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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “RLDS”

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The possibility of an exchange of manuscripts with the Reorganized Church was discussed, and Elder Dyer expressed hope that something might be worked out in this regard before too long.  A review of the holdings of the Reorganized Church in original manuscripts was discussed as was the holdings of our Church.

[LJAD, Minutes of the executives of the HISTORICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATER-DAY SAINTS meeting, Tuesday 22 February 1972]

5.  Elder Dyer stated that he will be meeting with President Wallace Smith, RLDS, and he feels that the subject of exchange of documents will be mentioned.  Brother Olson recommended that such an exchange be considered on a small scale at first and Elder Dyer approved this suggestion.

[LJAD, Minutes of the executives of the HISTORICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATER-DAY SAINTS meeting, Tuesday 21 March 1972]

Paragraph 10 dealt with the polygamy issue.  That is, was it proper for missionaries to baptize backcountry persons in India who had previously married more than one wife?  Or, if baptized without this knowledge, were they bound to excommunicate these persons as violating the Christian practice of monogamy?  The Church, the most important doctrinal principle of which had been anti-polygamy, now had polygamists in the fold!  Could they now in all honesty oppose the Utah Mormons?  The paragraph reasserted the Christian practice of monogamy, but said that the Church had an obligation to assume the burden of sin of backward peoples with different cultural backgrounds, to minister to them and bring them over to Christian principles and practices.  The discussion over this issue was particularly heated and tense, and a number of amendments were made, none of which passed, however.  Finally, after long debate—around 3:30 pm, a motion was passed to vote on the previous question, and the vote for approval of the paragraph was about 1100 for and about 350 against.  The opposition seemed primarily from the Center and Santa Fe Stakes, both of which are “old” stakes in Independence.  The most conservative members, who remember the old RLDS-Utah Mormon fights.  They complained against “opening the floodgates of polygamy,” and “turning our backs on Christian morality.”  Many spoke with deep feeling, for the principle involved, others for worry about the possible division in the ranks.  Nevertheless, after the vote, I sensed a feeling of relief on the part of the majority.  No one walked out, that I could see, and I have the impression that few, if any, will leave the church over this decision.  After all, according to report, there were only 12 polygamists baptized in India.  I see the entire matter as preparing the church to acknowledge that polygamy may be tolerated by the church under certain circumstances.

[LJAD, Leonard J. Arrington Report on Visit to Independence, Missouri, written Monday 17 April 1972]

I told Mark [McKiernan] that our friendly relationships would continue as before, and I was certain our office would cooperate with his.

He described the arrangements and contents of the book in which 8 L.D.S. and 5 R.L.D.S. historians are collaborating.  The book is entitled The Modern Restoration:  Essays in Mormon History.  L.D.S. writers with chapters in the work are Max Parkin on Kirtland, Ed Lyon on Nauvoo, Davis Bitton on social and cultural factors, Jim Allen on Twentieth Century Mormonism, LJA and Mike Quinn on 1847-1900, and three others.  Their L.D.S. historians are Bob Flanders, Al Blair, Paul Edwards, Mark McKiernan, and Warren Jennings.  This will be the first time L.D.S. and R.L.D.S. historians have collaborated together in such an important work.  It will also mark the first time that R.L.D.S. students at Graceland, where this text will be used, will be required to read the essays of Utah Mormon historians.  He says the book will be out by January 1973 in time for use in the spring semester at Graceland.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday 20 June 1972]

Buddy [Youngren] said that Paul Edwards had appreciated so much what Buddy had done to bring about the reunion that he gave to Buddy a copy of Mary Audentia Anderson’s book on the Smiths—a book which sells in second hand bookstores for something like $100.  Buddy says that Paul was very grateful for the reunion.  Buddy also says that Lyn Smith and other discerning old line RLDS leaders can see that the basis on which the RLDS Church was constructed; namely, anti-Utah Mormonism, is disappearing.  The church, therefore, does not know what it stands for and, they believe, is being taken over by liberal Protestants like those in the Department of Education.  These old-timer types thus see it virtually inevitable that either they move to accommodation with us or they cease being the kind of Church that Joseph Smith founded.  So they feel a kinship with us—a kinship which must go stronger if Mormonism as they understand it is to retain its life.  I think Mark McKiernan sees this too and that helps to explain his own friendliness toward us.

Buddy told a story that is a little upsetting.  It apparently was told him by Truman Madsen who in turn was told it by Richard Anderson.  Richard Anderson had received a letter from Wallace Smith and Richard Howard, which authorized him to use the Joseph Smith and Emma Smith letters in his forthcoming book of letters between Joseph and Emma.  When he was back at Indiana to check on some last minute items, he happened to mention to Richard H. that he was thinking of putting in a few remarks about Joseph Smith and polygamy—that perhaps this would help to explain some of the nuances in his letters and those of Emma to him.  Richard A. said that he told this to Richard H. as a confidence to get his counsel as to whether Richard H. thought this was all right.  Instead of taking it in this light, however, Richard H. went to Wallace and told Wallace about it and Wallace hit the ceiling.  In a few days Richard A. received a legal sized letter of a couple of pages—very cool and formal in its manner—contrasting with the friendly letters previously received from Richard H.  The letter began something like “It is our understanding that you propose to do so and so…” and removing all permission previously granted to him to publish these letters.  Then at the end of the document in small print was a phrase something like, “Of course, the permission we previously granted to you is still in force if you do not plan to mention polygamy in your volume.”  This upset Richard A. very much.  On the one hand, he thought Richard H. was his friend and that he could talk with him friendly without the matter going to Wallace.  Richard A. thought he had been betrayed.  On the one hand, he thinks the mention of polygamy helps to shed light on some of Emma’s responses.  On the other hand, he wants to remain friendly with the RLDS and wants to publish the letters, which they have.

This is a lesson for us in regard to approaching Richard H. and Wallace Smith on the use of the documents, which they have which we want to include in our Joseph Smith volume.  On the one hand, we shall have to assume that anything we say to Richard H. will go to Wallace Smith, and secondly we shall have to assume that in order to obtain this permission we shall have to avoid mention of polygamy in the book.

I told Buddy that I was sure that Richard H. feels less secure than previously because the orthodox are after him for being too liberal, so he is trying to keep in good with Wallace Smith and the orthodox people so he will not be thrown out as their church historian.

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

Last night at the dinner I sat next to David Evans, and he told several interesting stories that should be recorded.  Brother Evans had a number of experiences, which suggest that personnel in the Church Historians Office were not always courteous to visiting scholars.  He said he knew of instances in which A. William Lund took liberties in interpreting the policies of Joseph Fielding Smith prohibiting individuals from using certain records that he knew we had.  He intimated that Brother Lund had lied about these, saying that we didn’t have such.  He also said that Alvin Smith, when he was angry, could be very profane and was especially profane if one brought up the Josephites or RLDS Church.  Brother Evans told of an instance in which he was very rude and profane in answering a visiting scholar’s question about the RLDS.

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

Brother Anderson read the proposal for the Joseph Fielding Smith Church History Award.  President Lee was very concerned about students doing research on confidential topics and about the publication of essays on sensitive topics announced as award winning.  President Lee seemed to be very concerned with this matter and mentioned four examples of the kind of problem that they are facing:

1.  Brother Sam Carpenter, former President of the Central States Mission and fine scholar, has prepared the manuscript of a book refuting the contentions of the RLDS Church.  It was lying on President Lee’s desk.  President Lee did not think this was the appropriate time for the Church to approve publication of such a work because we are now beginning to enjoy good relations with the RLDS officials.  The Smith family reunion was one example.  The other was the invitation of Wallace Smith for President Lee to go to Missouri to discuss matters relating to lands in Missouri.  President Lee was clearly suggesting that he would counsel against the publication of this fine, well researched, sound manuscript.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 30 January 1973]

Brother Anderson came into my office for a few minutes this morning. He said that President Grant told him that Joseph F. Smith told President Grant about an informal, friendly conversation he had in Independence with Joseph Smith III. Joseph Smith III leaned over to President Smith and said, “You know, I wish I knew for sure which one of us is right,” and President Joseph F. replied, “I thank the Lord that I do know which one is right.”

A close friend of Frederick M. Smith was Dr. Henry Russell. Dr. Russell told President Grant in the presence of Elder Anderson that he had said to Frederick M., “Do you mind if after you die I do your temple work for you?” President Smith hesitated a moment and said, “No, I guess that would be all right.”

President Grant was talking with Frederick M. Smith one time and President Smith asked President Grant if he had ever seen the Lord. President Grant said no, but he had felt the presence of the Holy Spirit of the Lord after his call to be an apostle. At that time the Holy Spirit assured him that his call was from the Lord and after that experience he was reassured that he should be an apostle. 

[LJA Diary, 15 Aug., 1973]

Paul Edwards said his father (F. Henry Edwards) told him (Paul) that there were some things he (F. Henry) wanted to tell me before he died—some things he had never told anybody and which he should tell someone (me) so the knowledge would not pass away. Paul said he thought it was important and that I ought to try to get with him for a while so he could discharge this wish.

Conference was in Munich

[LJA Diary, 25 Aug., 1973]

6. Brother Arrington said he has received a letter from Richard Howard, historian of the Reorganized Church, in response to Brother Arrington’s request for Xerox copies of the relevant pages of the revised Bible, in order that we might compare the handwriting. Brother Arrington’s request was denied and we were reminded by Mr. Howard that we have turned their church down on various items. However, he says he would be interested in exploring the possibilities of a significant manuscript exchange on microfilm on terms by which both churches would benefit. It seems that this matter was considered by the First Presidency in 1968, and upon the recommendation of Elder Alvin R. Dyer it was felt inadvisable at that time to enter into any agreement whereby exchanges would be made with the Reorganized Church. Photostat copies of previous correspondence relative to this matter were given to Brother Anderson in order that it might be taken to the advisors for their consideration and recommendation.

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 18 Sept., 1973]

Earl Olson

Church Archivist

Elder Howard W. Hunter

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Dear Brethren:

Re: Proposed exchange of documents between the 

L.D.S. Church and the R.L.D.S. Church

In November, 1968, Earl Olson, in accordance with instructions from Joseph Fielding Smith, met with Richard Howard, Historian of the Reorganized Church, and discussed the possibility of exchanging copies of the manuscripts which were in the archives of each church. After consideration of the needs and desires of each, they developed a proposed list of manuscripts for exchange. The possibilities for historical research and the application to early history were kept in mind in the development of this list. It is felt that the items listed are still of mutual interest today and that an exchange is still desirable. We will be pleased to institute steps to carry out this exchange if we are so directed.

The items suggested for exchange and the type of reproduction which would be furnished are as follows:


1. Book of Mormon manuscript, each page or part thereof Photographic Print or microfilm

2. Kirtland Revelations 35 mm microfilm

3. Revelations, manuscripts – received through 1844, including those not published in the Doc. & Cov. 

4. Far West Record

5. Book of Elder’s Licenses, Kirtland and Far West

6. Egyptian Grammar and Alphabet and related pages

7. Documentary History of the Church, through 1844

8. Nauvoo List of Church Members, 1842-1845

9. Nauvoo Relief Society minutes


1. Book of Mormon manuscript 35 mm microfilm

2. Bible – Inspired Version original manuscripts “

3. Bible – 1867 R.L.D.S. Committee manuscript of the

Inspired Version

4. Bible – 1828 H & E Phinney Ed. – used by Joseph Smith

to make marginal notations 

5. Book of John Whitmer

6. Book of Commandments, four sheets Photographic Print

7. Joseph Smith-letters, written and/or signed by him “

8. Scott letters of Nauvoo period – three letters 

An exchange of manuscript materials as indicated above should also include certain agreements as to their use, and the following suggestions should be considered:

1. These materials are to be made available in the Historical Department/Historian’s Office of each church, subject to the rules and policies of each office.

2. Requests or copies of these materials or any portion thereof are to be referred in all cases to the office holding the original documents.

3. A researcher desiring to put into published form any excerpts from any of these materials is to obtain advance written permission from the office holding the original material. Each office will clearly designate such restrictions by marking the containers and/or finding aids relating to these materials.

Respectfully submitted

Earl Olson

Assistant Managing Director

I concur in the above recommendation

Joseph Anderson 

Associate Managing Director 

[Earl Olson to Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie; LJA Diary, 1 Apr., 1974]

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. They allowed us to go in at about quarter to nine. All three members of the First Presidency were there. Brother Hunter was more or less conducting the meeting, and he began by raising the question as to whether we were authorized to arrange an exchange with the RLDS Church Historian’s Office in which we would exchange document in our possession for documents in their possession.

The First Presidency asked a number of specific questions about this—whether the RLDS Historian was authorized to arrange an exchange. To this Earl Olson answered yes. They asked whether we had a specific list of items we would give them and they would give us. To this Earl answered yes and gave them a copy of the list. They asked Brother McConkie if he had gone over the material to determine whether there was anything that might cause later embarrassment to the Church. He said he had gone over all the revelations which had not previously been published or published previously in the form which we had them. He said there was nothing he could see that would embarrass us.

President Kimball asked if there were no disadvantages to exchanging materials with them, what were the advantages. Brother McConkie there were many advantages. We would acquire copies of material that we had been needing for a long time such as the manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the Bible which had provided the basis for the Inspired Version, and letters of Joseph Smith, and so on. Also he thought it would be to our interest to let the RLDS have copies of materials which we have so they will understand why we took the position we did on many things. He pointed out the 1831 revelation which first alludes to polygamy and he thought that would be desirable for them to know of it.

After further discussion the First Presidency then agreed to authorize our department, and specifically Earl Olson representing our department, to conduct negotiations for such an exchange with Richard Howard and to conclude the exchange 

Q: Did the-First Presidency authorize other items not specifically mentioned in the meeting? 

A: The exchange might involve other items as well as the ones mentioned.

Brother McConkie reassured the First Presidency and was an advocate. President Tanner asked each one of us individually if we had read the list of documents and conditions and whether we individually approved. We each replied yes, and so he said it was unanimous.

[LJA Diary, 29 May, 1974]

Maureen said that she met there a Brother and Sister Robert Thompson. Sister Thompson is the daughter of Wilford Edling of the Church Financial Committee. She, of course, was reared in the Church and a devout believer. One of her close friends was the wife of a stake president in Huntsville. She and her husband were living in Ogden, I think. Anyway, the stake president had decided to commit his wife to a mental hospital. The wife did not want to be committed and Sister Thompson, her close friend, did not think she ought to be committed. So she interfered somewhat to prevent this from being done. The stake president was extremely angry and held a Church trial for the membership of herself and husband. Before the trial the stake president spoke to Brother Petersen; and Brother Petersen invited the Thompsons in to speak with him. Elder Petersen was not satisfied with their attitude and therefore recommended their excommunication. The husband was charged with failing to control his wife and the wife was charged with failure to sustain the stake president. As the result of the trial both were excommunicated. 

Anyway, the Thompsons shortly left that area and went to Kansas City or near there. They were fellowshipped by the RLDS Church and became members of the RLDS Church, and they are now reasonably loyal and sincere members of that church. They both exert that Mormonism is true–both churches are true. They are happy in the RLDS Church in the sense of feeling at home, feeling wanted and needed, and so on. Sister Thompson will apparently be visiting in Utah this summer–visiting her parents. She will come by to see Maureen with whom she struck up an immediate friendship.

[LJA Diary, 1 May, 1978]

At the Mormon History Association convention recently concluded I had a talk with Mark McKiernan. Mark indicates that the election of the new president, Wallace B. Smith, reverses the trend toward “Protestant liberalism” in the RLDS Church. There are several evidences–several indications that the move is in the direction of greater “orthodoxy.” First, Wallace Smith dropped as a counselor F.L. Draper, who is the greatest advocate of Protestant liberalism in the Presidency, and replaced him with Elder Sheehy, who is more orthodox. Second, the new appointment to the Quorum of the Twelve was Roy Schaeffer, who represents more mainline Mormonism. Third, the students are now required once more to study the Book of Mormon in classes.

Mark says that Wallace Smith believes in the literalness of the Book of Mormon and that he believes this with sufficient strength for him to insist upon that being taught. I suggested to Mark that since the old line RLDS were quite anti-Mormon that perhaps this new trend would release some of that feeling and there would be less ecumenism with Mormons. Mark said that was definitely not true; that he thought in fact it would push the Church into being more friendly with Mormons on a semi-official basis. This is because the new leadership will have more in common with Mormons–belief in the Book of Mormon, greater belief in Joseph Smith and his revelations and so on. Mark said that he had been given a position as assistant to the President of the Church in charge of historic sites and trails, museums, relationships with Mormons, and so on. And since he is friendly with Mormons his appointment means that the Church wants to continue to be friendly, perhaps more friendly, with Mormons. Mark implied also that Richard Howard may be having some trouble as Church historian in the sense that he, representing liberal Protestant tendencies, will be less welcome and less free to interpret their history than he has been.

[LJA Diary, 8 May, 1978]

Richard Howard, the historian of the RLDS Church, came in this afternoon. Two or three points of interest. We discussed at some length the papers we would present at the Mormon History Association meeting in Palmyra in May. He thought he would focus on 3 or 4 principle themes of Mormonism that began in New York and carried on throughout the history of the movement, such as repentance. I told him about my plan to discuss the origin of certain programs and discuss their development. We both decided those were good complements for the program, since one focuses mostly on ideas and the other on programs and events. We both agreed that we would prepare 10 to 12 pages of text–talks of 20-25 minutes in length. We did not agree on who should be first and who second. Dick suggested flipping a coin, but we left that up in the air. Madelon Brunson, one of his associates, is in charge of the program. (Her address is History Commission, Box 1059, Independence, Mo, 64051.) The tentative title of my talk is “Mormonism: From Its New York Beginnings.” The tentative title of his talk is “Themes of Mormon History.” 

[LJA Diary, 19 Nov., 1979]

Jan [Shipps] said she spent many hours with Bob Flanders the week after Christmas, and she says that Bob and Sally have joined the Disciples of Christ Church and are reasonably happy in it. The RLDS congregation in Springfield was more or less disorganized and disintegrated. Bob still continues his consuming interest in Mormon studies–reads the articles, books, and other material. Of course much of his professional time is taken up with administering the Ozark project, for which he has obtained a very large amount of money. Bob continues to be as earnest and spiritual as ever. He will not be at the MHA meetings in Palmyra because his daughter has been chosen queen of her high school and will be crowned and reigning during the very period of the Palmyra meetings.

[LJA Diary, 14 Feb., 1980]