those I faced in the case of the Eccles family, simply because we will be dealing with Church figures and Church families–leading families in the Church. We have somehow or other got to help families understand that their ancestor is a public figure as well as a private family person and that some of these matters need to be brought out in the open rather than festering in family disagreements. 

[LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1975]

Jay Todd came in today and told Bill Hartley, Dean Jessee, and myself that he had just come from the office of President S. Dilworth Young. They had had a conference earlier about Bill Hartley’s article on the Seventies which the Ensign had planned to publish in the December issue, Elder Young earlier had said that he definitely did not want that article published. Jay says that in the meeting this morning, President Young explained why. President Young himself has now written an article on the history of the Seventies which will be published in the Ensign. It lacks a few facts which President Young told Jay to get from Bill Hartley. President Young said, “That young fellow Hartley is smart; he knows his facts. He has written a good article, but it brings up too many questionable things that will ruffle the readers. That is why we do not want it published. For more than 100 years the Seventies have been in the doghouse–in fact, we haven’t made it yet to the doghouse, President Lee got the clear light on this and said it was not necessary to ordain Rex Pinegar as a high priest. As a Seventy, said President Lee, he has all the keys, powers and privileges which a high priest has.” When President Lee set apart Brother Pinegar for the First Council of Seventy, according to President Young, he specifically did not ordain him a high priest. President Young, after the blessing, asked President Lee if he had purposefully refrained from ordaining him a high priest since all the other First Council had previously been ordained high priests. President Lee said that was deliberate. He has all the keys, privileges, and powers as a Seventy.

Some time later, according to Jay, after President Kimball had become president of the Church, Brother Pinegar received an assignment which would require him to ordain a bishop. President Young went to President Kimball and asked him whether he should be ordained a high priest. President Kimball said,  “It is true that as a Seventy he has all the keys and powers, but if we don’t ordain him high priest, it will create a good deal of comment and criticism and uproar and uneasiness in the Church, particularly among the assistants to the apostles, so I think it would he wise for us to ordain Brother Pinegar a high priest,” so right at the time in President Kimball’s office he ordained Brother Pinegar a high priest. President Kimball said, “Let us not be too quick, but we will get this thing solved.”

President Young told Jay that Brother Cook had not been ordained a high priest and they did not intend to ordain him a high priest. The same with the other members of the First Quorum.

President Young said, “We have now made it to the doghouse and the die will be cast as soon as they appoint to the First Quorum a person who is already a high priest. That is apt to happen,” Brother Young said. “Now you know why we didn’t want to publish Brother Hartley’s article. Things are going well. Our problems are being solved. We don’t want anything that will reopen old wounds or bring up things that will muddy the waters. President Kimball will get this thing resolved over the next year or two and then when everything is clear then a good serious article on the Seventies and their history can be published without any problem 

[LJA Diary, 31 Oct., 1975]

Today was Elder Anderson’s birthday, so we all got together before the meeting of executives of the department and sang ‘Happy Birthday.” He was very pleased.

After the meeting of executives I met with Elder Robert D. Hales for a period of 30 or 40 minutes. Here are random memories of the conversation. He said he is attempting to bring a little imagination, courage, and spontaneity into the church magazines. He feels that Doyle Green’s regime has been autocratic, that he has been peremptory in what he would permit and not permit, and the result is loss of spontaneity. We end up with bland, milk-toast articles that are not creative and stimulating. Having been criticized and beaten down repeatedly, they quit fighting and publish lots of pretty pictures. So he received a telephone call from Elder Packer the other day: “Why did you put in so many pictures in the New Era?” “Because it is simpler to put pictures than some text that they will get after us for!” Anyway, he encourages us to submit once more some teenager stories from Church History and thinks they will be a little more permissive of historical truth than they may have been in the past. The same goes true of The Ensign.

Says they are planning a special women’s issue of The Ensign for March. This will feature an article by Claudia Bushman, poetry by Carol Lynn Pearson, and other things. I suggested Maureen Beecher, and he took down her name; said he would mention it to Jay Todd. Said they would have a special women’s issue once per year. Said also they would have a special cultural arts issue of The Ensign each year, which, though not restricted to women’s cultural art, would perhaps give women more attention than men. This is to take care of some of the needs and desires of women. And he thinks they have got to be less paranoid in what they will accept for publication. There was a poem of Carol Lynn Pearson which they had accepted, ran it thru Correlation, and Correlation came back with objection to a line which talked of people with spears. They didn’t like that line “because she really means women libbers.” He said he told them to get out of the office—that was ridiculous. They also suggested she change a line which said, “and so she had learned that her Heavenly Father was as smart as…”And she will change it to “smarter than…”

He said it is slow to change an institution—to get it moved where it needs to be, must be.

Said he was an adviser to the Relief Society and he urged them to work out the kind of organization and activities they need. Said that their policies were seemingly etched in stone and they need to reconsider who they want for a board, how they want the board to function, what they ought to do, and so on. Set out what would be best for the women of the Church and then consider steps to take toward realizing that goal.

Said he sympathized with our problems. Certain things are history—our history—but need they be said? Like the BY Letters to his Sons. Did we need to mention that one of Brigham Young’s sons had trouble with drugs, with the bottle? It’s history, but need it be mentioned? He said he had given up the goal of getting unanimous feeling among the brethren. Among the 15 there are some who feel strongly on this, some on that, and he now feels that one can’t be pushed by one person alone to do or not to do something. Must consider what the majority are willing to support. 

[LJA Diary, 20 Nov., 1975]

A history of the Church without reference to the center—a history by starting with a person, a local congregation, cum ward, and trace it thru with administrative ups and downs, succession of bishop. A ward history which is nevertheless a general history of- the Church

Not that the Prophet was irrelevant although he was a distant personage; not that Church headquarters was irrelevant–after all, they sent out the lesson leaflets. But he was most concerned with the ward and its doings, instructions, rules, and requirements.

Emphasize this not diminish importance of president, apostles, and bureaucracy, but rather to emphasize importance of bishops, Relief Society presidents, Sunday School teachers. They are the ones who count! And to suggest humility to the general authorities–their influence is less than they think. They prevent abuses, but their influence on the lives of local people infinitesimal. Should not take themselves so seriously.

[LJA Diary, 11 Jan., 1976]

Entrepreneur of History

An entrepreneur of history has problems which resemble, in every respect, those of an industrial entrepreneur. The entrepreneur must make a dozen decisions about his product—decisions about the materials, about advertising, about its quality, about product improvement, and so on. What kind of a product can I produce that will appeal to the market, and at the same time not cost so much that the market cannot buy it. Or, to put it another way, will a given improvement in the product cost so much to produce that it will diminish its marketability.

The same is true of works of history. To produce a given manuscript could require one year, two years, three years, or ten years. Assuredly, a book which has been ten years in the writing will be costly in terms of human resources. And, presumably, it will be definitive—distinctly definitive. But will it be worth it. Could a work be as good as

necessary and be written in three years? Or two years? Or one year?

We face this problem all the time with our Historical Department staff members. I give them an assignment; let us say, writing an essay on the Waldensians who became Mormons and migrated to the Great Basin in the 1850s. We want a 30-page essay. To exhaust all informational sources, we ought to use the materials in our Archives, contact each of the descendants, inquire of other Archives that might possibly have information, and so on. How far should we go? I must make an immediate judgment as to what it is worth—what expense we are justified. Should he spend one month on it or two? Should he write it up from materials in our Archives plus members of the families he can contact in the immediate vicinity? Suppose one of the families has a diary of one of the converts written in French; is it worth the expense to have the diary transcribed and translated for the use of the writer? If the diary is 20 pages? 200 pages? 2,000 pages? Suppose we discover there are records in an archive in northern Italy; is it worth sending a person over to investigate? Paying the expenses of a person already in Italy to investigate?

Those questions arise all the time, and we must determine a reasonable course to pursue. Suppose we complete a manuscript and there is some urgency required in getting the publication out. Should we take the three or four months required to submit it to an outside reviewer or two? Suppose we are publishing a work and, with a press designer and with a certain size of type and grade of paper we could sell the book for $6.95. With a better designer, larger type, better grade of paper, better binding, we could pay expenses only by selling it for $8.95. Which is the best option?

Reviewers, who receive the book free for writing the review, are not always conscious of the financial decisions that must be made. They often criticize the lack of research, the omission of certain topics, the poor quality of the book production job, and so on. But would it have been worth it to have produced the kind of book that would have been ideal?

There are questions about the utilization of staff even more important. Should we assign the staff to produce books or essays? Should we be working on the publication of documents or the writing of monographs? Should we be writing multivolume works or single volume histories? Should we do biographies or narrative histories? With a given staff one can only do so much and so these choices must be made. The most important figure of Mormonism in the West is Brigham Young. Should we take the time and the resources to do a six-volume detailed biography? Or can a fat one-volume biography suffice? And should we be doing some things for young people. Should we employ a specialist in writing juvenile history in lieu of hiring a specialist in serious, adult history?

I do not contend that I am smart enough to make these decisions. I have gathered around me two professional historians, James Allen and Davis Bitton, who represent different points of view, and they give their advice. I get plenty of advice from my research and writing historians. I also get plenty of advice from fellow historians in and out of the Church, from the general public and from ecclesiastical leaders.  It is a difficult position to hold, yet decisions have to be made by someone.

Now these decisions aren’t unique. Every individual historian with limited resources must make the same decisions, but normally he makes it for himself and takes the individual responsibility. And of course every research center–and there are many for the sciences–have the same kinds of decisions to make. But research and writing are normally individual matters in history. Normally we do not work collectively. When we do, we face the same problems that science research centers face–assigning staff time to projects, assigning financial resources to given projects, and so on.

There are certain methods of operation we have followed:

1. Each of our three senior historians (Arrington, Allen, and Bitton) have been given a full-time research assistant to work under his direction on whatever projects he may be working on. These assistants must have at least a master’s degree, and usually are persons working part-time on a Ph. D. who need to earn money to support their families. The three of us have determined that we will usually use them only half-time on our projects so they can be working part-tine on an assigned project of their own which they can publish under their own name.

2. Each person is assigned to work on a book, but will be interrupted from time to time to work on chapters of other books, or articles for historical journals or for Church magazines.

3. One of our staff members with a Ph.D. in English and experience in publishing a scholarly quarterly, Western Humanities Review, is assigned to be our editor. That means she reads everything that any of us writes for publication. She does not only copy-editing, but makes substantive comments as well on the tone, the style, the contents, reader interest needs, etc. Since she cannot possibly do everything we produce, we have given her an assistant editor as well. The two of them are thus able to divide the work so that each can have some free time to write her own history. One is editing diaries of women Latter-day Saints, the other is writing a biography of a prominent woman leader (Eliza R. Snow).

4. We have five secretaries in our division: one transcribes original documents; one transcribes oral histories; one is my secretary; one serves the two assistant church historians (Allen and Bitton) and one serves the rest of the staff.

5. Everything that is written for publication by any member of the staff must be read by me; and if it is sufficiently important or controversial, by two assistant church historians. And of course everything is read by our editor.

6. We have spent long hours discussing proper division of whatever income may come to any of us by virtue of our lectures, books, and articles. Many of our books, of course, are church publications which carry no royalty. But occasionally one of us does get some royalty or an honorarium. And it is for a work which is not strictly an individual product. We have had the help of a research assistant–should we share with him? The editor has contributed to the quality–should we share with her? A member of the Archival staff has put us onto some rare documents that “made” the article–should we share with him? What is fair? In general, we have determined to establish a special fund into which we place such special income. This fund is used to fund fellowships to work in our archives, and for other agreed upon purposes. In this way, we avoid the problem of determining what is a just way of sharing—nobody profits individually, but the work is forwarded.

7. There are inevitable disagreements between staff members and myself over the content and wording of articles and books. Suppose that upon reading a manuscript, I feel that a given paragraph should be deleted; but the writer insists that it not be deleted. Does he have any resource? In that instance I ask my two assistant church historians and our editor to express their opinion. And if the staff member wishes he may, of course, have somebody else read it and, if he agrees, attempt to persuade me that the paragraph is both necessary and in good taste.  Nobody is laying his job on the line by such a demonstration of stubbornness, and we usually end up with some kind of compromise: the paragraph is modified and left in; or a sentence or two conveying the same information is incorporated in a preceding or the subsequent paragraph. We have had no confrontations in the department, despite the fact that we have a staff of 20, each of whom is a person of strong convictions. We certainly have no wish to dampen the creativity energy of our professional staff. We have employed them primarily because they were creative and imaginative and resourceful, and because they have a certain pride of workmanship.

8. We employ persons who are intelligent, creative, and well-trained. How do we handle the problem of objectivity in a center which is funded by the Church? How can we “tell the truth of history” and at the same time not offend those who control the purse strings of our operation? First, it should be said that this is not as much of a problem as many might suppose. Most of our material will not offend. But surely, one may reply, in the process of writing up a given event it will be necessary to tell of the unpraiseworthy action of someone’s grandfather. And that someone may not wish that information published. This is not substantially different in any historical operation. Despite the fact that I have had a reputation for “telling it like it is,” I have never had criticism from any leader of the LDS Church. But I have had criticism from some industrial corporations. When I was a professor of economies at Utah State University, I wrote an article for the Utah Historical Quarterly on a railroad operated by Union Pacific Corporation in the 1870s and 1880s. The article was not flattering to Union Pacific, and I decided, to be fair, that I would allow them to see it before publication for any corrections they thought should be made. They replied with a nasty letter, full of vituperation and threats. The threats were that they would seek to get me fired from my job at the University and seek to embarrass me with my Church. They offered no specific suggestions with new evidence–just a rhetorical criticism. I replied that I could see no reason to change the article and that I was planning to send it on for publication. Within a few days I had a letter from the President of my university saying he had received a letter from them threatening to embarrass the University in the legislature the next time it went for funds.  The president was good enough to say, “Don’t give me the article to read; I’m no judge. If you think you are justified, go ahead and I’ll stand behind you.” Within another day or two I had a letter from the president of my Church. He said essentially the same thing. I could have hugged both men. Anyway, I think persons greatly overrate the censorship propensities of the LDS Church. Usually, scholars who complain are scared off by some two-bit bureaucrat who has no idea whether the president of the Church will object or not. One has to use his judgment–be intelligent and prayerful and use good judgment, and them be willing to stand on it even if one or two or three people yell to high heaven.

[LJA Diary, 13 Mar., 1976]

Use of Diaries of President David O. McKay

Brother Schmidt stated that Richard Cowan, professor of religion at BYU, has

requested permission to have access to the diaries of President David O. McKay covering the period 1930 to 1951. Brother Cowan is one of the authors of the sesquicentennial history and is desirous of researching specific items in President McKay’s journals covering the period mentioned. Brother Arrington stated that Jim Allen is writing the sesquicentennial volume covering the period from 1951 to 1980, and will no doubt also request the privilege of having access to President McKay’s journals covering his presidency. In this case Brother Arrington recommended that an exception be made to the general rule governing the use of restricted materials and that these two authors be given access to the journals of President McKay covering the periods mentioned. He also recommended that inasmuch as Dr. Cowan is unable to read the journals himself, that the preliminary screening in behalf of Dr. Cowan be under the direction of Brother Allen. After consideration it was decided to grant permission for access to be given to the journals covering the period 1930 to 1951. Elder Anderson will confer with President Tanner relative to granting access to the journals subsequent to that time. 

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 16 Mar., 1976; LJA Diary]

I had to return to Salt Lake to complete reading on some manuscripts before Monday morning, and I did finish what needed to be done.  I finished the 900-page biography of Joseph Smith by Donna Hill.  I was very pleased with the manuscript.  It will be head and shoulders above any other biography of Joseph Smith ever written, including Fawn Brodie’s.  In my judgment it will supplant No Man Knows My History.  It will be a biography which I will take pleasure in recommending people to read.  It is not sugary or too favorable.  It recognizes the problems and some of Joseph’s difficulties and defects.  It is certainly as good a biography as we could prepare, and that pleases me that we will not have to do one ourselves.

[LJA to Children, 19 Mar., 1976; LJA Diary]

President McKay’s Diary

Elder Anderson reported that after having read some of the volumes of President McKay’s diary, and after conferring with President Tanner relative thereto, it has been determined that at least one volume must be restricted and that no one should have access to it.  The volume in question will be placed in the vault.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 25 Mar., 1976; LJA Diary]

Diaries of President David O. McKay

With reference to the David O. McKay diaries, Elder Anderson reported that the First Presidency have instructed that these records of President McKay, during his tenure as President of the Church, should remain closed and that no one should have access to them.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 4 May, 1976; LJA Diary]

This will probably be pretty unorganized, as I’ll be typing it in between other things.  First, let me remember to tell you about Lowell Durham, Jr.   We knew he was leaving the New Era, but hadn’t heard where he was going.  Well, he is the new Publication Director of Deseret Book company—a new position.  He will work with authors, with Eleanor Knowles, his copy editor, and with Michael Graves, the designer.  We in the Historical Department, we as authors of books to be published by Deseret Book, couldn’t be happier.  To paraphrase Hugh Nibley, when he heard I had been appointed Church Historian, “Now I know the Church is true!”

[LJA to Carl and Chris, 14 May, 1976]

When I was going down to get my lunch today Brother Haight of the Quorum of Twelve was just coming out. He stopped me and said, “Say, I have been thumbing through that new book of yours, The Story of the Latter-day Saints. It looks fine. Have you had any responses from people about it?” I told him we had had dozens of responses, some personal visitations, some telephone calls, some letters, and every single person we have had a response from, whether Mormon or non-Mormon, was very enthusiastic about it. He said, “You know, not everybody approaches history the same way.” He said, “For instance, this seems to be approached somewhat differently than Essentials in Church History. I tried to compare what Joseph Fielding Smith said about, let’s say, the Haun’s Mill Massacre and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc., with what is done in this book. As you have gone through the documents in preparation for this book, have you found things that were different than is given in the Essentials in Church History?” I said, “Well, basically, the story is the same. But of course there are some details here and, there that we have corrected and, of course, the most important thing is that Essentials in Church History devotes the overwhelming bulk of its pages to the period before 1877, whereas in this book we have tried to tell the full story of the Church in 700 pages with equal treatment to this century as the 19th century.” He said, “Joseph Fielding Smith has an approach in which the Lord is responsible for all the things that brought about the growth of the Church and the devil is responsible for all things that interfere with that growth. You don’t have that approach, do you?” I said, “Well, when people experienced the influence of the Lord and said so, we have mentioned that and the devil as well.  But there are a wide variety of things that bring about certain developments, economic, political, natural, and so on, and we bring those into the account.” He said, “I am glad you do. Let me tell you an experience I had with Joseph Fielding Smith when I was the Stake President at Palo Alto. As Joseph Fielding Smith walked into my home where I entertained him he was carrying a copy of The Mountain Meadows Massacre by Juanita Brooks which had recently come out and was published by Stanford Press. I mentioned the book to him. “I see that you have Juanita Brooks’s book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.” He replied, “She is an evil woman.” I came to her defense. I told him that I had read the book very carefully, in fact, I had read all the literature that I could find about the Mountain Meadows Massacre because the name Haight is connected with it. It is my great grandfather’s brother, Isaac Haight, that was involved in the massacre. So being familiar with the literature I told Joseph Fielding Smith that I thought it was an honest, well-balanced treatment of the Mountain Meadows Massacre that left me with a good feeling. I thought she had put as good an interpretation on it as could be done considering what happened. Now your story in your one-volume history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre isn’t going to be too different. You do tell the story, don’t you? Of course, you can’t do much with it when you are trying to brief all of our full history into 700 pages. But you will give confidence to people who read it if you do tell things in a straightforward way.”

He said, “I was surprised when I gave that reply to Joseph Fielding Smith that I have gotten out of Palo Alto–that I was called to be president of the Scottish mission.”

He said, “I realize that some of our history is controversial, but we can’t avoid that nor do I think we can restrict our history to telling about things the Lord caused or the devil caused.  We have to tell a straightforward story.  I hope you will continue to do that.”

[LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1976]

Wendell Ashton telephoned me yesterday to say that he had read two chapters of Donna Hill’s Joseph Smith biography that I loaned to him and that he was very favorably impressed. He was sure it would not do us any harm and would probably do us much good. He thought it would be helpful to the Church to have a major biography by a professor at Hunter College appearing through a leading national publisher. Specifically he had read the chapter on the First Vision and he thought it was well done. While the biography is not of the Pollyanna type and certainly not suitable for a Sunday School or Priesthood class, it was fair and gave a favorable interpretation of the Prophet. He thought it was well written, interesting, and would be well received by the bulk of our people.

He was glad to see that it was being handled by Deseret Book and ZCMI as well as by Sam Weller. He sees no reason for us to discourage the sale of it.

Brother Ashton realizes that not all the brethren will think it is that great, but he had a chance to express this view given above to Elder Hinckley who is his advisor, and Elder Hinckley seemed to accept it. He said that Elder Mark Petersen had been assigned to read the book for the Brethren, and he, Elder Petersen, in turn, had tried to get Bruce McConkie or Boyd Packer to read it. Both of them declined. He also tried to get Wendell to read it and he declined also. And of course it is difficult to predict what Elder Petersen may say about it, but by the time his view is expressed the book will have sold several thousand copies.

It is interesting to me that Elder Petersen would not have asked the Church Historian for his opinion about the book. This certainly shows a lack of confidence in our office, our opinions, and our trustworthiness. I mentioned the book to Cal Rudd on Tuesday, and he had not seen it and I presume he has not been asked by Elder Petersen to read it although he may be later this week. 

I did have a conversation with Cal Rudd on Tuesday about our office, the books we write, and our activities in general. He expressed very forthrightly his view that he does not like the way we write books. He thinks we lean over backwards to appeal to non-Mormons, scholars, and fellow historians. He thinks we do not acknowledge sufficiently the divine origin of the Church, the divine leadership of the Church, and revelation. He feels that The Story of the Latter-day Saints is an example of this. It gives too much emphasis to events growing out of the times instead of coming through the inspiration of God. He realizes that Essentials in Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith is not a book which would appeal to historians or general readers and therefore not suitable book about Mormon history to have in libraries throughout the country, but he thinks there must be a middle ground between Essentials in Church History and Story of the Latter-day Saints. He does not think that he himself could write such a book but he thinks it must be possible for someone to write such a book. He wished we would but realizes that our orientation and temperament and training would not be conducive to us producing that kind of work.

Brother Rudd realizes that we do produce some articles for Church magazines and so on that are in the category that he would approve of. But in general he thinks we put too much time to producing things for our fellow historians and trying to appeal to non-Mormons. He acknowledged that he had been very critical of us in conversations with Elder Petersen and that he may be partly responsible for the dim view which Elder Petersen takes of our work. He has been working with Elder Petersen on the committee to counteract the influence of the Fundamentalists and therefore has been close to him and available for Elder Petersen to consult. He and his committee had written a pamphlet–intended to inform bishops, stake presidents, and so on–about the Fundamentalists and their historical claims, but Elder Petersen did not approve of the pamphlet.  He regretted this very much, but he was willing to accept the judgment of Elder Petersen about it. He said he would be glad to show me the manuscript he had submitted if I would call him again for a further conversation about it. He had come in to read my copy of B.H. Roberts, ”The Truth, the Way, and the Life.” He was pleasant and genial but very firm in his feelings about our work and expressed them very strongly.

I had always thought there must have been something we did which turned him off about us, and I discovered what it was. He volunteered that he did not agree with our policy of being buddy-buddy with the Reorganized historians. I explained our assignment by President Lee to “cultivate them.” He said that was all right for us since we had been given that assignment, but as for him he would not do it and would council others against it. Then he volunteered a “for instance.” He had spent months, even years, hunting for material about William Smith to finish his master’s thesis. He had received not one iota of cooperation from us about William Smith. Later, when Alma Blair came here, said Calvin, “You yourself as Church Historian assigned Ron Esplin to spend all day hunting up materials to give to Alma Blair so he could do his article on William Smith.” I told him I did not recall assigning Ron to do it. Maybe he did it on his own. But Cal insisted that I had told Ron to do it and that he thought we ought to pay more attention to tithe-paying members of the Church instead of to these apostates and non-members. So that is what is in his craw!

[LJA Diary, 17 Mar., 1977]

The new April Ensign, just out, has a Q & A response of mine which for the first time in a Church magazine acknowledges that the Church did not see the Word of Wisdom in the same way they do today. The change occurred in the 1920s, not in the 1830s after the revelation was received. Davis Bitton’s article in the February issue was the first in forty years to mention the practice of plural marriage, the first to acknowledge that it was practiced by as many as 10 percent, and the first to acknowledge that not all of the marriages were successful. So we feel we are “getting through” to a certain extent. Those who won’t appreciate the kind of “honest history” we do-and there are some-are very apprehensive about our one-volume history in preparation and also about our 16-volume sesquicentennial history under preparation.

[LJA to Chris, 18 Mar., 1977]

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley 

Council of the Twelve 

R1980, Building

Dear Elder Hinckley:

We appreciate your marvelous talk in conference about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration. Those of us who have had the opportunity of examining the intimate records of the Church in the Archives have found the prophetic calling and the divine origins of the Church to be so fully substantiated that we find the search for our historical roots both rewarding professionally and uplifting spiritually. We take pleasure in bearing testimony of these spiritual truths wherever we have opportunity–in sacrament meetings, religious publications, Church magazines, Mormon and non-Mormon gatherings. And we hope that when we speak or write to the other segment of our assigned audience–the non-Mormon readers, scholars and historians–the same testimony shines through the objective tone to which we are sometimes restricted.

Of course, as we examine the records of our past, we cannot help but be aware that the Church did not grow in a vacuum, that some of the most meaningful revelations came in response to the world outside the Church. That the Lord revealed to His prophets the right and proper response to the situations and circumstances outside the Church is in itself testimony building, and in no way diminishes the power of the principle of revelation. We sincerely hope that we are expressing this to Church members in such a way that their historical understanding is enhanced and their testimony strengthened.

We are grateful for the strength and effectiveness of your calling and the power of your testimony, and hope always to support the witness of the divine Church by our publications which deal with its history.


Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian 

[LJA to Gordon B. Hinckley, 4 Apr., 1977]

Leonard J. Arrington

Leonard J. Arrington, Church Historian, economist, historian, most benevolent of dictators, and author of the open door policy, has done more than any living person to advance the study of Mormon history. His Great Basin Kingdom has shaped a whole generation of scholarship; accomplishment enough for one academic life. Leonard, we would like to thank you tonight for guiding us along that narrow path between the Scylla of apologetics and Charybdis of the profane, in writing church history. May your warmth, enthusiasm and charm long continue to bless us in 205 E.

Your Staff


[Arrington Dinner, 6 May, 1977]

Aside from the above things I have been working on the one-volume history.

Elder Durham is leaving for a month’ s vacation this weekend, so we wanted to get as many chapters as possible to him to read. He has read through seven already, and we have finished with thirteen. We still have about five to go. He likes what he has read thus far.

[LJA to Children, 29 Jun., 1977]

We’ve done another chapter of our Knopf history, so only three more to go. We still hope to be done within a month since we already have drafts of the three chapters. Then we’ll see what the church critics say and what the Knopf readers say. Walking a tightrope, which I don’t enjoy, but believe I am better equipped to do it than many others. That’s one reason I believe so much in my calling. 

[LJA to Children, 16 Jul., 1977]

I’ve been using much of the time this week to work on our one-volume history. Still have two or three weeks ahead of us. The days have been hot and oppressive, but it’s nice to work at the office where we have good air conditioning. Our staff are all doing fine, although I’ve noticed some disillusionment because of the episode of the women’s conference. It’s hard for me to be completely serene. I hate so such to worry about how to say things for political reasons. I felt so much better at USU writing history in a straightforward but friendly manner. Having always to wonder whether the Church Historian should be writing this or that is not my idea of the proper way to write history. I need a little encouragement from someone, but know I’ll never get any. A pretty lonely job. The professionals think I’ve sold out to the church; some of the Brethren think I’m a stubborn and unreconciled secular historian. Well, so much for that. 

[LJA to Children, 22 Jul., 1977]

My biggest disappointment as Church Historian is not that some General Authorities have not appreciated the kind of history we write; we rather expected that. Nor the professional non-Mormon reviewers who fault us for being a little too favorable to the church in our histories; we expected that also. The biggest disappointment is the equivocal reviews of our fellow LDS historians who, instead of praising us for the professional character of our writing, and our honesty and candor in writing church history, publicly criticize us for being not quite professional enough. In other words, to an audience of non-Mormon professional readers they cite so many weaknesses of our work that church-sponsored history continues to be under a cloud. One would think they would look on the positive side-look what these fellows have done-and as employees of the church yet! Instead, they emphasize the negative, and so we get praise from nowhere. The church thinks we are too professional, the professionals think we are too churchy, and our peers in Mormon history criticize us in both directions. Only our own staff thinks we are doing great! And I think so too, but feel our LDS historians, at least, ought to be more understanding and appreciative. 

[LJA Diary, 2 Aug., 1977]

I was at the office for a full round of activities except Tuesday, when I stayed home to finish the chapter on church business for the one-volume history. I did get it finished, and am relieved that it has passed muster with Davis. We now have only one chapter left, and we hope to have that finished by the end of the coming week. Then to have Elder Durham read it and take care of his suggestions. Then off to the publisher-I guess. It’s a good history, but Davis and I both feel that it is too frank for THE BRETHREN and too mild and innocuous for the professional readers. So nobody will like it-and possibly the publisher won’t publish it. Anyway, Davis and I like it. Maybe we ought to get it published under some name like Alex Zobell. Or Thankful Osnaburg.

[LJA to Children, 5 Aug., 1977]

Today was a banner day for Pap. Davis and I sent off today our Knopf book. One copy to Knopf in NYC. One to Rodman Paul, their reader, in Pasadena. We’ll also send one to the First Presidency next week. We’ll rest uneasy until we get word as to whether Knopf likes it. We feel less uneasy about the First Presidency since the work admittedly emphasizes the strengths of the church. 638 typewritten pages long. 18 chapters. I first signed to do the book in January 1967, so more than 10 years in bringing to completion. Never would have done it without Davis’ help, I feel good about it but am fearful it is a little too pro-Church for Rodman-Paul and Knopf. If they don’t like it, then what do we do? Anything less favorable would cause problems with the church. Anyway, will let you knot what I hear, which I expect will be in about a month. Maybe I’ll give Knopf a call when I’m in NYC to see how things are going. Davis and I have put a lot of time into this during the past few months. My next big job, the Brigham Young biog.-a task of at least two years, perhaps more. 

[LJA to Children, 2 Sept., 1977]

On Friday, October 7, Davis and I received copy of Rodman Paul’s commentary on the Knopf book. We interpret the commentary as being complimentary and favorable. We now await the commentary of the reader of the First Presidency— and we are not sure that it is Neal Maxwell, who the First Presidency originally indicated. At least Elder Maxwell hadn’t been given the copy by October 2. We have given a copy to Wendell Ashton to read also and Nedra is xeroxing another copy which we will give to Maureen to read. She will have a copy of Rod’s commentary and will devote two or three weeks full-time to reading the manuscript and making revisions in line with Rod’s suggestions. When Wendell Ashton has returned the copy we gave to him we will then ask Jim Allen ad other members of the staff to read it. We await the reader from Ashbel Green which indicates  his own desires. Will he expect us to work on it additional months? Will he give us a deadline? Will he stipulate that they are willing to publish it any time we are satisfied with it? What he decides will be very important. Of course, if we get a negative reaction from the First Presidency reader, then we have some critical decisions to make. As favorable as the book is to the Church in our view, it has now been accepted by Knopf’s reader and therefore it would put us in a very bad light to have the First Presidency recommend extensive revisions. I do not think either Rodman Paul or Knopf would publish a book which is more favorable than the present version. 

[LJA Diary, 11 Oct., 1977]

After our executives meeting this morning Elder Durham asked me to stay to give me what he termed some good news. He said that he had been called in by Elder Boyd Packer and he had had a meeting with him–didn’t say how long– perhaps a half hour. Elder Packer said that he had been asked by the First Presidency to read our one-volume history of the Church for Knopf. He said he had read the book through and that he had a number of suggestions to make. He told Brother Durham that he was going to recommend to the First Presidency that the book be published. He told Brother Durham of some of the concerns which he had–all of which seemed to be relatively minor. He had about twelve yellow sheets interspersed in the manuscript which had comments upon them. He mentioned two or three. He said that in the description of Joseph Smith in the first chapter he would like for us to eliminate the description “beak nosed.” Secondly, he said that he thought we gave too much special attention to Heber Snell. He thought we should retract that reference to maybe a paragraph. He thought we had given Snell more emphasis than he deserved in terms of overall impact on the Church. He thought that the Snell episode had been overblown by Sterling McMurrin for his own reasons and that the impact on the Church of Snell was not as great as inferred by our treatment of the episode. He also thought we gave Eph Erickson a little more attention than maybe we should have and maybe we could strengthen or expand the impact of some other people. He thought, for instance, that Sperry’s impact on the Church might deserve a few sentences at least.

Elder Packer said that this wasn’t exactly the kind of history that he likes. He likes history to be essentially narrative history and when you get to an episode where there is a disagreement you mention both sides of it.  He does not like interpretive history. He does not like the getting into the picture with his own ideas and speculations. Brother Durham said that he responded to that by saying that the history Brother Packer liked (and which Brother Durham liked too) was very common maybe fifteen or twenty years ago, but that there has been an increasing tendency on the part of historians to do interpretive history, and he told Brother Packer he thought historians would not think that Davis and I had done our duty if we did not do interpretive and analytical history. Brother Packer replied that he thought that might be the case, but he still preferred narrative history.

Brother Durham said he described to him the review of Rodman Paul and he, Brother Durham, thought the Rodman Paul comment was basically favorable and that his suggestions were relatively minor, and he thought we could take care of them without any problems. He also told Brother Packer how important he thought this manuscript was. He said that being published by Knopf it will be reviewed in the New York Times magazine and indeed in leading magazines and newspapers throughout the country if not the world. All the librarians will buy it and this will add a book favorable to the Church to library holdings. He thought it would do much good for the Church. Brother Packer said he agreed with this. Brother Packer told him that he was leaving tomorrow, October 20, for Israel and would be gone until after the first of November. He asked Brother Durham to have me call his secretary and make an appointment for as soon as possible after he gets back. He asked Brother Durham whether he, Homer, and I should go visit with him together. Homer suggested it would be sufficient for him to discuss it directly with me. Brother Packer asked if Brother Durham thought there was any urgency in this, and Brother Durham said yes, he thought there was a considerable urgency and that his secretary to arrange it just as quickly as possible. I then asked Brother Durham if it would  desirable for me to make an attempt to see him this morning before I go to BYU. Brother Durham said by all means try it, but you probably won’t be able to arrange it until he comes back. After the meeting I met with Davis for a minute and said “Oh Happy Day!” I did ask Brother Durham why he thought the First Presidency had not given the manuscript to Neal Maxwell. He said of course Brother Maxwell is very busy and that might be the reason. But he thought President Tanner might be behind this move and it might be President Tanner’s motive to get the support of a leading and articulate conservative behind the project, someone whose judgment would be accepted by Brother Benson and Brother Petersen, neither of whom will probably like the book.

Elder Durham also said that Elder Packer felt that in our discussion of the First Vision in Chapter One we should give a quote from Joseph Smith’s own story, 1838 account. 

[LJA Diary, 19 Oct., 1977]

Michael Quinn called me last night and said he had had a conference with President Romney about the J. Reuben Clark, Jr. project. He had been assigned by BYU to write a “Church biography” of President Clark and have it completed within two years. President Romney was interested in seeing the project move along rapidly and wanted to talk to Mike to stimulate him to get the project underway and completed within the time specified.

President Romney said that President Clark had spent most of his adult years outside the sphere of influence of the Church. He had spent much of his time in Washington, in Latin America, in New York, in Mexico City; and so when he was appointed to the First Presidency in 1933 he came from outside the Church bureaucracy. He had been away from the brethren most of the time and was not acquainted with them and their policies nor very well acquainted with the general policies of the Church. He came in as a new influence, as a fresh mind, uncluttered by past traditions, procedures, and policies. President McKay, on the other hand, the other counselor of President Grant, had of course been in the center of Church affairs since 1906. Was well acquainted with policies and procedures and personalities and indeed had helped to formulate many of the policies and procedures. So it was inevitable that President Clark would have some different ideas from those of President McKay and others at Church headquarters. President Clark was a dynamic person, energetic, strong-minded and strong-willed, and what he believed should be done he advocated strongly. Inevitably he ran up against certain of the brethren and certain of their pet projects and programs. So there were often disagreements between President Clark and President McKay, and President Clark and certain other General Authorities. President Clark approached his task much like a lawyer, by writing out briefs in behalf of certain positions on policies, doctrine, programs, organization, and so on. Copies of these briefs presumably are in the Clark files. They reflect him as a scholar, as a professed thinker, as a careful and meticulous administrator. They also reflect him thinking independently about certain matters and not being weighted down by the force of tradition or what so and so had said.

President Romney said that after President McKay became President and had moved President Clark back to the position of Second Counselor, President Clark’s influence greatly diminished. He was such a dynamic influence that the influence continued but that while it had been predominant under the last years of President Grant and President George Albert Smith, Jr., this was no longer true under President McKay. President McKay had strong feelings about being President of the Church himself and being the predominant leader.

President Romney said that he did not think Brother Quinn ought to bring out in his book the disagreements among the General Authorities nor the differences in opinion expressed by General Authorities as policy matters were being debated and hammered out. He said to feel very strongly about this. I told Mike that I thought one way to present this would be to mention that a certain policy was agreed upon unanimously and that everybody including President Clark agreed to support this policy, but to go ahead and say that it would be a matter of interest to know that at the preliminary discussions under which this policy was arrived at President Clark had asserted so and so or asserted that this or that would be desirable.

I suggested to Mike that he have a conference with Dallin Oaks of BYU and ask President Oaks to write a letter to the First Presidency (a letter which Mike had in the meantime drafted) asking the First Presidency for permission to use the minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency during the period President Clark was influential. Mike agreed to do this. A letter from the First Presidency would be one way of getting Brother Durham to lessen the restrictions on these things so that Mike could examine these papers.

[LJA Diary, 27 Oct., 1977]

This morning Elder Durham and I met at 10 a.m. with Elder Boyd Packer to discuss the Knopf manuscript which he had been assigned by the First Presidency to read. He said that the First Presidency had asked him to answer the question of whether he thought they should object to the publication of this manuscript. He was writing them today and sending the manuscript back to them, saying no, they should not object to the publication of this book. He was going to add that he thought they should not endorse it either. He thought that would be a mistake.

He said that he had a series of specific suggestions to make. They were small, rather petty, not too significant, and we were free to accept then or reject them. He didn’t feel strongly about any of then except one. So he went through all of the points that he had, which according to my count amounted to 25 specific suggestions. Every one of the suggestions seemed to be acceptable to me. The one objection he felt strongly about was the long treatment of Heber Snell. He thought that there were many other incidents that had made a greater ripple on the Church than that one. He thought Heber Snell did not deserve that much attention in a balanced history of this nature. He had the most suggestions to make about the first and third chapters–on Joseph Smith and on the persecutions. There were many chapters that he had no suggestions on at all. He said that he liked very much our treatment of polygamy–thought it was balanced and informative and well done. He also liked our treatment of the Negro problem except he wished it could have been longer. He thought we Mormons ought to say more about the Negro question. He didn’t indicate specifically what more we could say, and he said that maybe it wasn’t proper in this book to have the longer treatment, but he thought the Church could say more and ought to do so about the Negro issue. 

[LJA Diary, 4 Nov., 1977]

At the end of the discussion after he [Boyd Packer] had spent about an hour going over these, he then begin to talk in terms of our calling, basic philosophy, and so on. He said he felt that we in the Church History Division should be less interested in pleasing the professionals and more interested in helping members of the Church to strengthen their testimonies. He was surprised when he saw the statement in our preface which told about the Allen and Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints and suggesting that it was written for members of the Church. This was the first time he had heard that suggested. He had thought it was written primarily for non-Mormons and certainly the contents of it suggested that it was written for non-Mormons. If it had been written for members of the Church it would have been more faith-promoting. He said he had not read the book. He had listened to it being discussed in the Quorum of the Twelve for approximately four hours and he was influenced by that discussion. But he was convinced on that basis that it was not written with the primary audience in mind of the young people in the Church who would read it. 

He said that he had spent most of his life working with young people who were struggling with their testimonies, and he was acutely aware of their problems and points of view. He felt very strongly that the matter of timing was important. Telling then in the right stage of their development so that they will not be shaken. He thought that most members of the Church could handle Brigham Young using tobacco and the weaknesses of some of the early brethren and in some of the modern brethren. But he did not think the Historical Department ought to be in the business of repeating and spreading abroad these things. There were some things that ought to be kept close or kept quiet or not spread abroad. With respect to the letters of Brigham Young to his sons he thought we ought to have omitted the letter in which Brigham Young acknowledged that one of the sons had been using tobacco. He thought we also  ought to have omitted that one of the sons had died of dope addiction. He thought that could possibly do harm to some of the grandchildren of these people. He said he is currently having discussions with a girl at BYU who has been shaken by learning that there were several accounts of the First Vision.

Brother Packer said there was one thing he missed in reading this book which any non-Mormon ought to know about Mormonism, and he thinks we ought to introduce a paragraph or two on it. That is the emphasis upon spirituality and moral cleanliness. Persons ought to know that every person who has an office with the Church, and that includes almost all adult persons, is interviewed before being presented for that position and asked a series of searching questions to be sure that this person is morally clean, has prayer, is honest, is loyal to the country, and so on. We had never said that in the book, that all of the officers of the Church are supposed to be temperate and faithful to their wives and husbands. If in such an interview a person gives a negative answer about his condition, then he is admonished to get his life in order so that he can be worthy to have the position.

Brother Durham emphasized that our primary obligation is to build the faith of the Saints, and when we acknowledge in our sermons, in our essays, in our books that there are problems, we need to balance this with the other side. If we say that Brigham Young used tobacco, we need to balance that with his spiritual qualities and activities so that this is kept in perspective. I felt in this respect that he was trying to tell me-not that this book should be rewritten–but that he thought our Church history writing should be confined to the positive. He said that occasionally he remembers that we are writing a sixteen-volume history of the Church and every time that thought comes to him he shudders. He is worried; he is fearful that it will not be beneficial  for the Church. If the tone of them is similar to that of The Story of the Latter-day Saints (as the tone of that has been represented to him) then it will not be helpful to the Church and will quite possibly be harmful.

Elder Packer was friendly throughout. He often smiled. Occasionally when he made a rather strong point Brother Durham would respond in a way that indicated he was attempting to present our point of view. In this respect he seemed to be keeping Elder Packer from making too strong a statement to us and at the same time helping Elder Packer realize that he must consider another point of view which is important to the Church. In these instances, and there were four or five during the hour and a half we were together, Brother Durham seemed to be defending the idea of presenting a balanced view, and Brother Packer himself agreed that a balanced view needed to be presented. Brother Packer was saying we must balance our professional propensities with faith-building approaches. Brother Durham was saying we must balance the faith-building approaches with an honest professional approach.

We left at 11:30, and coning back to our offices, Elder Durham said, Now you have had this read by one of the most critical of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve and he has approved it or at least has not disapproved it. You now have the go-ahead. I still believe this will be the greatest book on Mormon history on library shelves. He thinks this is a monumental book; he feels good about it. He said that now that more than two months have passed since we finished it and sent it off we can look at it with fresh eyes, and he thinks we may be able to make editorial adjustments that would not be objected to by Alfred Knopf or by the Church. He thought we were free now to make of’ it whatever we chose and that we are protected from criticism by the fact that we have gone through the process that we have. 

Elder Packer made one other statement at the beginning of the interview that intrigues me, and I am not sure how to interpret it. He started out by saying that we have called this a history of the Latter-day Saints. He thought it was more than a history. It was an apology, he thought–at least it was as much an apology as it was a history. I would interpret that now to mean that he regarded this as a kind of sophisticated defense of the Church, its history and its position. For him to say that to me seems flattering. Brother Durham at the beginning of our interview, when he saw what Brother Packer was going to do, suggested that he thought Davis Bitton should have been invited, and Brother Packer said that he didn’t think that was necessary since I could carry all of this back to Davis. I think Brother Packer felt that he had a good personal relationship with me because of our past friendship and thought he could speak more freely to me perhaps than someone like Davis that he was not as well acquainted with. He said he realized that Davis was a full collaborator on this.

One other general suggestion he made in the middle of our interview. We use the term “Mormon Church” a lot. He doesn’t object to that and he knows many of the brethren don’t object to that, but he didn’t recall ever seeing in our book a clarification as to what our correct name is. So he thought we ought to be sure that we have a sentence or two where we make it clear what the Church’s name is. Otherwise many readers may finish the book not knowing clearly what our name is. Another general statement he made was that there were some places where we were reporting what was said by critics of the Church and we didn’t make it clear that we weren’t agreeing with this. We could add the phrase, “they thought,” or “they think,” or “it seemed to them,” something like that, that takes it out of the realm of a flat statement being made by us. This will be something for us to watch for as we go through the book again. Maybe Maureen will find some of these too. He also said there  was one page he was going to Xerox and keep in his own files. That is where we quote from Orson Spencer about the Book of Mormon. He thought it was a great quote and he would want to use that himself sometime.

It is clear from this discussion that Elder Packer is not as appreciative of cleverness with words. He is more serious, more sober, and wishes things he reads to be of that character. Several of his suggestions were attempts to diminish or eliminate flippant expressions or clever expressions or half-humorous expressions. He takes his history a little more seriously. Elder Durham had said two on three weeks ago that Elder Packer had told him that he liked narrative history and didn’t particularly like our analytical topical history. But he said not a word of this to me in this interview. Nor did he use any expression like “this is a great book” or “this is a wonderful book.” What he said and said it very deliberately two or three times is, “I do believe that this is a book to which the First Presidency should not object to the publication of.” He also said, “I realize that you have gone about as far as you can in presenting something that is favorable to the Church and not risk the displeasure of the publisher.”

After dictating the above I thought of some other things. First, that as Brother Durham and I sat down at the little table with Brother Packer in his office (incidentally, it is the office which I occupied when I was first appointed Church Historian), Brother Packer suggested that we ought to start with a word of prayer. And so he asked Brother Durham to offer a prayer. Brother Durham in his prayer mentioned the importance of the book and the purpose it would serve and so on. The other thing is that Brother Packer said that he had read the work but did not say he had read it carefully. He just did not have time to read it carefully, he said. He said that reminded him of Brother Albert B. Bowen, who was asked by the First Presidency to read something, and they underlined that they wanted him to read it carefully. Brother Bowen protested, “Brethren, whenever I read I always read carefully.”

[LJA Diary, 4 Nov., 1977]

Grace not feeling well, I have been reading this morning. I saw the notice in Time for 4 November, p. 99, about Ross H. Munroe, reporting Peking China for the Toronto Globe and Mail. It occurred to me that something similar characterizes our attempts to know what goes on at church headquarters. There are, of course, some young historians, for the first time working with our many documents, who are affected by a kind of historical romanticism. Isn’t this great? Isn’t it wonderful? A kind of gee-whiz romanticizing, like landing on the moon. Then, as they see the difficulties, the problems, the grappling with issues, and weaknesses, they become more skeptical, more realistic. They begin to piece together a more realistic picture: the unfair blacklisting of women who openly express their support of ERA, (Carol Lynn Pearson), the unfair blacklisting of historians which infer that occasionally revelations were expedient (Story of the Latter-day Saints), the unequal treatment of church officials (it is all right for Elder Packer to collect royalties on his books; not all right for historians to do so), the prejudice against racial groups (Elder Petersen), the unfair excommunications (Bryan Marchant), discrimination against women, and so on. Certainly we are working for one of the most tightly controlled churches in the nation.

Munro’s term for his reportorial style is “incrementalism.” Typically, he squirrels away all sorts of documents, vignettes, and conversations that he later weaves into stories. Our own understanding of what goes on is of this incremental nature. We watch. We put away relevant information. We accumulate files on various topics. And we finally discover what a certain dispute was about, what a certain policy was based upon, why a certain official was demoted. Incrementalism is one of overcoming the problem of limited access to the real goings-on at headquarters, both in the past and in the present. It is not that we are consciously intimidated–although that occurs too (Elder Benson in Sept. 1976). But if a person has written something that displeases a particular authority (Story of the Latter-day Saints for Elder Benson and Elder Peterson) the word gets around through the bureaucracy and we have trouble getting access to help, to information, we get turned down on our budget requests, personnel requests, and so on. There is no public reprimand; we just won’t do as good a job at writing history. But the more important impact is that these objections lead to a kind of unconscious self-censorship, not only on our part but on the part of others who write or furnish the raw material on which we base our narratives. It leads to a kind of second-guessing. Would the authorities-would all the authorities–like this? Shouldn’t we downplay this? Can we describe this in a softer way? And so on. Then the reader does not really understand what went on, or what is going on. 

[LJA Diary, 5 Nov., 1977]

Elder Boyd K. Packer 

Quorum of the Twelve 

Administration Building

Dear Elder Packer:

During our very fine interview last Friday you mentioned briefly The Story of the Latter-day Saints by James B. Allen and Glen H. Leonard. As I thought about it, I felt you might appreciate my sharing with you some of the comments about this book that have come to us from various Church members. Brothers Allen and Leonard have an impressive file of unsolicited letters from teachers, students, and other Church members, and all of these communications have been very positive. The general feeling among readers who take the time to communicate with us is that the book is well balanced, stimulating, and faith-promoting.

I might clarify one point about the writing of the book. It came about as a result of Deseret Book Company’s desire for a one-volume narrative history of the Church that would take into account all the recent scholarship, and would also be balanced chronologically in order to do greater justice to our more recent history. In addition, they wanted a book that would be faith-promoting to the members of the Church and at the same time demonstrate our awareness of the problems most often brought up by scholars and critics. To judge from the responses of those who have carefully read the book, the authors succeeded in their purpose. Nearly everyone makes special note of its balance, forthrightness, and obvious faith-promoting tone. As you might expect, the scholarly reviews tend to criticize it for being too faithful. In addition, everyone comments on the excellent bibliography–the best such effort yet in any Church history text.

The book did not go through the correlation process because it was not written as an “official” textbook. It was, however, intended for general Church readership. I myself carefully reviewed the manuscript. I was especially impressed that whenever the authors deal with the Prophet’s visions and revelations, they make it clear that these were genuine visions and revelations from the Lord, not just something that came out of the environment. 

The enclosed materials consist of some excerpts selected from various comments by Church members. You will be especially interested in the college student reactions, beginning on page 4, which were the result of evaluations taken by teachers at two different Church institutions. The two teachers involved were gracious enough to share the comments with Brothers Allen and Leonard.

Though we now see some expressions and ideas which should be changed in a subsequent edition, I honestly believe that when you get time to read the entire book you will find it positive and faith-promoting in tone, well balanced, and worthwhile for Latter-day Saints to read.

Davis Bitton and I express again our profound gratitude and appreciation for your thoughtful and welcome comments on our book for Knopf.

Warmest best wishes. 


Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian



[LJA to Boyd K. Packer, 9 Nov., 1977]

After a lovely dinner catered by two women, Ruth and Colleen, we heard a talk by Russell Ballard, a new member of the Quorum of Seventy, who spoke on experiences as President of the Toronto Mission. Brother Ballard is a son of Melvin, age 80, who is a son of Melvin J. Ballard, long-time beloved apostle of the Church. Melvin looks very much like his illustrious father. I gather he has been in the automobile business—Ballard Motors. He is very vigorous and said that he had just finished reading The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Allen and Leonard and thought it was a magnificent history. He said it was the first of our LDS published histories which attempted to be “fair.” He said the trouble with Essentials in Church History is that it presents a one-sided view of our history–the Saints were always right and everybody else was always wrong. He thought the tone of The Story of the Latter-day Saints was just right. He told this to a group who were seated near him, and I happened to overhear though I was carrying on a conversation with Brother Sill. He later told the same thing to me when we sat together during another part of the program. 

[LJA Diary, 11 Nov., 1977]

At the time of my appointment as Church Historian, and indeed many years earlier, I had an unshakable conviction that it was possible, if a man was clever enough, to write professional history which would be accepted as such by the profession, and at the same time acceptable by the intelligent LDS reader. My confidence in that conviction has been shaken during the past few months. The key is the meaning of “intelligent LDS” readers. So far as ordinary members of the church are concerned, I have the conviction still. So far as bishops and stake presidents are concerned, and even regional representatives, the same conviction. But there are three groups that will not accept professional history, no matter how carefully, discreetly, and judiciously written. These are:(l) the lunatic fringe; i.e., members of the John Birch Society and their sympathizers who do not want even to try to understand what the professional is saying. They see a communist under every bush; a “liberal” in every intelligently written “fair” book. One cannot please them regardless. (2) Certain General Authorities who are so protective of the church membership, especially the young, that they do not want any unpleasant facts revealed or acknowledged or repeated. (3) Certain persons in the church bureaucracy who are fearful that someone will not like something they read, and they therefore mention it unfavorably, disapprove it publicly, and refuse to sanction it for any use.

It is not that they disapprove of me as church historian; they would disapprove of any professional historian, any intellectual, any educated person, any independent-minded writer. They want someone like Joseph Fielding Smith, who (1) wrote little history; 2) colored history with scriptural allusions and references; and (3) obstinately refused to discuss any controversial matters. All of which means, they do not want a church historian; they want a trusted general authority who will not write history.

[LJA Diary, 18 Nov., 1977]

Davis Bitton and I now have the last of our chapters back from Knopf, and Knopf wants considerable work done on the last chapters. “Too pro-Church.” So we’ll be working on that, with a present deadline of Dec. 15. The church people think we’ve leaned over backwards to accommodate the Gentile point of view; and Knopf thinks we’ve leaned forwards to accommodate the Church point of view. So we’re clearly doing the impossible. Impossible to satisfy both groups. And whatever we do, both will be dissatisfied. Well, we’re not giving up. We’ve invested too much time in it. And we do believe in it!

[LJA to Children, 19 Nov., 1977]

This morning Wendell Ashton brought back the copy of “The Mormon Experience”

which we had asked him to read and give us a reaction as to how he received it and how he thought the brethren would receive it. Wendell said that he simply had not had time to read it all personally. He had read the introduction and had read the chapter on institutional responses and that is about all. He had thumbed through it a little. He did ask one of his staff members who is a good reader to read the entire thing. He did not indicate the staff member but said that this staff member had read every word of it carefully and had made a few notations in the text itself and a few genera1 suggestions. He said that both the reader and he, Wendell, felt that the book did offer problems with the brethren, and he did not give any specifics but based this judgment on the generality. He believed that it was aimed at an audience that the General Authorities would not appreciate or understand. He felt that we had aimed it at professors of history and graduate students of history in universities and he, Wendell, knew there was a need for a book which did this. And he realized that Davis and I understand their point of view and what kind of work would appeal to them. He did not feel that some of the General Authorities would appreciate or understand this nor perhaps approve of our writing a book for them. He thought the book was too philosophical, too deep in discussing our history and its meaning, too removed from the audience of the ordinary reader. And our manner of approaching the subjects thus would not be understood by nor appreciated by nor approved by some of the brethren. I asked him if he would be specific and he said that of course the ones who will most object are Brother Benson and Brother Petersen. (We already knew that.) 

He said he wanted me to understand that he felt very strongly about warning me on this because he felt strongly that the church needed me. He said that the church needs a real historian who has stature with the historical profession, a person who can defend the church or help the church in such incidents as the Spaulding manuscript. He thought that the church had come out smelling like a rose on the Spaulding controversy and that the primary reason for this was the work of Dean Jessee and myself. He said also that it was not only a question of a historian who has national credibility but it is also of a historian who is able to write history and give historical talks which appeal to the general public and help the general public understand and appreciate our history. He thought that I was able to do this–giving light treatment of history which the general public enjoyed. He thought there should be more of that in this book. He said that Brother Hinckley, his advisor, in introducing himself to The Story of the Latter-day Saints had read what Allen and Leonard had to say about one episode in which he was involved, namely the 1968 liquor- by-the-drink voting. He thought the treatment was so superficial and so misleading that he got turned off of The Story of the Latter-day Saints immediately and couldn’t have confidence in the remainder of it. Wendell then spent several minutes telling me why he regarded the 1968 episode as one of the most important events in modern Church history. He illustrated this by pointing out the difference between the way in which the majority of the Saints responded to President Heber J. Grant’s admonition to defeat the repeal of prohibition and the Saints, it would appear, paid very little attention; and the legislator, sensing the opinion of the Saints, voted for repeal overwhelmingly and Utah thus became the 36th state to enact that amendment to the Constitution. In 1968 Jack Gallivan set out deliberately to convert Latter-day Saint legislators and prominent LDS businessmen in the states to the point of view that we ought to have liquor by the drink. He thought he could accomplish this. But President McKay bowed his neck and decided to fight the Tribune, the non-Mormons, and Jack Gallivan on this issue and succeeded. Approximately 70 percent of the Latter-day Saints are greatly supportive of the church and of the First Presidency–far higher than was true in President Grant’s day and many earlier church periods. Recent surveys taken by the news media show that this continues at roughly the same level. A survey a few months ago on lowering the age of persons to whom beer could be sold came out with almost the same 70 percent disapproving lowering the age at all. And the same was true with the recent survey on de-criminalizing marijuana. Roughly 70 percent of the Latter-day Saints were opposed to doing this. Considering that the non-Mormons were approximately 70 percent on the other side in each one of these instances, it averages up for Utah at about 55 percent opposed and about 45 percent in favor or indifferent. Wendell said this demonstrated that the Mormons have political clout, that 70 percent of them are solidly behind the Church and that this is obvious to legislators and state administrators and even to Jack Gallivan; and this, therefore, influences their voting behavior, business behavior, and so on. Governor Matheson, who might favor all of these–liquor by the drink, lowering the age on beer, do-criminalizing marijuana–does not dare to do so because he knows a solid majority of the state is opposed.

Wendell thinks this is of such importance historically to the church that we should have a few paragraphs that deal with it and its significance. He also feels that we should have a paragraph or two or three on the church’s public relations activity since he feels this has influenced and continues to influence very much our image nationally and internationally. And he thinks this is significant for the church not simply because he has directed this work but because he thinks it has had a great influence on the church’s standing nationally and internationally. He said that the brethren have so well accepted the activity of him and Heber and Public Communications that they have gone to them with the proposition that they now begin to “market the gospel” in non-Church publications. The brethren have approved a substantial budget which involves among other things taking over one of the book sections of the Readers Digest; prominent non-Mormon writers will be employed to write up aspects of the gospel such as Family Home Evening, anti-pornography, importance of the family, and so on, and these will be placed in the Readers Digest.

Wendell said that he thinks one reason the church has such political strength is that the church has refrained from taking a stand on political issues that don’t involve moral issues. Not everybody agrees as to what is a moral issue. Some people think that every political issue is a moral issue; others feel that very few are. But at any rate, the church has taken a stand on birth control, abortion, liquor by the drink, pornography, ERA–a few such issues, and the members of the church seen to be solidly behind the church on these. Wendell thought we might find it necessary to put a few paragraphs on the women’s issue in, particularly in view of the national publicity the church has had in connection with IWY and ERA. He thought we might give some attention to the role in national women’s organizations of Belle Spafford and Florence Jacobsen. He also said that the minutes of the meetings of Public Communications people with their advisors have been sent regularly to Earl Olson to place in the archives, and he was surprised to know that I had not been aware of this and thought they should be routed by me before placing in the archives. Some very important things are said and decided in those meetings, he said, and I should be aware of it.

He repeated again his belief that we should give some attention to the 1968 election—thought perhaps we ought even to write a paper on this. He thought it was a significant test which showed the strength of the church, and therefore represented a milestone in terms of church influence in the state, regionally, and nationally, with administrators who pay attention to these things.

As Wendell left, and repeated that he thought his book would cause us problems with “the brethren,” I said, “Suppose that we were to get a letter from the First Presidency which indicated that while they would not endorse the book they would not object to our publishing it. Would you think that took care of our political problem?” He showed an expression of great disbelief–the First Presidency would never do such a thing! I then told him, and told him confidentially–only for his private ears–that at Brother Durham’s urging we had submitted a copy to the First Presidency, that they had assigned it to Brother Packer, that Brother Packer had called me in, and that he had said that he was suggesting to the First Presidency that they do that very thing. Brother Ashton’s response again was one of disbelief that the First Presidency would write such a letter. But if so, he thought that would take care of our problem in the Twelve and with the First Presidency. He said he thought it was fortunate that the First Presidency assigned Brother Packer to do it and that Brother Packer had indicated that reaction because he thought Brother Packer was very conservative but at the same time he saw things as an educator. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Nov., 1977]

In our executives meeting this morning with Elder Durham I reported on the final revision of the Knopf manuscript. I mentioned the letter from Knopf with suggestions, also on his marginal editorial notes. I said that we would be ready to return the manuscript with all our revisions by Christmas. Elder Durham asked me to come to his office after our meeting with the revised manuscript so he could inspect what we had done.

After the meeting, I then took the last chapters of the manuscript to Elder Durham, since these were the chapters with extensive additions and alterations. He asked which chapter had the most changes. I showed, him our old chapter 17 (now chapter 16) on institutional responses. He started reading through it quickly while I waited. I showed him the newly introduced section on problems. He read that through rather carefully. He made a couple of suggestions, which I incorporated. He again repeated to me the importance of being cautious, and being mindful of the criticisms that will inevitably come from certain of the brethren. I told him that we always kept that in mind. He thumbed through the rest of the chapter, again warned me on being judicious, and said he thought he would not inspect all the changes. That this was enough for him to be able to say that he was made aware of the most important changes, and that we were free to send it off to Knopf as soon as we were ready.

Upon, my return to the office, I reported all of this to Davis.

In our conversation, Elder Durham said that the new U.S. News and World

Report contained a brief article and an interview with President Kimball. He said I should get this and read it, and use it as a reference. President Kimball responded to some of the problems we mentioned in Chp. 17, and it would be politic to use his statements as much as possible. 

[LJA Diary, 13 Dec., 1977]

Today we mailed off THE MORMON EXPERIENCE to Ashbel Green of Knopf. I also sent a Xerox to Carl Wayne, to whom I had promised a copy for his birthday present. Davis and I both feel good about the book, although we have been working on the perfection of it so closely that we still are not in a position to judge it as a first-time reader will judge it. We think it is written clearly, that there is inherent interest in what we have written, both for Mormons and for educated non-Mormons. Our real “audience” is in the universities. If it will be listed as a reference on the Mormons by university professors in American history and civilization we shall be pleased and satisfied. It will tell Latter-day Saints many things they don’t know about the church, and it will be worth their perusal. But, even more, it presents the Mormons to non-Mormons in a light never before done. And that has been our major preoccupation. We know we shall receive criticism, particularly from John Bircher types who will say that we have leaned over backwards in saying things that don’t need to be said, and in giving a non-church twist to some things that did have to be said, Elders Benson and Petersen will not like it, and we shall be surprised if leaders of the Institutes and Seminaries will recommend it for purchase and use. If they did not like STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS, which was intended for a church audience, and therefore completely positive, why should they like THE MORMON EXPERIENCE, which was intended as a “soft sell” and never intended to be more than neutrally positive?

Stan Kimball came into the office today for an hour’s chat. He talked with Jim Mortimer and Lowell Durham of Deseret Book for two hours about his biography of Stan Kimball which they have turned down. They filled him full of all their troubles in publishing scholarly works that he is both disenchanted and angry. The blacklisting of writers (scholars) on the basis of petty and arbitrary things, their fears of losing their jobs if they publish something reasonably dispassionate–it is unbelievable. Examples of books they have had trouble with: STORY OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS, BUILDING THE CITY OF GOD. They are very fearful of the 16-volume sesquicentennial volumes they have contracted for. Should they write the authors and tell them the pendulum is swinging back and that their books cannot be published unless considerably watered-down; or should they remain silent and then heavily blue-pencil the manuscripts to the dismay of the writers? My own reaction is that they are a couple of “nervous Nellies” and that the picture is not as black as they paint. Moreover, they are unnecessarily worried about getting fired. If I had jumped every time someone comes into my office to tell me I’m disturbing the Brethren and in danger of being fired, I’d be useless in my position. I have determined to proceed ahead with reasonable goals and means of reaching those goals.

It is true that the atmosphere at church headquarters is like that of a Byzantine bureaucracy. Everybody is afraid of getting on Elder Benson’s hit list, to use the current expression. But if you’re already on his hit list, as the scholarly historians are, what is there to do but “do one’s duty” and proceed ahead as if being on his list is meaningless? He may not become president of the Church. And if he does, he may not be vindictive. And if he should turn out to be vindictive, is there anything an old Dialogue writer like myself could do now to avoid it? If my appointment has any purpose, I might as well fulfill that purpose and proceed as if Elder Benson was not around to throw roadblocks in our way. Horseflies are inevitably around to irritate the plowing horse. What can he do but suffer the indignity and continue plowing?

One bit of news which Stan passed on to me during our discussion was disturbing. He says Jim Mortimer told him that there would be no second edition of STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS. So far as we are aware (and that includes Elder Homer Durham) that decision was not officially raised, and no official decision made. That means that Jim Mortimer himself has decided that he will not request that it be reprinted. It is up to him to raise the question, and he has apparently decided it would be best not to raise it. Jim Allen and Glen Leonard will be disappointed. So am I.

[LJA Diary, 20 Jan., 1978]

Today I heard Utah Holiday was publishing an article by David Merrill on the Response to the Tanners pamphlet. I told Paul Swenson:

The church has a glorious history and it has not been presented in a correct light by the Tanners. I am surprised that it has taken this long for a published response to appear. In any case, the response was a purely private undertaking and did not appear under the sponsorship of the Historical Department. I respect the wish of the author, whoever he or she was, to remain anonymous and hope others will also respect that wish. I feel certain that the Tanners have jumped to conclusions that are not warranted. In any event the fact remains that the history of the church, as presented by our Historical Department, is honest and factual. We have a marvelous heritage and are proud to share it with “the world.” 

[LJA Diary, 23 Jan., 1978]

Since completing THE MORMON EXPERIENCE I have been busy, but more relaxed–perhaps too relaxed. I have done some re-reading of it and had three pages redone. I have been confronted with Elder Durham’s insistence that the Mormon History Trust Fund had to be conveyed to the Church and administered by me and him (and I guess we’ll have to do it); I have caught up a little on back business, but not much; and I have done some relaxed reading, partly Mormon but also partly general Christian. Mamma and I have talked more, spent more time together reading, enjoyed our meals and TV programs, and just being together more. If this keeps up I’ll be doing some work in the garden this summer! O tempera, O mores! I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m not proceeding very fast to start on the Brigham Young biography. I know very well that it will create troubles for me if I get it to the stage of publication. Two of the brethren just do not want published the kind of biography which I would have to do, so maybe I’m just not in any hurry. Yet, in my bones, I know I must do it, sooner or later. Anyway, I have vowed to do three chapters this year, and I shall do them, come what may.

May the Lord be with you all.

Love, Dad

[LJA to Children, 27 Jan., 1978]

If The Mormon Experience is actually published, some historians may wish to know something about the relative contributions of Davis and myself–and others. Davis and I shall probably respond to questions by simply saying we both contributed to all chapters, which is true, and that all chapters are essentially joint products–also true. Here is a more precise attribution. I’ll ask Davis to go over this and correct it, and then we’ll both sign our names to the diary statement if he agrees.

Of first drafts, I did the first draft of Chapter VIII, “Mormons and Native Americans,” Chapter XI on the Mormon Ward, and Chapter XIV, “The Temporal Sphere.” Davis did the first drafts of Chapter II, “The Appeals of Mormonism”; Chapter III, “Early Persecutions”; and Chapter X, “Marriage and Family Patterns.” Others who did first drafts were: Chapter I, “Beginnings”; Chapter IV, “City of Joseph”; and Chapter V, “Dispersion and Exodus” by Richard Dames. Chapter VI, “Building the Kingdom,” and Chapter VII on “Immigration and Diversity” by Dean May. First draft of Chapter IX, “The Kingdom and the Nation” and Chapter XV, ‘Institutional Responses” were by David Whitaker. First draft of Chapter XII on Women was by Jill Mulvay. First draft of Chapter XIII on Accommodation was by Scott Kenney. First draft of Chapter XVI, “Mormon Mystique,” was by Davis and myself; each did a portion.

The first drafts done by Davis and myself have remained pretty much as our original drafts, but the remainder have been reworked so many times that there is little resemblance to the original drafts. Thus, Davis reworked Chapters I, IV, and XV extensively. I reworked Chapters V, VI, VII, IX, XI, XIII extensively.  

There were several false starts; i.e., chapters we asked others to write first drafts of, but which we were not able to use. These included a chapter on missionary work, done by Gordon Irving, which did not suit. We asked Eugene England to redo this, and his didn’t suit either so we simply dropped the chapter. On Chapter XI, we asked Gordon Irving to do one on Mormon group life, but it just wouldn’t do, so I redid the chapter along the present lines. Chris Rigby (Arrington) did an initial draft on the chapter on women, but not much of it is included. The Jill Mulvay draft is the one we have worked from. David Whittaker did a draft of the chapter on accommodation, which would not do, so we asked Scott Kenney to do a draft which we have worked from in framing the present chapter. David Whittaker also did initial drafts of Chapters XIV and XV, but neither could be used. I reworked XIV into its present form, and Davis reworked XV into its present form. Richard Daines did an initial draft of a chapter on Mormon doctrine in the nineteenth century, which was good, but we decided to eliminate as too controversial. Davis did an initial draft of a chapter on Mormon doctrine in the twentieth century which was good, but which we decided to drop (except for a section to end the present Chapter XIII on accommodation).

Important stylistic contributions to the final draft of many chapters were made by Sharon Swenson, Eugene England, D. Michael Quinn, Ronald W. Walker, and Maureen Beecher. Davis and I both went over all chapters and made so many changes that we can honestly say that the final draft is essentially ours. While I had a great deal to say about organization, tone, and specific wording, Davis’s changes in the phrasing were more extensive, the more important. His style, which is lucid, compact, dispassionate, and analytical, prevails throughout the book. I feel good about my own contributions but must yield to him the major credit for the final wording. 

[LJA Diary, 27 Jan., 1978]

Yesterday afternoon Lowell Durham, Jr. of Deseret Book informed me that when I wrote to him a covering letter, sending the chapters of Jim Allen’s history of the Genealogical Department, and along with it a report on the probable completion date of other books, he (Lowell) had gone to his board of directors to ash whether it was fair for us (historians) to be working on these projects when they (Deseret Book) were not certain the Brethren would permit them to publish these works. I suppose he had in mind particularly the volumes of the sesquicentennial history. Anyway, Lowell emphasized that it was not fair for us to be working away and yet be uncertain about the possibilities of publication. Marvin Ashton, president of Deseret Book, agreed to present the matter to the Quorum of the Twelve, which he did in their Sunday meeting–presumably the meeting of March 12, this past Sunday. After some debate they agreed to put the matter in the hands of Elder Gordon Hinckley, who was to investigate the matter and report a recommendation. And this would range all the way from publication of all to publication of nothing, with many options or alternatives in between.

I suppose I should be completely confident that we shall be vindicated, but remembering the arbitrariness of other decisions, made without consulting us, I feel a real terror that he might recommend they publish nothing. And if he does that, then I should have to resign. For the first time I am faced with the distinct possibility that I might have to resign, to leave this work. And then, with that, the possible options of alternative employment. I feel discouraged that they should even consider the possibility of breaking the sesquicentennial contracts. I think the Lord is testing me to see how I will bear discouragement. 

[LJA Diary, 15 Mar., 1978]

At the meeting was William F. Edwards, who came up to tell me that he thought The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Allen and Leonard was one of the great books written in the history of the Church. He had read it carefully and thought it was just a great piece of work. I suggested it would be a favor to us if he would write Deseret Book and tell them just that. He said he would do so. He also said if that failed to accomplish its purpose he would be glad to talk with Brother Benson about it.

[LJA Diary, 23 Mar., 1978]

Several days ago Lowell Durham told me that after receiving my letter giving the status of the various publication projects that we are working on he decided it would be desirable to take the matter of the sesquicentennial history to his board. He had heard rumors from various persons that the General Authorities were opposed to publishing the sesquicentennial volumes. He thought there was probably something to the rumors, particularly those relating to Brother Benson’s opposition to publishing these volumes. Apparently he had heard similar comments from Elder Packer and Elder Monson. So he went to the board and said he thought it was unfair to let these brethren and our Historical Department people continue to work on the books if there was any chance that Deseret Book would not fulfill its contract to publish them. In presenting it to the board he says he made a positive pitch on carrying through the project. There was some discussion in the board, but Brother Ashton was neutral and said he thought he should take it up with the Quorum of the Twelve.

According to Lowell, Elder Ashton presented it to the Quorum of the Twelve in their Sunday meeting following the board meeting. They discussed it for some time and the net result was that Elder Hinckley was assigned to study the matter and make recommendations. Lowell says he has already had some experience with Elder Hinckley and knows how he operates. He considers every possible option and then recommends the adoption of one of them. Lowell knew that he would consider every possible option:

A. Publish them under the terms of the contract. 

B. Do not publish them but pay the authors something for their time.

C. Publish a few copies, say a dozen, and file then away.

D. Publish ones that offer no problems and do not publish those which are “controversial.”

Lowell told me this morning that Elder Hinckley had contacted the Church Legal Department to see if there was any way they could get out of the contract. The Legal Department called in Lowell and Jim Mortimer, and there was a 2 1/2 hour discussion on the whole matter. Leading the legal questioners was Elder Kirton, the Church attorney. Many questions were asked and Lowell says that he made it very plain that Deseret Book wants to publish it and is quite willing to spend the money indicated. At the end of the discussion Elder Kirton said orally that he did not see any way that Deseret Book could get out of the contract.

A. Although no manuscript has been submitted under the schedule provided for in the contract, he does not think Deseret Book can cancel contract on the grounds that the book has not been delivered or was not delivered by the contract date.

B. Deseret Book cannot fulfill the contract by publishing a few copies. It must publish a regular run–say 10,000 or 12,000 copies.

C. Deseret Book cannot get out of the contract by paying the persons less than the amount stipulated in the contract unless the writers agree to do that.

Lowell thinks that Elder Kirton will send a letter to Elder Hinckley saying just that. So from a legal standpoint the Church is “stuck with the contracts.” However, there is always the possibility that if the prophet should call in individually each of the sixteen authors and ask them to agree to a cancellation of the contract they might be willing to do so. But if any single author or perspective author should sue Deseret Book that person would almost certainly win.  

Lowell says that he has explained all of this to Elder Homer Durham and presumably at some point in time he will tell me about it, but I am not to admit to him that I have already heard the story from Lowell. Lowell is telling me as a friend and it may or may not be in accordance with the wishes of Elder Durham.

This matter was brought up at the last board meeting of Deseret Book and discussed again. And Lowell made an impassioned plea for them to commit themselves to go ahead with the project. After his speech Elder Hanks made a strong statement of support. Two other members of the board did the same. Elder Ashton said nothing but remained strictly neutral. Lowell thinks that deep down in his heart he, Elder Ashton, believes they should go ahead with the project, but it isn’t important enough to him to make a fight over. He does make a fight on some items but apparently not on that subject. Anyway, Elder Ashton will presumably take that discussion into the Quorum of the Twelve once more. Personally, I feel very confident about the project and I have made a personal decision not to mention any of this to Davis and Jim and not to mention any of it to other members of our staff or to any of the sesquicentennial authors. I feel so certain that the Church will go ahead with the project that I see no point in raising this red flag, thus discouraging anybody from proceeding as rapidly as possible with the completion of his book. My personal feeling would be that if for any reason the Church should decide not to publish these volumes that I would form or assist in forming a private publishing firm and put the books out anyway. I am completely convinced that all of the books will b positive–far more positive in net effect than the Comprehensive History of the Church and other Church histories that have been printed. This experience helps to remind me that I still have an important responsibility in staying on this job until the sesquicentennial volumes are finally published. I can’t quit on the job until that is done–at least until those which are submitted by 1980 are published. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Mar., 1978]

I talked with Jim Mortimer on the telephone this morning, and he reported to me that he had just had a half-hour telephone conversation with Brother Kirton, the Church attorney, who had been requested by Gordon Hinckley to determine the legal status of the contracts with the sixteen authors of the sesquicentennial history. Jim said that Brother Kirton said he had just sent a long legal opinion to Elder Hinckley this morning, and that the principal items in the legal opinion were as follows. First, the Church cannot avoid publication of the volumes on the grounds that the various authors did not turn in their manuscripts on time. Deseret Book has never done that before and it would not be able to substantiate it as all excuse in any suit that might be pressed. Second, Deseret Book has an affirmative responsibility to publish the manuscripts after a reasonable period of editing, designing, etc. Third, Deseret Book has a legally defensible right to edit the manuscripts, to require changes and alterations in both language, style, and content, and to insist upon a proper length. Deseret Book night properly insist that none of the books be more than 400 pages and that certain material be left out and that the phrasing be altered and so on. This, of course, the sixteen authors have long known and expected so that makes no difference. If any author should be displeased with some of the alterations we make and some of the material we omit he would have a very weak case in court because he has known all along who the publisher is and what attitudes they have and would insist upon in the book. 

All of this to me means that we are exactly in the same status that we supposed we were all along and that the project must go ahead on exactly the same basis that it has been proceeding since the contracts were signed in 1973. In brief, what we have done is alive and legally defensible and legally required.

It is curious to me that Brother Durham has never once mentioned this. Either he is not aware of it or he has chosen not to discuss it; I suspect the former. I have not mentioned it to any of the sixteen authors and will not expect to. In fact, one of these days I expect to write each one of them urging them to complete the project. Now that this legal position has been cleared up, I think we might possibly encourage Tom Alexander to go ahead and finish his revision and get his manuscript in so we can begin working on it.

I was thinking in between conference sessions that perhaps one disadvantage to my division of my being Church Historian-Director is that I have no wish or expectation of “bucking for General Authority.” It seems to me that a division head is in a stronger position if people have some expectation that he might in the near future be appointed a General Authority. They will be more respectful of him, they will be more fearful of antagonizing him, his status generally will be higher and stronger. But I have absolutely no desire to be a General Authority and everybody knows this and everybody knows that I am not behaving as though I had some hope of becoming one. So in that sense I am not as effective a division leader as I might be if there were some expectation that I would become Managing Director of the department and/or a General Authority.

Reasons why I know very well it is useless to even think in those terms:

A. I come from an “outside” family.

B. I am too short and ugly.  

C. I am too much of an intellectual–whatever that means.

D. I am too insistent upon straightforwardness and honesty in interpreting our history.

E. I have absolutely no interest in spending the remaining weekends of my life visiting stake conferences instead of enjoying the weekend at home reading, watching TV, and enjoying Grace.

[LJA Diary, 5 Apr., 1978]

Jim Allen came in this morning to say that he had received a frantic telephone call last night from Gene Campbell. Cam was very upset, almost crying. He had received a telephone call from Dave Whitaker who had heard members of the Religion faculty comment to him that I had resigned from my position as Church Historian. Dave had believed this and Cam had believed Dave because of the source. Funny how these rumors get started and how they seem to multiply. Jim thinks the rumor must have arisen from the change in my title.

Later on this morning Glen Leonard came in to say that he had just talked with Jim Clayton of the University of Utah, and Jim Clayton said he had heard from a friend of his, a bishop, that the sixteen-volume sesquicentennial history would never be published. The bishop said he was told this by Elder Hinckley. They were having a conversation some time ago and the bishop had asked about the history, and Elder Hinckley had told him, according to the bishop, that he didn’t think it would ever be published.

It surprises me that, if true, Elder Hinckley would make a statement like this, apparently while he has been investigating the desirability of publishing it. It sounds like an impolitic thing to do. We are cautioned to be careful about spreading rumors and saying things that will be magnified by those who hear us, and if there is anything to this story Elder Hinckley has been doing that very thing himself. Once again, I reassert in this diary that in my own mind there is absolutely no doubt that all of the histories which are turned in by the end of 1980 will be published by Deseret Book in the form in which they are approved by me, by Elder Durham, and by a reader from the Twelve. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Apr., 1978]

In a conversation in Kirtland, Doug Alder suggested another explanation for the “flap” over STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS. Throughout the history of the Church, he said, there had been tension between the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. At some times the First Presidency had been more important, as under Brigham Young. At other tines, the Quorum of the Twelve had been powerful, as under Joseph Fielding Smith. There has been resentment by some of the Twelve over the role played by some counselors in the First Presidency. Thus, there was resentment against Sidney Rigdon during the Joseph Smith era, resentment against George Q. Cannon during the John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff eras, (and knowledge of this resentment may have prompted Lorenzo Snow to “put down” President Cannon when he (President Snow) became president), resentment against J. Reuben Clark, Jr., during the Heber J. Grant era, and resentment against Harold B. Lee during the Joseph Fielding Smith administration. There seems to have been some objection to the exercise of authority by Harold B. Lee on the part of Elders Benson and Peterson, and perhaps some objection to exercise of authority by N. Eldon Tanner during the McKay, Smith, Lee, and Kimball periods. Elder Benson seems to insist on the prerogatives of the Twelve and on preempting a Church point of view for the Twelve by early “speaking up” as happened in the STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS episode.

It was Doug’s feeling that the sentence in the preface to STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS which involved the First Presidency in the project was the trigger for the initial reaction. It was his feeling that if we had not included that statement, but had merely published it under the authority of the Historical Department, that there would not have been as much resentment on the part of Elders Benson and Petersen. In their criticism of STORY OF THE-LATTER-DAY SAINTS was an implied criticism of the First Presidency for authorizing things they shouldn’t authorize. And implied also was a criticism of President Tanner and President Lee for appointing a person like me to the position of Church Historian, and an implied warning to President Kimball that he ought to watch me, restrain me, exercise direct supervision over me. 

[LJA Diary, 27 Apr., 1978]

Yesterday morning in our Wednesday morning prayer meeting of department employees, Elder Boyd Packer was present and spoke to us for about 40 minutes. Basically, I would summarize his talk in terms of about three principles:

1. We are admonished to write for members of the Church as well as for professional historians; indeed, we ought to put more emphasis on the latter than the former.

2. We ought to keep in mind the audience we are writing for–their maturity, their level of education, their understanding. We are required to tell the truth but we are not required to tell the whole truth. There are some things which we do not need to tell all of which would be harmful to tell.

3. We are admonished to include mention of spiritual experiences of the Saints when we find these in the source material. And he gave an example from his ancestor, Elder Millet.

Jan Shipps, who has been working in the Archive Search Room since Monday, was present in the meeting. Davis and I had lunch with her and she said that the message to her came “loud and clear” that we should continue to be or become more faith-promoting in our writing. She recommended that we do everything we can to publish collections of documents which are in the archives, such as papers of Parley P. Pratt, letters of Joseph and Emma, and so forth.  

[LJA Diary, 4 May, 1978]

Lowell Durham called me this afternoon and said that he had had occasion to talk with Elder Hinckley over the weekend, and Elder Hinckley volunteered to him that the matter of the sesquicentennial history which he had been instructed to study had all been resolved. They had decided that the authors were to be encouraged to finish their manuscripts, the manuscripts were to go to me for suggestions and improvements and alterations, and when I was satisfied they were then to go to Elder Durham. Elder Durham was to read them, to make suggestions, and when he was satisfied they were to go to the First Presidency. The First Presidency would then indicate their approval and they would then be sent to Deseret Book with authority to publish. Lowell was delighted with this and said that he and I must now encourage the authors to finish their manuscripts. Of course the authors know nothing about this problem and so we shall simply encourage them without referring to any serious discussion and investigation having been made.

Lowell said that he then asked Elder Hinckley if there was any reason that a revised edition of Story of the Latter-day Saints couldn’t be done following precisely the same procedure; that is, review by our History Division office, then by Brother Durham, and then approval by the First Presidency. Brother Hinckley hesitated for a moment or two, stumbled a moment or two, and then said, “Well that-is a matter worth pursuing. Let me investigate and see if that is something that could be done.” So Lowell felt the response was better than he might have expected and felt quite encouraged about it. This is something also which I suppose I should not mention to Jim and Davis until the appropriate time. 

[LJA Diary, 8 May, 1978]

There is one other incident that I should report here. Haybron Adams took me to his office and said, “I would like to show you a letter which somehow came into my hands.” It was a Xerox of a letter from Ezra Taft Benson to a Brother Huerder (I think). The letter was dated, I think, June 23, 1978. Based on the response one supposes that this “Brother Huerder” had written Brother Benson about Story of the Latter-day Saints and about the article in Dialogue two or three years ago by Duane Jeffrey on “Seers, Savants, and Evolution.” At any rate, Brother Benson replied rather tersely, essentially as follows:

“In reply to your question about Story of the Latter-day Saints, let me say that it will never be republished. In reply to your question about “Seers, Savants, and Evolution,” I very much regret its publication. It is an attempt to discredit Joseph Fielding Smith. There are inaccuracies in fact and interpretation of the Church’s doctrine with respect to evolution.”

[LJA Diary, 11 Aug., 1978]

Earl Olson telephoned this morning to say that Elder Boyd Packer had telephoned him to say that he had read the Primary manuscript, thought it was fine, but did have one principal concern, which was that we need to suggest or to say throughout that the Primary operated under the guidance and direction of the priesthood. I told Earl I would take care of it, and I told Carol to put at least one phrase to that effect in every chapter in the book. She agreed to do so. Usually when people keep wanting things like this to be said in a secular institution, this would suggest a certain insecurity. Maybe the priesthood do feel insecure about innovations being made and policies being determined without explicit recognition of the role of the priesthood in doing so. 

[LJA Diary, 18 Aug., 1978]

I saw Lowell Durham, Jr. at Deseret Book, as I delivered a preliminary copy of the Primary history to him. He said he had talked with his exec. comm. about his missionary preparation kit, which would include Story of the Latter-day Saints. On the committee are Duff Hanks, Art Anderson, and one other. After hearing reasons for his recommendations about Story of the Latter-day Saints, Elder Packer said he would recommend it to the full board, and, if the board will permit it, he will volunteer to go to Elder Mark Petersen and try to persuade him that it should go through a second printing for that purpose–putting it in the kit. He said Elder Petersen, while quick to form opinions, can be persuaded to a different opinion, while this is not true of Elder Benson. But Elder Petersen, if persuaded, might persuade Elder Benson. Lowell felt reasonable optimistic. The main task is to persuade Elder Ashton at their board meeting tomorrow to let Elder Hanks do this. 

[LJA Diary, 22 Aug., 1978]

He [G. Homer Durham] said he was called in by Duff Hanks, representing Elder Ashton, about doing a second edition revised of Story of the Latter-day Saints. Elder Durham said he recommended two things. First, no second edition should come out without the approval of the First Presidency. Second, Deseret Book should sell out the first edition and then determine if there is a definite sales possibility before they print a second edition. Elder Hanks said these sounded like good suggestions and he would agree with them. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Sept., 1978]

When President Kimball made his inaugural address as president in April 1974, he stated that not only did he feel his inadequacy, but he would simply attempt to carry out the policies of his predecessor, President Lee. He gave the impression that he would be a caretaker president. One got the impression that he did not expect to serve as president very long, and did not feel complete confidence in making his own personality and policies felt. It seemed evident that the Lord has given him confidence and authority and security. At any rate, he has been one of the most innovative presidents in this century. . . .

* President Kimball’s approval of his own biography by his son and grandson, which sets a precedent for “humanizing” the General Authorities, and in particular the prophets.

[Reflections on Conference; LJA Diary, 2 Oct., 1978]

I learned over the weekend that President Kimball had told his son Edward when he was working on the biography of President Kimball that he should get it out quickly, and the reason President Kimball gave was that he thought he should get it out while Pres. Kimball was still alive so that it would sell well. President Kimball told Edward that he had never gotten into a position where he had made enough to leave anything to the family, and so in the interests of the family having something to work with, he encouraged them to get the book out, as it would surely bring them some income. I have been told by Lowell Durham that 60,000 copies were sold within six months after the book was published, so the book should have brought an income of maybe $30,000 or $40,000 to the family.

[LJA Diary, 2 Oct., 1978]

1. Rather than leaving the non-Mormon reader wondering why anyone could be attracted to this new religion, the book specifically analyzes the “appeals” of Mormonism as they must have appeared to converts to the faith in the past century, making it clear that there was a powerful combination that satisfied various needs.

2. Persecution of the Mormons, while not excused, is treated in the context of the American vigilante tradition, lessening the impression that there were only “good guys” and “bad guys.”

3. This book provides the best existing chapter-length study of polygamy; but rather than sensationalizing it, the system of plural marriage is placed in the larger context of the Mormon family.

4. For the first time the general audience will be able to read an extended description of the Mormon concept of the eternal family and its implications for the roles of men and women. Discussions of sex role stereotyping of LDS women, which goes on in much non-Mormon literature, will hereafter be more balanced.

5. This book contains the best chapter-length study of the role of women in Mormon history. Low-key in tone, this chapter makes it clear that Mormon women have had many opportunities for expression and growth and leadership.

6. The chapter on the Mormon ward is the first to describe the significance of the ward in Mormon culture and history.

7. The chapters on the Indians is the first systematic chapter-length summary which details the relationship of the Church and native Americans.

8. A chapter on “the temporal foundation” gives the first complete and authentic analysis of the Church’s relationship to business and a summary of businesses in which the Church has a proprietary interest.

9. A chapter on the period following the Manifesto gives the first succinct summary of the Church’s adjustment to the problems which came as the result of the struggle for statehood–the end of polygamy, the end of the Church political party, and the end of extensive Church economic planning.

10. One chapter gives for the first time a review of the Church’s program today as seen through the eyes of a Mormon family.

11. For the first time in a one-volume work intended for the general reader, this book gives a good sense of the vigorous expansion of the Church overseas during the last two decades. 

[Specific contributions of The Mormon Experience, Arrington & Bitton, 14 Nov., 1978]

In the meeting this morning with Elder Durham, he reported that he had started reading the “final” form of THE MORMON EXPERIENCE. He had finished four chapters. He found it to be, as he had remembered, a great book, and felt very positively about it. He thought the chapter that might cause problems, if any, was the first chapter. If we could get people over the first chapter, then it would be downhill all the way. He was sure that many members of the Church, including ecclesiastical officials, “do not know enough about the historiography of the Joseph Smith period to appreciate what a contribution you have made in that chapter.” The Church is very sensitive right now, he said, about the different accounts of the First Vision. You have handled it very well, but there will still be a few raised eyebrows about it, simply because the ecclesiastical officials are not well enough informed on the subject.

While he was reading the first part, his wife had read the last chapter, and she thinks it’s great. In fact, we both regard it, he said, as the best short description of contemporary Mormonism that has been written. She thought what you had written about Dr. Widtsoe, about Mormon agricultural science, about Utah State University was just great. They are the best description of Mormon contributions to agricultural science that has been done. So we feel very positively about the book so far and are sure we will the rest of the way. I am glad, he said, you gave me this Xerox copy of the page proof to read. I’ll get it back to you shortly.

He suggested that a copy which we might present to Elder Packer might be marked with a red pen at various places through the book to indicate that  a modification at that point had been made because of his suggestions. He hoped we saved the copy that contains Elder Packer’s suggestions and comments, and that we would go through the final volume and indicate changes made as the result of his suggestions. This would help him to realize the extent to which we had complied with his suggestions. Otherwise he might forget and think that he had made suggestions on certain things which we did not make. He said he thinks Elder Packer is coning around to our point of view and thinking more positively about the Historical Department and its work. 

[LJA Diary, 16 Jan., 1979]

My son Carl telephoned me Tuesday night, January 23, and said that he had as guests for dinner Jean Allen, a friend in the ward, and her brother, James Allen, and his wife. He learned that this James Allen had reviewed The Mormon Experience for Saturday Review. Carl said that Brother Allen is almost completely inactive but his sister Jean is very active. Brother Allen said that he had a copy of the review with him but he didn’t offer to let Carl read it. Carl was not sure whether that was the “final” copy or whether he might have another day or two to make such modifications as he wished. Carl says that he was very complimentary about the book, said he regarded it as “remarkably objective” and thought it was well done and interesting. He had one criticism, which he mentioned in the review. This criticism was that there was some “torturous manipulation” to try to show that women are equal to men in the Church. 

[LJA Diary, 25 Jan., 1979]

THE MORMON EXPERIENCE: A History of the Latter-Day Saints

Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton.

Knopf, $15 ISBN 0-394-46566-0

This superb history of the Mormons is everything a religious history ought to be and seldom is. The authors, both historians, both Mormons, had unrestricted access to church archives. Their book, then, is solidly based on fact, and the fine research is tempered with their views as insiders and balanced by the writers’ unfailing and admirable professional objectivity. The story they tell, beautifully written, begins with Mormonism’s origins some 150 years ago, traces the early church and its development, moves to the “kingdom in the West” and goes on to an assessment of the modem church. In the course of the book Arrington and Bitton take up polygamy, the role of women, attitudes toward blacks, the Mormon ward, persecutions, conflicts with the government. An outstanding and definitive study, a very model of religious-historical scholarship. Illustrations. appendixes. notes. index. History Book Club selection. [March 30]

[Review of The Mormon Experience; Publishers Weekly, 29 Jan., 1979]

Lowell Durham, Jr., called yesterday to say that his Uncle Homer (G. Homer Durham) had called him to say that he had received the Mick Backman manuscript and had read much of it–but not all of it, and that he did have a few suggestions which he would take up with Brothers Packer and Hinckley. And he asked Lowell if he had seen the book. Lowell gave his diplomatic no in order to protect me for having given him an advance copy to speed up the process of reading and getting approval. He asked if that was the right answer for him to give. He said, “I just want to be sure our stories are the same,” and I told him that was the case and that he would not, in a diplomatic sense, receive a copy of the manuscript until Brother Durham handed it to him or authorized me to. I didn’t say this to Lowell, but I have the feeling that Brother Durham’s suggestions or reservations have to do more with the format–the wording of the first few pages–than with anything in the text. By that I mean the title page: should it say ‘published in collaboration with the Historical Department’, whether I should sign an editor’s preface, and just what I should say in that preface if it is all right for me to publish it. I feel sure Brother Durham is trying to protect our flanks by being sure that there is approval for the manner in which the sponsorship of the sesquicentennial series is indicated. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Feb., 1979]

Monday was THE BIG DAY. The Knopf warehouse was scheduled to get THE MORMON EXPERIENCE on Friday, and thoughtfully they sent first class copies to Davis and myself and presumably the principal book dealers in the area. At any rate ours came, we hurried to open it and inspect the final product. Looks fine. Upon closer inspection we found a few mistakes, but they probably won’t be noticed by many (we hope). For some strange reason, in the back of the book where they identify the authors they have Davis C. Bitton; he wonders where they got the C. Quite incorrect. We also note the wrong reference to Sister Kimball’s talk in our women chapter. We also note (more importantly) that they failed to give credit to the cartographer on the maps, Nancy Sessions; and they failed to note the artists of the paintings reproduced. We furnished all of this in our copy, but for some reason they omitted this important information and credit line. But basically we are VERY PLEASED. A handsome book–one we can be proud of. Now for the displays, the autograph parties, the reviews, and the comments of IMPORTANT PERSONS. Very exciting days.

[LJA to Children, 14 Mar., 1979]

Yesterday afternoon Elder Durham came into the office and said that in the meeting of the Seventy’s Quorum yesterday morning he had held aloft for all to see a copy of the book–the copy we presented him–and had spent a few minutes telling them about its genesis and nature of the book; told them how it had originated as a request to me when I was visiting professor at UCLA, how the project had been given approval by the First Presidency, and how we had worked with him and the First Presidency to assure that it would not be disapproved at any stage along the line; told then it was a splendid product, and he thought the Church should be proud of it. He said he told the group about his policy of looking in the cardex in libraries that he visits to see what they might have on the Mormons, and had usually been disappointed with library holdings on the Church. Usually they have W.A. Linn, The Story of the Mormons, Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, and occasionally Tom O’Dea’s The Mormons. Usually that is all, except for some anti-Mormon books published in the 19th century and a few in this century as well. He said all of this should change gradually as the result of the publication of this book. He saw this book as being acquired by most libraries and as the result of it, historians and universities would change their attitudes toward and approach toward the Mormons in their texts and monographs on American history. He was very hopeful that this will turn the tide toward the Church in historical literature. He said he told them that there will be people in the Church who will second-guess what Arrington & Bitton have done and what Durham has approved. This is always a probability. He said he quoted from Georges Clemenceau’s statement, “Would that mine enemy would write a book,” and pointed out that anyone writing a book lays himself open for criticism, both specific and general. He said he told the Brethren that he hoped some of them would find time to read the book, as he thought they would enjoy it and learn from it. After Brother Durham left, Davis said, “Too bad he couldn’t have had the opportunity of selling this to the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency.” Oh yes–Elder Durham said that he had given copies of the two early reviews, the one in Publishers Weekly and the one in San Francisco Chronicle to Elders Hinckley and Packer, and they both were very pleased with those.

[LJA Diary, 23 Mar., 1979]

I learned also this morning that John Hart of the Church News had written a review of The Mormon Experience. As with everything else in Church News, this had gone to correlation. Yesterday afternoon it was returned to Church News with the admonition that it was not approved for publication. 

[LJA Diary, 7 June, 1979]

Oh, yes, one bit of good news. Knopf telephoned Monday that they had decided they needed to do a second printing (the first was 15,000, I think). A printing of 3,500 this time. Wanted it out in a month or so, and so wanted immediately any corrections or changes we wanted to make. Davis and I worked it over for three hours and came up with 16 changes which we telephoned in. They agreed with all of them except adding two items to the index. So we’ll have a second printing with a few changes, it appears. We are of course VERY PLEASED with the sales going so well. Knopf said Deseret Book had ordered another 1300 copies. Amazing for a book that sells for $15.00. They must be intending to promote it some–by advertising, listing in their book club, or something. It also means no constraint by Church authorities. Just great! Old Pap may get some royalties yet!

Love you!!!! 

[LJA to Children, 7 July, 1979]

Jim Allen came in this morning and said that he’d had a long conversation last evening with Richard Ellsworth, acting as editor of BYU Studies while Chuck Tate is in Hawaii. Richard Ellsworth apparently runs scared. Anyway, he asked Jim if the rumors he’d heard about The Mormon Experience were true. Jim said, “I don’t know; what have you heard?” He said that yesterday a person had come into his office to say the following:

1. The Brethren are very unhappy with The Mormon Experience and objected strenuously to certain things that were in the book.

2. That Leonard’s hands were slapped.

3. That the book was withdrawn from circulation.

4. That the Brethren were so concerned that they had greatly restricted the use of the Church Archives.

Jim thinks this is probably a confusion of the rumors that have been circulating about Story of the Latter-day Saints. In any case, the following is certain true:

1. We have a letter signed by the First Presidency authorizing us to publish the book.

2. Deseret Book has just ordered another 1300 copies and is planning a promotional campaign.

3. Nobody has suggested to me that there was any displeasure with the book.

4. There has been no change in the policies of the Church library and archives within the past several years. 

Brent Goates came in this morning to tell Davis and me how proud he was of us for our book The Mormon Experience. Said he had arranged with the Proselyting Committee of the Church to have Davis speak to them on our approach in explaining Mormonism to non-Mormons. Said their job was talking to non-Mormons and so was ours, and we must have thought long and hard about how best to present certain matters to nonmembers. We must have discussed, thought, prayed how best to do it. He thought the proselyting committee should profit from our experience. He said Davis gave a splendid talk and they were all fascinated with it. Originally he was to talk half an hour, and they kept him busy with questions for more than an hour. 

[LJA Diary, 10 July, 1979]

I had a long meeting with Elder Durham this morning. The following items were mentioned by Elder Durham.

He said that the Twelve and First Presidency have authorized payment of the first $5000 to the authors of the Sesquicentennial volumes as soon as they are approved by Elder Durham and submitted to the Quorum of the Twelve advisers. Arrangements to have this done are in the hands of Elder Marvin Ashton, and presumably sometime within the next month checks will be issued to Brothers Bushman, Backman, and Britsch. But no word yet about publication. He asked if Lanier shouldn’t receive just half of his, since he hadn’t submitted the second one. I told him that he had submitted it and I was simply holding it to avoid complications, and I thought he should be paid the full amount. He said he would discuss that with Elder Ashton.

[LJA Diary, 27 Mar., 1980]

Elder Marvin Ashton not sent

Council of the Twelve

Dear Elder Ashton:

This letter is being written without the knowledge of my immediate superior, Elder G. Homer Durham. I hope that you will treat it as a confidential matter and that you will recognize why I feel sincerely anxious and am forced to consider this direct message to you–and to you alone.

The subject of my concern is the 16-volume sesquicentennial history of the Church, which has been commissioned by Deseret Book and of which I was appointed general editor. Since you are the most influential person on Deseret Book’s board of directors, I am assuming that you have reason to take a special interest in the project.

First, may I review a few points of detail of which you may or may not be aware. Then I will come to the reason for my present urgent concern.

This project was proposed in 1972. It was approved by our managing director, by our apostolic advisers, and finally by the First Presidency. With this kind of enthusiastic endorsement, Deseret Book authorized me as general editor to line up sixteen of our best Latter-day Saint historians to prepare the volumes. After careful consideration, this was done. These persons were all approved in a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency at which I was present. Contracts were then issued by Deseret Book Company. In fact, a special kick-off dinner was held, with encouraging talks by James Mortimer and Elder Thomas Monson. Each of the authors has been working more or less steadily on his own time since then.

There was every reason to think that this series would be a splendid permanent achievement to celebrate the sesquicentennial year. The abundant new sources that have accumulated since B. H. Robert’s time could be incorporated; the skills of this new generation of highly professional and dedicated historians could be utilized. We were aware of a few areas of sensitivity but were confident that our editorial review process, combined with welcome counsel from those over us, would enable them to be handled satisfactorily. The overall history of the Church is certainly one of great interest and human faith; here was a chance to tell it again–and to tell it proudly and confidently.

I want to emphasize that this project was not a pie-in-the-sky gamble on the part of a few authors. It was specifically approved and commissioned. Legally binding contracts were drawn up. At the time they were issued, all the authors considered them eminently fair, although one or two expressed mild concern that inflation would erode the value of what was being offered.

These authors are all fine Latter-day Saints. They accepted the assignment in good faith. They were promised in contract that the manuscripts required the approval of the Church Historian. (I had been sustained as such in 1972.) Upon the submission of a manuscript they were to receive the first installment of their total payment, the remainder to follow after relatively short intervals of time when the manuscript was turned over to the printer and when it was actually published. The reason for dividing up the payment was simply to help the authors spread out their return so that a huge tax bite would not be taken out of a single payment. When the specific clauses in the contract were combined with verbal assurances that were given in the speeches to the authors and in answer to their questions, they had every reason to believe that upon turning in their manuscript they would immediately receive the first installment and that publication would take place approximately one year afterwards, give or take a couple of months.

These are authors who have families, some of their children on missions. They derive their regular income from teaching and of course were glad to have a chance to supplement their income while at the same time participating in an exciting project of Church history.

Now what has happened? Three complete manuscripts have been turned in. They have been examined by the reading committee designated and approved earlier—myself, Davis Bitton, and Maureen Beecher. They have been read and approved, with a few suggestions for improvement, by Elder G. Homer Durham. Then they have been forwarded by Elder Durham to one or more of the Council of the Twelve for final approval.

There the wheels of progress have stopped. Believe me, I do not raise this question after just waiting an extra week or month beyond what would be considered reasonable. I understand how busy you Brethren are. But now, after many months of inactivity, with not one word of report to us, we are baffled and embarrassed.

The authors, particularly those who have had their manuscripts approved by me and Elder Durham, are dumbfounded. They have not been treated as they thought they would, as fairness would indicate they should be. I myself, as general editor of the series and director of the Church History Division, am asked almost every day, “What is happening to the sesquicentennial volumes?” I am placed in a difficult position, having been provided with no information. Not wishing to say anything disrespectful about those above me, I am forced to say, “I don’t know, but I am confident things are progressing satisfactorily.” But even this is frustrating. The one person everyone supposes should know the exact status of this project is myself, as general editor of the series and as director of the history Division.

From the point of view of the authors, what has happened ranges somewhere between violation of contract and a slap in the face. For myself, on the line facing the public on this matter, I have been able thus far to put the best face on things. But as the months go on–month after month without so much as a word–it does look very much like a deliberate, silent shelving of a series of books that all of us have worked on for many years in good faith. If for some reason the Brethren do not have confidence in me as editor, and this is the stumbling block, I am fully prepared to resign. The project is too important to be held up by personal privilege.

Let me anticipate a question you may have at this point. “Have these historians stirred around in the unedifying subjects of Church history to produce books that will cause a lot of trouble to the membership of the Church?” My honest answer, based on an examination of the first three volumes, is “No.” These are fine volumes, full and informative. One deals with the Church at Kirtland. Another with the Prophet Joseph Smith and, his family down to 1830–a beautiful piece of work that many Church members would find both educational and inspirational. The third deals with the Church in Asia, telling that remarkable story–the expansion of the gospel into Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, The Philippines–with warmth and human interest. I feel complete confidence in offering these volumes as the first three in this new “History of the Latter-day Saints.” If you were to have the chance to read them over, I am confident that you would agree with me. Three other manuscripts have been submitted. I have read them, made suggestions for revision, and the authors are in the process of conforming the manuscripts to my suggestions.

In frustration–and I must confess, sometimes a feeling of great discouragement and desperation–I turn to you in confidence. We have not yet heard that any of these authors is considering suing Deseret Book for breach of contract. My concern is more personal: I feel personally responsible for participating in a promise to them that is not being fairly fulfilled. I have heard rumors that Utah Holiday, which as you know is strong on investigative reporting, is considering doing something on “What Happened to the Sesquicentennial History of the Church?” I hope this is just a rumor, but I shudder to think of the embarrassment to me, to the Historical Department, and to the Church should they come out with such an article. 

Would you think it wise and proper to initiate a request from your side of things–from yourself or from Lowell Durham–asking that submission of the manuscripts to the publisher be accelerated so that at least one of them can be brought out in the sesquicentennial year as previously announced to potential readers? You could indicate the need to be able to respond to queries, from authors-in the series as well as from interested customers. Lowell must have had such questions; if not, those that have come to us can be considered as directed to the publisher.

I do not want to suggest anything improper, but I am strongly convinced that the present way of handling things is both improper and unfair. If you have a better suggestion than the above, I would be most grateful to hear it.

Elder Ashton, I hope you will recognize that my writing to you in this way is possible only because of the respect I have for you and my confidence in your good judgment. If you would like to talk this matter over with me in confidence, I am, of course, available at any time, subject to some sesquicentennial speaking assignments that I have accepted.

May the Lord bless you.

Gratefully and respectfully,

Leonard J. Arrington

Director, History Division

[LJA to Elder Marvin Ashton (not sent); LJA Diary, 10 Apr., 1980]

I learned also that Elder Hinckley has asked the legal department to work out a legal opinion which would enable them to cancel the contracts on the sesquicentennial history. This will take a few days, no doubt, but Davis and I will write a justification for the series and somehow get it to some member of the Quorum of the Twelve. We will get it written by tomorrow, show it to Lowell Durham, and then counsel with him whether to show it to Elder Durham or send it directly to Elder Packer or Elder Hinckley, or send it to all members of the Quorum of the Twelve. We would not do the latter without getting the approval of Elder Durham, which is a real question. Elder Durham may not know of this request for a legal opinion. It may be as much a surprise to him as it is to us. We got the information from a friend who is not apt to tell anyone else. 

[LJA Diary, 21 Apr., 1980]

Meeting with Lowell Durham, Jr., April 22, 1980

At my request Lowell read the letter we had drafted to Elder G. Homer Durham. He said, “I don’t think it will do any particular harm.”

Then he said he wasn’t sure it would do any particular good, either. Confidentially, as a friend, he said that he had attended a meeting within recent days at which the sesquicentennial series was discussed. Although he did not give a complete list of all those in attendance, I gathered later that at least Elders G. Homer Durham, Hinckley, Packer, and Ashton were there.

Two basic questions (the only two perhaps) were addressed there:

1. Payment to the authors. It was decided to pay the authors upon receipt of a satisfactory manuscript. They will have the option of receiving all their payment in one lump sum if they prefer. So the question of remuneration should be laid to rest.

2. Publication Here Lowell said he could not get a clear answer on when they would be given the go-ahead. There is obviously some caution, but no one advocated abandoning the project. Lowell said that the legal department is not to find ways to get out of contracts; the only specific instructions they now have are to draft a letter to the authors explaining the possibility of early pay-off. Lowell still thinks there is a chance of getting a volume out this year but thinks this will have to be worked on from his end, not from ours. “Let me and Uncle Homer work on that,” he said.

“What should we tell the authors? Here is what we would like to be able to say,” I said: “the project is going ahead and will be published; and the money will come promptly if the authors wish it. (These are still confidential, unreleased details at this point.) Lowell suggested that this would be a better way to approach Elder Durham: ask him what we should tell the authors at the Mormon History Association meeting.

Some other interesting details came out:

1. Elder Hinckley is the most stalwart defender.

2. Elder Ashton is the most cautious, showing signs of having been browbeaten.

3. The real obstacles are Elders Benson and Petersen. Lowell thinks he can win Elder Petersen over, but thinks Elder Benson has such a mind fix about historians that he will never budge.

So from the meeting came specific information, a recommendation, and some valuable perceptions. Lowell Durham himself still seems squarely behind the project, for financial reasons as well as a general commitment to forthright history. 

[Meeting with Lowell Durham, Jr., April 22, 1980; filed 24 Apr., 1980]


not presented

Word is being circulated that consideration is being given to shelving the sesquicentennial history project. I feel sure that before the Brethren would do so, they would discuss the matter with you. I should like, therefore, to take this opportunity of calling to your attention the reasons why it would seem inopportune to discontinue the project. While my Church training cautions me to avoid any appearance of telling the Brethren what to do, I do not see that it is inconsistent and improper for me to make a plea for what I believe is truly the best course for the Church to pursue.

After the approval of the project by the First Presidency in 1973, and contracts to the sixteen authors were issued by Deseret Book Company, a special banquet was held for the authors, with an address by Elder Thomas Monson. Advances were made, the entire series was publicized, and since that time its progress has been watched with intense interest by the thousand-member Mormon History Association and thousands of history buffs throughout the Church. We receive inquiries almost everyday about it. Since no one swore the individual authors to secrecy, they have let their friends and students know of the completion of their volumes. I have myself mentioned the project to hundreds of groups I have met with in the past seven years. It would be a source of embarrassment to the Historical Department of the Church and to Deseret Book Company to announce any change from something so firmly approved and announced. It is hard to overemphasize the fact that any decision to retract on a solemn obligation  would be a crushing blow to individual authors who have invested untold hours–in reality, years–in their project. An announcement of cancellation would also be read as a signal of reluctance on the part of the Church to bring out thorough, responsible treatments of its history. It would be taken by many in and out of the Church as an unwillingness to face the facts of our past.

The need for the sesquicentennial history remains what it was when first announced. It derives from the fact that B. H. Roberts’s six-volume Comprehensive History, published in 1930, has very little on events of the twentieth century. Over half of the history of the Church has occurred in this century. There is a great story that deserves telling. Moreover, mountains of primary source materials–diaries, minutes, records–have accumulated, making it possible to cast new light on events of the nineteenth century as well. The juncture of conditions has been just right to bring out a magnificent new multi-volume history of the Church that will serve as both instruction and delight. The volumes on the Church in Asia, Europe, and Latin America will integrate the important developments in those areas into our general Church history.

The anti-Mormon critics, people like Jerald and Sandra Tanner, continue their work of destruction. By far the best answer to them is solid history, treated in the context of faith.

All of these points were in the mind of Elder Alvin R. Dyer, Elder Joseph Anderson, our apostolic advisors, and the First Presidency as they considered the project in 1972 and 1973 and arrived at their positive conclusion. The word–contractually set forth–was full speed ahead. The  project was reviewed by President Kimball and his counselors in 1974 and again in 1976 and was given their renewed approval, although they also gave me counsel–counsel which I have strictly followed.

Having read three of’ the manuscripts that have been submitted and approved by our office, I can testify that these works are highly informative, interesting, and a great source of testimony. If there are individual passages or problems of terminology, they of course can be dealt with. But speaking in general, our faithful LDS historians are anxious that Church members be able to read these works as I have done.

Since I have to face these individual authors, I want to be in a position to explain to them with full confidence, “The histories are going ahead. We are at such-and-such a stage with your manuscript. We expect to see it published by such-and-such a date.” It is not fair to the authors to make an agreement and then fail to hold up the Church’s side of the bargain.

There may be some who may complain that all the sixteen volumes cannot come out during 1980, the sesquicentennial year, and thus will be anticlimactic. It was never envisioned that they all appear during 1980. What was assumed was that publication of one or more would start during this year, then at the rate of two or three per year they would continue to be published until the whole set was complete. This still seems like a good plan.

Others may believe that a set of this kind will be too expensive to purchase. This is a marketing decision. We are confident that many thousands of Church members will buy the whole set as it appears–certainly enough to make the venture economically feasible. 

Still others may believe that nonmembers will pick up ammunition from these volumes to use against the Church. Determined anti-Mormons never have any scarcity of ammunition: What the sixteen volumes will do is provide a thorough, positive interpretation of Mormon history that will almost certainly make the task of the anti-Mormons more difficult.

Let me assure that the material in these volumes will not destroy faith. The conscientious efforts of our reading committee (Elder Durham, myself, Davis Bitton, and Maureen Beecher, plus the readers for Deseret Book Company) will see to it that the works are positive and that material that is offensive is screened out. On the other hand, the reviewers will see to it that the works are balanced and credible. The volumes will win friends for the Church, will end up as standard sources in the public and university libraries across the country, and will be a source of deepened testimony and understanding for faithful members. For nonreaders or those who like a different kind of history, other titles are now and will continue to be available. But for the increasingly large group of college-trained Latter-day Saints, a work of solid scholarship is needed.

We are keenly aware that some of the authors of the volumes have not kept the deadlines. As an experienced author familiar with editors and publishers, I can say categorically that publishers simply do not insist on exact delivery dates. The dates in book contracts are estimates, targets. Scholarly and writing activities cannot be programmed so as to guarantee such delivery. It is consistent with the uniform practice of all publishers to allow a generous grace period. If a given volume is  many years late, or something of this kind, the escape clause can be invoked. Otherwise to do so would be inconsistent with the good-faith efforts of the authors and the accepted practice of publishers. In truth, enough volumes have now been submitted to get the series underway, and there is every reason to think that the others will continue to come in at a pace that will be more than sufficient for Deseret Book’s preferred schedule. In oral conversations, both the managers of Deseret Book and I have made it clear to the authors that delay in delivering the manuscripts is not the crucial item. As long as Deseret Book gets two or three books per year, this is all they can publish. More important than deadline is the quality of the work. One manuscript, for example, was delivered well within the contract deadline but we made suggestions for improvement, so back to the author it went.

I firmly believe that these volumes should be published by Deseret Book Company, which has commissioned and contracted for them. Unquestionably Deseret Book has the resources for distributing them most widely to the membership of the Church. No other publisher would have the focus of interest to take on a project of this dimension. It was appropriate for Deseret Book to publish B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History, and it seems appropriate for it to publish the sesquicentennial volumes. This appropriateness was agreed upon by Deseret Book Company and its advisors when the subject was first broached, and when the project was formally announced.

I have devoted most of my adult life to the study and dissemination of Latter-day Saint history. I have truly believed that one could write history that would be accepted by professional historians and at the same time help to built faith among our own members. The articles our historians have published in the Church News, in The Ensign and New Era, in BYU Studies and other scholarly publications, hear this out. If there is any personality problem here–if it would serve the project better for me to resign–I should be glad to do so.

Let me emphasize also that the sixteen authors, all of whose names were approved by the First Presidency before they were “called” to write the volumes and given contracts, include nine historians at Brigham Young University–two in the Department of Religion and seven in other departments; three instructors at the institute of Religion in Salt Lake City; two professors at Utah State University; one at the University of Utah; and one formerly at Boston and Harvard universities and now at the University of Delaware. I was appointed General Editor, with our ecclesiastical superior, now yourself, as General Consultant.

All of the sixteen authors are faithful Church members. One has been a stake president; four have been counselors to stake presidents; one has been a mission president, one a bishop, four have been bishop’s counselors, four have been High Councilors, and one is a stake executive secretary. All are tithe-paying temple-goers. Several have used their summers to work on their volumes; others have used their sabbatical leave; some have spent hundreds of dollars in traveling to the location of materials. All have expressed their willingness, their desire, that I go over their manuscripts carefully to be sure that they have treated matters accurately and appropriately. I am sure that they devoutly hope to be able to contribute in this way of their talent for the building of the Lord’s kingdom. 

[Report to Elder Durham on the Sesquicentennial History (not presented); LJA Diary, 24 Apr., 1980]

Received this morning a copy of the new biography of B.H. Roberts by Truman Madsen. It looks interesting and well done. If Bookcraft or Truman had allowed us a week with the manuscript, we could have improved it from a scholarly standpoint. There are a number of scholarly works which should have appeared in footnote references in order to demonstrate that he had read all the material that has been published in recent years by scholars about Roberts. I noted, for example, he did not refer to Davis Bitton’s article on Roberts’s 1899 election case, nor did he have references to Gene Sessions’s edited version of Mormon Democrat by James Henry Moyle. Nor, for that matter, did he refer to his own article in BYU Studies on Roberts and the Book of Mormon. Moreover, he could have profited from reading my task paper on missionaries in the South, and also the book by Hatch, There Is No Law, and article by Gene Sessions on missionaries in the South. These are some examples of things he could have placed in footnotes to demonstrate that he had “covered the literature.”

The language has a certain charm, as do all of Truman’s books and articles. Different, somewhat jerky and uneven, but charming. The index is not very complete; I suspect the index was done by a professional indexer at Bookcraft. It should have been more complete than it is. Addition to the index, the bibliography is incomplete–it includes only a listing of Roberts’s own books and articles; there should have been either a bibliographical essay on sources and articles about Roberts and aspects of his career. For instance, there is no reference to Milan’s biography, nor to some of the articles in professional journals that deal with Roberts and aspects of his career.

Truman indicates in the preface that the manuscript was honed down from a thousand pages to 600 in typescript. Since the book does not deal with some of the hard questions connected with Roberts, one wonders whether the honing down by Bookcraft eliminated references to these difficult problems or whether they were ever in the  original manuscript. Such hard problems as dealing with Roberts’s occasional bouts with the bottle, his controversial in-fighting with Joseph Fielding Smith, the evolution controversy surrounding The Truth, the Way, and the Life, difficulties with his wives and children, and tension with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve over his political activities. All of these help to show the greatness of the man–his integrity, his courage, his brilliance, but they do raise controversial questions which either Truman or Bookcraft or both wished to avoid. We know, of course, that Truman, perhaps at the suggestion of Bookcraft or perhaps on his own, submitted the manuscript to Elder Hinckley, who may or may not have made suggestions. Elder Hinckley submitted it to Elder Durham, and we know he made a number of suggestions, though we do not know the nature of them. Elder Durham, however, did not allow us to see the manuscript or give us the opportunity of making suggestions.

These are just preliminary impressions, of course, and I may add something later after studying the book more carefully. 

[LJA Diary, 10 Jun., 1980]

In my meeting with Elder Durham this morning the following transpired:

1. At a meeting with Elder Packer and Elder Hinckley yesterday, the arrangement for paying the authors of the sesquicentennial volumes was finalized. Presumably letters will be going out in the next few days. Nothing was said about publication.

2. Elder Durham wants me to give him a list of the authors of the sesquicentennial volumes who have received fellowships.

3. Elder Durham wants me to give him the letter and document of Barry Fell, giving a purported translation of characters in the Anthon manuscript.

4. Elder Durham had turned down Jean Purcell to further work with the Woodruff Diary and translate the portions in shorthand. I persuaded him to rescind the order but he did so only under condition that: 1, she agree not make a copy, which I told him had already been emphasized; and 2, that he have a chance to see the portions translated. I told him we would do both. Elder Durham said that currently things are very tight, meaning, I think, that the Brethren have cautioned him to be very close with materials in the archives and not make them available to anybody. This must be a reflection of the article on post-Manifesto polygamy in the current Utah Historical Quarterly and perhaps other things as well. It seems stupid, however, in view of the fact that professional anti-Mormons like Marquardt, Tanners, Walters, etc. already have microfilm copies of the Woodruff diaries, as well as most other important items in our archives. Where they got them has nothing to do with us, nor any security breach here. 

[LJA Diary, 12 Jun., 1980]

George and Maurine Boyd came to the office this morning; said that they had decided to pursue with President Kimball (Maurine’s brother-in-law) the matter of the treatment given to Story of the Latter-day Saints. George finally was able to have an interview and as he told President Kimball about the treatment given to Jim, President Kimball wept and declared that this was not a Christian way to treat somebody who had performed satisfactorily an assignment. George is planning to tell Lowell Durham of the interview. George will probably write a letter to President Kimball and try to arrange a meeting with myself and Lowell Durham and President Kimball. President Kimball told George that Elder Benson did not have the right to stop the reprinting of the book–did not have the authority. We chatted about the matter for a half hour or so, and I informed him of what I knew.

George also said that he had learned the President Kimball in particular and the First Presidency in general were very angry about Elder Benson’s talk at BYU in which he made the statement that every word spoken by the current prophet must be regarded as from the Lord. They called Elder Benson in and scolded him and caused him to apologize to the First Presidency for those remarks. President Kimball declared that when the Lord spoke to him, that was one thing, but that the Lord did not speak to him on every topic and therefore it was Spencer Kimball talking, not the Lord. 

[LJA Diary, 17 Jun., 1980]

On Story of the Latter-day Saints, Lowell said that the first difficulty appeared when a person who did not like Jim Allen and his work and the work of historians like him wrote a six-page memo to Elder Benson, objecting to the tone, contents, and wording of the book. Quite possibly Elder Benson did not read all of the memo, but he made a speech to the seminary and institute teachers which sort of put the Twelve on record against the book. Elder Benson has not read the book, but seminaries & institutes, which had ordered many copies of the book, began sending them back. This was at the time when the book had just been out long enough for Deseret Book to have sold about 4000 copies. The memo to Elder Benson was turned over to Elder Petersen, and a subsequent memo was written by one of Elder Petersen’s friends, and Elder Petersen then was authorized to tell Deseret Book not to sell any more copies. But Deseret Book had 30,000 copies left. Brother Ashton, as president of Deseret Book Co., was then willing to get the approval of the Twelve that they might sell the book but not advertise it nor prominently display it. On that basis 35,000 copies were sold within a year and a half. 35,000 is all they had printed. Lowell says that was one of the most remarkable markets he has seen. He then proposed that they publish it as a paperback and include it in the missionary packets. Turned dawn. He then proposed that they do a second printing. Turned down by the Twelve. He thinks all of this is simply on the basis of that preliminary speech by Elder Benson and the memo received by Elder Petersen. There are members of the Twelve who have read the book and who told Lowell they liked it: Elder Hinckley, Elder Hunter, and I added Elder Haight and President Kimball. Lowell says that the Brethren of the Twelve have to meet side by side with each other for 50 or 60 years, and so they don’t want to make one angry; they go out of their way not to ruffle or irritate one of them. Lowell now feels that once we get the first sesquicentennial volume approved he can go to the Board once more and probably get approval on a revised version of Story of the Latter-day Saints. He is sure there will be minor suggestions on the Bushman manuscript but is hopeful that there will be some which can be accepted and others which can be negotiated under a compromise arrangement.

Lowell says that the actual production cost of Story of the Latter-day Saints was about $2.00 per volume.

Richard asked if the tone of the author can be a little distant from the subject, trying to be a little objective–would it be objected to by the Brethren. Lowell said he hoped not. Lowell also said he felt that his Uncle Homer had been more frustrated over the sesquicentennial controversy than any other. 

[LJA Diary, 14 Aug., 1980]

Tuesday evening Mamma and I went to Cannon-Hinckley Church History Group–dinner at the Lion House and then a talk by Frank Gibbons, secretary of the First Presidency, on Lorenzo Snow. A pleasant evening. Incidentally, Frank is authoring a series of books on presidents of the Church. He has already published biographies of Joseph Smith and Heber J. Grant. Next to come out is one of Brigham Young, followed by Lorenzo Snow. His works are not biographies in the sense that historians would define it; they come more under the heading of spiritual appreciations. They do not involve much work with primary materials, and they do not grapple with the problems or controversial things. But they are better than most things now available through the Church press–they represent a step up. 

[LJA to Children, 24 Oct., 1980]

never sent

1 December 1980

To: Authors of the volumes in the Sesquicentennial History

From: Leonard J. Arrington

This is a hard letter for me to write, but since questions about the status of the sesquicentennial history of the Church keep coning from almost all of you–as well as from many other Church members–I feel an obligation to be as open and above board with you as I possibly can.

We have tried to go about this important project in a prayerful and responsible way. Soon after the organization of the Historical Department of the Church this idea was proposed to Elder Alvin H. Dyer, Managing Director. It received the approval of Elder Howard R. Hunter and others in the Quorum of Twelve who have since had responsibility for the Historical Department. It had the warn endorsement of Elder Joseph Anderson, managing director for many years. Deseret Book enthusiastically accepted the idea, obtained a designer to assure a high quality format, and even held a kick-off meeting (as you remember) addressed by Elder Thomas Monson. Each of you was selected carefully and with our full confidence.

We have tried to be honest and forthright in keeping you informed of developments. For the past two years, in answer to questions that keep arising, we have said that the project is still moving along, and at least one or two volumes should be published during the sesquicentennial year of 1980. Three manuscripts have been submitted and received the copy editing and approval we are responsible for in this office. The three authors have been paid.

But after exerting patience beyond the ordinary, I now must say that I am placed in a false position which is not fair to me and to you. I am not informed of the status of the manuscripts; no consultation is taking place that would allow me to know when or whether the three manuscripts received will be published. This is disconcerting, frustrating, and unprofessional. But rather than hide the truth of the matter and pretend that I know that the wheels are still turning, I must confess to you that as general editor of this series I am in the dark along with the rest of you. You know me well enough to know that I do not discourage easily. But I do not wish to bear the brunt of responsibility for something over which I have no apparent control.

I do not know what to advise you. You have invested untold hours (years!) in the project and it is impossible for me to believe that the Church would fail to honor its commitment. We can all hope for some evidence of good faith. And it would be reassuring to have the project placed back where it was–on track, with a suggested timetable for publication, so many per year, as the manuscripts come in. I still believe in the project and envision it as a great constructive demonstration of the importance we Latter-day Saints place in our history. For the present, however, you should know that the matter is not in my hands. Now you know everything I know. Let us all pray for a fair resolution of the matter. 

[To authors of sesquicentennial volumes from LJA; LJA Diary, 1 Dec., 1980]

Ron Walker came in today to say that he had had a conversation with Elder Durham. Elder Durham had come to see him to give him some counsel, which was substantially as follows: If you write honest history, straight- forward, balanced, “scientific” history, you will destroy yourself. You will destroy yourself in the same way that Sterling McMurrin destroyed himself. On the Board of Education of BYU sit Elder Mark Petersen, Elder Ezra Benson, Elder Boyd Packer, and these brethren will blackball you if you attempt to write balanced, scholarly, honest history. So his counsel was to write “faith-promoting” history. I told Ron I would rather be blackballed the way Sterling McMurrin was than to be blackballed the way he, Elder Durham, is by the historians. Let me add for the benefit of the diary that this is a different G. Homer Durham speaking than the one who wrote the series of articles for the Improvement Era many years ago.

Lowell Durham telephoned to say that he will try to set up an appointment with G. Homer Durham and myself tomorrow or Wednesday to discuss the sesquicentennial history. I asked him if the news was basically good or bad. He said it was not nearly as good as he hoped. 

[LJA Diary, 29 Dec., 1980]

Yesterday Lowell Durham called to invite me to a meeting this morning at 10:00 o’clock with himself and Elder Homer Durham. We met in Lowell’s office in the Deseret Book suite in the ACMI Center. Lowell and Elder Durham were already there when I arrived just before 10:00. Elder Durham began the meeting by asking me to be supportive of Lowell in the difficult role he will have as a result of what he would present to me; said it would be difficult enough for Lowell and that he hoped I would be understanding and supportive. He also said that his role was primarily to be an observer in this meeting so that he could report back to the Brethren that the meeting was held and that Lowell made the report which he was directed to do. In being there he was representing the Historical Department which had been party to the negotiations from the beginning. He then turned to Lowell for his presentation.

Lowell had in front of him a long yellow lined note pad filled with about a page of notes outlined what he was to say. It is obvious that he had been coached as to what he was to say and that this outline would help guide him in doing it the way he’d been directed. He obviously could not be informal with me because Elder Durham was present to see that he was doing as he had been instructed.

Lowell made several points:

1. About a month ago all directors or presidents of Church companies were invited to a meeting at which they were instructed that they were not to increase their borrowings. Considering that this came in November at a time when Deseret Book historically has its least borrowing, this placed the company in a very difficult situation, not only for the sesquicentennial project but for their publications in general. This directive, which was absolute in its nature, meant that big projects were impossible for the foreseeable future. He was not trying to say that if a very good book came along they would automatically turn it down, but he was saying that the sesquicentennial project as originally envisioned of publishing several books in the next year or two was impossible.

2. This began as a sesquicentennial history and was known as such, and the sesquicentennial is now over. Lowell knows as well as anybody that this is a lot of BS, since nobody expected to do more than begin the publication in the sesquicentennial year. But apparently that is a factor in the minds of some people.

3. The Church of course is the owner of Deseret Book and there is no consensus among “the Brethren” on what should happen to the sesquicentennial history. There are some of the apostles who have supported it and have recently supported it vigorously in the deliberations (Lowell told me afterwards this included Elders Hinckley, Monson, Ashton with reservations, and Hunter). On the other hand, there are Brethren with seniority who are strongly opposed to publishing any of the books (I gather from remarks afterwards that this includes Elders Benson, Petersen and Packer). Some of the Brethren (I assume Elder Packer) want Deseret Book to buy all the manuscripts and put them away in a safe. That is of course a ridiculous proposition, as everyone will recognize. In any case, there is no consensus. No member of the First Presidency felt strongly enough about it to counteract the very strong statements of opposition made by Elders Benson and Petersen and Packer.

4. I should interject at this point something Lowell told me afterwards, that the project was discussed in considerable detail in the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve on December 11. Because there was no consensus they appointed a committee of the following to meet: Elder Hinckley, Elder Packer, Elder Ashton, Homer Durham, and Lowell Durham. That committee had its meeting on a date not yet revealed to me and they were unable to reach a consensus except on the following proposal which was then mentioned to the board and is now being relayed to me by Lowell.

5. Lowell was directed by the board to negotiate with each author a conclusion of his contract. This would involve an individual conference between Lowell, myself, and the author in which the author would indicate his status on the project, and he would be reimbursed for some portion of the total sum due him. For those that have finished the manuscript, of course, the total sum would be paid, except as indicated below. Lowell indicated in the strongest way, in convincing terms, that he wants to be fair with each author. He wants to pay fairly for what each author has done. If the person is halfway through the book, or with the research and writing, then presumably he would get $10,000, except as noted below.

6. Lowell, as manager of Deseret Book, believes that if he pays the full $20,000 to any individual author, then he has some right to keep the manuscript for possible future publication. If the author wishes instead to publish elsewhere immediately under whatever conditions he is able to negotiate with another publisher, then Lowell would expect Deseret Book to receive consideration. He hesitated to use any figures, but presumably if he is willing to pay an author $10,000 and the author then wants to publish with another house, surely Deseret Book would expect perhaps $5,000 off of the $10,000. But in any case, Deseret Book would expect to pay the author an agreed-upon sum even if he promptly turns his manuscript over to another publisher and gets royalties from them.

Since that seemed to be the main points he needed to make with me, I asked Lowell how soon he would feel free to submit a manuscript which he liked and wanted to publish for possible publication. He said certain not within the year 1981, but might possibly in 1982, and then, of course, it takes nearly a year to get a book published, so probably the earliest any book could be published by Deseret Book would be after two years.

7. Lowell’s final point. He wanted me to understand and accept his strong feeling that we had done a great thing for the Church by arranging for, promoting, and encouraging this research and writing, and much good would be done for the Church as the result of it. I asked him if the Brethren didn’t realize that they have had a monitor of these manuscripts in myself and companions, as well as with Elder Durham, and that now that monitor will end and quite possibly the books eventually published will be less friendly to the Church than if they had gone ahead with the project. He said he was sure that the Brethren must realize that.

I asked him when he was going to notify the individual authors. Was he going to do it by letter? Did he want me to do it? He said he felt that I would be embarrassed enough and that he felt the responsibility of notifying each author and he thought he should do it by telephone. I said, Are you going to begin to do it immediately? He said he would probably telephone everybody within a day or two next week. I said Tom Alexander is due to leave January 2 for Washington, D.C., and as far as I know he is in Provo today and tomorrow. He might want to call Tom while he is here and have the negotiations with Tom to save the expense of transporting him from Washington, D.C. He said that was a good idea; he appreciated the suggestion and would try to get in touch with Tom today and set up a meeting for tomorrow. I asked him who would be in on the meetings. He said the author, himself, and me. He wanted me to be present at each one of them. I said, You want to do all the negotiating in the month of January? He said yes.

I said that when we had our first discussions with Jim Mortimer that Jim had recognized that I would be devoting some of my own time to read the manuscripts. The same was true of my colleagues, and that I thought if a settlement was to be made with the authors, some kind of settlement should be made with me and our staff. He said he’d never heard of that. That hadn’t been mentioned in his presence. I told him that Jim Mortimer had suggested 3 percent royalty when we were talking about royalties but that it was never pinned down. If it meant 3 percent of the royalties on each book it could amount to a considerable sum. He said, Well, I think maybe to be fair we should give you some settlement, and let’s you and I talk about that privately. I stayed afterwards to talk with him about it and told him that I was not interested in the money personally but I was very interested in seeing Deseret Book make a contribution to the Mormon History Trust Fund. I told him something about what we had already done with the 3 manuscripts which have been approved and the other 3 which have been submitted and returned. He asked me to prepare a statement as to what I believe to be fair and submit it to him and he would give it serious consideration.

Elder Durham at that point suggested that Lowell go through each of the 16 projects and have me make a statement about them as to how far they’ve proceeded, how much expense has been involved, and so on. So Lowell did that, and I made a general statement about each author. I tried to be somewhat optimistic about what each author had done so as to prepare Lowell for the expense that he will have to go to to settle with each author. In Davis’s case, for example, I told them I thought Davis was probably 2/3 through, that I know he’d put a lot of time into it. I pointed out that Reed Durham had gone to considerable expense going along the trail of the pioneers. I pointed out that Max Parkin had gone to Missouri twice. I pointed out that Chas Peterson had gone to Huntington Library as well as work in Salt Lake City and so on. Of all the people, I told them, I thought the one who had worked longest and hardest on the project was Tom Alexander, and I thought that he will expect to be paid the full amount less whatever he’d have to concede to send it to another publisher.

Lowell told me the strongest way he knew how that he is interested in many of the books and hopes that Deseret Book will be allowed by the authors to publish some of them. He thinks, for instance, that within two years he could publish Mick Backman’s without any difficulty. He knows, however, that he cannot publish Richard Bushman’s within the foreseeable future, because his was the one which has been the focal point of all the deliberation about the whole series and it will be politically naive for him to propose within two or three years the Bushman manuscript for publication. He thinks maybe Lanier Britsch’s, either manuscript, could be published within two or three years.

I asked Lowell if he would fly Richard Bushman out for the negotiation; he said of course he would expect to.

[LJA Diary, 30 Dec., 1980]

We’ve now had all our conferences with the sesquicentennial authors except one–Tom Alexander, being flown from Washington, D.C., who we shall see Monday. I feel very good, about the affair. Everyone is pleased that Deseret Book is being very generous in paying them for what they have done; everyone has promised to finish his book; and one of them has already submitted his book for immediate publication. So our goals are being reached better than I had a right to hope. We’re going to get the books out, probably at the rate of two or three per year, and quite possibly we’ll have two out by the end of 1981. Also Stan Kimball’s biography of Heber–due out by June; and Ken and Audrey Godfrey and Jill Derr’s book on women–due out by October or November. So things are moving ahead. They won’t be under our sponsorship, and that is probably a good thing. They’re great books and we’ll be proud to have “played a role.”

Love you! Dad

[LJA to Children, 7 Feb., 1981]


This termination of contract agreement is made this day of January 26, 1981, between DESERET BOOK COMPANY, a corporation with offices at 40 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Thomas G. Alexander, hereinafter called the “AUTHOR.”

The author understands that the Sesquicentennial History Series, and all contracts pertaining to the series are terminated upon our payment to the author of the agreed amount of $20,000. By paying this amount, the author agrees that DESERET BOOK has, in good faith, terminated the initial contract, dated December 1, 1972, and the amendment, dated November 15, 1974. In addition, the monies paid guarantee DESERET BOOK’s right of publication at some time in the future.

If the author chooses to seek publication with other than DESERET BOOK, the author agrees to notify DESERET BOOK and the prospective publisher of DESERET BOOK’s publishing rights. At time of publication by a publisher other than DESERET BOOK, the author and DESERET BOOK COMPANY will contract a mutually agreeable distribution of royalties and rights.



Vice President/General Manager

Thomas G. Alexander 


[Termination of Contract Agreement; LJA Diary, 9 Feb., 1981]

I learned that some time ago when Ed Lyon was in Nauvoo, Elder Hunter and his family came there on a Church history trip. They would read about each area as they came to it, in their hotel room at night. In the course of Ed’s comments to them as they were in Nauvoo, he told them some things that are not “traditional” history as it is generally taught. One of Elder Hunter’s sons said, “Dad, why are we doing this and not telling people the truth? Why is our history written like that?” Elder Hunter is reported to have responded that he regretted that it was, and that he sincerely hoped that we would do better in the future. 

[LJA Diary, 17 Feb., 1981]

Arrington: History must be provable

By Jo Scoffield

Universe Staff Writer

The challenge of writing religious history is an old one, and the task of documenting LDS history will lie continually before us, Dr. Leonard J. Arrington told his audience Wednesday night. 

Arrington, director of the newly organized Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, delivered the inaugural address entitled “The Writing of Latter-day Saint History: Problems, Accomplishments and Admonitions.”

“The problem is that facts never speak for themselves,” Arrington said. “Chronicles and testimonies and stories mean different things to different people.”

The religious historian must convey the facts honestly and straightforwardly, Arrington said, as well as bear testimony of the reality of spiritual experience.

“We must not use history as a storehouse from which deceptively simple moral lessons may be drawn at random,” Arrington said.

LDS historians must be responsive to human life in all its rich variety and diversity, “…in their high aspirations and in their fumbling weaknesses,” Arrington added.

A significant contribution to Mormon historiography was the establishment of the James Moyle Oral History Program in 1972 which has recorded 1500 interviews, Arrington told his audience. General Authorities, auxiliary organizations officers and old-timers with interesting stories to tell, are among those interviewed, Arrington said.

Gordon Irving, director of the program, “intends to continue to document the past and the present so as to preserve a record for the future,” Arrington said.

Most of the great histories of our people remain unwritten, Arrington added. He encouraged historians to develop the capacities “which will then enable us to write histories worthy of the marvelous work and a wonder that is our heritage.”

[Article in The Daily Universe; LJA Diary, 19 Mar., 1981]

I learned over the weekend that a story from a reputedly reliable source is circulating that Elder Benson and/or his office is/are not pleased with the J. Reuben Clark biography by Frank Fox. Indeed, the story is that they are absolutely livid about the publication of a book which details in such an intimate and honest way President Clark’s relative inactivity when he was a younger man in Washington. Because of this displeasure Elder Benson reportedly contacted the Clark trustees (Affleck, Romney, and J. Reuben Clark III) and insisted that a member of the Twelve read the manuscript which Mike Quinn has prepared and approve it before it is published. According to the story, Elder Monson has been assigned the responsibility of reading the manuscript.

The trustees have seen roughly half the manuscript completed by Quinn, which is now approximately 350 pages. They will be meeting this Wednesday, April 15, to make definite determination of the conditions under which the manuscript will be published. It is my understanding that Mike is fearful that (a) the manuscript in its present form may not be published; or (b) that it will be published only if and when approved by the Twelve, which certainly means considerable editing and revising.

After learning this news, I telephoned Mike to ask him if he would give to me on a confidential basis a copy of the manuscript he has completed so that we might have a copy in its undiluted form. He agreed to do so this week provided this were understood to be completely confidential. He is fearful, he said, that the trustees, after the meeting Wednesday, will instruct him not to show the manuscript to anybody until it has been approved. 

I learned also over the weekend that Ron Walker is well acquainted with Bill Nelson, the executive secretary of President Benson. Before coming with us about 1974, Ron was assigned to work with the curriculum people in the Church educational system, and his department head was Bill Nelson. This was before the latter was assigned to go with Elder Benson. Ron said that both he and Bill quickly learned that their philosophies and approaches differed, and so they did not become particularly close and each was somewhat wary of the other. There was, however, a surface geniality and friendship. When The Story of the Latter-day Saints was released, Bill, on his own authority or on the authority of Elder Benson, wanted to have the book reviewed. Since he regarded Ron as a “liberal” historian, he certainly did not want Ron to review it, although that would have been natural for him to do. Instead of getting somebody from our Church History Division, he got Gary Bennett, brother of Richard Bennett to review it. According to Ron, Gary was the author of the letter signed by Bill Nelson that went to Elder Benson and caused him to publicly criticize The Story of the Latter-day Saints, to ask for its withdrawal from sale, and to prohibit a second edition. 

[LJA Diary, 13 Apr., 1981]

I learned that Elder Hugh Pinnock, General Superintendent of the Sunday School, asked Peggy Fletcher to eliminate the “Sunday School Supplement” in Sunstone. He (and presumably others) felt that title gave some official endorsement. She agreed to change the title but insisted she would leave it in.

At the end of the conversation Elder Pinnock asked Peggy if she had any questions. She replied yes I have two. First, why was Story of the Latter-day Saints not reprinted and second, why was Leonard Arrington removed as Church Historian? Elder Pinnock said he knew the answer to the first question, namely that the Story of the Latter-day Saints contained some errors. Peggy asked him why couldn’t the errors be corrected and the volume re-issued, since Jim Allen and Glen Leonard have said many times they would be glad to correct all errors of fact and interpretation for second edition. Moreover, after refusing to publish a second edition of Story of the Latter-day Saints Deseret Book turned around and re-published Essentials in Church History which contains at least 100 tines as many errors of fact and interpretation, no reply.

[LJA Diary, 6 Jul., 1981]

Within a few days of my appointment as Church Historian I determined that I wanted Jim Allen and Davis Bitton to be my “counselors;” i.e., Assistant Church Historians. They were not formally called until early in March but I had told them privately that I was requesting them and felt confident they would be approved. I talked to each of them a number of times on the telephone, and as I recall, even had some meetings at which both were present. We discussed programs for the Historical Department which was to be organized.

One of the programs was the Sesquicentennial History project which ended up with the commission of 16 authors, each to write a volume on some phase or aspect of Church history. Second we thought that there were collections of documents in the Archives which ought to be edited and published and we thought these ought to be made available to historians and members of the Church. When we discussed this with Jim Mortimer of Deseret Book we decided to call it the Mormon Heritage Series. Early volumes projected in this series were:

Letters of Brigham Young to his sons to be edited by Dean Jessee.

Letters of Brigham Young to Indian Chiefs to be edited by Dean Jessee.

The holograph writings of Joseph Smith to be edited by Dean Jessee.

The sermons of Heber C. Kimball to be edited by Stan Kimball.

Documents relating to the spread of the gospel overseas to be edited by Spencer Palmer. 

I am not sure that all of these were worked out by the middle of March 1972 when Jim and Davis were officially approved and began to serve formally as Assistant Church Historians. No doubt these were worked out  over a period of several weeks. Eventually, of course, the Stan Kimball project of editing the sermons of Heber C. Kimball ended up as the biography of Heber C. Kimball recently published by University of Illinois press. When Gene Sessions became a member of our staff about 1974 or ‘75 we planned to have him edit the journal of Jedediah M. Grant which he began to do. Ultimately this ended up with a biography which is now scheduled for publication next year by the University of Illinois Press. The documents relating to the spread of the gospel overseas was published two or three years ago by Deseret Book as The Expanding Church by Spencer Palmer. The Dean Jessee editing of letters of Brigham Young to his sons was published by Deseret Book in 1974 and was regarded as a model for the rest of the series in terms of binding, paper, design, and so on. Hopefully the Dean Jessee volume on the holograph writings of Joseph Smith which is in the last stages of completion will be published in a similar manner.

As time went on we thought of other volumes for the Mormon Heritage Series; the diary of Brigham Young, the diary of Wilford Woodruff, letters of Parley P. Pratt, and writings of LDS women about episodes and personalities in Church history. In about 1974 we commissioned Ken Godfrey to do that volume and he and his wife Audrey worked on it for a year before he was called on his mission. It was completed by Jill Mulvay Derr of our staff and is currently being published by Deseret Book. It is doubtful, however, that it will have the same binding, paper, etc. as the Brigham Young letters book.

While the Mormon Heritage Series had good support from Elder Dyer and Elder Anderson we became aware in 1978 that it did not have full support from all members of the Twelve, specifically two members of the Twelve had reservation about the series: Elder Petersen and Elder Packer. Both had their confidence in our judgment marred by our leaving in the Brigham Young letters to his sons volume a reference in which Brigham tells his son Brigham Young Jr., while on a mission in England that he ought to give serious consideration to giving up his use of tobacco while he was a missionary. There may have been other little things in the volume they did not like of course our own thinking was you do not build confidence in the integrity of your book if you leave out all of the passages that reflect any problems. We did have excellent reviews on the book and we felt, and continue to feel, very proud of it. We have no second thoughts about how it was handled.

But because of this observation Deseret Book, under the influence of their cautious president Marvin Ashton, have been less enthusiastic about the series than they were in the early 1970s. The result is the heavy editing of some of our things and the name “Mormon Heritage Series” has been removed from some of these books. Examples of the heavy editing are the Spencer Palmer book on The Expanding Church which was cut by about 1/3; the women book by Godfrey and Derr which was cut by about 1/3, the Dean Jessee volume of Joseph Smith holographs which apparently will be run as two volumes published in separate years. 

[Background on the Mormon Heritage Series; LJA Diary, 11 Aug., 1981]

The idea of the Sesquicentennial Series was first advanced to me by Richard Bushman when he was a professor at BYU in the late 1960s. It was in my mind the moment after my call by President Tanner. Jim, Davis, and I worked out the names of the 16 authors, held conferences with Deseret Book and others and had the thing going before the end of March. We had discussions with Elder Dyer and later with the First Presidency. We circulated the proposal which was enthusiastically endorsed by Jim Mortimer representing Deseret Book.

Originally the authors were to be paid in the form of royalties on the books. Contracts with royalty provision was included. Later we began to have reservations about that as did our General Authority advisors. It was not fair to some authors writing histories of non-exciting periods and aspects to receive less than those writing the more saleable books. And so we finally got the Church to agree to an arrangement to give everybody a flat fee for writing the book. At the time that flat fee was a substantial amount–it does not seem so lucrative today. Many contracts were signed by each of the authors, I think in 1974. In 1980 the authorities of the Church made a decision that the series, as a series, would be discontinued and that every book would be on its own. The announcement on that is in the MHA newsletter time before last. Let me add that each author had indicated his expectation of finishing the volume and Deseret Book has made substantial payments to the various authors in return for work they have already done. Each author is now free to publish on his own responsibility with whatever publisher he is able to work out an arrangement with. 

[Appointment of Jim Allen, Davis Bitton, and Maureen Beecher and Progress of Sesquicentennial History; LJA Diary, 11 Aug., 1981]

Notes on the address of Elder Boyd K. Packer, August 22, 1981, at the concluding session of the 1981 Church Education System Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. The address was delivered in the DeJong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, on the campus of Brigham Young University.

(Note: The setting for this address was the fact that the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History is the topic that will be dealt with during the 1981-82 school year in the Seminary program of the Church, arid this was the general topic of the symposium being held. A specific title was not announced for the talk, but it centered around the theme: “The Mantle is Greater than the Intellect: Some Cautions on the Writing and Teaching of Church History.”


Elder Packer began the talk by indicating that he knew the sensitive nature of it, and that he had prayed very hard over the subject.

There is a tendency for those with academic training to judge the Church, past and present, by the principles of their own profession. But it should be the other way around. We should judge the professions of men by the revealed word of the Lord. 

Many people have lost their testimonies because of the learning of the world, in many academic disciplines.

Elder Packer told the story of an LDS teacher who went away to a major Eastern university to get a Ph.D. degree in Counseling and Guidance. He wrote a dissertation dealing with the role of the Mormon bishop as counselor. Elder Packer helped him obtain permission to get interviews with Mormon bishops on the subject, which were necessary to his research. When he wrote the dissertation, he included in it the spiritual aspects (i.e., the role of inspiration and revelation). The committee, however, denied him the dissertation because the spiritual aspects were there and this did not square with the professional standards. The teacher came to Elder Packer for advice, and Elder Packer advised him to change the wording so that it simply read “Mormons believe…” with reference to inspiration and revelation. He did this but was still not passed. He was told, however, that if he left the spiritual references out entirely he would pass. In addition, he was told he would probably get the dissertation published, and that he had the ability and intellect that would eventually make him one of the well recognized experts in the field. He did take out the references to revelation, and was awarded his degree. It was not as scholarly as it could have been,  however, if he had left revelation in (for as it stood it did not tell the whole story). That teacher is still in the Church Education System. He is not prominent and famous in his academic discipline, for he has chosen not to go that direction. But he brings spirituality into what he does, and he is better off for it. (Elder Packer was speaking in tones of genuine approval of what the teacher has done by sacrificing fame for the spirit.)

“The mantle is greater than the intellect.”

There are many LDS scholars who leave out the spiritual in what they teach and write.

Teaching Church History this year is an unparalleled opportunity to build faith–to show students that the Lord has watched over the Church. 

Four cautions to teachers and writers of Church History:

1. There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church that ignores the spirit.

One cannot, for example, write a biography of Mendelssohn without mentioning music. Music and the inspiration that came from it was such a basic part of Mendelssohn’s life that it cannot be ignored by anyone writing about him. (By analogy, the spirit is so basic to the Church that to ignore it is to not tell the true story.)

Most of us are not immune from the danger. We are actually more vulnerable than other disciplines. If not properly written or taught, Church history may be faith destroying. If we write on the pretext that the world will not understand the spiritual side, then our writing will not be scholarly. If we write without the spirit, it will not be spiritual. (I.e., he was making the point that genuine “scholarship” or “objectivity” must take into account the spiritual, must be spiritual, and that anything less than this with regard to Church history is therefore not scholarly.)

Do not put scholarship first and faith second. Do not let our professional training prevent us from seeing with the eyes of faith.

If someone writes without the spirit, no matter how well trained, anyone who reads it can tell that he does not have the spirit. 

Unfortunately, we have had some sad experiences with that kind of history over the past few years.

2. There is a temptation for writers to want to tell everything, whether it is faith promoting or not.

If you have an exaggerated loyalty to the idea that “everything must be told,” you will distort.

One historian gave a talk on Brigham Young in which he seemed to delight in pointing out weaknesses and failings. One who did not really know Brigham Young would come away from such a talk doubting. (i.e., doubting his prophetic calling.)

The scriptures teach that we must give milk before meat. There are some things that must be taught “selectively.”

Some historians write and speak as if the only people listening are other professional historians, but thee will destroy faith. It may be unintentionally, but it will nevertheless be wrongly.

The historian who talked of Brigham Young the way this one did has destroyed faith. He had devised a way to find weaknesses, and in the process he has destroyed faith.

(Elder Packer concentrated, at some length, on historians who want to find weaknesses. Those who dwell on these things destroy faith, and those who destroy faith stand in eternal jeopardy.)

He told of a conversation with Elder Henry D. Moyle regarding a teacher who was hurting faith. Pres. Moyle said that this teacher was not a member of the Church. When someone in the group observed that he had not heard that any action had ever been taken to excommunicate the teacher, Elder Mole replied that the man had cut himself off. 

One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession regardless of what it does to members of the Church is in jeopardy. He does not realize that they are not ready for “advanced history.”

We will be judged for our intent as well as for our effect (i.e., if the effect is to destroy faith, we will be held accountable.) 

Some historians try to bring great Church leaders down to their own level for self-justification.

It destroys faith to point out faults and weaknesses of Church leaders. (But some historians follow the tenets of their profession instead of the tenets of the faith.)

3. In an effort to be objective, writers of history may tend to give equal time to the adversary.

Some historians are careful to include criticism in their writing, because they want the praise of their professional colleagues. They seem to feel ashamed of their commitment to the gospel.

By analogy, Elder Packer referred to 1 Nephi 8: the vision of the tree of life. He quoted, in particular, verse 28: “And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” The important word here is “after.” He likened this to some historians who have tasted of the gospel, but after that became ashamed because of the scoffing of their profession.

There is no such thing as impartial history. You cannot be detached (impartial) and defend the kingdom.

We are at war with the adversary. We have the special obligation to build the faith. The patience of the Lord and of the brethren is short with those who are under covenant to defend the kingdom and do not.

Those who have purged their work of faith should expect no help from the Church in their research.

He used the example of a lawyer who is defending a corporation against the onslaught of a rival corporation. What would we say of the lawyer who, once he has been given access to the secrets and files of that corporation, gives the information to the other? He has violated a trust, and would not again be trusted by the corporation. (This was, by analogy, directed to those who provide information in their writings that help the cause of the adversary.) 

He warned that those who steal documents from the Church for selfish purposes are in trouble, and he warned those who use such material.

We should not join any organization or contribute to any publication whose spirit and intent is faith destroying.

As an example, he told of a group of men who invited him to a luncheon at Harvard Business School. They wanted him to join a certain organization, but he declined. One man said words to the effect that “we are all good, faithful members of the Church, however…” It was that word “however” that bothered Elder Packer, and this was the reason he did not join the group. If the man had said “we are faithful members of the Church, ‘therefore,’” then he would have joined them.

We cannot walk both sides of the street. 

There was a seminary class in which a debate was held on the subject: “Resolved: Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.” Unfortunately, the “negative” side won, because the students assigned to that side were the sharpest, most clever debaters. But what did this do to the class, since, regardless of the outcome, Joseph Smith was still a prophet of God? All the argument in the world did not make Joseph Smith not a prophet. But the seeds sown in a class like that were dangerous.

How do you find out about a person–from his friends or from his enemies?

Too few of us are in the business of defending the faith.

4. There is a fallacy in the idea that so long as something is in print, or in some other source, and available, then there is no harm in reproducing it. 

Students may not be ready for “advanced history.” 

He warned against getting items from our detractors, and cited Ezra Taft Benson’s address to this group of several years ago. Here, Elder Benson warned against buying or subsidizing the work of apostates, even if it is only to get the information you think you need. Using such information can plant seeds of apostasy in the minds of youth.

For example, he told the story of a young missionary who went to the MTC and then confessed to committing a very terrible sin. It was the type of sin that was so grievous in nature that the young man could hardly have thought about doing it without some prompting. Elder Packer asked him where he got the idea, and, to his great surprise and shock, the young man answered that he got it from his bishop during his missionary interview. The bishop had asked the young man, as part of the interview, “have you ever done so and so…?” and then proceeded to describe the sin in detail. The young man had never done it, but the idea so worked on him that, in a final moment of weakness before his mission, he committed the sin.

Elder Packer emphasized the idea that even unknowingly you can put a dangerous idea in someone’s mind.

Cited Moroni, chapter 7 (verses 16 and 17?). 

(At one point in the talk Elder Packer was emphasizing the importance of teaching and writing by the spirit, and told an illustrative story of an experience he had in California. He was going to the coast on an assignment, and the President of the Church called him and asked him to go a day or so early in order to investigate a matter that could require some Church disciplinary action. He went early, held the appropriate interviews in order to get the facts, then went to a park and sat there for two hours thinking about the situation. He finally used a pay telephone to call the President of the Church and report the facts to him. The President asked Elder Packer what he thought should be done. Elder Packer replied with words such as “I do not think we should act now, but if you tell me to, I will act.” He will never forget, he said (with obvious deep emotion in his voice), the words of the President as they thundered back over the telephone: “Don’t you ever go against the spirit!” As a result, Elder Packer did not act. The implication for teaching and writing history, of course, was that it should be directed by the spirit.)

There are several indispensable qualifications needed for one to teach the history of the Church.

1. Do you believe that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith? (That is, an actual appearance, as real beings.)

2. Do you know that Joseph Smith’s testimony is true, because you have experienced the same kind of testimony of the spirit?

3. Do you believe that this Church, restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, is the only true and living Church on the face of the whole earth? (See D&C 1:30)

4. Do you know by the spirit that the present day prophets receive revelation?

He noted, especially, that academic qualifications were not among the qualifications listed as essential to those who would teach Church history.

(Miscellaneous closing comments:)

What about the historian who defames early or present Presidents of the Church? You can find in the story of Alma the younger one who did worse than that. (But, the implication of this statement was, Alma the younger repented.)

He told the story of a prayer he heard a recent president of the Church offer concerning one historian who had defamed an early prophet. The prayer condemned the teachings of that historian in the strongest terms, and asked that his fame would diminish and that the “stinking odor” of his work would follow him into his grave where the earth would swallow it up.

Elder Packer said that he sometimes moans in agony at all the research that has been done in the archives of the Church, when so much of the secular comes out yet all the spiritual material that is there does not emerge in what is written.

He read from a letter of Joseph Smith to W. W. Phelps,

22 July 1840 (See Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4: 162-64). Phelps had turned against Joseph Smith and then come back and was received into full fellowship again. Included in the portion quoted were these words: “Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall he happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.”

Oh, Elder Packer commented, what we would have lost if Phelps had not come back, and he stressed Phelps’ contributions to the Church, particularly in the area of music.

(These comments seemed designed to suggest that anyone who had offended could still come back. He told of a young man who had been excommunicated from the Church. Elder Packer happened to see President Kimball one day just as the President was getting into his car on the way to the airport. When the President learned that Elder Packer had been dealing with that particular situation, he had him get in the car and talk. Elder Packer said something to the effect that it would be a long time before that young man’s blessings were restored, whereupon Pres. Kimball patted him on the knee and said, “maybe not so long.”)

Elder Packer commented on the weaknesses of the brethren, saying “you do not know our weaknesses,” but indicating that the brethren then and now were men, with the weaknesses of men. Joseph Smith, for example, could not even spell correctly, so how he must have been grateful for the help of scribes who could help him prepare his documents in the proper manner. He also told the story of going into President Kimball’s office one day, shortly after he became President, and finding him crying. When Elder Packer asked why, President Kimball replied: “I am such a small man for such a big job.” All this is an indication of how much help the brethren need in their work.

You who are the scholars and the intellects, we need your help. We do not have time to research and write about the history of the Church–we are called to organize and administer the Church, for we have the keys to the ordinances and power of the priesthood. You are needed to help us.

It may be that you will lay your scholar acclaim and the praise of the world at the alter, and sacrifice it for the sake of the Church. But note that Abraham found out that it was not necessary for him to sacrifice Isaac-only to be willing to do so.

Teach for faith, teach for testimony.

Quoted from Joseph Fielding Smith and Stephen L. Richards on the role historians should play in building the faith. Their purpose should be to use the history of the Church to build faith.

Ended by leaving his apostolic blessing with the teachers. 

[Notes on Elder Packer address; LJA Diary, 22 Aug., 1981]




1. Who was the secretary for the executive committee minutes? (1972-1973)

Helen Bird, Earl Olson’s Adm. asst.

2. There’s a mention of at least two orientation seminars for the writers of the 16 volume history. What was discussed, why were seminars needed, and was everyone able to come? What was the format for the seminar?

3. Richard Cracroft, in thanking you for participation in the BYU Festival of Arts, refers to an embarrassing situation used by a secretary which you handled graciously. Do you remember what it was? (illegible handwriting)

4. The Genealogical Society agreed to help acquire historical records (I presume, microfilm them) in Missouri and Illinois according to executive committee minutes. What ever happened on that project?

5. You began giving Know Your Religion lectures toward the end of 1972 and were involved apparently at least once a month. How did the invitation come? Why did you decide to do it? Was the money a consideration? After a while, you stop mentioning what you talked about, although you mention the people that you met and good stories that you collect. What were your normal subjects—or was it always the same? 

Recollections of our work, 1972-1973 Prepared for Lavina F. A.

1. Secretary for the executive committee minutes, 1972-1973 was Helen Bird, Earl Olson’s Administrative Assistant.

2. We gathered the writers of the 16-volume history together to discuss the project with them. As far as I recall, all sixteen were present except Richard Bushman, who was in the East, and we talked with him by telephone. We discussed a wide variety of matters. How handle maps? How handle the editing of quotations from original sources? How combine faith and scholarship in the writing? Who was the proper audience to write for, fellow historians or “ordinary” LDS readers? At what stage should they submit their manuscript? We simply sat around a table and talked about these problems and reached an understanding. But the “understanding” is too diffuse to put down in black and white. Just record that we did have sessions to discuss these matters, in a democratic way.

3. The Richard Cracroft letter referred to a situation where I was assigned to present my paper in a certain nice large room. But when I went there, a class was assembling. The professor was Stephen Covey; it was a religion class. Thinking it might be part of my audience, and Steve not being there, I got up in front of the group to ask if they had come to hear a lecture for the Festival of Arts. Various ones said no, this was a religion class. Directly, Steve Covey came. I explained that I had been assigned to give my lecture in that room. He said, “Well, I’ll ask the class if they want to give it up.” So he asked the class, how many want to give up the class for a lecture for the Festival of Arts series. None. “How many want me to go ahead with my class.” Great enthusiasm and stomping of feet. So I hunted around for a room that was empty, found one. A small group followed me around. Perhaps ten persons. So I gave my lecture to them. The talk was subsequently published in BYU Studies, Winter 1974 issue.

4. The Gene did microfilm some historical records, along with lists of names, and these are in their archives. Not much help to us though. We subsequently, in 1973-4, were able to get Max Parkin and others who used their materials for the sesquicentennial histories, to Xerox extra copies of key manuscripts, and thus we received several thousand Xeroxes that were very useful. We provided fellowship money to the authors to pay for these Xerox costs.

5. I did Know Your Religion lectures in 1972-3 with a variety of topics. The most common talk was “Delights of Church History”–a general talk about our LDS history and our Historical Dept. work. In several localities I gave talks at the LDS Institute as well on a variety of topics, depending on what they wanted. I also prepared some talks on local history–History of Boise Stake, History of Twin Falls Stake, History of the Church in the Pacific Northwest, History of the Church in California, etc. 

[Recollections of our work, 1972-1973; LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1981]

Historical affairs have been moving ahead despite a mild reception. On the one hand Midgley, Packer and perhaps others believe that we are doing a disservice by writing history that is not always faith-promoting. On the other hand, hundreds tell us they support what we are doing and find their testimonies strengthened by honesty in reporting facts and by our professional approach. 

[LJA Diary, 24 Dec., 1981]

I have enjoyed reading some of the things our historians have produced in recent weeks and months and feel good about any role I may have played in getting “good” history written–by that I mean, accurate interpretive history. 

[LJA to Children, 3 Feb., 1982]

Mike Quinn telephoned me today with an incredible story. A history student with a minor in church history at BYU, a convert from Catholicism, had done a master’s thesis which was a demographic study of early Kirtland. The thesis had gone through the committee, had been read by the exam chairman, who was Keith Perkins, and he had passed the final exam before a committee, which included Mike, Keith, and Kenzell, the Jewish professor of history at the Y who had directed the thesis. Everybody regarded it as an outstanding thesis, and the papers had been signed that he had passed.

The thesis had then been turned over to Milt Backman, head of church history. Milt then came back to Keith saying that the thesis wasn’t faith promoting enough and that he would have to rewrite the first two chapters. He as chairman of church history couldn’t approve a thesis which the Brethren would think wasn’t sufficiently faith-promoting in tone and subject-matter. And this after the committee had already approved it! Apparently Milt persuaded Keith Perkins to insist on the revision, the rewriting.

The student had come to Mike and asked if this had to be done. Mike will talk with Jim Allen. He thinks it is too late to require the student to do any rewriting.

Mike (and I) are dismayed about the image this gives to Church History at BYU. What image does it give to the Catholic convert? To the Jewish professor? To the student? The latter, incidentally, was called in by Keith Perkins who used the following argument with him: “You know, if you let this thesis go through the way it is you might hamper your chance to be a bishop, or a stake president!” Great argument! 

[LJA Diary, 4 Feb., 1984]

Yesterday Dawn Tracy of the Salt Lake Tribune telephoned me to ask if I would make a comment about the letter that had gone out to bishops and stake presidents and regional representatives in Utah and Idaho stating that Val Avery and Linda Newell were not to be invited to speak in ward and stake functions. I told her I had no comment until I knew more about it.

Some three weeks ago, I gather, the letter went out. I do not know who was responsible for sending it out. Persons, counselors in bishoprics, etc., called it to the attention of Linda. She and Jack went to their stake president, a lawyer. Jack said, “You know this denies due process.” The stake president said he would investigate. None of the Twelve that he talked with, specifically two persons, were aware of it; they said there had been no discussion in the Council of Twelve about it. They said they would investigate further. My guess is that it came out under the orders of the office of Elder Benson. But that’s only a guess.

Somebody has told Dawn Tracy about it, and she plans to do a story. She thinks I should comment because I’m one who recommended the Emma book on the dust jacket.

[LJA Diary, 29 Jun., 1985]

Life of Emma Smith

LDS Officials Ban Authors from Lectures on History

By Dawn Tracy

Tribune Staff Writer

SLTribune 29 June 1985

Mormon Church officials have banned the authors of an award-winning book on Emma Smith, wife of church founder Joseph Smith, from speaking on historical topics in church meetings.

Officials from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refused comment. A church spokesman would not say if the order involves other Mormon writers and historians.

The ban apparently came from the church’s ruling First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to local church bishops in Utah, Idaho and Arizona.

The author, a Mormon who has served in numerous ward and stake church positions, learned about the ban from friends.

Linda Newell, co-author of “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith,” said church officials told her the speaking ban pertains “only to historical topics” and does not affect her standing in the church.

The book examines polygamy from a woman’s point of view.

Mrs. Newell said she had not discussed Mormon historical topics in church sacrament meetings because the subject is too “controversial.”

W. Eugene Hansen, an attorney and stake president, said it would be inappropriate to comment except to say Mrs. Newell is in “full fellowship and good standing with the church.”

Co-author of “Mormon Enigma,” Dr. Valeen Tippetts Avery, a professor of history at Northern Arizona University, could not be reached for comment.

Church spokesman Jerry Cahill said after talking to “appropriate church authorities,” he has no comment.

“It is a matter of policy that the church does not comment publicly about what goes on in private meetings with its members,” said Mr. Cahill.

When asked for a response to the ban, Mr. Cahill said “I am well aware of the questions but [I will] make no comment. I wouldn’t respond in this way if I had not talked to the appropriate officials.”

A few months ago, the authors shared a $10,000 prize in this year’s David Woolley Evans and Beatrice Cannon Evans Biography Award. Jeffrey Holland, president of the Mormon church-owned Brigham Young University, presented the award personally.

The book also has received Best Book Award for 1984 from the Mormon History Association.

On the book’s jacket, former Mormon church historian Leonard J. Arrington praised the work as “One of the great biographies in Mormon and 19th Century American literature.”

Other comments on the dust jacket are from James L. Clayton, historian and Dean of the University of Utah Graduate School. Dr. Clayton said the book is “thoroughly researched, clearly written and nicely balanced.” 

Mr. Arrington and Dr. Clayton said they don’t have enough information to comment.

Mrs. Newell said she heard of the ban on June 9 from friends who serve in leadership positions in nearby Salt Lake LDS wards and stakes. 

Friends reported they had “received instructions in bishopric meetings” not to invite Mrs. Newell or Dr. Avery to speak in church, according to Mrs. Newell.

Mrs. Newell said the stake president, and later, church apostles Neal Maxwell and Dallin Oaks confirmed the order.

“It [the ban] originated at church headquarters by telephone, was set down the communication line through area presidents, then regional representatives, then stake presidents, then bishops,” said Mrs. Newell. “Needless to say, by the time the message was relayed to us by other concerned friends, it was considerably garbled and came in various versions.”

Mrs. Newell said Elders Maxwell and Oaks later told her “some aspects of the portrayal of Joseph Smith in her book were reasons for the action.” 

“No one had any explanation as to why, as lifetime church members, neither Val [co-author Avery] nor I had been informed officially of this decision or been given an opportunity to speak in our own behalf,” she said. “By not informing us, established church rules of due process were ignored.” 

Mrs. Newell and her husband L. Jackson Newell, dean of liberal education, University of Utah, are co-editors of “Dialogue,” a Mormon intellectual journal.

Elder Oaks, who resigned as state supreme court justice to assume his current church position, is a former member of Dialogue’s editorial board. 

Mrs. Newell said she assumes the ban is not an attack on the journal.

“What has happened is self-defeating and unfortunate,” said Dr. Newell. “The authors were intellectually honest and tried to treat history with fairness and balance. We’ve asked that the decision be reconsidered.”

Mrs. Newell said she did not want to discuss controversial stories in the book because “they could be taken out of constant.”

“Our task was to tell Emma [Smith’s] story as clearly and accurately as we could,” said Mrs. Newell. “We wrote about Joseph [Smith] in the context of her life. What he did affected her and other women who were her friends so the view of Joseph we give is the more human said as he interacts as husband, father and friend.

“Mormons, like most Americans are not used to reading their history” from a woman’s viewpoint but I am confident that “Mormon Enigma can stand on its own merit,” she said.

Emma Smith did not travel to Utah with the main body of the Mormon church in 1846. Neither did she accept the concept of polygamy-espoused by Joseph Smith-although she believed her husband was a prophet.

Contrary to popular  Mormon thought, Mrs. Smith did not participate in the organization of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Nor did she encourage her son to become the splinter church’s leader, according to the book.

After Joseph Smith’s murder in 1844, Mrs. Smith married Lewis Bidamon, a non-Mormon. Mr. Bidamon later had an illegitimate son whom Emma Smith reared.

On her deathbed, Emma Smith urged her husband Bidamon to marry the child’s mother so the boy would be legitimate. She also cared for Joseph Smith’s mother Lucy Mack Smith.

Emma Smith died in 1879.

“If I could describe Emma Smith in one word,” said Mrs. Newell, “it would be ‘compassionate.’”

[LDS Officials Ban Authors, SLTribune Article; LJA Diary, 29 Jun., 1985]

Deseret News

Salt Lake City, Utah

Jun 30 1985

Co-author says LDS ban her talks on history

Associated Press

LDS Church officials have banned the co-authors of an award-winning book on Emma Smith, wife of first church President Joseph Smith, from speaking on historical topics in church meetings, one of the authors said.

A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refused comment and would not say if the order involves other Mormon writers and historians.

Linda Newell, co-author of “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith,” said church officials told her the speaking ban pertains only to historical topics and does not affect her standing in the church.

The book examines polygamy from a woman’s point of view.

Newell said she had not discussed Mormon historical topics in church sacrament meetings because the subject is too controversial.

Co-author Valeen Tippetts Avery, a professor of history at Northern Arizona University, could not be reached for comment.

Church spokesman Jerry Cahill said, “It is a matter of policy that the church does not comment publicly about what goes on in private meetings with its members.”

When asked for a response to the ban, Cahill said, “I am well aware of the questions but (I will) make no comment. I wouldn’t respond in this way if I had not talked to the appropriate officials.”

A few months ago, the authors shared a $10,000 prize in this year’s David Woolley Evans and Beatrice Cannon Evans Biography Award. Jeffrey Holland, president of the church-owned Brigham Young University, presented the award.

The book received Best Book Award for 1984 from the Mormon History Association.

On the book’s jacket, former Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington praised the work as “one of the great biographies in Mormon and 19th-century American literature.”

Other comments on the dust jacket are from James L. Clayton, historian and dean of the University of Utah Graduate School, who said the book was “thoroughly researched, clearly written and nicely balanced.”

Arrington and Clayton said they don’t have enough information to comment on the speaking ban.

Newell said she heard of the ban on June 9 from friends who serve in leadership positions in nearby Salt Lake wards and stakes.

Friends reported they had received instructions in bishopric meetings not to invite the authors to speak in church.

Newell said the stake president, and later, Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Council of Twelve, confirmed the order.

Newell said Elders Maxwell and Oaks later told her “some aspects of the portrayal of Joseph Smith in her book were reasons for the action.”

“No one had any explanation as to why, as lifetime church members, neither Val nor I had been informed officially of this decision or been given an opportunity to speak in our own behalf,” she said. “By not informing us, established church rules of due process were ignored.”

Newell and her husband, L. Jackson Newell, dean of liberal education at the University of Utah, are co-editors of Dialogue, a Mormon intellectual journal.

[Co-author says LDS ban her talks on history, Deseret News; LJA Diary, 30 Jun., 1985]

Talked with Linda Newell on the telephone today. She said she had just received a call from Gene Hansen, her stake president, saying that he was officially authorized to tell her that the ban on her speaking on Mormon history in Sacrament meetings was rescinded. She may now accept invitations to speak to Church groups.

About two weeks ago, she said, she had gone to President Hansen to say that she thought the ban was net helpful to her or to the Church. She had received three times as many invitations to speak; book sales had increased three times; the press had pictured the Church as trying to suppress history; and so on. He agreed to “take up the matter with the Authorities.” We don’t know who he talked with or what they said, but he telephoned to say that he was authorized and officially instructed to inform her that it was lifted. There would be no public statement by the Church, but she was free to tell people. She said I was free to tell anyone. I watched the Deseret News and Tribune to see if any story on it. None.

Linda said she would accept two or three invitations, just to demonstrate that it was an accomplished fact. Then she would not accept many. Takes too much time, she said. She has other things to do. She was very pleased and thought it would be nice for Val also, who is now taking over as president of Mormon History Assn. next week. 

[LJA Diary, 25 Apr., 1986]

2. The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Allen and Leonard has been reprinted and is on the shelves. 10,000 printed. Just like the first printing, including my foreword as church historian.

[LJA to Children, 5 May, 1986]

An Approach to Church History

A Statement of Principles 

3 July 1986

As members of the planning committee for Brigham Young University’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Church in Great Britain, we have been asked to prepare a statement expressing our views on how LDS scholars might approach the writing and teaching of Church history. Accordingly, we present the following as our personal feelings.

James B. Allen 

R. Lanier Britsch 

Donald Q. Cannon 

Ronald K. Esplin 

James R. Moss 

Keith W. Perkins 

Malcolm R. Thorp

Those who teach and write the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are dealing with history that has a dual nature. Like other histories, it includes a study of man’s activities, problems, and achievements, but it is also sacred history, for it deals with revelations of God to man and with the sacred events that are foundations of our faith. For this reason, teachers and writers of LDS Church history have certain special challenges and responsibilities, some of which this statement is intended to suggest.

No history, whether sacred or secular, is a complete record of all the events of the past. All written history is, in fact, an interpretation of the past. This interpretation should be based on a careful search for and analysis of all the facts, documents, and other sources historians can discover, but it is also inevitably affected by their personal and professional assumptions about the past. No historical writing is “value-free,” since all historians bring a set of personal values and predispositions to everything they write. Teachers and writers of history do more than reconstruct the past: they become creators, and it is the images of the past they create that remain in the hearts and minds of those who accept their interpretations.

We believe that teachers and writers of Church history at BYU should take seriously the counsel of the late President Spencer W. Kimball. Speaking during the university’s centennial celebration in 1975, he commented on the importance of demonstrating both scholarship and faith:

The faculty has a double heritage which they must pass

along: the secular knowledge that history has washed to the feet of mankind with the new knowledge brought by scholarly research–but also the vital and revealed truths that have been sent to us from heaven . . .

Your double heritage and dual concerns with the secular

and the spiritual require you to be “bilingual.” As LDS

scholars you must speak with authority and excellence to

your professional colleagues in the language of scholarship, and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things.

In this spirit, teachers and writers of Church history should demonstrate such highly responsible scholarship that their professional colleagues will recognize their thoroughness and scholarly integrity. At the same time, they should be so conversant with and sensitive to their spiritual heritage that their commitment to the faith is clear and their teaching and writing in no way detracts from that faith.

As scholars, those who teach and write Church history should be capable of investigating all relevant historical questions. They should face all the evidence squarely, weigh the available facts as best they can according to merit, bring all the critical tools of the scholar to bear to establish what actually happened, and then make an effort to determine the meaning of what happened to those to whom it happened.

It must be recognized, however, that some questions cannot be answered or dealt with by traditional scholarly methods alone, and LDS scholars should be willing to identify those questions, along with their own assumptions of faith, to their professional colleagues. The literal reality of the Savior’s Resurrection and the actuality of Joseph Smith’s First Vision are two examples. Such events as these can neither be “proved” or “disproved” by scholarly methods. While we can investigate their setting and their meaning, their reality can be affirmed only by the witness of the Spirit. When they deal with such sacred events, those who have that witness will be sensitive to the importance of neither clouding nor diminishing the faith of others.

As men and women who understand both the language of scholarship and the language of faith, our teachers and writers of church history must also be sensitive to the implications their readers may see in what they present. Especially when dealing with issues that affect the foundations of the faith, they should let their own assumptions about their faith be just as evident as their scholarship. In addition, they should be concerned with certain other values in history. President Ezra Taft Benson has said, for example, that “the lessons of history stand as guideposts to help us safely chart the course for the future.” Where possible, our scholars should help erect those guideposts. They should also be concerned about the sensitive nature of some of the facts they may discover in their research, realizing that, if not sensitively presented, some facts could have a negative effect on the faith of their students. This does not mean they should ignore the facts. Rather, it means that they should ask themselves two important questions: (1) Is it necessary to use a particular piece of evidence at all–is it really important to the subject being dealt with, or can it be left unsaid without detracting from what the scholar is trying to accomplish? (2) If it is essential to the story, then how can one present it in an unsensational and sympathetic manner that will put things in proper perspective? Dealing with truth is one of the primary functions of history but, as Elder Russell M. Nelson has suggested to the faculty, “Truth, like justice, can be harsh and unforgiving when not tempered by mercy. But when truth is magnified by mercy or rectified by righteousness, it can be converted from a force to destroy to a force to bless.” Historical facts and documents do not speak for themselves, and it is the task of the Church historian to provide that interpretive balance that will exemplify and promote the “bilingual” ideal that blends exemplary scholarship and solid faith. 

[An Approach to Church History; LJA Diary, 3 Jul., 1986]

We have a friend, not a member of the Church but sympathetic, who has been an interested observer of LDS affairs for many years. He reads that a new development has taken place with respect to the writing of Church history that will be regarded by all LDS historians as unfavorable. He phones one of us and says, sadly enough, “a step backward.” A few months elapse. We read of the adoption of a new policy that will be helpful to our historians. One of us will telephone him to say, “a step forward.” And so it goes, month after month, year after year. The tensions of writing religious history are such that, over time, it becomes easier or it becomes more difficult.

On the one hand there are forces that want to protect historical sources for use only by those who will be sure to give a positive interpretation. On the other hand, there are also parties that believe the full and honest reporting of the evidence will lend credibility and will, in the long run, prove advantageous to the Church. On the one hand, history is on our side, let the consequence follow. On the other hand, it is only on our side as long as we can control the historians!

Well, we took one step forward when officials announced the appointment of Elder John Carmack as managing director of the Historical Department. He is broadgauged, reads our history and likes it, is his own lawyer, and is friendly to genuine historical scholarship.

[LJA Diary, 29 Aug., 1986]

As others celebrate and honor you in regards to the anniversary of the publication of Great Basin Kingdom, let me add my own recollection of my experience with the book. It must have been in 1970 when I was a freshman at Utah State that I finally settled down to devour the text. It was at a time when I was reading voraciously. About this same time I was reading a lot of black radical literature for school, so it must have been the spring quarter when I had that class from the black Marxist professor in Black History. I read Franz Fanon, Eldridge Cleaver, James Baldwin and a collection of poetry called Blackfire edited by LeRoi Jones (he has an African name now). I was feeling fairly radicalized myself and was writing my regular column for Student Life. I suppose I was about as educationally radicalized as you could get at a Shangri-La like USU in Cache Valley. It was the spring, I recall, of Kent State. And the spring, for me, of the Aggie Joker

I’m not sure why I picked up Great Basin Kingdom. I suppose my personal identification with you was almost at its peak as I found myself studying economics at your home institution. I suppose, also, that reading other “ethnic” literature prompted a desire in me to understand the roots of my own culture.

I remember reading the hardbound edition, which I carried with me to Bolivia and re-read over the span over the time of my time in South America and, on several occasions, lent to fellow elders. I remember Elder Blodgett read it, as did Kevin Barnhurst.

The first time through in Logan I remember spending hours transfixed in this tan lean-back reading chair that I’d bought for $15. By this time I was living down in the old Henryites section of our house. I remember spending days and days poring over each page. I’m not a fast reader (still) and I recall being impressed with how densely packed each paragraph was with information. It certainly provided a brilliant sweep of the story and marvelous details. I especially enjoyed the detailed lists of what the pioneers and colonists took with them to create settlements. My other stark memory was the anger and indignation against the federal government and all of the unfair “carpet bagging” takeovers that took place in the wake of the polygamy scandal. I suppose this episode fueled my already-existant anti-government feelings that were created by the war in Vietnam.

I’m sure the book created in my own character a foundation for my own faith, which I suppose for some time was founded on cultural identity. The heritage of the pioneer story creates deep roots, though I recall feeling a bit odd since my own roots were only two generations deep on one side and half a generation deep on mom’s side.

Since I was not an avid reader of Mormon history in any case, Great Basin Kingdom has loomed large in my own mind. To me it remains your most important contribution and will glow brighter as the years go on. If a person had to settle on a single volume to describe Mormonism, the book seems an inevitable choice.

It remains something of a touchstone in the firmament of my own Mormon identity. Perhaps because of that I have trouble with the modern church that, I believe, has forsaken the basic value of “integrity” that was the cornerstone of the early kingdom. In matters of theology, the Mormon Flame seems an ever smaller-though distinct-candle in my church. My own mystical bent and life experience show me that there are still greater basins in the kingdom of spirit. But I am only 36, and at the fulcrum of mortality, and one can never second guess fate or second guess from which direction the winds of belief will blow next. I remain open to nurturing breezes from whatever quarter, but fortified against the cold gales of unenlightened, dogmatic blather. Anyway, from this tiny Atlantic isle where so many of our forebears departed to help make desert blossom bloom, I toast the book and the man.

Much love,


[Carl to LJA and Harriet; LJA Diary, 13 May, 1988]

It is clear that Mormon history is now passe’. Not a single reporter was assigned to cover the MHA meetings in Logan. Not a single article about it being held in either Deseret News or Salt Lake Tribune. While pages devoted to a local real estate convention. Not a word on the historians. Nor was there any mention of the Great Basin Kingdom Symposium. Oh, well…

[LJA to Children, 18 May, 1988]

I have been asked to say a few words about how I happened to write Great

Basin Kingdom. Doing so will give me the opportunity of giving credit to several people that were particularly helpful.

It was my good fortune to do my graduate work at the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University, in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. When I went there, in 1939, the South was going through a cultural renaissance, and North Carolina professors were leading the way. There were a group of poets, novelists, playwrights, and journalists reasserting the legends and historical incidents of the Old South–John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe, W. J. Cash, W. T. Couch, and Jonathan Daniels; there was the scholarly concentration on regional studies by Howard W. Odum, Rupert Vance, Samuel H. Hobbs, C. Horace Hamilton, and other sociologists; and there was Milton S. Heath, my graduate advisor, in Economics. Heath always insisted that as I became immersed in Southern studies, I should expect to return to the West and do studies of the economics and history of my native region.

While exhilarating in this intellectual ferment, to my great surprise, in the spring of 1941, I read the description of a Mormon village in T. Lynn Smith’s Sociology of Rural Life. With mounting excitement I read similar commentaries about Mormon life in the works of other sociologists, both Mormons and non-Mormons. I found studies of Mormon communities by Lowry Nelson, which led me to a search for other articles and books on the secular aspects of Mormon life–works by historians, economists, historians, and folklorists. I was particularly fascinated to find an article published by Richard T. Ely in Harper’s in 1903 on “Economic Aspects of Mormonism.” I happened to meet Ely in the annual convention of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia in December 1941, and mentioned to him how much I enjoyed that article. He then gave me a personal lecture on the importance of the Mormons in American history and their praiseworthiness as a people. It was all a heady brew (that’s not a very good image, is it?) for an aspiring graduate student who happened to be an Idaho Mormon chicken farmer.

All of this did not jell, however, until I was in Italy during World War

II. In July 1945, two months after the surrender of Germany, I was located at Milan and began to think about what would happen when I was finally discharged and could return to North Carolina to complete graduate work and write a dissertation. I find in my files the carbon of a letter I wrote at that time to Dr. John A. Widtsoe, former president of the Utah State University and the University of Utah, and then an apostle of the LDS Church, in which I asked him if he thought a dissertation on the economic institutions and activities of the Mormons would be practical. He replied, in a letter I still prize, that such a study would be desirable, that there was ample material, and that he was aware of the difficulty of gaining access to the materials in the Church Archives. With respect to the latter, he wrote that if, at the beginning of my research, I asked them only for printed materials, and as the days and weeks went by, gradually progressed on to theses, scrapbooks, ward records, diaries, and name files, and if I patronized the library regularly, worked quietly, and kept my nose clean, he was sure that, in the end, they would give me access to everything I wanted to see. This, of course, is what eventually happened, and I was able to examine a large number of documents that had previously not been seen by any professional scholar.

At any rate, with this encouraging response, I planned, upon my return to Chapel Hill and Raleigh, to do a dissertation on some aspect of Mormon economics. My graduate advisor approved, wrote letters of support to economics departments in Western universities, and I finally received an appointment to Utah State University, where I remained for twenty-six happy years.

I went there in the summer of 1946, began research immediately in the LDS Archives, and continued with that research in the summers of 1947, 1948, and 1949. I worked through the Journal History, day by day, 1847 to 1906. I returned to North Carolina for completion of graduate course work in 1949-1950, finished language requirements, took the preliminary oral and final written exams, and wrote several essays on Mormon economic policies and institutions in preparation for the dissertation, which I finished in the spring of 1952 and took the final oral. (1. Women 2. Extent of coop institutions 3. Diaries of ordinary people, not just BY)

At that time, my advisor, Dr. Heath, thought I should give serious consideration to publishing an expanded version of the dissertation through the Committee on Research in Economic History, which had a grant from Rockefeller to publish several volumes on American Economic History through Harvard University Press. Upon Dr. Heath’s recommendation, that Committee sent me a grant to work on the manuscript, and I finally finished an 800-page manuscript in the summer of 1954. Under the title, “Building the Kingdom: Mormon Economic Activities in the West, 1847 to 1900” I sent the manuscript off to the Committee and it was read by Lewis Atherton, Edward Kirkland, and Herbert Heaton. They wrote long commentaries, with many helpful suggestions, both specific and general. I worked through them and had a manuscript ready within a year. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that the manuscript was, in the words of my colleague, George Ellsworth, a wonderful piece of research from which a splendid history could be written. It was too detailed, it didn’t have any central theme, it was, to be honest, tedious and dull. I was due for a sabbatical from Utah State, so my department head and I decided to use it rewriting the book. I applied for a six-month fellowship to the Huntington Library and a six-month fellowship to Yale. Both were granted, so we headed first for Southern California in the fall of 1956. Huntington was good enough to give me an office, opposite from that of Allan Nevins, I am proud to say, and I began the new work. Huntington was excited with what I was doing and soon promised a full-year fellowship, so we ended up not going to Yale. At the rate of one chapter per month, I wrote Great Basin Kingdom, completing it in the fall of 1957. It was accepted with hardly any alterations by the Committee, and it was published by Harvard Press in 1958. Some of my colleagues were surprised that it was more history than economics. So was I. But not chagrined. My fellow economists were as pleased as I.

That is not the whole story of the book, however. When I had begun my work on Mormon economics in the summer and fall of 1946, I was fortunate to have helpful interviews with several Utah scholars and oldtimers. I was able to talk with William Wallace, often called the father of Utah irrigation, who was old enough to have been with his father when he had a private consultation with Brigham Young in the 1870s. Charles C. Richards, then 96, told me about some financial dealings of the Church I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. So did LeRoi C. Snow, secretary to the Church’s First Presidency at the turn of the century. I talked with Ephraim Ericksen, Joseph Geddes, Feramorz Y. Fox, Preston Nibley, Dale Morgan, Wilfrid Poulson, T. Edgar Lyon, Leland Creer, A. C. Lambert, Juanita Brooks, with my department head, Evan Murray, and other Mormon scholars whose names will be familiar to many here tonight. When I went back East in 1949 I was able to have interviews with Oscar and Mary Flug Handlin, Frederick Merk, and Arthur H. Cole, each of whom did not hesitate to stress the importance of the Mormons in American history and to emphasize that I must follow through. Cole, a typical Harvard man, even offered to get me a job in a respectable eastern university so I wouldn’t have to remain at that “agricultural college out in, where was it, Utah or Idaho or somewhere!”

A red-letter event occurred in December 1950, when I met George Ellsworth, who had come to join our faculty in the Department of History. It was very exciting to me, and I was all a-tingle. With a brilliant mind, sound training in history at Berkeley, a precise writing style, and helpful manner, George was just the person to tutor me in the intricacies of Mormon history, literature, and historiography. With Gene Campbell, who had just come to the Logan Institute of Religion and who had a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern California, and Wendell Rich, also at the Institute in Mormon philosophy, we formed a little group that met once a month in our homes to read papers and benefit from each other’s scholarly criticism. I also took two seminars from Professor Ellsworth. What I learned from him was indispensable in writing Great Basin Kingdom. He was a great and generous teacher, and when I finished the draft chapters, I sent them to him, and his comments were very helpful. I owe much to him, and I am happy he is here so that I can acknowledge all this in his presence.

Other important and profitable conversations were held with Thomas O’Dea, Bill Mulder, Austin and Alta Fife, Richard Poll, Gus Larson, Russell Mortensen,

Everett Cooley, and Merle Wells. There are evidences of all these conversations in Great Basin Kingdom and other things I published afterward. I should also mention my students, some of who are here this evening, from whom I learned a great deal—about Utah, about Mormonism, and about the art of communication. In regard to the reception of the book, I need to say three things. The first is that it came out in the fall of 1958 when we were on a Fulbright in Italy. I didn’t see a copy of the book until the week after Christmas, and of course did not return until the following July, so there was no promotion, autograph parties, no presentation occasions. As far as I am aware, not a word about it was said in any of the Salt Lake newspapers.

The second thing is that as the book began to be sold and read, particularly by historians and graduate students, I began to get letters, complimenting me on the book and then asking me, ever so timidly, ever so obliquely, whether I was a Mormon. They suggested that they had been unable to determine my religious affiliation by reading the book. If I was a Mormon, why wasn’t the treatment more faith-promoting; if I was a Gentile, how could it be so even-handed and fair? Among those in the audience this evening is a professor at BYU who assigned the book to the forty students in his History of Utah class and required them to write a review of it. Then, on the final exam, he asked them to assess whether the author of the book was a Mormon. He sent me a copy of their responses. Roughly half of them concluded I was a Mormon, the other half that I was not. This was perhaps the supreme compliment that a book like this could have been given. (Insert John Hughes)

One other episode deserves mention. No less a person than that distinguished political scientist, Edward C. Banfield, author of The Moral Basis of a Backward Society and other important books, now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, came all the way to Logan to meet me to determine whether I was a Mormon and to what extent a faithful one. We invited him and his wife to dinner, of course, and as soon as we knelt in front of the table to have our prayer, he was ready to go home; he had his answer. Whether this surprised or pleased him, we were never able to determine, but it was clear that the book had made him sufficiently curious to learn whether a book like Great Basin Kingdom could have been written by a historian and social scientist who was also an orthodox Mormon.

All of this is interesting in view of the fact that when I went to the Church Historical Department as Church Historian in 1972, one of my colleagues thought I should be sure that the Church Library had copies of all my publications. So I went through the cardex there to see what they had. Sure enough, they had Great Basin Kingdom. Off to one corner of the cardex was the notation, “a”. I was anxious to find out what that meant, and finally learned that a little “a” in the corner of the index card meant “anti-Mormon.” Why would it have been classified as anti-Mormon? I asked. “Well,” one person replied, “it was a scholarly book, which meant it wasn’t designed to be faith-promoting; and if it wasn’t for the Church, then, by classification, it had to be against. Moreover, it didn’t go through a Church reading committee, which meant it wasn’t approved. And if it wasn’t approved, then, by definition, it must be…” well, you get the story. Needless to say, that policy was scrapped, and I hope it hasn’t been revived since I left the Historical Department!

Many years ago, Thomas A. Edison said, half in jest I suspect, that genius was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. A more modern inventor declared that, in his opinion, a successful invention was twenty percent inspiration, forty percent perspiration, and forty percent luck. Well, I think the element of luck should be given some consideration, but certainly there is plenty of perspiration in producing a book that has a lifetime of more than two or three years. If it is innovative, there must also be present some boldness, some audacity. And if that were true in the case of Great Basin Kingdom it must have come from the encouragement of those who pushed me on: Lowell Bennion, George Ellsworth, Grace Arrington, Milton Heath, Franklin Harris, Evan Murray, Milton Merrill, John Hughes, Charlie Stewart, and others.

As an economist, one of my favorite people was and is John Maynard Keynes, who could not only do economics, but could write it as well. Bertrand Russell once said of him that when Keynes concerned himself with politics and economics he left his soul at home. “This is the reason for a certain hard, glittering, inhuman quality in most of his writing,” wrote Russell. This, looking at it from my point of view, was a compliment. To say it another way, realities are not as dangerous as conceits, and one’s soul surely grows from hard facts bravely met. Personal preoccupations and didactic motives may be worthy, but they should not be allowed to repress our intellectual musings or our independent efforts to report our findings honestly and with due consideration to imperfect humanity. Only by our industry, imagination, and self-criticism will our community move toward greater knowledge and understanding and a more thoughtful uncertainty concerning our human heritage. Just as we must oppose in the strongest way shoddy scholarship, prejudicial writing, and fearful timidity in dealing with essential facts, we must be resolute in defending our right and obligation to preserve our credibility and our reputation for integrity.

Acknowledging that we sometimes poke ashes with embers, the Lord will surely prefer us to err on the side of honest disclosure. “God,” according to Moffatt’s translation of the prophet Isaiah, “does not need our lies”–our prettied-up pictures of events and personalities of the past. Writers of great fiction as well as writers of passages in Holy Writ make crystal clear that God is in the position of having to depend upon human instruments somewhat less than perfect in working out His purposes.

The renowned Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, has observed: “The neglect of truthfulness leads to hypocrisy, but the exaggeration of truthfulness leads to destructive fanaticism.” Whether as historians or as educators, we must guard against both. May our works of scholarship be marked by thorough research and superior writing, giving our readers new experiences, expanded horizons, and more profound understandings of our common past. 

[Leonard Arrington Remarks for Great Basin Kingdom Symposium Banquet; LJA Diary, 4 May, 1988]

During our talking you told me about Dad’s request that you write the Brigham Young biography and do it objectively for a general audience through a national publisher. You said he also asked you to submit it to three types of historian.

You expressed a willingness to go back to your journals and reconstruct the conversation with him. I’ll be grateful if you will do that. Some of the things I want to write about, in the story of his administration, are the successes and problems of church history writing during that period. You are, of course, more knowledgeable than anyone else.

When I have talked with him about history or biography, he was concerned about balance. On the one hand he believed in honesty and candor; on the other, he feared giving enemies of the church a handle for unfair criticism. He was willing to have weaknesses acknowledged, but did not want them made the focus.

I know it is an imposition to ask you to go back to your memory and your journal, but I want to be accurate in the picture I try to paint. 

[Edward L. Kimball to LJA; LJA Diary, 23 May, 1989]

Leonard J. Arrington 

2236 S. 2200 E. 

Salt Lake City, Utah 84109

Dear Leonard,

You have gone the extra mile again. Thank you so much for your careful report on the genesis of the Brigham Young biography. It represents really helpful information.

Your reference to the shifting of historians to the Smith Institute at BYU raises for me the question of my father’s role in that decision. Armand Mauss suggested to me that Dad might have engineered it as a political compromise between allowing the historian’s office to go on as before and radically curtailing its activities. Are you aware of Dad’s role and can you tell me about it?

Your attribution to him of encouraging your work and of being concerned with your scholarly credibility and steering you away from “Correlation” suggests that he might have preferred things to go on as they did during the first years of his presidency.

The change might mean either (1) that he was uninvolved (because of poor health or distraction by other responsibilities), or (2) that he affirmatively desired the change (to protect you against the burden of being official spokesperson or because he was uncomfortable with how much openness had been evidenced), or (3) that he felt the move to BYU was all he had the energy to salvage of the earlier “Camelot,” which was under attack.

I know my questions impose on your good nature, but they are important to the story I want to tell of my father’s life, particularly his presidency years. Are there others I should also ask about the changes that took place in my father’s administration and his role in them?

Most sincerely yours,

Edward L. Kimball 

[Edward L. Kimball to LJA; LJA Diary, 16 Jun., 1989]

Dear Children:


My interest in history went through four stages. (1) I was introduced to family history in 1929, when I was twelve, when the Twin Falls ward launched a Junior Genealogy program. We had classes in lieu of Sunday School and projects each week—to do a pedigree, to do a family group sheet, to do a picture pedigree chart, to write up our own life history, to write up faith-promoting incidents, to write a history of our father’s family, to write a history of our mother’s family. I did all of these very faithfully. Still have that Book of Remembrance. Since no one had ever done anything on my mother’s family, I got original materials, letters, photos, etc. on that. My mother was excited and so was I. It got me interested in family history, and indeed, in history.

(2) When I was 15 years old, an LDS neighbor, Mrs. Bertha Mae Hansen, gave me the newly-published book by John Henry Evans, Joseph Smith, An American Prophet, published by Macmillan. It represented an intellectual approach to Joseph Smith and his ideas. This appealed to me and helped me to see that Mormonism had an advanced intellectual aspect.

3) When I was a graduate student and teacher of economics at N. C. State

College, I took a class in rural sociology. I ran across some studies of the Mormon Village by Lowry Nelson, T. Lynn Smith, and other rural sociologists. This helped me to see that Mormon history, the Mormon way of life, had a scholarly interest. My religion related to my studies in economics. I discovered other studies that related to Mormon economics, Mormon literature, etc. This led me to decide, while I was overseas during the war, that I wanted to do a dissertation on an aspect of Mormon economic history.

(4) When I returned from overseas and came to Utah, I began research in the Church Archives, found an abundance of material, and began to publish on aspects of Mormon economic history.

[LJA to Children, 10 Aug., 1989]

My other brush with history is the weeks I spent in the Church Archives, 1946-1954, going through the manuscript minutes, letters, diaries, and other documents. Without them, we would be restricted to histories passed down by oral tradition and by official histories which were inevitably selective in nature. I saw Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and so many others—not as pastiche creations but as real persons, battling persecution, dissent, evil, misunderstanding, and wickedness. Putting their stories together into GREAT BASIN KINGDOM and subsequent books and papers helped me to understand what they were about and who they really were. I had a firsthand view of Mormon history.

[LJA to Children, 29 Nov., 1989]

Dear Jan:

The August 9 entry of my diary, 1972, is the first time President Lee mentioned about not clearing with Correlation, but I see that on August 9, 1973, exactly a year later, he said the same thing. So he had confidence in what we were doing, and that continued until his death in Dec. 1973.

I re-read my account of the meeting of 21 Sept. 1976 where we discussed the Story of the Latter-day Saints. More persons were at the meeting than I could remember yesterday. One new name cropped up–William L. Nelson, then secretary of President Benson, and I indicated that he had apparently written the first letter about the book to Apostle (then) Benson. Also, the discussion was about two books which appeared at about the same time–STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS and BUILDING THE CITY OF GOD. The complaints about the two books were the same–that we didn’t give God enough credit, and that they bordered on secular history. I also learned that Elder Stapley was a third person who was disturbed by our historical writing. We had based too much on Juanita Brooks and not enough on Joseph Fielding Smith.

But reading other entries, I learn that Elder Hunter, Elder Haight, President Kimball, and President Tanner were very much pleased with our Story of the Latter-day Saints. It is true that certain of the Elders (Benson, Petersen, Stapley) were uncomfortable with our history; others were not only comfortable but praised us for what we did.

I am also sending a diary statement of 9 August 1972 that reflects my feelings after the conference with President Lee on August 8 where I went over our entire program, which he approved, and where I was set apart and blessed as Church Historian by President Lee.


[LJA to Jan Shipps; LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1990]


by Leonard J. Arrington

Presented to Friends of the Library, University of Utah, March 8, 1992

When Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gave her marvelous Friends of the Library talk last month she began with a scripture. I should also like to begin with a scripture, this one from Matthew 10:16 in the New Testament, a scripture, I think, intended for historians:

“Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” And, as Arthur Henry King observed, “We are told first to be wise as serpents because otherwise we won’t last long being harmless as doves.” Laurel entitled her presentation, “Epiphany in a Broom Closet.” My story might justly be entitled, “Epiphany in the Room of a College Dormitory.”

It all began in the spring of 1939, fifty-three years ago, when I was a senior at the University of Idaho. The University had sponsored a Religion in Life week at which about a dozen nationally known speakers from the Federal Council of the Churches in Christ, the National Intercollegiate Christian Council, the Council of Church Boards of Education, the Student Christian Volunteer Movement, the Moscow Inter-Church Council, and the Moscow LDS Institute gave afternoon lectures and conducted discussions on religion. There were representatives of the major Christian churches and also representatives of the Jewish and Buddhist faiths. Each of the speakers was invited to stay with a particular fraternity, sorority, or dormitory, to participate in evening “rump sessions” and to “hold forth” in a public discussion each afternoon at four. General assemblies at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday for all students and faculty were well attended because university classes were dismissed. The most eloquent of the featured speakers was Dr. Benjamin Mays, then dean of religion at Howard University, who presented the opening general assembly talk in our Field House. The son of black sharecroppers, Dr. Mays cautioned us not to confine our minds within a narrow orthodoxy. “Keep the purposes of God and the needs of His children foremost,” he urged.

I find the following account in my diary written after his talk. “The great events of history add grandeur to our lives. Like the mountains, they make us feel our insignificance, but they free the immortal mind, let it feel its greatness, and release it from the earth.” Clearly, whether these are May’s words or someone else’s (and I have since seen a similar statement by Hilaire Belloc), I was inspired by this man who went on to become president of Morehouse College, a black university in Atlanta founded at the end of the Civil War, and died recently at the age of eighty-nine. One Morehouse graduate who took his advice to heart was Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who called Mays “My spiritual mentor and my intellectual father.” Mays gave the eulogy at King’s funeral.

Religion in Life week taught me how to present and discuss religious questions before a public body. These educators were frank, open, and informative. They were neither dogmatic nor opinionated. They listened, were respectful of students and their questions, and discussed religious issues in a manner that was serious, meaningful, and sometimes eloquent. They did not avoid difficult problems, were willing to express personal opinions, and were skilled in utilizing humor to maintain interest and good feeling. There was no attempt to convert, no downgrading of dissenting opinions, no attempt to play on the emotions. These informal addresses were good models for me as I later made presentations to young people’s groups in my own and other churches, and in my articles on religious subjects for various professional and semi-professional publications.

At the end of the week, trying to reconcile my training in economics with my religious beliefs, and feeling inspired, I sat at my dormitory room desk and prepared an outline for a book I proposed to write someday on the social philosophy and practices of the Latter-day Saints. I still have that outline.

That fall I enrolled in graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Two years later, in the spring of 1941, I was asked to substitute for a professor of economics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who had suffered a heart attack. As a concession for me to do this the department at Chapel Hill allowed me credit toward the Ph.D. for courses I might take at N.C. State in agricultural economics and rural sociology.

In connection with these seminars at North Carolina State, I read all the works in the field of rural sociology, a relatively new discipline at the time. This reading produced two results: First, I became acquainted with the regional studies conducted by Dr. Howard Odum, founder of the Department of Sociology at Chapel Hill, who had just published the monumental Southern Regions of the United States, an exhaustive analysis of the Negro, the cotton and tobacco mill worker, the tenant and sharecropper, the small farmer, and indeed all aspects of the social economy of the South. He had followed this up with a study of American Regionalism, which, I noted, was very scanty on the Mountain West. I thought this is where I might contribute by doing a book on the human problems of the Mormon West. I envisioned studying the social economics of the West much as Odum and his associates had studied the social economics of the South. The emphasis would be on people, particularly rural people.

Second, I discovered in this reading the interest of scholars in Mormon culture. This impression was triggered by the description of the Mormon village in T. Lynn Smith’s Sociology of Rural Life. Smith was the current president of the Rural Sociology Society, and I did not realize at the time that he had graduated from BYU and had gone to Minnesota to study under Lowry Nelson. I was delighted to find in the N.C. State Library copies of studies of Mormon communities in Utah by Lowry Nelson–studies that later were combined and published by the University of Utah Press as The Mormon Village. This led me into a search for other articles and books on the secular aspects of Mormon life–works by historians, economists, and literary figures as well as by sociologists. I was excited, fascinated, driven. Though not a large literature, it was thrilling for me to discover. I read in Harper’s magazine Bernard De Voto’s brilliant essay on his Mormon grandfather, Samuel Dye of Uinta, Utah, near Ogden, published under the title, “Jonathan Dyer, Frontiersman.” Then I found, also in Harper’s, an article by Juanita Brooks entitled “The Water’s In,” about Mormons in Bunkerville, Nevada. In 1942 Wallace Stegner published his marvelous little book, Mormon Country, with delightful essays on Mormon life. Finally, I discovered an essay on the Mormons by that grand old man of economics, Richard T. Ely, “Economic Aspects of Mormonism” published in Harper’s in 1903.

It was a sparse literature, but set exactly the right tone, was well written, and suggested what a comprehensive treatment might be able to do.

Then came World War II and I became involved, first as an economist for the North Carolina Office of Price Administration and then as a private in the United States Army. I was sent to North Africa for a year and a half, then to Italy for another sixteen months. During those three years overseas I inevitably experienced a certain nostalgia for the West, and wanted very much to get started on a study of the economic activities of my own people. I wrote to Dr. John A. Widtsoe, formerly president of Utah State University and the University of Utah and a respected writer and scholar, about the possibilities of a doctoral dissertation on the subject. He replied with a very honest letter. It would make a great dissertation, he said, there was so much that could be said, and so much in the Church Archives that bore on the subject. He noted that there were problems getting access to the material, but he suggested that I proceed very quietly, ask at first only for printed works, then for the Journal History of the Church, and, as I built their confidence in me as a reliable scholar, gradually move into the manuscript sources. He was sure, to use his image, that I could proceed as the Arabian camel that first stuck its nose in the tent, then its face, then its front, and, moving in gradually, eventually carried away the whole tent. As you can guess, this bashful Idaho farm boy did not react against engaging in such a campaign.

After my discharge in January 1946, I accepted a teaching position at Utah State University and spent each summer for the next ten years doing research at the Church Archives in Salt Lake City. The archives were then more or less open, and it was exciting to be working on a new approach to Mormon history–following the economic activities, the economic programs, the way of life of the Latter-day Saint people.

Laurel Ulrich last month described her delight in finding the diary of Martha Ballard–how, in this single source, she had found the basis for describing the workings of the colonial New England economy, the medical history, and the social history of the region. There was a similar excitement for me. I found far more than I ever supposed, far more than the Church Library people realized they had: There were the records of dealing in coin and currency, of the construction of irrigation canals, of church property ownership and management, of Church farms, of building projects, of immigration. There were tithing accounts, books of donations for this cause and that, ledger books of ZCMI, the Deseret Telegraph, railroad contracts, Relief Society enterprises, sugar companies, iron works, and coal mines. In short, there was an essentially complete record of every important undertaking in which the Mormons were involved, and virtually none of them had been previously examined by any scholar. I could hardly wait to begin writing up the multitude of stories that could be told. From notes taken during the summer I wrote articles during the school year while I was teaching at Utah State, and soon had more than half a dozen articles ready to submit.

But I was still a little unsure of myself. Could I write well enough? Did I know how to present the material in a way satisfactory both to scholars and to “ordinary” readers like my parents, neighbors, and non-academic friends?

And here I need to interject a word about my research. I was, of course, an economist, and economists are normally pictured as dry-as-dust people who are especially interested in numbers, prices, statistics; and abstract theory. I have never been able to forget the charge that economists would make marvelous life guards because they could go down deeper, stay down longer, and come up dryer than anybody else. But I struggled to prove that that didn’t apply to me. My training in North Carolina had impressed me with the human drama of events. Commentators had led me to believe that pioneer Mormons were tense and humorless, that their journals were very succinct, matter-of-fact, and devoid of humor. That, I am glad to say, wasn’t my experience at all. As I went through the hundreds of diaries, record books, minutes of meetings, speeches, and letters of pioneers and church officials I found many examples of jesting, satire, parody, wordplay, hyperbole, and jokes. This was particularly true of women pioneers, who saw the humor in situations that the men missed, or perhaps the women were more open in recording local happenings.

Every week I ran across incidents and statements that brought chuckles. I have written on this aspect of my research elsewhere, but let me give an example. I found in the archives approximately thirty thousand letters signed by Brigham Young during his thirty years as Mormon leader. About ten thousand of these were responses to individuals who had asked his advice on some personal matter. It is clear that pioneer Utahns considered him to be a wise advisor, so they asked for his opinion. Did he think they should buy a certain piece of property? Should they import a bull this year? Should their daughter accept a proposal for marriage from a certain person the church leader knew? A woman’s husband mistreated her, should she get a divorce? And so on. To most of these Young gave serious, well-intended answers. But he had fun in the process. When one person complained about something, Young replied: “Brother Jensen, I have already taken care of that matter, so don’t fret your gizzard about it.” Stating that she had become a spiritualist, Elizabeth Green wrote to Young in 1851 to ask that her name be removed from church records. Young wrote in reply:

Madam: We have your letter of December 28 asking that your name be erased from the records of the church. I have this day examined the records of baptisms for the remission of sins in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not being able to find the name of Elizabeth Green recorded therein I was saved the necessity of erasing your name therefrom. You may therefore consider that your sins have not been remitted you and you are free to enjoy the benefits therefrom.

To the woman who complained that her husband had told her to go to hell, he replied simply, “Don’t go, sister, don’t go!” To the frontiersman who asked him to “bless me with a wife,” Young said, “Brother, I know of no woman worth a groat who would be willing to put up with your wild unsocial ways.”

In January 1947, shortly after I began my researches, the University of Utah inaugurated a new regional quarterly called the Utah Humanities Review. The first issue carried articles by Bill Mulder, just returned to the English department from service as naval Communications Officer in Okinawa, who wrote on C. C. A. Christensen; Albert Mitchell, just returned to the university after completing his Ph.D. in speech at the University of Wisconsin, who wrote on the pioneer players and plays of Parowan; Lester Hubbard, specialist in 18th century English literature who wrote on the songs and ballads of the Mormon pioneers; and Charles Dibble, an authority on the Aztecs, who wrote on the Mormon mission to the Shoshoni Indians. Succeeding issues carried articles by Pearl Baker, G. Homer Durham, Helen Zeese Papanikolas, Stanley Ivins, Hector Lee, Lowell Lees, Halbert Greaves, Austin Fife, Rex Skidmore, Elmer Smith, Juanita Brooks, Sterling McMurrin, Harold Folland, Meredith Wilson, Dale Morgan, Leland Creer, and others. I was fascinated and read every word. I finally worked up courage enough to pay a visit to Hal Bentley, the editor, to explain what I was doing, and to ask if he would be interested in publishing one or two of my articles. He said he was interested, all right, but the articles had to be well-written. Knowing that I was an economist, he repeated that insistence several times in our conversation. Well, I needed someone to level with me–could I write well enough for the Humanities Review?

I read in our Logan paper one day that Bill Mulder, assistant editor of the Review (which by then had become the Western Humanities Review) was going to present a talk in that Athens of Northern Utah. I telephoned to invite him to spend the night with us. He agreed. We had a nice dinner, but before he went to bed I trotted out one of my essays–one on the building of a dam at Deseret, in Millard County. Bill presumably read it before he went to sleep and the next morning said he liked it, would accept it provisionally, but said it could be made a little more artistic. What would Wally Stegner do with it? he asked. How would he begin it, how would he conclude it? and so on.

Well, I fussed with it a little while and then sent it in and he published it under the title “Taming the Turbulent Sevier: A Story of Mormon Desert Conquest.” By then I had another article on “Zion’s Board of Trade, A Third United Order” which he also published the same year. Soon there was one on the Law of Consecration and Stewardship in early Mormon history that he published followed by one on the economic role of Mormon women that was quite possibly the earliest attempt to introduce Mormon women into the secular study of Mormon history. At the same time I published an account of the Deseret Telegraph in the Journal of Economic History, an article on “Property Among the Mormons” in Rural Sociology, and articles on “The Transcontinental Railroad and Mormon Economic Policy” and “The Settlement of Brigham Young’s Estate” in the Pacific Historical Review.

All of these essays were on particular episodes and practices. How to get a theme to tie it all together? The virtuosity of Mormon leadership was evident, and their articulated goal of building a Kingdom of God was also unmistakable. But how to explain it all? Identifying a unifying factor was like trying to berth an ocean liner without tugs at night. The necessary inspiration came to me also in a kind of epiphany, this also involving Bill Mulder. Bill and Sterling McMurrin had organized in 1950 the Mormon Seminar, which met every Thursday afternoon on the U of U campus to explore in critical fashion different aspects of Mormon life and thought. Each week they brought in authorities to talk on such subjects as Mormonism and evolution, Mormonism and psychiatry, the Book of Mormon and the pre-Columbian Indians, polygamy, Mormonism and literature, Mormonism and education, and so on. In March 1951 they invited me to talk on Mormon economic history. This “call” forced me to focus seriously on the meaning of all my research. Influenced by my readings in American history, I decided that in pioneer Utah were leaders such as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, Daniel H. Wells, and others, who had been brought up in America in the decades before the Civil War, who had been imbued with American ideals prevalent during those years, and who had remained in relative isolation in the Great Basin while the rest of America struggled through the Civil War, followed by the period of reconstruction that featured an overweening emphasis on private property, individualism, and free enterprising capitalism. Here was a theme for my dissertation. Clearly, the basic social and economic objectives of the Latter-day Saints were determined during the first three years after the founding of the church in 1830. They included the gathering of church members into one place, the village form of settlement, group economic independence, comprehensive resource development to prepare the earth for the Millennium, unified action and solidarity, and equitable sharing of the product of cooperative endeavor. Church officials attempted the redistribution of wealth and income, were charged with the regulation of property rights, involved the church in many types of business ventures, and assumed the ultimate responsibility for the development of the Mormon economy. The institutions and devices established to implement basic church policies, in general, were flexible, pragmatic, and provisional.

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After the settlement of the Great Basin in 1847, population growth was stimulated by the establishment of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, which over a forty-year period assisted some 80,000 European and American converts to come to the desert Zion. In choosing emigrants attention was paid to occupational skills and the labor needs of Mormon communities. The company also imported large quantities of machinery and supplies.

Church members who came to settle in the Great Basin were given garden-size home lots in surveyed villages, and small, equal farming lots around the town on lands that were irrigated by means of cooperatively constructed canals. Property rights were conditioned upon use, and basic natural resources such as water, grazing lands, forests, and mineral deposits were publicly owned or allocated as stewardships to religious leaders.

Construction of public works was directed by a church- appointed superintendent who organized the labor force, established service shops, and erected forts, meetinghouses, social halls, temples, wagon roads, railroads, and communal storage facilities. The Public Works specifically provided labor for the unemployed and newly-arrived immigrants and promoted the development of infant industries.

Theocratic market regulation included a variety of price- and wage-fixing measures, including occasional prohibitions against commercial exchange with non-Mormons. The church promoted the establishment of concerns to market the products of town and country at favorable prices, including a large and profitable importing and wholesaling chain. Strong religious sanctions operated to insure that these and other business enterprises, whether publicly or privately financed, carried out the social aims of the church.

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While the mobilization of capital and the application of administrative controls on the Mormon frontier resembled the contemporary devices of large-scale corporations and holding companies, the continuity of organized cooperation and careful long-range group planning stood out in sharp contrast with the individualism and short-sighted exploitation that often characterized the mining, cattle, wheat, and lumber frontiers of the Far West. As one Western historian wrote, the reigning philosophy was every man for himself, comparable to what the elephant said while he was dancing among the chickens. Whereas dominant American thought after 1865 held that superior results were to be achieved by laissez-faire institutions and policies, the seemingly unique policies of Mormon leaders, emphasizing as they did the welfare of the group, were nevertheless consistent with those commonly advocated and applied by secular government in the ante-bellum America that cradled Mormonism.

So I set out during the winter of 1951-52 to write the dissertation while on six-months leave without pay from USU. I finished the degree in 1952. “We respect your partisanship,” my major professor said at the defense; “but we particularly praise you for not letting it cloud your scholarship and judgment.” The dissertation, entitled, “Mormon Economic Policies and Their Implementation on the Western Frontier, 1847-1900,” included eleven more or less independent essays: the historical and philosophical roots of Mormonism, the economic mind of Mormonism, the principle of consecration and church finances, the principle of stewardship and property institutions, the principle of gathering and the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, church public works, the principle of solidarity and the frontier market, the principle of economic independence and the coming of the transcontinental railroad, religious sanction and Mormon entrepreneurship, and the role of the Mormon Church in the economic development of the West.

Dr. Milton S. Heath, my major professor, encouraged me to submit the dissertation for publication by the Committee on Research in Economic History, of which he was a member. I revised and expanded it and submitted it in 1954. The readers praised it and made various suggestions. As I reworked it, however, I could see that instead of focusing on economic policies I would have to do a chronological narrative that would focus on the development and evolution of Mormon institutions, practices and policies. I was granted a sabbatical leave from USU in 1956-57 and arranged for a fellowship at Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery to supplement my income since sabbatical pay was only 60 percent of base salary. I spent the year writing what turned out to be an economic history of the Mormons. Emerson wrote that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. My work may not have been great, but the enthusiasm was certainly there. Completing one chapter a month, I finished it in a year.

The rewritten work, originally called Building the Kingdom and now called Great Basin Kingdom, was then resubmitted in 1957 to the Committee on Research on Economic History which arranged for its publication by Harvard University Press. The book expanded on ideas picked up from Bill Mulder–his study of Scandinavian Mormons; Tom O’Dea on Mormon sociology; Sterling McMurrin on theology; and Feramorz Fox on Mormon economic organization. I also profited from conversations with Lowry Nelson, Hal Bentley, Richard Poll, George Ellsworth, Dale Morgan, Gene Campbell, Juanita Brooks, Gus Larson and Ed Lyon. Above all, the book, built on the indescribably rich and complete Western collection of the Huntington Library.

An honest, youthful assessment of the published book was made by a nephew of mine who was still in high school, and who was induced to read the book by my brother. He wrote, “Dear Uncle Leonard, I think you were a pretty good writer not to make the book no duller than it was. Your loving nephew, Farr.”

Which reminds me of similar compliments I received from another nephew in 1972 when I was appointed Church Historian. He wrote to say: “We saw you on TV last night for the first time. My Dad says not to worry. You are a lot smarter than you look. Anyway, I want you to know that I’m going to be a historian myself some day. My Dad says I should finish grade school first, because I need an 8th grade education to be as smart as you. In school tomorrow we have a test about polecats. I think of you often.


When my economic colleagues at USU held a farewell dinner for me in 1972 their toast was as follows:

Here’s to Professor Arrington, he’s honored; given a chair. 

It’s not his head they’re honoring, and that’s fair.

Use your best part, Leonard. Rest it there!

In general, Great Basin Kingdom was praised by colleagues, American historians, American sociologists, and others. I will just cite one–the flattering judgment of a fellow economist, Jonathan R.T. Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Northwestern University, who says he still requires his graduate students to read it as an example of good economic history. He called Great Basin Kingdom “a giant structure of deep and trustworthy scholarship and judgment with an analysis that is thorough, carefully laid out, and free of theoretical error.” “The economic story”, he wrote,” is a masterpiece that made the Mormon Zion live again for readers all over the world and for generations to come.” Wouldn’t that be enough to warm the cockles of an author’s heart?

The local reception was especially interesting. A. William Lund and the LDS Church Historian’s Office viewed it as a secular treatment with naturalistic explanations of the people and the times. It was not down the line of traditional Mormon history, which was sprinkled with supernatural explanations. Although I received complimentary letters from people like John A. Widtsoe, G. Homer Durham, and even Ezra Taft Benson, A. William Lund decided if it wasn’t pro it must be anti, so he put a little letter “a” on the index card in the Church Historian’s Office. One day I asked someone at the Church Historian’s Office what the “a” meant. He said it designated an anti-Mormon work. The label remained that way until I was appointed Church Historian, when, at the request of Elder Howard Hunter, a new card was inserted without the “a.” President Harold B. Lee assured me that “Great Basin Kingdom was a monument to LDS history, the finest thing on LDS history since B. H. Robert’s Comprehensive History was first published beginning in 1906.”

Colleagues used it in Utah history classes: at BYU, Jim Allen; at USU, George Ellsworth; at the U of U, David Miller. Each independently asked his students to read the book, write a report on it, and, among other things, speculate on whether Arrington was a Mormon. Each of the three professors then reported the students’ reactions. About half of the students at each institution thought I was a Mormon and the other half thought I could not be because the book was written so dispassionately. I regarded this as a profound compliment. There is a school today that contends that Mormon historians, if they are real Mormons, should so declare it, and should engage in what my editor at Alfred Knopf called “cheerleading.” I tried not to do that in Great Basin Kingdom.

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Today’s publishers usually want an author to declare his affiliation. In The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints, a book recently out of print but now out in a new updated second edition by the University of Illinois Press, Davis Bitton and I identified ourselves as “believing and practicing members of the Church, who have sought to understand, as scholars of any faith or no faith would seek to understand. While preserving proper scholarly objectivity, we say, we have availed ourselves of insights from a variety of disciplines. To the non-Mormon reader, who might believe us unduly favorable to the Mormon point of view, we can only say that we have tried to be fair and have called them as we have seen them. To the Mormon reader, who might be surprised at our frank recognition of problems within the faith, at our willingness to assign blame to Latter-day Saints, and at our sincere goodwill to the historical opponents of Mormonism, the answer is really the same.”

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In 1963, some five years after Great Basin Kingdom appeared, I received two notices that were exciting. The first was word that the book had been placed in the President’s library in the White House, the only book dealing with the history of the Mountain West and one of four books on the history of the American West as a whole. The second was an invitation from the University of Texas to give two lectures on the Mormons in their television series of seventy addresses on the History of American Civilization. The Ford Foundation had agreed to finance the series to be directed by that grand old man of American history, Walter Prescott Webb. Apparently, Webb had been very impressed with Great Basin Kingdom and in this televised series that included such people as Arnold Toynbee, Richard Hofstadter, Arthur Schlesinger, Dumas Malone, C. Vann Woodward, Allan Nevins, Arthur Link, Henry Steel Commager, and other noted historians, he had also invited me.

My first lecture was on “The Significance of the Mormons in American History” and the second was on “The Mormon System of Cooperation.” The series was widely used in university classes. Many young historians, in seeing my name card at a historical convention, have said they saw me in the Webb American Civilization series.

A follow-up was the invitation to give the annual luncheon address to the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, held at U.C.L.A. in 1964. Not long after, I received an invitation to join the U.C.L.A. faculty as Professor of Western History, to take the place of John Walton Caughey who was retiring. Wanting to stay in Utah, however, I did not accept the offer.

The hardback of Great Basin Kingdom was exhausted in 1965. There was a paper reprint in the Bison series of the University of Nebraska Press. The eighth printing has now been exhausted and the Harvard Press has asked for bids from three university presses that have expressed an interest: University of Utah Press, Utah State University Press, and University of Illinois Press. Presumably one of these will publish an updated paperback later this year.

In 1988, on the 30th anniversary of the appearance of the book, the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University and the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University sponsored a symposium called “Great Basin Kingdom Revisited.” They invited prominent national historians, sociologists, economists, geographers, and literary historians to comment on the book and its impact on Western studies. The eight papers delivered at the symposium, which was held in Logan, have since been published by Utah State University Press under the symposium’s title, Great Basin Kingdom Revisited.

The writing of this book led me in many directions: I have done studies of such Federal programs in Utah as reclamation projects, defense installations, and New Deal programs. With collaboration, I have done book-length biographies—of William Spry, Charles C. Rich, David Eccles, Edwin D. Woolley, Brigham Young, Harold Silver, Charlie Redd, Alice Merrill Horne, and many shorter biographies in other books and journals.

I have done business histories of U & I Sugar Company, Tracy-Collins Bank, Hotel Utah, and Steiner Corporation. I have also been interested in women’s history and have published Sunbonnet Sisters, Mothers of the Prophets, and a study of rural LDS women. Laurel Ulrich mentioned the article I published in the pink issue of Dialogue entitled “Blessed Damozels: Women in Mormon History.” Laurel said that one of her readers was impressed with how much freedom Martha Ballard had. People who study Mormon women find the same thing. How free they were.

During the past two years I have written a history of my native state of Idaho, commissioned by the Legislature of Idaho, which I hope will be published by the University of Idaho Press within the next few months.

My experience of almost fifty years in the field of Western economic history and biography has confirmed the worthwhileness of Mormon studies. Whether one’s interest is the relation of religion to economic life, the appropriateness of certain institutions for survival in a semiarid region, the importance of the role of women, or the virtues of cooperation and community-mindedness, a study of the Mormon experience is rewarding. We now have a rich literature, one that grows richer every year. There has been a flurry of studies on the sequel, Twentieth Century culture, the most recent being a history of the Mormon Welfare program by Bruce Blumell and Garth Mangum, just recently accepted by the University of Utah Press. I hope, myself, in the years ahead to do a book on the economic programs of the New Deal of the 1930s, 

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with chapters on the accomplishments of the Public Works Administration, Agricultural Adjustment Administration, Rural Electrification Administration, Federal Emergency Relief Administration, civil Works Administration, National Youth Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and so on. 

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Above all, I think I have demonstrated that the historian, if he cannot be wise as a serpent, can, if he is honest, resourceful, and industrious, be harmless as a dove. 

[Great Basin Kingdom Revisited; LJA Diary, 8 Mar., 1992]

A Last Testament: What Dick Poll Might Have Said

Two Tests:

“Thy time shall be given to writing and to learning.”

Doctrine and Covenants 25:8

“All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.”

Joseph Smith, April 7, 1844,

King Follett Sermon, History of the Church 6:311

There are many challenges in writing religious history. On the one hand we must convey the facts of history in an honest and straightforward manner. We must strive against the conscious or unconscious distortion of events to fit the demands of current fashions; we must renounce wishful thinking. On the other hand, we wish to bear testimony of the reality of spiritual experience. 

Some tension between our professional training and our religious commitments seems inevitable. Our testimonies tell us that the Lord is in this work, and for this we see abundant supporting evidence. But our historical training warns us that the accurate perception of spiritual phenomena is elusive—not subject to unquestionable verification. We are tempted to wonder if our religious beliefs are intruding beyond their proper limits. Our faith tells us that there is moral meaning and spiritual significance in historical events. But we cannot be completely confident that any particular judgment or meaning or significance is unambiguously clear. If God’s will cannot be wholly divorced from the actual course of history, neither can it be positively identified with it. Although we see evidence that God’s love and power have frequently broken in upon the ordinary course of human affairs in a direct and self-evident way, our caution in declaring this is reinforced by our justifiable disapproval of chroniclers who take the easy way out and use divine miracles as a short circuit of a causal explanation that is obviously, or at least defensibly, naturalistic. We must not use history as a storehouse from which deceptively simple moral lessons may be drawn at random.

I hope that we will all be known for the sense of reverence and responsibility with which we approach our research. We should cultivate a certain fidelity toward and respect for the documents and a certain feeling for human tragedy and triumph. Our history is the history of people in their worship and prayer, in their mutual relationships, in their conflict and contacts, in their social dealings and in their solitude and estrangement, in their high aspirations, and in their fumbling weaknesses and failures. We must be responsive to the whole amplitude of human concerns—to human life in all its rich variety and diversity, in all its misery and grandeur, in all its ambiguity and contradictions. For Latter-day Saints of all persuasions religion is not a mere department of life; it is the whole of life.

We will not do our subject justice, will not adequately understand the people we are writing about, if we leave out the power of testimony as a motivating factor in their lives. In his “Second Century Address” at Brigham Young University in 1976, President Spencer Kimball gave wise counsel. “As LDS scholars,” he said, “you must speak with authority and excellence to your professional colleagues in the language of scholarship, and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things.” Our histories must reflect both the rigor of competent scholarship and the sensitivity to recognize, as the New Testament records, that “the wind bloweth where it listeth.” We must have deep within us a faith counted for us as righteousness. That others support us in our work, even while criticizing some products of our labors, is suggested by the remark of President Harold B. Lee to me before his sudden death. “Our history is our history, Brother Arrington, and we don’t need to tamper it with it or be ashamed of it.” Paraphrasing a remark of Pope John XXIII, Elder Bruce McConkie said: “The best defense of the church is the true and impartial account of our history.”

I pray that we may lengthen our stride as we strive to develop capacities that will enable us to write histories worthy of the marvelous work and a wonder that is our heritage.

[Eulogy to Dr. Richard Poll; LJA Diary, 22 May, 1994]

We are beginning to get a few comments about our two books, The Story of the Latter-day Saints and Building the City of God. As one might expect, our historians and highly educated people like them both whilepersons not too well acquainted with the facts of our history and who areinclined toward simplistic explanations are troubled by both. As the resultof publication of them we hope we are educating the Saints a little alongthe road of understanding the complexities of our history. At the sametime those who are able to appreciate both books are finding how reallyexciting our history can be and how stimulating intellectually. We continueto feel good about projects even though we are obviously saddened by the few who are concerned about the openness and “honesty” of both.

[LJA to Children, 24 Sep., 1976; LJA Diary]

Elder Delbert L. Stapley

Elder Howard W. Hunter


Dear Elder Stapley and Elder Hunter:

You ask about the two one-volume histories of the Latter-day Saintsthat we were authorized to write. One of these is intended for a nationalpublisher and is topically organized. The other, The Story of the Latter-daySaints was written for Deseret Book Company and is written in narrativeTerm-. Let me explain the background of each of them.

One-volume History for Alfred A. Knopf

In January 1967, when I was a Visiting Professor of History at theUniversity of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), I was requested by Alfred A.Knopf, prominent national publisher, to write a one-volume history of the Mormons. He pointed out the great need for such a history, as there was no good history of the Mormons which was available from a national press.I replied that I was interested, but, as a good Church member, would notdo so without the approval of the First Presidency. I therefore wrote toPresident Tanner, a member of the First Presidency serving under the leadership of President David 0. McKay, and asked his counsel. I pointed out that Knopf had published No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie, and that I was glad to see that he was willing to atone for that by publishing a history written by an active Latter-day Saint. President Tanner replied on January 18,with the letter attached. He also included a copy of the minutes of theFirst Presidency meeting of January 17, 1967, copy attached.

Because of other commitments I was not able to finish the book beforemy 1972 appointment as Church Historian. In 1973, feeling certain that therewas still need for such a book, I discussed the project with our managingdirector, Elder Joseph Anderson, and upon his advice I prepared the attachedletter, dated May 14, 1973, in which I asked permission to complete thebook as a part of my work as Church Historian. Elder Anderson discussedthe matter with the advisors of the Historical Department, and they referredthe letter to the First Presidency.

A few days later, Elder Anderson reported in our regular executivemeeting (May 17, 1973) that he had an opportunity of talking with PresidentLee about the two one-volume histories. My record of Elder Anderson’sreport is as follows:

Elder Anderson said in our meeting this morning that he hadgone down to President Lee’s office to arrange an appointmentthrough Brother Haycock to talk about various historical matters.Brother Haycock was not there, the door was open, and PresidentLee was at his desk. President Lee invited Brother Anderson tocone in. Brother Anderson had an opportunity of chatting abouta few things, and in particular talked about the two proposalsI had submitted about doing a one-volume history of the Church–one by myself for Alfred Knopf and one by Brothers Bitten andAllen for Deseret Book Company. President Lee seemed pleasedwith both proposals but suggested that Brother Anderson sendto him a letter of endorsement, and that he ask Brother JamesMortimer to send a letter with respect to Essentials in Church History. Brother Anderson said he had reported this to BrotherMortimer and he will send such a letter, and that he (ElderAnderson) has already forwarded copies of my letters on those two items.

On July 2, 1973, the First Presidency wrote Elder Anderson, as per attached,giving approval to the project. I have been working on the project in themonths that have followed, with Brother Davis Bitten as my chief assistant.The book is nearly finished.

One-volume History for Deseret Book Company

On May 24, 1973, Brother James Mortimer, manager of Deseret BookCompany, wrote to President Lee asking whether President Joseph FieldingSmith’s book, Essentials in Church History should be reprinted or whetherthe Historical Department should proceed with the task of producing a newsingle-volume history of the church to replace it. (Copy of letter attached)In support of this letter, I prepared a proposal that the HistoricalDepartment be responsible for preparing an “Introduction to LDS History.”A copy of this proposal was sent to the First Presidency. (Copy of ourproposal attached)

Following that letter, on June 26, 1973, our Historical Departmentexecutives, including our advisors Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie and ourmanaging director Eider Anderson, met with the First Presidency to discussa number of matters. Among other things, we discussed the one-volumehistories. I had made additional copies of the proposal and distributedthen to the members of the First Presidency at the meeting. In fact,I prepared a sheet with all the questions I wished to ask about during themeeting. Copy attached. You will see that the first one deals with theone-volume history.

The minutes of the First Presidency which were furnished to me later(73-1904) show only that the one-volume history of the church was approved,and does not specify the two which were under consideration. This is probablyan oversight. My own record for that date, written immediately after themeeting, contains the following paragraph:

Brother Anderson then brought up the matter of the one-volumehistory of the Church and explained it very briefly–he didn’task me to comment, and he said he understood that the FirstPresidency approved it, was that correct? Presidents Lee, Tanner,and Romney all nodded their heads in approval.

On the question sheet, you will see that I noted “o.k.” in front of thatitem.

There was a subsequent conversation with President Lee about thisproject; this was on August 8, 1973. It happened this way. Deseret BookCompany was issuing a new and revised edition of Essentials in ChurchHistory and wanted to include a short biography of President Lee and askedme to write it. I had prepared it, and at the same time that I submittedcopy to Deseret Book, I sent a copy to President Lee to obtain his approval.President Lee was not able to get around to it as soon as Deseret Bookneeded it, so they went ahead and notified President Lee that they wouldgo ahead and print and make a galley proof. Whatever changes he wished,they would be careful to make on the galleys. The afternoon of August 8,Brother Haycock telephoned that the galley proofs had been reviewed byPresident Lee, that he had made a few minor changes, and that I could pickthem up and take them over to Deseret Book. When I went over to BrotherHaycock’s office, he was not in. Let me copy from my own diary recordthe consequent conversation:

When I went over to Brother Haycock’s office, he wasn’t in,As I walked in, the door to President Lee’s office was open andPresident Lee was at his desk alone. President Lee saw me comein and saw me start to back out in a hurry, and he said, “Come in,Leonard,” He then motioned me to go into his office, which I did,although reticently. I told him I had come to pick up the galleyproofs of his biography for Essentials in Church History. PresidentLee said, “I have just read through it and thought it was fine,but I have made some minor corrections.” He explained these corrections to me.

President Lee then began talking about the problem ofhaving committees read books by General Authorities. He thentold me some experiences, which I regard as confidential andam therefore not recording. I was somewhat surprised that hewould speak to me so frankly about these matters.

President Lee then talked to me about the histories we werewriting. He expressed the feeling that I should establish ascreening committee of professional historians who were loyalto the Church, and that this committee should help assure thatour books were accurate and readable. He did not believe, hesaid, that the Correlation Committee was equipped to evaluate ourhistory books. He thought this should be done by professionallytrained historians. I told him that I would discuss this furtherwith Brother Anderson and our advisors and we would be presentinga formal proposal for the First Presidency to consider.

President Lee then concluded by telling me how much he hadappreciated my work. He said, “You write in a straight-forwardand interesting manner, and you do an enormous amount of researchon the topics you write about. We are all grateful to you forit.”

All told, President Lee talked with me alone for about thirtyminutes.

I reported this conversation in a general way to our next executivemeeting with Brother Anderson which was held on August 14, and stated thatthe one-volume history would be done by Brother James Allen, Brother GlenLeonard, and Brother Reed Durham. The name of Brother Durham was laterdropped from the proposal, and the volume was prepared under my directionby Brothers Allen and Leonard.

Unfortunately, President Lee died before we were able to present tohim our proposal on the screening committee. This was finally done toPresident Kimball and the new First Presidency on May 29, 1974, when ElderHoward Hunter and Elder Bruce McConkie, and Elder Anderson, and ourexecutives met with the First Presidency. We talked about a number ofHistorical matters, but the one which involved the one-volume history forDeseret Book Company was the discussion of a proper screening committee forthat history and for the sixteen volumes of the sesquicentennial history.I have not seen the First Presidency minutes of that meeting, but my ownrecord shows that the First Presidency, after an extended discussion,approved a screening committee consisting of the Church Historian, the twoAssistant Church Historians, and the editor of the Historical Department.My notes also show that President Kimball counseled us to get some “outside”reviewers of the manuscript as well as some of our own LDS people. Inspeaking of the sixteen volumes of the sesquicentennial history, PresidentKimball also asked me to give him the opportunity of reviewing each manuscriptbefore publication. I said I would be delighted to do so.

I am attaching also, for your interest, a diary entry I made for August 9, 1972, with reflections on my first meeting with President Lee and the First Presidency after President Smith’s death. This is not asummary of that meeting, which was held August 8, but it gives my ownunderstanding of my mission after being set apart by President Lee.

Respectfully submitted,

Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian

[Letter to Elder Stapley and Elder Hunter, 3 Dec., 1976]


By Leonard J. Arrington, James B. Allen, and Davis Bitton,

Historical Department of the Church

We propose to prepare a new one-volume history of the Church to betentatively titled Introduction to L.D.S. History. This volume would beprepared under the general editorship of Leonard Arrington, Church Historian.The listed authors would be James Allen and Davis Bitton, Assistant ChurchHistorians.

This work would be undertaken as an assigned project of the Church HistoryDivision. The time of researchers in the Church History Division would beutilized to the extent necessary to complete the work. No person would be paid royalty for his part in preparing the volume. If published under anarrangement which customarily provides for the payment of royalty, the royalty would be paid into a trust fund and would be used to support the research andwriting program of the Church History Division.

We believe a manuscript can be ready within a year and a half; by December31, 1974. We suggest as publishers either Deseret Book Company or Brigham Young University Press, and would leave the choice to our advisors. Wepropose a volume of approximately 500 printed pages, including photos andappendix.

It is not intended that this volume replace Essentials of Church History, authored by our late beloved Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith. That volume hasan assured place in our Church literature. What we propose is an alternativevolume of history for those saints who might wish to buy it. We would propose to organize the book differently from Essentials Of Church History.Our volume would give more emphasis to the Church in the twentieth century;it would go into greater detail in describing the expansion of the Churchin other countries; it would carry more information about the social andcultural history of the Saints; and would describe in greater detail theadministrative and organizational changes of the past fifty years. It wouldalso utilize new documents and insights into Church history uncovered in recentyears. The book would be written primarily for members of the Church, and wouldbe “semi-scholarly” in nature. That is, it would be documented but notelaborately. It would concentrate on narrative or descriptive history butwould suggest new insights into our history.

The writing of this history will require no changes in our budget andpersonnel requests for the coming year. If approved, we shall commence the project on June 1, 1973. 

[Book proposal, June 1973]