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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Church Historian: 1966-79”

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June 15, 1966

Dr. Leonard J. Arrington

Department of Economics

Utah State University

Logan, Utah

Dear Brother Arrington:

We sincerely appreciate your willingness to take the leadership in encouraging Mormon scholars to produce positively written articles and monographic studies of “Mormon Social and Religious Institutions in the Twentieth Century.”

We realize that research is very demanding in time and effort and would suggest that you consider your participation in this program equivalent in importance to other major assignments you have held in the Church.

If you feel that I can be of assistance I shall appreciate having you call on me.  May we again commend you for your efforts and for your faithfulness.

Faithfully yours,


By N. Eldon Tanner

[LJAD, Letter from N. Elder Tanner, The First Presidency, 15 June 1966]

I’m beginning to catch up a little with my work.  We seem to have some financial problems all along, so I’ve taken on some extra jobs that pay well.  I’m editing a biography of Governor Spry that a Californian wrote.  I’m also editing a book on the United Order, which will be published by the University of Utah Press.  And of course, plenty of editing in connection with our new Western Historical Quarterly.  I continue to go to Salt Lake City a day or two every week for work in the Church Archives.  We’re now working on a proposal to edit the papers of Brigham Young.  I’ll let you know if that comes off.

[LJAD, letter to James, 15 August 1969]

8 May 1970

Elder Theodore Burton

Dear Elder Burton:

Your splendid messages were very well received here.  I personally thought they were just right, and your interested audience suggests that the congregation agreed.  Thank you for coming, and thank you for your generosity in talking to our Institute staff.

In accordance with our conversation at the luncheon, here is a list of the most talented and best-experienced Latter-day Saint historians.  I am restricting this list to people who are currently doing research and/or writing in L.D.S. history, to people with Ph.D.’s and to people who ware faithful in the Church.  I am listing the names alphabetically so as not to give the impression of preferring any; I shall also list my own name for the sake of completeness.  I am personally acquainted with all of these persons and could give you a long rundown on their strengths and contributions, but will just make a notation here to identify each.

1.  Thomas Alexander, Western historian at BYU, received degree from U. of Calif. at Berkeley.  About 36 years of age.

2.  James Allen, Western historian at BYU, received degree at U.S.C.  About 42.  Formerly an Institute director.

3.  Richard Anderson, classical languages and church history at BYU, degree from Yale.  About 50.  Brilliant and resourceful researcher, and very industrious.

4.  Leonard J. Arrington, economic history, Utah State Univ., degree from U. of North Carolina.  About 50.

5.  Milton Backman, early American historian, BYU.  Degree from Penn. State.  About 40.

6.  Davis Bitton, medieval history, Univ. of Utah.  Degree from Princeton.  Has done some splendid things in L.D.S. history.  Currently president of Mormon History Assn.  About 40.

7.  Richard Bushman, colonial American history, Boston Univ.  Degree from Harvard.  On leave from BYU.  Won the Bancroft Prize for best book on American history.  About 40.

8.  Eugene Campbell, Western history, BYU.  Degree from Univ. of So. Cal.  About 55. Formerly head of history at BYU.

9.  Richard Cowan, Church history, BYU.  Degree from Stanford.  About 45.  Blind, but a diligent researcher and member of stake presidency.

10.  Reed Durham, Church history, Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City.  Degree from BYU. About 40.

11.  George Ellsworth, Utah history, Utah State Univ.  Degree from Berkeley.  About 50.

12.  Klaus Hansen, Intellectual history, Queens University in Canada.  Degree from Wayne State.  About 40.

13.  Marvin Hill, intellectual history, BYU.  Degree from U. of Chicago.  About 40.  Currently writing a biography of Joseph Smith.

14.  Stanley Kimball.  Eastern European history, Southern Illinois Univ.  Degree from Columbia (I think).  About 45.

15.  T. Edgar Lyon.  Church History, L.D.S. Institute, Salt Lake City.  Degree from U. of Utah.  About 65.  Historian of Nauvoo Restoration, Inc.

16.  Truman Madsen.  Church History and Philosophy, BYU.  Degree from Harvard.  About 40.  Director of Institute of Mormon Studies, BYU.

17.  Charles Peterson, Western History, Director of Utah State Historical Society.  About 40.  Especially good on Arizona and Utah history.

18.  Richard Poll, American history.  Vice President of Western Illinois Univ.  About 50.  Formerly at BYU.

19.  Lyman Tyler, Western history, Univ.  of Utah.  Formerly librarian at BYU. 

20.  I see that I left out the name of Lamar Berrett, head of church history at BYU.  Degree from BYU.

[These names were handwritten:  James Clark, Gus Larson, David Miller]

Let me mention two or three suggestions that you may care to pass on.  First, professional Mormon historians are organized into the Mormon History Association, which was founded at San Francisco in 1964.  About 100 members.  We meet at professional historical society conventions and give papers on Mormon history.  All of the above are active members of that association.  Our presidents have been:

Leonard Arrington, 1964-5

Eugene Campbell, 1965-6

Ed Lyon, 1966-7

George Ellsworth, 1967-8

Richard Poll, 1968-9

Davis Bitton, 19969-70

Secretary-treasurer of our group is Reed Durham.  Our group includes two professional historians who were members of the Reorganized Church, so we are well acquainted with the historical efforts o that group.

Second, may I suggest that the Historian’s Office might create a title of “Fellow”, to be granted to “senior scholars’ in the field of church history who are competent historians, doing writing in the field of Church history, and active members of the church.  These persons would have unrestricted access to the Archives and might form a group that could be called together for counsel and assistance.  All of the above 20 persons should be eligible for such a designation.

Third, a larger group, consisting of both “professionals” and laymen might join an organization called “Friends of the Church Historian’s Library,” and have a monthly meeting at which one of the Fellows would be invited to present a paper.  These papers might then be collected, edited, and published annually.  Financing might be arranged by charging $10.00 annual dues to become a “Friend of the CHO”.  

Fourth, the CHO might establish a summer fellowship, as do many archives, by granting, say, $1,000 to a person who will spend full-time for two months during the summer of the grant, working in the archives in preparing articles.  Persons would apply for the grants, and the CHO might give, say, 4 or 5 each summer.  CHO would have first right of publication in its annual yearbook.

Fifth, CHO, or Friends of the Library, might consider founding a quarterly journal of Latter-day Saints history, to carry documents and professional articles.  Any of the above list of persons would be willing to assist in editing such a journal, I am sure.

Sixth, CHO might establish a program to publish one volume per year of documents relating to a given period or leader.  For example, some of the papers of Brigham Young, or George A. Smith, or Wilford Woodruff, etc.  We ought to be writing our history, and we ought to be publishing the documents that other historians will use in interpreting our history.

Finally, we ought to begin to plan now for the 150 anniversary of the birth of the Church in 1980.  This is not too early to begin planning for such an event.  In the first place, virtually nothing has been done about writing LDS history since 1930.  In the second place, now that Elder Olson has done such a remarkably fine job of organizing the archives, many new and important documents are now available that should be studied.  We need to rewrite much of our history, incorporating the new material that is available.  In the third place, we have made almost no use of the papers of our great leaders.  We have the competency and the willingness; we ought to do it!

If there is any way I can help in any of the above tasks, I shall be glad to do so.  

Respectfully and affectionately,

Leonard J. Arrington

[LJAD, letter written to Elder Theodore Burton, 8 May 1970]

August 25, 1970

Elder Howard W. Hunter

L.D.S. Church Historian

47 East South Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Elder Hunter:

Our “committee” of L.D.S. historians was delighted with the opportunity to meet with you and discuss some of the activities of the Church Historian’s Office.  In line with our conversation we should like to suggest that consideration be given to the following:

1.  We feel very strongly the advantages to the Church of naming an assistant historian who is a recognized professional historian, and the desirability of granting to him a budget, which would make possible an historical program, which would give status to the Church in the field of Church history.  This person, in order to carry out the proper functions of his office ought to have a staff of four persons; (a) a full-time secretary, (b) an editor, whose primary task would be to edit for publication important documents related to Church history hitherto unpublished, (c) a director of research, whose primary responsibility would be to assist graduate students, “senior scholars”, and other persons engaged in research projects related to Church history, (d) a Church researcher, whose primary responsibility would be gathering material, upon request, for the general authorities and other Church officials and agencies.

2.  The Assistant Church Historian should maintain close relationships with the various professional historical associations related to L.D.S. history.  He would be expected to attend the annual conventions of each of the following:  (a) American Historical Association, (b) Organization of American Historians, (c) American Society of Church History, (d) Western Historical Association, (e) Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and other state historical conventions where the L.D.S. represent a substantial proportion of the population, (f) an occasional overseas historical convention in order to exhibit L.D.S. interest in historical research in European, Asian, Latin American, and other historical research.

3.  The Assistant Church Historian should also be granted a budget for publications.  We are unanimous in feeling that the publication program will be a profitable enterprise, once it is started.  There is a great deal of interest in L.D.S. history and the publication of documents related to that history ought to sell well to libraries and professional historians, as well as to members of the Church.  Nevertheless, an initial fund to inaugurate a publications program, and to remain as a revolving fund, would be essential.

4.  There are certain problems related to building a research and publication program, which would be desirable.  All of our L.D.S. professional historians, of course, are currently employed in Utah and other universities, and have already committed themselves to research programs now underway, some of which do not have any relation to L.D.S. history.  Moreover, the salaries earned by our recognized L.D.S. historians run from a low $15,000 a year to a high of $25,000 per year.  It may be difficult for the Church to meet these salaries.  Happily, there are devices by which the Historian’s Office can utilize the talents of professional historians at modest costs.  These include the following: (a) “senior” historians might take a leave of absence from their universities for a quarter, a half-year, or a year to do work for the Church Historian’s Office for which they are peculiarly fitted.  Most universities would readily grant such leaves (without pay); (b) graduate students who are preparing themselves for a career would welcome the opportunity of serving an internship in the Church archives.  This would be particularly practical in the case of graduate students at Utah universities who could spend two or three days a week doing work in the Church archives, for which they would obtain credit toward their graduate degree.  Such internships exist in the larger universities and pay in the neighborhood of $2,500 per year.

5.  Until the appointment of an assistant historian in charge of research and publications, and as a device by which the Church historian and his staff may maintain close relationships with the community of academic L.D.S. historians, we strongly recommend the appointment of an advisory council of L.D.S. historians.  The personnel of the group should represent different institutions and agencies, as well as different types of historical interest.  We think an ideal committee might consist of the following:  (a) a representative from the Church Historian’s Office, (b) a representative from the Department of History at B.Y.U., (c) a representative of the Department of Church History at B.Y.U., (d) a representative from Utah State University, (e) a representative from the University of Utah, a representative from the Institutes of Religion of the Church.  This committee should be picked in such a manner that there would be some older historians and some younger historians, some persons interested in intellectual history, some interested in theological, others interested in social and economic history, and so on.  We think it important enough that each of these positions be represented that each committee appointment also should have an approved alternate who could serve in case it was inconvenient for any particular member of the committee to attend a meeting.  We think this group should meet with the Church Historian at least once a quarter, and more often if the Church Historian feels an advantage to having more frequent meetings.  Actually, our present committee meets these criteria in splendid manner, provided a member of the Church Historian’s Office should be added to the group.  Arranging ourselves alphabetically, we are as follows:  (a) James B. Allen, Ph.D. in history from University of Southern California.  Formerly a director of the Institute of Religion of several southern California colleges; Bro. Allen is now a member of the history department at B.Y.U.  He has been a bishop, a high councilman, and is now the president-elect of the Mormon History Association.  (b) Leonard J. Arrington, Ph.D. in economic history from University of North Carolina, a part-time instructor with the Institute of Religion in Logan, Utah, and member of the department of economics at Utah State University.  He is a past president of the Mormon History Association, and has been a member of a stake presidency and a high councilman. (c) Lamar Berrett, Ph.D. in Church history from B.Y.U., he is now head of the department of Church history there.  Bro. Berrett is a bishop and a founding member of the Mormon History Association.  (d) Davis Bitton, Ph.D. in history from Princeton, Bro. Bitton is now a professor of history at the University of Utah.  He is active in many capacities in the Church, and a former part-time seminary instructor.  He is now president of the Mormon History Association.  (e) Reed Durham, PhD. in Church history from B.Y.U.  Bro. Durham is currently director of the Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City.  He has held many important Church positions, including a member of the General Board of the Sunday School.  He is secretary-treasurer of the Mormon History Association.  (f) The Church Historian might wish to name Dean Jessee to represent the Historian’s Office on this committee.  We should like to suggest the following as alternates to these persons, if you agree that these would make a satisfactory committee:  (a) alternate to James Allen of B.Y.U.:  Eugene E. Campbell, (b) alternate to Leonard Arrington:  George Ellsworth of Utah State University, (c) alternate to Lamar Berrett:  Milton Backman, (d) alternate to Davis Bitton:  James Clayton, University of Utah, (e) alternate to Reed Durham:  Ken Godfrey of the New Mexico and Arizona Institutes of Religion, and (f) alternate to Dean Jessee:  Lauritz Petersen of CHO.

6.  We suggest that the Church Historian’s Office might create the title of “fellow” to be granted to senior scholars in the field of Church history who are competent historians doing writing in the field of Church history, and active members of the Church.  These persons would have unrestricted access to the archives.  We could suggest a group of perhaps 20 persons that should be eligible for such a designation.

7.  A larger group consisting of both “professionals” and laymen might join an organization called “Friends of the Church Historian’s Library,” and have a monthly meeting at which one of the Fellows would be invited to present a paper.  These papers might then be collected, edited, and published annually.  Financing might be arranged by charging $10.00 annual dues to become a “Friend of the CHO”.

8.  The CHO might establish a summer fellowship, as do many archives, by granting, say, $1000 to a person who will spend full-time for two months during the summer of the grant, working in the archives in preparing articles and books.  Persons would apply for the grants, and the CHO might give, say, 4 or 5 each summer.  CHO would have first right of publication in its annual yearbook.

9.  Finally, we ought to begin to plan now for the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Church in 1980.  This is not too early to begin planning for such an event.  In the first place, virtually nothing has been done about writing L.D.S. history since 1930.  In the second place, now that Elder Olson has done such a remarkably fine job of organizing the archives, many new and important documents are now available that should be studied.  We need to rewrite much of our history, incorporating the new materials that are available.  In the third place, we have made almost no use of the papers of our great leaders.  We have the competency and the willingness; we ought to do it!

If there is any way we can help in any of the above tasks, we shall be glad to do so.

Respectfully and affectionately,

James B. Allen

Leonard J. Arrington

Lamar Berrett

Davis Bitton

Reed Durham

[LJAD, letter written to Elder Howard W. Hunter, 25 August 1970]

August 31, 1970

Dr. James B. Allen

Dr. LaMar C. Berrett

Dr. Davis Bitton

Dr. Reed Durham

Dear Colleagues:

I now have in hand all of your suggestions for modifying our letter to Elder Hunter.  I have accepted all of them in principle, but have dared to change the wording you suggest in several instances.  I am certain that the recommendations and wording of the original letter are vastly improved.

It is possible, of course, that not all of you agree with all of the suggestions made by our colleagues.  But your letters suggest that you all endorse the spirit and basic message of the letter.  Any particular differences you may have can certainly be expressed in a subsequent meeting, to which I am hopeful we will be invited.

My original intention, as you all know, was to revise the letter, send copies to you, and wait a few days before submitting to Elder Hunter.  It now appears that I will be seeing Elder Hunter tomorrow or next day.  If so, he will almost certainly ask me whether we are ready with our recommendations.  In that case, it now seems wise to me to give him the original of the enclosed redraft, and to tell him, “Yes, we have put together these recommendations which we respectfully submit.”  I hope you agree to this course.

Thank you all for your promptness and for your perception in spotting weaknesses and for the many fine suggestions for improvement in my wording.


Leonard J. Arrington



[LJAD, letters written to Drs. James B. Allen, LaMar C. Berrett, Davis Bitton, Reed Durham, 31 August 1970]

August 31, 1970

Elder Howard W. Hunter

L.D.S. Church Historian

47 East South Temple Street

Salt Lake city, Utah

Dear Elder Hunter:

Our “committee” of L.D.S. historians was delighted with the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the organization and functions of the Church Historian’s Office.  In line with our conversation, we should like to suggest that consideration be given to the following:

1.  As a device by which the Church Historian and his staff may maintain close relationships with the community of academic L.D.S. historians, we strongly recommend the appointment of a permanent (but with changes in membership from time to time) Advisory Council of L.D.S. Historians. The personnel of this group should represent different institutions and agencies, as well as different types of historical interest.  We think an ideal beginning Council might consist of the following: (a), a representative from the Department of History at B.Y.U., (b) a representative of the Department of Church History at B.Y.U., (c) a representative from the University of Utah, (d) a representative from Utah State University, (e), a representative from the Institutes of Religion of the Church, (f) a representative from the Utah State Historical Society, (g) a representative of L.D.S. historians outside the Mountain States area.  (The latter might not be able to attend meetings regularly, but his presence on the Council would demonstrate absence of a “provincial” bias, and in any case he would be able to communicate his counsel by letter, both before and after meetings.)

We think it important enough that each of these positions be represented that each Advisory Council appointment also should have an approved alternate who could serve in case it was inconvenient for any particular member to attend a meeting.  We think the Advisory Council should meet with the Church Historian at least once a quarter, and more often if the Church Historian feels an advantage to having more frequent meetings.

Actually, although it may seem presumptuous for us to suggest it, our present committee meets these criteria in splendid manner, provided a representative of the Utah State Historical Society and an eastern historian are added to the group.  Arranging ourselves in the same order as the above list, we are as follows: (a) James B. Allen, Ph.D. in history from University of Southern California.  Formerly a director of the Institute of Religion of several southern California colleges, Bro. Allen is now a member of the history department at B.Y.U.  He has been a bishop, a High Councilor, and is now the president-elect of the Mormon History Association.  (b) LaMar C. Berrett, Ed.D. in Educational Administration from B.Y.U., he is now chairman of the department of Church history and doctrine there.  Bro. Berrett is presently a bishop and a founding member of the Mormon History Association. (c) Davis Bitton, Ph.D. in history from Princeton. Active in many capacities in the Church, and a former part-time seminary instructor, Bro. Bitton is now a professor of history at the University of Utah. He is now president of the Mormon History Association.  (d) Leonard J. Arrington, Ph.D. in economic history from University of North Carolina, a part-time instructor with the Institute of Religion in Logan, and member of the departments of economics and history at Utah State University.  He is a past president of the Mormon History Association and Western History Association, and has been a member of a stake presidency, and a high councilor.

(e) Reed Durham, PhD. in Church history from B.Y.U.  Bro. Durham is currently director of the Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City.  He has held many important Church positions, including a member of the General Board of the Sunday School.  He is secretary-treasurer of the Mormon History Association.  (f) Charles Peterson, Ph.D. in western History from the University of Utah and now director of the Utah State Historical Society.  Dr. Peterson is also an active Latter-day Saint and hails from Arizona.  (g) Richard L. Bushman, Harvard Ph.D. in American History and Bishop of the Cambridge Ward, who taught for several years at B.Y.U. and is now in the Department of History at Boston University.  There are many advantages in having the counsel of a person in close connection with the great eastern libraries and universities.  The Church Historian might wish to have Elder Earl Olson sit in on all the meetings of this Council.

We should like to suggest the following as alternates to these persons, if you agree that the above would make a satisfactory Advisory Council:  (a) alternate to James Allen:  Eugene E. Campbell of B.Y.U., (b) alternate to LaMar C. Berrett:  Milton Backman of B.Y.U., (c) alternate to Davis Bitton:  James Clayton, University of Utah, (d) alternate to Leonard Arrington:  George Ellsworth of Utah State University, (e) alternate to Reed Durham:  Ken Godfrey of the New Mexico and Arizona Institutes of Religion, (f) alternate to Charles Peterson:  Melvin Smith of the Utah State Historical Site commission, (g) alternate to Richard Bushman:  Richard D. Poll, of Western Illinois University. 

2.  As we stated in our meeting together, we wholeheartedly endorse a member of the Quorum of the Twelve as the Church Historian.  The Church Historian should be, as he has traditionally been, in the policy-making bodies of the Church.  We also enthusiastically sustain Brother Earl Olson as an Assistant Historian in charge of the Library and Archives of the Church.  We feel equally strongly the advantages to the Church of naming as an additional Assistant Church Historian a Latter-day Saint who is a recognized professional historian, and the desirability of granting to him a budget, which would make possible an historical program, which would give intellectual status to the Church and its history, as well as carry out the commandments of the Lord as contained in the revelations.  This person should serve as a coordinator and supervisor of historical research and publications.  In order to carry out the proper functions of his office he ought to have a staff of five persons; (a) a full-time secretary, (b) an editor, whose primary task would be to edit for publication important documents related to Church history hitherto unpublished, (c) a director of research, whose primary responsibility would be to assist graduate students, “senior scholars”, and other persons engaged in research projects related to Church history, and also be expected to respond to letters related to research in L.D.S. history, (d) a Church researcher, whose primary responsibility would be gathering information, upon request, for the General Authorities and other Church officials and agencies.  This person might also chronicle Church history on a regular daily basis, in addition to the news clipping service which now exists, (e) a “traveling historian-librarian,” who would be employed to go into the field (“white, ready for the harvest!) to uncover documents, letters, journals, diaries, etc., in the homes of members and others.  Ideally, he should also be trained in “oral history,” and carry along a tape recorder to record incidents, songs, etc. of “old-timers.”  He should also visit major university and archival libraries and collections to determine their holdings on Mormon history and arrange reciprocal exchanges.

We also recommend that the Church Historian’s Office retain appropriate legal counsel to give advice on the legal obligations of CHO to those who have donated materials to the Church Historian’s Library-Archives.

3.  Although the salaries now being earned by our recognized L.D.S. professional historians run from a low $15,000 a year to a high of $25,000 per year and although some of them might not want to leave permanently their present positions to work for the Church Historian’s Office, there are devices by which the CHO can utilize the talents of professional historians at modest costs. “Senior” historians (that is, L.D.S. historians already “established”) might take a leave of absence from their universities for a quarter, a half-year, or a year to do work for the Church Historian’s Office for which they are peculiarly fitted.  Thus, one of them might take a leave for a year to edit the papers of one of the presidents or great leaders of the Church.  Another might take a leave to write a history of the Church in the twentieth century, and so on.  Most universities would readily grant such leaves (without pay) and the Church Historian’s Office might obtain their services by making a “Fellowship Grant.”  We can think of some twenty or thirty faithful and experienced L.D.S. historians with doctorates who are competent to do the kind of work mentioned above, and who can be relied upon to be discreet and intelligent in working with the Assistant Church Historians and in protecting the interests of the Church. 

Another device would be for the Church Historian’s Office to establish summer fellowships, as do many archives, by granting, say, $2,000 to an L.D.S. historian to spend full-time during his off summer, to do assigned research or administrative work under the direction of the Church Historian.  Thus, recognized L.D.S. historians might retain their academic connections and still contribute regularly to the work of the Church Historian’s Office.

Still another device, often used in business and government, is the creation of “internships,” under which promising graduate students who are preparing themselves for a career in history or Church education would be given a stipend to work in one of several capacities, part-time or full-time for a year or part-year in the Church Historian’s Office.  One of the tasks of the new Assistant Church Historian would be to supervise the arrangements for and work of such persons.

4.  The Assistant Church Historian should maintain close relationships with the various professional historical associations related to L.D.S. history.  He would be expected to attend the annual conventions of such organizations as the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Society of Church History, Western History Association, and the Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and other state historical conventions in states where the L.D.S. represent a substantial proportion of the population.  He should also attend an occasional overseas historical convention in order to exhibit L.D.S. interest in historical research in European, Asian, Latin American, and other historical research.

3.  The Assistant Church Historian should also be granted a budget for publications.  We are unanimous in feeling that the publication program will be a profitable enterprise, once it is started.  There is a great deal of interest in L.D.S. history and the publication of documents related to that history ought to sell well to libraries and professional historians, as well as to members of the Church.  Nevertheless, an initial fund to inaugurate a publications program, and to remain as a revolving fund, would be essential.  We are in need of an L.D.S. encyclopedia, sequels to the “Documentary” History of the Church, publication of the papers of leading church officials, and other historical documents.

6.  We suggest that the Church Historian consider the creation of an organization called “Friends of the Church Historian’s Library,” which would include both professionals and laymen.  Having good will for the Church Historian’s Office, and interest in its work, this group might have a regular monthly meeting at which a person doing research in the Historian’s Library-Archives would be invited to present a paper.  These papers might then be collected, edited, and published annually.  Financing might be arranged by charging $10.00 annual dues to become a “Friend of the Church Historian’s Office”.

7.  Finally, we ought to begin to plan now for the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Church to be celebrated in 1980.  This is not too early to begin planning for such an event.  Insufficient attention has been given to twentieth century Church history.  In addition, now that Elder Olson and associates have done such a remarkably fine job of organizing the Archives, many new and important documents are now available that should be studied.  We need to rewrite much of our history, incorporating the new materials that are available and the new interpretations that have been advanced.  We need to bring together in narrative form the results of the tremendous amount of research that has been done since the publication in 1930 of B.H. Roberts’ Comprehensive History of the Church. 

If there is any way any of us, individually or collectively, can help in any of the above tasks, we volunteer our services.


Leonard J. Arrington, on behalf of:

James B. Allen

LaMar C. Berrett

R. Davis Bitton

Reed C. Durham, Jr.

[LJAD, letter written to Elder Howard W. Hunter, 31 August 1970]

September 10, 1970

Leonard J. Arrington

Department of Economics

Utah State University

Logan, Utah 84321

Dear Leonard:

Thank you for sending the copy of the final letter, which our “committee” sent to Elder Hunter.  I compliment you on the final form of the letter.  I think it was well written and right to the point.  I am greatly excited about this project and am anxiously looking forward to being involved in whatever way I can.

I have enclosed for your comment something that I have been thinking about and jotting ideas down about for a long time.  We talked about the need for a new history of the Church to be ready in 1980, the 150th anniversary of the Church.  I have some personal ideas on how this should be accomplished and I would like, somehow, to make this proposal to the right sources as soon as possible.  The enclosed is an outline of my ideas, and I would appreciate very much your reaction to them.  Also, I would like to know how you would suggest we go about implementing this project, if indeed this could be the general scheme we would follow.  I have a feeling that if our “committee” feels that this project is worthwhile we should present it to Brother Hunter within the next few months and see whether it would be feasible to go ahead on it.

I look forward to seeing you in Reno, if now before.  Best personal regards and thanks again for writing such a fine letter on behalf of the committee.

Most sincerely,

James B. Allen

Associate Professor of History

[LJAD, letter written by James B. Allen to LJA, 10 September 1970]

5 October 1970

Professor Leonard J. Arrington

Department of Economics

Utah State University

Logan, Utah 84321

Dear Leonard:

I was impressed with your thinking on the Church Historian’s Office, both its perspicacity and its scale.  Your plans make good sense, and I am very pleased you included my name on the list of candidates for the council.

Please keep me posted on developments.  Knowing the Church, I doubt that we will receive approval for all of your requests, but even a part would help out.

Best regards,

Richard L. Bushman


[LJAD, letter written by Richard L. Bushman to LJA, 5 October 1970]

October 21, 1970

Elder Howard W. Hunter

Church Historian’s Office 

47 East South Temple

Salt Lake City, Utah 84102

Dear Elder Hunter:

This is to recommend the appointment of Leonard Arrington as Assistant Church Historian, in line with the general recommendations submitted to you by the small group of historians, you so kindly received in your office a few weeks ago.  This committee did not recommend any one individual, and I realize of course that you will wish to consider many questions before making such an appointment.  But your wonderful receptive attitude has led me to think that you will be willing to consider opinions and advice as part of the “input.”

The more I have thought about this the more firmly convinced I have become that Leonard Arrington would bring a combination of qualities that no other Latter-day Saint historian can come close to duplicating.

He is by all odds the most important historian working on our LDS history.  By this I do not mean simply that his book Great Basin Kingdom has won national recognition.  More important, he has continued to work.  His productivity as a scholar is without parallel; each year he produces additional articles of importance.

This man is held in the highest regard by the history profession.  He is well known.  He was the founder and first president of the Mormon History Association.  Within the past two years he has been president of two other national associations, the Agricultural History Association and the Western History Association.  When this last organization wad looking for someone to serve as editor of their new scholarly journal The Western History Quarterly, they decided that no one could do better than Leonard Arrington.  All of which is to say that Leonard’s “contacts” throughout the historical profession would be practically impossible to match and that these could be of great benefit to the functioning of the Historian’s Office.

While circulating in these national associations and associating closely with other eminent historians Leonard has seen to it that he has not lost contact with younger scholars and students of history.  He knows personally practically everyone, LDS or non-LDS, who is currently working on any aspect of our history.  His affiliation with the Utah State Historical Society, the Center for Studies of the American West, the Institute of Mormon Studies, not to speak of his leading role as one of the history advisers for the church periodicals, all have enabled him to be on the best of personal relations with students, scholars, and publishers within the church.

Finally, it goes without saying that Leonard is an active, devoted member of the church.  Member of a stake presidency and part-time instructor of an Institute class at Utah State University, he has not allowed his church membership to stagnate.  It is indicative of his deep concern for the church that, even while maintaining a phenomenal record of publishing scholarly articles in the learned journals, he found time to write articles for BYU Studies and the Improvement Era.

Leonard’s personal qualities scarcely need any recommendation from me.  But I am sure you recognize how rare must be the following combination:  high regard from the history profession based on scholarly works and activities in professional associations, wide acquaintance among the younger generation in the church, a consistent record of activity in the church.  Others have some of these qualities and achievements, but how rare it is to find them all in the same person!  Leonard’s genial personality helps to maintain the best of  feelings among those he deals with.  What I am saying, obviously, is that a person ever so friendly but without professional credentials would be handicapped, as would a scholar who tended to be shy or morose.  In short, Leonard’s warm, outgoing personality coupled with his unrivaled credentials as a historian could do much to assist you.

Finally, I should make clear that Leonard did not ask me to say or write anything on his behalf.  He is not the only person that could make a contribution in the new position.  If I have seemed unduly enthusiastic, please believe that this is due to my honest conviction that here is a man who almost seems heaven-sent to accomplish a certain task.  I have tried to set forth as directly as I could the unique combination of achievements and qualities he represents and which you will certainly want to weigh carefully as you make the important plans and decisions that will affect us all.

Whatever you decide on these questions, rest assured of my loyalty and support.

Very sincerely yours,

Davis Bitton, President

Mormon History Association

DB: ge

[LJAD, letter written by Davis Bitton to Howard W. Hunter, 21 October 1970]

January 25, 1971

Dear Dr. Arrington and Family,

From the looks of things I am the proud owner of the new, hot name in the church right now…ARRINGTON.  The new man in the influential position.  The symbol of a new era, the representation of contemporary with-it-ness.  Nobody in Tarija realizes the significance of the event, but I think I have an inkling of the things that this signifies for the family, the church and for Dad.

I have had a little time to do some thinking about the importance of this new calling and the new chapter in Arrington history.

The first thing I have considered is the effect it will have upon Arringtown and the changes that all of this implies for everyone involved.  I guess that with this the biggest change will be the location of headquarters in Salt Lake City rather than the previously considered possibility of Provo.  That change in itself I think is a good one  because it will make Arringtown more centrally located to a large urban center and the governing seat of the state and of the Church.  It will be easier accessible because of the airport and am sure it will  expand our horizons both socially and culturally by being exposed to the new problems of a different life style  and metropolitan living.

For Mom I think the change is important, especially at this time when all of the chicks are leaving the nest, and rather than having nostalgia and reflection take our place, I see a whole new era of entertainment, parties, and live-wire living to take our places.  I can also see the growth of Mom as a popular speaker among various groups around, which means a lot or reading, writing a preparation as well as the colonizing of a new home and settling in the Salt Lake valley.  It sort of seems like the spirit of ’47 when all this Utah business began.  I think that Mom will stabilize the whole family movement—sort of a cornerstone for the situation.

For James I see him moving into the theatre as planned and getting some major roles in various productions not as much because of the name but rather because of his talent .  I think he will be helpful in a variety of ways to Dad and he will get interested in the history of theatre and the theatre of history.  I see he and Dad collaborating on some new historical presentations.

For Sue this gives her a pretty fine launch into college at USU and think she may even consider the possibilities of BYU after her first year of college.  I see her following a writing career which would not be exactly new in the family, but she will have her own specialty and style in the field and will end up in print like the rest of the family…some of us in headlines, some of us in bylines and others of us just sort of between the lines.

And for me I guess this means a great deal to me at the present and will increase its influence on me in the next couple of “career” years of my life.  I will have a natural advantage in the name and I can see a long future of collaboration between father and son on a variety of projects in the future, which will be very successful.  It is sort of hard for me right now because I am so isolated physically from the situation, however I have only the brightest future to look forward to.  I also will have a place to live while attending the U and will no-doubt be happy to return and get back in the swing of the new household and the new life.

And of course for Dr. A. I see fast and expanded exposure to the general public, not only from the church, but from social leaders and people outside of the church.  I do not think it will change things between present acquaintances, but I see a far extension of social and professional contacts, which will be interesting to the whole group.  I see a wide spreading of Arringtown literature and figure that Great Basin Kingdom will go through a couple of quick printings in the next several years.  I also see the renewed public interest in scholarly works and figure that Dialogue will soon make it on our own.  With this will also come a freedom from extra jobs and outside biographies to make money and this, I guess will end all worries from the money standpoint and will give you an unlimited supply of research resources, funds for projects and unlimited help and staff. I see also a great asset in being right in the Church Historians Office with the Mounds of Information right at your fingertips.  I think that this will also see a revision of some of the archives so as to accommodate more scholars and people doing honest research.  I would hope that this change will open the doors just a little wider to the information in the Library.  I guess that extended travel will not exactly be a drawback and think that one of the most effective tools you have is your scholarly charisma in person, that seems to excite people to investigate your field.  Though I guess the position will bring almost too much of a demand I think that your exposure during the first little while to the church groups will be very important.  I also suppose that you will have a lot more free time to sit down and do more actual writing and get finished with your other projects so you can work full time on the important parts of your calling.

To me the most exciting aspect of the calling is the fact that you will be in a position to influence the church for good from an official standpoint with blessings of church officials.  It seems that now the most important thing facing you is not as much gathering and compiling the data, but rather sifting the archives and libraries for important things and lending your expert analysis of the documents and giving the whole works a contemporary application.  That is to say that it is more than just gathering facts, but rather giving a reason and explanation for the existing facts.  The challenge is to present Mormon Heritage in a way as to give the latest day saints an insight into present problems by applying them to the struggles of the early Mormons.  The whole thing comes in making history into a living art rather than a withering past.  What I am really trying to say with all of this is “KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK”.

I see your position not only important because of the things that you will be able to do in the Church Historians office, but rather that you are a symbol to thousands of young latter day saints of a man of secular knowledge as well as one of religious faith.  The fact that you are both helps to resolve the inner-conflict among many young people who have such a difficult time rationizing these two social and eternal forces.  Your person will now represent a new image among the Saints all over the world and your fruits will feed masses.

I guess like you, I knew all along that this thing was coming.  I have had the feeling for sometime now and I guess this is just sort of a physical confirmation of the things that I knew would come to pass.  Though I was rather surprised by the timing of the event, I see the whole situation as an inspired one, both for the church and for the family.

I guess your calling because so many people consider our family sort of a Liberal/Liahona cell in Cache Valley and this is certainly a first in this epic of the church to name a “liberal” to such a lofty position when there is so much said in prosecution of the liberal point of view.  The fact that you were so influential in Dialogue and are now in the position you are indicates a lot of important evolution of ideas among church leaders.

Lets just say the Lord surprised a lot of people with your call.  I guess you and I know as well as anyone in the church as you can’t second-guess the Lord on his leaders.

So all of this jibberjash implicates the birth of a new spirit of unity among the ideological factions of the church and can see this event to be the first in a series of several in the next several years.  I see the reduction of friction between liberals and conservatives in the church and a decline in the theological name-calling game that so many people have been up to in the last couple of years.  For the so-called Iron Roders in the church I see a great interest by them in the new objectivism and scholarly works among Mormons and a cease to have their latent, or blatant contempt for “book learned folks” in the church.  All of this is part of the plan that is going into effect to tighten the ship, unify the saints, and get things in order in preparation,.  The change, like always, will be an evolutionary one rather than an revolutionary one, but in the next decade the Church will prepare itself and its members for the second coming.  Your calling is an important part of that, which I think the prophet has already told you.  Your work, and more importantly your position is a most important one for me and other church members, it is a sign of direction.  Your appointment is a new compass on a very large map.

Here in Tarija I am left with a little more time that I had in LaPaz to do some writing and express some thoughts and ideas that I have been developing for a rather long time.  I have written enough to get started back in the verbal rhythm and think that I will enjoy this series of writings as much if not more that my previous attempts.  This part of the Spiritual Adventure will not deal nearly as much with the events, but rather an inventory of personal feelings, thoughts and ideas.  “Discourses From Tarija” will be mostly a subjective analysis of present forces in my life and a reflection on past influences.  I am also writing more about my feelings and thoughts on church organization, doctrine and Mormonism.  I think it important for some reason to take an inventory of my thoughts and testimony and see if I can trace the psychological part and make record of my feelings on a mission, more than the events of daily life and my reactions to them.  I have been reading a bit more now days, I am presently working my way through The Secular City by Harvey Cox and rather than rejecting the major thesis of the book, thus far I find it fascinating to apply his theories to contemporary Mormonism.  I am also reading the gospel of John as well as the sheaf of Arrington articles that I have in my personal archives.  I think that there is a great correlation between what I read and my ability and willingness to write.  That is to say that the more I read, the more I write and once I begin I hardly have enough time to do either.

Here are some examples of some articles that I am presently playing around with in my mornings at the typewriter:

Mormonism in the Secular City – mostly reactions to the book and how my concept of Mormonism meshes with Harvey Cox’s Christianity.  So far I have found Mormonism and our view of continual progression and continuing revelation the only religion in existence really ready to deal with social problems without making major doctrinal changes.

Portrait of a Mission President  Keith N. Roberts:  Latter Day Pioneer in Bolivia – I started an article like this before, but only now have I had time to do a little thinking about such an article.  I would like to have a series of interviews with him and figure I could write a pretty good article, but I guess that isn’t too feasible at the present time.  I will see what I can come up with.

Pragmatic Inspiration:  In Defense of Practical Revelation – I started this just recently as I considered the new calling you have its implications and how it is a logical choice.  The point is that God is not really as mysterious as we would like to think.  But rather uses natural situations to bring about His will.  Too many people look at inspiration as moves in a big chess game and forget that God is a loving father, which intervenes for the good of man in various ways when His flock needs guidance.

1 Score:  My Twenty Years With Carl Arrington – which is a biography of the influences and events, which have formed my life and attitudes.  I think I had better get some of these thoughts and experiences onto paper before I forget them.  It is just sort of a personal thing.

Future Biography:  Thoughts on Tomorrow – sort of my own little fairy tale account of how I would like things to turn out.  It too will be something interesting to read over in a couple of years.

This will sort of give you an outline of my present interests and may send some excerpts home from time to time if I think there is something worthy of passing around.  I think that this will in part be a more personal journal that I will want to keep somewhat personal, though I have no doubt that there will also be a number of excerpts that I will want to try and publish.

My work in Tarija as a missionary is going very well and we have a good proselyting program going and I really enjoy working with Elder Anderson.  I really enjoy the people and the climate—we are basking while the rest of Bolivia is now shivering.  The job of branch president isn’t quite as difficult as it was at first, and I see some rewards in the position, but I would just as soon be a full time proselyting missionary again like the good old days.  Problems mean progress. 

It is really interesting to preside over a group of saints of whom the longest members have been in the church for three years.  From such a situation you can get just an inkling of some of the problems that faced church leaders in the early days of Mormonism.  We are starting from scratch down here…I mean its stuff like teaching people how to mark the rolls and how to conduct meetings and teach classes.  It is really interesting and at times a bit trying to one’s patience.  But the saints are progressing and it is Bolivia’s only hope.

One of the enemies is that people have been conditioned non-thinkers on religious matters by the Catholic church here in Bolivia and especially an isolated place like Tarija.  For example we were talking to a family the other night who believed that unbaptized children returned to kidnap local children wearing large wide-brimmed hats.  The “Church” down here makes ignorance into an institution rather than an unfortunate condition.  Though I still keep a fairly healthy attitude towards Catholicism in comparison with other missionaries, I myself find the idols they pray to, the robes they parade in and their bloody crucifixes to be rather appalling and pagan.  This is not the Catholicism of the U.S. or even of St. Augustine, it now is just sort of a withing [sic] dragon.

It is also interest to be out of LaPaz with nothing but your companion and your personal initiative.  It is a lot more satisfying to work in this sort of a situation because you are the creator and former of your own destiny.  

I eat well, live well and am very happy here in the tranquility of separation from the whole secular city and the other world with only books as reminders of its existence. 

I have done a lot of thinking lately about the possibility of becoming a historian and directly following the laying footsteps of Dr. Arrington.  I guess it seems so natural and I am really getting a kick out of the field and its contemporary application.  But after a long thought session with myself today I decided that the possibilities of me becoming a good scholarly historian were unpractical.  Not because of the lack of desire, or  even ability…it goes further than that down to my basic nature.  And that is that I am basically by nature a crusader of causes and tend to sift facts according to my own championing causes.  I guess that is why journalism fits my id so well, because I am a ragged, spur-of-the-moment  pamphleteer to be a warrior in the battle of ideas.  I am a muckraker who was born in the wrong decade.  This is not to say that I will not write history or indulge my intellectual pleasures, but rather that I don’t think I will ever come to the point where I call myself a historian because of the preconceived notions about the importance, even the sacredness of objectivity in relation of past events.  To put it simply, I think that I would tend to be one of the “Manipulators of the Mormon Past” by my nature.  I have too much self-subjectivity and emotional attachment to the issues at hand to hold myself and my opinions out of the analysis of the past.  I guess that the discipline of the whole matter is just foreign to me and my line is drawn in creativity rather than solid scholarly works.  I am just sort of acceptant of the fact that I will always sort of be caught into causes to tamper with something important as the past.  I guess all of this is just to say that I don’t think I have won my own personal battle over the subjective/objective debate.  I guess I will sort of end up as a “historical journalist” rather than a “journalistic historian.”  

Well it is rather too late  at night and I will either have to edit and publish this if I continue or will have to finish it…let’s see, it’s one o’clock and I am rather bushed and think I will elect the latter option.

Love Carlos de Tarija


[LJAD, letter written by Carl Arrington, 25 January 1971]

Still no word from Salt Lake City about the Historian’s Office; nor any word from BYU about the Western History chair and center.  We don’t know the reason for the delay, but nobody else has been appointed, so we assume that we are still in the running for both jobs.  I must say that I can be perfectly content to stay here, and will not be at all upset if the jobs should go to someone else.  All along I have recognized that there were many obstacles to my appointment, and I don’t have my heart set on either.  Moreover, I’d hate to leave Logan and this house.  I think Del Gardner would be a fine department head, so no worries on that score.  Incidentally, I enjoyed teaching his class last week, and look forward to it tomorrow.  James continues to teach his class.

I’m making good progress on my various projects.  I’ve had a fellow in SLC since December collecting and copying materials on Charles C. Rich, and have almost enough to write a biography of him.  We ought to wind up the research phase by the end of this summer.  I have employed Richard Jensen for two months this summer and expect him to finish it up, that is the research.  Then I’ll write like mad this fall to try to get it out.  JoAnn Woodruff Bair, in Phoenix, is working on the David Eccles story from materials I Xerox and send her, and she ought to have a rough draft of that story for me by June.  Then some more research this summer, and I’ll be ready to write that story.  On the history of First Security Bank, I have Gwynn Barrett employed in Boise to get the Idaho phase; and he will be employed part of the summer working on the Utah phase.  So we’ll have a good chunk of that research done.  But it will be at least another year before I start writing on that.  I also have to finish a book I started sometime ago on the history of the United Orders for the Univ. of Utah Press, using some materials left by Feramorz Y. Fox, long since dead.  His name will appear as a co-author.  I’m supposed to turn that over to them Oct. 1.  I also have to finish by June an article on Utah for the new edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, and some articles on the Mormons for a new western encyclopedia.  Besides that, I have to do an original piece on some aspect of early Mormon history for a special symposium May 15 at BYU.  I shall entitle it “Centrifugal Tendencies in Mormon History,” and it will deal with some men who left the Church and became prominent in other movements and faiths.  This will be a first for this kind of a study.  We tend to forget people after they leave the Church.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 24 April 1971]

No word from BYU or CHO yet, but BYU is getting a new president Tuesday (tomorrow) and the rumor is that it is Dallin Oaks (formerly on the Board of Dialogue and a professor of law at the Univ. Of Chicago.  We know him (he lived in Twin Falls several years as a child) and think he would be great.  We think that’s why they’ve delayed their offer to me—want to clear it with him.  After all, it’s a pretty high paying job.  So we expect to get a letter a few days after tomorrow.  We think that the Church decision will be made this month, and that it might possibly involve some kind of cooperation with the Center at BYU.  I learned one thing—the BYU fiscal year is Sept. 1 to Sept. 1, so the BYU position will not begin until Sept. 1 of this year, assuming that everything else works out.  I have made up my mind psychologically to take it if it is offered.  And I think Mamma has also.  But Susan insists she will go to USU, which is of course fine with us.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 3 May 1971]

I appreciate your remarks about the BYU and CHO deals.  Nothing new to report.  Elder Howard Hunter is in Belgrade this week.  I suppose he’ll get on the CHO job when he gets back.  I think I’m still in the running, but as I’ve said, the chances are not more than perhaps one in three or four.  As for the BYU job, it’s still on, but Wilkinson apparently wanted to talk it over with the new president before making the formal offer.  I’m expecting a letter any day with the offer, and if it is the same as we discussed orally, I plan to say yes.  Under my plan, we would remain in Logan until the summer or fall of 1972, and go to BYU a couple of days per week, being about 40% on their payroll and about 60 % on the USU payroll.  I would attempt to finish my books, and taper off my role in the Western Historical Quarterly.  I may not do any teaching, or very little, next year, but will retain my office.  Of course, none of this applies if (a) BYU reneges on the deal—and it can; (b) Charley Redd should die or change his mind or the Redd family change its mind.  Both of these are possibilities.  We’ve still not said anything to anybody outside the family.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 7 May 1971]

Dear Son,

This afternoon, the first of the BIGGIES came.  That is, this afternoon I received the letter from President inviting me to occupy the Lemuel Redd Chair of Western History and to be director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU, both conditional upon the actual transferal to BYU of $500,000.  I accepted the invitations.  The next stage is for them to take my letter of acceptance to Charlie Redd, and he presumably will begin transferring the endowment to BYU.  At that stage, they will then issue me a formal contract to sign.  Under the agreement I shall remain in Logan for the next academic year and go to BYU on the average of one week day in three.  I shall be on their payroll 33% and the remainder on USU.  Then the following year, presumably in August of 1972, we shall move to Provo and begin full-time service there.  All of this, again, is conditional upon Charlie Redd coming through with the money, and there must always be a doubt until he conveys the agree sum to BYU.  The official announcement will certainly not be made until that happens.

Still no word from the Church Historian’s Office.  Will let you know if and when that decision is made.  I am not at all confident that it will involve me, but we shall see, The BYU deal will not affect that decision, I think, since a dual appointment is possible.

I have notified the department head (Reed Durtschi), dean (Collier), Univ. Business Mgr., Dee Broadbent; and Graduate Dean, Eldon Gardner, of the tentative offer from BYU.  It will probably not affect my teaching at USU next year; we’ll probably just cut out the Western Historical Quarterly editorship and turn it over to George and Charles Peterson  All agree that I cannot afford to refuse the BYU offer and offer their congratulations.  The BYU offer is exactly as I described it to you before you left.  Mamma, James, and Susan all approved my acceptance.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 21 May 1971]

As far as I know, the Charlie Redd grant to BYU will go through in about two weeks.  But they won’t have any money from it for a while, so I suggested that perhaps they would want to make my appointment effective next spring or so.  They may simply announce the appointment and then suggest I stay at USU full-time for another year.  That would be fine with me—and with USU.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 12 June 1971]

Still no further word on the BYU deal.  So far as I know it is going thru, but takes time.  I probably won’t be spending more than one day in five in Provo during the coming year, and four days a week at USU, Still no word on the Church Historian’s Office.  So far as I know things are about as they were—I’m still No. 1, but no decision yet.  I’ll be very honest and say that I am not hoping for it.  Will take it if offered, but will not in the least be disappointed if it isn’t offered.  My primary concern—and this is very honest—is that a professional be appointed who can manage things as they ought to be managed.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 4 July 1971]

It looks as though the BYU deal will be officially concluded around the last of July.  They expect to have the money transferred about July 20, and the publicity and all about July 27.  Apparently Wilkinson wants to announce it all before he leaves the presidency, which is on August 1.  This means that the publicity will come while Mamma and Susan are gone.  I suppose we will have the effective date something like January 1, although it might be Sept 1 or Oct. 1 if they wish it.  Then I’ll spend something like one day a week at BYU for the first year.  We won’t plan to move to Provo, as I mentioned, until about Sept. 1972—just before you come home.

As for the Church Historian’s Office position, nothing on that yet.  As far as I know, it’s still go, but continual delay.  It may be that they are waiting for the BYU deal to be concluded first.  That might make some sense.  I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.  I’ll have my hands full with my projects here and the BYU deal without asking for anything extra.  So I am not about to ask for it, or hope for it, or want it.  Only that I and my fellow LDS historians are willin’.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 11 July 1971]

General Conference will be this weekend, and there is back in our minds the possibility that they might want to sustain a new Assistant Church Historian.  But so far no word on it.  I feel sure that they haven’t asked anybody else so far.  So it is still an open possibility, but then the chances are about the same as I calculated last spring.  The BYU have continued to telephone us about once every week or so saying that everything is moving along and an announcement could come at any moment.  But so far no word.  I feel reasonably certain it will go through but perhaps not for several weeks yet.  I feel reasonably sure that a church appointment would permit both positions.  But we shall see how things go.  Some people, both here and BYU, have been telling people about the BYU deal, so it is pretty well known now, even though our family have said nothing.  Every so often someone comes up to one of us and asks what’s the deal about BYU.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 27 September 1971]

The BYU report they have now received the money from Charles Redd, and that they will send me a contract this week.  So this deal will apparently go through soon, to take effect Jan. 1, but only on a part-time basis until a year from now.  In general conference the Church did not sustain a new Asst. Historian.  So that deal is still alive.  I suppose they may be waiting for things to be right.  Perhaps until the BYU deal is completed.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 4 October 1971]

BYU says they have received the money from Charlie Redd, and that they will be making an announcement on the Center in a few days.  Then they will send me a contract, to take effect Jan. 1.  Then I’ll go to the Y one day a week for winter quarter and two days a week for spring quarter.  Then work for the summer for First Security, and then move to the Y, with one day per week at USU for fall quarter.  Since nothing occurred in general conference on the Historian’s Office, we assume that is still a very real possibility and that sometime later there will be some decision on it.  Will let you know if and when anything happens.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 8 October 1971]

Friday we drove to Provo to attend the inaugural of Dallin Oaks as president of  BYU.  Was enjoyable.  Saw James for a couple of hours and had a nice chat.  Also saw Doug Cardon.  Saw Bob Thomas, vice president of BYU.  He told me that BYU was all ready for the announcement of the Redd Chair, and that he had checked that morning with Brother Howard Hunter of CHO, and Brother Hunter said they still hadn’t completed their discussions with the First Presidency, and asked them to hold up the announcement for a couple of weeks.  If the First Presidency should agree with their recommendations, they might want to make a joint announcement.  So the CHO position is still open, I‘m still being considered, but not telling what will happen.  You will not, of course, say anything about the CHO business.  But the BYU position is now officially made, but not yet announced.  But literally hundreds of people know, because it has been widely told in meetings by BYU people.  I’m supposed to start there Jan. 1 and go once a week, or for two days every other week, during winter quarter, and two days a week during spring quarter.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 14 November 1971]


My son Carl, writing from Bolivia, says that I should keep a diary of my activities and thoughts, and I have finally decided to do this.  It will be my present intention to dictate an entry once or twice a week. We’ll see how things go.

It would appear than an announcement will be made shortly that I have accepted an appointment as Charles H. Redd Professor of History at BYU beginning January 1, 1972.  Because of present responsibilities at Utah State University it will be necessary for me to “phase in” to the BYU position over the next year.  The plan will be for me to go to BYU one day a week during winter quarter (January—March 1972), two days per week during Spring Quarter (March—May), and move to Provo in August or September 1972.  I am already committed to full-time work on the First Security Bank History during the summer of 1972.  The plan would be to return to Utah State University Fall Quarter 1972 (September—December 1972) one day per week to complete research obligations at USU.  The appointment at BYU also includes serving as director of the Western History Center.  This center will enjoy a budget, which will make possible research and publication in Western American History, lecturer fees, research fellowships, travel, and the purchase of rare books and manuscripts.  According to present plans, the Center will be located in the BYU Library.

There are a number of reasons I have decided to accept the BYU position.  Here are some of them:

1.  I don’t see a useful future as a Professor of Economics at USU.  My specialties are Western Economic History and the History of Economic Thought, and I continue to give courses in both areas. The number in these courses continue to decline, and most of those who take them do so only because their advisors require it, and the advisors require it only to make me feel useful.  There continues to be a declining interest nationally in the History of Economic Thought.  Many universities have essentially discontinued instruction in this field, and almost no universities have interested employees who make this their specialty.  Nor are articles on the history of thought being published in the economic journals.  The same is true of Economic History—little interest in economic historians or what they do on the part of the economic profession generally.  I think it would be fair to say that no student in economics at Utah State University within the past 15 years has been interested in writing a thesis on economic history.  Indeed, in the 25 years I have been at USU, only 3 students have written masters theses in economic history under my direction. Nor is there interest on the part of history students in taking my courses in economic history.  The best indication of the feelings of the department and college is the fact that they do not intend to replace me with a professor in Economic History or the History of Economic Thought.  Their present intention would be to continue both courses , at least temporarily, but assign them to other staff members on a temporary basis.  I feel certain that the number of persons who sign up for the courses will drop so that they will discontinue both courses within a year.  The Department of Economics, along with the Dean of the College of Business, and other University officials, will attempt to develop a strong resource economics specialty.

2.  I must also mention the discomfort that one feels realizing that it is impossible for him to read economic literature.  All of the important journals carry articles, which can be understood almost exclusively by persons who are dealing in mathematical economics.  The Journal of Economic History has experienced a strong infiltration by mathematically oriented economics.  Many of the articles in these journals cannot be understood by persons like myself who do not have a mathematical orientation.  Almost certainly the pendulum will swing back and there will be an increased interest in economics as one of the humanities, but by that time I may be approaching retirement.  Another indication of my worth here is the failure of USU to make any concrete attempt to encourage me to stay here.  So far as I can judge, all of the administrators concerned feel that they can replace me with a new mathematically-oriented PhD for not much more than 2/3 of my salary here.  My opportunities for research in economic history are now located in external, fortuitous sources.  The University Research Council, which has given me generous grants for many years, has now indicated that they will not be able to give more than token support in the years ahead.

One of the greatest disadvantages at USU is the poor library, both in total number of books and in books and periodicals related to my research interests.  We have a poor library indeed, and there doesn’t seem to be much prospect that this will improve much within the next few years.  There are books which I have asked the library to order as long as five or six years ago, which they have not acquired.  We seem to be more interested in pushing athletics and engineering than regional western history.

3.  On the other hand, the opportunity in the BYU position is attractive indeed.  They are offering me a salary, which is more that $5,000 higher than my salary here.  They are offering me a budget for research, publications, fellowships, etc. in excess of $25,000 per year.  They are willing to add to our already splendid library holding in western history.  They are willing to allow me the privilege of teaching or not teaching as I may wish.  My status as director of the center will be something on the order of a dean, and I shall be responsible primarily to the academic vice president.

4.  There is also the matter of my responsibility to the center of Mormon and Western History.  Mr. Redd, donor of the $500,000 grant to inaugurate the Western History Center and the Chair, apparently told BYU that the gift of the money hinged upon my acceptance of the Chair and directorship of the center.  This meant that a substantial grant to the Center of Western History might not have occurred without my acceptance.  I feel a strong sense of responsibility in the center of Regional Western History—and particularly in emphasizing the role of the Mormons in that history.

5.  There is also the opportunity of being of service to the Church through the Church Historian’s Office.  So many things must be done by the Church Historian’s Office that have been neglected.   The Church Historian’s Office has done almost nothing to compile Church history since 1930, although there have been revelations requiring us to do so.  We have not published important documents, we have not compiled biographies, we have not written narrative history or interpretive history, and virtually nothing has been done to provide material for Church history in the 20th century.  Everything that has been done has been done by Mormon historians without the support of the Church and because of their personal dedication.  Elder Howard Hunter has formed a committee of Mormon historians to discuss what should be done by the Church Historian’s Office, and our committee has sent to him two memorandums of proposals for improvement.  Elder Hunter proposed that a professional historian, a PHD, be appointed assistant historian in charge of research and publications in Church History.  He seemed to be skeptical of the ability of CHO to employ such a person at the salary, which might be available within the CHO’s budget.  Our committee of historians then suggested that this proposal might be filled by a dual appointment by BYU and CHO.  I have been told Brother Hunter has recommended my name for a dual appointment as occupant of the Redd Chair of BYU and Assistant Historian for the Church.  Just what will come of this recommendation is difficult to say.  The First Presidency might not wish to have a joint appointment; they might say that I am too liberal a person to be Assistant Church Historian; they may have another person—say, a Churchman without a PhD, in mind to hold the position of Assistant Church Historian.  I recognize the odds to be one in three that a joint appointment might be made of myself in both capacities.  If this appointment should be made, however, I envision an arrangement involving about half time at the Church Historian’s Office.  I see it, if it should occur, as a great opportunity to place the field of Mormon History on a professional basis—by publishing documentary histories, which will satisfy all the canons of scholarship; and opportunities for written interpretive histories, which will have full intellectual respectability.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 23 November 1971]

As per your previous suggestion, I started a diary on Tuesday.  I have a secretary now (in addition to Kris Rigby) who takes dictation and she comes in Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  So I am going to dictate to her once or twice a week and have her keep the diary in shape.  It will be a “private” diary that I will not circulate, so I can feel free to write things that will be honest and personal.  It should be an interesting experience—writing for the future and not for present publication.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 28 November 1971]

Still no public announcement on the Redd Chair at BYU, which means that the Church still has under consideration a joint appointment with CHO.  The Redd Chair appointment is pretty generally known now, both here and in Provo, but nobody but the family and perhaps half a dozen persons at Provo and SLC know anything about the CHO possibilities.  My calculation of the chances of the CHO position coming through at this time are still about one chance in three.  “The mills of the gods grind slowly.”

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 28 November 1971]


Leonard J. Arrington

Friday, January 7, 1972

On the afternoon of Wednesday, January 5, while in my office at the University I received a telephone call from President Eldon Tanner of the LDS Church.  President Tanner asked when I would next be in Salt Lake City.  I replied that I would come whenever he wished it.  He replied with a chuckle, “How about yesterday?”  He said that he had a serious matter to discuss with me and would appreciate my coming down as soon as possible.  I told him that I had a class at 8:30 Thursday morning and would go to Salt Lake City at 9:30, arriving there between 11 and 11:30.  He said that he could see me about that time.

On Thursday, January 6, I drove with Grace to Salt Lake City, parked in the church parking plaza, and reported to President Tanner about 11:15 a.m.  I was ushered into his office immediately, and he sat me in the big leather easy chair next to his own.  He said, “Brother Arrington, I’ll come straight to the point and not waste our time.  You have been asked to occupy an Endowed Chair in Western Studies at BYU, have you not?”


“In my office yesterday were Brother Neal Maxwell, Commissioner of education, and President Dallin Oaks of BYU.  They told me about your fitness for the Chair, and of their desire to have you at BYU.  Now, Brother Arrington, we need a Church Historian.  You know that Brother Lund died last February, and we have not replaced him.  

We would like to initiate a reorganization of the Church Historian’s Office.  This is the first in a series of reorganizations in which members of the Quorum of the Twelve will cease to occupy staff positions in the various organizations and programs of the church.  Such positions will be occupied either by designated officers or by assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve.  We would like to organize the Church Historian’s Office along those lines.  We would like Brother Alvin Dyer to be managing director of the office; you, Brother Arrington, to be Church Historian; and Brother Earl Olson, to be Church Archivist.  Will you accept the position of Church Historian under such an arrangement?”

“Well, I suppose so.  To whom would I be responsible?  To what extent would I be free to function under my own initiative and inspiration?” 

“Well, Brother Arrington, you would normally go through the channel of Brother Dyer to obtain budgets, personnel, and approval for policies and programs.  Brother Dyer would in turn be responsible to one of the Apostles—possibly Brother Hunter, who as you know, is the present Church Historian.  Will you accept?”

“President Tanner, if you think I am capable, and if you think the arrangement is practical, then I am willing to do my best.”

“Now, of course, this doesn’t change your appointment to the Endowed Chair at BYU.  It simply means that you will have to divide you time in a way you think best between BYU and the Church Historian’s Office.  President Oaks is willing to support you in both positions, and I am also.  You will have the opportunity of working with graduate students and faculty and the administration there in a purely professional way; and you will have the opportunity of writing and publishing the history of the Church.  As you know, Brother Arrington, we have done very little writing of Church history in the last 40 yeas.  We are under obligations to write our history for the benefit of the generations to come, and we want it to be done in a thoroughly professional way, and we have confidence that you can do it.  You ought to know, Brother Arrington, that we have consulted historians in the church and the overwhelming desire of them is to have you as the Chief Historian of the Church.”

“President Tanner that’s a pretty big order for a farm boy from Idaho, but, as I said, I will do my best.  How will my salary be arranged?  Will BYU pay half and the Church Historian’s Office pay the other half?”

“Yes, something like that.  President Oaks is agreeable to some arrangement like that which might be worked out.”

“You know, President Tanner, that I have other commitments and obligations.  When would this take effect?”

“As soon as you can satisfy your other obligations.  We’d like it to start as soon as possible.  Yesterday, for example.  (laughs)  You realize that we must get working on the organization and on policies so as to be prepared for the move into the new church office building this summer or this fall.”

“Am I free to ask President Taggart or some official at the University when he will release me from USU?”

“Yes, you may tell President Taggart and your wife, of course.  But no one else.”

“When will you announce this?”

“I would like to announce it tomorrow, but since it will be a joint announcement between the Church and BYU, maybe I ought to phone President Oaks and ask him if that will be all right with him.”

President Tanner then telephones Oaks who tells him that BYU has not yet made the announcement of the creation of the Redd Chair, and that they plan to do it early next week, and would then like to have the joint announcement the following weekend.  President Tanner then turns to me and says, “We will plan to announce it on Friday, January 14, and it will go into the newspapers either Saturday or Sunday.  You send me some photos and biographical material that we can use for that purpose.  If you could be here early Friday morning, we will go up to all the staff in the Church Historian’s Office and announce the new appointment and the new organization.  Then, if possible, we should like you to come down as often as possible to get things started.  Do you think you could be full-time at the Church Historian’s Office and BYU in about a month?”

“Probably not quite that soon.  I have classes this quarter, which will not end until the middle of March.  Anyway, I’ll talk to the University.”

President Tanner then turns and starts to arise to usher me out.  While doing so he repeats again the confidence he has in me and which other Mormon historians have in me.  He also says that his door will always be open for any matter, which I would like to bring in directly to him, if I have any difficulties with Brother Dyer.  He also said that I was the first one that he had talked to about this matter.  Now he would have to talk to Brother Dyer and Brother Hunter and Brother Olson. He said:  “If you can remain until later in the afternoon, come back to see if anything has been changed as a result of those conversations.”

I then found Grace waiting outside the door and as we went out to dinner we saw Brother Dyer go into President Tanner’s office.  We went over to the Hotel Utah Coffee Shop and had lunch.  Upon our return we were going up to the Historian’s Office when we saw Brother Hunter go into President Tanner’s Office.  Later on, while in the church library, Brother Olson returned from BYU where he had been visiting, and he asked me to step into his office a minute.  He said he had talked with President Tanner and that President Tanner said that he and I were free to talk to each other about some of the problems of the new organization.  We did talk quite freely and frankly for a half hour or so before Grace and I returned to Logan.  We stopped by President Tanner’s office, and he said that everything had been arranged as he had explained to me, and that everything was acceptable to all those involved.  I told him that Grace was waiting outside, and he asked me to bring her in to meet him.

Today, January 7 (Friday) I took the liberty of telling this in the strictest confidence to Del Gardner, my department head.  It seemed to me that he was the primary person involved in making all the adjustments here at USU.  Del said that he could see no particular problems.  I am already on 90 percent time at the University, and 10 percent consulting with BYU, so that takes care of my occasional trips to BYU.  As for occasional trips to the church, there will be no legal problem, since the church will not be paying me until I leave USU.  He said that the faculty code provides that a faculty member is entitled to two days per month, or 22 days per academic year, for consulting purposes.  This will probably take care of the various trips I have to make to the Church Historian’s Office until I leave USU.  So legally I am entitled to this tine anyway.  I asked him whether he as department head would have any objection if I dismissed my class occasionally in order to make a trip to Salt Lake City.  He said that at the recent meeting of all department heads and university administrators in Burley, Idaho, the principal speaker and resource person, Meredith Wilson, advocated that university administrators permit faculty greater flexibility—they need not meet every class.  Professors are not that important, he is reported to have said.  Students learn less from professors’ lectures than the professor supposes.  He suggested that 5-hour classes ought to feature 3 days of lectures and 2 days of library study and outside reading.  Dr. Gardner said that he agreed with that philosophy and here was a good chance to implement it.  So if I wished to be away Tuesdays and Thursdays, he would not object to my dismissing the class, provided I gave them some assignments that would give them opportunities to learn by independent study.  For the present then, (winter quarter) he suggested no change in my faculty status, which is, 50 percent teaching, 30 percent research and 20 percent Western Historical Quarterly.  I asked him if there is any problem in church-state relationships.  He said no, that he knew of similar arrangements at this and other state universities where people were involved in doing sociological, historical, and similar work for other churches—and so long as it was a professional undertaking (not of a propaganda nature, or proselyting) it could be defended in the same way that we defend people who are studying businesses, corporations, educational institutions, eleemosynary institutions, and similar organizations.  

Corrected 1/10/72 by L.J.A.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 7 January 1972]

7 Jan 1972

Elder Olson

Dear Earl:

Three questions.  First, I shall expect to begin to function on a part-time basis (at least one day a week) immediately after the Friday announcement.  Which means that I shall need a stenographer on a part-time basis until I begin to function more fully, and then on a full-time basis beginning perhaps sometime in February or March.  Since I shall expect to dictate most of my letters, this will mean a girl who knows shorthand well, in addition to typing.  Would I be free to bring a girl with me from here, or must I go through Church placement?  And do I assume that whoever I employ will take the place of one of the vacancies in the Church Historical Division (Brother Young, Sister Romney)?  Does Sister Romney know shorthand and could she function until Feb. 1?

Second, I want to start looking around immediately for a person to be my historical assistant or associate.  Since it may take several months before I could get someone on the order of Jim Allen or Davis Bitton, perhaps the best thing, for the next few months would be someone on a little lower scale.  I know two or three very bright younger men who are still in the process of working on their Ph.D.s.  Do you suppose that I could be reasonably sure of being able to pay, let us say, $500 to $600 per month for such a person?  I have in mind someone like Richard Jensen, now working on a Ph.D. at Ohio State; Michael Quill, now working on a Masters at U of U.  And could I regard such a person as filling the other vacancy (Bro. Young, Sister Romney), so that this could be a net addition to the staff?

Third, Assuming that they will give me Brother Lund’s office as headquarters on Friday, is there any way we can get, relatively quickly, the office equipment needed for immediate functioning on a part-time basis?  That is, I shall want to begin to move in.  For that purpose I ought to have immediately, at least two filing cabinets (either four or five drawer), a typewriter (manual), some paper, stapler, hole punch, and other similar things required in running an office.

Fourth, since I shall expect to begin to function immediately, even on a part-time basis, I assume that they ought to put me on the payroll—even if for only $100 per month—which will give me certain things like employees’ ID card, permit for parking in church parking, etc.  What does one do?  Do you take me down to a church personnel dept. somewhere?

Note by L.J.A.  This letter was not mailed; I received answers to the questions orally.  But demonstrates what I was thinking of.

LJA  7/28/72

[LJAD, unmailed letter to Earl Olson, 7 January 1972]

Saturday, Jan 3, 1972

Dear Son:

Mamma says she has written you the big news, but let me tell the story, as I understand it, with some of the possible implications.  Wednesday afternoon, while I was in the office at the University, President Tanner telephoned to ask me if I would come to his office as soon as possible “to discuss a very serious matter.”  I said I could come the next morning (Thursday) after my 8:30 class was out, arriving at around 11:15 or 11:30.  He said he could meet me at 11:30.

The next morning Mamma and I drove down, and I got to President Tanner’s office around 11:15, while Mamma went over to ZCMI for something.  President Tanner said he understood I was going to occupy an endowed chair at BYU.  He had talked with Neal Maxwell and Dallin Oaks about giving me a dual responsibility.  He said they were planning a reorganization of the Church Historian’s Office in which they would put a historian in charge of Church History, and he wanted me to be that Church Historian.  He said that they would like to make a joint announcement with BYU, which would announce my appointment to the endowed chair and my appointment as Church Historian.  Brother Hunter would be relieved of the Church Historian assignment, and left to concentrate on his duties as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Brother Alvin Dyer would be appointed Managing Director of the Church Historian’s Office, with myself as Church Historian and Earl Olson as Church Archivist.  Told him I was willing.  He said I would divide my time between Provo and Salt Lake City, and that he would not tell me where to move to—presumably either Provo or Salt Lake City.  He wanted me more or less full time on the two assignments as soon as possible.  He said that in the next few days BYU would announce the creation of the Redd Chair, and that he wanted to announce the reorganization of the Church Historian’s Office (CHO) and my appointment as Church Historian next Friday, Jan. 14.  He would then announce to the CHO staff, and would introduce me to them.  I told him all right.

Since that time, I have hardly had time to do much besides think of the problems and changes.  I have a daily class and a MWF class this quarter.  I went in to see Del Gardner yesterday about the possibility of meeting the 5-hour daily class (Econ History of the US) on three days a week, MWF, and just letting them read and study in the library.  Del said that would be all right, and that since I had already put through a reduction in my responsibilities by 10%, he didn’t think another would be necessary.  At least for this quarter.  This will make it possible for me to go to BYU one day a week, as promised, and one day a week to CHO.  That will last till March 15, or the end of winter quarter.  I give only one seminar the spring quarter, which means I could be away from USU four days a week, if necessary.  I will probably have to put through a change in status form at USU, reducing my responsibilities here some more.  So far as my research is concerned, I shall have to do much of the writing in my offices in Provo and Salt Lake City, I think.  There are reasons why they will want me in my office in CHO as much as possible, to plan for moving into the new Church Office building, which will be done this fall.  Nice facilities for CHO there on the four floors of the East Annex.  We are now on one floor and will be given four.  So this will enable us to spread people out, have plenty of working space, and plenty of space for shelving our library and manuscript materials.  We have 50 employees, all told.

This raises a very real probability that we shall have to move to Salt Lake City rather than Provo.  We can do either, but I suspect that, over the years, I shall spend more time on the CHO job that at BYU, particularly considering the social responsibilities and cultural opportunities, the going to and from the airport, etc.  Mamma frankly is not charmed by SLC.  She much prefers Provo, but she is willing to go to SLC if necessary.  I think we will look around the SLC area and see if we can find something suitable.  If not, they we’ll try Lehi, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Orem, and Provo.  I think Mamma wants to be near a reasonably good shopping place, which means probably Provo and SLC.  We’ll probably begin looking in the spring and may move in June instead of fall.  I will probably have to resign my USU position as of June 30.

Now of course all this is based upon that interview with President Tanner.  It is possible that something might cause him to change his mind before the announcement next weekend.  But this is the situation as of this moment.  Susan is quite excited; but she still plans to go to USU this fall.  James is excited, and he still plans to go to San Francisco after school is out, assuming that he can graduate in June.  Richard doesn’t know all this yet, so we shall have to see this coming weekend what his plans would be.  He has always said he wanted to finish at USU, but how he can work it financially I don’t know.  His folks don’t send him a cent of money and he doesn’t work enough to pay a cent on his room and board.  Mamma is a little put out with him for not making more effort to pay us something.  We try to encourage him to do so, but when it comes time to work, he doesn’t feel like it.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 3 January 1972]


Thursday, January 13, 1972

This morning I received a telephone call from President Dallin Oaks of BYU.  He wanted to tell me how happy and excited he was that I would be functioning as a member of his faculty, and also as the General Church Historian.  He said that President Tanner had called him and Neal Maxwell in to discuss this possibility, and that both of them were thrilled at the plan.  He said that it would be impossible for him to convey the significance of having the General Church Historian as a member of his faculty, even part-time.  The dignity it would give to other faculty members—to graduate students—to the townspeople—to have the General Church Historian functioning in an educational capacity at BYU.  He also pointed out the advantage that the academic connection would give to the Church Historian’s Office.  It would give to the Church Historian a kind of professional recognition and status that he has never before enjoyed.  The close connection between the Historian’s Office and a university situation would help both offices.

He said that he and Neal and President Tanner had discussed whether it would be wise to make a joint announcement of the dual appointment, or whether to make each separately. He and Neal both contended that a joint announcement was far better, because it would underline the desire of the First Presidency to have a professional historian as General Church Historian.  Also it would underline the importance of the academic aspect of the Church Historian’s function.  President Oaks said that President Tanner said “Amen” to this—that the First Presidency did want the Church Historian’s office to be upgraded academically and professionally, and for this reason he would follow the suggestion and make a joint announcement.

President Oaks said that he had at that moment on his desk a copy of the release prepared by the Church Information Office.  It was written by Henry A. Smith.  It was concerned partly with the reorganization of the Church Historian’s Office, partly with the new assignment given to Elder Dyer, and partly with appreciation for the work of Elder Hunter as Church Historian.  The appointment to the BYU position was relegated down to a second or third paragraph, and he was not particularly pleased with that aspect of the story.  He could understand why this might be desirable for the story to appear in the Church News.  But he wanted the story as it appears in Provo and BYU papers to give more play to the appointment to the Redd Chair and Western History Center.  So they were doctoring up the story to give more emphasis to that aspect in the story they submit to the BYU Universe and the Provo Herald.

He said the story had been prepared for “the weekend newspapers”.  He supposed it would appear in Saturday night’s Deseret News, and possibly Sunday morning’s Tribune; and then in Monday’s BYU Universe and Provo Herald.

Corrected 1/13/72 by L.J.A.

[LJAD, Memorandum of LJA, 13 January 1972]

Saturday, 15 January 1972

Dear Carl:

Let me begin by giving you a rundown on the events, which took place yesterday.  Mamma may have done it already, but here it is from my viewpoint.  Mamma and I drove down to Salt Lake City yesterday morning, arriving about 10 am.  I reported to President Tanner’s office that I had arrived and would be up in the Church Historian’s Library.  There, I spent most of the time in the office of Earl Olson, talking about various functions and problems of CHO.  About 11 am, Elder Howard Hunter’s secretary said he would like to see me for a few minutes, s I went in to chat with him.  At 11:15 am, Elder Olson was instructed to tell all department heads that the office and library would be completely closed from 11:30 to 12:00 noon, so as to permit every single employee to attend a special meeting.  This was held in the Auditorium on the third floor where the missionary meetings are held.

At 11:25, Elder Hunter ushered Mamma (who had just arrived) and myself and Earl Olson in to the Auditorium.  In a minute, Elder Tanner came.  He sat Mamma and myself and Earl Olson and his wife on the first pew.  Present facing the group were Elder Tanner, Elder Hunter, and Elder Alvin Dyer.  President Tanner faced the group and joked around for a few minutes, then he announced the reorganizing of the Church Historian’s Office, with the release of Elder Hunter, and with Bro. Dyer as managing director, myself as church historian, and Earl as Church Archivist.  He said a few words about each of us.  He expressed appreciation for the work, which Elder Hunter had done, and appreciation for the work of the employees (about 50) of CHO.  He then called on Elder Hunter to speak, then Elder Dyer, then Earl Olson, then myself.  He then asked for a sustaining vote, which was given, and announced it would take effect immediately.  He then asked each of the persons in CHO to form a line and come up to shake hands with “Doctor Arrington,” since he will be a newcomer here.  They also shook hands with Mamma.  All very pleasant and genial.

At noon, Mamma and I took Earl Olson and his wife to the Lion House Pantry, where we took out a membership so we can go there anytime.  We saw there Elder Packer, Elder Paul Dunn, and various others who congratulated us.  Mamma then went to shop for the afternoon, while I went into a huddle with Earl talking about the CHO and getting set up in my office.  They had put in a new rug, painter the walls, put in a new typewriter, desk, credenza, bookcase, etc.  I am going to put up the carving you sent me for Christmas on the wall.  I shall also put the little metal turtle I brought back from Italy on my desk.  For the present I shall go to CHO every Thursday and to BYU every Tuesday.  I shall have to get a secretary and helpers at both places.

At 5 p.m. I went to Hotel Utah where I met Mamma and Marilee (James’ BYU girl he visited in San Francisco).  We rode back to Logan together, arriving about 6:30.  James and Richard and Susan had put up a huge banner across the garage on which was inscribed in Fluorescent green and orange paint:  Way to Make History, Dad!  Lots of streamers and balloons in the garage, at the entrance to the house, in the house, and around the entrance to my study.  And they cheered and hugged and carried on wildly.  They said the telephone had been busy since the papers were out.  There was a photo and front-page story in Herald Journal and in the Deseret News, which Susan quickly clipped out and sent to you.  Also one in the Church News.  We’ve been busy receiving telephone calls and some visitors ever since.  Even had one prominent person come and suggest we employ his son as an historical assistant.  Lots of people quite excited, mostly because it represents such a departure from tradition:  a professionally trained person, a non-general authority, a person outside the family of a general authority, and so on.  Also a person with a reputation already established of “telling it like it is.”  Also a person who has felt free to publish in church magazines, Dialogue and professional historical magazines.  A lot of people report how shocked they were to learn of such an appointment, etc.

We of course telephoned Becky, and she was just about as excited as you would have been if you were here.  We telephoned Susan at school at noon.  She was in class, so Mamma gave Mrs. Rust the message, and she told everybody in the office and then sent one of the kids to tell Susan and the others in debate class.  Susan says they yelled and screamed and carried on quite wildly.  Mr. Henrie was quite excited, as were Susan’s seminary teachers, Mr. Williams and Mr. Bott.  Richard telephoned his parents and they telephoned other brothers and sisters.  According to Marie who talked with me they were all quite excited.

So you see we have had exciting times here, just as you are probably feeling excited in Tarija.  I recall your diary, written while at the LTM in which you fasted and prayed, and then felt a feeling of positive assurance.  So in my heart, I suppose I have known all along this would happen, although my logic and experience told me that it was only an outside possibility.  I am reconciled, partly as the result of your diary, that it is the Lord’s will, and I shall do my best.  But I cannot see that I can handle things significantly different than I have done previously as a professional here at the University.  We shall see what directions Brother Dyer gives me next Thursday.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 15 January 1972]

A reorganization of the Church Historian’s Department with Elder Alvin R. Dyer, Assistant to the Twelve, as managing director, was announced this week by the First Presidency.

Also the appointment of Dr. Leonard J. Arrington, noted Utah educator, author and nationally prominent historian, to the position of Church Historian, was announced.

Elder E. Earl Olsen, who has been Assistant Church Historian since 1965, will become Church Archivist.

Concurrently with the announcement of Dr. Arrington’s church appointment, came the announcement from Pres. Dallin H. Oaks of Brigham Young University that Dr. Arrington will occupy the Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Chair of Western History at BYU.

This reorganization, the First Presidency explained, will put the Church Historian’s Department under Elder Dyer’s direction, with Dr. Arrington being Church Historian and Elder Olson in charge of the historical record keeping of the church.

The Chair of Western History was created this past week with the donation of $500,000 to BYU by Charles Redd, prominent rancher of LaSal and Provo, Utah.  The donation was made to establish a Chair of Western History and an Institute of Western Studies.  The chair was named in honor of the donor’s father, a pioneer cattleman of Bluff Utah where Charles was born in 1889.

Interest from the $500,000 gift will pay in perpetuity the salary of the one occupying the Chair of Western History.  These funds also will support the institute with the aid of additional funding and other private donations.

“The institute and the chair will share a common objective: extending man’s knowledge of the American West,” said Dr. Oaks.

Mr. Redd said, in part:  “I should like somehow to get into the hearts and souls of young people the lessons of history, particularly those of Western America.  The American pioneer has much to teach us.”

With this reorganization, the First Presidency announced the release of Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve from the position of church historian and recorder to which he was appointed two years ago, succeeding President Joseph Fielding Smith.

Elder Hunter’s release is in keeping with the church’s policy of relieving members of the Council of the Twelve from some of their detailed administrative responsibilities.

[LJAD, Deseret News, 15 January 1972]

Minutes of the OFFICE OF THE CHURCH HISTORIAN meeting held Thursday, January 20, 1972 at 9:00 a.m. in Elder Alvin R. Dyer’s Office, 47 East South Temple, Room 401.

PRESENT:  Alvin R. Dyer, Leonard J. Arrington and Earl E. Olson.

OPENING PRAYER:  Elder Alvin R. Dyer

CONDUCTING:  Elder Alvin R. Dyer

1.  Elder Dyer suggested that regular meetings of this group be held from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. each Tuesday and Thursday.  This suggestion was approved.

2.  Earl Olson was assigned to bring a tape recorder to these meetings so that the proceedings might be recorded on tape.

3.  The meetings on Tuesday will be carried out in accordance with a previously prepared agenda.  The agenda items are to be ready by each Thursday.  The meetings on Thursday will be flexible and items will be handled as needed.

4.  Elder Dyer discussed a suggested organization for the CHURCH HISTORIAN DEPARTMENT, which he indicated, would be the approved title for this department.  The line of authority starts with the First Presidency, then to the Quorum of the Twelve, to two advisors, then to the Managing Director.  He suggested four possible key positions to report directly to him.  (1) The Church Historian, Leonard J. Arrington; (2) Church Archivist, Earl E. Olson; (3) Possibly a librarian to have charge of the library activities; (4) Possibly an office manager or similar title, to direct production, budget, personnel, agenda, projection, coordination, mail, requests, and publications.  The name of Robert Matthew was suggested as a possibility for this position.  After a discussion of these positions, they were approved, subject to further study.

5.  Suggestion for organizational structure in their respective areas were then presented by Brother Arrington and Brother Olson.  Brother Arrington suggested that consideration be given to appointing two assistant Church historians, together with other historical workers.  Elder Dyer asked that more specific details of organization, and names for key positions be presented at the meeting on Tuesday.

6.  The proposed plans for the new office building were reviewed, and suggestions made for some changes in the historical division area.  Further review of these plans will be made next Tuesday.

7.  Approval was given to change Dean Jessee from senior cataloger in the Manuscript Section to Historical Associate in the Historical Division, and to transfer Tom Truitt from a Historical Compiler to a Processor in the Manuscript Section.

ADJOURNED:  9:30 a.m. 

[LJAD, Minutes of the Office of the Church Historian meeting, 20 January 1972]

By now you should have received the letters about the appointment as Church Historian and occupant of the Redd Chair in Western Studies at BYU.  The public announcement was made Friday, Jan. 14.  Also President Tanner introduced me to the staff at CHO.  Since then we have received dozens of telephone calls of congratulations, and dozens of letters of congratulations.  Things have been pretty hectic.  I talked in stake conference last Sunday, and have received a number of invitations to speak elsewhere.  People are beginning to ask us how much we want for our house, etc.  We are not yet firm on whether we shall move to Provo or Salt Lake City.  Probably wherever we make the best deal on a house.

On Tuesday I drove to BYU to take care of a day of business as director of the Western Studies Center.  Back to Logan for Wednesday classes.  I appointed Tom Alexander as my assistant at BYU, so he will do a lot of the legwork.  For the winter quarter, I shall go there every Tuesday; during spring quarter, every Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Thursday I went to SLC to the CHO.  Momma went with me.  I had an appointment with Earl Olson and Elder Dyer, and Elder Dyer expressed the wish that we meet every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8 a.m.  I have asked Elder Dyer for two assistant historians, Jim Allen of BYU and Davis Bitton of the U of U.  Also for two assistants:  Dean Jessee, now in the cataloguing department of CHO, and Richard Jensen who is working on his Ph.D. at Ohio State.  If I can get these people, we ought to begin to do some real historical work at CHO.  Brother Dyer is considering these and other suggestions of mine and we shall discuss them again next week.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 22 January 1972]

Sunday evening, 23 January 1972

Dear Son:

It is exactly one year since you left on your mission so, as the missionaries say, it is all downhill from now on.  May the Lord continue to bless you.

Yesterday evening, Becky telephoned to say she had received a letter from you yesterday, which you had written January 14.  In the letter you had said that you returned from the conference at Sucre (this means sweet in Italian, I suppose the same in Spanish) and found a handful of letters, which had come for you.  Also that you had received Mom’s letter the day before.  That would mean that, as we hoped, you got word of my appointment before anybody else besides our family.  The announcement was made on Friday, January 14.  According to your letter to Becky, you received word on Thursday, January 13.  So you see, even down in Bolivia, you were in on the family secret before anybody, even Nana and Richard, knew a thing!  Mamma was so pleased that her letter had gotten to you so quickly.  My letter, written shortly after, but mailed from Logan, should have gotten to you two or three days later.

We were all so glad that Becky telephoned, and that you had finally begun to get the letters, which we had been sending.  According to Becky, you sounded a little subdued and humbled by the news, which I suppose was quite proper.  Things were pretty exciting around here after the news was made public.  Lots of telephone calls, lots of letters, lots of people stopping each of us in grocery stores, at school, on the street, in classes, and everywhere.  James said that Vosco Call, for example, was ecstatic in his approval and excitement and enthusiasm for the appointment.  I suppose a lot of “intellectuals” might have been pleased that an academic person who was a “liberal” received the appointment.  Not since 1843 had a person been appointed church historian who was not a general authority.  And not in the history of the church had an academic person (unless we classify Orson Pratt in this fashion)) held the post.  So lots of academic persons all over the church have written me to give their congratulations.  Quite an exciting time, and Mamma says you would have reveled in the excitement if you had been here.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, 23 January 1972]

8.  Brother Olson inquired of Elder Dyer as to what has happened to the position of “recorder” inasmuch as heretofore the title of Church Historian also included “and Church Recorder.”  At this point the correct title of the department was discussed and it was felt that the office should be called “THE HISTORICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS.”    This was approved.  Elder Dyer stated that he felt that recording of records should come under the jurisdiction of the Church historian and the Church archivist would see that the records are properly filed and cared for.

[LJAD, Minutes of the Church Historian Department meeting, 25 January 1972]

Diary of Leonard J. Arrington

Wednesday, January 26, 1972

Yesterday I drove to Salt Lake City and went to my office in the Historical Department of the Church.  As for schedule, Earl Olson and I met with Elder Dyer from 8 to 9:30 a.m.  As per instructions of Elder Dyer, our meeting was taped and Earl Olson is to preserve the tapes of each of our Tuesday and Thursday morning meetings.  The tapes will not be transcribed, but minutes will be made from them, and they will be preserved for whatever purpose they might serve in the future.  The meetings begin with one of us offering prayer.  Earl and I sit on one end of the desk and Elder Dyer sits behind his desk, so there is a certain amount of formality in the meetings.  No secretary is present.  Each Tuesday we are to have an agenda to be strictly followed in getting business done.  On Thursday we are to have an open meeting in which anybody may bring up any matter he wishes to discuss.

In yesterday’s meeting we discussed the organization of what we shall now call the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I am requesting two assistant historians, and two historical associates, and three half-time graduate assistants or historical assistants.  As assistant historians I have asked for James Allen and Davis Bitton, each to be half time at his university and half time with our department.  As historical associates I have asked for Dean Jessee and Richard Jensen, both to be full time.  As graduate assistants or historical assistants I am asking for Mike Quinn, half time, and will ask James Allen and Davis Bitton to bring one of their own students.  In addition to these I am asking for a secretary for myself, and one to serve the two assistant Church historians.  In addition to these two historical assistants already serving the department who will be under my direction are Merrill Lofthouse, who will be in charge of ward, stake, and mission historical reports, and Flora Chappuis who is writing some history of European Missions.  Sister Edyth Rommey will retire February 29, but I will presumably have my secretary before then.

Elder Dyer is asking for the creation of a new post, assistant director of the Historical Department, possibly Robert Matthews of BYU.  He would derive his authority from Elder Dyer, Earl, and myself; and his function would be as a full-time executive to help us with our problems of personnel, supplies, publications, etc.  Earl is asking for Don Schmidt as librarian.

Elder Dyer agreed with all of these suggestions.  They are to be worked up in a chart of managerial responsibility and presented for final approval tomorrow (Thursday).  They will then be submitted to Elder Hunter and Kimball, the advisors to the Twelve on the Church Historical Department affairs.  Hopefully, we can get this matter settled within a week so that definite arrangements can be made with the new assistants to begin work immediately.  One of the problems is the payment of an adequate salary to our assistants, equal to what they could make at their university position.

After this meeting Elder Howard Hunter invited me to his office for a period of about three quarters of an hour.  He wished to explain the condition and function of the Historical Department during the two years he was Church Historian and Recorder, and to pass on to me suggestions, which had been made to him as Church Historian.  He was very relaxed and friendly.  He told me about some of the circumstances that led to my own appointment.  These might be summarized as (a) his strong feeling that the Church needed a professionally—trained historian, and (b) the professionally trained historians he had consulted with had recommended me to hold the position.  It had seemed impossible to arrange the matter financially until the possibility arose of a joint appointment in which the Redd Endowment at BYU would pay half of my salary and the Church would pay the other half.  He thought the appointment might have been made several months ago had it not been for the fact that the Church was undergoing a reorganization liberating the Twelve from administrative responsibilities.  They had begun, even before Brother Will Lund’s death, the reorganization of the administration of the Church.  A study had been conducted by Brother Lee Bickmore, President of National Biscuit Company.  The whole point was to relieve the Twelve from administration to do constructive planning.  The various departments of the Church would then be administrated by competent professionally trained people.  The reorganization of the Historical Department, announced on January 14, was one of the first changes in organizational procedure.

Elder Hunter said that several months ago he had spent a half of day with Richard Bushman in Boston, one of the very bright young L.D.S. Historians, and a Bishop in a Cambridge Ward.  Bishop Bushman had strongly recommended the preparation of a new multi-volume Church History to be published in time for the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Church in 1980. He had suggested that this was an impossible task for one man, and that a group of L.D.S. scholars should be organized to write the history of the Church from its beginning to the present.  Brother Hunter accepted this as a desirable goal, and suggested that I might want to organize the department to accomplish this task.

Elder Hunter talked for a while about the facilities as they had planned them for the new Church Office Building.  I told him of some of the suggestions I had already made to Earl, which will probably be incorporated in our facilities.

Elder Hunter said that he felt that the Church was mature enough that our history should be honest.  He did not believe in suppressing information, nor hiding documents, nor concealing or withholding minutes for possible scrutiny.  He excluded from this, however, people who were setting out diligently to discredit the Church.  The only name he mentioned under that heading was Gerald and Sandra Tanner.  He thought the best way to answer anti-Mormonism is to print the truth.  He thought we should publish the documents of our history.  He did not see any reason to conceal the minutes of the Council of 50.  “Why not disclose them?” he asked.  They are a part of our history, why should we withhold things that are a part of our history?  He thought it in our best interest to encourage scholars—to help and cooperate with them in doing honest research.

With respect to the rules, the Historical Department had decided that Patriarchal Blessings could be given only to the person who had received such a blessing or to his father or mother or son or daughter.  Some persons are now asking for copies of Patriarchal Blessings to put in their family history.  Elder Hunter could see no objection to this, even though as in some cases some person might see them and ridicule them as some kind of fortune telling.  He nevertheless felt that it was in the best interest of the Church to permit these to be published.

Elder Hunter talked a little while about the new organization and the role of Elder Dyer.  He said it was not contemplated that Elder Dyer would be the “King” of the Historical Department.  Earl and I were to use our authority and exercise our judgment within our own areas of responsibility.  Where basic policies had to be cleared with Church authorities, Elder Dyer was to be our avenue in doing so.  He said he recognized that Elder Dyer is energetic, if not aggressive, and there might be a tendency for him to magnify unduly his calling.  But Elder Hunter hoped that would not occur, and said that if Elder Dyer made things difficult for Earl and me to carry out our functions, we were free to go to him (Elder Hunter) and inform him of such a problem, and he would see what he could do to help us.

After finishing with Brother Hunter, I drove to BYU.  There I talked with Jim Allen about the possibility that he might be able to work with me in the Historical Department—and did this on a strictly confidential basis.  I spent most of the rest of the day with Tom Alexander discussing problems and working out facilities and programs for the Western History Center.  I drove back to Logan in the evening.

Corrected by LJA 1/28/71

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 26 January 1972]

1.  The proposed plan of organization (chart #1) was discussed.  The suggested names of David Walch, Russell Davis, and Donald Schmidt were presented by Brother Olson for consideration to the position of CHURCH LIBRARIAN.  The qualifications of each were discussed.  It was determined that the Church Librarian should be obtained and then a meeting arranged with Theodore Burton.  The Reference Library, Media Library and the Model Meetinghouse Library would come under the jurisdiction of the Church Librarian, as well as other developments as they come along.



JAMES B. ALLEN was born in Logan, Utah on December 28, 1925.  He graduated from Logan High School and attended Utah State University, graduating with a B.S. in History in 1954.  He attended Brigham Young University receiving the M.A. in History in 1956.  He received the Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1963 with a dissertation on “The Company Town as a Feature of Western American Development.”  The dissertation was later published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Brother Allen was a teacher and coordinator in the Church Seminary Program (1954-58), an associate director and director of various LDS Institute of Religion programs in Southern California (1958-63), and went to Brigham Young University in 1963 as a Professor of History.  He has also been a visiting professor of history at Utah State University.  He has been active in professional historical associations and is president this year of the Mormon History Association.  He has published two books on Western history, including Mormonism in the Twentieth Century with Richard Cowan.  Another co-authored book, Mormonism and American Culture, is being published this year by Harper & Row.  He is author of 16 articles in professional journals, nearly all of which deal with aspects of LDS history.  He has published in The Improvement Era, The New Era, and BYU Studies.

Brother Allen served honorably in the California Mission (1948-50), was a member of the BYU 5th Stake High Council (1964-66), and was Bishop of the BYU 16th Ward (1966-1968).  He served honorably in the U.S. Navy, (1945-48).  He is married to Renee Jones, and they have five children: Kiristine, 17; James, 15; Kathleen, 14; Nancy, 9; and Scott, 5.

DAVIS BITTON was born in Blackfoot, Idaho, on February 22, 1930.  He graduated from Blackfoot High School, attended Brigham Young University four years and received the B.A. in History in 1956.  In the meantime, he filled an honorable mission in France, 1950-53.  He served in the United States Army, 1953-55.

After Graduation from BYU, he attended Princeton University, graduating with a Ph.D. in History in 1961.  He taught at the University of Texas, 1959-64, and at the University of California at Santa Barbara, 1964-66.  He has been a Professor of History at the University of Utah, 1966-date.  He is the author of five books of history, and 13 articles in professional historical journals, about half of which deal with aspects of Latter-day Saint history.  He has been president of the Mormon History Association and is a member of the Utah State Textbook Committee.

Brother Bitton has been an active member of the Church throughout his life, and has been a part-time Institute of Religion Instructor (Austin, Texas, 1962-64), Elders Quorum President, Counselor in MIA Superintendency, and Sunday School Teacher.  He is married to Peggy Carnell of South Carolina (1955), and they are parents of five children: Ronald, 15; Kelly, 12; Timothy, 11; Jill, 8; and Stephanie, 6.

[LJAD, Proposed assistant church historians, no date given, however placed between two items dated 27 January 1972]

23.  A brochure was received by Elder Dyer from Ronald Vern Jackson entitled, “The Seer” at which time he requested permission to use the Archives of the church.  The question was then presented as to how researchers might be screened so that only proper use is made of the materials in the archives.  Problems involved with such screening was discussed in detail.  If someone is definitely writing to discredit the Church, permission is refused, and they are unable to use the archives.  A review of the publication might be printed as suggested by Brother Arrington in one of our publications.  It is felt that more thought should be given to this matter as indicated by Dyer.  Brother Dyer appointed Brother Arrington to study this writing and determine if this Ronald Jackson should be allowed to do research in the archives and perhaps helps could be offered.


3.  Brother Arrington reviewed the publication, “The Seer” and gave it his approval.  He could see no reason why this person should not be granted access to the archives to do research.  Elder Dyer granted his permission.

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


Met today with the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency.  See my diary entry for 25 February 1972.  Here are my remarks on our program.

I cannot begin without expressing the feeling of awe and reverence I have for the privilege of being in the present of this Quorum.  Nor do I undertake my new assignment without a prayer that the Lord will bless me in the important task to which I have been called.  

Task of the Church History Division:  Researching and writing Church History.

1.  Carry out historical research desired by the General Authorities.

2.  Assist and counsel scholars doing research in topics related to Church History.  Read manuscripts consult Prest. Wilkinson on BYU history.

3.  Prepare articles on Church History for Church Publications.

4.  Publish, with appropriate introductions and comments, important documents, diaries, letters, and sermons important to our history, but previously unpublished.

5.  Prepare biographies of leaders and books on important topics related to our history.

6.  Prepare a multi-volume history of the Church for the sesqui-centennial anniversary of the Church in 1980.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 24 February 1972]


Dictated on Friday, February 25, 1972

To Karen Jeppesen

Yesterday, February 24, I had the unique opportunity of meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency in the council room in the Salt Lake Temple.  Elder Dyer, Earl Olson, and myself in the past few weeks had worked out plans for a reorganization of what had always come under the name “Church Historians Office”.  Among other things, our plan called for the appointment of a church librarian, director of administrative services for the department, two assistant church historians, and two historical associates.  Our plans also called for a change in the name to Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Within the historical department there would be a church historians division under my charge, which would do all of the research and writing; and archives division under the charge of Earl Olson which would acquire and receive material, process it, preserve it, and administer its use by patrons.  In addition to this organizational structure we also had names of persons to propose to hold these offices and positions.  We also proposed the creation of a historical advisory committee, and listed the names of 10 or 12 people to serve on this council.

This proposed reorganization was submitted to Elders Kimball and Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Kimball as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve had arranged for us to meet with that body at 8 a.m. yesterday.  Elder Dyer was in my office ready to go over at 7:40.  We went to the basement of the Church Office Building and walked through the tunnel, which connects the Church Office Building with the Temple.  We then took an elevator to the fourth floor of the temple and went to the area where are located the council rooms of the Seventy, the Twelve, the Presidency, and the locker room.  In the latter is the top of the dome of the holy of holies in the Temple.  We arrived a little before 8 o’clock, and sat outside the room where the Council of Twelve and First Presidency meet for their weekly meetings.  Within a few minutes came President Kimball and Elders Benson, Peterson, Stapley, Romney, Monson, Packer, and Ashton.  Also Frank Watson who took minutes of the meeting.  After the opening prayer and the presentation of one item of business by Brother Romney, we were asked to come in to the meeting with our organizational charts.  We had made typewritten copies of these charges, which were in the folders of those attending the meeting.  Brother Kimball introduced us and Brother Dyer explained the overall proposal.  Then he called upon me to give the proposed reorganization of the Church Historian’s Division, and upon Brother Olson to give the proposed reorganization of the Church Archivist’s Division.

Many questions were asked during these presentations and perhaps one might say a little argumentation.  For example, Brother Packer was concerned about two or three people listed for our historical advisory committee.  Brother Peterson was concerned about policies with respect to giving access to sacred materials in the archives to unfriendly persons.  Brother Benson was concerned about the multiplication of staff positions and bureaus.  Brother Ashton was concerned about the appointment of half-time persons, stating that it was a rule of thumb in business that one full-time person was better than three half-time persons.  The entire presentation must have taken at least half an hour.  We were then ushered out of the meeting and told to return at 10:30 when we would make a similar presentation to the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency meeting together.  I neglected to say that before we were ushered out Brother Packer made a motion seconded by Brother Aston approving our reorganization, and approving the names submitted, subject to our making the Twelve acquainted with the names proposed, after which they might reserve the right to disapprove any of the names submitted.

During the interval between meetings Earl and I prepared brief biographies of the four key people we were asking them to approve:  James Allen, David Bitton, Don Schmidt, and Bob Matthews.  We Xeroxed 20 copies of these for distribution in the 10:30 meeting.  There did not seem to be any objection to any of these key persons.

We met Brother Dyer again at 10:15 and rode on the little jitney, which is used by general authorities to go from the Church Office Building to the Temple.  Upon reaching the council room, we sat on a bench outside the door.  We heard the voice of the Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith opening the meeting, and saying that they would first sing “Nearer My God to Thee,” after which the prayer would be offered by Elder Benson, then they would all kneel at the altar in a prayer led by Elder Monson.  It became evident later that the brethren were present at the meeting in their Temple clothes.  We then heard the organ begin to play, accompanying them in singing “Nearer My God Top Thee.”  We did not learn who played the organ, but assume it was Brother Kimball.  It sounded as though Brother Monson was leading the singing.  We could hear the strong base of Elder Stapley and the resonant lead of Elder Monson.  They sang all three verses of the hymn and it was a touching moment in our day.  Then a long prayer by Elder Benson in which he prayed for guidance, for the Church, for the saints, for the presidency, for the quorum, for the nation, and for the kingdom.  It was essentially a spiritual prayer—a prayer invoking spiritual understanding and obedience.

After the prayer we heard a voice that seemed to be reading something or perhaps repeating something from memory.  It was not clear whose voice it was and whether this was something from the scriptures, or perhaps something from the Temple ceremony.  It might have been the voice of President Tanner since his is a voice that does not carry very well.  This went on for perhaps five or ten minutes, then it was clear that they were kneeling around the altar and Brother Monson led the prayer in clear resonant tones.  He would pronounce one phrase and all in unison would say the phrase after him.  From the prayer it was evident that there was on the altar the names of persons who had requested prayers from the Twelve and First Presidency in the Temple.  In addition to those persons he prayed for President Smith who was present but not in his Temple clothes and therefore not kneeling at the altar.  I presumed this was on the advice of his doctor.  Also for Brother Lee who could not be present because of another appointment.  Also for Brother Brown who was ill and for Brother Hunter who was in Latin America and Richards and Hinckley who were traveling in the Mid-West and East.  Among other things they prayed for the safety of President Nixon on his China tour, “a tour which he deems important to the welfare of the nation.”

At the end of this prayer those attending came out of the room and went to their lockers to change from their Temple clothes into their street clothes.  They then returned to the meeting and asked us to enter to make our presentation.  President Tanner seemed to be conducting the meeting, but Brother Smith was very alert to all that transpired.  President Dyer made the presentation first, then my presentation, then that of Brother Olson.  I saw a faint smile of approval on the face of the prophet when his assistant of many years in the historical department, Brother Olson, made his presentation.  Then followed additional questions and discussion.  A particularly important role was played by Brother Packer and Brother Tanner.  Brother Peterson and Brother Benson were very concerned about protecting the image of the Church through careful screening of those who were to use the archives.  Brother Dyer and Tanner, on the other hand, were making points in favor of the materials in the archives being more freely used by scholars.  Brother Monson expressed his delight that after many years we were finally going to get down to the task of writing our history.  Brother Tanner emphasized the poor image that came from trying to prevent responsible scholars from having free access to our materials.  Brother Packer made a motion seconded by Brother Monson accepting our proposed organization; passed unanimously by raising the right hand.  Brother Dyer asked whether this included the persons to be appointed and Brother Tanner put the question and most of them nodded in the affirmative.  Brother Tanner then said that it was up to Brother Kimball and Brother Hunter to make the calls or to supervise the calling of these persons.

We were then ushered out of the meeting—a good feeling had prevailed throughout—and as we left I heard President Tanner make a statement, which included my name and Historical Department, but I did not get the statement.  I assume it was a statement in support of our program of research and writing and publishing Church history.  As we walked back to the Church Office Building Brother Dyer said that he would arrange to see Brother Kimball this morning to see about the calling of the four key persons.  This morning Brother Dyer called me to say that he had talked with Brother Kimball and that he guessed that Brother Kimball would “take it easy” in making the calls.  Brother Kimball would not be in his office today to discuss it, nor Monday.  The next opportunity to talk with him about it would be Tuesday, and he would try to get Brother Kimball to make the calls next Tuesday, February 29.  He did not imply that there was any objection to anybody, but just that Brother Kimball was not impressed with the importance of moving any faster in making the calls.

Corrected by LJA, Feb. 28, 1972

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 25 February 1972]

THIRD item.  Elder Dyer, Bro. Olson, and I had the opportunity on Thursday to present our program and proposed reorganization to the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency meeting in the Temple Thursday.   The following things approved:

1.  Change the name from Church Historian’s Office to Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2.  Appoint a Church Librarian

3.  Appoint a Director of Administrative Services for the Historical Department

4.  Appoint two outstanding LDS historians as Assistant Church Historians

5.  Appoint a number of persons with Master’s degrees as Historical Assistants and Historical Associates to help out with our research and writing.

6.  Inaugurate a publications program, to be called the Heritage Series, for the publication of historic documents and papers and essays and sermons previously unpublished.

7.  Appoint a Historical Advisory Committee to give advice on matters of policy.  

Very important decisions and the beginning of the work, which is long overdue.  So far, everything going smoothly, and we have good support from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  Incidentally, Elder Howard Hunter is supposed to be on a tour of Latin America.  Perhaps he will go to Bolivia?  Perhaps he will ask about you?

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, Sunday 27 February 1972]

3.  Leonard Arrington explained the responsibilities involved with the six positions for which he has requested personnel.  His section will be involved with the following, all having to do with research and writing:  (1) Research on historical and doctrinal matters requested by the General Authorities; (2) Research that must be done for people who carry on correspondence; (3) A publications program; (4) Must write monographs on Church history; (5) Prepare a comprehensive history of the Church; and (6) Write articles for Church publications.  These positions must be filled by qualified people.  Two Assistant Church Historians, namely Davis Bitton and James Allen at one-half time, and two Historical Associates, Richard Jensen and William Harley were recommended.  The salary for Dean Jessee was also discussed.  Michael Quinn was recommended as historical assistant at one-half time, and Bill Hartley at full time.


Saturday, March 11, 1972

Dear Carl,

My diary project has sort of fallen by the wayside because of my frequent trips to Salt Lake City and Provo and my classes at USU.  I can’t do anything with it in Provo, because I’m there only one day per week, and not all the day then, and it takes that time to get our affairs at the Center of Western Studies taken care of.  I can’t do much with it in Salt Lake City, as I do not yet have a secretary.  I have good secretarial help at USU, but I am in class every morning until 10:30, and have various meetings and immediate letters to answer and reports to file.  In the afternoon, well I would not trust my diary to my afternoon secretary.  I have filed about 10 diary dictations since I started back in December or so.  My letters to you, of which I try to keep a copy, will have to serve as a kind of substitute diary.  Hope you won’t object.  Sometime soon I ought to be getting a secretary in Salt Lake, and she can keep my diary on a regular basis.

The first day I reported for work in Salt Lake City, Brother Dyer asked me to lay out my proposed organizational plan, which I did, including names of persons I wanted to employ.  I suggested two Assistant Church Historians:  Davis Bitton and James Allen; two Historical Associates, Dean Jessee, Richard Jensen, and later added Bill Hartley; and three historical assistants:  Mike Quinn, and now Gordon Irving.  Also one secretary for me and one for the remainder of the staff.  It has been a long process, but as of yesterday I now have all this staff agreed upon, and one by one they will start to work.  Here is the process involved.

First, I made the recommendation orally to Elder Dyer, making a little freehand organization chart while explaining it.  He suggested I put it in writing, which I did.  Then it was considered for a week by Elder Dyer, Earl Olson and myself.  Then approved.  Elder Dyer then sent it as a recommendation to Elder Howard Hunter.  After some delays while he was out of town, Elder Hunter then discusses it with Elder Kimball, pres. of the Twelve.  After some delays Elder Kimball schedules us to present it at a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, which approves it.  Then we present it to a combined meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency, and they approved it.  Then the question arises as to how persons requested and approved are to be called.  This question is discussed for a couple of weeks.  Brother Dyer consults with Elder Kimball.  He waits for Brother Dyer to make a written recommendation.  He consults with us and then sends a memo to Elder Kimball suggesting that The First Presidency call the top people—e.g., Assistant Church Historians, and Elder Hunter and Kimball call the lower persons: Historical Associates and Assistants.  The matter then went to Pres. Kimball.  He took it to the First Presidency (Pres. Lee).  Pres. Lee suggested it ought to be discussed by the Quorum of the Twelve since it would set a certain precedent.  Pres. Kimball took it to the Quorum of the Twelve, who happened to be meeting with all the General Authorities, as they do once a month.  They once more approved the reorganization and then designated Elder Dyer as the managing director of the Historical Department to make all the calls.  So from now on, as we acquire new people the pattern is set:  the names are cleared with all concerned and Elder Dyer makes the calls.  Last week after the meeting, Elder Dyer called all the lower positions.  But he wanted longer interviews for the higher positions and was leaving in a hurry for Central America.  So he postponed those until yesterday when he returned from his trip.  He called in Don Schmidt for an hour interview and called him to be Church Librarian.  Don has been assistant director of the BYU Library and will now be a part of our staff in charge of library and archives.  Next he called in James Allen.  You will remember him as a Logan native who graduated from USU, then went to BYU for a masters, then to Southern Cal for his doctors, then to several Institutes of Religion in Southern California, then to BYU on the religion faculty, then to the BYU history faculty.  He has been a friend of many years and I’m sure you remember him.  He will be an Assistant Church Historian and will help research and write half time.  He will remain a member of the BYU staff for the other half.  Davis Bitton stayed at our house two or three times.  A Ph.D. from Princeton, he is prof. at U of U.  His specialty is medieval history, but he is equally good at LDS history.  He is originally from Blackfoot, Idaho, and his wife is a convert from South Carolina.  He has been a good friend of many years also.  He is the finest critiquer of manuscripts in the field of Mormon history, so he will be of invaluable help to us in getting manuscripts ready for publication.

Normally, I do not go to Salt Lake City on Fridays, but these calls were so important to my work in the department, that I left right after class and got there at 11 a.m.  I checked in with Brother Dyer, and then directly Jim and Davis came to my office and both said that they had received the call.  A few minutes later Brother Dyer called and confirmed that he had called both men and they accepted.  Frankly, I had earlier learned that there were some objections to Davis—that he wasn’t orthodox, that he was too freethinking, too liberal, and so on.  And because I felt so strongly about getting him, I decided to make it a matter of prayer and fasting and asked him to do the same.  Well, of course, everything turned out fine, and the emotional excitement and pleasure of all this just overcame me.  I brought in Dean Jessee and asked Dean, Jim, and Davis to join me in a prayer of thanks in which we kneeled in my office and I led in prayer.  I just cried and cried—the first time I had broken down in this fashion in a long time.  Anyway we felt very close and it was a touching moment.  We dedicated ourselves to the work ahead.  We then went to lunch in the Hotel Utah Coffee Shop, and then back at the office, where Jim and Davis were assigned to their desks, we put in orders for typewriters, chairs, filing cabinets, credenzas, etc.  I then took them down to Church Personnel at 19 West South Temple, where they applied for employment, signed all the forms, had their picture taken for identification cards, and were scheduled for orientation on Thursday.  Both will work half time.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, Saturday 11 March 1972]

Diary of Leonard J. Arrington

Monday, March 13, 1972

For almost two months I have been working toward the goal of perfecting the organization of the Historical Department of the Church.  I have been meeting with Brother Dyer and Brother Olson each Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 to 9:30 to discuss problems and opportunities, and in particular an improved organization in the Department.  When our appointments were announced on January 14, it was clear to those of us on the inside that the old position of Church Historian and Recorder held by Joseph Fielding Smith for 50 years and by Howard W. Hunter for about three years had been split into three persons and/or positions.  First of all Elder Dyer is managing director of the Department and will be the final authority (or channel to the Quorum of the Twelve) on matters of policy or personnel.  Second, Earl Olson will be in charge of archives and library, including all the policies with respect to the use of written and printed materials.  Third, my own assignment is to supervise those engaged in research and writing church history.  In a very real sense, there have been no persons employed to do this task, and so my division—the Church Historian’s Division—is having to be created from nothing.

At our first meeting, Elder Dyer asked me to suggest the organization and personnel that I needed to carry out the research and writing tasks.  I suggested the need for two Assistant Church Historians, two Historical Associates, and three Historical Assistants.  For Assistant Historians I suggested James Allen, Professor of History at BYU, and Davis Bitton, Professor at the University of Utah.  I suggested each of them for half time at a salary level on a 12-month basis of $20,000.  I felt sure each would devote more than half of his time to work for our office.  Jim is very energetic in getting new programs underway and he knows more about Mormon History in the Twentieth Century than any other professional historians.  Davis is one of the finest professionals in the critique of historical manuscripts and had read more diaries of pioneer Mormons than any other person.  Both are industrious and pleasant to work with.  Both are also persons with firm testimonies.  Jim Allen is now President of the Mormon History Association and Davis was President last year.  Both have been personal friends for many years.  Both have stayed in our home, just as I have stayed in their homes.

As Historical Associates I suggested the transfer of Dean Jessee from the Archives Division, which was accomplished before the end of January.  Also Richard Jensen, now completing a Master’s Degree at Ohio State University, and later added the name of Bill Hartley, a candidate for the Ph.D. at Washington State University in Pullman.  Dean Jessee knows more about the manuscripts of Mormon History than any other person and is recipient of the Mormon History Association award for best article on Mormon History written during the past year.  He is grossly underpaid, and I suggested we raise his salary significantly.  Richard Jensen worked for me on the Charles Rich biography last summer and is industrious and intelligent, but somewhat slow in writing.  Bill Hartley had trouble with his Ph.D. orals at Washington State University, but he has been strongly recommended by Gene Campbell at BYU and by Armand Mauss at Washington State University. He is said to be industrious and intelligent and he apparently failed the orals in one area simply because he had not taken any courses at Washington State in that area.  Each of these three brethren was suggested for full-time employment.  For Historical Assistants it was my plan to give each of the Assistant Church Historians and myself a kind of graduate assistant half time to work with us on our research and writing projects.  This idea was vetoed by President Kimball because he couldn’t see the need for assistants to assistants.  So I was under the obligation of suggesting names of persons who would be directly under my charge, and I suggested Michael Quinn and expect to suggest Gordon Irving.  In addition, the Department has Flora Chappuis who will retire in a couple of years but has been assigned to our department until then.  Edythe Romney had been employed and was assigned to our division but retired February 28.  However, she will be coming in during he days and weeks ahead on a gratis basis to do work as we may request.

I recommended the Department hold a competition to award three summer research fellowships in the amount of $1,000 each.  This program was approved, the competition has been announced, and we are already receiving applications.  I have also talked with Brother Ed Lyon about the possibility of employing him part time in the archives, and he is very interested in this.

As related earlier in my diary, this reorganization and the personnel were approved by the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency.  Bill Hartley, Richard Jensen, and Michael Quinn were called and accepted on March 2.  Brother Dyer was instructed that he was to make all calls for our Department.  Brother Dyer had to make a trip to Central America and for that reason was unable to call the Assistant Church Historians.  He returned on Friday, March 10, and called Brothers Allen and Bitton and each accepted his call.  So beginning Monday, March 13 our division will consist of Brothers Allen, Bitton, Jessee, Quinn, and Chappuis.  Hartley will report on March 14.  Jensen will report on June 15.  We hope to call Gordon Irving sometime this week for half time.  Brother Dyer on the 10th also called Don Schmidt to be Church Librarian.  He will work with Brother Olson in the Library and Archives Division.  Brother Dyer also, on March 2, placed a telephone call to Bob Matthews to be the Director of Administrators Services for the Department.  Bob later called Earl and myself, after Brother Dyer had left for Central America, to say that he had about decided not to accept the call.  He was interested in teaching research and writing—not in administration.  This will be a sore disappointment to Brother Dyer who likes Brother Matthews very much and very much wanted him to work with.  Just what person Brother Dyer might suggest to take his place we have no idea.  We will probably learn tomorrow morning whether he will put pressure on Brother Matthews to accept or whether he will have another name to suggest as a replacement.  If he asks me, I will suggest as possible replacements Ray Garrison, Accounting Professor at BYU or Ken Godfrey, Director of the Institute of Religion at Ogden.

Although not scheduled to do so, I drove to Salt Lake City on Friday to be present when Elders Allen and Bitton finished their interviews.  Both came into my office about noon and said that they had accepted the call.  The experience was a very emotional one for me, partly for the affection and respect I had built up for these brethren over many years, and partly because I felt so strongly about their appointments that I had gone through a period of fasting and prayer that all might turn out well.  It did turn out well!  When they came out and then reported the interviews I then called Dean Jessee into the office and we knelt down in prayer to ask blessings upon their endeavors in the months and years to come.  We then went to the Hotel Utah Coffee Shop for dinner and did some preliminary planning.  Brother Allen will report to the office every Monday, Wednesday, and alternate Thursdays or Fridays.  Brother Bitton will come every morning.  Both brethren were assigned tasks and we have ordered for each typewriters, larger desks, and a filing cabinet each.  I took both to the personnel section in the Union Pacific Annex where each was photographed and given a card showing his employment by the Historical Department.

The task now is to begin our research and writing program.  We are planning the following:

1.  A series of research papers from which suitable publications can be derived on various topics of Church History.

2.  The preparation of a series of articles for the Ensign.

3.  The commencement of books for a “Heritage Series,” to be published probably by Deseret Book Company.

4.  Preparing responses to various letters, which have come in relating to research topics in Church History.

5.  Studying the adoption of many new policies of the Historical Department.

6.  Making plans for the commencement of a Sesqui-Centennial History of the Church to be completed by 1980.

I now feel that the biggest hurdle facing me has been overcome; i.e., the approval of a new name for the Department, the limitation of my own responsibilities to research and writing, the appointment of all the key personnel in my division, the approval of the “Heritage Series” idea, and my appointment as contributing editor to the Ensign.  I now feel confident that we can carry out the main task given to us by the First Presidency and expected of us by the members of the Church.

Corrected by LJA, 15 March 1972

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday 13 March 1972]

Meeting, April 4, 1972 in Alvin R. Dyer’s office

Present:  Elder Dyer, Earl E. Olsen, Donald Schmidt, Davis Bitton

5.  Someone had written to Brother Dyer regarding statements on sensitivity groups, birth control, and the like, apparently with a project of gathering such statements from various General Authorities.  In declaring such a project to be no concern of the Historical Department Brother Dyer said he did not have very much regard for “compilers.”

8.  I presented the proposed sesquicentennial history of the Church; Earl thought that perhaps vol. 7 should end with 1901 rather than 1896.  Brother Dyer was enthusiastic about the whole project and specifically said that Robert Matthews was an excellent choice for the Missouri period.  He raised questions about how such programs as welfare and tithing would be handled with respect to chronology.  It was pointed out that even if Welfare were treated in the 1930-50 volume, it would be quite possible to include a section filling in the earlier background and setting the stage.  I asked how soon we could feel free to contact the individual writers.  Brother Dyer said this would have to wait on our decision as to whether the work would be remunerated or would be volunteer.  If it were paid in any way—as a research grant or providing clerical assistance—this would have to be figured into the budget.  Specifically, whichever volumes will be farmed out for the coming year will need to be thought of in these terms, leading to a firm decision no later than April 27.

[LJAD, meeting in Alvin R. Dyer’s office, 4 April 1972]

15.  A tentative suggested list of names for the writing of the various volumes of the Sesqui-Centennial History of the Church was presented to Elder Dyer.  He was very pleased with these proposed names.  The inclusion of the various Church programs and just how these would fit into the publications were discussed.  Some alternate names were also suggested by Davis Bitton as follows:  Douglas Tobler, Paul Hyer, and Marvin Hill of BYU on LDS Missions, and Charles Petersen of the Utah State University for Volume 7.  LDS Missions would be Volume 11.  Elder Dyer stated that we must know how much of this project will have to be considered as remunerative so that this amount might be included in the budget.  The volunteer workers also should be known.  This information must be in our hands before April 30 for inclusion in the budget.  This cost could be included in a research grant category.

[LJAD, Minutes of the Executives of the HISTORICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATER-DAY SAINTS meeting, Tuesday 4 April 1972]




April 10, 1972

1.  Oral history program (Systematic interviews).  The division expects to initiate an oral history program immediately, in which General Authorities and persons who have been or are now in charge of various Church programs will be interviewed.  We will thus collect oral information about the history of various agencies and programs of the Church.  These people should provide important insights that are not available in ordinary records.

2.  Records collection program.  In association with the other divisions of the Historical Department, we shall help to collect the files and records lodged in the various agencies of the Church, with the view to acquiring the material necessary to write the histories of these organizations and programs.

3.  Preparation of research aids.  We shall continue our service of preparing indexes of historical materials and records in order to facilitate the work of our own and other researchers.  The most important project of this type on which we are now working is the guide to Mormon diaries and journals being prepared by Davis Bitton.

4.  Research program.  Because of the vast amount of research which must be done before a detailed history of the Church and its many programs can be written, we are encouraging research by the community of Mormon historians in the following ways:

a.  Research fellowships.  We are offering five fellowships of $1,000 each to top LDS scholars who will work in our archives during the summer of 1972.  We expect to make this an annual competition.

b.  Encouragement to LDS graduate students to write theses and dissertations on important topics of Church history.  We have drawn up a list of needed topics and have circulated this among professors who advise students looking for thesis topics.  We shall also help such students secure access to the materials necessary to write definitive treatments of their topics.

c.  We are holding conversations with leaders in the Church Educational System to work out arrangements whereby instructors possessing research skills might be given some released time to do research in the Church Archives.  This would improve their teaching of church history, accord them status as scholars, and help us get needed research done on important topics.

5.  Publication program.  The single most important task of our division, as we understand it, is to write church history for the information and edification of the members of the Church.  We propose to initiate the following writing and publication projects:

a.  Heritage series.  This series, which might be published by Deseret News Press, on a self-sustaining basis, would publish some of the historically important selections from diaries, letters, sermons, and papers of the Prophets and other Church leaders.  We should like to start this series with certain writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  This will make a volume of about 200 pages, and will include the letters in his own handwriting and a diary he kept from 1832-1834.

b.  History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1980.  This comprehensive history would consist of from 10 to 15 volumes, each by a different author.  We expect to have volumes covering each significant phase of the history of the Church, each done by a recognized authority.  Each volume would be thoroughly researched and well written, and would be authenticated by bibliographic citations.  The Church Historian would be the general editor of this series.  This series should cost little in the long run—sales should cover the expenses.  (See separately attached proposal for details.)

c.  Papers of Brigham Young. Brigham Young is recognized by national historians as the most important figure in the history of the American West, and as one of the leading figures in American history.  The National Historical Publications Commission, which has a grant from Congress, would like to help finance the publication of the Brigham Young Papers, under a program similar to that of the papers of the Presidents of the United States.  They indicate an availability of approximately $40,000 for this purpose.  We propose to work out a program to publish the Brigham Young Papers as Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  This program is not yet worked out, but we think it is both desirable and practical.

d.  Contemporary History.  Very little has been written about the history of the Church in the 20th century, yet more years of its history have elapsed since 1900 than occurred before that date.  Many important programs need detailed histories:  The missionary program, the Welfare Plan, each of the auxiliaries, the Priesthood programs, the educational system, the old folks program, the church in other lands, and so on.  We propose to proceed with dispatch in writing up the histories of each of these programs.  Some of these will deserve publication as articles and books.  Others may be written as research reports and theses and then filed away for reference in writing the “History of the Latter-day Saints.”

e.  Articles for The Ensign.  The new editor of The Ensign has invited us to prepare an article for each issue of The Ensign, or to help him arrange for one to be written by a Mormon scholar.  Recognizing the contribution, which Church history can make to the knowledge and testimonies of Church members, we think this is an important opportunity and responsibility.

f.  Articles for professional publications.  In accordance with the expressed desire of some of the Brethren that we maintain contact with professional historical associations, we expect to prepare papers to read at their conventions, and prepare articles for occasional publication in one of the professional journals.  It is not our intention at this stage to recommend the publication of a Latter-day Saint History Journal.  Outlets in other journals are adequate for our needs at this time.

[LJAD, Plan of Operations of the Church History Division of the Historical Department of the Church, 10 April 1972]

12.  The names of proposed authors and their respective subjects were read by Brother Arrington.  The difference in Volume 11 on the history of the LDS Missions and Volume 12 on the history of the missionaries was discussed in detail.  Elder Dyer stated that the First Presidency was very pleased with this Sesqui-Centennial History of the Church.  It was noted that all writings that are produced should be submitted to the Correlation Committee for their approval.  Such writings are to be forwarded to Dan Ludlow for review.  Problems involved with the writing of the history of the Welfare Program were discussed.

[LJAD, Minutes of the Executives of the HISTORICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATER-DAY SAINTS meeting, Tuesday 11 April 1972]

April 19, 1972

Elder Howard W. Hunter


Dear Elder Hunter:

Re:  General Church Recorder

The position of Church Recorder is one, which stems from the very beginning of our Church.  Oliver Cowdery was appointed Church Recorder April 6, 1830, and served until March 8, 1831, at which time John Whitmer was appointed.   The position was given again to Oliver Cowdery September 14, 1835, and on September 17, 1837 to George W. Robinson, who was released October 3, 1840.  On this date Robert B. Thompson was sustained as the General Church Clerk.  He died Augusts 27, 1841, and was succeeded October 2, 1841 by James Sloan, who served until July 30, 1843, at which time Willard Richards was sustained as the General Church Recorder.

The position of Church Historian started April 5, 1838 with the appointment of both John Corrill and Elias Higbee.  Brother Corrill was excommunicated March 17, 1839.  Brother Higbee died June 8, 1843.  Willard Richards was appointed Church Historian December 21, 1842.   The combined positions of Church Historian and General Church Recorder have reposed in one of the Twelve Apostles from the time of Willard Richards to January 1972, at which time Leonard J. Arrington was appointed Church Historian.  No designation has been made of the position of General Church Recorder since this latest reorganization.

It should also be noted that the title Church Historian and General Church Recorder was used up to 1920 when it was changed to Church Historian and Recorder.

The scriptures, which indicate the calling and responsibilities of the Church Recorder, include the following:

D&C 20:82-84, 21:1, 47: 1-4, 69:3, 7-9, 85:1-5, 123:1-5, 127:6-9, 128:2-9; 3 Nephi 27:23-26; Moses 6:5-8; Abraham 1:28, 31.

With the new restructuring of the Historical Department, it appears that the major responsibility of the present Church Historian will be to research, write, and publish the history of the Church.  The Church Archivist has the responsibility to procure, examine, and evaluate various Church records, such as minutes, historical reports, and statistics; to coordinate with the Presiding Bishopric’s Office on membership records; and to obtain and file many other types of records, such as the printed works pertaining to the Church, films, etc.

With the distinction as noted in the preceding paragraph, it appears more in keeping with current assignments that the Church Archivist (Earl E. Olson) be given the responsibility of Church Recorder.  This matter has been carefully discussed by the executives of the Historical Department, (Alvin R. Dyer, Leonard J. Arrington, Earl E. Olson, and Donald T. Schmidt) and we are unanimous in recommending that consideration be given to designating Brother Olson as Church Archivist and Recorder.


Alvin R. Dyer

Managing Director


[LJAD, letter written by Alvin R. Dyer to Howard W. Hunter, 19 April 1972]

Brother Olson just informed me that Brother Dyer, upon his return home from the hospital had had another stroke.  This was apparently a major stroke, paralyzing half his body.  There is now real question whether he will ever come out of this paralysis—whether he will ever be able to resume his function as Managing Director of the Historical Department.  Until his situation is clear, Brother Hunter is very hesitant about assuming any responsibilities for the department.  But I suppose he will have to function somehow for the most urgent matters—signing for new employees, taking matters to the First Presidency, etc.  We all regret most keenly this incapacity of Elder Dyer.  He was a strong and energetic supporter of our labors, and gave us great help and encouragement, particularly during the first four months as a Historical Department.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday 9 June 1972]

June 12, 1972

First Presidency

47 East South Temple

Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

Dear Brethren:

Prior to his recent illness, Elder Alvin Dyer had expected to discuss with the First Presidency the projected work of the Historical Department of the church.  It is our understanding that he discussed this briefly with President Lee, but that he did not have a chance to discuss it in detail with the First Presidency.

In the absence of Elder Dyer, Elder Howard Hunter, Advisor to the Historical Department has volunteered to discuss the Department’s plan for a sesqui-centennial history of the Church with the First Presidency.  Through Elder Hunter we solicit your advice and counsel with respect to the attached prospectus, which had been presented to Elder Dyer on April 10.

Elder Dyer approved this prospectus and was prepared to recommend it to the First Presidency at the time he was stricken.  Since there is some urgency in inaugurating this plan so that the approved authors can be contacted and begin work on the assigned volumes this summer, we ask for your blessing and suggestions.


Leonard J. Arrington


[LJAD, letter written to the First Presidency, 12 June 1972]

12 June 1972




This will be a thirteen volume work intended to present a thorough history of the Church from its beginning to 1980.  It will be under the general editorship of the Church Historian, but each volume will be prepared by an L.D.S. scholar who is especially competent in that particular area.  Hopefully, the result will be a series of thoroughly researched volumes that will meet the expectations and needs of both the Mormon community and the general scholarly world.

Once the names of proposed authors are approved, we shall conduct conversations with them leading to a definite assignment.  We expect that all volumes will be complete and published by 1980.  Each author will be individually responsible for the accuracy of his own statements, and for his own interpretations, although the general editor may suggest themes or topics that should received special attention in particular volumes.  Each author will be asked to consider the international aspects of church history during his assigned period, even though a special volume on the history of the Church outside the United States will also be included in the series.  In addition, each author will be asked to relate the experiences of the Church in his period to other important historical events in the world.

Deseret Book Company would like to publish each of the books in this series, and we would be pleased to work with them if you wish it.  They would publish each volume as it is prepared, and some will be available in a year or two.  Deseret Book Company would like to secure the copyright to the individual volumes, and we agree that this is reasonable.  As an inducement to the individual authors, each of whom would receive a 15 percent royalty on sales, Deseret Book is willing to pay to each approved author an advance against royalties of $500 as a kind of retainer to take care of expenses in researching and writing the volume.  Upon completion of the manuscript Deseret Book will pay the author an additional $500 advance against royalties.  The manuscript of each volume will not be considered complete until it has been carefully examined by the editors and such modifications as are agreed upon have been made.  Each manuscript will be published a soon as possible after its completion.


General Title:  A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1980

General Editor:  Leonard J. Arrington

Associate Editors:  James B. Allen and Davis Bitton

Advisor:  Alvin R. Dyer

Volume 1:  Introduction and Background, to 1830

Author:  Richard L. Anderson, Brigham Young University

Volume 2:  The Ohio Experience, to 1838

Author:  Milton V. Backman, Jr., Brigham Young University

Volume 3:  The Missouri Experience, to 1839

Author:  Robert J. Matthews, Brigham Young University

Volume 4:  The Illinois Period, 1839-1846

Author:  T. Edgar Lyon, Institutes of Religion

Volume 5:  The Crossing of the Plains

Author:  Reed C. Durham, Jr., Institutes of Religion

Volume 6:  The Early Pioneer Period, 1847-1869

Author:  Eugene E. Campbell, Brigham Young University

Volume 7:  The Later Pioneer Period, 1869-1900

Author:  Charles S. Peterson, Utah State University

Volume 8:  The Early Twentieth Century, 1900-1930

Author:  Thomas G. Alexander, Brigham Young University

Volume 9:  The Church from 1930-1950

Author:  Richard Cowan, Brigham Young University

Volume 10:  The Contemporary Church, 1950-1980

Author:  James B. Allen, Assistant Church Historian

Volume 11:  A History of the L.D.S. Missions Outside the United States

Co-authors:  11. Lanier Britsch, Brigham Young University

        12. Douglas F. Tobler, Brigham Young University

        13. LaMond Tullis, Brigham Young University

Volume 12:  A History of the Missionary Program of the Church

Author:  14. S. George Ellsworth, Utah State University

Volume 13:  A Social and Cultural History of the Church to 1900

Author: Davis Bitton, Assistant Church Historian

(Handwritten)  John S. 1900-1980



Certain records in the Historical Department by action of the First Presidency have been designated as restricted.  These include minutes of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, minutes of High Councils, finance records and records of the Board of Education.  The use of these has been restricted to the Church Historian, Assistant Church Historians, and persons specifically designated by the First Presidency.

The creation of the Church History Division within the Historical Department makes necessary the development of procedures for the use of restricted documents by our staff.  Should the junior staff members in our division be granted unrestricted access to these documents?  Should we impose any controls on their use by our staff members?  We are working out today some policies in this regard.  

My suggestion is that such documents be ordered from downstairs only by myself or one of the Assistant Church Historians and that the use of them be directed by and controlled by myself or one of the Assistant Church Historians.  We will try this out as a starter and see whether such controls are desirable or necessary.

Because of Brother Dyer’s condition, we must forge these policies ourselves; that is, Earl and I will have to be responsible for the policies and procedures that are adopted.  On the one hand one hates to be restrictive about any documents.  Certainly we have chosen as members of our staff persons who can be trusted in the use of confidential records.  On the other hand, some of our staff members are young and untried.  They lack the judgment and experience in the use of confidential documents.  And they have not proven themselves as seasoned scholars.  So we will try out these new policies and procedures and see how they work.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday 27 June 1972]

15 July 1972 – Saturday

Dear Carlos:

Today is the first day without a big deadline on me, so I’ll take this opportunity.  First, a rundown on my work.  Unquestionable, the Church Historian job is the most exciting job a historian could wish for.  To have a whole archive of original material, which few people have examined carefully, to have a personal staff of professional young historians to do research, to have a budget that will permit the normal traveling to professional conventions and church conferences—just imagine!  Fine people to work with, fine subjects to research and write about.  Very exciting.  Only two drawbacks.  The first is the traditionalist church bureaucracy who binds us with so many rules and regulations.  These aren’t impossible, but they are irritating.  The second is the work I am committed to do to complete the research already started at USU and to help things get going in the BYU Center for Western Studies.  Plus getting acquainted with Salt Lake City.  Plus obligations to be civil to friends who waste one’s time.

We can’t get the go ahead yet on the 15-volume history until Brother Dyer is able to function again, and he is coming along only slowly.  I don’t know whether he’ll ever be back in the full sense—a stroke can be pretty damaging.  We’re glad we had him as long as we did.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, Saturday 15 July 1972]

July 17, 1972

Leonard Arrington

Historical Department


Dear Brother Arrington:

Your expressions of support and loyalty are gratefully acknowledged.  It has been a delight to see how, under the leadership of yourself and Elder Alvin R. Dyer and your associates, you have begun to transform our historical department into the competency I have so much desired in the years that have gone by.

My wife and I went to see Brother Dyer the other night and took a copy of the Joseph Smith picture.  It was pleasing to note that he is making some gains.  As to whether or not he will come back to his former strength only the Lord knows.  We are happy, however, to know that you and your associates are carrying the load and I am grateful that we have moved to have the members of the Twelve, like Brother Kimball and Brother Hunter, as your advisors upon whom you can call when you need counsel in the carrying forward of the work of that most important and vital link in the chain of responsibility in building the kingdom of God.

Please give my kindest regards to your associates, as well as to your lovely companion.

Very Sincerely yours,

Harold B. Lee

[LJAD, letter written to LJA from Harold B. Lee, 17 July 1972]

This afternoon Sister Muriel Owens in the office of the First Presidency telephoned to say that the First Presidency would like to meet with me and Brother Howard Hunter at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 8 to discuss the proposal on the sesquicentennial history of the Church.  I see this as a favorable turn of events.  It will give me an opportunity of explaining our program to the First Presidency and also give them an opportunity to raise questions about things we are doing.  This will give me a chance to respond directly to their questions so that they will be informed directly by us on our program and its implications.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday 21 July 1972]


About a month ago I was reading in the biography of James E. Talmage by his son John Talmage about Talmage’s connections with educational institutions in Utah.  I was reminded once again that there is much confusion about the early educational institutions of this state.  Writers of Masters Theses and Doctorial Dissertations in educational history have never understood the proper names and relationships of the Salt Lake Academy, Salt Lake College, LDS College, LDS University, Young University, etc.  This prompted me to ask Michael Quinn to prepare an article for publication in the Utah Historical Quarterly dealing with the history of Young University—its predecessors and successors.  I suggested that he write this from original sources, most of which would almost certainly be in our archives.  Mike went at this task with eagerness and has now prepared a fine and enlightening article, which we are submitting, to Utah Historical Quarterly.

In the course of hunting for the minute books of the Board of Education of the various Church-related colleges and universities—some of which he found uncatalogued and “discovered,” Mike found in our basement archives two large stacks of uncatalogued material, mostly in cardboard boxes, some in wooden boxes.  The stacks were about seven feet high and there were perhaps as many as 300 books among this material and several boxes of loose papers.  He brought it to my attention and said that Brother Victor Checketts, who used to be in charge of the basement archives, was well aware of the existence of these stacks of uncatalogued materials—and in fact said that they were there when he came to work in 1950.  He said that Brother A. William Lund had instructed him that no one was to look at that material but himself, that is Brother Lund, and that Brother Lund occasionally took one or two items from the pile to look at and then catalogue.  Obviously he had not done very much in 20 years!

I asked Mike to make a summary of the items there, and I then brought up the matter privately with Jeff Johnson and Max Evans.  I suggested to them if they had no objections that I would make available the services of Brother Ron Esplin, who is working half-time under the fellowship of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU.  They were perfectly agreeable, pointing out that they were so preoccupied with other cataloguing jobs (such as the Joseph Fielding Smith papers) that they would not be able to get at it themselves for several months.  Since there was so much Brigham Young material in those piles, I felt perfectly justified in assigning brother Esplin to this work.  He had previously been helping to prepare a guide to the Brigham Young materials in our archives.

With assurances from Brother Johnson and Evans, I then brought it up in our department head meeting with Brother Olson and his divisional heads present.  Brother Olson consented, and Brother Arnell and Evans seemed enthusiastic.  Brother Esplin has now completed going through all the account books of Brigham Young and others—sorting them into rough categories so that cards will be made up on them and placed in the index.  Now they will be available for use by our staff and others.  Brother Esplin took me down yesterday to see the mass of uncatalogued papers.

We found a great profusion of valuable documents including land books from Nauvoo, account books and other records pertaining to the Nauvoo House Association, correspondence with Governor Cumming, documents signed by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others, high council minutes—all kinds of extremely valuable material.  I stated that if any archive in Utah had any single box of this mass of material it would be regarded as a rich archive.

I instructed Brother Esplin to work on the inventory or registry of these papers and hope he will be able to complete this task before he leaves for California about August 25.  In case he is not able to complete the task before then, I shall assign Gordon Irving to work with him so that it can be completed before he leaves.  While this is not a task for our division properly speaking, there is evidence that if we do not do it, it will be long delayed, and I want to be assured that all of our precious early records are catalogued and given a number before we move into the new building.

I have heard stories about boxes of uncatalogued materials relating to early Church history and existing unopened in the basement, and I truly believed that all of this material had been cataloged and cards placed in the index by three or four years ago when the energetic young catalogers began completing this work.  Why they neglected to do this, I do not know.  I have two theories: (1) That Brother Checketts did not bring them to the attention of archive workers and officials, because he was still operating under the instruction of Brother Lund that no one was to examine those materials but him.  (2) That the archival people, being told of the existence of these materials, thought that they consisted only of account books and were therefore of marginal importance.

However, there were many office journals and telegram books of the First Presidency and of important Church enterprises and programs.  There are lists of tithe payers and non-tithe payers.  There are all the important records of Nauvoo, which would have been invaluable to Ed Lyon, and Nauvoo Restoration.  My assumption is that these materials were boxed up along with other Church records and carried over to the Temple annex during the days of the anti-polygamy raid.  They were then brought back from the Temple annex sometime prior to the demolition of the old Temple annex when the new one was constructed about 1962.  If Brother Checketts’ statement is true, they were brought before 1950.  One of the items was Brigham Young’s Golddust? (Gold dust?) book, and we know from an article by Feramorz Fox that this book was in the Church library in the 1930s.  So I would suppose that these materials were brought back from the Temple annex in the early years of this century and had been sitting uncatalogued in these piles for perhaps 60 or 70 years.  It is unbelievable and inexcusable that Brother Lund should have allowed them to remain in that condition.  Not only because it prevented scholars from knowing of their existence, but also because the conditions were not good for their preservation.  This illustrates the psychological fear, which haunted Brother Lund that someday somebody might find something that was detrimental to the Church and its interests and his lack of confidence in other persons who might have access to the materials.

If we shall have done no other task in these months since our appointments in the Historical Department than the cataloging and opening up of these precious and valuable materials, then our “regime” will have been justified.  We do not yet know the extent of all the materials, which are in this hoard, but there will be tidbits and collections, which we will be gloating about for years.

Three years ago when I was asked to edit the woman’s issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly, I planned to do an essay on Susie Young Gates.  I came to the archives and went through her file and made a number of notes and found there a letter in which she mentioned material of hers being placed in the Historian’s Office.  Her most important papers were listed, but these papers were not to be found.  I asked everybody about them and showed her letter to Brother Olson, and he did not know what had happened to her donated materials.  There was even a receipt from Joseph Fielding Smith for the materials she had donated.

I then discovered the Masters Thesis on her writings by Paul Cracroft of the University of Utah.  He referred to her papers at the Utah State Historical Society.  I went there and found perhaps 60 or 70 boxes of materials, which had been given to the society by Homer Durham, his wife, or one of her sisters or perhaps by Leah Widtsoe, daughter of Susa Young Gates.  I organized those materials—spent several days and then went through them and made Xeroxes of quite a number of her papers which I still have.  These were costly since the Historical Society charged me 10¢ per page, and I must have done $100 worth.  Now to find a box in the basement of our own Church archives with all of the papers which Susan Young Gates had so thoughtfully and carefully prepared for the archives way back in the 1920s!

For the time being these will have to be listed with a number as part of Susan Young Gates materials until we have a chance to examine them in more detail and list them.

What reason could one possibly advance for explaining the failure of Brother Lund to not accession this box of materials and make it available to scholars?  One supposes that it must have been irresponsible laziness.  Brother Lund was very faithful about coming early and leaving late every day during the 62 years he worked here, and he took care of immediate business with seeming promptness, although telling time-wasting Scandinavian stories, which he repeated over and over to every visitor.

Why would he not suggest to one of his helpers that they tackle the material and place it in the archives?  To me his reticence in showing certain materials to certain scholars is understandable, if not defensible, but his failure to catalogue and make available these materials to those he did trust is neither understandable nor defensible, and his failure to do so is the most serious mark against his years of service in the Historical Department.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday 28 July 1972]


At 9:00 this morning Brother Howard Hunter and I met with two members of the First Presidency, President Lee and President Romney, with Brother Francis Gibbons their secretary. . . .

We were greeted warmly by President Lee and President Romney.  Brother Lee began by asking me what reports I had heard abut Brother Dyer.  I said that the reports that we had heard were discouraging, that Brother Dyer was not recovering as quickly and as much as we had hoped.  I told him we understood that it was difficult for him to communicate with people and we had understood there was a question as to whether Brother Dyer would ever be back with us, at least in the near future.  President Lee said he understood the same.  He and Sister Lee had gone to visit Brother Dyer to show him the painting of Joseph Smith, which Brother Dyer had arranged for and which Brother Dyer wished to see.  While there President Lee gave Brother Dyer a blessing.  President Lee felt that it was doubtful that Brother Dyer would be back in the near future and while these matters are always very delicate, the First Presidency would have to consider what ought to be done to manage the Historical Department while Brother Dyer was not able to function.  Brother Lee was unable to offer any assurance that Brother Dyer would ever be back with us.  He implied that no sudden action either now or in the near future would be taken by the First Presidency to replace Brother Dyer as Managing Director.

President Lee then said they were pleased to have me functioning in the capacity of Church Historian, and they were also pleased to have someone who was as truly acquainted with the department and its work as Howard Hunter to serve as advisor representing the Quorum of Twelve to the Historical Department.

He then said, “Well now, what can we do for you?”  I looked at Brother Hunter and Brother Hunter said:  “I must apologize because I am not very well informed on what has been done in the Historical Department since Brother Dyer became director.  Brother Dyer reported to me from time to time about the work being done and the changes made and reiterated several times that when the whole program was complete he wanted to discuss it with me and with the First Presidency.  But I thought it wise not to interfere and not to burden him with my suggestions and, therefore, I am not well acquainted with the things which Brother Arrington will present here and which I know he discussed with Brother Dyer.  So Brother Arrington, I think the best procedure would be for you to go ahead and present what you have outlined here to the First Presidency.”

I then presented the attached memoranda to the First Presidency.  First I presented a copy of these memoranda to each of the First Presidency, then with this in front of them I proceeded to read the first page of the projected programs of the Historical Department.   I pointed out in doing so that this was essentially the program of the Church History Division and that I was making no attempt to present the program of the Church Archive and the Church Library divisions.  When I was about halfway through this first page, one of the casters or rollers came out of President Lee’s chair and he almost fell backward.  I caught him, and while he stood I kneeled down on the floor and placed the roller back in his chair.  Brother Hunter, who had arisen, said that it might be desirable to place shepards casters on the chairs as a matter of protection and security.

Next I read through the proposal on the sesqui-centennial history of the Church.  No questions were raised on that except Brother Romney asked whether the $1,000 which each author would receive from Deseret Book Company would be the only compensation to the authors,  I said it would except for one item which I would mention in a few minutes—having in mind item six on our requests for approval.  I then went on to the third page of requests for approval and read each one of the requests.  I did very little explaining or extemporizing and the brethren asked no questions.  When I had read the fifth item and mentioned the name of Bishop Richard Bushman, President Lee spoke up very quickly and warmly and said, “Oh, we know that fine young brother well.  He is an outstanding historian and a fine member of the Church.  He is a wonderful Latter-day Saint.”

When I had finished I looked at Brother Lee with an expectant look, and he said, “Brother Arrington, it all sounds fine to me.  I don’t see any problems with any of them, but I think that we ought not to take any formal action on it until President Tanner returns and we give him the opportunity of expressing his own feelings about it.  I want to be sure that the First Presidency are united on our approval.  President Tanner will be back next week, and we will ask him to go over it and we should have an answer to you soon after his return.  As I say, I do not see any problems here, but then I don’t want to anticipate President Tanner’s judgment.”

I then handed to Brother Gibbons an extra copy of my three pages to give to President Tanner, and he thanked me.  President Lee then said with respect to one of the items—making available the source materials in the vault of the First Presidency and in President Smith’s safe:  “I am not sure how far we can go on this without investigating it more completely.  There are some things that have been kept in our vault for more than a hundred years, and perhaps they should always remain there.  For example, the seerstone and the law of the Lord—I don’t even know what that is, and there are some other artifacts in that same category.”  I said, “Of course we are not interested in those items.  They ought to remain in the vault of the First Presidency.  We are thinking in terms of diaries and journals, minutes, and other such records that are necessary in writing history.”  President Lee said, “The history or possession of many of these things goes back many years—before I ever became a member of the First Presidency.  Brother Joseph Anderson was given care and keeping of many things and we will have to discuss it with him to see reasons why these things were kept in our vault.  We agree with you that it needs investigation and thought and we will give it consideration and be in touch with you later.”

I said the main thing is that whatever we may have access to that we be given access to these as soon as possible so that we can use them in writing our history.  Brother Lee seemed to nod his head in the affirmative to this suggestion.  Brother Lee then said, “We are all delighted that we are now going to get our recent history written.”  He seemed to emphasize the importance of writing recent history.  He seemed to think that was of the highest priority.  He said that he knew of important aspects of our history that have never been written and should be written, and he was glad that we are finally getting down to doing it.  He has always thought that the principal task of the Historical Department must be to assure that the history is being written as we proceed—while the people are still alive and able to provide input into that history.  He said that he was in on the early days of the Church Welfare Plan and had thought at one time that he would write a history of these important events.  He gave it serious consideration, and then he decided that there were some strong personality elements in that history that would make it a very difficult thing for him to do, and he guessed he never would write it, but he implied that he would be glad to give input to someone assigned to write that history.  He said, “to use Brother Romney as an example, he was with us at an early stage in the work of the Welfare Plan, and we ought to get President Romney’s recollections as soon as possible.  There are other items that we ought to get while the individuals are still alive and able to give input.”

Brother Lee then terminated the discussion by saying they were pleased to have us working on the history and pleased that we are giving consideration to these matters and would be in touch with us later about the specific items of approval.

As he arose for us to leave, I asked him if he would mind taking a minute to set me apart and give me a blessing as Church Historian—that I had not been set apart and would deem it a great honor if President Lee would do so at this time.  He seemed to be pleased and said, “We’ll be very happy to do so.”  He said for me to continue to sit in the chair in which I was sitting and he called Brother Hunter and Brother Romney to assist him.  President Lee was mouth.  Brother Hunter told me afterwards that Brother Francis Gibbons took notes in shorthand and that he, Elder Hunter, would ask him if he could furnish me with a copy of the blessing.  It was a truly beautiful and moving blessing.  I cannot possibly repeat it, but the essence of it is something like this:

Brother Leonard Arrington, in response to your request, we place our hands on your head to set you apart as Church Historian and to give to you our blessings.  Brother Arrington, this call has come to you because of your competence and training and because of the confidence, which your brethren have in you to do this important work.  Along with scholastic attainments and intellectual development you have tried to acquaint yourself with the gospel and be active in the Lord’s work.  The calling, which you have been given, is one of the most important in the Church.  We are told to keep a record and you are responsible for seeing that this is done.  We particularly bless you with gifts of the spirit, which will assist you in your task.  Listen to the promptings of the spirit.  You will be blessed in such a manner that things will come quickly to your mind.  You will have a strong feeling that they must be done and must be done quickly and you should give heed to those promptings.  Reason is not everything, and if you will heed the promptings of the spirit you will have the prophetic vision and will be able to do what the Lord desires to be done in matters of Church history.  We bless you in these ways with the Holy Priesthood, which we hold, and in the name of Jesus Christ.

I then shook hands with Brother Romney and Brother Lee and told them how pleased I was to have such a beautiful blessing.  As we walked out the door Brother Hunter said to me that it was a very beautiful and moving blessing and that he was glad to have been present when it was pronounced.   He then asked me to go into his office for a moment, which I did.

In the office he apologized for not having given me very much help and said there were two reasons why he had not done so.  One was that he thought it was best for him after his release to leave matters up to Brother Dyer and that he had done so and that it was a difficult and delicate matter to function in Brother Dyer’s absence.  He said that normally the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were very close to the wives of General Authorities, but after Brother Dyer’s release from the First Presidency and his reinstatement as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve that Sister Dyer had been very cool.  She had not allowed members of the General Authorities to visit Brother Dyer and there had not been that warmness that had existed previously and this made it more difficult for him or anyone else to function while Brother Dyer was ill.  For another thing, Brother Hunter said that I would understand it if he said that he did not want to be like a bishop that was released but could not let loose the reins telling his replacement what to do—that he tried to be careful to avoid doing that, and he allowed us all to go ahead as the spirit dictated to us what should be done—both on mattes of personnel and on matters of action.  He said he wanted to explain that to me so that I would understand.  He did not want me to assume that he was not interested.  He was very pleased at what we were doing.

I told him that we had been pleased with Brother Dyer’s direction during the important period when we were restructuring the department and working out our programs that that we were now functioning very well and that we were not crippled in a realistic sense by Brother Dyer’s absence, but now that he has been gone so long we are anxious to go ahead with our publications and that it was important for us to go ahead with these in the near future.  He asked me if there was anything he could do for us.  I said that we would be pleased if he would check with the First Presidency next week to see that the First Presidency acted on the request which I had left with them today.  He responded very quickly that he would be glad to do so and then stopped and said, “You know, I really can’t do it.  I am leaving this weekend to go to Europe and will be in Europe for more than three weeks.  I will not be back until after the first week in September, so I really cannot follow up on that request.”  But he said, “If I were you, I would contact Brother Francis Gibbons in another week or so and see if they have taken action and if not, ask him to put it on the agenda for having to act.”  I said I would do so.  I then said there is one other matter that I would like to mention to you for your consideration.  I would like to suggest that you consider recommending to the First Presidency at an appropriate time that Brother Earl Olson be appointed acting managing director of the Historical Department.  He and I work together well.  I have full confidence in him.  He is an efficient administrator.  He is here nearly all of the time and if you think it would be appropriate, it would be helpful if we had someone who is always here who could sign as acting managing director of the department and I think it would be appropriate for Brother Olson to serve in that capacity.  I have not mentioned it to him but I am sure that it would be helpful so that we have someone who can sign papers without having to go to you every time and someone who might be able to sign necessary papers when you are not here.  He said he thought it was a fine suggestion, and he would give it thought and he would mention it to the brethren as a possibility.  I then left his office after warm expressions between us.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday 8 August 1972]



        August 8, 1972


This will be a fifteen-volume work intended to present a thorough history of the Church from its beginning to 1980.  It will be under the general editorship of the Church Historian, but each volume will be prepared by an L.D.S. scholar who is especially competent in that particular area.  Hopefully, the result will be a series of thoroughly researched volumes that will meet the expectation and needs of both the Mormon community and the general scholarly world.

We desire approval to conduct conversations with the proposed authors or suitable substitutes leading to a definite assignment.  We expect that all volumes will be complete and published by 1980.  Each author will be individually responsible for the accuracy of his own statements, and for his own interpretations, although the general editor may suggest themes or topics that should receive special attention in particular volumes, and will go over each manuscript carefully to insure balanced treatment.  Each author will be asked to relate the experiences of the Church in his period to other important historical events in the world.

Deseret Book Company would like to publish each of the books in this series, and we would be pleased to work with them if you wish it.  They would publish each volume as it is prepared, and some will be available in a year or two.  Deseret Book Company would like to secure the copyright to the individual volumes, and we agree that this is reasonable.  As an inducement to the individual authors, each of whom would received a 15 percent royalty on sales, Deseret Book is willing to pay to each approved author an advance against royalties of $500 as a kind of retainer to take care of expenses in researching and writing the volume.  Upon completion of the manuscript Deseret Book will pay the author an additional $500 advance against royalties.


General Title:  A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1980

General Editor:  Leonard J. Arrington

Associate Editors:  James B. Allen and Davis Bitton

Advisors:  Alvin R. Dyer and Howard W. Hunter

Volume 1:  Introduction and Background, to 1830

Author:  Richard L. Anderson, Brigham Young University

Volume 2:  The Ohio Experience, to 1838

Author:  Milton V. Backman, Jr., Brigham Young University

Volume 3:  The Missouri Experience, to 1839

Author:  Robert J. Matthews, Brigham Young University

Volume 4:  The Illinois Period, 1839-1846

Author:  T. Edgar Lyon, Institutes of Religion

Volume 5:  The Crossing of the Plains

Author:  Reed C. Durham, Jr., Institutes of Religion

Volume 6:  The Early Pioneer Period, 1847-1869

Author:  Eugene E. Campbell, Brigham Yong University

Volume 7:  The Later Pioneer Period, 1869-1900

Author:  Charles S. Peterson, Utah State University

Volume 8:  The Early Twentieth Century, 1900-1930

Author:  Thomas G.  Alexander, Brigham young University

Volume 9:  The Church from 1930 to 1950

Author:  John L. Sorenson, Brigham Young University

Volume 10:  The Contemporary Church, 1950-1980

Author:  James B. Allen, Assistant Church Historian

Volume 11:  A History of the Latter-day Saints in Europe

Author:  Douglas F. Tobler, Brigham Young University

Volume 12:  A History of the Latter-day Saints in Mexico and Central and South America

Author:  F. LaMond Tullis, Brigham Young University

Volume 13:  A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Far East and Oceania

Author:  Lanier Britsch, Brigham Young University

Volume 14:  A History of the Missionary Program of the Church

Author:  S. George Ellsworth, Utah State University

Volume 15:  A Social and Cultural History of the Latter-day Saints

Author:  Davis Bitton, Assistant Church Historian

[LJAD, Prospectus For History Of The Latter-Day Saints, 1830-1980,

Tuesday 8 August 1972]

A blessing pronounced upon the head of Brother Leonard J. Arrington, Church Historian, by President Harold B. Lee in the First Presidency’s Council Room on Tuesday, August 8, 1972.  Assisting President Lee were President Marion G. Romney and Elder Howard W. Hunter.  Reported by Francis M. Gibbons.

Brother Leonard J. Arrington, beloved associate and servant of the Lord, it is with feelings of great satisfaction that we respond to your request that we place our hands upon your head to invoke upon you the blessings you feel you need as you assume a high and responsible place in building the kingdom of God.

Brother Arrington, you have come to this position because we have prayed diligently and sought the guidance of the spirit to find those who might give proper attention to that which the Lord, by revelation, said, in the early beginnings of the Church, should be one of the most vital things; to keep proper records of the affairs that transpire in the Lord’s kingdom here upon the earth.  We bless you for the way in which you have prepared yourself for this high calling by keeping the standards of the Church in your personal life; that despite your attainments in the academic and intellectual world, you have kept yourself in harmony with the teachings of the gospel.  As a result, you have been brought to the favorable attention of your brethren.  You have found favor with your Heavenly Father in whose service you are.  We now bless you and bestow upon you the gifts of the spirit which will enlarge your understanding and will bring to you power and influence which you have not previously possessed; that you may have special discernments; that your mind might reach out with a special feeling of urgency to move in this direction or that direction; that you will learn to give heed to the sudden ideas that come to you from time to time, and if you do this, you will find things coming to pass at the very moment.  We bless you with a discerning ear to hear these promptings, which are the essence of the spirit of revelation.  We bless you that you might have the desire to search beyond that, which is now known.  Faith is that which leads beyond that which is known; and if you will exercise your faith and strive to push beyond the known, you will find books opened to you; you will find that information will come to you providentially and in a surprising manner by the revelations of Him in whose service you will be; you will have brought to you the special aids that you will need; and there will be brought to your attention historical records and data and findings, the like of which you have not known were in existence and you will stand and marvel at the outpouring of the spirit.  The Lord will bless you and enlarge you and will open new doors to you to enable you to amass material and write histories and prepare necessary documentation for those of generations yet unborn so that the successors in our present positions will know what has gone before.  We bless you with health of body and keenness of intellect, with spiritual responsiveness that you may give heed to those promptings and guides as Nephi of old, who, when given a difficult task, said that he went forth, not knowing beforehand what he should say or do.  Seek for that guidance and the Lord will bless you and take you by the hand and give answer to your prayers.

We bless you to this send and devote you and consecrate you to this work by the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen

President Harold B. Lee

[LJAD, Blessing given to LJA by President Harold B. Lee, 8 August 1972]


This afternoon I told Earl Olson about my meeting with the First Presidency and reviewed with him the documents I left in their possession.  I also told him on a confidential basis of the suggestion that I had made to Brother Hunter.  I was glad that I did so because Earl seemed to be thinking in terms of suggesting that Brother Theodore Burton of the Genealogical Society might be a suitable person to serve as acting Managing Director of our department.  I pointed out to him reasons why I felt that this ought not to be done and spent sometime in doing so.  He seemed to be persuaded that I was right and promised me that he would not suggest that this be done.  The reasons that I gave him need not be mentioned here, but I feel very strongly that the work of our Church History Division would be inhibited, if not negated, if we merged with the Genealogical Society.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 8 August 1972]


As a result of yesterday’s meeting with the First Presidency I have been thinking and praying about my calling as Church Historian.  This was also prompted by the necessity of writing an article appraising President Joseph Fielding Smith as a historian.  On the one hand, I am the Church Historian and must seek to build testimonies, spread the Word, build the Kingdom.  On the other hand, I am called to be a historian, which means that I must earn the respect of professional historians—what I write must be craftsman like, credible, and of good quality.  This means that I stand on two legs—the legs of faith and the leg of reason.  Church architects, medical doctors, engineers, computer programmers, and other professional consultants and employees should be, from the technical standpoint, the very best the world can produce in their professions.  So must the Church Historian.  On the other hand, their work must dovetail into and contribute toward the building of the Kingdom.  From my first interviews I have been assured that I should both work to improve the quality of history writing within the church and continue to do work of such professional quality that it will win and deserve the respect of professional historians.  This is difficult for the historian because, while his contribution toward building testimonies is recognized and expected, by members of the Church, his task of helping to build the reputation of the Church in the professional field of history is not as well recognized or appreciated.

In the blessing, which President Lee gave me, yesterday he spoke of the importance of capturing the fleeting impressions of the Spirit and of embodying those impressions in the policies we follow and the words we write.  These impressions are fleeting—they are not there as a bank deposit available for us to draw from as we will.  We may solicit them by prayer, by living worthily, by preparing ourselves spiritually to merit them and to be receptive to them.  They do not come cheaply, nor must we treat them shabbily or skeptically.   But they are surely impressions for which we must be professionally prepared, as well as spiritually prepared.  They may counsel us to improve our professional craftsmanship as well as the spiritual phases of our endeavor.  In other words, they might counsel us to be honest in reporting aspects of our history that are, perhaps, not understood by the faithful, just as they might counsel us to be careful about upsetting the faith of members who are marginal.  May the Lord give me discernment!  May He bless me to be honest and frank and fearless, when I must be honest, frank, and fearless; and may He bless me to be diplomatic and understanding and sympathetic when those qualities are required!

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 9 August 1972]


Today I went to the Lion House Pantry to lunch with Dean Jessee.  When we were about through, President Tanner came in and sat down alone in the table next to us.  Dean was all finished so he excused himself to talk with his brother, and I asked President Tanner if I could sit with him a minute or so, to which he assented.  President Tanner asked me if I had had a good meeting with the First Presidency.  I said yes and that I was sorry he hadn’t been there.  I asked him if he had gone over the program and questions that I submitted to the First Presidency.  He said he had.  I asked him if everything seemed to be in order.  He said it looked like we were going in the right direction, and he didn’t see anything objectionable in what we planned and desired.  He said it was too bad about Brother Dyer, and I said it certainly was, but we were grateful we had him as long as we did because he had helped us set up our organization and started us out on our various programs.  I said that he had completed our organization and programs just prior to his stroke and had planned that very week to take the program for the general information and ratification of the First Presidency.  That was the program, which I had taken to the First Presidency earlier this month.  President Tanner nodded his head indicating that he understood as much.

I said that we had moved far enough along that we were about ready to submit some manuscripts for publication through Deseret Book and that it was now necessary that we have the approval of the First Presidency before we could go ahead with these plans.  President Tanner said something like “Yes, I understand that is so.”  I told him that we had a small group of researchers and writers who were professionally capable and that we were moving right along with the writing of history.  I said of course, we may make mistakes, but we counsel with each other before we make important decisions so that we have the benefit of each other’s counsel and advice.  President Tanner said, “That is good, and we are very glad to have you as Church Historian to direct this work.”  I said, “We have some outstanding people working with us and Brother Earl Olson as Church Archivist is a fine dedicated worker, and he is doing a fine job in that division of the work.”  I pointed out that we have already started our oral history program and have interviewed a number of persons and are proceeding ahead with others to get the stories on most recent events in Church history.  I said, for example, “We have got to write the story of the early days of the Church Welfare Plan, and we have got to do it while we have President Lee and President Romney to tell us the story.”  President Tanner asked if I had mentioned this to Presidents Lee and Romney.  I said I had.  President Lee had responded that he had planned to write a history of the Welfare Plan but that the more he thought of it the more he was impressed with the importance of personalities in the story, and he thought that he wouldn’t go ahead with it.  I said to President Tanner, “We have still got to tell the story and if certain personalities posed problems we still have to tell it, although we can be as delicate as possible in bring out those materials.  He nodded his head as if approvingly.

I mentioned that our work in Church history was very exciting—that we had found piles of materials that had never been catalogued and that we did not know that we possessed and that we have already catalogued these materials and are studying them and are getting new glimpses into the Church’s past.  He said something like “I’m glad you are.” 

I said that there was one other thing that we would like to ask the First Presidency to do; namely, to request each member of the General Authorities to sign a letter of intention that all of the materials which they generate in their function as a member of the General Authorities would automatically be turned over to us upon their deaths.  I said of course personal things and certain confidential family things ought to be excluded from this, but all of their official papers should come automatically to our office.  He said he agreed with this, nodding his head quite affirmatively.  I went ahead to say that President Smith had set the best example by turning over all of his things to us upon his death, and I said that the family was extremely cooperative.  President Tanner said, “Of course, they were all left to the Church in his will.”  I said that that was a splendid precedent but it is the only instance of any General Authority having done this.  The usual thing is for no preparations to be made; the family looks over the things to take what they want and the rest is often burned or scattered or lost.

President Tanner at that point finished his dinner and said he had to get back for a meeting but ended with something like “The Lord bless you in your work and let us know if we can help you.”


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 21 August 1972]

It is becoming more evident that I must delegate some of my responsibilities to the Assistant Church Historians and/or other members of our staff.  I am supposed to be half time on the job, but in fact have been full time for several months.  Despite this, I have not been able to keep up with my various responsibilities.  These include entertaining the frequent visitors to the office, responding to letters addressed to me, directing and assisting the research of our staff members, developing programs and policies, and preparing talks and papers.  I continue to get behind on my correspondence since this is the only work, which can be postponed.  I have purposefully not allowed myself to get involved in the oral history program, as important as that is, because I already have so much to do.  I hesitate shifting any of my responsibilities to Davis and Jim.  Davis is directing the oral history program and is only half time anyway, and we need to allow time for him to do writing and to critique our manuscripts.  Jim will direct the sesqui-centennial history when that gets off the ground and is only half time.  We need to save time for him also to continue with his research and writing.  I do not see how these responsibilities can be shifted to the junior staff members.  They do not have enough experience professionally nor maturity of judgment.  Mike Quinn, who is the most mature and knowledgeable of the group, and the best candidate for a person to hand some of these responsibilities, is only half time.  Maureen Ursenbach, another person who could handle such matters maturely is only half time.  I am grateful that she will become full time in January and perhaps I can begin to shift some things to her then.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 29 August 1972]

September 11, 1972

Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian


Dear Brother Leonard:

I have before me your letter and the manuscript, “Joseph Fielding Smith, the Training of a Prophet”, by yourself.  I have scanned this and assure you that I am most pleased to get the information you have given therein.  I am just now giving some thought to the Solemn Assembly where I am expected, of course, to say something as a sort of an acceptance, if the members of the church vote affirmatively.  Some of this information that you have given me will prompt something that I had planned to say.

Be assured that I personally do appreciate the fact that we have in you a historian who can keep pace with today as well as the yesterday and prepared to record properly the history of tomorrow.  My prayers are for you as I felt impressed to say to you when we gave you a blessing, surely you are the man of the hour.

My kindest personal regards.

Very sincerely yours,

Harold B. Lee

[LJAD, letter from President Harold B. Lee to LJA, 11 September 1972]

September 13, 1972

Mr. Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian


Dear Brother Arrington:

This is to inform you that the proposed program of the Historical Department, which was presented to us at a meeting, held on August 8, 1972 has been approved.

We commend you and your associates for the excellent way in which you have been fulfilling the assignments given to you.

Sincerely yours, 


By N. Eldon Tanner

      Marion G. Romney

[LJAD, letter from THE FIRST PRESIDENCY (signed by N. Eldon Tanner & Marion G. Romney) to LJA, 13 September 1972]


This morning we received the most important communication from the First Presidency dated September 13, 1972 and signed by Presidents Tanner and Romney, giving approval to the program, which I presented to them on August 8.  This seems to be blanket approval to go ahead with everything we listed, and so we shall go ahead with programs already underway, and we shall implement those matters, which have not been implemented previously because we were awaiting the receipt of this approval.  We are filing a Xerox of the program.  I shall also place a Xerox of the program that I presented then under today’s date along with the original of the letter from the First Presidency.

I showed a copy of the letter to each member of our staff and also to Brother Olson.  Obviously, we are all pleased with this official approval.  The most important thing we must now get under way is the sesquicentennial history of the Church.  We must write letters to all of those we should like to prepare the volumes.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 14 September 1972]

Brother Mortimer also asked me before leaving what to do about the Joseph Fielding Smith Essentials in Church History.  He will be out of copies early next spring.  He has only 4,000 on hand, and he sells about 10,000 a year.  I raised various possibilities with him:  (1) A new one-volume history of the Church written by the new Church Historian;  (2) A yearbook of Church history—a separate one to be published each year which would include a core of pertinent facts and then have different essays each year on aspects of Church history as prepared by our staff;  (3) A reissue of Joseph Fielding Smith’s Essentials in Church History and bring it up to date by adding a brief essay on President Lee.

I asked him what his preference on the three would be.  He relayed the question on to Jim Allen and asked what would be preferred by the teachers at BYU and in the seminaries and institutes.  And Jim said without question the preference would be for number (1).  Jim Mortimer said that was his thinking also.  Since it is not possible that a new volume could be prepared in less than a year, he thought perhaps he might simply have a new printing of Essentials, which duplicated exactly what they have without adding a new chapter on Brother Lee.  In the meantime, he will discuss with Brother Monson the desirability of asking me in a formal way to prepare a new one-volume history.

I spent a few minutes with Brother Hunter to find out if he had any objections to our going ahead with our program, but he had to leave at 4:00 p.m. so we did not conclude anything.  He will discuss this with me tomorrow morning.

I did show the letter of the First Presidency to Brother Olson, and he said “Fine, let’s go ahead with it all””—he said it is very important that you have this in writing so that if anybody comes back at you about anything you are doing, you have blanket approval of the First Presidency to fall back upon.

I learned why President Lee had not signed the letter.  He has gone to Europe and will be gone for three weeks, so Brother Tanner who is an expeditor probably dictated this memorandum to me and asked Brother Romney to sign it.  May the Lord bless Brother Tanner for his willingness to give us the wheels to run.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 14 September 1972]


This morning at 9:00 a.m. I met with Elder Howard Hunter to inform him of the approval of our program by the First Presidency and to inform him of what action I propose to take on the basis of that approval during the weeks ahead.  In each one of the instances, I asked him if there was any reason why I should not go ahead with the contemplated action.  “You are free to go ahead on each of these matters as you propose to do,” he said.  He specifically gave approval for each of the following actions:

(1) To make a binding agreement with Deseret Book Company to publish our Mormon Heritage Series.

(2) To make a binding agreement with Deseret Book Company to publish our sesquicentennial history.

(3) To write each of the contemplated authors of the volumes in the sesquicentennial history inviting them to prepare the assigned volume.

(4) Give approval to Davis Bitton to publish a Mormon Diary Series based upon diaries in our archives, which we do not ourselves intend to publish.  Specific approval on each one to be used to be given to me or Earl.

(5) To begin organizing Friends of Church History.

(6) To make a limited number of appointments of Fellows of the Historical Department.

(7) Make a budget request to inaugurate a program of historians in residence in the Historical Department.

(8) Place Davis Bitton on a fulltime basis beginning September 1973 and to offer to place Jim Allen on a fulltime basis.

(9) To offer to Bishop Bushman an appointment as a third Assistant Church Historian on a halftime basis beginning September 1973.

As I say, Elder Hunter gave me specific oral approval to proceed on each of these.  Elder Hunter also asked questions about our intended move into the new Church office building and also said that I must discuss with Russ Williams and the personnel people the program of using volunteers to help in our division.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 15 September 1972]

Jim and Davis and I talked at much length today—perhaps two or three hours—about what would be the just and desirable thing to do with respect to royalties and advances on royalties for our Mormon Heritage Series.  We didn’t reach agreement on all points but did agree on the following:

(1) Davis and I will try to see Paul Dunn tomorrow morning confidentially about it.

(2) I should start the Church History Division Kitty as soon as possible so as to create a fund out of which the staff can received some benefits on some agreed upon plan.  Everybody will know about this kitty and how it got started, for we should all know that some royalties and advances on royalties are place into the fund.  It will still be regarded as the Church Historian’s fund or kitty and will be associated primarily with my donations.  Thus no person can complain and there can be no justification for any envy on the part of staff members not benefited by it, nor can there be any opposition to us having this private kitty since the money comes from my donation and it is my privilege to donate money the way I choose.

(3) We agreed that we have to consider not only the advances against royalty but the royalty itself, which might become very large.  Some of our books may sell as many as 10,000 in a period of a year or two.  This would mean as much as $5,000 royalty on that volume.  This is a tremendous sum to add to somebody’s earnings.  In Dean’s case it would amount to more than half his annual salary.  He deserves a salary twice what he is getting, and he fully earns it, and I would be quite willing for him to have it and have even recommended it strongly, but I am afraid that there would be considerable criticism if we permitted him to edit the volumes on Church time, having the typing done by Church typists, and him receive all of the royalties.

Today I wrote a check out for $100 to create what we are calling the Church Historian’s Benefit Fund.  We have started it as a savings account in Zion’s First National Bank across the street.  We set it up with myself as head officer of the non-profit fund and with Chris Croft as secretary.  Both signatures, hers and mine, will be required for any withdrawal.  The purpose of this fund is to create a kitty, which can be used for purposes of our Church History Division.  We will discuss in our Thursday meetings what we might do.  It might be used for travel, for purchases, for the payment of dues in professional organizations, for Christmas presents, for Christmas cards, for any purposes that we might decide upon.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 18 September 1972]

Last evening the Cannon-Hinckley Church History Club met, and I was the speaker.  According to David Evans, the president, this was the largest group ever to meet and they filled the large banquet room of the Lion House.  I would think there were a hundred persons present.  A large number brought guests.  At the head table were President and Sister Tanner, President and Sister Romney, President and Sister Kimball, as well as the Evans’ and ourselves.  Other General Authorities present were President and Sister Sterling Sill, Henry Taylor, and Ted Burton.  A large number of other important people—widows of the General Authorities and so on were there.  It was a very important occasion to try to inform them on the plans of the Historical Department and persuade them that it was necessary for us to be honest and truthful and to write in a truly professional manner.

Grace and I invited Earl and Maureen Olson so that he would have an opportunity of knowing how I presented these matters and have an opportunity of receiving some public recognition and credit for his role in our work.  This turned out well from that standpoint.  My talk seemed to be well received by those present, and I was particularly pleased that Presidents Tanner, Romney, and Kimball seemed to be pleased.  President Tanner said that he was glad I was where I was, and I guess this means that he was pleased that I am the Church Historian.  Earl said that he walked to the elevator with President Tanner and that President Tanner remarked to him “looks like you’re really moving up there.”  So apparently President Tanner is eager for some action.

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

Jim Allen and I went up to see Elder Paul Dunn about the question of royalties and advances on royalties on the books we publish in our sesquicentennial and Mormon Heritage Series. . . .

Brother Dunn said whatever we do will have opposition, but the great majority of the brethren would support the idea of us receiving royalties.  Some of the brethren—Al Dyer, Brother Benson, and McConkie use office staff and office time to write their books and then they receive royalties.

Brother Dunn thought that the idea of asking that some of the royalties be put in a common fund to be used for the common purposes was an excellent idea, but thought that it ought not to be given publicity.  Keep it quiet he said.  He said that Presidents Lee and Romney have both published and received royalties and therefore other members of the brethren do not have much to say openly against the brethren receiving royalties on what they publish.


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

LEONARD J. ARRINGTON  – September 21, 1972 – THURSDAY

I forgot to mention one interesting item that came out in the talk with Wendell Ashton.  When I asked him whether he thought it would be desirable to take the offensive with our history in countering Gerald and Sandra Tanner and the Fawn Brodie and the Walter articles, he said “My nature is to fight back offensively, and I enjoy doing it, but my father always used to tell me ‘don’t get into a piss fight with a skunk’”

Yesterday at one, the movie people at BYU showed the historical film on 1970 to the General Authorities in their report meeting.  Presidents Tanner and Romney were there, virtually all of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventies, and the Assistants to the Twelve.  The brethren who were at the Cannon-Hinckley Church History Club the night before made it a point to come up and shake my hand and were extremely complimentary of my presentation and of the work of our department.  This includes Presidents Tanner and Romney and Brothers Henry Taylor, Sill and Burton.  President Romney said, “You’re presentation was not only informative but entertaining as well.”  He said he enjoyed very much talking with Grace.

The history film seemed to have been well received.  My principal complaint is that it dwelled at considerable length on the funeral of President McKay.

Brother Thomas Monson came up and said, “Did you know that my hobby is history?  I wanted to major in history at the University of Utah and took quite a number of classes from Dr. Creer and others, but then everybody told me that I wouldn’t be able to make any money at history so I went on to complete my major in business and graduated in business, went on a mission, was called to be a mission president and then was called to be an apostle.  The result was I never made any money and didn’t satisfy my soul with history either.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 21 September 1972]

5.  Leonard Arrington advised us that we have been given approval to organize “Friends of Church History.”  We do not yet have the name of a couple to head this group.  As soon as the right couple is decided upon, this program will proceed.  He asked for suggestions.

[LJAD, Meeting of the Representatives of the Archives, History, and Library Divisions, Thursday, 21 September 1972]


This is our first dictation in our new office in the new Church Office Building.  We began to move into this building last Thursday, November 2.  My office was one of the first to be moved.  By the middle of Friday morning, November 3, all of my books had been moved.  By the time I returned from the California trip Tuesday morning, everything had been moved.

All staff members of the Historical Department, both men and women, engaged in loading carts, walking them across to the elevators in the new building, carrying them up elevators, and unloading them partly on the third and fourth floors.  This is a task that went on day after day, including Saturday, November 4.  The task will be nearly completed by Saturday, November 11.

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


Davis had an oral history interview with President Tanner form 2:00 to 4:00 this afternoon.  He came back after the interview all aglow saying that it was a very positive testimony–building experience for him.  President Tanner was very warm, honest, and it was obvious that he was a person of intelligence, wisdom, and integrity.  Davis was very excited, not only for the information he collected but for what the experience did for him and also for the good relationship, which it permitted between President Tanner and our department.  Davis has another interview with President Tanner on December 6 and was so encouraged by this interview that he would like to have one every week or so. 

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 10 November 1972]

LEONARD J. ARRINGTON – December 12, 1972 – TUESDAY

Late this afternoon Sister Laura Castano, Elder Dyer’s secretary, came into the office to show me confidentially a letter dated December 5 signed by all three members of the First Presidency.  It was a letter to Brother Dyer stating that they were giving him a leave of absence until his convalescence was complete.  In the meantime they were asking Brother Joseph Anderson to act as Managing Director of the Historical Department.

I fear for our programs.  Brother Anderson is far more conservative and, of course, was brought up in the old school of Joseph Fielding Smith and A. William Lund.  The image he would project of the Historical Department would not be a good one, and I am fearful that his decisions will be restrictive and unprogressive.  I am surprised that the First Presidency would take this action without consulting with Brother Dyer or with Sister Castano or with Don Schmidt or Earl Olson or myself.  None of us was questioned or consulted.

I am sure that when this letter is taken to Brother Dyer by Laura tomorrow, it will shock him and depress him.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 12 December 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 Olson was in this morning and reported his conversations with Brother Anderson.

1.  Brother Anderson looked at the possible locations for an office, could see problems with each one of them, is going to see Presidency Romney to see if they would allow him to remain in his present office in the Church Administration Building.  If not, he doesn’t know which one he will move into.  He hopes he will not have to move.

2.  Earl explained how Brother Dyer managed the department from his office in the Church Administration Building by having one or two meetings a week and occasional phone calls in between.  This seemed to Brother Anderson satisfactory.

3.  Brother Anderson asked Earl who read the material that we prepared for publication.  Earl told him he should talk to me about it, but that he thought I read and approved all of the material.

4.  He said he had read the article on Frederick G. Williams in BYU Studies and thought several things were in there that shouldn’t have been put there.  (I read this myself last night and couldn’t see a thing that anybody could object to.  If it had been submitted to me for approval, I would have approved it in a minute with no changes.)

5.  Brother Anderson did not mention any other articles or magazines, but mentioned Messages of the First Presidency by James R. Clark.  Brother Clark was here yesterday and Brother Olson gathered all the documents which gave complete approval of everybody all the way down the line—approval of President Wilkinson, approval of the First Presidency, interviews by President Kimball and President Lee, a complete documentation of our approval so all of these were delivered to Brother Hunter.  He was delighted with this “proof” of approval.

6.  Brother Anderson is very concerned that what we write have approval of officially appointed readers so we’ll see how that goes.  I’ll propose that the Church Historian and Assistant Church Historians be the readers, as Brother Dyer had earlier approved.

7.  Brother Anderson said with respect to the George G. Cannon journal that President Wilkinson had asked that the Cannon journal be made available to the researchers for the BYU history.  Brother Anderson said that somebody ought to read the diaries to pick out what would be useful to them.  Earl took the opportunity of suggesting that members of my staff who were trained in this matter would be good persons to do this.  Brother Anderson asked if they had all been cleared by their bishops and stake presidents and were trustworthy.  Brother Olson replied that the Church Historian and Assistant Church Historians were approved by the First Presidency and that the remainder were chosen by us and had gone through Church Personnel and had gone through all of the clearances that Church Personnel does.   Brother Olson says he forgot to mention that most of them had also been interviewed by Brother Dyer and personally cleared by him.  This included Bill Hartley (interviewed by telephone) and in person, Richard Jensen (interviewed by telephone)—could not be interviewed in person because he arrived when Brother Dyer was ill, Michael Quinn interviewed in person, Gordon Irving interviewed in person, and Dean Jessee interviewed in person.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 14 December 1972]

President and Sister Lee were very cordial and warm.  President Lee said he had used my name the night before at the annual meeting of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company where he said he quoted from my “great book” on the sugar industry, Beet Sugar in the West.  He said the matter of appointing Brother Anderson to help the department was an inspiration—he thought it was inspiration to do this.   For one thing Brother Anderson, having been secretary of the First Presidency for 50 years—since 1923—knew more first-hand Church history than any other person.  In the second place, Brother Anderson had always had custody of the most intimate records of the Church, so he was very pleased that Brother Anderson would be able to help us.  He said this was a very delicate matter—used that word delicate two or three times, because of the condition of Brother Dyer and the attitude of Brother Dyer’s wife.  He hoped that we would help Brother Dyer to feel good about this change by involving him as much as we could so that he would not feel as though he was being pushed completely aside.  He seemed very warm and very concerned.  His strong expression of concern made me wonder why the First Presidency did not go directly to Brother Dyer and talk the thing over with him instead of writing him that rather cruel letter.  It may be that they feel some problems in relation to Sister Dyer and did not feel free to visit Brother Dyer’s home.  Presidents Lee, Tanner, and Romney said they hoped this would help us push forward our work and programs.  There was absolutely not one hint of tension or coldness or criticism or lack of support in the words of any of these brethren, or for that matter any of the General Authorities.  Also not one word about Friends of Church History.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 15 December 1972]

Saturday morning was the funeral of Raymond Taylor at Berg Mortuary in Provo.  In addition to two musical numbers there were three talks—one by Carroll Barnson of Kanab, who had been associated with Raymond during the uranium period of the 1950s and had been a close friend ever since; Sam Taylor, the writer and brother of Raymond; and myself.  Carroll’s remarks covered particularly the uranium period of Raymond’s life.  My remarks were a general appraisal of his attitude toward Church history, toward the Mormon culture, and so on.  Sam’s talk may cause some problems.  For one thing it was a little more humorous than one would expect at a funeral.  For another thing he got into a defense of the idea of writing forthrightly about polygamy, and on two occasions he thanked me as Church Historian for opening up to him freely the materials in the archives.  This was in context, which suggested that that had not been the case before and that Raymond was free to look at anything, thanks to me.  There are just three things wrong with that:  (1) There has been no change from the policy inaugurated several years ago (in 1967) by President Joseph Fielding Smith when he was Church Historian; (2) Raymond Taylor was granted this permission by A. William Lund and Earl Olson; (3) It is not my prerogative to exercise control over the use of the archives.  But, of course, one had no way of replying to that in the context of a funeral.  I spoke before Sam for one thing.  I was asked by Ruth Fors Taylor, Raymond’s wife, as a special favor to speak at this funeral.   She was a longtime employee of the Genealogical Society, and she and Raymond were married by Elder Theodore M. Burton.

After the service President Wilkinson of BYU came up to sympathize with me.  He also thought that word of Sam’s talk would get around and that I would “hear about it.”  There was a very large number of people present—perhaps 200 or 300.  President Wilkinson thought my talk had just the right tone, but he thought Sam’s talk was definitely out of place.  Considering that Raymond had already established a certain kind of reputation for being outspoken and that now I was being given all the credit (?) for all of his confidential material, Wilkinson thought I would have problems.  Sunday morning President Wilkinson telephoned me to say that he had asked a Mr. Lloyd Ririe, who made a tape of the funeral, to give the tape to him (President Wilkinson) and he would have it transcribed and would furnish me a typescript for the record.  He also said that I should feel free to use his name in case anyone raised questions about the service.  He said “Leonard, we have got to protect you in your position as Church Historian; you are too important to all of us to be controlled or removed.”  I thanked him, but I really don’t think I’ll have any problem because of the service.  After all, I will be judged for my own talk and not for Sam’s.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 18 December 1972]

Jan    1973

Some Accomplishments of the History Division of the Historical Department of the Church, 1972 (Submitted by James B. Allen)

Since the reorganization of the Historical Department of the Church in January 1972, there have been significant accomplishments in a number of areas:

1.  Acquisition of Staff – For the first time in the history of the Church, a professionally trained staff of historians have been appointed primarily for the purpose of doing research and writing in the history of the Church.  With the Church Historian and the two Assistant Church Historians holding Ph.D. degrees, and all of them having published books and articles in professional journals, the prestige of the department in the scholarly world, and hence its possibility for publishing materials related to church history even more widely, was greatly enhanced.  In addition, the hiring of several well-trained historians and a professional editor to complement the staff has put us on the verge of a most productive era of research and writing.

2.  Publication – Within the year several members of the division have published articles in The Ensign, BYU Studies, Dialogue, and other journals.  In addition, plans were made and approved for publishing a 16-volume sesquicentennial history of the Church, and a contract was negotiated with Deseret Book Company for publication.  All 16 authors were appointed, contracts were signed, and completion dates were agreed upon.  The department further made arrangements with Deseret Book Company to publish a series of documentary studies, to be called The Mormon Heritage Series, and at least three volumes were projected and approved.  Work on all three of these volumes progressed far enough in 1972 that their publication has been approved by Deseret Book Company in the near future.  In addition, members of the History Division have contributed essays to several books, which either appeared in 1972 or will be forth coming in 1973.

3.  Other Research Activities – Members of the staff have continued to do research in a variety of fields, and many research reports were placed in the files of the Church Historian by the end of the year.

4.  Oral History Project – Under the guidance of Dr. Gary Shumway, during the summer of 1972, an oral history project was inaugurated, which will be a continuing part of the activities of the History Division.  Some 54 interviews were completed by the end of the year.  The oral history project will focus on general authorities, mission presidents, and other prominent people who have played significant roles in various phases of Church history.

5.  Special Research Assistantships – Since January, at least six research awards were made by the division.  They were all given to very competent people, all of who did research on projects most significant to Church history.

5.  Public Relations – The Church Historian and most of the staff members have had opportunity to speak in various Church meetings, as well as meetings of professional groups and clubs, and have taken the opportunity to explain the program of the Historical Department.  This has served to win many new friends and to create additional interest in Church history.  In addition, members of the division attended several meetings of professional historical associations, and participated in them.  Most productive was the meeting of the Mormon History Association at Independence, Missouri, in April, where Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton both gave papers, and the meeting of the Western History Association at Yale University in October, where James Allen chaired a session on Mormon history and Richard L. Bushman gave a paper.

7.  Assistance in Acquisition Programs – Several members of the Historical Division have assisted in the acquisition of original manuscripts for the Church Archives, some in connection with the oral history interviews and others from a variety of contacts.

[LJAD, Some Accomplishments of the History Division of the Historical Dep’t, submitted by James B. Allen, January 1973]

7.  Some discussion was had relative to the desire of Robert Woodford to write a dissertation on the study of the historical development of the text of the Doctrine and Covenants, and his request that we furnish to him two copies of some of the original recordings of these revelations for inclusion in his dissertation.  Brother Anderson will meet with Brother Woodford to determine just what it is he desires and will then discuss the matter with Elder Howard W. Hunter.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thursday, 4 January 1973]


One year ago today President Tanner called me into his office and asked me to be Church Historian.  This anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on the developments of the past year.  The major accomplishments of the year, in my present judgment, were as follows:

1.  The employment of a group of senior and junior professional historians to do research, writing and publishing on topics of Church history.  This includes the employment of Brothers Allen, Bitton, Esplin, Jensen, Quinn, Irving, Hartley, Shumway, and Sister Ursenbach, and the employment of Sisters Croft and Jarvis to serve as our secretaries.

2.  The “discovery” and cataloguing of the fifty or more boxes of “unknown” materials, particularly records of Brigham Young, but other uncatalogued papers as well.

3.  The launching of THE HISTORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS, with sixteen authors.  They are now given advance royalties, officially appointed and commissioned, and presumably beginning work on their assigned volumes.

4.  The beginning of the MORMON HERITAGE SERIES, with a number of volumes already approved and commenced.

5.  The launching of an Oral History Program under the leadership of Gary Shumway and Davis Bitton.

6.  The completion of a number of fine articles for THE ENSIGN, THE NEW ERA, BYU STUDIES, DIALOGUE, UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, MISSOURI HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, and other publications.

7.  The inauguration of the Research Fellowships and Research Grants, thus assisting serious scholarships with their worthy research programs.

8.  The beginnings of registers and guides to collections of papers in our Archives.

9.  The removal of our offices from the “old” Church Office Building to the east wing of the new Church Office Building.

10.  The improvement of salaries for professional persons in our division.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Sunday, 7 January 1973]

20.  Brother Arrington asked if anything had been found out from Dr. Hyrum L. Andrus of the Brigham Young University regarding the John Taylor journals.  Brother Olson stated that Brother Andrus says he knows nothing about them but will check with his assistants relative to the matter.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 9 January 1973]


January 17, 1973

by Dean Jessee

I well remember that day in January 1972 (the 14th I believe) when the staff of the Historian’s Office was called into a special meeting in the Assembly Room on the third floor of the Church Administration building at 47 east, to hear the announcement that the Historian’s Office had been reorganized.  When I saw Leonard Arrington come into that meeting I knew that the forthcoming announcement portended great things for the history of the Church.  I was delighted about ten days later to be called to assist Dr. Arrington as he entered upon his new assignment as Church Historian.  I have watched with amazement his devotion to duty and the keen ability with which he has organized the Church Historian division and moved forward to accomplish the task of carrying out the charge given by revelation to the Church Historian of “preaching and expounding, writing, copying, selecting, and obtaining all things which shall be for the good of the church, and for the rising generations that shall grow up on the land of Zion.”  From the day of his entrance into the Historian’s Office, Dr. Arrington has been a man whose vision of the history needs of the church has known no hesitation.  I have seen a man whose desire for comprehensive and professional thrust for our history has not been undertaken at the sacrifice of detail or a lack of concern for the welfare and betterment of his fellow men.

Aside from the more obvious undertakings of the past year—the planning for the sesquicentennial history and the heritage series, the oral history program, the Friends of Church History, and the appointment of a talented and dedicated staff—the most significant  accomplishment, in my estimation, has been the assurance that the competent voice of a skilled historian has been included in the policy councils that affect the history keeping responsibilities of the Church.

[LJAD, Accomplishments of the Past Year and Hopes for the Coming Year, written by Dean Jessee, 17 January 1973]

10.  Brother Olson reported regarding President John Taylor’s journals, stating that the two families of Brother John M. Whittaker had been consulted and that both families are now disclaiming any knowledge whatever of the journals, that they did not receive them from John M. Whittaker, and that they do not know where they are.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thursday, 18 January 1973]

18.  Brother Anderson mentioned that he had discussed with President Lee the matter of the request of Robert Woodford that we furnish him two copies of some of the original recordings of certain revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants for inclusion in a dissertation he is writing and that President Lee felt his request should not be granted.  Brother Anderson will so inform Brother Woodford of this decision.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thursday, 18 January 1973]

10.  Brother Arrington made a brief preliminary report relative to the manuscript of B. H. Roberts entitled “The Way, the Truth and the Life.”  He stated that in his opinion it may very well be the most important work on theology that has been produced by a Latter-day Saint, and that serious consideration should be given to making it available to the public.  He suggested that the publication could carry an introduction to the effect that it is a private work and that the Church does not necessarily stand behind it.  Brother Arrington will continue to read the manuscript and will make a more formal recommendation at that time.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 23 January 1973]

I gave a preliminary report on the Roberts’ manuscript.  I said that in my judgment it was the most important work on theology by any member of the Church.  It was an attempt to merge together in a systematic way the words of philosophers, the findings of modern science (modern as of the period in which Brother Roberts wrote), the scriptures—all Mormon scriptures, and the writings and teachings of modern prophets.  It is grandly conceived and grandly executed.  I suggested that it would be my preliminary thought that this manuscript ought to be made available to LDS scholars with an introduction that this was the work of Brother Roberts and it did not necessarily represent the point of view of the Church in its entirely or in any particular statement.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 23 January 1973]

This morning Elder Anderson, Brother Olson, Brother Schmidt, and myself went to the office of the First Presidency at 9:00 for a meeting.  Present were President Lee and President Tanner and Brother Frank Gibbons, secretary of the First Presidency.  Present also were Brother Howard Hunter and Brother Bruce McConkie, advisors to the Historical Department. . . .

President Lee reasserted to me what he had said last August—how important it was to write the history of the Church today.

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

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:

2.  Sister Elsie Cook, secretary of Brigham H. Roberts, had prepared for publication an autobiography of Brother Roberts.  Elsie had sent the manuscript of an enormous work The Truth, The Way, and The Life to Brother Truman Madsen who then had brought it to President Lee.  He had in turn given it to Brother Anderson.  President Lee had not read it and did not know anyone that had read it, but knew it had to be treated very carefully.  For one thing, Brother Roberts had been a controversial person in Church history.  He did not hesitate to speculate on certain matters.  He was very anxious to harmonize modern science and religion and in doing so had proposed the existence of pre-Adamites.  In doing this, he had stirred up a hot controversy between himself and Joseph Fielding Smith.  President Lee understood that the family had said that if the Church was not going to publish this work that the family would do so.  Brother Roberts—President Lee stumbled around as to whether it was Ben or Bob Roberts.  In any case, he was not a strong supporter of the Church and threatened to go ahead and publish the manuscripts even if it would embarrass the Church.  Brother Anderson at this point explained to President Lee that he had turned the manuscript over to me to read and that I was now reading it and would be making a recommendation later.  President Lee made no comment about this but did not seem to object.

3.  President Lee said that when the materials of the PBO were being moved and some of them transferred to the church Archives they found a number of boxes marked confidential.  He had turned those over to Brother Anderson to study and read and inventory and decide what should be done with them.

4.  There were other controversial things that were being brought to his attention.  For example, a large manuscript on the Negro question by a brother, which President Lee had asked Brother Packer to study.  President Lee said that unfortunately this study quoted from the minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve that had gotten into the papers of an apostle, and he had been unwise enough to let it go to BYU library.  (Of course, I knew all about this.  It was among the minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve of Adam S. Bennion, and the person doing the study is Lester Bush.)

President Lee emphasized that ours is a private archive and not a public one, and that we do not wish confidential materials to be made generally available.  He also deplored the tendency to pick out speculative documents in the Journal of Discourses to advocate.  He said that the Presidency had followed a policy of clearing the topics of theses to be prepared at BYU, and he thought we should clear the topics on which students will do research for the papers that they submit.  He said that there is a philosophy that we ought to be critical in our writings so as to make accommodation to the Jack Mormons and non-Mormons and dissenters.  This had been the policy of the editors of Dialogue.  President Lee said that he discerned a more conservative turn of Dialogue in recent issues and he thought that this was praiseworthy.

President Tanner interjected with President Lee’s assent that they are not saying that the history should be slanted—just that certain topics should not be treated.  President Tanner summarized, with President Lee nodding, that they are basically in agreement with our proposal of the award, but that this matter ought to be presented by Brother Hunter to the Quorum of the Twelve for their discussion and approval.  Brother McConkie stated that he was certain that there would be no objection from the Smith family to honor President Smith by giving his name to the award and all of the brethren nodded in agreement that it seemed to be a proper thing for us to do to encourage research and writing on Church history.

Brother Anderson asked Brother Olson to explain his proposed plan of microfilming the records, which proposed plan we will make a part of this diary.  In brief, the plan calls for a three-year program to microfilm all of the materials in the Church Archives.  It would involve buying six new cameras and employing additional cameramen and archivists as staff.  President Lee said he felt that it was very important that we do this, and the sense of the meeting was that Earl was to go to the Expenditures Committee for a budget for our department and for the Genealogical Society and begin the tasks immediately.  President Lee felt very strongly that we will be held accountable to maintain copies of our own records.  We have been microfilming archives all over the world and have been neglecting our own.  He also felt that there was a theological justification.  Out of the books we are to be judged, and how can we be judged out of books that have been lost or burned.  He felt that it was vital in the here and in the hereafter.  There was some discussion about whether to microfilm everything.  President Lee seemed to support the idea of microfilming everything and awaiting a future recommendation as to what minutes ought to be kept and filmed and so on.

At this point President Tanner, seeing the logo on the Xerox copy of Earl’s letter, pointed it out and said, “What is that supposed to represent?”  Earl very nicely said that we had had a logo of the Angel delivering the plates to the prophet Joseph and this was the first written record in the Church and that there had been a feeling among some of us that we ought to get a more artistic representation of that visitation and that this logo was such an artistic representation.  This seemed to satisfy President Tanner.  He remarked somewhat sarcastically, “I knew that logo must have some significance.”

Earl then raised the question of the practice of checking out archival materials to the General Authorities.  President Tanner and President Lee took a strong position that no materials should leave our archives search room even for members of the First Presidency or the General Authorities.  Either they should get Xerox copies or they should come over and use our search room.  “If you don’t follow this policy,” said President Lee, “our documents will be scattered from hell to Texas.”  There was a little laughter on the hell to Texas, and President Lee said that he had borrowed that from J. Golden Kimball.

At this point President Lee said that they had another meeting at 10:00 and would not have time to discuss two important matters that they wanted to discuss—and anyway they wanted to discuss them when President Romney was there.  These two matters were “The Friends of Church History” and the financial arrangements with authors of our volumes in the Mormon Heritage Series and the sesquicentennial history series.

On the latter, President Lee said that we should do this very carefully because it might amount to large sums of money received by our employees for work done as a part of their assignment at a time when they were receiving a salary from us.  With regard to “The Friends of Church History” President Tanner said that it was a fine idea—that it would be a fine organization and would serve a number of useful purposes provided we establish sufficient safeguards and controls.

At the end of the meeting which was at 10:00, Brother Hunter, Brother McConkie, Brother Anderson, and Earl, Don, and myself stood for a few minutes in the ante room of the First Presidency to see if we agreed on the things that had been decided in the meeting.  Don, Earl, and myself then returned to the office while Brother Anderson went with Brother McConkie and Brother Hunter to discuss some matters—perhaps the proposal that I had made for the appointment of a third Assistant Church Historian and for employment of Brother Gary Shumway as oral historian.

The net result of the meeting is that I don’t seem to be getting very rapid approval on any of my projects and those that are approved are hedged with a number of restrictions that will make it difficult for us to do a proper professional job.


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

Davis came in to give me his preliminary impressions of Robert’s “The Truth, The Way, and the Life.”  He does not see the work as monumental.  It is important in demonstrating that a Latter-day Saint leader as of 1930 was doing some reading in science and philosophy, but it is not at all comparable to the works of great systematizers and thinkers like Descartes, Spinoza, or St. Thomas Aquinas.  He quotes a great deal from John Fiske—apparently read all of Fisk’s work.  He had digested, perhaps, high school texts on physics, but there is nothing new, original, nor profound in what he writes. 

That he was concerned with these intellectual matters is praiseworthy and there are brilliant and inspiring passages in this draft, but basically it is not a great work.

Davis said that he would like to have it published just as a reflection of the thinking of a LDS as of 1930.  It shows that at least one Latter-day Saint was thinking and reading available literature, but it is about on a par with Robert’s Seventies Course in theology—the approach is about the same.  The amount of reading and care he has done is about on the same level.

He begins by saying we have to begin  with knowledge—what knowledge is and how we acquired it, but what he says is not profound or exciting.

Davis also says that the criticisms of the reading committee are extremely minor, at least as far as he has progressed in the reading—perhaps up through twelve chapters.  He says it needs a good copy-editing job.  The manuscript is not at all ready to go to the printer.  Many mistakes on each page—just of the copy editing variety.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 9 February 1973]

Brother Anderson reported his meeting with President Lee this morning, at which meeting the following matters pertaining to the Church Historical Department were considered:

1.  The First Presidency is still considering the matter of Friends of Church History and have not as yet reached a decision relative thereto, nor has a final decision been made relative to the matter of the Joseph Fielding Smith Awards program.

2.  It was felt inadvisable to give approval for the Church Historian to have access to records in the First Presidency’s vault.  It was thought, however, that Brother Anderson could go through the records and see what items might be made available to the Church Historian.

3.  Relative to the matter of a Church recorder, President Lee did not seem to feel the need of appointing a Church recorder at the present time.  Brother Olson was requested to complete his investigation regarding this matter and submit his report to Brother Anderson.

4.  In regard to the employment of an oral historian, President Lee questioned the value of an oral history as compared to a written history.  Brother Anderson asked Brother Arrington to give him further information as to what the duties of an oral historian would be.

5.  President Lee could see no objection to the Fellows of the Historical Department project but suggested that before giving them an appointment and a certificate, that we submit to him a resume regarding each man, giving his background and indicating what his work would be.  He also felt that the number should be limited.

6.  Brother Arrington will give Brother Anderson a memorandum as to what the duties of another Assistant Historian would be.

7.  Brother Anderson reported that President Lee does not favor our opening the library on Saturdays due to the matter of security involved, and that it would require a large staff to be here.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Wednesday, 21 February 1973]

As to the Church Historian having access to the records in the vault of the First Presidency the general answer was no.  However, President Lee agreed that Brother Anderson might go through those records and find certain items that might be made available for the use of the Church Historian.  Brother Anderson said that he did not know when he would get time to do so, if ever.

On the matter of appointing a Church Recorder, President Lee did not see any need to do so.  He thought that was due to misunderstanding or undue emphasis on words.  For the present there will not be an appointment of a separate Church Recorder.

President Lee thought the oral history program may be valuable but did not approve the appointment of an oral historian to direct the program.  I am to furnish a written request justifying the need for such an appointment.

President Lee told us that someone is working on his own history, and he has given many hours to the interview.

As to the certificate for the Fellows of Church History, Brother Lee did not object to the concept of appointing Fellows but wanted to approve every single person nominated and wanted a resume of each person.  No one is to be appointed from here on out without his okay.

No approval for the appointment of an Assistant Church Historian.  I am to prepare a memorandum justifying a need for this.

President Lee, for reasons of security and expense, is not in favor of the Library and Archives being open on Saturday.

As to the sesquicentennial history and the Mormon Heritage Series volumes, President Lee wants to assure that these have close supervision and that our office passes on everything.

Brother Anderson said that it was a pleasant interview.  That it is wonderful that we have access to the President in this way, and he has implicit confidence in us.  My question would be, if he has implicit confidence in us, why does he turn down our requests?

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 21 February 1973]

2.  A report of the newspaper and Journal History committee was considered.  The committee proposes that the Journal History be brought up to date through such information as can be obtained from the First Presidency’s minutes and also minutes of the Council meetings, which are in the First Presidency’s vault.  After some discussion of the matter it was decided that if the brethren of the First Presidency agree that this Journal History should be continued as it was originally, Brother Anderson will confer with Brother Arrington and ascertain from him the kind of information he desires.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives and supervisors of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thursday, 8 March 1973]

We were soon ushered into President Lee’s room.  President Lee sat behind his desk.  Sitting in front of his desk facing Brother Lee’s desk were Brother Romney on President Lee’s right and Brother Tanner on President Lee’s left.  On President Lee’s immediate right was Brother Francis Gibbons, secretary of the First Presidency.  President Lee seemed to be suffering from a very bad cold.  His voice was bad, his eyes were watery, he moved very slowly.  He gave the appearance of a person who was not feeling very well.  He spoke slowly and deliberately.  Brother Anderson sat next to Brother Tanner on the left of President Lee facing him, and I sat next to Brother Anderson facing President Lee.

President Lee called me Leonard when he met me and referred to me several times during the interview with the name Leonard.  He smiled when he met me.  He did not seem at all displeased with anything we had done or were contemplating.  President Tanner made a number of suggestions and points during the discussion, but President Romney remained silent and nodded his agreement at the end with the decision that was made.

President Lee asked me to explain precisely what we planned to do with regard to royalties of those who were writing the sesquicentennial history.  I explained the importance of enlisting the best historians to write the volume and pointed out we would have to pay them for their work.  I also explained the agreement we had made with Deseret Book Company and the contracts each person had signed providing 12% royalty.  I also gave an estimate of what each person would be expected to get by way of royalties anticipating that the maximum that any person might expect was about $7,500.

President Lee and President Tanner both mentioned a number of problems.  What about the desirability of having a limitation of time.  These royalties would go on and on and after the person died, his heirs would expect to get them on and on in the future.  Secondly, they mentioned the possibility—even the probability—that some or all of these books might be used as texts in Priesthood, Sunday School, and other classes and that the sales in that case might go into the tens of thousands even hundreds of thousands.  There ought to be some kind of a limitation to take care of that.  I pointed out that I did not expect sales to amount to that much, but if they should, I thought our writers would have no objection to foregoing royalties on the use of the book as a text.  In this connection, I mentioned to them that I had worked eleven years on a book on my own time and on my own expense and had it published by a well recognized press, Harvard Press, and it had sold so few copies that my royalties on it had not amounted to even $300.  President Tanner in his next remarks said something like, “We wouldn’t expect our writers to get only $300 a year like Brother Arrington.”  At that point I interrupted him to say that it was not $300 a year but it was $300 all told over all the years, and he grinned and acknowledge this.  Then President Lee said, “Are you referring to Great Basin Kingdom?”  I said yes.  He said, “That is an outstanding book and a great one.  It is too bad you were not better rewarded.”  I said people who are real scholars don’t make monetary returns their main aim.  President Tanner said, “If you could have sold your right to dividends for $5,000 instead of the $300 you got, you would have accepted it, wouldn’t you?”  I said yes.

I suggested that all of the writers were loyal Latter-day Saints and would be glad to accept any arrangement that the First Presidency thought was fair.  President Tanner proposed to President Lee that we might work out an arrangement with these brethren to pay them a flat sum of $5,000 for their work in writing the history and have that serve in lieu of royalties.  Also that since we have approved them on the basis of 12 percent royalty on possible printing of 20,000 volumes, that we might give them the option of receiving 12 percent royalty up to $7,500 and then let that be the limit.  This money would be paid by Deseret Book Company in lieu of royalties, which they would have been paying.  Deseret Book would take that into consideration in pricing the volumes and if there are big runs, they might be able to sell them for lower prices.

I pointed out to the First Presidency that the persons have to write the book on their own time, they have to pay for the travel, for costs of Xeroxing and typing and indexing, and so on, and that we must expect to pay them something for all of their time and effort.

President Lee agreed that the suggestion of President Tanner sounded logical and satisfactory.  President Lee asked me to make informal contact with the brethren and ask them if they would be satisfied to amend their contract to provide that they be paid either $5,000 fee upon acceptance of the manuscript or royalty up to $7,500 if they preferred that option.  I told President Lee that I would do this.  I repeated the terms to be certain that I understood it correctly and that all of them did.  President Lee said, “Yes, that is correct,” and President Tanner and President Romney nodded their heads.

The Presidency did not seem to be perturbed over the amount that might be received by Brother Allen and Brother Bitton.  I pointed out that these two brethren would be writing the book on their own time and thus should be treated the same as all of the other writers.  The First Presidency offered no objection to that.

Brother Anderson at this point said, “What about the possibility that the dollar may go down in value and that four or five years from now when the book is ready for publication $5,000 might not be as much as it is now.  President Tanner suggested that they might take any further decline in the value of the dollar as a basis of hiking the value of $5,000 to something greater than that.  That is, if the dollar should decline by 20 percent at the time they were to be paid, they might be paid $6,000 instead of $5,000.  President Lee nodded favorably to that suggestion as did President Romney.

Brother Anderson then said he would like to take another minute to raise another question.  He said we had been talking in our department just this morning about revising the Journal History of the Church prepared by Brother Penrose from 1896-1915.  This would require minutes of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and other confidential materials.  Brother Anderson said one way of handling this might be for me—he kept most of the minutes that were in the vault of the First Presidency—to extract what the Church Historian wants from these minutes.  Brother Anderson said he could do this if the First Presidency authorized him to do so.  Brother Lee said, “I do authorize you to do this.  I do think the Journal History should be kept in as complete a manner as possible, but as for the use of confidential minutes, we could not make them available to any person but you, Brother Anderson.  But you may extract from them what you feel suitable for them on the basis of what they need.”

President Lee not feeling well, Brother Anderson then said, “I think that is all that we want to bring up today, and we then shook hands with each of the brethren and left.

While walking back, Brother Anderson and I discussed the Journal History and the use of the records.  I suggested to Brother Anderson that he might look over the minutes for some particular date and ascertain that it would be permissible for me to look at the minutes for that date or dates.  I would then prepared from it entry or entries for that date to show him the sort of things I was interested in and how I would handle the preparation of the daily journal.  Then he may extract from the minutes the sort of information that I had given him a sample of.

Brother Anderson responded favorably to this except to add that it would be all right for me to see most of the minutes of the First Presidency and prepare the Journal History—that there were only occasional entries that I ought not to see, so we left it at that point.  The problem is that Brother Anderson is willing to let me see some of the minutes and work with them, but he apparently does not want that to go down farther to my staff, and how am I going to find time to do this job that really ought to be done by somebody like James Allen.  Brother Allen would like to do it and is capable of doing it and we could assign that as a part of his job, but apparently things have not progressed far enough for him to be given that permission yet.  Obviously, Brother Anderson is gaining confidence in Brothers Olson, Schmidt, and myself but doesn’t feel well enough acquainted with the other brethren to build confidence in them to the point that he is ready to turn over these confidential materials to them.

I forgot to tell earlier in the meeting with the First Presidency when I explained that each of the sixteen manuscripts would have to be read and approved by four of our people—Brother Allen, Brother Bitton, Sister Ursenbach, and myself—Brother Romney asked just how fast I could read.  I replied, “Well, I guess I read fast enough to get my work done.”  He got a big charge out of that.  He said that is like Abraham Lincoln’s reply to how long his legs were and he replied, “Long enough to reach the ground.”

As I was shaking hands with Brother Tanner just before leaving, President Tanner said, “Do you still like your job as Church Historian?”  I replied, “I still think it is the best job in the Church.”  He seemed pleased with that response.

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

I held a meeting with Jim Allen, Ron Esplin, and Maureen Ursenbach—Davis not being here.  We agreed that we will start a new document to be called Chronicles of Church History to be prepared from minutes of the Fist Presidency and minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Perhaps at a later stage we will add in minutes of other central Church quorums and other diaries of participating personalities—excerpts from diaries of those who attended the meetings, minutes of the First Council of Seventy, Presiding Bishopric, and so on.  We will begin with January 1, 1915 and come up to the present or as recently as we are permitted.  Minutes for each meeting from 1915 to the present will be summarized and excerpted by Brother Anderson and myself and typed double spaced by Chris and placed into loose-leaf binders in my office.  Access to them will be restricted to our Historical Department staff and General Authorities.  A separate binder will be kept for each year.  Index of the material for each year is to be placed in the front of each binder.  We will begin compiling this next week with Brother Anderson’s assistance and permission.

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

2.  Brother Arrington asked regarding the background of a young man by the name of Fred Collier who, it seems, has been denied access to some materials in the archives.  It was reported that there have been some serious questions about his doing research and that care should be exercised in what materials are made available to him.  It was also reported that attempts are being made by the stake president where the young man resides to excommunicate him from the Church.

3.  Brother Arrington read to the brethren a proposal with respect to the Journal History, which has been tentatively approved, which pertains to a compilation of Chronicles of Church History, which proposal will be kept in mind in connection with further consideration of the matter.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 13 March 1973]

9.  It was decided there would be no objection to continue making available to Fred Collier certain printed works, including the Journal History, but that caution should be used in the matter.  It is reported that attempts are being made by Brother Collier’s stake president to excommunicate him from the Church.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thursday, 15 March 1973]

14.  Brother Anderson also reported that the matters of the re-evaluation of minute book procedures and Chronicles of Church History will be taken to the First Presidency for decision.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thursday, 15 March 1973]

March 20, 1973

Elder Joseph Anderson

Historical Department

Dear Elder Anderson:

This is a report on the manuscript by B. H. Roberts, “The Truth, the Way, and the Life.”  This is a double spaced, typewritten manuscript, with President Roberts’ own penciled corrections, with fifty-five chapters and a total of 786 pages.  It appears to have been written in the middle 1920s.  Included with the manuscript are some comments of a reading committee of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  The reading committee approved of the manuscript with minor corrections, which corrections have been made in pencil by President Roberts.

As far as I am aware, President Roberts intended this manuscript to go to the printer the way it is, but apparently did not receive the approval of President Grant to have it printed at the time, and it has remained unpublished to this day.  The Historical Department vaults also include two earlier versions of this long treatise, on which President Roberts worked for many years.

I have appreciated the opportunity of reading it and offer the following comments and suggestions.

The work has sweep and grandeur.  President Roberts was open to ideas from many sources.  He was widely read, and he was willing to play with ideas.  The style is clear, marching briskly from topic to topic.  Occasionally it reaches heights of nearly poetic eloquence.  It would be hard to find in all Mormon literature a work of comparable magnitude.  President Roberts has attempted the difficult task of integrating science, philosophy, and LDS theology into one grand synthesis.

On the other hand, much of the work is unoriginal.  Sections on the history of religion, for example, were derived from old standard accounts.  Many of the topics in the work had been treated previously by President Roberts in his published manuals.  There is a simplistic, dated, quality to many of the chapters, especially those dealing with the universe.  They might invite ridicule from some of our modern scientists like Henry Eyring, Russell Athay, and Armin Hill.  The authorities cited and those on whom President Roberts based his work give this treatise a quality of quaintness and obsolescence.  John Fiske, William James, Thomas Carlyle—these are referred to by President Roberts as authorities.  They would not be regarded necessarily in that light today.  The work makes no contribution to our thought, but it is valuable primarily as an example of what a great LDS intellect thought in the 1920s.

It is my recommendation that an article be written about this work to summarize it, evaluate it, and call it to the attention of LDS scholars and thinkers.  Possible authors of such an article would be Truman Madsen (first choice), who has been working on a biography of President Roberts; and Davis Bitton (second choice), who has long been interested in President Roberts and has published some articles about him.  Such an article might be published in the Ensign or in BYU Studies. 

As to the publication of the manuscript itself, if Deseret Book Company wished to obtain family permission and publish it, no harm would be done and many readers would benefit. In my judgment the work would sell.

If published, the manuscript will have to be copyedited.  Scarcely a page is without editorial problems.  If published, it would carry an introduction written by Brother Madsen or Brother Bitton of 10 or 12 pages, which would be both an appreciation of President Roberts and his work, and an effort to place the work in its proper context.  In such an introduction a statement should be made that this is not an official Church work—the Church does not necessarily subscribe to all of the ideas, which he expresses in the work.

In the meantime it is my recommendation that the work be catalogued and placed on our shelves and made available on a restricted basis to LDS scholars approved by the Church Historian or Church Archivist.  I do not de that any purpose can be served by further secrecy.

Respectfully submitted,

Leonard J. Arrington


[LJAD, Letter written to Elder Joseph Anderson, 20 March 1973]

Today in our Andrew Jenson Brown Bag Society meeting Max Evans discussed the growth of bureaucracy in the Church—the multiplication of employees from 35 in 1900 to several thousand to date, the beginning of department operations, and so on.  Specifically he talked about the growth of the Missionary Department and the Financial Department and how records developed under this expanding setup.

Last week the speaker was Chuck Hammacker, who talked on the Church library cataloguing work.  The previous Friday Ron Esplin spoke on Brigham Young, previous to that Ron Watt spoke on the record books of the trustee-in-trust now being catalogued.  The week previous Dean Jessee spoke on the history of the Historical Department of the Church, specifically the work and contributions of Andrew Jensen.  Before that Gordon Irving spoke on the history and interpretation of the law of adoption and the week before that Dave Mayfield spoke on the microforms.  Before that Michael Quinn spoke on the restoration in the New York period.

This is an informal meeting of employees of the Historical Department at which about twenty persons attend.  We eat lunch together, and while we are eating listen to someone present a paper or talk from notes.  Those who are usually in attendance include Leonard Arrington, Davis Bitton, Michael Quinn, Maureen Ursenbach, Bill Hartley, Richard Jensen, Gordon Irving, Ron Esplin, Dean Jessee, Dale Beecher, Chris Croft, Ron Watt, Max Evans, Jeff Johnson, Cathy Gilmore, Cathy Cardon, Jane Gonzales, Nancy Cheng, Dave Mayfield, David Washburn, Wayne Jacobsen, Marilyn Seifert.

The unofficial chairman or coordinator of the group is Ron Watt.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 23 March 1973]

April 10, 1973

Leonard J. Arrington,

Church Historian

50 East North Temple

Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Dear Leonard:

Thank you so much for your thought regarding my talk on free agency.  It is encouraging to know that someone who listened to it would take time to write as you did.  We appreciate the fine work you are doing there in the Church Historian’s Department, and wish you continued success.

Yours sincerely,

N. Eldon Tanner

[LJAD, Letter written to LJA from N. Eldon Tanner, 10 April 1973]

April 17, 1973

Authors of Sesquicentennial Volumes

Dear Colleagues:

The First Presidency of the Church suggests that there is a possibility that some of the volumes being prepared for “The History of the Latter-day Saints” might one day be used as manuals.  I am sure you agree with us that this would be fine.  This simply puts that possibility in writing.  At the same time, this necessitates a slight modification of our contractual arrangement with you, since such edition would be strictly non-profit.

You shall continue to be paid for the commercial sales of the book(s) you prepare, but if a special edition is published under the direction of the First Presidency for the use of the Priesthood and/or auxiliary organizations of the Church, royalties will not be paid to you or your heirs on that special edition.

[LJAD, Letter written to authors of sesquicentennial volumes from LJA, 10 April 1973]

Jack Adamson telephoned and said that he will be completing tag ends of other writing projects this summer and will be teaching fall quarter.  Then in January 1974 he will begin a nine-month sabbatical that will carry him through winter, spring quarter, and summer quarter.  He would hope to get preliminary orientation—reading of other biographies, history sampling the material done by stopping occasionally this summer into our library and reading room.  Then he would begin full-scale on the biography of Brigham Young in 1974.  I told him Ron Esplin would work under my direction in completing the organization and listing of the Brigham Young materials and preparing a guide to the same and that ought to be completed sometime this summer.

I told him also that we were setting up a program to encourage the writing of biographies—a program into which he would fit—and I would give him confirmation on the approval of this within the matter of a month or so.  He says he realizes the enormous task he has set out for himself in writing a biography of Brigham Young and suggests that he would write during the nine months a preliminary portrayal for his commercial publisher.  Then he might follow that up over the next several years with a detailed definitive biography with two or three solidly researched volumes which might be published by the University of Utah Press and which might feature a complete history of Brigham Young’s life.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 23 April 1973]

This morning Brother Jim Mortimer telephoned about the proposed letter I had drafted to send to authors of our sesquicentennial history about royalties.  He had been away for several weeks and hadn’t been able to report to me about it.  However, he had a conversation with Tom Monson about it the Monday after conference, and Brother Monson had discussed the matter briefly at the Board of Directors meeting of Deseret Book last Wednesday.

The occasion which made it possible for Jim to talk with Brother Monson after conference was as follows:  A “woman”—a member of the Church—has wanted to become a man and has gone through the necessary operations to change her sex.  “She” now demands to have the priesthood.  She has been bugging Brother Monson about this for several days.  He can’t avoid a confrontation with her because she is always waiting at his office every morning as he comes to work.  Since Brother Monson has gotten sick of this he decided that particular morning to go to see Brother Mortimer to talk about anything, so he could avoid a confrontation with this prospective elder.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 27 April 1973]

Brother Anderson also read to me a letter from the Melchizedek Priesthood Committee—Brother Packer, Brother Ashton, and one other brother.  The letter was to Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie.  They expressed concern over the article by Brother Bill Hartley appearing in BYU Studies on the priesthood reform movement—not what was written, apparently, but the fact that it quoted from restricted sources—minutes of the general priesthood committee and policy directives of the Presiding Bishopric.  They expressed concern that such matters be properly cleared before publication. 

I told Brother Anderson that the article had been properly cleared according to the understand we had—that Brother Hartley had submitted the manuscript to me and the manuscript had been read under my direction by Brothers Allen and Bitton and we three had approved it before publication. If we had done something wrong we would be glad to be informed of it.  Also we would be glad to have some guidelines about future items.

I asked Brother Anderson whether he thought such articles should be further cleared from anther group; for example, Tom Fyans.  He dismissed that with a wave of his hand.  “Why should Tom Fyans clear an article on Church history?  What does he know about it?”  He said the person who should clear it is you [meaning LJA]—you have the knowledge.  There shouldn’t be any clearances beyond that, but as we get complaints from people about things you have approved, you will perhaps get suggestions as to how far you can go in quoting confidential materials.  Brother Anderson said he would take up the matter orally with Brothers Hunter and McConkie.  He did not propose even to write a letter.  The main thing was he would assure them that this article and others were cleared by me and that we do have a procedure for clearing things with me and with my associates.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 27 April 1973]

Grace and I tried to figure out afterwards how we happened to be invited to this dinner party.  It couldn’t have been a ward party.  We and the Clissolds were the only persons there from Parley’s First.  We were the youngest persons there—most were in their late sixties and early seventies.  We were the only persons there who were not wealthy.  We were the only persons who are not long-time friends of the Clissolds.  I told Grace that Sister Clissold had been fascinated by Grace’s lessons in the Relief Society and had thought she was a charming and lovely person and thought she would enhance the group she was inviting to dinner.  At any rate, it was a very pleasant experience.

As we were leaving, we happened to be in the foyer while President Tanner was waiting for his wife.  President Tanner came up to Grace and pointed at me and said, “We are glad we have your husband in the right job in the right place at the right time.”—meaning my job as church Historian.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 27 April 1973]

May 1, 1973

Elders Howard W. Hunter and 

Bruce R. McConkie

Council of the Twelve

Church Administration Building

Dear Brethren:

Reference is made to a letter to you of April 4, 1973 signed by Elders Thomas Monson, Boyd Packer, and Marvin Ashton.  This letter discusses an article by Brother William Hartley published in BYU Studies entitled “The Priesthood Reform Movement, 1908-1922.”  The letter notes that Brother Hartley quotes from meetings of the General Priesthood Committee and from some policy directives of the Presiding Bishopric and asks whether articles using such materials are read and cleared by brethren approved by you.

I have discussed this matter thoroughly with Brother Leonard Arrington, Church Historian, who is the immediate supervisor of Brother William Hartley and other Historical Associates.  Under the direction of Brother Alvin R. Dyer, Brother Arrington worked out a procedure for approving and clearing articles of a historical nature written by members of his staff.  To begin with, Brother Arrington himself approves or suggests each research and writing project of the brethren in the Church History Division.  He also specifically initials their requests for use of restricted materials.  When these brethren have completed the draft of a paper intended for publication, this is read by Brother Arrington, who makes suggestions for alterations, deletions, and for the inclusion of additional material.  The Historical Associate then makes the revisions suggested.  The paper is then retyped and read by Brothers James Allen and Davis Bitton, Assistant Church Historians, and by Sister Maureen Ursenbach, Editor of the Historical Department.  After their suggestions have been worked on by the author, he submits the paper or article in final form to Brother Arrington, who reads it again for content and style.  Under his direction the article will be submitted for possible publication.

This procedure was followed in the case of the article on the priesthood reform movement by Brother Harley.  Recognizing that Brother Arrington has a heavy responsibility in this matter, and that he must be prayerful in making judgments, he nevertheless insists, rightly I think, upon high quality work.

I trust that this takes care of the request of the Brethren that articles using restricted materials will be properly cleared.


Joseph Anderson

[LJAD, Letter written to Elders Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie from Joseph Anderson, 1 May 1973]

10.  Brother Anderson called attention to a letter that had been referred to him by Elder Howard W. Hunter, which letter is addressed to Elders Hunter and McConkie by Elders Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer and Marvin J. Ashton, advisors to Internal Communications.  The letter makes reference to an article prepared by William Hartley, an historical associate, which appeared in the “BYU Studies.”  The article bears the title “The Priesthood Reform Movement, 1908-1922.” in which Brother Hartley quotes from meetings of the General Priesthood Committee and from some policy directives of the Presiding Bishopric.  The question raised by the advisors to Internal Communications is whether or not articles of this type are read and cleared by brethren approved by the advisors to the Historical Department. It was explained that in the particular case in question, the article prepared by Brother Hartley had been reviewed by the Church historian, the two assistant Church historians, and the editor of the Historical Department.  Brother Arrington will prepare a proposed letter to the advisors to the Historical Department to be signed by Brother Anderson, outlining the procedures, which are followed in matters of this kind.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 1 May 1973]

3.  A letter has been given to Brother Anderson requesting a one-volume history of the Church for non-Mormons be written by Brother Arrington with the assistance of the staff.

4.  Some thought has also been given to writing a new one-volume history of the Church for LDS to be prepared by the History Division staff to replace Essentials of Church History.  Would hope to complete it in a year or so.

[LJAD, Minutes of Staff Meeting of the Church History Division, Monday, 14 May 1973]

May 14, 1973

Elder Joseph Anderson

Assistant Managing Director

Historical Department

Dear Brother Anderson:

In 1966-1967, when I was a visiting professor of western history at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Alfred A. Knopf, publisher, asked me to prepare a one-volume history of the Mormons.  Mr. Knopf had published Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, and I had the feeling that he wanted to publish something about the Church, which was more friendly—and also something which treated the history of the Mormons in the West.  I wrote the First Presidency at that time to say that I would like to prepare such a work, but could not do so without access to materials in the Church Archives.  The First Presidency granted me this access in their letter of January 18, 1967 (attached).

In the years that followed, despite my full-time work as a professor at Utah State University, I spent many days and weeks, especially during the summers, working in the Church Archives.  Nevertheless, so many new things in Church history were being uncovered that the work was never completed.  Mr. Knopf, who is now 92 years of age, has written to me recently to ask if I would please complete the work.  In view of my present position I do not feel that I can respond to him without consulting with you.

The work Mr. Knopf and I had in mind was designed primarily for non-Mormons for secular historians, university students, and the general reading public who desire an “objective” history of Mormonism.  We wanted it to be the kind of book, which would be acquired by libraries and used as a standard reference on the LDS Church.  Unfortunately, a large number of libraries in the United States carry just four books on the Church:  W. A. Linn, Story of the Mormons (1902), a viciously anti Mormon work; Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons, by a Roman Catholic sociologist, The Year of Decision, by Bernard DeVoto, which is basically sympathetic with Mormon achievements but not its doctrine; and No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie.  I am sure the Church is not happy to be represented exclusively by such works.

If you agree, I should like to go full-speed ahead in completing the one-volume work previously contemplated, and I should like to use the facilities of the Historical Department in doing so.  (This would not, of course, require any change in budget or personnel requests.)  The book will pay royalties to the author.  I propose that one-half of the royalties earned on the volume be retained by me in payment for work I have already done on the book, and that the other half be turned over to a trust fund to be used to support the work of our Church History Division which cannot be paid for our of our approved budget.

If you approve this project, I should like to attempt to complete it within a year that is, by June 1, 1974.  I should also expect to specifically state in the preface that most of the writing was done before I was called to be Church Historian; hence this should be regarded as an individual work and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Church or the Historical Department.

I have put the request in the form of a letter in case you wish to use it in consulting with our Historical Department advisors.  Your counsel would be much appreciated.


Leonard J. Arrington

[LJAD, Letter written to Elder Joseph Anderson from LJA, 14 May 1973]

3.  Brother Arrington presented a proposal to prepare a new one-volume history of the Church to be tentatively titled “Introduction to LDS History,” which volume will be prepared under the general editorship of Brother Arrington, and the listed authors would be James Allen and Davis Bitton.  It is hoped to commence the project on June 1, 1973.  It is not intended that this volume replace “Essentials in Church History,” but would be an alternative volume.  It was felt to approve the proposal; however, the matter will be taken by Brother Anderson to the advisors and the First Presidency for their consideration and approval.

4.  As a matter of record Brother Arrington mentioned a letter he had written to Brother Anderson relative to an assignment given him in 1967 to write a one-volume history of the Church, which would appeal to non-members.  This matter will be taken to the advisors and the First Presidency for consideration.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 15 May 1973]

Brother Anderson said in our meeting this morning that he had gone down to President Lee’s office to arrange through Brother Haycock an appointment to talk about various historical matters.  Brother Haycock was not there, the door was open, and President Lee was at his desk.  He invited Brother Anderson to come in.  Brother Anderson had an opportunity of chatting about a few things and in particular talked about the two proposals I had submitted about doing a one-volume history of the Church—one by myself for Alfred Knopf and one by Brothers Bitton and Allen for a Church publisher.  President Lee seemed pleased with both proposals but suggested that Brother Anderson send to him a letter of endorsement with both proposals from me, and that he ask Brother Jim Mortimer to send a letter with respect to the Essentials of Church History.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 17 May 1973]


Davis and Jim were in the office this morning and we spent a couple of hours talking about our two one-volume histories.  We agreed pretty much as follows:

My history will pick out twelve or fifteen episodes, events, personalities, problems, which will be written interpretively in depth to explore a given aspect of Mormon history. It will be intended as a corrective of popular attitudes about Mormon history including those of university students and historians.

For example there will be a chapter of Joseph Smith’s boyhood including the first vision, another on the events surrounding the organization of the Church and the development of its theology, another on the conflicts with neighbors in Ohio and Missouri, another on Nauvoo, and so on.  There will be one on the Danites, one on the Indians, one on polygamy, one on the Word of Wisdom, one on the development of modern programs, and one on temple work.

Each of these would be researched in depth and with sophistication.  There would be complete bibliographical citations on both facts and quotations.  It would be a serious scholarly work.  The independent essays would be strung together with transitional paragraphs at the beginning and end of each chapter to make a kind of roughly connected series of essays.

The Allen and Bitton book would be more narrative and descriptive history, which will serve as a reference for the histories of all the Church programs, organizations, auxiliaries, events, and personalities.  There would be reference footnotes—really backnotes—only for the quotations used, then a brief bibliographical essay for each chapter.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 18 May 1973]


In our meeting this morning with Brother Anderson, Earl and Don advanced a new proposal that anybody desiring any printed materials which includes theses, pamphlets, circulars, mimeographs, speeches, etc., whether rare or other, will have to check them out through the library on the first floor.  They will continue to use the card catalogue for manuscript materials on the second floor.  If one of our summer research fellows on the second floor using manuscript materials wishes a book, he must go down to the library, use the card catalogue, check it out from them, and it will then be brought up to him at his desk on the second floor.

This plan was approved to begin June 1.

When I raised questions about the inconvenience to our summer research fellows, Brother Anderson asked me to explain our fellowship program, which I did.  He raised many questions about it and in a tone, which suggested that he didn’t approve in it.  He couldn’t see any advantage to us in giving research fellowships.  I explained, defended, justified the program, and of course Brother Anderson learned how keenly I felt about it because I suppose my voice raised to some extent, and I may have seemed a little impatient with some of his objections.  Brother Anderson couldn’t see us spending money to help people make money by writing books.  I became a little impatient with that and pointed out that these people aren’t writing books for money—that works of scholarship are not money making in nature.  He wanted to know why they did it.  I said they do it for the same reason people do genealogical work—because they believe in it.  He did not see this comparison.

Anyway, he didn’t tell me to stop it, and we ended it on a perfectly friendly and cordial basis, so I assume that it is okay for another year, but it shows the problems of getting programs approved and then new administrators, which may not approve of programs which have been approved by their predecessors.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 24 May 1973]

At noon Davis and I had lunch with Joe Christensen, Frank Day, Frank Bradshaw, and Dan Workman, administrators of the LDS Institute system.  We told them of our desire to have Reed Durham help us in the preparation of the one-volume history of the Church.  We discussed the project in general, the reasons why we want Brother Durham and asked them if they had any objections to our use of his name.  They said they would be pleased to work out the arrangements.  They asked us if his name had been cleared, and we replied in the negative.  They said as soon as we cleared Reed’s name they would be glad to set up an appointment with him and work out the specific arrangements.

I then went to Brother Joseph Anderson and told him that we would like to list Brother Durham as a third author of the one-volume history, and when he presented the matter to President Lee would he add the name of Brother Durham to be certain that there is no objection to the use of him in this capacity.  Brother Anderson said that he would do so.

Brother Anderson himself presented no objections to Brother Durham.  I pointed out that we could handle this very well by assigning one of our staff to teach a class at the Institute—somebody like Delmont Oswald, Frank Morn, or Bill Harley.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 24 May 1973]

May 25, 1973

Elder Joseph Anderson

Historical Department

Dear Elder Anderson:

Reference is made to your letter dated May 2, 1973 to President Harold B. Lee with which was forwarded a letter of March 20, 1973 from Brother Leonard J. Arrington, Church Historian, commenting on a manuscript by Brigham H. Roberts entitled, The Truth, The Way, and The Life.

Brother Arrington recommended that a summary and analysis of this manuscript be prepared for publication in the Ensign or in the BYU Studies.  We hereby approve Brother Arrington’s recommendation with the understanding that Brother Truman G. Madsen be asked to prepare the summary and analysis.

We also approve Brother Arrington’s further recommendation that Brother Roberts’ manuscript be catalogued and placed in the archives and made available on a restricted basis.

Sincerely yours,


(signed) By Harold B. Lee

N. Eldon Tanner

[LJAD, Letter written to Elder Joseph Anderson from The First Presidency, 25 May 1973]

Richard Sherlock reported in this morning. He and Kathryn Hanson, who will come a week from Monday, have discussed their projects.  She will concentrate on topics of intellectual history that are particularly important in the early period of Mormonism.  He will concentrate on topics particularly important in the later history.  He will discuss the higher criticism, evolution, and so on.  She will discuss the development of the concept of God, atonement, and so on.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 8 June 1973]

After attending the 10:00 to 12:00 a.m. MIA Conference session in the Tabernacle presided over by President Lee, Grace and I both remarked that we thought President Lee did not look well.  His complexion was not good.  He seemed feeble and weak in manner, and his voice did not have its customary strength and ringing clearness—it seemed more heavy and thick halfway as if he had a cold.  He seemed worse than in the meeting we had with him in his office in April when the RLDS were here.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 25 June 1973]


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 be tentatively titled Introduction to L.D.S. History.  This volume would be prepared under the general editorship of Leonard Arrington, Church Historian.  The listed authors would be James Allen and Davis Bitton, Assistant Church Historians.

This work would be undertaken as an assigned project of the Church History Division.  The time of researchers in the Church History Division would be utilized to the extent necessary to complete the work.  No person would be paid royalty for his part in preparing the volume. If published under an arrangement, 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 and writing program of the Church History Division.

We believe a manuscript can be ready within a year and a half; by December 31, 1974.  We suggest as publishers either Deseret Book Company or Brigham Young University Press, and would leave the choice to our advisors.  We propose a volume of approximately 500 printed pages, including photos and appendix.

It is not intended that this volume replace Essentials of Church History authored by our late beloved Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith.  That volume has an assured place in our Church literature.  What we propose is an alternative volume 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 Church in other countries; it would carry more information about the social and cultural history of the Saints; and would describe in greater detail the administrative and organizational changes of the past fifty years.  It would also utilize new documents and insights into Church history uncovered in recent years.  The book would be written primarily for members of the Church, and would be “semi-scholarly” in nature.  That is, it would be documented but not elaborately.  It would concentrate on narrative or descriptive history but would suggest new insights into our history.

The writing of this history will require no changes in our budget and personnel requests for the coming year.  If approved, we shall commence the project on June 1, 1973.

[LJAD, Proposal to prepare an “Introduction to L.D.S. History”, Tuesday, 26 June 1973]

(26 June 1973—Meeting with the First Presidency) May 14, 1973

(Greg-This is a repeat of the same letter above under May 14)

Elder Joseph Anderson

Assistant Managing Director

Historical Department

Dear Brother Anderson:

In 1966-1967, when I was a visiting professor of western history at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Alfred A. Knopf, publisher, asked me to prepare a one –volume history of the Mormons.  Mr. Knopf had published Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, and I had the feeling that he wanted to publish something about the Church, which was more friendly—and also something which treated the history of the Mormons in the West.  I wrote the First Presidency at that time to say that I would like to prepare such a work, but could not do so without access to materials in the Church Archives.  The First Presidency granted me this access in their letter of January 18, 1967 (attached).  

In the years that followed, despite my full-time work as a professor at Utah State University, I spent many days and weeks, especially during the summers, working in the Church Archives.  Nevertheless, so many new things in Church history were being uncovered that the work was never completed.  Mr. Knopf, who is now 92 years of age, has written to me recently to ask if I would please complete the work.  In view of my present position I do not feel that I can respond to him without consulting with you.

The work Mr. Knopf and I had in mind was designed primarily for non-Mormons for secular historians, university students, and the general reading public who desire an “objective” history of Mormonism.  We wanted it to be the kind of book, which would be acquired by libraries and used as a standard reference on the LDS Church.  Unfortunately, a large number of libraries in the United States carry just four books on the Church:  W. A. Linn, Story of the Mormons (1902), a viciously anti Mormon work; Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons, by a Roman Catholic sociologist, The Year of Decision, by Bernard DeVoto, which is basically sympathetic with Mormon achievements but not its doctrine; and No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie.  I am sure the Church is not happy to be represented exclusively by such works.

If you agree, I should like to go full-speed ahead in completing the one-volume work previously contemplated, and I should like to use the facilities of the Historical Department in doing so.  (This would not, of course, require any change in budget or personnel requests.)  The book will pay royalties to the author.  I propose that one-half of the royalties earned on the volume be retained by me in payment for work I have already done on the book, and that the other half be turned over to a trust fund to be used to support the work of our Church History Division which cannot be paid for our of our approved budget.

If you approve this project, I should like to attempt to complete it within a year that is, by June 1, 1974.  I should also expect to specifically state in the preface that most of the writing was done before I was called to be Church Historian; hence this should be regarded as an individual work and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Church or the Historical Department.

I have put the request in the form of a letter in case you wish to use it in consulting with our Historical Department advisors.  Your counsel would be much appreciated.


Leonard J. Arrington

[LJAD, Letter written to Elder Joseph Anderson from LJA, 14 May 1973]

First Presidency’s Meeting

Tuesday, June 26, 1973

73-1904  Question Re:  One Volume History of the Church

Brother Anderson raised a question as to whether Brother Leonard J. Arrington will be authorized to utilize the facilities of the Historical Department in completing the one volume history of the Church referred to in a recent letter from Brother Anderson.  President Lee explained that the brethren had given their approval to this.  (See minute 73-1876

[LJAD, First Presidency’s Meeting, Tuesday, 26 June 1973]

12. Brother Anderson read a letter addressed to him from the First Presidency in which approval was given to our request that Brother Arrington be granted permission to use the facilities of the Historical Department to complete a one-volume work on the history of the Church. Approval was given with the understanding that there be obtained a formal assignment from Brother Arrington to the trust fund of one half of the royalties to be realized from the sale of this book, which money would be used to support the research and writing program of the History Division. Brother Allen will make a copy of the letter for Brother Arrington’s information.

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 10 Jul., 1973]

Wednesday morning, August 1, the supervisors and executives of the Historical Department went to Park City for a retreat at the invitation and suggestion of the Personnel Department of the Church. We stayed at Treasure Mountain Lodge, essentially four of us in each suite. There were five from the Church History Division–Maureen, Davis, Jim, Ron, and myself. From the Church Archives Division Dennis Wilde, Lorraine Arnell, Lauritz Petersen, Max Evans, and Earl Olson. From the Church Library Division Don Schmidt, Dave Mayfield, and Chuck Hamaer. There were also two persons from Church Personnel–Roger Merrill and Rex Allred. Elder Joseph Anderson was also present throughout the sessions.

The first session was held 9:00 to 12:00 in one of the suites in Treasure Mountain Lodge. The second session was held on top of the mountain after we had taken a trip up by gondola. After dinner at Mileti Italian Restaurant in Park City, we drove over to Heber City to see “The Order Is Love.” After returning, we walked up and down the streets of Park City until midnight. This morning we had a session from 9:00 to 12:00 in the suite in Treasure Mountain Lodge.

All of us in the department had the impression that this was going to be a problem-solving buzz session discussing problems in the Historical Department. Every time we tried to do this, however, we were told that this was not the purpose of the session. We were continually frustrated in every comment which we made by being told that we weren’t supposed to talk about that. It became clear that the purpose of the sessions was to provide an audience for Ron Merrill to expand the principles of good management as he understood them. Ninety percent of the time was spent in him speaking. He spoke in such generalities, however, that we didn’t learn anything that we didn’t know before. We did learn a few things in private interaction in our room, at the dinner table, and in our walks and drives, and these were of positive benefit to us.

His final instruction to us was that we ought to hold a series of one-to-one conferences with each member of the staff talking about goals and responsibilities. This is to help employees learn what their bosses responsibilities are as well as their own, and also for the bosses to get criticisms, suggestions, complaints, and so on from the employees. By and large, my own conclusion is that the conference was a waste–we could have done the same thing in a half hour, but it may have served a useful purpose in providing an opportunity for one or two of the people to air complaints. The principle person to speak besides Roger Merrill was Lauritz Petersen, who had a great many criticisms and complaints and suggestions, and it may have been useful to give him an opportunity to get these things off his chest. We all recognize that he has been with the department 25 years and that he has been overlooked in choosing the top executives of the department. He has jealousy of me and my position, of my Ph.D. degree and of others in our division who have Ph.D.’s. We all have recognized from the beginning that he had seen himself as occupying the position of Church Historian or Assistant Church Historian, and it appears that he was worthy of this appointment and competent to exercise it.

So far as the staff in our division are concerned, I do agree that it is desirable to have personal conferences with all of them to be sure that they are doing the kind of work that they enjoy and are prepared to do and to be sure that they have an understanding of what they are expected to do.

[LJA Diary, 2 Aug., 1973]

7. Brother Arrington mentioned for the benefit of those present that Reed Durham of the University of Utah Institute of Religion, under an arrangement with the Church Educational System, will be employed half time this coming year in the History Division, beginning September 1st. In exchange for the services of Brother Durham, we have agreed to sponsor an occasional seminar at the University of Utah Institute of Religion. Brother Arrington also reported that Max Parkin of the University of Utah Institute of Religion will be employed half time during the year, and that under arrangement with the Church Educational System Ron Esplin will teach a class at the Institute. He also reported that Glen Leonard will be employed full time beginning September 1st. Brother Leonard will help write a one volume history of the Church. 

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 9 Aug., 1973]

I happened to mention Tom Truitt’s name in connection with Essentials of Church History and Brother Haycock said that Brother Truitt’s name is not a very good one around President Lee and to keep him out of it as much as possible. He did not amplify as to the reasons. He did say that President Lee was not at all impressed with Tom Truitt’s biography which previously had been submitted to President Lee.

[LJA Diary, 7 Aug., 1973]

Yesterday afternoon Kris Rigby received a telephone call saying that the galley proofs of President Lee’s biography for Essentials of Church History were ready and we could pick then up. I went over to Arthur Haycock’s office to get them. He was out of the office, and as I walked in, the door to President Lee’s office was open and President Lee was at his desk alone. President Lee saw me come in and saw me start to go back out in a hurry, and he said “Come in Leonard.” He then motioned me to go into his office, but I felt reticent about doing that. I told him that I had come to pick up the galley proofs of his biography from Brother Haycock. President Lee said, “I have just read through it and thought it was fine, but I have made some minor corrections.” He came out and looked through Brother Haycock’s desk and files and didn’t find it. He said he would have Brother Haycock telephone me when he came back. He said they must be here somewhere since I just finished reading through it, but he didn’t find it.

President Lee then told me the principal corrections he had made. He told me about the welfare program in the Pioneer Stake. He said they had a number of managerial executive-type persons in the stake who were disemployed during the depression. They set them up as executives of a stake organization which made negotiations with local farmers and manufacturers to exchange labor for produce and goods which would help supply the people with the basic needs. The program worked well and this eventually led to President Lee being called in by the First Presidency of the Church and asked to establish a Church Welfare Program. President Lee was overwhelmed by the assignment and prayed earnestly for support and help. He said he went out into a grove area to think and contemplate and pray and while there he received the voice of the Holy Spirit that this was a Priesthood function and it could all be organized under the Priesthood. We didn’t have to set up anything new. We already had the ideal organization for carrying it out. He said this was not a revelation–he did not hear an audible voice, but he felt that the message had got through to him from the Lord.

So he established under the direction of the Priesthood the Church Welfare Program. He said that Church Correlation has moved in exactly the same direction to establish organizations, committees, and so on through the Priesthood organization of the church.

President Lee continued to stand and talk with me calling me “Leonard” almost fondly. He began talking about the problem of having committees read books by Church authorities. He said that he had served as a member of a committee (I gather as chairman of a committee) to read works by the General Authorities. He said they had had problems only with two authors or books–one of them was a book by Brother Ezra T. Benson. The reading committee made a number of suggestions and President Lee said when the book came out it did not incorporate a single one of any of the suggestions. In connection with this, President Lee in mentioning Brother Benson said, “Of course you know that he has been involved with the John Birch Society,” which leads me to believe that it is a book which carries the John Birch line.

The other book he mentioned was The Fallacy by President Alvin Dyer. President Lee said he had the impression that the book came out too strongly and violently against the RLDS. Basically, I suppose, the reading committee felt that it should not reprint and that was the way the First Presidency finally decided, largely because it was more anti-RLDS than it was a scholarly treatment of historic facts.

President Lee said that the RLDS have now been conducting an active missionary work in Belgium and elsewhere against our church and have made a number of converts. President Lee now wonders whether it is wise for us to try to bend over backwards in being friendly to the RLDS leaders. He said, “We have built up a good relationship with Wallace Smith, but if their missionaries are going to work so actively against us, should we attempt to protect that friendship by not upsetting the applecart with the RLDS. He said it might be wise to ask for a new edition of The Fallacy. At least that ought to be considered. He asked me to read The Fallacy again and give him a private appraisal of it, and also suggest changes. He said this was private between him and me, and that he would never use my name in commenting about it, so that anything I say wouldn’t embarrass me with President Dyer, whom he realized I admired. I told him I would do this. 

I thought it a good omen that President Lee would speak so frankly and informally with me about such matters. I mentioned the Kahne correspondence and he said he was aware of it, and they were considering it.

As I was about to go President Lee said, “You are a fine writer, Leonard, and I appreciate what you have done. Let me say again that I thought Great

Basin Kingdom was a magnificent work of research and writing. I read it all through and appreciated the straight-forward and interesting manner in which you presented this–it must have required an enormous amount of work, and we are all grateful to you for it.”

As President Lee was about to show me out he said, “Let us ask (the name of some secretary of Brother Haycock’s) if she knows anything about the galleys. He then took me to her office down the hall and he had them right there on her desk, so she gave it to me and I am to give it back to Brother Mortimer today.

All told, President Lee talked with me there alone for twenty to thirty minutes. 

[LJA Diary, 9 Aug., 1973]

8. Brother Arrington will give Brother Anderson a copy of a paper on the history of prayer circles prepared by Mike Quinn at the request of Brother Stapley. Brother Arrington will give the original paper to Brother Stapley.

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 14 Aug., 1973]

Ron Walker was in saying that he is definitely assigned to the University of Utah Institute on a more or less permanent basis and would be interested in a half-time arrangement with us beginning next September to do writing and research. He has mentioned this to Reed Durham and will tell Reed that he has talked to me, and I am very favorable to some attempt to work this out. I told him we would very much like to have him.

He said he would be interested in doing a quantitative study of the ebb and flow of activity in the Church as reflected in tithing which might be done from tithing records. I told him I thought that the time was not right yet to do this kind of a study but perhaps he could do it next year and maybe wait a year or two before publication. I told him that I could not get access for him to the tithing records until he was at least a half-time employee.

[LJA Diary, 19 Sept., 1973]

15. Discussion was had regarding the Andrew Jenson Club, which is a group of people organized for the purpose of hearing talks about different phases of history. This group meets in the cafeteria every Friday from 12:30 to 1:15. Consideration was given to the propriety of the meeting of such a group, and particularly to the fact that some of the members are going beyond the usual time allotted for the lunch hours. It was decided that there would be no objection to the meeting of such a group but that they should dismiss on time. 

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 2 Oct., 1973]

8. Brother Arrington asked if there would be any objection to his suggesting to the stake president of Brother Bitton that he (Brother Bitton) be ordained a high priest if he is found worthy of such ordination. It was felt that it would not be inappropriate for Brother Arrington to make such a suggestion to the stake president.

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

Elder Bruce McConkie telephoned this morning to say that at the request of the First Presidency he had made contact with Brother Jack Adamson with the possibility that he (Jack) might help us with the Brigham Young biography. Jack Adamson said that he was very interested in seeing a biography of Brigham Young written, but that he himself would be tied up with other commitments that he had already made for three or four years. Elder McConkie asked him to think of the names of other qualified persons who might help with such a biography, and he said that he would do so and would make an appointment with Brother McConkie and would suggest names of persons and so on at that time.

Elder McConkie said he thought that I ought to know that Jack would not be available for that period so that we could go ahead with some of our own plans in that regard.

I told him I was very grateful for what he had done on the matter. He said that he did not have the opportunity of speaking personally with Dr. Adamson, but that he had talked with him only on the telephone. At no time did he indicate that he was unfavorably impressed with Brother Adamson and his attitude toward the Church nor did he make any comment to the introduction to the Brigham Young volume which Jack had written. I assume that we have the full go-ahead on using the introduction and on using Jack as a consultant.

[LJA Diary, 26 Oct., 1973]

This morning at 11:00 Earl, Don, and I met with Brother Anderson and three persons from Church Personnel–Elder Tom Perry, Russell Williams, and Roger Merrill. The Personnel Division proposed a reorganization of the Historical Department incorporating the following points:

(1) The Historical Department will henceforth be called the Historical Division.

(2) There will be created under the Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency an Advisory Committee consisting of a General Authority (presumably Joseph Anderson) and two other persons who might also be General Authorities (possibly Elder Dyer and possibly Elder Perry).

(3) A non-General Authority will be appointed full-time Managing Director (presumably Earl Olson).

(4) Under the Managing Director would be two departments: the Library-Archives Department (presumably under Don Schmidt) and the Church Historian’s Department (presumably under Leonard Arrington).

There was every appearance that Elder Anderson had been introduced to this idea in a general way and that it had also been explained to Elder Howard Hunter and that word of it had also gotten out to Earl and Don. Earl and Don thought it an inevitable step and seemed to be favorable to it–it would involve promotions for both Earl and Don.

Personally I could not accept the idea. I protested that we were getting along fine and why change our present structure. I also raised questions about having Earl as my superior, fearful that he might interfere with our programs of writing and research through his administrative superiority, but Earl gave strong assurances, as did Don Schmidt and as did Brother Anderson, and it looks like it is going through regardless. It seems it will be going through so it is now my intention to attempt to get some written qualifications introduced that will protect my position as the reorganization takes place.

If we can do this right, it will mean a continuation of what has been going on already, with Earl doing all of the administrative work and Don and I concentrating on professional work. Certainly it would be nice if they could make Dave Mayfield the librarian and make Max Evans the archivist.

[LJA Diary, 13 Nov., 1973]

Yesterday afternoon Earl, Don, Elder Anderson, and myself met with Elder Howard Hunter and Bruce McConkie in Brother Hunter’s office to discuss the proposed reorganization of the Historical Department. Brother Anderson summarized briefly the proposal of the Personnel Department. Brother Hunter seemed to be uninformed or very hazy about it and Brother McConkie volunteered to fill him in on the details. For some years the Twelve have been working toward the goal of placing an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve in charge of each of the departments of Church administration. Under this arrangement Brother Burton had been made Managing Director of the Genealogical Society, Brother Dyer and

Brother Anderson Managing Director of the Historical Department, Bishop Vandenberg in charge of Public Facilities, and so on. According to Brother McConkie, the Cresap Report recommended the creation of twelve divisions of Church administration. A management chart would look as follows: 

Under this arrangement there would be a managing director in charge of each department who was not a General Authority. Apparently they cannot find General Authorities who are competent to administer the various departments and it does not work well to have some General Authorities as managing directors and other departments managed by persons who are not General Authorities. They cannot deal with each other on an equal basis, so the plan is to place a non-General Authority as managing director of each department and then he would consult with an Advisory Committee and three persons consisting of an Assistant to the Twelve as Chairman and twelve other Assistants to the Twelve as members. Brother Hunter raised the pertinent question of how the group gets entry into the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency. Since no members of the Twelve are involved, how do they get input on the background of the problems presented. Perhaps a member of the Twelve will have to be appointed to be liaison between the advisory committee and the Quorum of the Twelve in the same way that a high councilman is not a line authority with a priesthood quorum but nevertheless has liaison between the high council and stake presidency and priesthood quorum.

Discussing this general policy for the Church required most of the hour we spent together. Brother Hunter wished to discuss only this as a matter of general policy for the Church for all divisions and departments rather than talking specifically about the Historical Department.

The upshot of the meeting was that Brother Hunter and McConkie will meet with Brother Monson and Elder Perry to discuss this kind of reorganization in general and as it applies to the Historical Department. This is a matter which might require several weeks, perhaps even months. Brother Hunter said he could see the number of advantages to having this kind of administrative setup as far as the Historical Department was concerned. He and Brother Hunter also spoke favorably of placing museums and historic sites as a third department under the historic division.

[LJA Diary, 5 Dec., 1973]

Last night President Lee died at about 9:00 p.m. We had gone to the airport just before 9:00 to take Susie to meet her plane to fly to Sacramento. Her plane was late and we returned back around 10:00. Carl and Chris had just gotten back from the movie Papillion and driving back from it had heard a news report that President Lee had died. We immediately turned on the TV to get the 10:00 news and hear a brief report. Then there was a longer special report after the news on KSL TV. Of course, there was longer article in the Tribune this morning.

President Lee was trained much of his life to be an administrator and was in the process of perfecting the organization of the Church. In addition, he was energetic in seeking to meet the members of the Church and speak to them in youth firesides, special meetings of Church employees, Church officials, and so on. I have the feeling that his diligence in accepting so many appointments during the Christmas vacation must have been wearing on his health. In a very real sense his desire to administer to the Church in a personal and direct way must have been the factor in his death.

I delivered to Brother Haycock a week ago the essay on President Lee to appear in the new edition of Presidents of the Church by Preston Nibley. Brother Haycock was flying to New York with President Lee and said that he would make certain that President Lee read it while on the plane. I shall not know for at least a week whether he read the essay and whether he had made corrections and other suggestions. President Kimball has not had the same administrative experience or training that President Lee had. He has not served as an officer in important business organizations nor as a member of the First Presidency nor as the director of any important program except the LDS Indian Committee. He is therefore untried as an administrator and we shall have to await further judgment as to his abilities in this regard.

President Kimball has impressed me as a person who is sincere, devoted, and faithful. He is a conservative Churchman–unsophisticated and shrewd in the worldly sense of that term. His great forte is in dealing with the problems of individuals–dealing with the single problems in an individual way rather than through organizational devices. He follows up conference visits with letters to the stake presidents about problems which occurred to him, and he writes numerable letters to individuals, missionaries, friends, mission presidents, stake presidents, and so on about problems which arise. He keeps a very full and complete diary and has promised us that this diary will come to the Church Archives upon his death.

Although President Kimball is seventy-eight–almost seventy-nine–he seems to be vigorous and healthy. He has had a number of illnesses, however, which suggest that his tour as president will not be long. The Church offices will be closed in memory of President Lee tomorrow, December 28. The funeral will be Saturday at noon. The body will be viewed in the Church Administration Building tomorrow. We do not yet know the details of the funeral, but I revised the essay on President Lee submitted to Deseret Book and sent copies to Presidents Kimball, Tanner and Romney. We have also put together materials that we have on President Kimball and Carl and I will probably attempt to write an essay for President Kimball for inclusion also in Presidents of the Church.

[LJA Diary, 27 Dec., 1973]

Last night I spoke to Cannon-Hinckley on “What’s New in Church History.” Perhaps eighty persons were there. Sitting at the head table besides Dave and Bea Evens and Grace and I were President and Sister Kimball, Dr. and Sister Neal Maxwell, Dr. and Sister Jim Mason, and a granddaughter and beau of David Evans. Also there last night were President and Sister Romney, the Sterling Sills, Theodore Buttons, Henry D. Taylors, and many other friends and supporters of Church history.

In the talk I told three stories for the women and then explained briefly the organization and programs of the Historical Department. I then read a letter of Brigham Young to his son, Willard; another from John Taylor to his two little children; another from Wilford Woodruff to Forest and Stream and then from a letter of Mary Fielding Smith to her sister Mercy and from Hyrum Smith to Mary Fielding in 1839.

Those present seemed interested and delighted with the talk. Grace said that it was well done and well performed. President Kimball was complementary as were various others who were present.

[LJA Diary, 16 Jan., 1974]

Don Schmidt came in early this morning. He said that he was not completely satisfied with the decision reached on our meeting Tuesday with Brothers Hunter and McConkie. He said that he felt the Church should recognize that Earl has been running the department and that he should be given an appointment which acknowledges that and gives him a free hand in doing what he has been doing as far as budgets and other decisions that have been made. He said that he went to Earl and told this to him, and Earl acknowledged the truth of it. When Don said, “We might as well recognize that you have been running the department for the past two years,” Earl replied, not boastfully, that he had been running it in actuality for the past fifteen years.

He agreed with Don that it would make his task much easier if this were recognized in an official way. This thought entered into Earl’s discussion with Brother Russell Williams, and Earl also went to Bother McConkie and talked to him about it. Brother McConkie then went into a huddle with Elder Hunter, who agreed with it. Brothers Hunter and McConkie said they would take the matter up with the Quorum of the Twelve. Conceivably it could have been discussed yesterday. If not, then next Thursday.

I asked Don exactly what they would be proposing. He said he didn’t know exactly, but he understood something like this. They would propose that Brother Anderson be made managing director of the department of replace Brother Dyer, who has not functioned for more than a year and a half. Also that Earl be made assistant managing director, so that Brother Anderson would continue in precisely the same capacity that he has functioned for the past year and Earl would function in the same capacity that he has been functioning for several years, except that it would now be official. His authority would be primarily in the area of budgets and personnel.

This then would leave Brother Anderson and Earl free to appoint Brother Schmidt as Archivist-Librarian and they would then accomplish a merger of the archives and library divisions. Presumably all of this would leave me in precisely the same status as I have been for the past two years.

[LJA Diary, 8 Feb., 1974]

Elder Bruce R. McConkie 

Council of the Twelve 

Room 304 

Church Administration Building

Dear Elder McConkie:

Because of the interest you expressed yesterday in the status of our various programs, I thought you might be interested in a brief report.

(1) Oral History Program. This program was started in August 1972 and is under the direction of Brother William C. Hartley. We have interviewed more than two hundred persons including about half of the General Authorities, about one hundred returned mission presidents, and former administrators of Church programs and we have a dozen “oldtimers” with interesting information and stories to tell. Brother Hartley has also prepared a handbook of how to interview, which is available for persons doing family histories. Excerpts from that have appeared in the Ensign and New Era.

(2) One-volume history. This volume was authorized in the summer of

1973 and we began work on it in September 1973. Involved are Brother James B. Allen, an Assistant Church Historian; Brother Reed Durham of the Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City; and Brother Glen Leonard. The latter is working on it full-time. We estimate it will take approximately a year before the manuscript is completed. We are planning a volume of about five hundred pages. This volume, of course, will be published by Deseret Book Company.

(3) Mormon Heritage Series. We began work on volumes for this series in 1972. Our first volume of Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons, edited by Brother Dean Jessee, has now been delivered to Deseret Book Company and should be out by late summer. Brother Jessee is now working on a volume of the writings of Joseph Smith. This would incorporate in one volume all the holograph writings of the prophet. Brother Jessee is providing introductions and footnotes. We estimate that it will require the rest of the year to complete the manuscript for this book.

Other volumes scheduled for this series in the near future include: The Internationalization of Mormonism by Dr. Spencer Palmer; The Story of Woman in the History of the Church by Brother Ken Godfrey; The Writings and Sermons of Elder Heber C. Kimball by Stan Kimball; In the Bonds of Love: The Letters of Joseph and Emma Smith edited by Richard Anderson. All of these volumes are being published by Deseret Book Company.

(4) Biographies. A 500-page biography of Charles C. Rich has been completed by Leonard Arrington and is now at BYU Press, who will probably publish it. A biography of Eliza R. Snow is being prepared by Sister Maureen Ursenbach of our staff. This volume will probably be completed by the end of the year. Leonard Arrington is planning a biography of Brigham Young. At the present time the papers of Brigham Young are being organized and catalogued by our archival staff and a guide to these is being written by Brother Ron Esplin. When that is completed, hopefully sometime this spring, Leonard Arrington will begin his biography.

We have given serious consideration to Joseph Smith, but we understand that one has been prepared by Professor Marvin Hill at BYU and his sister, a writer in New York. We hesitate going ahead with our project until we see the manuscript of this. Brother Hill has promised to show us the manuscript before it goes to the printer which will probably be this spring. If the Hill biography does not appear to take care of our needs, we will probably go ahead with our own plans to do a biography.

(5) Sesquicentennial History. With the approval of the First Presidency, contracts were signed with sixteen separate authors in November and December of 1972 whereby each will prepare a volume for our sixteen-volume history of the Latter-day Saints. These volumes will require three or four years to prepare. None of the authors is working full-time on the project. However, we think that some of the volumes will be reedy by 1977 and hopefully all of them will be ready by 1980 when we celebrate our 150th anniversary. These volumes, of course, will be published by Deseret Book Company.

(6) We have been preparing articles on a more or less regular basis for submission to the New Era and Ensign magazines and for professional historical publications. Some of our staff members have prepared articles which will appear in such journals as Western American Quarterly, Pacific Historical Review, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Idaho Yesterdays, Utah Historical Quarterly, Arizona and the West, Southern Historical Review, New York History, Missouri Historical Review, and others of this character.

It was agreed by the First Presidency in 1972 that Mormon historians could be given improved status and recommendation by articles appearing in such journals. 

(7) One-volume history. The First Presidency also approved the preparation of a one-volume history designed essentially for university students and professors and general readers who are not LDS an not well acquainted with our history and doctrine. With their approval, Brother Davis Bitton and I have agreed to undertake this project for publication in an Eastern press-possibly Alfred A. Knopf. Brother Bitton and I have both been working somewhat on this project. We hope to have it completed within a year or two.

There are two points that I want to clarify. The first is that our staff members do not receive “double pay.” By arrangements approved by the First Presidency, our staff members who write will receive royalties but to the extent that these writings are being prepared in our office while they are on the job, the royalties will be contributed to the Mormon History Trust Fund, a tax exempt foundation administered by Leonard Arrington, James Allen, and Davis Bitton. Funds from it are used to support our programs. Thus for example, we have required extra secretarial help to transcribe our oral history interviews, and we have used some of this fund to support that help. We have also made some grants to persons doing research for us in other libraries through the agency of this fund.

The other thing that should be made clear is that we have a reading committee for all of the manuscripts prepared by the members of our staff. This reading committee consists of the Church Historian, the two Assistant Church Historians, and our Historical Department Editor, Maureen Ursenbach.


Leonard J. Arrington

[LJA to Elder Bruce R. McConkie; LJA Diary, 6 Mar., 1974]

Dear Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie:

Shortly after our appointments early in 1972 to work with the Historical Department, Elder Alvin Dyer and I held a series of meetings to work out a suitable program of historical research and writing.  Elder Dyer made clear that this program would need to be approved by the First Presidency of the Church.  Among the immediately apparent needs was a detailed history of the Latter-day Saints which covered the entire span of Church history, including extended treatment of Church history in this century.  We referred to this as the sesquicentennial history project because we thought we should work toward the goal of having it ready for distribution no later than the celebration of the Church’s sesquicentennial in 1980.  The program as presented orally to the First Presidency and approved by them tentatively on August 8, 1972, and subsequently confirmed by letter dated September 13, 1972, included the following elements:

  1. Under the recommendation of the Historical Department, and with the approval of the First Presidency, contracts would be entered into with sixteen leading LDS historians, each to prepare a volume for the history.
  2. The volumes would be published under a special imprint by the Deseret Book Company.  Copyright would be owned by Deseret Book.
  3. Each volume was to be read by a committee of four people, consisting of the Church Historian, the two Assistant Church Historians, and the editor of the Historical Department.  The contracts would specifically state that no volume would be submitted for publication without the specific approval of the Church Historian.

Elder Dyer was concerned over the matter of the screening of the manuscripts.  It was obvious that the manuscripts should be carefully gone over to assure that they were accurate, complete, and in good taste. Elder Dyer insisted that this be done by persons specially appointed and qualified to do it—persons who had a thorough knowledge of Church history and an equally thorough devotion and loyalty to the Church and its traditions. Elder Dyer thought this would be best accomplished by naming the Church Historian as general editor of the volumes and by insisting that it was the Church Historian’s responsibility to read and pass upon the volumes being prepared. My notes show that this was specified orally in the August 8 meeting with the First Presidency, and that it was made more explicit in subsequent letters to Elder Joseph Anderson (upon his appointment as Assistant Managing Director) and Elder Bruce R. McConkie (upon his appointment as an Advisor to the Historical Department).

In his many conversations with me Elder Dyer (subsequently reaffirmed by Elder Anderson) also made it clear that it was my responsibility to read all manuscripts of articles and books prepared by members of my staff in the Church History Division in order to insure high quality work, accuracy, and good taste. I have taken this responsibility seriously and I have gone one step further by insisting that all our manuscripts must be read not only by myself but also by our two Assistant Church Historians and by our editor. In the interest of accurate and fair recounting of Church history I have also encouraged other historians writing about the Church and its history, both members of the Church and non-members, to submit their papers to us to read and criticize. Many, but unfortunately no all, have done so.

Although the responsibility of screening these manuscripts is a heavy one, and sometimes overwhelming in its demands on my time, it is a responsibility I am glad to shoulder, and my assistants also. But, as Elder Dyer pointed out to us, we have both the knowledge of Church history and the commitment to the objectives of the Church that are required in such a screening committee. It is a responsibility we take seriously and prayerfully.

Not that we can please every reader on every decision. My counsellors (the two assistant historians) and I often discuss at length whether a given item should be mentioned or not and if so, how it should be worded. We feel very strongly–we have an abiding faith based on years of experience in working with this on a day-to-day basis—that our Church history can be written in a manner that will be professionally acceptable and at the same time edifying to the Saints.

We have a great heritage; the hand of the Lord has been in the work. Whatever examples of human frailty show up along the way, the overall impact of our history cannot help but be positive.


[LJA to Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie, 22 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]

Dear Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie:

The “History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1980” in sixteen volumes, sometimes referred to as the “sesquicentennial history,” is one of the major projects sponsored by the Historical Department of the Church. This project has necessitated careful planning and approval (on the organization of the project, the authorship of individual volumes, and terms of the contracts) and I feel that we have been responsible in moving ahead step by step. The following summary of decisions and approvals should be helpful in pointing out what has been done and why.

April 4, 1972:  Elder Alvin R. Dyer enthusiastically approved the Prospectus for the proposed sesquicentennial history (attached). Individual authors were not to be contacted until after their names were approved and decisions had been made regarding the financing of the project. 

August 8, 1972:  The project, naming specific proposed authors for individual volumes, was presented to the First Presidency, only Presidents Lee and Romney being present. The response was affirmative, but President Lee wanted to get President Tanner’s opinion before giving official approval.

September 13, 1972:  A letter approving this project (with others) was signed by Presidents Tanner and Romney in behalf of the full First Presidency.

September 14, 1972:  At a meeting with Brother James Mortimer of Deseret Book Company it was agreed that Deseret Book’s lawyer would draw up a contract for individual authors. Contracts were not to be mailed until the proposal was approved by the board of Deseret Book and Historical Department advisors. 

September 15, 1972:  Elder Howard W. Hunter, as Historical Department Advisor, approved (1) preparing a binding contract with Deseret Book Company to publish the sesquicentennial history; and (2) writing each of the contemplated authors inviting them to prepare the assigned volume.

September 27, 1972:  Approval by board of Deseret Book Company.

October 15, 1972:  By this date each of the sixteen approved authors had agreed to write an assigned volume under conditions stipulated by Deseret Book and the Historical Department.

December 1, 1972:  Contract prepared by Deseret Book Company was sent to individual authors, along with a $500 advance on royalties. The royalty agreement was the standard percentage used by Deseret Book Company with other authors.

December 14, 1972:  Letter of information to Elder Joseph Anderson, newly appointed acting managing director, explained that the contracts had been “approved by the Board of Deseret Book Company” and sent to individual authors.

January 23, 1973:  At meeting of executives of the Historical Department of the Church, including Elder Joseph Anderson, it was reported that the sixteen contracts had all been signed.

March 8, 1973:  The First Presidency in a meeting with Brothers Arrington and Anderson asked for further explanation of the royalties. The only questions had to do with (1) the possibility of a flat fee in lieu of royalties; and (2) the possibility of using some of these volumes as manuals and texts, in which case it seemed improper to pay royalties on any Church Distribution edition. The second question was the major reservation expressed by the First Presidency. Brother Arrington agreed to take up this matter with the authors.

April 17, 1973:  Leonard Arrington sent to Historical Department advisors and Elder Anderson a Report on Pay to Authors of the Volumes of the “History of the Latter-day Saints” (see attached) which clarified the royalty policy. This was written after he had discussed the matter with some of the authors.

June 26, 1973:  It having been decided that it would be wise to have signed approval from the authors waiving royalties on any manual or church text editions of their works, the First Presidency was asked (in a meeting that included Elders Bruce R. McConkie, Howard W. Hunter, Joseph Anderson, Leonard Arrington, Earl Olson, and Donald Schmidt) the following question: “Are we free to send the attached letter of waiver of royalties to the authors of the sixteen volumes of Church history being prepared?”  The First Presidency recommended a slight rewording that would allow modifications and alterations if the volumes were used as manuals. Approval was granted. The First Presidency appeared to feel that this took care of “the royalty problem” and dropped the proposal to pay a flat fee in lieu of royalties.

June 27, 1973:  The letter of waiver was sent to the individual authors. (See attached.) It has since been signed by each of the sixteen approved authors.

July 2, 1973:  So far as royalties on historical works to be received by persons who are employed partly or entirely by the Historical Department are concerned, a principle was approved by the First Presidency on July 2, 1973 whereby royalties on work performed by persons on department time will be used to support the research and writing program of the history division of the Historical Department.

November 8, 1973:  Elder Thomas Monson, representing the Board of Deseret Book Company, spoke to the assembled authors of the sesquicentennial history. He was enthusiastic in his support of the project.

May 29, 1974:  The First Presidency was given a review of the various projects of the Historical Department. Although no thorough review of the projects was conducted, President Kimball seemed to be especially enthusiastic about the sesquicentennial history of the Church.

The above decisions have seemed wise and proper and have been approved by the advisors to the Historical Department, the Board of Deseret Book company, and the First Presidency. These decisions seem to provide for fair and equitable payment to the authors, while protecting the interest of the Church in the event that any of the material is used in manuals.

In the event that there is any reason to reconsider, we hope that can be done in such a way as not to give the impression to the authors of confusion or any desire to go back on a contractual agreement. In particular, if there is any disposition to prefer a fee in lieu of contract, such an option might be offered the individual authors at the time of submitting their individual manuscripts without at this moment changing the existing agreement.


[LJA to Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie, 10 Jun., 1974; LJA Diary]

A week ago yesterday the Quorum of Twelve are reported to have discussed the question of royalties to the authors of the volumes of the sesquicentennial history. I made a report on the matter to Elders Hunter and McConkie, and I personally delivered it Tuesday. Presumably they read it before the meeting of the Quorum of Twelve yesterday. It is my understanding that the Quorum of Twelve yesterday, after some discussion of the matter, voted definitely to cancel the royalty provisions of the contract, and Jim Mortimer and myself should meet to agree on a fixed sum to be paid to each author as payment for his labor and as an inducement to surrender his contract for royalties to be paid in the future. Whether Elders McConkie and Hunter used any of the information I supplied in the discussion I do not know.

I did hear that some person in the Quorum of Twelve had investigated some precedents on this. They reported at the meeting, for example, that James E. Talmage was not paid one cent of royalty or money in lieu of royalty on Articles of Faith or Jesus the Christ.  It was also reported that B. H. Roberts was not paid royalties or money in lieu of royalties for his six-volume Comprehensive History of the Church.  Of course, both of these brothers were apostles of the Church and did all the work on Church time. Moreover, these volumes were published by the Church.

In the case of Essentials of Church History, Joseph Fielding Smith did receive and his heirs continue to do so. The same with Preston Nibley and his works, and the same with all other works including those authored by the First Presidency and other General Authorities.

Jim Mortimer and I had a meeting this afternoon and we agreed to recommend that each author be offered a lump sum payment of $25,000 for his work in writing the volume in return for which he would surrender the contract. This payment would be made as follows: one-fourth at the time he completes the manuscript, one-fourth at the time the book is published, one-fourth after one year of sales, and the final one-fourth after a second year of sales. Jim will write a letter to Elders Monson and McConkie as he had been directed presumably to be signed also by me.  If they approve Jim and I agreed that we would write a joint letter with both our signatures to each of the sixteen authors.

[LJA Diary, 14 Jun., 1974]

Dear Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie:

We should like to inform you that the first volume which we have sponsored is due for publication on Pioneer Day, July 24, 1974. This is Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, edited by Dean Jessee of our office. The book is published by Deseret Book Company and represents the first in our Mormon Heritage Series. Deseret Book plans to price the book at $9.95. It is approximately 400 pages in length, and is published with a distinctive binding, paper, and logo designed by Keith Montague who was employed by Deseret Book for the purpose.

The book includes a literary introduction by J. H. Adamson and a general historical introduction by Dean Jessee. The latter is similar to Brother Jessee’s two-part article in The Ensign earlier this year. There is a biographical introduction to each of President Young’s sons, followed by the letters being published, together with a brief historical introduction to each letter. The book will include photos of the sons and also a useful index.

This book, which is now in page-proof at Deseret Book where it may be seen in this preliminary form by either of you Brethren if you wish, has been approved in manuscript form by our Screening Committee. We have followed policies described in our letter to you of June 7, 1974. Let me say that I suggested this book to Brother Jessee in 1972, and that it makes in my judgment, an important contribution toward our appreciation of President Brigham Young. President Young has been known as a great colonizer, an administrator, an organizer.  He is seen in these letters to have been one of America’s great letter writers.  He had a warm relationship with his sons, and his advice and counsel is wonderful—just as relevant today as one hundred years ago when it was written.

We think this will help members of the Church and other readers to appreciate Brigham young as the fine father, husband, and leader that he was.  We think it will be a fine book for students going away to colleges and universities, for persons going away to work, for young men going into the national service.  We think this provides a fine start to our Mormon Heritage Series.


[LJA to Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie, 17 Jun., 1974; LJA Diary]

After I returned to the office Brother [Joseph] Anderson told me that he understood that the Quorum of Twelve had discussed again the matter of contracts with our sesquicentennial authors and had decided that Jim Mortimer should offer them a flat sum of $20,000.  We are to notify in writing that decision, whereupon Jim and I are to write letters to each of the authors.

[LJA Diary, 21 Jun., 1974]

Brother Arrington reported having received an invitation from Dialogue magazine to publish in their magazine a talk he gave in one of the Annual Lectures at Brigham Young University on the role of humor in our lives, in which was included sections on Latter-day Saint humor.  He asked if there would be any objection to his doing this.  It was decided to discuss the matter with the advisors in the meeting with them this afternoon.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 25 Jun., 1974; LJA Diary]

Yesterday at 2:00 p.m. Earl, Don, Elder Anderson, and myself met for one and one half hours with Elders Hunter and McConkie. Two items affected my own work. First, I asked them for permission to publish the humor article in Dialogue. They replied with a flat no. The reason they gave was that they did not want a Church official dignifying Dialogue with articles they have prepared. They told me members of the Church would reach the conclusion that if articles by official Church appointees were published in Dialogue this gives a semi-official approval of the publication and of other articles in it.

The second matter was the royalty payments on the sesquicentennial history. They informed me that the Twelve had debated the matter at some length and had reached a near unanimous agreement that Jim Mortimer and myself negotiate with the sixteen authors for a flat payment of a maximum of $20,000 in return for surrendering their contract. They said that Jim and I will receive today or tomorrow a letter from the First Presidency instructing us to do this. They took some pains, to assure me that this represented no want of confidence in our work and in arrangements we had made previously. They assumed that we were properly authorized to do what we did. Nevertheless they felt strongly that they must set a limit on what each person would receive. They also said that they assume that the writers will all agree to this—”Who would sue the First Presidency?” ‘They also felt that if any of the authors should decline to agree, we ought to drop him and get another person. Some members of the Twelve expressed the view that persons ought to write on a Church service basis—without any compensation at all. Elder LeGrand Richards pointed out that he had never received a cent for writing A Marvelous Work and A Wonder. James  E. Talmage did not receive anything for writing Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith nor B. H. Roberts for Comprehensive History. On the other hand, though it may not have been so expressed there were at least two-thirds of the brethren present that were at that moment drawing royalties from books published by Deseret Book under their names. The Twelve seem to regard our histories as semi-official publications in the same category as writing manuals for classes. On the other hand, Brother Hunter and McConkie both agreed that this was a professional work that would require much time and labor and expense, and they think the person should be paid. Nearly all the Twelve thought $20,000 was too much, but since Jim Mortimer and I had set that as our bottom figure, they chose to set that as a maximum that we are authorized to offer the authors. I asked Jim Mortimer to consider allowing each of the authors to keep the $500 they received when we first negotiated the contract with them so their total payment would be $20,000 plus $500 already received. He said he would touch bases with his people—probably Brother Monson and Brother Ashton—and would attempt to allow for that as a good will gesture.

[LJA Diary, 26 Jun., 1974]

Jim Allen came in with Davis this afternoon. I had been pressuring him to get things moving at a faster rate on the one-volume history which he and Glen Leonard and Reed Durham has been assigned to do to take the place of Essentials of Church History. Jim had a long, confidential talk with Reed Durham and pointed out that Reed had not been able to spend very much time on this project. As a matter of fact, he had not written a single chapter. Reed, furthermore, said that he did not think the situation would be improved during the coming year—did not think that he would be able to spend much time on it. Jim, therefore, suggested that it might be best if he withdrew from participation in this volume and Reed agreed that it was a practical thing to do. Jim assured us that Reed’s discontinuance of participation in the project was done with good feelings for the job that has to be done. He will presumably not blame us and presumably has no feeling that we may have been moved in this direction as a result of his address in Nauvoo.

Davis, Jim, and I agreed upon the following. Jim will put all the time he can on it, Glen Leonard understands fully the importance of moving ahead more rapidly and will proceed to write chapters, hopefully at the rate of one every three weeks. Jim has assigned Bruce Blumell to prepare some of the chapters and thinks he will be able to turn out three or four in the next few months. We have agreed that we will ask Betty Barton to prepare the chapter on the 1930s as her first assignment with us and will give her from three to four weeks to prepare the chapters. This seems logical since the 1930s was the depression period and includes the section on the Welfare Plan which she is interested in. If this work seems satisfactory, we may ask her to do another chapter, say the chapter on the 1940s for that volume.  This will take us up about to September 1.  We will then ask John Bluth who will come with us half-time beginning September 1 to do three or four chapters under the direction of Jim, say one chapter per month.  We will hold Gene Sessions in reserve so that if it looks like we will not meet our deadlines—by lagging behind—then we will assign one or two of the chapters to Gene Sessions when he completes the Moyle work.

[LJA Diary, 28 Jun., 1974]

In a meeting this afternoon with Elder Howard Hunter, he shed a little light on my appointment.  He said that as Church Historian and in consultation with Earl, who was Assistant Church Historian, they were considering the appointment of another Assistant Church Historian.  He left the inference that they were considering me for that position.

About the time they were ready to make an appointment the First Presidency received a report from the Bickmore Committee in which strong suggestions were made that the members of the Quorum of the Twelve be relieved of administrative positions and so just at that moment, the First Presidency decided that rather than appoint an Assistant Church Historian, they should relieve Brother Hunter and appoint a Church Historian instead and this accounts for my appointment in my capacity.

[LJA Diary, 17 Sep., 1974]

Brother Schmidt stated that after having completed an appraisal of the material in the files of President David O. McKay, he would recommend that President McKay’s scrapbooks, which consist mainly of newspaper articles, etc., not be restricted; that, however, a restriction be placed on the other papers and materials for a period of twenty-five years from the death of President McKay, or until 1995.  It was the sentiment of the brethren that any exceptions to be made with reference to the restricted material would be with the permission of the Church Librarian-Archivist and Church Historian, the same as is done with respect to the papers of other deceased presidents of the Church.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 19 Sep., 1974; LJA Diary]

Yesterday afternoon Earl called to say that Elder Howard Hunter wanted to see him and me in Earl’s office. Brother Hunter spent approximately an hour with us. He had spent much of the morning in the office of the First Presidency, possibly much of the time spent on Historical Department matters.

First, he brought with him two signed copies of the exchange agreement with the RLDS Church. Earl is to keep the original for our files and send the carbon, signed also by Spencer Kimball and Wallace Smith, Earl Olson and Richard Howard, to Brother Howard. The agreement then goes into force immediately.

Second, Brother Hunter brought two copies of a letter signed by him and Bruce McConkie authorizing and instructing Jim Mortimer and myself to prepare new contracts for authors of our sesquicentennial history volumes. Apparently there had been a long discussion with the First Presidency about this. President Tanner kept trying to figure out why we had moved up from $7,500 to $20,000 for a case settlement with these authors. Other matters were also discussed. Brother Hunter said that the First Presidency were concerned that some of the volumes would be heavily used and purchased and others very little. Moreover, he thought that some persons would have to work years digging out the information others might be able to dash off a suitable book in half a year. They thought the fairest thing might be to give the same payment to each of the writers.

The First Presidency did not want to prepare a letter for their own signature because they not want the writers to think that the First Presidency were attempting to browbeat them into surrendering their contract unduly. This is why they instructed that the letter be signed by Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie. The letter is very similar–almost identical to the one I had submitted to Brother Hunter previously for possible signature by the First Presidency. Brother Hunter asked if I accepted this arrangement. I asked him a number of questions: “May we still offer as much as $20,000 as a cash settlement?” He replied, “Yes.” I asked, “Are we free to negotiate with each person as to how much he receives and when he receives it, without any subsequent approval by the advisors or First Presidency?” He replied, “Yes.” I asked whether we are free to use his letter and deliver a suitable letter of our own to these brethren to accomplish the exchange in contracts. He said “Yes.”

I said, “Under those circumstances I certainly approve of this. I see no problems and foresee that each of the authors will eventually sign the new contract and surrender the old one.” I also said that if we are able to offer up to $20,000, we might very well get some of the volumes more quickly than the promise of royalty through life.

Brother Hunter said that the First Presidency were very concerned on the matter of the contract because they had never understood that we had issued contracts already signed providing for perpetual payment of royalties. They did not understand that they had approved of that arrangement. They saw all kinds of problems after the death of a person or if he became bankrupt–all sorts of legal problems that might develop and they wanted this l6-volume history to be a monument which would always be in print. This is why they felt so very strongly about having a cash settlement. . . .

Davis says that when he was the editor of L’etoile as a French missionary, he saw the little book by G. F. Bousquet on the Mormons.  He noted that he was a professor at the University of Algiers and Davis wrote him a nice little letter complimenting him in general but mentioned two or three defects.  One was Bousquet had mentioned as a problem of the Book of Mormon that Lehi and his group in crossing Arabia had come to a river.  Davis suggested that in rainy seasons didn’t the water come down rapidly and form rivers in gullies.

Bousquet replied with a very cordial letter saying that if you could come to Arabia and see what it is like, you would never suppose that anyone traveling there had come to a river—it just isn’t that way.

Davis sent him a copy of Lehi in the Desert by Hugh Nibley.  Bousquet replied again with a friendly letter and said, “I think all of this is fine, but I still say if Dr. Nibley had ever been to Arabia, he would never defend the idea that Lehi in crossing that desert came to a river as described in the Book of Mormon.

[LJA Diary, 10 Oct., 1974]

Reference was made to an article written by Mike Quinn which was recently published in the Journal of Mormon History which points out that in the early days of the Church some brethren were appointed to positions in the leading councils without having been ordained.  This information does not agree with the information we have on our official listing of the General Authorities, and consideration was given to the matter of whether or not our listing should be revised.  It seemed to be the consensus of opinion that the official listing might remain as it is except that footnotes be added showing the source of any additional information.  Brother Anderson will read and give consideration to the article in question.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 29 Oct., 1974; LJA Diary]

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.  Under the heading of new business EJder Hunter read the attached letter from Elder Packer to the First Presidency.  This had been read at the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve on November 14, and had led to a rather full discussion of the work and programs of the Historical Department. Elder McConkie was not present at that meeting, and Elder Hunter had not been presented with an advance copy of the letter, and was not able to furnish answers to some of the questions raised. So his attitude was to “cool it,” to postpone any kind of recommendation or action.  He said he told Elder Packer that the letter should have been directed to him or to me, rather than to the First Presidency, and give us a chance to consider it and make whatever response we thought it required. Other members of the Twelve seemed to agree with this. . . .

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]

Dear Brother Arrington,

I appreciate very much your report of what you are doing.  I have nothing but praise for the effort you are making to be successful in all the many projects which are currently in process, as well as those still in the planning stages.

Your friendship is greatly appreciated and I wish you well in the coming years.


Alvin R. Dyer

[Alvin R. Dyer to LJA, 3 Dec., 1974; LJA Diary]

Last night Grace and I went to the home of Margaret and Harold Beecher to a dinner and “family home evening.”  We expected to find Hal and Margaret and their daughter Allyson and perhaps their other daughter and husband.  Instead we found quite a little group of important people. . . .  The program consisted of Hal showing us slides he had taken of the Washington Temple of which he was one of the four architects.  He gave us a great deal of inside information about the design and construction of the Washington Temple.  The most interesting thing he said was that after they had presented their basic plan for the temple, they were left completely free to work out everything with respect to design symbols, construction materials, and so on by the First Presidency and Council of Twelve.  This is a case where the professionals are left completely on their own to work out what seems to be best.  I said it would be nice if they would treat the historians the same way.

[LJA Diary, 17 Dec., 1974]

Resolutions of Leonard J. Arrington, January 1, 1975

  1. I expect, before the end of the year, to find some way of channeling administrative responsibilities to one or more of my assistants so I can concentrate more fully on my editing and writing work.

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1975]

This represents my annual appraisal of the work of the Church History Division for the year 1974. I shall file under the same date the appraisals of Davis and Jim and Dean Jessee, as they are turned in. Apparently, they did not turn in appraisals a year ago, but I have their appraisals for January 1, 1973. They have promised to prepare one for this year.

What are the outstanding accomplishments of our Church History efforts during the past three years? I shall list three that are of primary importance. First, the appointment of a staff of professional historians to prepare books, articles, and papers–to do research and writing in Church History. We have worked on books and articles and papers and made important advances in LDS historiography. Second, the program of fellowships and grants whereby we are able to give encouragement and assistance to other scholars, which will make possible more studies based on primary sources in our archives. Third, the contacts we make, talks we give, articles and books we prepare, which have prepared members of the church to accept and appreciate the professional approach to our history, and at he sane time, to demonstrate that Church history can be exciting, informative, and inspirational and, at the same time intellectually respectable and “honest.”

As to our primary problems the past three years, I shall list three. First, working with the Church bureaucracy. All of us have enjoyed or become used to academic life, where a minimum of bureaucratic regulations interfered with our work. Here there are many. They are frustrating, irritating, and mostly unnecessary. Bureaucratic officiousness is an ever-present bother. Second, the opposition of some persons to anything approaching “realistic,” “professional,” relevant history. There are persons, both in high places and not highly placed, who set themselves up as watchdogs or reporters, who protest against any historical analysis which is not 100 percent favorable to the Church and to Latter-day Saint individuals, or to any appraisal which admits failures, problems, differences of opinion, and defects in character and judgment. Third, the lack of a good aggressive acquisitions program which would help to feed in material we need. Many of us in the historical research and writing program have to devote time and energy to doing what should be done by an aggressive acquisitions person in Church Library-Archives. A fourth problem, continuing as a holdover, is the continuation of a policy of restriction of certain documents, many of which have no logical basis for being restricted.

I am pleased with the publication of Dean Jessee’s book, Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons, and its general acceptability. I look forward to his completion in 1975 of the holographs of Joseph Smith. I am also pleased with the first number in the Classic LDS Diaries, published by Peregrine Smith, namely, Jim Allen and Tom A1exander’s Manchester Diary of William Clayton. Bodes well for the entire series. I am also pleased to have had no. 1 of the Studies in Mormon History from BYU Press to come out, the biography of Charles C. Rich. Another accomplishment is the completion in first draft of the United Order book on which Dean May has been working most of the year, and the completion of several chapters of the biography of Edwin D. Woolley. Maureen’s progress on the Eliza Snow biography has been slower than I expected, but we have bothered her with many other assignments, I have been disappointed that Glen Leonard has not moved faster on the one-volume history of the Church. He has produced so very little to have been employed by us 16 months. But maybe he will pick up as time goes on. I have also been disappointed in the product turned out by Ron Esplin, but perhaps if he completes his exams satisfactorily he can move ahead on his work for us. I am also disappointed with the failure of Reed Durham to devote any time to work for us on the one-volume history, causing him to cancel out of that program. I am pleased with the output of James Allen, Davis Bitton, Dean Jessee, Jill Mulvay, Gene Sessions, Dean May, Maureen, Gordon, Bill Hartley, and Bruce Blumell. And of course the secietaries, of whom the most amazing are Chris Croft, and Sister Romney. Richard Jensen has done many valuable things for me, and I must give him more time to do some things under his own name. And Maureen we have got to encourage to do more for herself. Somehow we have got to get some output from Glen Leonard, perhaps give him some of Maureen’s responsibilities so she has more time to write. Hope we can find a vacancy to bring back Mike Quinn next fall. He is a prodigious and talented worker.  Ron Esplin obviously wants to finish his degree and go into teaching for the Institute of Religion, I think. So perhaps he will leave us, making room for Mike to come. Bill Hartley also will take his exams in February, I think, so may decide to take a leave of absence or something for a while. Our jobs do not pay well, in comparison with teaching jobs at universities, but jobs are scarce, and there are opportunities for publication that will help professionally.

One of our primary responsibilities is to develop the implications of new findings in Church History, and to advance new interpretations of our history. We have done this to some extent, but we should do more. And for some reasons some of the things we have developed would be interpreted as negative in its impact on the Church. We must he careful to do some exciting new sources and interpretations which are unquestionably positive in their impact on the ordinary church member.

We shall not have done our most important task until we complete our two one-volume histories. Others can perhaps handle as well as we the supervision of the 16-volume history; others can produce articles and other books as well as we. But I feel Davis, Jim, Maureen, and myself are the right people to see through to completion the two one-volume histories. We have had experience bridging the gap between pietistic history and professional history; we have had the experience in dealing with the political problems involved. We represent different approaches to Church History. We have the respect of the professionals–and of the ecclesiastics. We are uniquely qualified to do the one-volume histories. May the Lord bless us to complete that task and to complete it satisfactorily.

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1975; written 6 Dec., 1974]

REFLECTIONS ON 1974 by Davis Bitton

To list every specific accomplishment of the History Division during a given year would either be too routine to be meaningful or would run the risk of being incomplete. As I see it, therefore, it is the personal reaction that can be most meaningful. I will list a few accomplishments, not all, but will especially attempt to set forth my personal opinions and instincts as I look back on 1974.

Extremely important, as always, is morale. Morale of the personnel in our division remains positive, sometimes even jubilant. There is a feeling that Brother Arrington is doing everything in his power to look out for us and to upgrade salaries where this is advisable. In specific instances, which need not be mentioned here, this year has been a landmark in bringing the salary closer into line with what should be expected. There has been an admirable spirit of camaraderie and good feeling.

The year was also a year of publication. Several projects began coming to fruition. The publication of Manchester Mormons, while not specifically sponsored by the History Division, provided evidence of our desire to make primary sources available in responsible scholarly additions. Even more impressive in this regard was Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons. The Charles C. Rich book was published and was well received. Several articles by members of our staff or fellows have appeared. Especially important in my estimation are those by Michael Quinn and Ronald Walker.

Not reaching publication but moving to completion or near completion in manuscript were several important projects. The Guide to Mormon Diaries was finished, indexed, and sent off to the publisher at the end of the summer. The work is promised for 1975. The Arrington-Bitton one-volume history was finished except for one chapter. This is in the first draft typescript and remains to be refined and sent off to the publisher. Several chapters were also completed on the Allen-Leonard volume. The James H. Moyle project was brought to effective completion by Gene Sessions to the apparent satisfaction of the family. The Fox-Arrington-May manuscript on the United Order was brought to virtual completion, and this work, in my estimation, promises to be one of the major scholarly monographs of the decade. These are merely examples. A simple listing of each member of the staff along with the projects he has completed would provide a detailed listing of the activities of the History Division.

Less obvious in some ways than research and publication are the various public talks and lectures given by individual members of the department and these have been numerous. Some of them have been strategically located and should help to build up a reservoir of good will toward the Historical Department.

Criticism of our activities has been virtually non-existent with one important exception—a letter from a General Authority. One of the most gratifying things to me was the calm, confident way in which this was handled and the strong support of our advisors.

Looking to the future, we can expect further accomplishments along the same lines–publications, working papers and talks to groups within and without the Church. Should further problems develop we should pursue the even tenor of our ways, working within the context of faith to help produce the rich and varied historical writing deserved by the Church in this last dispensation.

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1975]

January 1, 1975

To: Leonard J. Arrington

From: James B. Allen

Re: Accomplishments of History Division for 1974

You asked Davis Bitton and myself each to write a short statement concerning the accomplishments of the History Division during the year 1974. Here are my thoughts.

It appears to me that 1974 must be remembered by us as a banner year in Church history, not just because of the unprecedented record of publications on Mormon history, but because this was the year, as I see it, in which many of our fondest hopes could clearly be seen maturing. My comments will perhaps be too “starry-eyed” in nature, for they center on these hopes and how I see them being fulfilled, so please excuse the sentimentality.

First, the publication of Dean Jessee’s Letters of Brigham Young to his Sons, Leonard Arrington’s Charles C. Rich and James Allen and Tom Alexander’s Manchester Mormons not only provided three highly significant contributions to Mormon scholarship, but launched what we hope will become three important Church history series: the Heritage Series to be published by Deseret Book, the Studies in Mormon History to be published by BYU Press, and the Classic Mormon Diaries series, edited by Davis Bitton and published by a non-Church publisher, Peregrine Smith, Inc. But just as important was the appearance of an unprecedented number of scholarly articles, most of which were based on at least some materials in the Church Archives and many of which were written under grants from our fellowship fund, or by members of the Department. The sudden appearance of such a mass of Church history seems only to be the culmination of something all of us have been working toward for many years, and only the beginning of an important era of new scholarship in the Church.

But just as important as the numerous publications is a second dream which, while it is not really fulfilled, is at least beginning to be fulfilled. One of our objectives, as I interpret our role, is to help change for good the image and understanding many Latter-day Saints have of their history. If their historical perception is clouded by myth and misunderstanding, and if their faith in the Church is such that any little bit of surprising information about Church history would shake it, then we want to help then understand the truth of history so well that historical problems no longer both them. We may never fully reach that ideal, of course, but this year there were some welcome indicators that at least we were beginning to make that Impact. Many members of our staff, and particularly Leonard Arrington himself, have had many opportunities to speak before all kinds of Church audiences, and to tell of what we are doing. In every case they seem to have been well accepted, and Leonard, especially, through speaking to literally thousands of Saints, has had more direct influence this way than perhaps any other Church historian of the twentieth century. In addition, the. response to the various books and articles has been overwhelmingly positive, and even though a few voices seem alarmed at the implications of the new scholarship they are in a distinct minority. In addition, both Leonard Arrington and James Allen have direct contact with many BYU students, and thus great impact on their perception of the history of the Church.

A third achievement is seen in the fact that the Historical Department of the Church is beginning to have a clear and unmistakable influence on the image of Mormonism and Mormon history in the scholarly world. This has come about in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that Leonard Arrington himself, because of his many contacts and great respect within the historical profession, is the Church historian. But in addition to this obvious influence, it is clear that other things are helping to promote a new Mormon image: (1) The quality of the publications emanating from the Historical Department, and from those people who have dome work under its auspices, cannot help but have a positive impact on the understanding of Mormon history in the scholarly world, and thus, eventually, in the writing about Mormons in textbooks, and in the teaching about Mormons in schools throughout the country. (2) It is clear by now that any scholar, be he Mormon or non-Mormon, who wishes to do serious research in Mormon history must now visit the Historical Department of the Church. Scholars are now aware that the library and archives of the Church are open to responsible researchers and that the materials here are so important that they cannot be ignored. As they come to the archives, therefore, it is my anticipation that they will leave not only with a better feeling about the Mormons, but with better material than they have ever had before with which to tell a well-balanced, honest story. In addition, Mormon scholars nearly always seek out Leonard Arrington for some kind of direction, and thus he continues to have at least some influence on their perspectives. (3) Through fellowships to Mormons and non-Mormons alike, we have increased the friendliness of the scholarly world toward the Church Historical Department. (4) Members of the Historical Department, as well as people who have been on fellowships here, participated in 1974 in a number of scholarly conventions either by reading papers or as commentators, and thus increased the exposure of the Department. I do not wish to imply, of course, that we have reached a golden era where everyone in the Church or in the academic world knows, or even cares, what we are doing. Indeed, probably only a small portion in either world are even aware of us. But among those who are interested, I think 1974 shows that the impact is becoming real. In addition it seems to me, at least, that the evidence suggests that the awareness of and interest in what we are doing is proportionately greater than ever before. It is this evidence of potential impact, then, that I see as the great accomplishment of the Historical Department in 1974.

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1975]

“Found on our Bulletin Board, Feb. 19, 1975”

  1. William Lund Club

“A pleasant alternative to the pedantic and longwinded luncheons of the Andrew Jenson Club on Fridays”


Our motto: Who gave you permission to see that?

Who gave you permission to say that?

Who gave you permission to hear that?


“Snoring is golden.”  –Our hero, AWL, 1970

This week’s director of silence:

Next week’s director of silence:


Look for the “quiet” sign.

[LJA Diary, 19 Feb., 1975]

3. Brother Arrington reported that Jim Allen, whose original appointment was for half time with the Historical Department, now desires to work for us at three-fourths time, and the other one-fourth time for Brigham Young University. This would begin on September 1st of this year and continue for a one-year period. Brother Arrington will prepare a letter to Russell Williams of the Personnel Department, to be endorsed by Brother Anderson, requesting that approval be given to an arrangement of this kind.

4. Brother Arrington stated that Davis Bitton has been working full time with the Historical Department since last September, and at the same, time has retained his appointment with the University of Utah. In order for him to retain his appointment with the University it is now necessary that he devote 80% of his time to the Historical Department and 20% to the University. He suggests that this arrangement become effective with the pay period March 22nd through May 30th, after which he will come back full time in the Historical Department. Approval for this arrangement will be included in the letter to Russell Williams relative to the status of Jim Allen above referred to. 

6. With reference to the biography of President Heber J. Grant, Brother Arrington read a letter from Truman Madsen stating that he had had in mind writing a biography relating to the intimate family history of President Grant. Brother Arrington read a letter he proposes to send in response to Brother Madsen’s letter, in which he informs Brother Madsen that we will go forward with our original plan to prepare a biography dealing with the history of the Grant administration. He also informed him that he should confer with Brother Schmidt regarding any requests he might have to microfilm President Grant’s papers which are in our archives. 

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 20 Feb., 1975; LJA Diary]

Elder Stapley now assigned to be one of our advisors to replace Bruce McConkie, who has been assigned to more active matters.  We think this will make no essential change.  We still expect full support from the Authorities for our program.  We feel fairly confident about that support.

[LJA to Children, 22 Feb., 1975; LJA Diary]

“Task Papers in LDS History”

Brother Arrington raised a question as to the proper disposition of task papers or studies prepared by members of the History Division which are not intended for immediate publication and which might be useful to other researchers. He recommended that a series be created which might be called “Task Papers in LDS History,” that each be given a number, and that it consist merely of a Xerox copy of a typescript, together with a cover which they have designed. He suggested that sufficient copies be made so that one might be placed in the History Division, one in the Church Archives, and one in the Church Library. Should requests be received from others, Brother Arrington recommended that copies be provided at a minimal charge to cover the cost of duplicating. The procedure outlined relative to such papers prepared by the History Division would also apply to papers prepared by “Fellows,” which are not intended for immediate publication.  Brother Arrington’s recommendations were approved.

[Minutes of Executives of the Historical Department, 6 May, 1975; LJA Diary]

Dear Leonard,

Thanks for the final revised copy of your commencement address, which we will use for the published version.

We are still receiving praising references and other evidences of good feeling about your address.  I don’t remember any commencement when we have had as much favorable comment as we have had about your talk.  Thank you again for this and all of the other things you have done and are doing for us.


Dallin H. Oaks

[Dallin H. Oaks to LJA, 8 May, 1975; LJA Diary]

Late yesterday afternoon I went to see Earl and Elder Anderson who gave me a report on Elder Hunter’s telephone call about the discussion in the Quorum of Twelve about the matters presented by Elder Hunter on our behalf. The following was the result:

  1. Proposal for multi-volume biography of Brigham Young. The Twelve got into a discussion about our previous proposal involving collaboration between myself and Jack Adamson. They confused this proposal with that one and neither approved or disapproved the proposal, but they simply asked Brother Hunter to assure that Jack Adamson would not be involved. Presumably this is something which may be brought up later by Elder Hunter.  We thought we had made clear in our memo our proposal, but perhaps Brother Hunter had not read it carefully. It would have helped things if we could have been outside the door to help things as the discussion went on. As it is they will not be meeting again until late August. My feeling is that we should go ahead with our planning as we have expected to do and await presenting the matter in a formal way until we meet with the First Presidency or if some other opportunity comes to do so. It is useless for our programs to be discussed by the Twelve without some of us there to give assurances.
  2. History of the Indians. They saw no objection to doing some Indian history, but they were on an economy track and did not wish to authorize employing any more persons. They said there were a couple of people in Internal Communications that knew Indian history and they would be glad to have some of them work with us on the project. They will be writing us a letter on that study. My reaction to that is that we are better off without this help since these people are oriented primarily toward doctrine, not history, so it seems to me we must simply plod along and do what we can with the human resources that we now have.
  3. Opening on Saturday. The Twelve were not opposed to opening on Saturday, but they did not wish to authorize us to employ any more persons. We are authorized to open on Saturdays if we can do it with the staff we have now.
  4. The reproduction of artifacts in the Beehive House in the Mormon Village east of Salt Lake City. This had been proposed by Florence. They authorized this be done provided they did not include President Young’s cane. This was the one item Florence thought would have the widest sale and the greatest interest. So I don’t know if the craftsmen will go ahead with this or not.
  5. Name of Historic Arts and Sites Committee. This was the name proposed by the committee and by our department. The Twelve, after some discussion, approved the name Historic Art and Sites Committee, so we don’t know whether Florence will react favorably to this or not,
  6. Brother Hunter also expected to bring up the matter of us doing a study of plural marriage. Brother Hunter said they had taken up so much time with the other proposals and were so unenthusiastic about them that he thought it the better part of wisdom not to bring up the matter at all of doing a study of plural marriage, so that was not presented—just as well.

[LJA Diary, 27 Jun., 1975]

I was told over the weekend that the fourteenth Article of Faith for the Church Historian should be: “I believe it is easier to repent than to ask permission.”

[LJA Diary, 30 Jun., 1975]

This morning about 2:00 I awoke for no reason that I can determine having had impressed on my mind the need to make a talk before our history division staff on the background of our origin and our administrative policies. I couldn’t go back to sleep and so stayed up for a couple of hours of reading and “messing around.” So let me record in the diary the thoughts that came to my mind and maybe I can rest in peace tonight.

During my interview with President Tanner on January 6, 1972, he suggested that I talk to Earl Olson who had also accepted a call to be church archivist. Earl and I talked for perhaps an hour and we decided that the bulk of the then present staff of the Historian’s Office should be under his direction since they were working in library and archives. We decided that it was my responsibility to set up some organization to fulfill the call from the First Presidency to me to write Church history. I asked Earl to make a tentative proposal as to who, if anybody in his group, should function under me. He in turn asked me to send a list of suggestions to him. As I recall, I talked with him the next day on Friday and the following Monday. I find in my diary a letter I wrote to him Saturday morning, January 8, in which I laid out what I planned to do. There is a note also which says that I conveyed all of this to him orally and it was not necessary for me to mail it.

Earl proposed to me that he thought Sister Romney, who had been retired a few weeks earlier, had been kept on at their request to be my temporary secretary (apparently Earl had known a little in advance that I would be called). So if I wanted her she would be assigned to work with me as a temporary secretary. Earl thought Merrill Lofthouse, who was in charge of the written records sent in from wards and stakes, should be under my direction and also Flora Chappuis, who at the time was working on the history of some of our European missions. He also said that if I wanted him I could have Dean Jessee, their chief cataloger because he thought Dean would be a natural to help us in writing history. I told him I certainly did want him.

Earl had each of these people placed in the area which he expected me to occupy–which was the area formerly under the direction of Brother A. William Lund, who had died the preceding February and was Assistant Church Historian along with Earl.

I find in the memo I wrote to Earl on January 8 a proposal that we inaugurate a sesquicentennial history, a heritage series, and also a series of articles for Church and professional magazines and journals. I find also an expression that I would like to have two Assistant Church Historians; namely, Jim Allen and Davis Bitton and also a note that I would like to have a historical assistant, Michael Quinn, to work halftime. Presumably, no contacts were made with any of these people at that time. The following Friday, January 14, President Tanner announced to the Historian’s Office staff–a group of about thirty-five people–the appointments of Elder Dyer, Earl and myself. At the same time Earl had arranged to have Brother Lund’s old office fixed up as an office for me–a nice rug on the floor, nice new table, nice new desk, chairs, a dictaphone, etc. I don’t know how Earl had accomplished this so quickly. Sister Romney, Merrill Lofthouse, Sister Chappuis all had desks in that area and were at their places. I immediately went to Dean Jessee and asked him if he would agree to come in, in the capacity of Historical Associate. He said he would be happy to and at the same time I asked Michael Quinn if he would work half-time, and he agreed to do so as an Historical Assistant.

Brother Dyer arranged for us to meet Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00 and I told him on the occasion of our first meeting that I wanted Jim and Davis as Assistant Church Historians, Dean as an Historical Associate, and Michael Quinn and Richard Jensen, who was at the time pursuing a Ph.D. at Ohio State University, as Historical Assistants. I told Brother Dyer about the need to do the sesquicentennial history, to start the Heritage Series, and about the need to prepare articles and perhaps other books. Brother Dyer said he would go to the First Presidency about our organizational procedure. He said he thought it would be wisest for us to ask to become a department of the Church and to change our name. He asked me to consider what our new name should be. In our second meeting, I suggested Historical Department  of the Church. Brother Dyer, Earl and myself discussed that at some length. Brother Dyer then went to the First Presidency and the First Presidency suggested that he go to the Quorum of the Twelve. Brother Dyer then arranged a meeting with the Quorum o the Twelve, to which he invited Earl and myself to sit outside. At the proper moment when they were ready to discuss our matters, we were then called in. Brother Dyer had had us work with the graphics department in preparing some huge posters. He asked Earl to talk about the new organization of archives involving the appointment of Don Schmidt. He asked me to talk about the new organization of what we decided to call Church History Division involving the appointment of the two Assistant Church Historians and such other historical associates and assistants as we might need, He also asked me to talk about projects. He had suggestion the desirability of having an advisory council of about a dozen people. I had suggested about a dozen names. They would give us counsel on projects. The Twelve discussed all of this in our presence and asked us questions and finally a motion was made to approve our proposals. It was passed unanimously. It was obvious to me, however, that some of the Twelve were not enthusiastic in approving some of the names on our list for the Advisory Council. I talked privately with one of the members of the Twelve about it and finally decided to drop the whole idea. The Twelve asked me to prepare a resumé for the two Assistant Church Historians, which I did immediately and got back to them before the end of their meeting. They then approved the two names subject to interview by Brother Dyer. Brother Dyer then asked me to call Jim and Davis in and gave them an interview about an hour each and called them to their positions. Both accepted. We gathered in my office with Dean Jessee and had a prayer of thanksgiving that we were now organized and ready to function. I told Jim and Davis that I would regard them as my counselors in the equivalent of a stake presidency and from that time we have operated under that kind of an arrangement.

[LJA Diary, 8 Jul., 1975]

Brother Dyer arranged for us to have a first meeting and second meeting with the First Presidency.  Brother Dyer says, “My whole function here is to put the wheels under you so that you can move along.”  And what a blessing this was to have such a great organizational man.  It was right after a second meeting with the First Presidency—the day after—that Brother Dyer had his stroke.  So we had Brother Dyer to do all the things he needed to do before his disability.  The whole department is a creation of his.

When I was interviewed by a member of the First Presidency in January of 1972, I said, “Well, I already have certain responsibility up at Utah State and I’ve contracted to write some books and so on.”  He said, “We want you transferred yesterday.”  I said, “Is there a certain reason as to why right now instead of June or July?”  “Yes, we’re about to move into the new building and have already contemplated expanding and we need you right now.”  I said, “Well, Okay, I’ll make arrangements with Utah State University and I’ll come down here on a half-time basis and reduce my salary there if you’ll give me something.” So I was half-time during that quarter and two-thirds time during spring quarter.

The First Presidency said, “We want you to understand, Brother Arrington, that you are at perfect liberty to use our facilities, to use your time here and staff here to finish things promised at Utah State University.”

One was the Charles C. Rich book, which I had contracted to write and had a group of young seniors and graduate students on different aspects of his life and had a person here researching. That was in a certain stage of preparation when I came here. Then you helped and finally we got that finished. But the reason I felt freely in using you was because of this promise from the First Presidency in doing so.

The second was the Eccles book which we had started and had a rough draft of it.

Third was a history of First Security Corporation and had finished about one-half of that and then finished that later. It never was published. The company decided not to publish it, but we did finish about a 500-page history of First Security. They own it and paid for it, and I hope they’ll do something with it someday.

Fourth, I made an agreement with University of Utah Press to do this book on United Order and Cooperation Among the Mormons and had done a first draft. Then I got down here and forgot it and finally remembered it, and the University of Utah discovered that I had it. That was one of the considerations involved in getting Dean May. Without Dean it wouldn’t be finished and most of the merit is his work because it was in horrible shape.

But all of those are projects which originated at Utah State.

[LJA Diary, 14 Jul., 1975]

[Asian Area Conference report] Paul Dunn says President Lee asked him and others who should be appointed Church Historian after they decided to replace Howard Hunter. He inferred that everyone asked recommended me. 

[LJA Diary, 19 Aug., 1975]

Last night Grace and I were invited to the Sterling Sills’ for dinner, at their home on 1242 East Yale Avenue.  A lovely home, with a wooded backyard or “forest.”  Said they had been in that home 40 years.  Also at the dinner were: Theodore and Minnie Burton, Franklin D. and Helen Richards, ElRay and Luella Christiansen, and Joseph and Norma Anderson.  It was an interesting evening for us since all were General Authorities and Assistants to the Twelve but us. . . .

ElRay Christiansen asked me at the dinner table what was my very first objective upon assuming the post of Church Historian. I replied the very first objective was to see if everything had been catalogued—if there were materials which were in our possession which were still stored away without us knowing what we had. I said we found, indeed, that there were immense piles of documents which had not been catalogued and which were unknown to have been in our possession. That we were still in the process of cataloguing these. I gave some examples of things we found we had without anyone knowing they existed. I think I rather implied that this was a dereliction of Brother A. William Lund but avoided saying so directly. This seemed to be interesting to everybody. . . .

[LJA Diary, 3 Sep., 1975]

There is a good possibility that BYU will offer a position to Dean May beginning next fall and if so that vacancy could be filled by Mike [Quinn]. Mike will not be available any earlier than June. We could support Mike on Mormon History Trust Fund between June and September and then appoint him to Dean May’s position.  We would not be happy about losing Dean May, of course, but Dean has told us all along that he wishes to work into a university position, and we ought not to stand in his way or discourage him from attaining what seems to be the central goal of his life. He would be a fine professor and being so well acquainted with our work here could continue to help us in various ways after he moves to the “Y”. He seems not to have the stamina to work at full pace eight hours a day, dav after day without any rest, but he seems to long for the more leisurely (as he sees it) life of the college professor with the ability to take off early in the afternoon, longer vacations such as between semesters, summers off and so on. Having myself had the frustrations of being a professor while trying to do research and writing, I personally think he is crazy. By that I mean that I think he will discover that the demands of his professorship at BYU will be far more frustrating than the leisurely writing pace which we have permitted him to have here. He will have classes to teach, students to counsel, students bothering him, committee meetings to attend, and so on, which he will find, I think, will offer more mental and physical wear and tear than what he is doing here, but that is the way he feels and so we should gracefully accede to his desires.

[LJA Diary, 14 Nov., 1975]

The History Division, which consists of several professional historians, is responsible for in-depth research, writing, and publication on all phases of Latter-day Saint history. Our task is to write books, articles for church magazines, articles for professional historical magazines, and in-house research papers, which are not necessarily intended for publication but are available for the use of General Authorities, approved scholars, and others. 

A major task is supervision of the preparation of a 16-volume history of the Latter-day Saints covering the entire period of church history. This new history is necessary because we have about three times as much material as Elder B. H.  Roberts had when he wrote the six-volume Comprehensive History, and because a great deal of history has transpired since he wrote his history. There are sixteen different authors, each of whom is not only a scholar and recognized authority in the subject he is asked to treat, but also a loyal and devoted member of the Church. Each volume will be published by Deseret Book Company as soon as it is ready and approved. We hope to have the entire set ready for distribution by 1980 when the Church celebrates its 150th anniversary.

We are also publishing collections of documents which are in the Church Archives and which have not been previously published. We hope to publish two or three volumes a year in this series, which we call the Mormon Heritage Series. The first volume was published by Deseret Book Company a few months  ago and consists of the Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons—letters written while they were on their missions, in the national service, studying in the East, and away on business trips. The letters demonstrate that Brigham Young was very close to his sons and they contain wonderful advice which is just as relevant today as when the letters were written.

The second volume in the Mormon Heritage Series will probably be the edited writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This will include a diary he wrote in 1832 which has never been published and a number of letters to Emma and others which have not previously been published.

We are also doing some biographies of Church leaders. Those under way include biographies of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and  Eliza R. Snow. We are also doing a study of the administration of President Heber J. Grant. Materials about President Grant’s administration are so abundant that we estimate that Brother Gene Sessions, who is doing the study, may require many months to complete it.

We have also been working on a one-volume history of the Church covering the years right up to the present. We expect this to be ready for publication by the end of this year, which means that it might be available for sale by April conference or at the latest by next summer.

We have also been working on a one-volume treatment of the Church which could be used as a reference on the Latter-day Saints and our history in university classes. The present plan is to submit this to a national publishing firm, probably Alfred A. Knopf.

One member of our staff is doing a history of the Genealogical Society and its activities, and another is working on histories of the Primary and the Relief Society.

Another major activity of our division is our oral history program. During the past three years we have been interviewing General Authorities of the Church, Church administrators, returned mission presidents, and oldtimers with interesting stories to tell. To this date we have taped interviews with approximately 700 persons and these are in the process of being typed, checked, rechecked, retyped and bound. Here is a shelf of those which have been approved, completed, bound and placed on our shelves.  

One of our most important projects has been the study of the diaries and journals of Latter-day Saints. This has involved reading and preparing summaries of the diaries of more than 3,000 pioneers, including that of Wilford Woodruff shown here, which is one of the most informative of all LDS diaries. This guide to Latter-day Saint diaries, which will probably be 500 or 600 pages, is now being considered for publication by BYU Press. 

[Leonard J. Arrington Presentation before General Authorities, 19 Nov., 1975; LJA Diary]

Upon the invitation of those in charge of the agenda for the General Authorities report meeting on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m., our Historical Department executives presented a half-hour description of our organization and activities. The meeting was in the board room on the 19th floor of the new Church Office Building. Present were approximately thirty-five General Authorities including Apostles Stapley, Packer, McConkie, Ashton, Perry, and Richards. Many of the Assistants, Seventies, and Presiding Bishops Office were also present.

Brother Anderson gave brief introductory remarks, after which Earl Olson explained the organization of the department and his own administrative functions. Earl explained that to assure compliance with the time limit, we had prepared texts that we would read and would illustrate the texts with colored slides.

Russell Davis, chairman of the meetinghouse library committee described their activities; Florence Jacobsen explained the Church Curator’s Division; then myself describing the program of the History Division, and I am placing a copy of my text in the diary; and finally Don Schmidt described the work of Library-Archives in conclusion.

Brother Stapley and Brother Anderson then invited any questions or comments. There were only two. Elder Hanks asked about the storage of our art artifacts and historical documents. This was answered by Florence Jacobsen, Elder Packer asked about the storage of museum items after the Pioneer Museum on Temple Square is torn down next spring. When Florence answered that all of those items would have to be placed in underground storage until a new museum is open, Brother Packer asked, “Why hasn’t a new museum been planned?”  Sister Jacobsen said this had been planned and Brother Stapley said, “We have a complete plan on this that we are presenting to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.”  Brother Packer then said he thought some arrangements should be made for the display of some of these items until the new museum was completed.  He thought this was very important to the Church and to those interested in the Church.

Our program was completed in approximately 25 minutes and we were then excused from the meeting.  A number of persons shook our hands as we left and smiled saying, “That was a fine presentation,” or, “That was very interesting.”

[LJA Diary, 20 Nov., 1975]


Five years have elapsed since the issuance of the last report of this department. Many exciting changes have taken place. The department has experienced accelerated growth. New positions have been established and personnel changed. This report will attempt to give the highlights of these developments. Through improved services, better facilities and increased efficiency, the status of the department as viewed by researchers and other departments has experienced marked improvement.

The beginning of 1971 found the Office of the Church Historian still housed on the third floor and basement of 47 East South Temple, and at the Records Center and Vault on Redwood Road. Howard W. Hunter was serving as Church historian and Recorder, with Ruth Webb as his secretary.

Early in January 1971, A. William Lund, Assistant Church Historian, became ill. He did not return to work, and passed away February 8. February 1, in cooperation with the Personnel Department, new working hours of 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. were established for the department. By February 15 personnel from the department had completed the erection of new shelving in “F” Vault at the Granite Mountain Vault, following which some records were moved into this vault from 47 East South Temple and from Redwood Road.

A special meeting of the department was called by The First Presidency on January 14, 1972, at which Elder Hunter was released as Church Historian and Recorder and Earl E. Olson as Assistant Church Historian. Alvin R. Dyer, Assistant to the Twelve, was appointed as Managing Director, with Leonard J. Arrington as Church Historian, and Earl F. Olson as Church Archivist. Elders Spencer W. Kimball and Howard W. Hunter were appointed as advisors. This move now placed the department in conformity to the organizational structures being given to other Church departments. Elder Dyer started a policy of holding semi-weekly meetings for the executives of the department. At a meeting in the temple held February 24, the name of the department was officially designated as the Historical Department. March 10, Donald T. Schmidt was appointed as Church Librarian. May 30, Elder Dyer suffered a stroke and entered the hospital. He did not return to active duty in the department.

Between November 4 and 28, all records on the third floor and basement of 47 East South Temple, and all records still at the vault on Redwood Road were moved to the stack areas on the third and fourth floors of the east wing of the new Church Office Building, most of the records being moved by employees. Desks and other furniture were moved to the four floors of the east wing by a moving company. The Church Library was established on the first floor, executive offices, History Division, Acquisitions and Archives Search Room on the second floor, processing on the third and fourth floors. December 15, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was appointed advisor to the department, replacing Elder Kimball; Joseph Anderson, Assistant to the Twelve, was appointed Assistant Managing Director, and Elder Dyer was placed on a leave of absence until his health improves. On December 27, Elder Anderson and his secretary, Marjorie Golder, moved into the east wing of the new office building.

April 13, 1973, the meetinghouse library program, with Jack Pickrell and his secretary, was transferred to the Internal Communications Department. June 5, an association for the social activities of the department was organized and given the name of Nauvoo Neighbors. 

Another administrative change took place March 8, 1974, when Joseph Anderson was appointed Associate Managing Director of the department; Elder Dyer continued in the position of Managing Director, but was relieved of all responsibility for the department; Earl E. Olson was changed from Church Archivist to Assistant Managing Director; and Donald T. Schmidt was changed from Church Librarian to Church Librarian-Archivist. This change established two divisions in the department—the History Division and the Library-Archives Division. The Library-Archives Division was divided into the following three sections: Acquisitions Services, with Robert D. Bingham as manager; Public Services with David M. Mayfield as manager; and Technical Services, with Max J. Evans as manager. May 16 the Meetinghouse Library Program with Jack Pickrell and his secretary, and the Meetinghouse Library Committee, were returned to the jurisdiction of the Historical Department, thus adding a third division. May 29, The First Presidency directed an exchange of documents with the Reorganized Latter Day Saints Church, including manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, revelations, letters of Joseph Smith, etc. for which we received manuscript copies of the Inspired Version of the Bible, the second manuscript of the Book of Mormon, etc.

January 1, 1975, in accordance with previous decisions of The First Presidency and Twelve, the responsibility for the Historic Arts Committee was transferred to the Historical Department from the Public Communications Department. Elder Joseph Anderson was appointed chairman, replacing Elder Mark E. Petersen. The committee will include representatives from the Historical, Building, Public Communications, and Missionary Departments, and will be responsible for coordinating activities pertaining to historic buildings, markers, and sites. In May it was named Historic Arts and Sites Committee.

January 9, 1975, Florence S. Jacobsen, with her secretary, and the Curator’s program were transferred to the Historical Department from Public Communications. This now makes four divisions in the department. This division will have accountability to direct a museum program, handle artifacts and paintings, and supervise a program for maintenance, restoration and marking of historic buildings, sites and markers. Two assistant curators were planned for these activities, the first of whom, Richard G. Oman, started work April 3, 1975.

May 8, Elder Dyer was released as Managing Director, and Elder Joseph Anderson appointed to this position.


At the beginning of the five-year period, A. William Lund was in charge of the History Division and continued his direction of the division until his death February 8. 1971. Until the organization of the Historical Department on January 14, 1972, the division was under the temporary direction of the Assistant Church Historian, Earl E. Olson. Until 1972 the division continued to compile Church statistics; to direct the compilation, evaluation, and follow-up of the annual historical reports; to compile the Journal History and Church chronology; and to compile histories and indexes of the missions of the Church.

With the change in organization of the Historical Department, January 14, 1972, the History Division was placed under the direction of the new Church Historian, Leonard J. Arrington. James B. Allen and Davis Bitton were appointed Assistant Church Historians on March 13, 1972. In the months that followed, the activities of the History Division were expanded to include in-depth research and writing for Church magazines, for professional historical magazines, and the preparation of scholarly books. Additional staff members were employed under the categories listed in the accompanying organizational chart.

The following programs were initiated:

(1) The Oral History Program under the direction of William Hartley, which involves taped interviews by trained interviewers of General Authorities, Church administrators, returned mission presidents, old-timers, and others. These are typed, bound, and placed in the Church Archives.

(2) Mormon Heritage Series, in which important collections of previously unpublished documents are submitted for publication to Deseret Book Company. To the end of 1975, one book has been published in this series, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons edited by Dean C. Jessee.

(3) Biographies. Published by the end of 1975 were Charles C. Rich, Mormon General and Western Frontiersman, published by Brigham Young University Press, and David Eccles, Pioneer Western Industrialist, published by Utah State University Press, both by Leonard Arrington. Biographies of Bishop Edwin G. Woolley, Eliza R. Snow, Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith are underway. We have also started a study of the administration of President Heber J. Grant. Also biographical is Latter-Day Patriots, a bicentennial contribution, written by Gene A. Sessions, which contains the story of nine Mormon families and their Revolutionary War ancestors, published in 1975 by Deseret Book Company.

(4) A one-volume history of the Church to replace Essentials of Church History by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, which is now out-of-print, has been completed by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard. It is scheduled for publication in April 1976 by Deseret Book Company.

(5) A topical one-volume history of the Church dealing with important problems in Mormon historiography has been prepared by Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton and will be submitted to a national publisher in 1976.

(6) Administrative histories. Studies have begun on histories of the Genealogical Society and of the Welfare Program.

(7) A history of Mormon cooperation and the United Order by Leonard Arrington and Dean May was completed in 1975 and submitted to Deseret Book Company for publication in 1976.

(8) Sesquicentennial History. Under the direction of Leonard Arrington, general editor, sixteen persons have been approved, each to do a volume for a sixteen-volume history of the Latter-day Saints to be completed by 1980.

(9) Task Paper Series. Special studies done by members of the staff on specific aspects of LDS history are duplicated and placed in the archives. By the end of 1975, five task papers had been completed.

(10) In 1974 the division cooperated in the preparation of Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton, 1840-1842, edited by James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander, published by Perregrine Smith. A complete guide to Mormon diaries and journals was prepared under the direction of Davis Bitton and has been scheduled for publication in 1976 by Brigham Young University Press. 

(11) The division has been given a yearly budget to grant fellowships to scholars doing historical research in the Church Archives of value to the division. The number granted has varied between five and fifteen per year depending upon the money available and the need for assistance among professional scholars.

In addition, many papers and talks have been prepared by division staff members, the most important of which have been placed in the Church Archives, and many articles have been published in Church magazines and professional historical magazines.

At the end of 1975, the staff of the History Division included nineteen persons: the Church historian, two assistant Church historians, six senior historical associates, five historical associates, and five secretary-typists. Of the professional historians, eight have the Ph.D. degree, and five have the Master of Arts degree. 

[LJA Diary, 31 Dec., 1975]

This represents my appraisal of the work of the Historical Department for the year 1975. I shall ask James Allen, Davis Bitten, and Dean Jessee to do the same and file their appraisals with this. I have not reviewed previous appraisals in preparation for this, and will do this off-the-cuff, so to speak.

Within a few weeks, I shall have been Church Historian for four years. I cannot believe it has been so long. Nor can I believe I have accomplished so little in that period of time. On the one hand, we have made good progress toward organizing and cataloguing materials and making them available to scholars; on the other hand we have produced so few books, which is our main task. Dean Jessee’s marvelous volume on Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons was published more than a year ago, and we have not published the second volume in our Mormon Heritage Series. Ken and Audrey Godfrey’s volume on Mormon women was so slipshod that Jill Mulvay has worked months on it, and will still need additional months. Stan Kimball has finished a biography of Heber C. Kimball, but it is not yet in shape to publish. Spencer Palmer did a first draft on a volume related to the internationalization of Mormonism, but has not yet put it in final shape, Richard Anderson promised his volume on the letters of Joseph and Emma for more than a year, but it is not yet in our hands. Dean Jessee is still working on the writings of Joseph Smith, but will be about April before completion. Dean May is working on the George A. Smith diary of the funding of the Iron County Mission in Southern Utah, but it will not be ready before January, and perhaps not until spring. Finally, Ron Esplin has had on his desk all year the diary of Hyrum Smith and the letters of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith. It would have required only a week to put in shape, but despite prodding he has not worked on it. So our publication program is moving along slowly. More slowly than it should.

We do have some things to report. Jim Allen and Thomas Alexander published their diary of William Clayton, Manchester Mormons–a fine piece of work and important. Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill have published Carthage Conspiracy—also an important and splendid book. I predict it will win the Mormon Watery Association prize for best book of the year. My biography of David Eccles was finally published by Utah State University Press, and seems to be well received. The book Dean May and I have prepared on the history of the United Order has now been accepted by Deseret Book and should go to press in January, as well the biography of Edwin D. Woolley which Rebecca Cornwall and I have prepared. Finally, and most important, the one-volume history of the Church which Jim Allen and Glen Leonard have been working on for two years is now in final stages and should be out by April. Similarly, the one-volume history which Davis Bitton and I have been working on for three years is nearing its final stages and could conceivably be out by the end of the year. Maureen Beecher’s biography of Eliza R. Snow is moving along, although it was held up for several months while she had her baby and worked on several important lectures and other pieces. She is so good in so many fields that she can hardly settle down to full-time work on it.

We have the advantage of half-time work from some splendid writers. We have arranged for these through fellowships from the department and from the Mormon History Trust Fund. Of special note are Michael Quinn, Eugene England, and Scott Kenney. And of course Rebecca Cornwall who is working with me on the Woolley and will begin in January her help with the Brigham Young biography I am doing. Mike is doing important work on the General Authorities throughout Church history. Eugene England is doing:

1. A fictionized history of Brigham Young to go with the movie Philip Yordan is producing.

2. Seven essays on Brigham Young to be submitted to Deseret Book Co.

3. A biography of Joseph Smith for Institute-level persons. And he has helped Davis Bitton and me with our one-volume history of the Church. He is a really fine writer and we might wish to employ him full-time if possible. 

The chief problem of our division continues to be our uncertainty as to what the Church will accept by way of publishing materials, interpretation, tone and so on. We are trained to publish for our professional colleagues– being honest, straightforward, fearless, analytical, raising questions, and so on. We know that Church authorities and Church audience want and have a right to expect faith-promoting history. Drawing a balance between professional and faith-promoting goals is our toughest problem. And I am the one who bears the principal responsibility. I consult with Jim and Davis and others, but feel very keenly the responsibility. One cannot raise questions with ecclesiastical superiors. If one goes to them with a question, they will inevitably answer no, on the theory that if it is questionable, it ought not to be done. None of them will accept responsibility. They push it off by saying no. And so I have to make decisions without consulting with them on the ground that I do not want “no” answers. If there were just one that I could level with. I cannot see that there is a one who would understand my concerns who would listen, give reactions, and withhold judgment. Perhaps President Tanner, but he is busy with other matters. I have leveled with Paul Dunn on these matters, and he is sympathetic, but unfortunately he is not in a position of power and feels just as much outside the decision-making process as I do. Who is everybody afraid of? Once upon a time, it was Harold B. Lee. Now it seems to be Boyd Packer who is free to give advice and to make threats, and who cannot be trusted to keep confidences of this nature.

At any rate, I have weathered the storm for four years, and have no reason to doubt that I shall continue to do so for additional years. I am acting on the assumption that there are no plans to release me, and I do not expect to resign. Many important decisions that affect us are made by bureaucratic persons who have no comprehension of the nature of our professional responsibilities. They include Russell Williams, of Church Personnel; and Earl Olson, our Assistant Managing Director. Both have good will toward us, and I am seeking to keep them informed on the nature of our work and its requirements. Wendell Ashton of Public Communications has a good appreciation of our work.

It looks as though we may lose two of our fine staff members during the coming year. Gene Sessions has been offered a professorial position at Weber State College and may very well accept. If so, we shall attempt to replace him with Mike Quinn. Dean May is being seriously considered for a position as professor of family historv and quantitative history at Brigham Young University. He will accept the position if and when it is offered, I think, and if he leaves we shall probably replace him with Eugene England, if higher authorities will permit us to do so. If not, then Ron Walker.

Our staff is still young, enthusiastic, harmonious, and hard-working. They do not like some of the things I do, but feel free to tell me so, and this gives me a chance to explain why. Although they may not agree that the reasons are sufficient, they at least understand and are not rebellious. They are loyal, intelligent, thinking colleagues and I am grateful for each. There isn’t a one that I would want to leave. I think we have made good choices in every instance. Above all, I am grateful for the differing but good and reasonable advice of Jim and Davis, and also Dean Jessee and Maureen. I may involve Glen Leonard a little more in the decision-making process in the coming year—if Earl will permit it. I see him as a good future candidate for Assistant Church Historian. He is a fine scholar, quiet workman, with superb knowledge of Church history and sound judgment.

If all of the works referred to above are published during the coming year, we shall undergo a real test. This is the hour of testing, of judgment, of being weighed in the balance. If we survive this year, we shall have proved, as I believe we can, that Church history can be excitingly written and basically faith-promoting, and at the same time professionally and intellectually respectable. I pray that this may be true and that we can measure up, both to our devout friends and to our professional colleagues.

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1976]

Confidential Minutes of Trial of Matthias F Cowley

It was reported to the committee that copies of the confidential minutes of the trial of Matthias F. Cowley are being circulated by the underground in Salt Lake City. It has been determined that the copies were made from the minute book of the Council of the Twelve and that the copy had been furnished by Bill Hartley of the History Division. Brother Hartley was called into the meeting and as near as he could recall he gave an explanation of how the matter of the trial of Brother Cowley had been brought to his attention and copies thereof made. It was decided to put the copies of the trial that have come to our attention with the Council of the Twelve minute book and lock them in the vault. It was agreed that extreme caution should be exercised in the future relative to the use of confidential records.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 15 Jan., 1976; LJA Diary]

February 1, 1976

To:  Leonard J. Arrington

From:  James B. Allen

Re:  Accomplishments of the History Division, 1976[5]

You asked us to once again summarize so of the major accomplishments of our division for the past year.

I would like to look at the past year’s activities in terms of three things which I think ought to be among the most important objectives of the History Division. There are other objectives, of course, but these stand out in my mind at the moment.

(1) This first goal is that we continue to present materials which will make the general Church public feel good about our history and, even more important, help to gradually change some of the traditional non-historical attitudes and perceptions held in the Church. It is especially important to me that we conscientiously try to help prepare Church members to hear of some of the problems of Church history without having these problems shatter their faith. We are not the only ones who can do this, but we, of all people, recognize what a destructive experience a person can have if he is suddenly confronted with a new insight into Church history that does not square with what he has been told. Part of our conscious effort should be to write history in such a way that Church members will be prepared for new information and ideas without having their faith jarred.

(2) A second objective should be to continue to improve the image of the Church, and particularly of its historical efforts, in the eyes of the academic community. This is important not just for the purpose of good immediate “p.r.,” but also because the respect gained will require other scholars to take Mormon historians more seriously as they prepare their own texts and monographs.

(3) We should continue to maintain interest in publications of all sorts, covering a wide variety of historical topics.

There is, of course, another “unwritten” objective: that of maintaining the good will of the brethren, which we must always keep in mind.

With regard to the first objective, I think the History Division continued to make some significant strides during the year 1975. Leonard Arrington has continued to appear regularly at firesides, sacrament meetings, Church schools and in other Church assignments, and my impression is that each time he not only brought goodwill but also presented some new ideas and struck a blow for broadening perspectives. Many other members of the staff also made such appearances, and the reports seem to indicate the same results. In my own activities, each time I had a chance to talk to any Church group, I deliberately tried to present new, somewhat challenging ideas, but in a way that would open exciting challenges while not hurting the faith of the people I was addressing. Among other places, I appeared as far away as Boston, Massachusetts, in April, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, in October. In those places many people were generally aware of the fact that we were involved in writing new Church histories and some had heard of some of our recent publications, such as Dean Jessee’s Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons. I felt that at least a few Saints outside our own area were aware of our work and friendly toward it. On a number of occasions I talked about slightly controversial things, such as the problem of change in the Church, and I think I was able to present them in such a way that they created interest and enthusiasm rather than problems. (At least that was the general response I felt as I talked informally with the audiences afterward.)

In spite of how many talks we give, it will be mainly through publications that we will most effectively meet this objective. With regard to books, 1975 was not quite as productive as 1974, but Gene Sessions’s book is one which I think will have a good effect upon Church members. In addition, a number of articles published by our staff members as well as the task papers series which we inaugurated this year are all very important in this respect. At the same time, we finished in 1975 the manuscript for the one-volume history of the Church by myself and Glen Leonard, and one of the purposes of this work was to help accomplish the objective we are discussing. Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton also finished a draft of their one-volume history, which should do much the same thing for church members. Also, Leonard Arrington and Dean May’s book on the United Order was sent to the press and it should have nothing but a positive effect on Church members. In short, I think 1975 was a good year as far as our effort to broaden Church members’ perspectives is concerned.

I think our image in the academic community also continued to improve in the year 1975. Through the auspices of the Mormon History Association, there were Mormon history sessions (usually “rump” sessions) at many major historical conventions in the United States. Several members of the staff of the History Division appeared on those programs. In addition, several members of the staff appeared on sessions dealing with, subject matter other than Church history, and their identification with our department was valuable to our academic image. So far as I know the people who appeared in this capacity were Leonard Arrington, Davis Bitton, Bill Hartley, Glen Leonard, and James B. Allen.

But the academic image of the department will, in the long run, be enhanced only in direct proportion to the continuing outpouring of scholarly publications. As I said before, my impression is that we fell down a little in volume this year; but that the books and articles which were finished or are in preparation will go far to fill the void in the next few years.

The degree to which we continue to cooperate with scholars not of our division will also help enhance our influence in the academic community. In 1975 we continued to encourage and render assistance to the authors of the sesquicentennial series, continued to grant fellowships to other scholars interested in a variety of topics, and gave other assistance to several visiting scholars. In addition, we continued our efforts to encourage scholarly publication by scholars not directly associated with our staff or fellowship program. One example was the acceptance for publication by BYU Press of Monte McLaws’s book on the Deseret News, which will be part of the Studies in Mormon History Series. We are also looking at the revised version of Merle Wells’ manuscript on the Idaho test oath which will hopefully be published in that series. Other scholars, such as Larry Coates, are preparing other manuscripts. To the degree that we continue to encourage and assist these scholars our division will benefit from their work, and assisting such publication should certainly be listed among our accomplishments.

The third objective, that of maintaining broad interests, was certainly among our accomplishments for the year. Gene Sessions began to work on an administrative history of Heber J. Grant; Bruce Blumell continued his work on genealogy, then switched to begin a history of the welfare. The fact that we received grants for both of these projects demonstrates not only our wide interests, but also the confidence other Church units have in our department. Members of the department continued to work on the history of women, Joseph Smith historiography, Mormon communities, a wide variety of oral history projects, aspects of Church administrative history, the history of the Church in foreign lands, biographies, social history, and several other topics. We have maintained an important flexibility in the division so that we are prepared to take on a variety of historical projects as the need arises.

With regard to maintaining the good will of the brethren, Leonard knows more about that than I do, but my impression is that we are still in good favor, largely because of the wisdom and skill with which Leonard Arrington conducts his office. As I have said before, I think Leonard has a special tact that has accomplished wonders for the history of the church in the past several years.

Finally, I must say that I am constantly pleased with the continuing operation of the Mormon History Trust Fund. The judicious use of this fund has aided immensely in the accomplishment of some of the goals of the History Division. In 1975 the fund gave grants to assist in research for both one-volume histories, for help in Leonard Arrington’s biographical studies, for promoting the oral history program, and for prizes to be awarded by the Mormon History Association. Although not officially part of the History Division, it is important that Leonard, Jim, and Davis continue to administer it and that it continues to attract revenue from a variety of sources.

[LJA Diary, 1 Feb., 1976]

Jerald and Sandra Tanner

Brother Schmidt reported that Jerald and Sandra Tanner were inadvertently allowed in the library yesterday and were given access to a certain article in the Church News. This was done because many of the employees do not recognize the Tanners. An effort will be made in the future to see that the Tanners are restricted from entering the department. It was decided to give to Richard Oman a list of the names of known persons who are contending against the Church, in order that he may also be alerted regarding them or any requests that might come to him from them. 

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 9 Mar., 1976]

DAILY UNIVERSE: Why was the church persecuted in America in the past?

DR. ARRINGTON:  First of all, people did not like the Saints’ presumption that they were specially blessed by the Lord.  Secondly, we acted as a group politically and economically.  People who were old settlers in an area that we went into saw us as a threat.  They were afraid we were about to overwhelm them in the ballot box and soon they’d have Mormon sheriffs and Mormon mayors and Mormon county commissioners.  The third cause was certain apostates who tried to do harm to the church.

There were also people who had designs on the property of Latter-day Saints.  The Mormons were hard workers, they built homes, they had haystacks and cattle.  Some of the people joined the mobs to drive us out simply because they thought they could get property free, which they did—in Jackson County, DeWitt County, Clay County, Caldwell County, and Illinois.  And they tried to do it in Utah.

DAILY UNIVERSE:  Why don’t we have a problem with persecution today?

DR. ARRINGTON:  We don’t act as much as a group.  We do not have a church political party.  We did until 1890.  We do not all vote for one party or one person.  We don’t act as a unit economically.  We don’t trade only with Latter-day Saints.  We don’t practice polygamy.

DAILY UNIVERSE:  Did the persecution continue into the twentieth century?

DR. ARRINGTON:  Yes.  Around the turn of the century, about 18 missionaries were killed.  Someone saw them preaching and didn’t like it and killing was one way to get rid of them.  Then people also strongly opposed Reed Smoot’s election as Utah’s senator because he was also an apostle from the church.

Then, from 1904 to 1907, there was a strong anti-Mormon campaign.  We can find, for example, anti-Mormon novels from that period.

DAILY UNIVERSE:  Do you try to refute anti-Mormon arguments or do you just ignore them?

DR. ARRINGTON: Our tendency is to pay more attention to writing the truth than to countering the arguments of those who are opposed to the church. Our business is to write good positive history. If we stopped to answer all of these charges, we wouldn’t be writing good, positive history. Our critics would be directing what we did.

DAILY UNIVERSE: What are some cases when obeying the laws of the United States presented a hardship for the church?

DR. ARRINGTON:  The United States passed a law against polygamy before we had received a revelation through President Woodruff to quit the practice.  I know two Bishops who had a difference of opinion on what to do about the law.  One went to jail for three years.  The other decided not to live with his plural wives anymore, and went off scott-free.  In a way, he renounced his marriage covenants.

We also didn’t participate in the Civil War.  We sort of regarded both the North and South as Babylon.  But we weren’t invited to participate so it was no hardship.  It was just a question of conscience.

[“Mormon Tree Grew on Puritan Roots,” interview with LJA, The Daily Universe, 30 Mar., 1976; LJA Diary]

Responses to Questions of Scott Kenney

How My Personal life has been Affected by My Appointment as Church Historian . . .

Now to some things that are strictly related to my work here. I must be finally responsible for all manuscripts that go out of our division. I must also be finally responsible, where asked, for manuscripts written about or published about the Church or Mormon history or Utah history involving the Mormons. It is now necessary for me to take manuscripts home each evening and each weekend. Because of administrative problems I cannot do very much at the office, so each night I spend two or three hours reading manuscripts and most weekends I have spent all day Saturday and much of the day Sunday reading manuscripts. This is not unpleasant, but it gives me less time to read stimulating published works, also less time to do original research and writing of my own. I have one or two speaking appointments each week on the average and something on the order of one each month which must be an original scholarly-type contribution. I have a research assistant to help me with these, but it still takes time to write a suitable draft from material he furnishes. Grace and I get some social life when I am invited to speak to study groups, church groups, and professional groups in Salt Lake City, Provo, Logan, and elsewhere. The usual pattern of my work is to spend four days a week at the office here directing our research and writing program and taking care of administrative details, spending one day a week at BYU teaching a class and doing assignments connected with the Redd Center and with the University. I often spend Saturday working on talks. Grace and I have not seen more than two or three movies since moving to Salt Lake City four years ago. We have seen the ballet three or four times, attended one or two symphony concerts, and two or three plays and musicals. We have not been invited out to dinner more than two or three times since coming to Salt Lake City and because of Grace’s health have not entertained people at dinner in our home more than three or four times a year. We purchased a color TV as a mutual Christmas present two years ago and have enjoyed watching a few programs together, particularly on public television. We often watch “Nova,” “Upstairs, Downstairs,” “The Adams Chronicles,” “Classical Theater,” an occasional football game, the Olympics, and an occasional TV special.

There are certain pleasures attached with my appointment. People respect me, ask for my advice, honor me, regard me as an important person. On the other hand, I feel less free than in Logan to be my own jolly carefree self. I must be more careful of what I say and do. My life and work are more studied, more political. I do believe very strongly in what I am doing. I regard my work as the most desirable in the field of American history and the most desirable activity in the Church. Who could be so blessed as to have that congruence! I am happy, proud, excited, and feel very strongly that I am making a contribution which I am better prepared to make than any other person. To put it in terms of orthodox Mormon language, “I believe the Lord wants me where I am and that He approves of my labors.” I am very fond of those with whom I work.

There is one aspect of my work which might deserve a comment. For a number of reasons I appointed persons in their 40s, Jim Allen and Davis Bitton, to serve as my two assistants. They are of quite different temperament and background and react differently to the problems that arise. For that reason I find it desirable to consult with them on most of the major policy and personnel decisions. We three are often closeted together behind a closed door to my office. With the exception of Dean Jesse and Edyth Romney, all the remainder of our staff are younger persons in their 30s. For most of them this is their first professional job. Perhaps they have had stars in their eyes about what it would be like when they finished their Ph.D.; no doubt they find irritants and disappointments in their work with us. Although we allow them as much time as possible to work on their own projects they still must do some things that we ask them to do–help us with our projects and work on projects we assign them. While each of these younger staff members is very bright, conscientious, talented, and basically cheerful, there is some grousing and criticism about the manner in which the “troika” or “stake presidency” (Myself, Davis, and Jim) settles all the basic problems and simply announces to them the decisions. We have a staff meeting every two weeks or so where they have an opportunity of airing their grievances–and they do! But they want to be in on the decision-making process as much as possible and are free in complaining about some of the things we decide. So there is a little tension between the younger historians and the three of us that they refer to as “senior historians.” It would be cruel to point out that at the time when we were doing our research and writing in the Church Archives the senior historians were Joseph Fielding Smith and A. William Lund, each about 92 years old. 

[LJA Diary, 31 Mar., 1976]

I was notified by Brother [Michael] Watson, secretary of the First Presidency, two or three weeks ago that I was invited to meet with the First Presidency this morning at 8 a.m. to discuss the Association for Mormon Letters . . .

President [N. Eldon] Tanner then said, “How long have you been Church Historian,

Brother Arrington?” I replied four and one-half years. President Tanner said, “And you have accomplished a great deal in that time, haven’t you?” I said, “We are very pleased with the progress of things and we feel that the Lord has blessed our efforts. We have had good support and encouragement and good leadership through Brother Anderson with whom we meet twice a week and also with our advisors to the Twelve with whom we meet once or twice a month.” I mentioned that although it is not always possible for us to bear our testimonies in the material we write, particularly for professional historians, we are having a good influence on the image of the Church in the histories that are being written and the teaching of history in universities. President Kimball said, “Well, you have been doing good work, and we appreciate all that you and your staff do. Thank you very much for meeting with us this morning and informing us on these matters we have asked you about.” I thereupon left the meeting at 8:31, having been with them for more than half an hour.

[LJA Diary, 27 Jul., 1976]

I have had a very busy week.  Very rushed.  Working on page-proof and indexing of the Woolley biography; getting out some articles for the Ensign and Encyclopedia Britannica; some meetings; handling personnel problems; dealing with some detractors of our “impartial” history writing.  We are trying hard to get the Woolley book out by October conference.  Getting pictures for it; maps; etc.  Nedra has finished my biography except the footnotes.  Hasn’t been able to put much time into it.

[LJA to Carl & Chris, 20 Aug., 1976; LJA Diary]

I suggested today to Davis (and will do so to Jim tomorrow) that I have been a failure in administering all the responsibilities which I have assumed, and that it is time to take some kind of corrective action–to reorganize our work so it can be more effectively done. Items:

1. I have correspondence, still unanswered, that goes back as far as July of 1976. I am not keeping up, even with essential correspondence, that comes in currently, not counting catching up with the backlog.

2. I have not kept up with the reading which I have premised to do: The reading of manuscripts for books, the reading of new books, the reading of current periodicals with important articles, etc. I am weeks behind.

3. I have not given the attention to the staff that I ought to give. I promised more than a year ago to conduct staff interviews at least once a year. I have not done even the first one since that promise.

4. I have not given attention to the social side of my office: I have not had anyone to dinner for months and months. Nor have I accepted invitations to attend study groups, speak in Sacrament meetings, and Firesides. I have reduced these to irreducible minimums.

5. Nor have I really kept up with my professional obligations. I have not been as active as I should (as my responsibilities require) in Utah Academy, Utah Historical Society, national and regional historical societies, and so on.

6. Nor have I taken the opportunity to get some enjoyment out of life, in the sense of taking vacations. I have not gone to football games, basketball games, nor played golf, or otherwise indulged in recreation. I enjoy what I do; I do what I do because I want to do it, but somehow the zest for life seems less than it used to be, perhaps because I feel  a lack of accomplishment in not doing all that I want to do or should do.

What is it that causes this situation? Surely I work long and hard, and do net engage in wasteful activity. I think my trouble is that I do not delegate sufficiently. I do not share my workload with my counselors and staff. I have felt that what they were doing was important and I wanted to leave them a maximum of time to work on their own projects. But the present situation suggests that we cannot continue as we have been doing. Here are suggestions for reorganization.

First, instead of the three of us (in most cases the four of us) reading every manuscript, let us agree at the time a manuscript comes up that only one of us will read it. And any controversial material, or questionable wording, be called to my attention. This means that some manuscripts only Jim will read (this would include all those he edits for the BYU Press series). Others only Davis. Still others only Maureen. I think all of us now have been in our positions long enough, and have been exposed to the problems, both professional and political, that any of us is good enough in judging the suitability of manuscripts. Then the rest of us will agree to stand behind them. So far as “the world” or “the Church” knows, they shall have been read by all of us. Suppose that I ask Nedra to keep a log of the manuscripts that come to me to be read. And suppose I assign one the counselors or staff to read it on a sort of rotating basis. And let the assignments be made partly on my own judgment of the interests of the person assigned, or the capabilities or knowledge or experience.

Second, suppose that we add Glen Leonard to the staff assigned to read manuscripts. He has had good experience with the process, and has proved himself very good on items we have given him (those forwarded by public communications). I have every confidence that he will do a good job. And since there is no longer

the rush on him to do the brief history of the Church for the International Magazine, I think he would do an excellent job. I hate to rope Dean Jessee in on this because he gets enough manuscripts anyway, and we simply must allow him time to finish his present projects.

Third, since all of us ought to be informed on what is going on, suppose we allow the three of us–Davis, Jim, and myself, to examine all manuscripts after they have been read by any of us. Way of handling: when the person assigned finishes reading the manuscript and making his comments (which might in some instances be nothing more than “ready to send to publisher”), the manuscript will be returned to me. I’ll look at it if I wish, permit Davis and Jim to look at it if they wish. But only allow a day or two for this purpose so as not to delay the manuscript. Let us assume that whoever reads the manuscript makes his suggestions to the writer either orally or in writing and works with the writer. The manuscript will not be returned to me until completed to the satisfaction of the reviewer (or referee).

Fourth, the above arrangements apply whether a book manuscript,

a proposed article, or whatever. Question: Should we also bring in Ron Walker as a reader? He would also be very good, and has had lots of experience with this sort of thing. Problem: Other staff members would fully understand bringing Glen Leonard into this work; others might not understand it if Ron W. were brought in. Question: Should we bring in all Senior Historical Associates–because they have Ph. D.’s–and occasionally ask all of them to help us out with manuscripts, and then, in practice, simply give more to Glen L.? This could involve occasionally Dean M., Bruce B., and Ron W., as well as Glen L. Question: Should we bring in any of the staff to be the sold reader? And let this be done on a subject-matter basis. Problem with this is that Gordon already has his hands full with oral history, Ron E. does not always have good judgment on some controversial items, Jill already gets all that she can handle, Richard J. worries and frets over things a great deal and might spend too much time on it. Bill H.–we really have had no experience with him in critiquing manuscripts. If we pull in Eugene England on a half-time arrangement, he might be very good for that. My present inclination would be to expand it to include Glen L., but am willing to consider going farther.

Fifth; I would think that only rarely would I read a manuscript fully. Only those I ought to read for their content, and none simply because I want to evaluate or appraise them. I really would depend upon you-all for that. My own work would consist of:

1. Keeping up with correspondence, occasionally parceling that out.

2. My own research and writing for papers, talks, and books.

3. Meetings, etc.

Sixth, I would still depend primarily upon Richard J. for research and help in connection with books, articles, talks, correspondence, but might turn  over more than I have been doing to Glen L. (I said I would, but have pretty well confined my assignments to him to: (a) Historic Arts and Sites Committee; (b) Coordination with Public Communications; (c) staff personnel. I should think it might be desirable to have Glen do all the interviewing of the staff, because I’m a long way from getting around to it. What do you think of letting Glen do this? Would you (Davis and Jim) prefer to do it yourselves? Or splitting it three ways with Glen? Or splitting it three ways with me? What do you suggest?

Seventh, I’ll make a major effort to resign as director of the Redd Center. I tried this in 1973, to no effect. But perhaps I would be more successful today. I would still retain the Redd professorship, simply as something to fall back upon if I am ever released here. While the Redd Center does not take much time (Tom does most of the work), it does take some time, and I think it would be better administered by Tom alone than by Tom always having to refer matters to me.

Basically, two changes: I will not read all manuscripts, and in fact will read them only rarely, and will assign them out to counselors and staff; and I shall ask Glen Leonard to help with reading manuscripts. Think also I should parcel out some of the editing to Eugene England. 

[LJA Diary, 10 Mar., 1977]

This week marked the death and funeral of Elder Alvin Dyer, the real founder of our Historical Department. He was a great organizer and administrator, creative and imaginative and dedicated. We shall always be beholden to him. And at his funeral they mentioned not one word about his contributions to history. 

[LJA to Children, 12 Mar., 1977]

Even Pap has some news this week. Today President Tanner came into a hurried meeting of the staff of the Historical Department to tell us that Elder Joseph Anderson was being released as our Managing Director and Elder Homer Durham would be the new Managing Director. We are very pleased with the choice. He has been a good supporter, these many years. Pap has been getting back to the one-volume history and doing some good there. Still some correspondence to catch up on though. 

[LJA to Children, 29 Apr., 1977]

We had our first meeting this morning with our new Managing Director, Elder Homer Durham, and with our advisors, Elders Stapley and Hunter. Elder Anderson was invited to provide continuity. After the meeting was over I congratulated Elder Durham on his being named to receive an honorary doctor’s degree from the University of Utah. He said he was pleased himself that they would award such a degree to a Latter-day Saint official. He said, “You know, President Heber J. Grant was blackballed from receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Utah.” I asked him to tell me more. He said that it will not be found anywhere in the records of the University of Utah but that he was told by John A. Widtsoe, his father-in-law, that President Grant’s name had been proposed by the administration and that members of the Board of Regents vote by secret ballot and must vote unanimously for any person to receive a degree. President Grant’s name was submitted in several different years but in each case his name was blackballed, presumably because they wouldn’t want to give the degree to a Mormon prophet. 

[LJA Diary, 3 May, 1977]


Appreciation Dinner

May 6, 1977

I am the very model of a modern Church Historian,

I’ve information doctrinal, economic and folklorian.

I know the Mormon leaders, I will write their prosopography, 

Right now I spotlight one each year by publishing biography.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters economical 

Like Mormon self-sufficiency, I plot its chronological 

Development; I understand the finances and enterprise. 

I’ve counted every particle from Sunday eggs to railroad ties.

Chorus: He’s counted every particle from Sunday eggs to railroad ties, etc.

I know the Mormon folklore: the three Nephites and the ears of corn, 

The so-called White Horse Prophecy, the crickets, Rockwell’s locks not shorn. 

In short in matters doctrinal, economic and folklorian 

I am the very model of a modern Church Historian.

Chorus: In short in matters doctrinal, economic and folklorian 

He is the very model of a modern Church Historian.

In fact, when I can chant “Come Come Ye Saints” like a gregorian, 

When I can win a Scripture Chase with any good scriptorian, 

When I can rattle off the change the Church has seen in membership, 

When I can tell a Deed of Consecration from a Stewardship,

When I can quote by memory the doggerel of ERS, 

When I explain with utmost tact polygamy post-Manifest, 

When I am granted access to the Archives of the DUP,

Then I’ll return from Moscow with an honorary Ph.D.

Chorus: Then he’ll return from Moscow with an honorary Ph.D., etc.

I’m very good at research and I know historiography 

From Frederick Jackson Turner to supporters of demography, 

In short in matters doctrinal, economic and folklorian 

I am the very model of a modern Church Historian.

Chorus: In short in matters doctrinal, economic and folklorian, 

He is the very model of a modern Church Historian.

(original lyrics by Jill Mulvay) 

[Arrington Dinner, 6 May, 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]

Second thing was that Homer Durham, our new managing director, took over and we are thrilled to have him. He will be professional help as well as providing good ecclesiastical interference and administration. We are grateful for him. He has agreed to read all our manuscripts from both the professional and ecclesiastical point of view, and this will help me share the responsibility somewhat. This lifts a psychological burden.

[LJA to Children, 7 May, 1977]

A characteristic of my position as Church Historian, particularly in the past year, has been the frequency with which close friends come into my office and say that a close friend of theirs told them that a certain General Authority declared that “The Brethren” were not happy with things in the Historian’s Office and that they are considering the possibility of replacing him. This is said to come from Apostles Benson and Petersen, and also from younger persons like Elder Hinckley, Elder Monson, and Elder Packer. All have been friendly in a personal way to me, but there is supposed to be evidence that they feel increasingly that I “do not take counsel”, am “deliberately going against the wishes of the Brethren,” etc.

All of this gives me a sinking feeling, a feeling of anxiety, a feeling of insecurity. I keep thinking of the alternatives, and I do not like them. One alternative would be to grovel, to become an automatron conveying the “wishes of the Brethren” to my subordinates and to respond to every whim or expression of these Brethren who do not hesitate to speak up and complain. Another alternative would be to keep doing what inspiration tells me is the right thing regardless. (Indeed, this is what I am doing now.) Another alternative is to go back to BYU and my Western History Chair. Still another alternative is to look for an opening in an “outside” university and eliminate the anxiety. But I cannot “run away.” The anxiety would go with me; I would keep wondering if I had done the right thing. The anxiety is inescapable. And all those I work with would think I had “let down” the Cause and them.

I have the distinct feeling that Elder Durham has been appointed to keep rein on me, and I’m glad to have him do it. He’ll then share some of the responsibility with me. I think it is well within the realm of possibility that they might decide to give him the added title of Church Historian, and convert me into an Assistant Church Historian. I would welcome that. Then I could continue writing and researching, and the leadership in the cause of Church History would pass into the capable and worthy hands of Elder Durham. Such a change might very well remove the anxiety that afflicts me, and enable me to work more productively. Much of my emotional and intellectual energy is now devoted to trying to conquer and overcome the anxiety, trying to devise means of persuading the Brethren that what we are doing is beneficial while at the same time continuing to do what we know is in the best long-run interests of the Church and Kingdom. For I do feel certain that the chart we are following is in the best long-run interests of the Church. The only defensible stand for the Church is to rest its case on truth, but telling that truth in the manner best calculated to produce goodwill for the Church. 

[LJA Diary, 7 May, 1977]

Here are some early impressions of Elder Durham, our new Managing Director.

1. He is very proud of his achievements and experiences.

2. He likes to drop names of people and places he has been and experiences he has had.

3. He wants to run the department; that is, set goals and objectives and means of attaining goals and objectives.

4. He is sincerely respectful of me and of the staff of our division and wishes sincerely to help us in our mission.

In brief, he is very different from Elder Anderson, who made no attempt whatsoever to tell us what to do or enter into our professional decision-making. Every matter we took up with him, he simply said we should discuss it with our advisors or with the First Presidency. He did not run interference for us or attempt to protect us from the criticisms and brick-bats of those who had reason to dislike or oppose what we had done or were doing. He was sweet and kind and helpful.

[LJA Diary, 26 May, 1977]

Elder Homer Durham expects to direct Historical affairs in an active way, so he’s coning up with all kinds of suggestions for us to consider. The department is going to be a more lively place. He wants to read all that we write, too, and that’s going to take some doing on his part. He’s a fast reader. He makes suggestion but he seems to have no desire to be a censor.

[LJA to Children, 28 May, 1977]

Effective this day my salary raised to $2,733 per month, which means that my annual salary will now be $32,796.

Last evening we drove to Provo Canyon to the cabin of Jim Allen, where our History Division held its Annual Retreat. All fourteen of our staff researchers and writers were there. General chairman of the affair was Bruce Blumell. We had a steak dinner with salad and cookies and ice cream. Then a program of singing. Then each person was asked to express what he looked forward to doing in his life. We went around the circle, and it was very interesting and inspiring.

My own response was somewhat as follows.

Perhaps it is my age (I shall soon be sixty years of age), perhaps it is because I am a grandfather and expect to have a second grandchild before long. Perhaps it is because of the continuation of the disillusionment that took place when I was overseas for three years during World War II. At any rate, I have found that my greatest joy and satisfaction comes from: (1) making talks-I have enjoyed giving talks since I was twelve years of age, and continue to get great joy and satisfaction from doing so. (2) Observing the achievements and accomplishments of Grace, our children, our friends, our associates-in particular watching the accomplishments of all of you. Seeing some of you become bishops and bishops counselors. Seeing you publish books and articles. Seeing you improve your research and writing. 3) Engaging in efforts to manipulate the bureaucracy to serve the purposes of Church History.

It is my honest opinion that I will gain greater joy and satisfaction from assisting each of you to achieve your own goals, in writing and publishing, than from doing so myself. And I pledge to help you do so.

We spent the night at the cabin, had breakfast, and had sessions to discuss various aspects of our work during the day. Returned home about 7 pm.

 [LJA Diary, 10 Jun., 1977]

It is interesting to contemplate the work of the Church Historian. George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff, who held the position in early years, seemed to regard their function as interviewing participants, looking at such documents as were available, and setting down an accurate record of what transpired. They had no compunction about “setting the record straight” by correcting the accounts of some of the participants. Their authority for doing so is not stated. Joseph Fielding Smith regarded certain accounts, particularly Joseph Smith, History of the Church, as “approved” and stood by them dogmatically, without seeking to determine the reliability of their sources, their consistency, and their meaning. The history had already been determined; it simply needs to be stated, and the documents preserved. No need to go over the documents again to find additional meaning; once they had been studied, their meaning assessed, and the narrative approved, that was enough. Howard Hunter, who functioned only under the presidency of Joseph Fielding Smith, tried to set up an administrative framework with agreed-upon policies.

With my own appointment, I rather expected to fulfill a variety of assignments, all informed by my training and experience as a professional. Specifically, I rather expected the following:

1. In giving “history” addresses–on the occasion of historic celebrations, dedicating historic sites, etc. The brethren would have me prepare memoranda on which their talks are built. I have neither been asked to help them with historical talks nor been asked to review in advance what they have to say, nor been asked to provide historical background. Except, that is, two talks of Brother Boyd Packer, one talk of President Tanner, and one talk of Elder David Haight. Not much for 5 years of service.

2. Some matters come up in which the knowledge of a historian is indispensable. Both in church organization and in public relations. The Public Communication people consult me quite often, and occasionally we have been asked to provide a background study. But we are consulted perhaps one-tenth of  the times we ought to be consulted. We have been told by some individuals that they have recommended to their superiors that we ought to be consulted; they ought to “touch base” with us (a greatly overused term); but this is not common. Certainly not regular. Sporadic, occasional, and ad hoc or expedient.

3. I would have thought that on occasions where an anniversary is being celebrated my name would be mentioned as a possible speaker. Local people always call general authorities to give such talks, which is understandable, but, as far as I am aware, no general authority has ever suggested that I be invited to give a paper, give a talk. I have indeed been invited, but this seems to be on the suggestions of some local people who have tried general authorities without success and are “hard up” to find a suitable replacement.

4. I would have thought that in preparing a series of lessons for Gospel Doctrine Sunday School classes on church history that I would have been made a member of the planning committee. But I have had no input at all. Occasionally on specific problems, someone who is doing the preparation of the lessons has called one of our staff, but no official representation or participation.

5. I would have thought that one of our assignments would be to prepare a suitable history of the church to take the place of the out-dated ‘ESSENTIALS IN CHURCH HISTORY. But our doing this has created animosities, suspicion, and incredulity that we would dare to do so.

6. Even the one incident in which I was involved recently as official church spokesman, the Spalding manuscript incident, I got into the picture as the result of a telephone call from a staff person in Public Communications, and some of the Brethren have resented what I did and have been surprised that I was invited to make a statement.

In short, it seems evident that the church is not prepared to use a professional historian as part of headquarters administration. Whatever we do appears to be wrong in somebody’s eyes. There is great suspicion of us and our pretensions and performances. 

[LJA Diary, 13 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]

This might have been a pleasant weekend, but yesterday I was given an assignment to do a background study on a certain topic for the First Presidency. On the one hand, I was very flattered, pleased, honored, delighted, that they asked the Church Historian to do such a study for them. On the other hand, they want the study by Tuesday morning. And since I can’t do it on the job very well, that will take up this weekend. That’s one reason I’m writing tonight, so I’ll have all day tomorrow to work without interruption on the study they requested. Will required about 20 or 25 pages, and I don’t know if I can get that done over the weekend or not. Guess I’ll have to. Besides, Sunday evening I have to talk to a study group.

[LJA to Children, 5 Aug., 1977]

Dear Brother Arrington:

Thank you for your letter of August 8, 1977 with the attached background report on John D. Lee and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

I have read this with interest and appreciation. I have sent the original to President Kimball so that he may take it with him to read on his journey and have made a copy for my own files. I am sure the President appreciates what you have done, and I am very grateful for it.


Gordon B. Hinckley

[Gordon B. Hinckley to LJA, 10 Aug., 1977]

Homer Durham tells us that when he was appointed as Managing Director of the Historical Department, he learned that the Twelve were sufficiently concerned with the department that a sub-committee had been appointed to “look into the affairs of the Historical Department.” And by that he meant only the History Division of the department. This sub-committee consisted of Elder Petersen, Elder Hinckley,

and Elder Packer. At least one meeting had been held by the committee with Elder

Stapley, of our advisors. Since Elder Durham’s appointment, he had been in meeting with the sub-committee at least two different times. They have made known to him their various complaints, most of which he regards as misapprehensions. It is a peculiar thing that there would be such a sub-committee to look into the affairs of our division and that they would not talk to anyone in the division. They have not talked to me, they have not talked to any of the assistant historians, they have not talked to anyone else in the division. And as far as I am aware, they have not talked to Earl Olson. They have talked to Elder Anderson, presumably, and Elder Durham. Most peculiar. It’s almost as it they are afraid of talking to us. And Elder Durham gives the impression that they don’t want me to know that they are investigating us because they don’t want me publicizing around that we are under a cloud. As if I would do so! And I view Homer’s appointment as being the response of the First Presidency, specifically Elder Tanner, to that cloud. Elder Durham will get on top of things and put them in order, they would reason. 

[LJA Diary, 11 Aug., 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]

This afternoon Elder Durham called me and Earl Olson into his office. He wanted to tell me three things. First, that our division was very suspect, had very little standing with “the Brethren,” and he was trying to “save” us by keeping a tight rein on us. Our free wheeling style of operation, without strict control from above, would have to be curbed. We did not fit snugly enough into the church program. He implied that we must cut down on our writing, that he wanted to approve in advance every research project, every assignment to every staff member, every article. In short, he wants to be the Church Historian. I am to be a supervisor of the history division.

Second, he wants a detailed report on what each staff member is working on, and he wants a note on every change in assignment or new assignment. Except for the vignettes.

Third, he started by telling me that he wanted the Mormon History Trust Fund to be controlled by Earl, the controller of the department. He wanted the bookkeeping done there, he wanted it administered by me ordering this or that and check written from there and so on. He wanted to know of every transaction. I objected to this so strongly that he drew back a little. I told him this was a private matter, that I intended it should stay there, that it was not his business. I told him I did not object to informing him in general of what we were doing, but I did not expect to put him in the position of having to approve or disapprove every action, or of being responsible in any way. I told him I would give him a copy of the annual report. And at his insistence I told him I would get an annual audit of our books by a CPA, and give him a copy of the report of the auditor. I then asked him if he would be satisfied with that. He asked a hundred questions. Then he said-yes, he would be satisfied with that for the time being, giving me to believe he expected to “take over” later. He kept insisting that he would be held responsible. I kept telling him he couldn’t be held responsible for something that he didn’t control, something completely outside the department.

My present intention is to gradually close out the operations of the MHTF, except for the oral history activities. It’s sure the church will take over, and I will not be a party to turning this fund over to the church. Church administrators are too arbitrary. We have plenty of examples of the arbitrary policies of Earl and Helen. They interpose all kind of bureaucratic rules. Assuming that Elder Durham will be very fair and judicious in his direction of the Fund, what happens when he is replaced by Earl, or by someone who might have no appreciation for our professional work, or sympathy with our professional integrity and standing. I shall, over time, become more liberal in allowing staff members to retain royalties, thus lessing their contributions to the Fund, and we shall get it spent. I’ll ask Jim to withdraw what he owes those who contributed to the George Boyd book and put it in a separate account. And if we keep spending the money, there’ll be little left except the oral history portion. Then let him take it!

I suppose I am most hurt by Elder Durham displaying a complete lack of confidence in my handling of this and other matters. Where is the brotherly encouragement? Where is the appreciation? Why the suspicion, the distrust? 

The final matter Elder Durham brought up was the suspicion and displeasure with us because we are “opening up the archives”. He wanted us to cut down on our references to primary materials in the archives. I told him we did not use material that was not available to other scholars as well, that if the material was in the U of U or BYU or elsewhere, we always gave those as the sources. But that I thought we could not avoid citing our archives as the source of much material. He wanted to know why we couldn’t mention letter of Brigham Young to someone, certain date, and not mention where the letter is. That from a former University president! I guess it was left that I am to cut down on citing archival sources as much as possible. In sum, the entire interview was a vote of no confidence. 

[LJA Diary, 8 Dec., 1977]

This is my annual comment on the work of the Church History Division of the Historical Department of the Church. Written during the evening of 25

December 1977, it will be filed, as usual, under the date of January 1. I shall ask Dayis Bitton, Jim Allen, and Dean Jessee, as earlier, to prepare similar comments.

When Joseph Smith asked Oliver Cowdery to serve as Church Historian in 1830, he selected a person who would (a) assure that records were kept; Joseph had recognized from the beginning the importance of the work they were doing, and realized it should be recorded for posterity; (b) assure that a person who knew what was going on was assigned to keep the record; Oliver was a person that would know what was being done, or could be trusted to be informed as to what was going on. The tradition of assigning a general authority, usually a member of the First Presidency or long-time member of the Quorum of the Twelve, as Church Historian was followed. Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, Anthon H, Lund, Joseph Fielding Smith–these are the names of persons who have served in this capacity during most of the years since 1830. The system began to break down under Joseph Fielding Smith in the 1930s. Elder Smith became preoccupied with the scriptures and their interpretation, and ceased writing events of modern church history. And his long-time assistant church historian, A. William Lund, had neither the training nor the inclination to write much history. He functioned primarily to administer the staff and protect the records. His interest was in “preserving” history, not in making it meaningful in the lives of members. The writing of church history came to be done primarily by students and professors at BYU, Univ. of Utah, USU, and other educational institutions. The function of the Historian’ s Office was to prevent them from using primary documents which they would not treat properly, and from treating topics that were controversial.

With the organization of the Department in the spring of 1972, the responsibility was shifted to “friendly” scholars to administer, under the protective and watchful eyes of a general authority managing director and advisors to the Quorum of the Twelve. Since then it has been a “we” and “they” existence. We have never understood that we are to be regarded as a part of the establishment. Nobody has ever made available to us any records which are not made available to other scholars as well; nobody has shared any information with us to help in writing history that are not shared with the general public over the pulpit. 

One would suppose that as official historians the church would make available to us the minutes of presiding councils, the diaries of the leaders, so we may cull from these things that will help in presenting a favorable and friendly history of the church and its leaders. One would suppose that the leaders, in the tradition of Joseph Smith, would expect us to leave a positive record of the important things that have transpired, are transpiring. But instead, the authorities seem to be playing a game with us to keep us from knowing what went on–what really went on–and at the same time not telling us this so we won’t say that we are being denied access.

It is interesting to find “ordinary” members of the Church oohing and ahing about our work, about how wonderful it would be to, like us, associate closely with President Kimball, the First Presidency, the Apostles, and other general authorities; about how wonderful it would be, like us, to be sharing the most intimate experiences of church leaders and recording these. Yet because it would reflect on our confidence in them, an theirs in us, we cannot reveal the truth, namely, that we get all our information exactly the same way ordinary church members do–by reading the Church News and listening to talks by the general authorities. If they do not have confidence in us, why don’t they release us? If they have confidence in us, why don’t they share things with us? Why don’t they consult us on the history they tell and the history they write? We are never consulted as to the facts of history; we are never asked to give historical talks; we are never informed of the “insides” of decision-making. Nobody suggests what our tasks ought to be; there are always complaints about what we write and the way we write; nobody dares pay us a compliment about our work. And yet, we shall be judged by historians of the future, as people who presented the best light historians can on our history and leaders.

During all the years I have worked in Mormon history, I have believed, have accepted as axiomatic, that one could write good professional history and at the same time write in a manner favorable to the church and its leaders. I have believed that if one was intelligent and watchful and discreet, he could write history that would be accepted by the historical fraternity and at the same time accepted by intelligent and educated, but devout, members of the church. I have said this publicly and privately many times and have acted under the assumption that it was true. For the first time since 1946 I have begun to entertain doubts about that. I have begun to feel that this may not be possible-that what would be the best possible interpretation acceptable by the historical fraternity would still not suit the authorities of the Church. The historians will be more tolerant of the history we write than will the older, more unbending, officials of the Church. In other words, what is a reasonable wording, a reasonable approach, is still not enough for church authorities like Elder Benson and Elder Petersen. It must be one hundred percent positive, like white on black, and even then they would prefer to say it in their own words of faith.

All of this is to say that I am beginning to feel, for the first time in six years, that I am the wrong main in this position. Nor am I confident that they will leave me in until I am 65. And with that doubt about my future, I have to take some means of assuring that my work will continue. I try to see that a copy of my dairy, up-to-date, is kept at home. And some other notes as well, and that my books in my office–those which are privately owned by me-have my name in them. And that my instructions to my children and to Davis as executor of my papers are clear and detailed. 

Reflections on the Historical Department

by Davis Bitton

Looking back on 1977, I feel-mixed emotions. Perhaps this is an appropriate reaction after any year and after life in general, or perhaps one’s age and body chemistry influence outlook about as much as the outward experiences. Be that as it may, I see enough positive achievements that pessimism and gloom do not set the tone for my own work, while on the other hand there are enough negative experiences that the optimism that has been so dominant since 1972 now seems decidedly tempered.

Actually it has been a pretty good year in many ways. We have kept working on different projects. The Knopf volume, a major achievement, has been completed. The oral history program has continued to move ahead. The genealogy study seems to be approaching completion. Our division has contributed significantly to conventions and to scholarly publications, as witness the latest issues of the Journal of Mormon History and BYU Studies. The Church magazines have published several of our articles. Every issue of the Church News runs a vignette by our staff, and this helps to reach a vast audience. When the latest Spalding controversy burst into the news media, we were able, I think, to play a significant constructive role.

The movie on Brigham Young is another event of 1977, and it is certainly much better historically as a result of our help than it would have been otherwise. It is not a great historical movie, nothing to be favorably compared to War and Peace, but it is better than it might have been.

We lost Dean May’s position, it appears, but Dean is still in Salt Lake City and can do much good in his position at the University of Utah. With Jill Mulvay’s marriage and cutback to half time we might have lost further personnel, but we have been able to enlist the services of Carol Cornwall Madsen, a very positive appointment in my estimation.

Some of the disappointments I feel have to do with outside criticism, but I must admit that I feel some disappointment at the lack of productivity of our own staff. If we measure each person’s performance in terms of published articles or even completed manuscripts, or even success in making the deadlines agreed upon, one after the other seems to be moving too slowly. I am including in this statement some of our best people. Having said this, I want to add quickly that Dean May, our sometime colleague, was a good example of a person who found deadlines very hard to meet, and yet he did exceptionally good work and did manage to get a lot done. Further, I have to wonder if there is not now an unspoken assumption that refraining from publication will cause fewer problems than publishing. I don’t know the answer. I know that flexibility should be preserved, and I would not want anyone to be so reprimanded that there was a loss of morale. Still, somehow it seems that we should move ahead more vigorously on a half dozen projects, and going slow on publication, which may or may not be wise, does not seem to preclude the possibility of finishing manuscripts. The individual interviews should probably be the vehicle for agreeing upon target dates and assessing progress.

The negativism we feel as a result of outside criticism is of course counterbalanced by a good deal of friendliness and favorable comment. It would be very easy to take criticism of a few jealous individuals or malcontents if our support from the Brethren were one hundred percent solid. One of the unfortunate events of 1977, it seems to me, was the appearance and circulation of Steve Marshall’s University of Utah Honors thesis on “The New Mormon History,” sponsored by James L. Clayton. I have told Jim that (a) this was a bad choice of a topic because a history student could have no adequate perspective on something this current; and (b) even if I am wrong on that first opinion, if the topic were accepted as legitimate, it should have been approached differently, especially with respect to the interviews, so that misquotation would be less likely. I am afraid this is a malicious piece of work. It damages people professionally, ecclesiastically, and perhaps even personally. It did us no good, for it puts the most unfavorable possible interpretation on our activities, showing no interest in or awareness of many things we do, and it lumps us together with fundamentalists and apostates. Fortunately most people will be unaware of this thesis, and I do not think it would be wise to call attention to it further by any kind of public statement. But it would certainly be a demonstration of concern for accuracy and justice if we would be allowed to respond verbally to any two or three of the Brethren who might read it and be influenced by it.

The other element of criticism is not new. It stems from The Story of the Latter-day Saints and its reception by two or three individuals who were able to influence two or three of the Brethren. This whole experience tells much about our Church in the 1970s. There is still a thought-control mentality; there is a fearfulness as people look over their shoulder and try to guess what others will think; there is a powerful anti-intellectualism, a suspicion of professional historians; there is jealousy on the part of some persons who could not possibly meet us on our own ground of scholarship; there is an absence of proper procedure and sense of fair play in that criticisms cannot be rebutted. The effect of this whole complex of opinions and attitudes and personalities on Deseret Book Company is a good indication of the sickness I am describing. Some day someone could write a fascinating blow-by-blow account of this whole ridiculous affair.

But in the interest of accuracy it should be noted that we do have strong support and good friends on all levels of the church. Thus it will not do to focus only on the negative. It might be anticipated that time will take care of our problem, at least to some extent, during the next five years. By and large, I think we have held up pretty well under the criticism. I do not agree with the suggestion that we should devote time in our staff meetings to this kind of thing. Perhaps “announcements” could be made just for information. But we should avoid becoming obsessed with what others might think. We need to maintain a positive self-image. This we are doing in general.

My own hope is that a confrontation and resultant explosion can be avoided. We should have a contingency plan that will move us into a low-profile position for as much as five years if necessary. This could include:

1. personnel shifting. So as to be able to report that the History division has been reduced in size. Already we have moved back one. I’m not sure that we need as big a “women’ s division” as we have, although it is certainly desirable. If one of our women has to resign for family reasons, we might simply refrain from replacing her. Ron Esplin could, with cooperation from Don Schmidt, be reassigned to archives, where he would actually continue what he is doing. The same might be thought of for oral history. If worse came to worse, Glen Leonard might be a great asset to the Curator’s division. I am thinking only of extremities here; but there would be ways to shuffle and report a shrinking of the History Division without actually firing people, and to a large extent perhaps they could continue activities.

2. shift in emphasis to editing. This is in part the proposal that the “documentary history” be resumed, but I do not see that approval of that specific name is necessary before we start to think of ourselves in these terms. It is easier to explain to the general public and to the Brethren what we are doing in these terms. Thus it might be wise to establish an editing committee and see to it that everyone was working part-time on some editing assignment. As the manuscripts begin to accumulate–carefully annotated and compared against the originals–they can be published if the climate is favorable or they can be placed on a suspension basis. “What do you do in the Historian’s Division?” Answer: “We are working on the Brigham Young papers, or Wilford Woodruff, or Heber J. Grant–“

3. Areas to which we also might think of shifting some weight are oral history and administrative history. Again, easier to explain and defend.

All of this is advanced as a possibility for discussion. It does not, in my mind, require the cessation of scholarship or of publication, although even in this area we might want to adopt more cautious guidelines, expanding what we have already agreed upon with respect to Dialogue.

I do not think we should be so weak-kneed that we buckle under at criticism, but there are possible ways of maneuvering that will enable us to continue some important writing projects, to implement other projects that we agree are important, and above all to survive for a better day. 

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1978]

Today is the sixth year of my appointment as Church Historian. That appointment came, or was publicly announced, six years ago today. It does not seem that long. In fact, it seems about eight months ago. Time seems to go by so much more rapidly than when I was younger. A year seemed to make so much difference then. Now, it seems incredible that I should have been in this job so long, and have achieved so little. I asked Mamma about it last night, and she said that it seems more than six years since she’s lived in Logan. So I guess when you look back at the change in our lives, it seems ages ago. 

[LJA to Children, 14 Jan., 1978]

My job as Church Historian is an impossible assignment. Consider the following:

1. The anti-Mormons (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Michael Marquardt, Wesley Walters, John W. Fitzgerald) seek to use every advantage to get information. If one is truthful and “open”, they destroy me by citing me, by declaring I permitted them access, by tripping me up in inconsistencies. They’re out to injure the Church by injuring me.

2. The highly-orthodox, cautious people, such as Elders Benson, Petersen, and Packer, are alert for every misstep; they want to discredit me.

3. Tom Truitt (and also Lauritz Petersen at an earlier stage) is a spy for Elders Benson and Petersen. He reads everything I do or say that he can get his hands on, underlines statements which, out of context, will be objectionable to Elders Benson and Petersen, and sends these on to them.

4. Elder Benson’s assistant, Bill Nelson, is out to get me. He’s a John Bircher who sees an apostate or “intellectual” (same thing) under every table and uses his influence to point out objectionable things we do and say to Elder Benson.

5. Our good friends, historians who would do the same thing we are doing, such as Dennis Lythgoe, George Ellsworth, and others, in reviewing our books, damn us with faint praise and therefore remove any body of support we might expect from the profession. Knowing full well that we are doing the best we can, they nevertheless criticize us for not doing better and thus put us in the position of not being able to satisfy our peers among historians, as well as our peers among faithful Latter-day Saints.

6. Our own colleagues, knowing we are doing the best we can, are critical of us for restraints on their freedom to publish, or restraints on their freedom of writing and research.

I feel very despondent today, pessimistic about my future, feel that I do not have the support of the Brethren, and also that I do not have the support of fellow historians I have a right to expect support from.

[LJA Diary, 14 Jan., 1978]

Yesterday seemed to be a low one. I received a telephone call from Michael Marquardt, who has called me four times earlier, trying to probe to find out who wrote the response to the Tanners written some time ago by “An LDS Historian.” I denied any involvement and insisted that it was not official in any sense, had nothing to do with our office. And insisted I had no idea who wrote it. Shortly thereafter, I received a telephone call from Jerald Tanner, who said that he had just talked with David Mayfield, and that Mayfield had “spilled the beans.” Dave had admitted to him, he said, that the manuscript was written by Mike Quinn, and that it had been produced about a year ago as an assignment from me and that he, Dave, had seen a typescript. I vehemently denied that this was true, and had a considerable argument with him, completely denying everything. We got into a little bit of a shouting match. I then telephoned Dave, who said that Jerald had telephoned him and asked if he had seen a paper by Mike Quinn which was a response to the Tanners. He said he was “caught off guard,” and did admit he had seen such a paper. Pretty soon, Jerald Tanner telephoned me again and apologized for becoming angry with me for my denial. I re-denied the whole business again, Tanner said he was going to publish the complete story, and no doubt he will publish what he believes to be the true story. But he said he would publish that I denied it. I telephoned Mike Quinn to tell him this. My own feeling is that the Tanners will, use an ad-hominem argument, attacking Mike personally, me personally, and an attempted Watergate denial.

In the evening Grace and I went to an SUP Leaders dinner at Garden Lane Ward, where I gave essentially the same talk I had given at the geographers convention last fall–challenges to the pioneers and how they met them. The meal was a catered one and one of the worst we ever ate, but there were many friendly people including the R.H. Walkers, Orson Wright, Wesley Reese’s, Harold Jenson, Judge Jeppson and wife, Lyman Willardson, etc. Sat next to Barbara Smith, wife of Qliver, the national president. She’s a sister of Fawn Brodie. She said she’d heard I was the most honest historian since B.H. Roberts, and she now believed it. She says there is no family history of Thomas McKay.  

[LJA Diary, 15 Jan., 1978]

I saw Elder Packer today and he said he and family certainly enjoyed the pecan pies. He was very friendly. I keep getting rumors about how the General Authorities don’t like what “the historians” are doing, but the First Presidency go out of their way to tell us they appreciate our efforts. And our budget has been untouched; we have no basis for thinking that they are any less supportive than ever. I think the Birchers keep a watchful eye on us and report anything we write that they don’t approve of, and they duly report it to you know who. But no warning or disciplining comes. I continue to feel that the Lord supports our work, so feel confident. Incidentally, Carl & Chris, that copy is for your private reading and is not to be circulated. O.K.? Love, Dad

[LJA to Children, 20 Jan., 1978]

In our executives meeting this morning Elder Durham said that he had been notified by letter yesterday that our two previous “advisors to the Twelve,” Elders Stapley and Hunter, had been released from that assignment effective January 1, 1978. In their place the First Presidency had appointed Elders Gordon Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer. The letter of appointment to them did not use the term “advisors to the Twelve” but used the term “as liaison between the First Presidency and the Historical Department.” This may be a significant difference. When Elder Dyer was appointed Managing Director, Elders Spencer Kimball and Howard W. Hunter were listed as advisors. This meant essentially that they were to be consulted on important matters, they were advisors to the Department in the normally understood sense. After Elder Kimball became President of the Twelve he was released and Elder Hunter became the senior advisor and Elder Bruce McConkie the junior advisor. They understood their call as being liaison with the First Presidency. They met with us monthly but they never made decisions. They simply arranged meetings with the First Presidency for us to present important matters needing a decision. After a year or so Elder McConkie was released and Elder Stapley became the senior advisor with Elder Hunter as junior advisor. Elder Stapley regarded his function as being an advisor to the Twelve, and so under his tutelage, whenever important matters were brought up they were taken by him and Elder Hunter to the meeting of the Twelve and any decision reached was then conveyed back to us. Since none of us were ever invited to meet with the Twelve and since Elder Stapley was not very familiar with our work and his memory was not too sharp, the cause for our activity and policies was never very effectively presented to the Twelve. Now with these new appointments we will have some very articulate spokesmen in Elders Hinckley and Packer. And it seems significant that the letter of their appointment does not refer to them as “advisors to the Twelve” but as “liaison with the First Presidency.” This seems to be a significant change and a welcome one. This means hopefully that either Elders Hinckley and Packer will meet with the First Presidency about our program or that they will arrange for us to meet with the First Presidency, or at least for Elder Durham to meet with the First Presidency. In any case it seems to be an improvement on what has been the situation under Elder Stapley and Elder Hunter. It now appears that the Historical Department is not being classified under ecclesiastical departments nor under temporal departments, but as a special staff department functioning directly under the First Presidency. 

[LJA Diary, 8 Feb., 1978]

This morning there was a long meeting of the executives with Elder

Durham beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending about 11:15. Elder Durham expressed a number of concerns about the department and its work and the image it has with certain General Authorities. He expressed the opinion that it was now time for him to assume a greater degree of control over the work of the department. He raised a number of problems and possible solutions and asked each of us to respond, which we did in a general way. He wants us to come up with more specific suggestions to implement programs and policies which will help take care of some of the problems.

Here are the notes that we made at the meeting.

1. Elder Durham to manage. Saw a confederacy–four kingdoms, our four divisions. Should have more coordination.

2. Concern over access to archives. Xerox copies of documents getting into hands of Tanners and others. Harmful material getting out.

3. Publications. Role of History Division, “book and article factory.”

Should be on responsibility of the individual. Sec. 47 and 21. Keeping Journal History, Collecting minutes. How to get to doing what it says in Sec. 47. J.A.W. as mediator between scholars and church authorities. Terminate fellowships.

4. A thought came to him last night. Put Mormon History Trust Fund with

Charles Redd Center at BYU. Come out under auspices of BYU not Historical Department. H.J.G. oppose Albert Carrington being restored to fellowship and First Presidency call him in. G. couldn’t forgive Carrington.

5. Elder Durham says he knows how to delegate; doesn’t want to breathe down our necks. He recommends we institute more control over access to archives; more control over xeroxing; and seek not to identify our staff with articles they are publishing as part of our staff. Let them come out under their own individual names.

My reactions to all of the above are as follows:

l. If Elder Durham feels that we should not give any more fellowships of any kind either through the department or through the Mormon History Trust Fund account, then I shall advise members of our staff that they are no longer bound to make contributions of part of their earnings to the Mormon History Trust Fund.

2. If Brother Durham wishes us to cease being an “article and book factory” then we can just concentrate on papers and reports and our staff will gradually leave as the incentive for staying here and working will be largely eliminated,

3. If the above should happen then there would be no point in my being connected with the Historical Department. It would seem to be wisdom for me to warn the BYU people on this matter, that I will go with them full-time in another year or two.

4. In my response to Elder Durham I pointed out a concern of my own which is very strongly felt; namely, that the image of secrecy, of keeping the lid on documents, of hiding the truth, of censoring, is not a good image and does the Church harm. If we would take all of the steps he recommended it reopens that image once more and will be disadvantageous to the kingdom and the Church.

5. Elder Durham is thinking seriously of changing our titles. Church Curators Division would become Arts and Sites Division with Sister Jacobsen as director. Our division might become Research and Writing Division with myself as director. The same with Library and Archives. The title of Church Historian would thus disappear. I was asked specifically by Earl if I would object to that change. I told him no, I would not object, that I did not care what my title was and that the point of interest was whether I am doing work that is desirable and helpful.

6. Brother Durham refused to accept the amendment to the Statement of Intent dated 31 Jan. 1978, copy of which is hereby included. Instead, the attached (see 14 Feb. 78) memorandum was substituted. When Earl asked me to sign the memorandum I said I would do so under strong protest, and so I did sign it.

7. In all of these negotiations and discussions our relationship with Brother Durham was friendly and pleasant and relaxed. I was more frank with Earl and more excited, perhaps to some extent angry, but nevertheless pleasant and friendly. Certainly Earl did not give the appearance that he agreed with everything Brother Durham was doing. Or to put it another way, he realized that it was a slap in the face against me and those with whom I work. 

[LJA Diary, 15 Feb., 1978]

I am weary of having to function in a position where I cannot be open and completely honest. I cannot “level” with Elder Durham because he is so fearful that he would prevent me from doing anything worthwhile. I cannot level with our advisors from the Twelve because they would run to the Twelve with every little problem and they would discuss it without anyone there who knows anything about it. I cannot level with our research historians because they would all quit–or tell others and thus put us in disrepute. I do level with Davis and Jim and that is one consolation. I suppose this is in the very nature of bureaucratic rule. But the atmosphere of arbitrary action, of apoplectic reaction, of fear of leveling with the body of the church and the public at large is so at war with my notion of church government that it disturbs me. I had none of this feeling at Utah State. And I did not feel it so oppressively until now. Elder Dyer was boyant, ebullient, and confident; Elder Anderson was serene and calm. He had confidence in us, exuded that confidence in working with the advisors, listened much and talked little, had complete confidence that the Lord was pleased and that all would go well. I think my pessimism arose as Elder Durham took over. Here is a proven administrator of long experience and training as an administrator who generates distrust, who reacts to every little problem as if it would shake the Kingdom, who is not a good listener, who takes action before really understanding the problem. Since he took over last April, I have developed real doubts about my calling and our policies. I am almost to the point of throwing in the towel.

It seems to me that we have the following things going against us:

First, our association with Dialogue. Dialogue was (is) an anathema to Elder Benson and Elder Petersen, and they can never forgive us for our associations with them before our appointments. It they saw evidence of our association with them today, they would press for our release.

Second, Story of the Latter-day Saints. Most of all, I suppose, they don’t like us springing this on them (and the Saints) without all the customary clearances through Correlation.

Third, the inclination of our greatest defender, Elder Howard Hunter, not to “speak up” for us, and the inclination of our administrative friend, Elder Homer Durham, to flee from every appearance of criticism. He is opposed to us doing anything that will bring any criticism down upon us, which means he is opposed to us doing anything.

Fourth, those who should be our greatest supporters, our colleagues in professional history, do not defend us or review our works favorably, but instead get after us for caving in, selling out, buckling under, catering to the authorities. This means that we do not have a base of support. When Elder Petersen asserts that there is no profit in catering to the professional historians by leaning over backwards to present honest history, he is unfortunately right. So the protective criticize us, and the liberals do not support us. This means that we are the only ones who support us. It is an impossible situation.

But I suppose this must have been true also of Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt, and B. H. Roberts. I suppose one waits for future generations to appreciate one’s work of this character. Orson Pratt, B. H. Roberts, David 0. McKay, loom even larger in retrospect. And in retrospect, the influence of J. Reuben Clark, Jr., seems particularly destructive of enlightenment and liberality.

When I become particularly depressed, I feel solace in my relationships with

Jim and Davis, particularly Davis who is in the office every day; with Grace and the children, with whom I feel quite at home in discussing things; and in reading Christian writings (Old and New Testaments and commentaries upon them, and the writings of Christian scholars). To me, this seems like going back to the days of the Institute at Moscow when I enjoyed reading the Goodspeed Bible and the writings of persons in divinity schools. I am back to that now. I particularly enjoy reading (and reading about) the Writings of the Old Testament–Job, Psalms, Proverbs, etc. They are more intellectual, I suppose, and deal more directly and openly with individual and universal human problems.

I feel like saying, with the Psalmist:

Hear my prayer, O Lord,

And give heed to my cry! 

Be not unresponsive to my tears; 

For I am a guest with thee, 

A sojourner, like all my ancestors. 

Turn thy gaze away from me, that I may be glad,

Before I go away and be no more.

Psalms 39:12-13.

Or perhaps more accurately, with Job:

Let me alone! For my days are but a breath. 

What is man that thou shouldst magnify him,

And shouldst set thy mind upon him,

And shouldst inspect him every morning, 

And test him every moment? 

How long wilt thou not look away from me, 

Nor let me alone till I swallow my saliva? 

Have I sinned? What do I unto thee, O thou keeper of man? 

Why dost thou make me a target for thyself, 

So that I am become a burden to thee? 

Why dost thou not forgive my transgression, 

And make my guilt to pass away? 

For soon I shall lie down in the dust; 

And thou wilt search for me, but I shall not be. (Job 7:16-21)

One other thought. I have wished to help and encourage out Latter-day Saint young people who are trying to study the scriptures in a religious and theological context. I do not see anyone in the school of religion at BYU who is studying the Bible in the context of Higher Criticism. And how can one obtain the real meaning of the gospels without Higher Criticism? I feel so encouraged that a number of your bright young intellectuals, primarily those influenced by Jack Adamson, I suspect, who have gone to Harvard Divinity School; Kathryn Hansen Shirts, Rich Sherlock, Melody Moench, and who was the woman who came in to see me the other day? Now lives in Indiana. Also Scott Kenney at Pacific. Anyway, I wish I could provide fellowships for them all to study Mormon intellectual history. We need to have at least one of this type at BYU. At least one. Just one, please God! Nothing has upset me as much as Elder Durham’s pronouncement that we should give no more fellowships. That we should let all the creative, interpretive scholarship come under private auspices and not with our encouragement or help. I think I will consider seriously giving some of my private resources to support the Mormon History Trust Fund in giving such fellowships. 

[LJA Diary, 18 Feb., 1978]

Earl called me in this afternoon to tell me that Brother Durham felt that I should go directly to him on more matters affecting the History Division. For one thing, he thinks that there must he things which arise on which he should he consulted and which he isn’t. For another thing, those matters which affect our division only should he brought up directly with him rather than in the Executives meeting. He thinks even if I have no problems that at least twice a week I should ask for a few minutes with him to talk over something even if I have to make it up so that he will feel he is involved in the decision-making affecting our division and its work. This is further evidence that he wants to administer our division and that he regards my role as liaison between himself and the members of our staff. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Feb., 1978]

This morning Elder Durham called me into his office. When I reached there I discovered Don Schmidt and Earl Olson. Brother Durham said he wanted to report to us the results of a conversation which he had just had a few minutes before with the First Presidency. The First Presidency were all present and had specifically called him in to discuss Historical Department matters. Florence would have been invited for this report meeting also had she been in town. Brother Durham did not think it wise to invite one of her assistants, Paul Anderson or Richard Oman, to represent her. He said he would inform her directly.

Probably the reason for the meeting was that Brother Durham had asked the First Presidency to indicate to him whether his new advisors, Elders Hinckley and Packer, were to be liaison for him and the department with the First Presidency or whether they were to report directly to the Twelve and be advisors to the Twelve on Historical Department matters. The First Presidency answered yes to the first. In fact, as the matter was raised with then, President Tanner said, “We have already decided this matter, haven’t we, brethren?” They all nodded and he said yes, and the answer is that the Historical Department is directly under the First Presidency and that Elders Hinckley and Packer are to be liaison between Elder Durham and the First Presidency. They are to report to the First Presidency on these matters for decisions rather than to the twelve. If the Twelve need to be informed they will be informed by the First Presidency.

In line with the change in nomenclature of various Church personnel and in line with the titles which are given to various branches of Church government, they have given us new titles. My title will be Director, History Division. Davis and Jim will therefore have the title of Assistant Directors, History Division. Don will have the title, Director, Library-Archives Division. Florence will have the title, Director, Arts and Sites Division. The change in these titles is to take place today but there will be no announcement, no announcement by the First Presidency. The title change is regarded as descriptive not substantive. None of us is to suggest to anybody that they have changed our titles or our functions. The functions are not changed at all nor our responsibilities nor our stewardship. If somebody introduces us as Church Historian or Assistant Church Historian, we are to let it pass without any comment. But we are to sign our letters as indicated above. We are also to make out new vita sheets which will give this new title. Presumably this title will get to be generally used, but we are not to call attention to it.

With regard to another question which Elder Durham had asked the First Presidency, namely the desirability of “converting the History Division from a publications factory into a history-writing function,” the First Presidency replied in the affirmative; this should be done. This does not mean any heroic change of direction but only a gradual redirection over time. In terms of specifics, Elder Durham said we should continue our vignettes, we should continue work with the magazines, we may continue work with BYU Studies. But presumably any important project that involves publication must have Elder Durham’s prior approval. This would suggest that if we were to do anything equivalent to the series of articles on Brigham Young for BYU Studies this must have his prior approval. He did not say that he would necessarily veto such a project. He has already instructed us that any book-length manuscript from our people he has to read and approve. We have understood this so there is no change there.

Elder Durham wants to have a meeting with me individually on History

Division matters every Tuesday morning at 8:15. It is in that meeting presumably that the details of this change of direction of the History Division will be worked out. Again, I do not anticipate that he will change things very much from what we are doing. But he wants to he fully informed and to have the opportunity of approving or disapproving at the earliest possible stage.

Elder Durham says that the First Presidency have told him expressly– no doubt in answer to his query–that he is to regard himself, not as coordinator of the four divisions in the Historical Department, but as the Managing Director in the strictest and most responsible sense. He wants to be informed of all projects and wishes to authorize them and approve them.

Elder Durham feels very strongly about preserving this close relationship between himself, the advisors, and the First Presidency and, to use his words, “Let the others keep their cotton-picking hands off.”

Additional comments: The titles Church Historian and Assistant Church Historian thus disappear and may they rest in peace. There was no suggestion in anything said by Elder Durham that indicates any displeasure of the First Presidency with the work of the history Division in particular or the Historical Department in general. On the contrary, Elder Durham was feeling positively buoyant as the result of the conference, and he also seemed to have felt that we would accept all of these changes and that they would be regarded as desirable by us. Elder Durham did ask us if we had any objections to the title change and I said that I had no personal objection and would have no psychological hang-up about it. That I thought the new title, Director, History Division, was more descriptive of what I do and would suit better academically, that my academic colleagues would understand more fully what I am doing and it would remove a possible intonation that the title Church Historian implied, that I was a “kept historian.” I did tell Elder Durham that I felt sure that there will be academic comment about the change and that some of my professional colleagues will choose to interpret this as a demotion. I told him I thought over time they would understand that it was not and that if anybody raised the question I would say as much personally or by letter.

In a sense it is a loaded question to ask “Should the History Division convert from being a production factory into a history-writing enterprise?” As Davis says, if he were to have asked “Should the History Division continue to do about what it is doing?” they would have responded affirmatively. But this technique makes it possible for Brother Durham to suggest to some of our opponents and skeptics that the Church is putting pressure on us to discontinue something which those people have regarded as undesirable. And my own feeling is that the message “books and article factory,” does not and would not have represented our work accurately. But the new concept gives a chance to slough off the image that we had in the minds of some people and hopefully leads the way toward greater acceptance of what we want to do and are expecting to continue doing.

In our meeting this morning Elder Durham said that his brother had managed the Deseret News, that over a short span of years he had built up the distribution 30,000 to 80,000. This had been enough to force the Tribune to sell to the Deseret News the Salt Lake Telegram thus leaving the afternoon up solely to the Deseret News. It had also been the means of forcing the Salt Lake Tribune to join in the Newspaper Agency Corporation. But his brother kept getting complaints from individual General Authorities, so many that it just about drove him crazy. He was in an impossible situation. Elder Callis would come over and complain about some article or the treatment of some subject. What should he do? This continuing over many months and years caused his brother to become a secret alcoholic and eventually he had to leave the News. He since has gone to Arizona, I believe, and has pretty well rehabilitated himself. But this suggests that Elder Homer Durham was getting into a similar situation, where every General Authority might come to him and react against a specific book, pamphlet, or article produced by the History Division. Elder Durham said he was a lightning rod so far as the General Authorities and the First Presidency were concerned. I told him that there was another side to this issue. There were constant criticisms, complaints and suggestions coming from professional people and that I was the lightning rod on those. Elder Durham said I should keep him informed on that matter.

Elder Durham said that he hoped the measures taken would help to quiet the controversy that was stimulated by the Marshall honors thesis at the University of Utah on “The New Mormon History.” Also perhaps an anticipated response that might have occurred or may occur on the Tanner pamphlet.

[LJA Diary, 24 Feb., 1978]

We have decided to use some different titles for our academic connections and involvements. Thus, Don Schmidt, Church-Librarian Archivist will be Director, Library-Archives Division; Florence Jacobsen, Church Curator, becomes Director, Arts & Sites Division; and LJA becomes Director, History Division. So if you see that title used in some references, don’t be surprised. No demotion is involved, nor change of function. It just means that we have felt the titles would mean more to “the professional world.” This was particularly important for Florence. A curator is a glorified museum janitor, so we are especially glad to get a new title for her. And I am, in truth, not a “kept historian,” but director of a group of historians who are doing good professional history.

[LJA to Children, 25 Feb., 1978]

I have given the impression, earlier in this diary, that my position as Church Historian (Director, History Division) is an impossible job. And I have probably given the impression that this is because of the impossibility of doing real historical writing in view of the hyper-reaction of such members of the Twelve as Elders Benson, Petersen, and Packer. But that isn’t the whole story. The job is equally impossible because of the hyper-reactions of my own staff members on the other side. I sometimes feel that I am going into the Lion’s Den when I have to meet with my staff. Davis and Jim are fully supportive and understanding. But any announcement of a policy decision brings strong reactions from many other members of the staff. And they demonstrate a lack of confidence in me as much as a lack of confidence in other of our leaders: Elder Durham, our advisers, Elder Benson, etc. I try to exude confidence, to demonstrate faith and hope, to exhibit enthusiasm. But that does not seen to be the prevailing temper of some of my associates. They seize on the worst possible interpretation of events and policies and are very critical. In all my professional career I have not been with any group that was so vocal and hostile in their criticisms and misgivings; so much inclined to jump down your throat of any suggestion of change from an accustomed way. This is so curious. The young are supposed to be optimistic, hopeful, idealistic, eager. The staff are well paid (or, is well paid, whichever). Most of them are making more than they could earn in universities. We now have several in excess of an annual rate in excess of $20,000. They have good futures. One would think that they would want to buckle down and produce; that is the key to their future. But they stew about their rights, their prerogatives, their little privileges; they want to be free of supervision and criticism, while telling others how they ought to supervise and ought to praise. This is not universally true. Jill is a sweet person who ever tries to reconcile and help and smooth things out. So is Dean Jessee, who is very supportive. And basically this is also true of Glen Leonard. But Gordon, Ron Esplin, Ron Walker, Richard Jensen do not demonstrate the same faith and confidence. I feel wound between the jaws of ecclesiastical hostility and staff hostility. 

[LJA Diary, 3 Mar., 1978]

Elder Leonard J. Arrington 

Director, History Division 

Historical Department 


Dear Brother Arrington:

Following are some of the current guidelines President Kimball and counselors have advised me to implement. They accord with organization changes at Church headquarters that have been going forward for some time.

1. Adjustment of titles of Departmental Division Heads to “Director.” (Davis Bitton and James Allen as “Assistant Directors” in the History Division).

2. The Managing Director is expected to approve all projects and operations of the Department and its Divisions. This includes (1) prior approval of proposed publications

and projects including any approaches to Deseret Book Co., or other publishers, and (2) final approval (at the departmental level) of manuscripts produced.

3. I reported that to provide a useful way to meet this responsibility, we have established our brief, regular Tuesday 8:15 a.m. conferences including the Assistant Managing Director, instead of the previous ad hoc arrangements. You should also feel free to consult Brother Earl F. Olson, Assistant Managing Director, on any matters at any convenient time.

4. Within this framework, we should examine when a specific signed book or article should be presented to the public as the work of the authors, in contrast to representation that they are “official” Church statements.

5. May I express the desire and hope that as Director of the Division, and its chief editor, you and your Assistant Directors would maintain and strengthen existing processes for editorial accuracy, excellence, for the personal and collective reputation of both the Division, the Department, and for the Church. I appreciate past accomplishments on all these lines.

Davis Bitton’s proposal to compile and edit unpublished discourses of President Brigham Young within these guidelines can proceed. President Kimball is concerned, always, that work emanating from the Department build faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and promote the strength of the Church and its people, and instructed me to examine and review the project carefully.

I hope that the work you so prayerfully undertake and direct, may benefit from these efforts to clarify channels and meet the expectations of our leaders.

I will be happy to enlarge upon or explain any matters not made clear, to the best of my ability.


G. Homer Durham 

Managing Director 

{G. Homer Durham to LJA, 10 Mar., 1978]

Met this morning with Elder Durham. He reported that he had a brief meeting with President Kimball last week. Most of the time was taken up with a matter unrelated to the Historical Department, but President Kimball did approve the project to have Davis work on the unpublished sermons of Brigham Young, at the same time reminding us that Brigham Young lived a long time ago and advocated some doctrines that are no longer accepted. But he expressed confidence that we would handle it discreetly. President Kimball expressed approval and support of me and my work, and after saying this Brother Durham looked up and said, “We are very fortunate to have President Kimball. Let’s pray for his long life.” I told him that we do. He said Sister Kimball told Eudora last week that she is fearful of President Kimball’s continued good health–“He is always so tired.” She has not been successful, in getting him to take off Mondays, but she hopes he will. President Kimball also told Brother Durham that he is to approve every single program and every single product of our division. And I assume this means approving every article submitted, every book, and so on. In saying this President Kimball surely does not know how much we produce. This would take more than Elder Durham’s full time to read everything we turn out. I assume Elder Durham will continue to expect me to do all of this very carefully and he will give nominal approval on the basis of our own approval.

Elder Durham also met last week with Elder Packer and Elder Hinckley, but he has been unable so far to set up a regular monthly meeting with them which he very much wants to do. He said that Elder Hinckley is extremely busy. He handles Bonneville International and nearly every public relations matter. At the earliest opportunity he wants to have me meet with them to discuss matters related to our work. He thinks that would be helpful for them to know more about what we do and our attitudes. He said Elder Packer is quite concerned over access to the archives and to some extent Elder Hinckley as well. One problem they expressed to him is the fact that persons (I suppose they had Reed Durham in mind) in the process of doing research on one topic will see other things and make notes about them and then convey that information acquired through serendipity to other persons and it eventually gets into the hands of people who ridicule the Church or create problems. Elder Durham told them he didn’t see any way to prevent that. The alternative–not allowing anybody to see anything–is far worse. Or, examining everybody’s notes like Brother Lund used to do. He told them it is just something we will have to live with and trust that all will work out for the good of the Church. Elder Durham left a letter with me with some instructions which I will put with this diary entry. 

Elder Durham said, “1 know you must feel that what you and your colleagues have done in the past six years is not appreciated; but that is not true. You have done good work and it is appreciated. And I am sure that fifty years from now when we look back at these events the work you have done and are doing will be regarded as a magnificent contribution.” 

[LJA Diary, 14 Mar., 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]

We are filing this under April 5 because it is intended to accompany the filing of the attached letter from the First Presidency. However, I am dictating this on April 25. This letter was not received by Elder Durham until after Grace and I had gone to New York for the OAH meetings and other chores.

What I would like to say is that I firmly believe that this letter was written by Elder Durham and presented first to Elders Hinckley and Packer and with their approval submitted to the First Presidency for them to sign as a letter of instruction to him from them. It is my belief that he did this with the hope that he could change the image which our division has in the minds of a few brethren of the Twelve. By giving the impression that he is changing our mission and program he is giving the impression that we are now following what the Brethren would like us to do. Actually I do not see the letter as requiring us to do anything substantially different than what we have been doing all along. The letter represents a mere cosmeticizing–a change on paper which will satisfy the Brethren but not change in substance. I did not object to this tactic, but to be honest it seems rather foolish. It also gives the impression that we have not been doing all along what the change specifies. It does provide our liaison advisors with the opportunity of approving specifically each of our programs, but I have every confidence that they will do this. What we have been doing is not anything that anybody has objected to or would object to. The objection to our activities is an objection based on misinformation, and once they understand our situation they will be supportive of our efforts.

We continue to be bombarded with rumors about what is going to happen to us, and some of the members of the staff, having heard these rumors from a variety of sources are “running scared.” These rumors circulate because the brethren are capable of arbitrary decisions based on lack of information. And it is this very arbitrariness of decision-making which scares subordinates. If there was more to process within the administrative structure–if there was more government by regulations instead of by off-hand judgments–people would have more confidence in what is being done at the decision-making level. 

[LJA Diary, 5 Apr., 1978]

Elder G. Homer Durham 

Managing Director 

Historical Department

Dear Brother Durham:

Early in 1972 the First Presidency directed a reorganization of what was then known as the Church Historian’s Office. In September 1972, the Presidency advised Brother Leonard J. Arrington, director of the history division, that approval had been given to a program of historical research, writing, and publication which he had proposed earlier.

During the past six years the dedicated effort by Brother Arrington and his associates has resulted in a number of substantial projects dealing with the history of the Church.

Without intending to diminish the benefits that might be derived from a continuation of these efforts, we now feel that the need for this might be satisfied through the efforts of a growing number of LDS scholars throughout the Church, as well as by others. With some changes in the organization of various departments at Church headquarters, and with some shifts in emphasis in various programs, we have felt that the Historical Department should likewise move in a somewhat altered direction. We have previously discussed this with you, and you have advised that you have discussed it with Brother Arrington.

In furtherance of this change of emphasis, we feel the time has now come for the work of the history division to be focused on: (1) careful maintenance and refinement of the Journal History; (2) maintenance of the growing archives and the ever-increasing resources of historical data pertaining to the Church; (3) providing assistance to the First Presidency, General Authorities, and Church agencies as directed; and (4) undertaking such research and publication projects as may be directed or specifically authorized from time to time by the First Presidency.

By means of a confidential copy of this letter, we are advising Brother Arrington of this change of emphasis. We commend him and his associates on their faithful service. We recognize that these changes may eventually involve the Department in budgetary and personnel adjustments. However, we recognize the commitments that have been made and are hopeful that if changes may be deemed necessary they may be accommodated through normal retirements, voluntary transfers, or other arrangements acceptable to those concerned. 

Will you and your assistant managing director please meet with Brother Arrington to develop a list of the ongoing projects of the division which you feel should be continued. Kindly discuss these with and report your recommendations through Elders Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer.

We repeat our appreciation for the devoted service given by Brother Arrington and his faithful and capable associates, and hope that all concerned will accord with the requests herein made.

Sincerely your brethren,




[The First Presidency to G. Homer Durham, 5 Apr., 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]

This morning was my first day back in the office. It was also the occasion of our weekly worship service of the Historical Department. Elder Durham had invited Elder Gordon Hinckley to speak and he talked for perhaps fifteen minutes to our group. Among other things, he said that he had had to give a radio series on the history of the Church many years ago and this had required him to make frequent use of the library. In charge of the library at the time was Brother Alvin Smith, brother of Joseph Fielding–perhaps half-brother. Brother Smith, Elder Hinckley said, was a kind of salty character. The older ones in the Historical Department nodded their heads vigorously. On one occasion Elder Hinckley said he was present when an older gentleman stepped to the door of the historical archives and said to Brother Smith that he understood that we had a certain document in the archives and he wanted to know if for sure we had it and whether he might be able to see it. Alvin Smith, recognizing the person as Francis Darter, who had been excommunicated from the Church for belief in polygamy and other “fundamentalist” doctrines, replied, “Mr. Darter, you know damn well that we have that document in our archives and you know damn well I am not going to let you see it. If you don’t get out of our archives this minute I am going to throw you through the window.” Elder Hinckley told me after the meeting that Alvin Smith’s vocabulary was even saltier than suggested by that story and that he had left out some of the salt in telling the story to the historical personnel in the meeting this morning.

[LJA Diary, 19 Apr., 1978]

In our executive meeting this morning Elder Anderson notified us that he has been released as Managing Director and will move to the 19th floor where he will devote most of his time to the work of restoring blessings. He said that the new Managing Director will be Elder Homer Durham. He has been notified of this assignment and has already had conversations with Elder Anderson about it. Elder Durham will move into Elder Anderson’s office probably within the next few days. Brother Durham has already employed his secretary, a Sister Rasmussen, and she will take over Marge’s office. Elder Anderson expressed to us his profound appreciation and said that he was grateful for the opportunity to work with us for the past four years. He said that he appreciates the unity, the absence of bickering, our dedication to our positions and to the Church. We expressed to him our appreciation for his service and assistance in setting up and operating our various programs and carrying out our mission. Earl said that considering the fact that they were releasing Brother Anderson he very much appreciated the appointment of Elder Durham because this means we are not going to go under one of the General Church committees. We will still have the same status that we have had with respect to the First Presidency and Church government that we have had for the past several years. The announcement will be made to the staff in a special staff meeting either tomorrow or Monday depending upon when Brother Anderson receives the formal letter from the First Presidency. 

[LJA Diary, 28 Apr., 1978]

It is clear that Mormon history is in a healthy state. Lots of articles being prepared and published, lots of books on the way. Not everyone agrees with what is being done. Or perhaps what I should say is that along with the positive things which help record the happenings of the Kingdom and the positive characteristics of the prominent personalities of the Kingdom are occasional articles–not many but a few–which have partly negative images. We regret these, but they seem to be unavoidable. They do not bother us who have had a full baptism in Church history, but we have to acknowledge that they may cause doubts for those who have an idealistic conception and who have been shielded from the possibility of sleazy activities. I am most disturbed with a few scholars who know very well what they are doing and yet do it, causing problems for the Kingdom–and for us. With the principal of free agency, the Lord has acknowledged, some evil will precipitate along with the good. 

[LJA to Children, 28 Apr., 1978]

This afternoon, at four o’clock, our offices in the Historical Department were closed and we were told to convene in the Conference Room. Coming into the room were

President Eldon Tanner, Elder Joseph Anderson, and Elder Homer Durham. President Tanner then announced that the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve had released Elder Anderson from his position as managing director of the Historical Department. He asked us to sustain that with upheld right hands. After words of praise for Elder Anderson, he then asked if we could sustain the First Presidency in appointing Elder Durham to this position. All held up their hands. After further words of appreciation to Elder Anderson, President Tanner then asked Elder Anderson to speak. He stated his appreciation for the opportunity of working with the Department; stated his respect and love for the personnel, especially the executives; and testified of the harmony and unity among that group. He had high praise for the executives. His voice was filled with emotion. President Tanner then asked Elder Durham to speak. He stated his pleasure in responding to the assignment, declared his love for history, complimented us on our work in the past and present, and his hope for the future. He pledged untiring service in helping the Department to carry out its mission. President Tanner said that Elder Durham had been his home teacher and his stake president and had great appreciation for his dedication to the Kingdom. President Tanner then asked Earl Olson, as an old timer in the department, to speak. Earl expressed our love for Elder Anderson, for Marjorie Golder, and our pledge to work with Elder Durham. President Tanner then dismissed us.

Marjorie wept a good deal, and as we went to shake hands with Elder Anderson, he also wept as he expressed appreciation for the opportunity to work with us for the past four years. 

[LJA Diary, 29 Apr., 1978]

Attendance: Leonard Arrington, Jim Allen, Davis Bitton, Gordon Irving, Ron Esplin, Ron Walker, Jill Mulvay-Derr, Glen Leonard, Bruce Blumell, Richard Jensen, Carol Madsen, Bill Hartley. Also G. Homer Durham and Earl Olson.

Invocation was offered by James B. Allen.

Would like a personal interview with each one beginning May 25 to have you report on your concept of your future. No one’s position is in immediate jeopardy. Hope changes may be accomplished by attrition. There have been many changes of late. The Church divested itself of junior colleges in 1931, of hospitals in recent days, McCune School of Music was closed.

First Presidency letter. History Division should move in “somewhat altered direction.” Review of work of Division since 1972. We feel that need for historical work can be satisfied by LDS scholars working on their own. Since history can be done elsewhere, the Church doesn’t need to sponsor history.

Focus on: (1) Maintenance and refinement of Journal History. (2) Maintenance on archives and materials. (3) Providing assistance to First Presidency and

church agencies as directed. (4) Undertaking such research as assigned specifically by First Presidency.

Eventually there may be need for budget and personnel changes. Hope that those can be accomplished through attrition.

Elder Durham: Don’t get emotional over this. Don’t tell anyone till after interviews are held.

This doesn’t suggest that Church isn’t interested in history, any more than divestiture of McCune Music meant Church wasn’t interested in music. 

Would like benefit of your views before meeting with liaison people again in early June. Need to refine proposal as to disposition of ongoing projects.

Earl Olson: There have been major personnel changes recently and it’s hard to take. Must keep in mind the necessity to be humble, support the Brethren.

Elder Durham: First Presidency has called for a general reduction of personnel, projects. Probably the money is needed for field work, and probably there is some feeling that we overproduce in some areas.

Don’t start new projects even if previously approved! All right to conduct any scheduled interviews. Thought we’d have longer, but were given some new information yesterday.

Glen Leonard: 18 May prof dev. Will invite John Drayton, the managing editor of BYU Press. Will make short opening statement and then respond to questions.

Ron Walker: Fireside on 13 May, 7:15. Will meet at Dan Olson’s gallery. Will have refreshments at Bittons afterward.

LJA: For the next few months there will be absolutely no changes in anything. The changes will come as projects are finished and new projects are assigned.

Feel we have been going through change of direction for some time. We’ve expected that we’d be moving into something different.

Brother Durham didn’t expect to share letter with staff, but rather work out things gradually. He was instructed yesterday to read the letter to the group.

If anyone asks about this meeting, say it was about a gradual shift in program as current projects are completed. Details are not worked out. As we finish projects we will decide on new projects. 

At MHA, say that (1) LJA not fired, (2) H. Div. not abolished, (3) sesquicentennial history not cancelled, (4) publication program not cancelled, (5) all publications not necessarily cleared by an apostle. All these matters are current rumors.

Know First Presidency appreciates what we have done to date. Feel confident, feel good, ought to express that. Let’s stop these crazy rumors which have no basis at all. Feel Elder Durham’s instructions are more or less a codification of what we have been doing. Can keep busy with current projects for a long time. Have been submitting projects for approval anyway. Expect to be here till retirement.

Expect that if anyone leaves we won’t be able to replace them. Don’t understand why Elder Durham’s presentation was so negative. Shouldn’t let that affect our view of what is happening. Expect Elder Durham is going to ask how long each person expects to stay with Department and whether they might not like to work in another division or department. He thought that the Brethren would expect at least one of us to leave before the end of the year. Have been called to be here and expect to stay, even if there be adverse conditions.

Feel very positive about Elder Durham’s role–feel him to be a firm, intelligent and loyal defender. If he’s appeared negative today, that’s not representative of his approach.

See Elder Packer’s talk as meaning (1) consider who audience is, (2) emphasize the spiritual more, (3) address ourselves to Church more than professional audience. Feel we’re doing that anyway.

Feel good; doesn’t represent anything different from what we’ve anticipated. 

[Staff Meeting Minutes; LJA Diary, 4 May, 1978]

I want to report for the diary that last Thursday, May 4, Elder Durham asked for Davis and Jim and myself to meet with him and Earl Olson in his office at 2 p.m. He told us that he was going to hold a meeting of all the personnel (except secretaries) of our division at which he would read the letter from the First Presidency of April 5, 1978, copy of which was placed under that date in our diary. Elder Durham commented at some length on that letter and its implications and responded to some questions from Davis and Jim. I, of course, had already read the letter.

The meeting of the staff was held at 2:30 and all were present except Dean Jessee, who was in Manti. Elder Durham read the letter and commented at some length. He said that he would not entertain any questions about it and he begged all present to say absolutely nothing about its contents to other persons in the Historical Department or to persons at the Mormon History Association convention. He said he would return on May 25 and would begin a series of interviews with individual members of the staff. He is scheduling as much as a half hour interview with each one and they will proceed for several days or weeks. Elder Durham presented this matter as if he were “dropping a bomb”– as if it was a major readjustment. He implied that some of the personnel may be transferred to other divisions of the department such as Library-Archives and Arts and Sites. He also implied we would be getting rid of our part-time people–Maureen, Jill, and Carol. He also implied that some members of the staff might find it necessary or desirable to go into the Institute system. The staff were all shocked and taciturn. After the meeting I asked Brother Durham very quickly whether I still might go ahead and send the projected letter to Sister Smith about getting things started on a Relief Society history.  He said I might do so and might have a meeting with her, but not to commit myself until he returned and had a chance to review it and present it to Brothers Hinckley and Packer. Elder Durham and Earl then left at about 3:30. 

I told Elder Durham that we had to discuss a few items of business and when we finished those I talked with the staff about the meaning of Brother Durham’s remarks. I pointed out that the letter of the First Presidency does not require any measures as heroic as Brother Durham indicated. They require only that the staff be reduced by attrition and they do not require elimination of any projects on which we are working that they approve of. I pointed out that there is a strong chance that they will approve every single project that we are working on. I attempted to quiet their anxieties and to reassure them that their services will continue to be required and that their work will continue to be pretty much the same as it is. They seemed to be reassured and at least some of them left the meeting at 4 p.m. smiling–or at least not scowling. I permitted them to raise as many questions as they wished with me, and the single most important question, they said, was whether I was going to resign. I said, “No way,” and pointed out that I would not do so unless conditions were intolerable. I do not believe they will fire me, and I do not believe that they will impose intolerable conditions of work that might force me to resign. Such intolerable conditions would be if they would fire Davis and Jim or if they should eliminate the History Division or if they should transfer many of our key personnel to other work. I do not believe this will happen and feel considerable confidence in the future of our work. However, I feel sure that Earl and Elder Durham will require that we reduce our staff by at least one person within six months and if this is not done through attrition they will transfer someone out or drop someone like Jill. 

There was no opportunity for discussing this further among the staff because we were all gone on Friday to attend the MHA meetings. I think every member of the staff was there except Bill Hartley and Ron Walker, whose wife had just given birth to a baby boy. (His paper at the convention was read by Peggy Fletcher.) I hope that by now it has been sufficiently forgotten that we won’t be spending a lot of staff time discussing and rediscussing the meaning of Elder Durham’s remarks. I am surprised that he injected such gloom unnecessarily. His remarks were far more negative than the facts and conditions justify. At Logan I asked Claude Burtenshaw, who had long been a friend of Elder Durham, to comment on his nature and style. And Claude began to do this but we were soon interrupted by others and could not continue the conversation, and then I had to go to the Tenth Ward Sunday School with the family. But in this beginning of a discussion he did acknowledge that Brother Durham tends to be excessively cautious, that he is to some extent arrogant and tends to take over the administrative responsibilities of those under him.

[LJA Diary, 8 May, 1978]

Scott Kenney’s wife had a baby girl Caesarian, but doing nicely. Davis Bitton’ s daughter is getting married June 9. All of my staff are getting along fine. Elder Durham is giving each one of them a one-hour interview “to get ideas as to which direction we ought to go in our historical labors.” I’m glad they are going to have this opportunity of giving input into the decision-making process. All are bright people and ought to be consulted on these matters by higher people than me. Now if we could go one step higher and let them have the opportunity of talking with Elders Hinckley and Packer, that would be great.

[LJA to Children, 26 May, 1978]

Elder Durham is interviewing each one of our research-historians this week and next. He is spending roughly an hour each with these persons. He has already interviewed Richard Jensen, Ron Walker, Ron Esplin, Gordon Irving, and Dean Jessee. Next week he will interview Maureen Beecher, Jill Derr, Carol Madsen, Jim Allen, Davis Bitton, Bill Hartley, and Bruce Blumell, presumably each for an hour. The interviews are pleasant. He is making it clear to each one of them, in response to their queries, that there will be no immediate reduction in the staff of the History Division, but that over the months and years ahead we must expect any persons leaving not to be replaced, so that within four or five years it ought to be reduced by one, two, or three persons. He is also toying with possibilities of moving us to BYU or setting us up as a separate group at arm’s length from the Church but with full access to the archives. This way the Church will not be responsible for what we publish. He wants all publications in the future either to be fully reviewed by the Twelve and approved by then or published independently so that there is no necessary connection between the department and the work being published. He is friendly and genial and there is some dialogue between the interviewee and Elder Durham. He told one interviewee he hoped he could find a way “to help Brother Arrington adjust to this situation.” 

[LJA Diary, 26 May, 1978]

1. It seems quite definite that the meeting of the Historical Department Executives (Earl, Don, Florence, and myself) on which Elder Anderson depended to coordinate everything, are pretty much a thing of the past. Decisions will not be made by that group, with us ironing out things and Elder Anderson agreeing. Instead, decisions will be made by Elder Durham, in consultation with Earl. As the result, the Archives will get fewer minutes and primary materials from stakes, fewer diaries, photos, etc.

2. It seems quite definite that we have a procedure for deciding only major projects. The procedure is for Elder Durham to receive from me, from a General Authority, or from a Church Department or Auxiliary, a proposal for us to do a certain task. He then takes this to Elders Hinckley and Packer, they recommend it to the First Presidency, the First Presidency write their formal approval to Elder Durham, and he conveys that to me. Elder Durham does not seem to be comfortable with me deciding unilaterally on minor projects, or giving me his own approval on minor projects. So we shall have to do minor projects, it seems, as aspects or part of approved major projects.

3. The major approved projects as of this moment are: 

Brigham Young biography 

History of Church for international magazine 

Administration of Heber J. Grant

History of Genealogical Society

History of Church Welfare Program 

History of Primary Association

Unpublished sermons of Brigham Young

Holograph Writings of Joseph Smith

Papers of Hyrum and Mary Fielding South

4. Ongoing responsibilities, which are automatically approved, are:

Oral History Program

Vignette Program

Sesquicentennial history

Assisting General Authorities and Department with their specific requests

Articles for The Ensign

Also approved but not listed as approved projects are:

Biography of Eliza R. Snow

Papers of Parley P. Pratt

5. Left to petition for are:

Relief Society History. Must receive letter of request from

Relief Society Presidency. MUB, CAM, JD

Text for Seminary & Institutes. Request must come from Seminaries

and Institutes. BH, MUB, JA, RE

Pictorial History of the Church. Request must come from sesquicentennial

committee. GL, GI, BH, CM

Diaries of Wilford Woodruff JA, DB, GL, DJ

History of Brigham Young Papers: Documentary History JA, RE, JD, DJ, DB

Brigham Young letters to Indian Chiefs DJ

Church Administrative History JA, GL, JD, RW, BH

6. It is clear that we have a subtle shift in which Elder Durham becomes, in effect, the Church Historian, and essentially performs the tasks which I performed, plus serving as liaison with the Apostles and First Presidency. In essence, he wants to decide what the History Division does and what we prepare and submit for publication. And he wants to read our manuscripts. Certain things are clear:

a. Some of our work will appear under strictly private auspices.

b. Some of our work will love to be fitted in under approved projects.

c. We’ll probably be doing more in-house things than before.

7. Things to keep in mind:

a. “There is plenty for history Division to do,” Elder Durham to Davis.

b. Earl’s contribution toward creating our Division. How he helped us in past periods. His objection to censoring as Brother Lund did.

c. “We love Brother Arrington,” President Kimball to Elder Durham.

LA “Distinguished.”

d. Salary increases.

5. Two specific things:

a. How magnify the Journal History?

b. Suggestions on organization, procedures, practices, goals.

1. Public Communications clippings

2. Index Task Papers in JH

3. Journal History Supplements

4. Audio-visual films as aspect of JH

5. GHD appraisals of work 

6. Other divisions do annual appraisals

7. Enrich with ward documents. Stake selectivity. 

8. Each person work on a period. 

[Where do we go from here?; LJA at retreat, 23 June, 1978]

After our lunch in the canyon Maureen asked us to participate in some self-discovery. With pen and paper we were all asked to respond to fifteen questions.

13. Greatest danger or threat to church: politicization of doctrine

[LJA Diary, 24 June, 1978]


Summary of Meeting with Elders Gordon B. Hinckley & Boyd K. Packer June 27, 1978.

Elder Durham stated that he was anxious to share with the division heads the basic premises upon which the Historical Department is expected to operate, as emphasized to him and Brother Olson at the meeting Tuesday, June 27, at 8:30 a.m. with Elders Hinckley and Packer. He regretted the indisposition which prevented him from sharing this immediately following the meeting, or Wednesday morning at the usual weekly meeting. Therefore, the meeting had been called today at the earliest opportunity. It is important that this group of executives, particularly, understand that the Historical Department of the Church is viewed as a staff agency for the First Presidency, responsible to the First Presidency, with Elders Hinckley and Packer as liaison officers between the Department, in all its aspects, and the First Presidency; and that the Managing Director, or in his absence the Assistant Managing Director, is viewed as the channel through which all communications should flow either to or from the General Authorities and the First Presidency. It was further evident that the Historical Department should function mainly so that the archives are constantly and carefully maintained, and maintained primarily as a resource for the First Presidency and the General Authorities to use; that there should be small but competent staffs in the departmental divisions to respond to the requests made for help, or staff assistance, of whatever nature and character; that the Managing Director is held responsible for all activities of the Department.

With respect to the Museum, which is viewed as a very important element of the Department and the Headquarters organization, it is evident that construction is going to be delayed.

A great deal was said about the necessity for reducing programs. Questions were repeatedly asked, in reviewing the letter of response prepared to be sent to the First Presidency in response to their request of March 20, 1978, as to “what had been reduced?” Several additional points were reported, especially a list of projects to be continued in the History Division since the advice was received several months ago, that no new projects were to be initiated, and, that those now in process should be refined and continued as recommended by the Managing Director and the Assistant Managing Director, to the First Presidency through Elders Hinckley and Packer, after consultation with Brother Arrington. Brother Arrington has received a copy of the list which was transmitted and which Elders Hinckley and Packer will now take forward for the consideration of the First Presidency. As soon as word is received as to which projects, or all of the same, may have been approved, Elder Durham will notify Brother Arrington. Brother Arrington was advised to keep close contact with Brother Olson at the regular Tuesday, 8:15 a.m. meetings during absences of Elder Durham from the office, including his absence July 5-22. 

[Minutes of the Executives meeting; LJA Diary, 29 June, 1978]

Elder Durham met with Earl and Don and I this morning to report the meeting he held on Tuesday, June 27, with Elder Hinckley and Elder Packer, our advisors from the Twelve. Points were mentioned in his oral report to us as follows:

2. There seems to be general agreement that the Church must continue to support the Historical Department, keep the archives, and keep a small staff in the History Division. We must aim toward the goal of the History Division serving as a resource for use of the General Authorities. Ideally a smaller staff should be kept to respond to the various requests they make. In other words, we must look toward an eventual reduction of the staff in the History Division.

[LJA Diary, 29 June, 1978]

Ron Walker told me this morning that Elder Gordon B. Hinckley stopped him yesterday to chat with him a minute. Elder Hinckley is a member of the ward of which Ron is the bishop. Elder Hinckley said, “I just wanted to let you know that you don’t have to worry. I know that we have made changes in the division down there, but we don’t propose dismantling that division. You don’t have to worry about your position,” implying also “you (historians in the division) don’t have to worry.” “We are not going to do anything that will seriously disrupt what you are doing.”

Ron said he realized that they had concerns about us but assured him that we have the interests of the Kingdom at heart and we sustain him and all the other brethren and want to do what they want us to do. Brother Hinckley replied, “We are beginning to sense that.”

Ron said that Elder Hinckley could be a good champion for us if he finally came to know us. He is the only one of the brethren, he said, who has a listed phone number. Because of that he receives many crank calls but feels he needs to do it. He feels at least one of the brethren should have a listed number so that people can find someone to “tell off” or to express their feelings to. This says a lot about Elder Hinckley.

Ron said that he thought he told Brother Hinckley that he would like to chat with him for a half hour about some of the problems we face in writing history. “We just can’t write the way the brethren used to write fifty years ago. We just have to be more honest.” Ron asked me if I would have any objections if he followed up on this and tried to get an appointment with Elder Hinckley. I told him by all means he should do so.

[LJA Diary, 10 July, 1978]

Mama and I were seated next to President and Sister Kimball and had a chance to visit with them during the meal. In the course of the conversation President Kimball leaned over to me and said, “Leonard, I want you to know we think very highly of you and love you. I don’t know if I have told you this before, but I want to be sure you know it. We do think a great deal of you, appreciate very much what you do, and love you very much.” So while we do get criticism from various narrow-minded people for the kind of work we do, it is satisfying to know that the Lord’s prophet approves in general of our attitude and approach and work.

[LJA to Children, 28 July, 1978]

Davis came in this morning with another one of these many rumors that has been in circulation. Charles Smart, of the U of U medical school research staff, stopped him at church yesterday and said, “We understand that Leonard Arrington has been replaced as Church Historian.” Davis said, “No, that isn’t true. Where did you hear it?” He said his wife Martha had heard it over the radio–or TV. He was not sure which. Davis then went to Martha, and she said no, she hadn’t heard it over the radio. She heard it Saturday night at “Here’s Brother Brigham” from Jim Webster, a local medico. Well, exactly what did Jim Webster say? He said that Leonard Arrington had been replaced as Church Historian by Homer Durham and was damn mad! Obviously Jim could have gotten this in two ways. Either someone had told him about the title I am now using on my stationery and/or someone had told him about the series of pictures of Church Historians down the hall that shows Homer Durham in the capacity of Church Historian, even though his title is Manager of the Historical Department. Anyway, there is another rumor and Davis fully reassured the Smarts, and I hope we have a chance to reassure Jim Webster.  

[LJA Diary, 31 July, 1978]

In our regular Tuesday meeting yesterday morning, Elder Durham was sufficiently impressed with the solemnity of what he would discuss that he asked me to open with prayer. Earl Olson was there also, as usual. He then said he continued to feel impressed that one of his responsibilities was to reduce our staff, not this year, but to plan for its elimination in the years to come. That is, say, beginning in 1980. Some of our staff would complete the projects they are working on at the end of this year or sometime next year. Rather than conjure up new projects for them to work on we ought to see if there are alternative opportunities: teaching Institute of Religion, working for other church departments, go to universities, and so on. He just cannot bear the thought of us continuing as a group to turn out books and articles. Let the books be written by scholars at BYU and in the Institute system. There are too many problems having them full-time church employees, writing for the church.

He began with Jim Allen. Said Martin Hickman had been in to see him (Durham) and said he wanted Jim as History Department chairman beginning July 1, 1979.

(Or September 1, 1979 if we insisted.) Jim had the right personality, the right experience, enjoyed the confidence of other men in the department, and so on. Durham thought Jim would do better financially and in other ways, would be happier, at BYU than half with BYU and half with us. Thought we should let him go. Asked me to think about it for a couple of weeks and give him a response, in one of these Tuesday meetings. Assumed BYU would need to have some kind of a response by November.

He next went to Davis. Wouldn’t it be better for Davis to go full-time with the U of U? He’ll finish up the Brigham Young sermons next year sometime. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate time to get him to the U? I told him I had Davis in mind to supervise the documentary history of the church, once that is approved. He reminded me he would net bring it up until one or two of the sesquicentennial volumes goes through the approval process. It told him Davis was so important to me and to our work that I would resign if they took Davis away from me. He didn’t pursue that any further.

He then brought up Maureen. What would she do when she finished the Eliza Snow history. I told him she would work on Relief Society and women history. He said the Relief Society history is not approved yet. I said, it will be. He said he saw no problem for Jill, since she will not be with us forever. As for Carol, what will she do now that the Primary history is finished? Plenty to do on women, I said. Yes, but for what purpose, he asked. I said she would help me on the Brigham Young project. Lots to do on women under Brigham Young. This seemed to satisfy him.

Next, he brought up Ron Walker. Plenty on Heber J. Grant for several years. Bill Hartley? I told him church administration and organization under Brigham Young. Ron Esplin? Working on Brigham Young materials. Glen Leonard? Plenty to do, especially with Arts & Sites. Dean Jessee? No problem with him–we could easily shift him to archives, Durham said. Richard Jensen? He is my indispensable help on responding to correspondence, writing articles for encyclopedias, etc., I said. Bruce Blumell? He was the one Elder Durham really zeroed in on. Here is a person only 36 years of age. We need to get him into something that will make a life career for him. I told him he’d work on church administration and auxiliaries when he finished welfare. But Elder Durham said we can’t afford to hire people to do this kind of work. We ought to get him into the Institute system, or into the PBO system. Gordon Irving of course has a full career on oral history.

In short, whoever we lose we shall not be able to replace. And we better lose someone each year for the next five years. Elder Durham seems so persuaded of this that he is inclined to “force” us to lose one a year. The only one he seems to be immediately concerned with is Jim. And he wants me to say that we do not object if BYU talks with his about going there full-time.

[LJA Diary, 6 Sept., 1978]

I have decided to respond to Elder Durham’s request with respect to Jim Allen next Tuesday morning somewhat as follows:

1. I do not interpose any objections to BYU’s talking with Jim about the possibility that he might go back full time to BYU as department chairman and professor of history. However, I feel that we ought to be sure that before he ends his employment with us, he completes the jobs we have assigned to him.

2. 1 would ask BYU to make arrangements so that he could stay with us full time from January through August so that he could do the following tasks, which could hardly be done after he took over the position as department chairman:

a. Complete the history of the Genealogical Society.

b. Complete his one-volume history for the Sesquicentennial History.

c. Do the revision of Story of the Latter-day Saints.

d. Continue to work with the BYU persons who are doing volumes for the Sesquicentennial History: Lanier Britsch, Richard Cowan, Lamond Tullis, Milton Backman, and Doug Tobler.

3. Insist that BYU give him assurances on salary, on low teaching load, and an administrative assistant.

4. Of all the people in the Church, Jim Allen is one of two or three persons who know most abut Church history and primary documents that offer information about Church history. It will be important to the Church, to the history Department of BYU, and our own Historical Department if he is allowed one or two days a week to come to Salt Lake City to do some research and writing which only he can do about aspects of Mormon history. This is an argument in favor of BYU’s giving him some administrative help if he is to serve as department chairman.

5. If BYU would give us all these assurances before they talk to Jim, I have the personal opinion that Jim would be receptive to the offer, and the Historical Department ought to have no objections to the kind of arrangement that BYU proposes.

6. In reporting this, or whatever you choose, to Dean Hickman at BYU, I hope you will give him my personal testimony that James Allen would make a great chairman of the History Department, that he would be a pleasure to work with, that he would be a credit to the Department of History, the College of Social Sciences, and to BYU and the Church in that capacity of leadership. Jim is a great human being and would make a splendid administrator just as he is a splendid writer and researcher. 

[LJA Diary, 7 Sept., 1978]


1. Proud that we were able to get Jim Allen and Davis Bitton to work with me as assistant Church historians, and that we were able to arrange it so each could be half-tine at his respective university. This arrangement, which each wished and which I wished, was not easy, since some members of the Quorum of the Twelve thought we ought only to employ full-time. The arrangement has proved to be very profitable for the Historical Department, and I am confident that they are the two best people in the Church to have served as assistant Church historians. 

2. Proud that we were able to break the old rule of personnel and Church employment which required women to be terminated after six months of pregnancy. We were able to break this rule through Maureen Beecher. Once having been broken, it is now general policy that women may work until they wish to quit. But the next stop was even more difficult–to get Church personnel to agree to allow women a few weeks leave, after which they might resume employment. We were able to get them to do this for Maureen and thus the pattern was set for other women in Church employment as well. And now, of course, the women have medical insurance to take care of this during the weeks they are gone. It is my understanding that they may also use part of their leave time as vacation and sick time so that their salary may go on while they are out for the baby. 

3. Proud that we were able to produce the wonderful one-volume history The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Jim Allen and Glen Leonard. I recognize that this has been under somewhat of a cloud because of Brother Benson’s and Brother Petersen’s objections, but others of the Quorum of the Twelve and other General. Authorities are very complimentary, and this includes President Kimball himself, who says he read it, thought it was splendid, and could not understand why Brother Benson and Brother Petersen did not like it. This is a major step forward in understanding this book and a major step forward in LDS history and is a milestone in LDS historiography. 

4. Proud that we were able to start the Mormon Heritage Series and that the first number in this series, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons by Dean Jessee, was received so well by our fellow historians, both Mormon and non-Mormon.

5. Proud of our arranging the contracts for the 16-volume sesquicentennial history–that each of the sixteen persons we asked agreed to sign; and proud despite the cloud over the work of the History Division that these contracts have been reaffirmed and the work is proceeding satisfactorily. We have one of these manuscripts already completed and others expected to be completed by the end of the year, the remainder in 1979 and 1980. 

6. Proud that we have been instrumental in the preparation of other books which make important contributions to LDS history: Donna Hill, Joseph Smith, The First Mormon; Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill, The Carthage Conspiracy; Spencer Palmer, Every Nation Kindred Tongue and People; Stan Kimball, The Life of Heber C. Kimball; Merlo Pusey, Seek Ye First the Kingdom; and others in preparation. 

7. Proud that we have begun a series of institutional studies which will be landmarks: Carol Madsen and Susan Oman, history of the Primary; Bruce Blumell, history of the Welfare Plan; Jim Allen, history of the Genealogical Society; and so on. 

8. Proud that wt have been able to use our influences and good will in defending the Church’s name in controversies that have arisen in the national press: the Spaulding manuscript controversy and the Negro and the priesthood.

9. Proud that we have played an important role in retaining the goodwill of LDS intellectuals who were having problems with the Church, its officials, and its doctrines.

10. Proud that we have been instrumental in attracting into Church Archives many important documents and that we have been able to set a pattern of availability for nearly all documents in the Archives.


1. I regret that we have been so long delayed in publishing the holograph writings of Joseph Smith.

2. I regret my inability to secure approval for Jack Adamson to write the biography of Brigham Young.

3. I regret that Brother Benson and Brother Petersen have so little confidence in us and that this has induced Elder Durham to be unduly cautious–so cautious as to nullify many contributions which we could otherwise make. 

4. I regret that we lost Dean May to the University of Utah. He was a valued employee. But of course this was his choice rather than the result of any discouragement or difficulty caused by us.

5. I regret that I was so willing to give up control of our budget and finances to Earl Olson, something which I could have held onto at one stage of our history.

6. I regret that the sales of some of our historical works have not been good. This suggests that we have either not made them interesting enough or we have not sufficiently glamorized and publicized the fascination of history among LDS readers. The only one of our books which has sold well is The Story of the Latter-day Saints. The Letters of Brigham Young sold satisfactory, but not exceptionally. The biographies of Charles Rich and Edwin Woolley sold poorly, as did our contribution to the Bicentennial, Latter-day Patriots by Gene Sessions. 

7. I regret the ukase which prevents us from making the contributions we should to Dialogue magazine. Dialogue is making an important contribution to LDS culture and we should be represented in it more than we are. 

8. I regret that, given the climate in which we operate and the Church bureaucracy, it has been necessary in one or two instances to lie. I have done this with full knowledge and approval of my associates and all of us have felt that this tactic was for the good of the Church and kingdom. Nevertheless it is my desire to be open and honest and it has troubled my conscience to have to resort to the diplomatic deception. 

9. I regret that the future of the History Division, consisting of present staff, does not look particularly bright. We were not able to replace Dean May; if we lose other staff members it does not appear that we will be able to replace them. It appears that the History Division will be reduced to four or five persons over the next ten years, through attrition. Nevertheless we will have made important contributions during our period of functioning and I have every reason to expect that there will continue to be a staff, though much smaller than at present, to engage in historical research and writing. This is a contribution, since there was no one employed by the Church to do historical research and writing before my own appointment in 1972. 

10. I regret that my own services or the services of my colleagues have not been used by the First Presidency, Church authorities, and Church departments as consultants on historical matters. We have not been invited, for example, to give historical addresses at the dedication of important buildings, plaques, sites, etc. These have usually been given by the prophet, by Elder Petersen, or by Wendell Ashton, and these have not consulted us in the preparation of the talks they have given. This seems to me unthinkable and inexcusable–that those of us who know intimately our history have not been involved in the preparation of historical addresses. This means that many myths have been perpetrated and perpetuated, which means that the next generation of historians will have the problem of correcting these myths.

11. 1 regret that I was unable to carry through our “brilliant idea” of organizing the Friends of Church History. The idea was approved by Bro. Dyer, Earl Olson, Don Schmidt, and myself. Our advisers Brother Hunter and Bro. McConkie were informed of it and seemed to approve. We had mentioned the idea to the First Presidency in our meeting with them–that would be President Lee and counselors. We had drawn up a mailing list of 1,000 persons, had informed then of a special organizational meeting, and the organizational meeting was a grand success with more than 500 persons in attendance; each agreed to pay $10 membership fee, and moreover we presented the names of the first officers and each of these had indicated his acceptance. And then all of a sudden after the meeting was over-I think the next morning–President Lee telephoned Bro. Hunter of his misgivings, Bro. Hunter telephoned me and told me not to do anything until we got the approval of the First Presidency. I then presented this matter at our next meeting with President Lee and counselors and they gave us some counsel but did not caution us against organizing, just expressed some misgivings. Our advisers were sufficiently deterred by President Lee’s remarks that they counseled us against doing anything. Bro. Hunter himself telephoned me of his own misgivings in view of President Lee’s feelings. So the whole “brilliant idea” was dropped and the momentum of enthusiasm that had been built up fell like a ton of lead. We were embarrassed, humiliated, and set back in our public relations and good will and simply not able to get the idea back to the First Presidency for their stamp of approval because of the misgivings and cautions of our advisers and our managing directors. This would have been a great help to the cause of Church history and in my judgment would have helped in building the kingdom and would have built good will for the Church. I very much regret we were not able to carry it through. However, we salvaged something. A little group of us organized the Andrew Jenson club to get regular reports on research done in our archives each Friday noon, and Ran Watt, bless his heart, worked with the Utah Historical Society to set up a lecture series sponsored by the Society which presented the kind of programs that might have been presented by the Friends of Church history. 

[Reminiscences; LJA Diary, 14 Sept., 1978]

For Lavina’s benefit I list below what I regard as my strengths and weaknesses as Church Historian and/or Director of the History Division.


1. There are many advantages in having a General Authority as Church historian. In this way he is more aware of what is going on; at the same time he has direct contact with presiding authorities. Moreover, he enjoys the full confidence and support of all the General Authorities.

2. If a person appointed to be Church historian or director is the caliber of person that is likely to become a General Authority in the future, he shares some of the confidence and support mentioned above. Since I have neither the ambition nor the qualifications to be such a person, I do not enjoy this kind of support and confidence.

3. My long experience outside the Church or on the fringes of the Church, in Twin Falls, Moscow, Chapel Hill, and in the service, has conditioned me to regard my faith as a rather private matter. Not having grown up within the Mormon culture and not having lived in the Mormon culture until after I was “sot in my ways,” my manner and my speech suggest someone not completely immersed in the culture and therefore not a person who would naturally merit the confidence and support a Church historian should have.

4. Not being a relative of any General Authority, not being connected in any intimate way with any General Authority at any stage of my life, I do not have built-in supporters that would seem to be desirable for a Church historian or director of the history division.

5. I no doubt have personal qualities that turn certain people off. I am not aware of all of these, of course, but I suspect the following might be influential: 

a. People tend to have greater respect for tall people than short people, in administrative positions.

b. I am probably too informal, too afflicted with a sense of humor, too boisterous, too light-minded, too devious, too political, to be a proper Church historian and director.

c. Because of my desire to get things done, regardless of regulations–because of the deviousness with which I pursue certain goals–I probably come through as a not-very-religious person, and perhaps to some extent not entirely trustworthy.

6. My training was not in Church history but in economics and economic history. Therefore I have had to acquire historical methodology, a knowledge of historical sources, and a knowledge of the intimate details of Church history second-hand. While I learn quickly, I am sure there are many gaps in my knowledge and understanding of Church history. Since nearly all of my research dealt with the Mormons after 1847, I particularly lack knowledge in Church history before 1847. And in the view of many persons, that is the key period of Church history.

7. I have never been an avid student of Latter-day Saint scriptures. I have read many books in the Bible several times, but I have done so primarily in modern translations and so I do not feel completely at home with the King James version.  Moreover, I am ashamed to say, I have read the Book of Mormon through only once and while I have read portions of it from time to time, I am not a Book of Mormon student. I have read the Doctrine and Covenants several times but have never set any portion of it to memory and have made no attempt to use it except to support things I was writing or speaking about. In essence I am a bigger user of the index than of the text itself. The same goes for the Pearl of Great Price. To merit the confidence and support of ecclesiastical officials, the Church historian ought to make greater use of the scriptures and ought to be more knowledgeable on the scriptures than I am.

8. I am not as knowledgeable on doctrine as a Church historian ought to be. I have read a number of doctrinal works–even studied some of them carefully–but I realize every Sunday in High Priest and Sunday School classes that I do not know as much doctrine as nine-tenths of the High Priests in the Church. I feel very inadequate discussing doctrine and take the easy way out by simply telling people they ought to talk with a General Authority, but many people regard me as a quasi-authority and in this respect I exhibit many inadequacies.


1. 1 have dedicated my full efforts to the job and so whatever my weaknesses, I devote my full forces to trying to make a success of our work.

2. I am well acquainted–was when I was appointed–with virtually everyone who has done and is doing research in LDS history.

3. Having published many articles and books, I have some acquaintance with the requirements for publishing professional articles and books.

4. Having had years of experience “in the world” I have an understanding of their attitudes and interests, prejudices, and points of view.

5. I enjoy working with people and have reason to believe they enjoy working with me.

6. I enjoy giving people encouragement–enjoy extending compliments. Moreover, I think the problems in running this office successfully requires a person with a buoyant nature. I should think a different kind of person might become too easily and too quickly discouraged. I do have faith in our present and in out future, regardless of doomsayers that continue to afflict us.

7. I enjoy writing and speaking, and I have some reasons to believe that people regard me as a good writer and speaker. Not every qualified historian can do this.

8. I have some “liberal” views that seem to be particularly appropriate during this period of my service:

a. I have a particularly high regard for women and their capabilities.

b. I have a particularly high interest in and admiration for minorities– Indians, South Sea Islanders, blacks, and others.

c. I have read widely in literature, which perhaps makes up to some extent for my lack of expertise in the scriptures. I have read widely important works of fiction, philosophy, history, biography, science, and so on.

9. It is an advantage to a historian to be aware of arguments which might be offered in opposition to our historical writing. Thus it is an advantage that I am sufficiently aware of “both sides of view”-that I can anticipate problems with certain phrasing and methods of approach and thus build our written history on a more permanent, acceptable, and solid basis. 

[Reminiscences; LJA Diary, 25 Sept., 1978]

Jim Allen says that he has had further conversation with Dean Martin Hickman at BYU about him going back to be at BYU full-time. Martin has assured him that he will offer him the best possible salary and that he will also give him concessions on research time and offer him a research assistant. Martin said nothing to him about the possibility that he would become department head after Ted Warner leaves that position after another year, but Jim assumes that that is back in Martin’s mind. Jim told Martin that he was inclined to accept the offer. Jim has reported this to me now, and therefore it appears that he will leave our employment September 1, 1979. Elder Durham will surely not let us replace him, and so this cuts our budget and staff by that much. This is something which, the budget committee, our advisors, and the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Durham will appreciate, but it is a serious loss to Mormon history to have one of the very top authorities on Mormon history move from half-time on research and writing to minimal time. Moreover, it destroys the “stake presidency” which we have had all these years, consisting of myself, Jim, and Davis. Moreover, it lessens the fellowship that he and I and Davis have had for these many years.

Jim says that he fully expects to be through with the genealogy book by January. He is on Chapter 8 out of a total of 13. He’s going to do his best to finish that and then begin in January on his sesquicentennial volume, which he is going to do his best to finish by September 1. I an glad that Jim feels quite willing–even anxious–to accept the arrangement, because I feel that in any case, whether he wished it or not, Brother Durham would force him out. I know that Jim also will miss the fellowship and pleasant associations, but is also looking forward to the honor and prestige and power and greater income of a department-head-ship.

We will also lose most of the services of another person next spring: 

Jill Mulvay Derr is pregnant and will probably not be in a position to do much for us after the spring. She informed me of this yesterday–said I was the first person that she had told and she probably wouldn’t tell this widely for some time. She at first proposed that she would terminate about March or April before the baby was born, but I explained to her that Elder Durham would not allow us to replace her and that it would neither be in her interests nor in our interests for her to terminate. We have absolutely nothing to gain by the termination and we might be able to preserve something if she remains as a part-time member. I suggested that when it becomes obvious that Earl Olson and Elder Durham and others needed to be told that she and I should both say that she is dropping out for a period to have the baby with every intention to come back for at least part-time when it is convenient. This way if she has any time to devote to historical labors– and if she wishes to do so–we will use the money appropriated in the budget for her for that purpose. She can do some editing at home, of course, and by occasional visits to the office she can consult with us and perhaps work on papers that she wishes to do–papers on the history of Mormon women, especially. I really will hate to see her go, just as I hate to see Jim go, but Elder Durham is adamant–he will not allow us to replace anybody who leaves. 

[LJA Diary, 3 Oct., 1978]

Since I won’t be able to meet tomorrow morning with Elder Durham, he called me in to meet with him this morning. Earl was present throughout. We met for about an hour. He spent the whole time telling me that he had really worried, almost to the point of getting an ulcer, about our division and its future. He had been having to fill out these budget forms for projected budgets for 1980, 1981, 1982, etc., and he felt he could not make accurate projections of our budgetary needs without getting further instruction from the First Presidency. Specifically, did they mean what they said in their letter of last March about allowing the staff to decline by attrition, or if we’re going to have to get rid of some of our staff? He therefore made an appointment with the First Presidency and met with them last Thursday, October 5. He talked over the problems with them. In preparation for the meeting he prepared a 6-page memo and he read the memo to them. He did not offer to show it to me. But he reviewed our situation thoroughly and asked for advice. I gather that he did not receive any specific advice; they seemed to be suggesting to him that he work it out with Brothers Packer and Hinckley. The First Presidency seemed to be limited somewhat by what the Quorum of Twelve decides.

Elder Durham’s advice to me was to avoid worrying and avoid giving the impression of worrying. I told him he didn’t have to worry about that. Second, as staff members complete assignments that have been approved, and I enclose the approved assignments for this diary entry, I am to utilize them on existing approved projects, and that includes the Journal History. He feels specifically that I should assign the Journal History to Bill Hartley. He ill talk with Jeff Holland, commissioner of education, about getting Bruce Blumell shifted to the Church Educational System. He did not mention losing any other staff member. I told hue about Jill’s time beginning to decline when she has her baby. He wants me to be aware of any staff member getting any opportunity to move somewhere else and encourage him to go. We expect to lose Jim next year, and he talks as if he needed to lose one or two a year until we get down to a staff of four or five. The permanent staff he sees existing are Glen Leonard, Davis Bitton, Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin, and myself; possibly Ron Walker and possibly Carol Madsen and Richard Jensen.

I specifically asked him if he would put through the documentary history project that we talked about last spring. He said he did discuss it with the First Presidency and that he thought he saw a glimmer of support from them, and he would try to convey that to Elders Packer and Hinckley when he meets with then this Wednesday. That would keep all of our staff busy for years to come. He’s not confident, however, that Elders Packer and Hinckley will approve. I asked him if he still thought there was a possibility of the Relief Society project being approved. He said yes; it’s in the hands of Elder Wirthlin, adviser to the Relief Society. I asked him if he would agree to submitting a project for Bruce Blumell to do a history of the MIA in this century. He more or less said no. I asked him about the Journal History supplements which we’d talked about earlier-one for women and one for priesthood history. He more or less said no.

I told Elder Durham that I felt compelled in the interest of the Church and individuals involved to keep the persons that I have on staff busy with important projects, regardless of whether they are on the list of approved projects for that work. He did not disagree with that but insisted that no new projects are to be initiated by any one on the staff. If any staff member comes in with a project he wants approved, I’m to send him in to Earl and Earl is to discourage him. So I’ll never do that. I’m to keep smiling so that everybody will feel okay about what’s going on; I’m to continue to be optimistic, but I must realize that his, Elder Durham’s, job is to preside over the gradual liquidation of the History Division. Elder Hinckley seems to believe and Elder Durham believes strongly that adequate and sufficient Church history will be written by volunteer people at BYU, U of U, USU, and elsewhere; and the Church does not need to employ people to do it. When I protested vigorously, he used Great Basin Kingdom as an example.

Elder Durham said he had asked President Tanner about the desirability of cutting our budget by shifting me over to directorship of the Redd Center at BYU. President Tanner said, “Is that what Brother Arrington would prefer?” Elder Durham replied that he did not think I would prefer that, that he thought I would prefer to remain here half-time and half-time at BYU. Elder Durham says that I’m fixed for four years and other people who are fixed for the near future are Davis and Ron Esplin, who will help me on the Brigham Young biography, and Dean Jessee, who knows the documents. I rather made some strong statements to Elder Durham but I did not seem to persuade him or dissuade him of anything. In essence, things are left about where they are except that I am to make a stronger effort to get Bill Hartley and perhaps others involved in the Journal History. I am to come back with recommendations on that about the first week in November. 

Elder Durham also said he’d received a lot of flak on Davis Bitton’s article in the last BYU Studies. I questioned him about it, and he said there are simply people who don’t think the Church ought to pay people to write articles like that. I told him in the strongest manner that we don’t– that Davis did that as a professor of the University of Utah and that he did that at the U of U as a part of his work there and it had absolutely nothing to do with what he’s doing here on our premises. He expects to get some flak as the result of the unpublished Brigham Young sermons distributed at conference wherein Fred Collier makes express thanks to the Historical Department.

Elder Durham advised me that I was to devote more of my time to my personal projects–Brigham Young biography–and refer problems of the staff to him and Earl. That is surely one thing I will not do! 

[LJA Diary, 9 Oct., 1978]

Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – Notebook #25

In the meeting this morning with Elder Durham and Earl, Elder Durham read to me a document which he had prepared representing his current thought about the future of the history Division. I make no attempt here to duplicate that document, but to mention several things that I commented upon about it and his responses.

He said that in view of the new instructions given by the First Presidency, and faced with the necessity of working out a plan which would give guidance in the 1980 budget, he was assessing the personnel, the necessity of each member of our staff. He regarded permanent members of the staff–permanent at least to 1982–as follows: LJA, to finish the Brigham Young work by 1982; Davis Bitton and Ron Esplin, to help him with that project; Dean Jessee, Ron Walker, and Bill Hartley, to work as archival historians and in connection with the Journal History project. He sees Ron Walker as eventually fitting into the position as associate director of the History Division. Glen Leonard eventually, say, beginning in 1980, moving into a position as Assistant Director of the Arts & Sites Division–as the historian for that division. Gordon Irving heading up the oral history work, which has both archival and history division functions.

The following should be assisted to other positions:

* Maureen Beecher, by 1980. I explained to Elder Durham that she would be absolutely indispensable on the sesquicentennial history manuscripts and that we would probably get the last of those in 1981, and that he should extend her employment at least that long. He agreed with that and said he would change his recommendation on her.

* Bruce Blumell. He said he would talk with Jeff Holland about getting him a job with the institutes of religion and also with Jim Faust about getting him a job with the PBO. There was also a job opening up in library-archives downstairs which he could be put in as head of reference services.

* Jill Derr. He thought she should be terminated when she had her baby. I pointed out that there was a likelihood that we would be assigned to do the Relief Society history and that we would need her help if that developed. He seemed to agree with this and seemed to think it was likely the Relief Society project would be assigned. However, he said that there was a possibility that it might be done on a royalty-risk basis and wanted to know how Jill and Carol would react to that.

* Carol Madsen. He said he had a question mark there. He realized we could use her; on the other hand, it was not a priority need. I reminded him of the Relief Society project, and that would require her two or three years. He acknowledged that and I think he will list Carol as one of those to be retained through 1980.

*Richard Jensen. With Richard having no major assignment, he thought we ought to phase Richard out. I told him that Richard did have a major assignment and that was to be my birddog getting material for the talks, for papers, and so on, and that in my judgment this fully justified his employment as long as there was a director of the History Division, that I saw Richard as being the research assistant of the director of the division. I told him that I could not function without Richard, that he helped me in answering letters, telephone calls, and requests of people who came to the office. Elder Durham did not disagree with this and seemed to agree that Richard could be among the staff retained through 1980.

As to the secretarial staff, he said we would look at that every time a replacement had to be made. He recognized that I would have to have secretarial help and that if my secretary ever left that I would have to get a new one; but he said the others would be in abeyance; that includes Kathy Johnson and Debbie. Presumably neither would be fired, but if one left, they would take a hard look at whether to replace her. Sister Romney is being phased out next April, and he thought we ought to talk with her about coming on a voluntary Church service basis after that. And he recognized that the girls in oral history were necessary and were supported partly with James Moyle monies.

Earl informed me that new direction from the Personnel Division required me to determine the worthiness of each person as we fill out the form for salary increases each year. I am to ask each person if they have a current temple recommend. If so, I should mark yes under ‘maintaining Church standards.’ If not, I am to ask then whether they are worthy to obtain a temple recommend, and if they answer yes, I an to mark yes on the form. On the other hand, if as the result of these questions or other observations on my part, I determine that they are not worthy, I am to mark no on the form and they will go to the personnel people who then will contact the bishop and determine worthiness. In any case, I am not to ask any specific question that is the prerogative of the bishop, such as whether they are paying a full tithing, whether they are obeying the Word of Wisdom, or whether they wear temple garments.

I asked Elder Durham who was “the great dissenter” which he referred to in his talk about Dr. Widtsoe last Friday. He had mentioned that he was present with Sister Widtsoe when Dr. Widtsoe returned from a meeting in the temple. Sister Widtsoe saw that he was pretty worn out and she asked, “How did things go today, honey?” He replied. “Today we were once again tried by “the great dissenter.” Elder Durham said that the great dissenter was J. Reuben Clark, Jr., who spoke his mind freely and forcefully on matters which came up. He was not a yes-man or a no-man, and exerted influence because of his willingness to speak up and the cogency of the arguments he used as he expressed himself. Obviously on some of the matters, he had a different opinion from a majority of the Brethren, which led to him being referred to as “the great dissenter.”

[LJA Diary, 17 Oct., 1978]


A Confidential Memorandum to Leonard J. Arrington, Director, History Division, and Earl E. Olson, Assistant Managing Director of the Historical Department, October 17, 1978.


The Historical Department of the Church, in the First Presidency’s view, now has two main functions: (1) Maintenance of the Church’s Historical Archives and Records for essential Church purposes (including present library, future museum services, related arts-artifacts-sites functions, as authorized); (2) “Keeping a historical record of the Church” (The Journal History as a principal record and chronicle)

The Department is no longer viewed (since the letter of April 5, 1978) as a center for the production by specialized staff of books, articles, and historical papers. In shifting directions, the Presidency asked for a list of ongoing projects to be continued. Such a list was submitted on June 27, 1978, and was authorized for continuation on August 11, 1978.

That list, as recommended, submitted, and approved, is attached to this document. Manuscripts become the property of the Church, subject to disposition as the First Presidency and Twelve may direct.

The following plan is now outlined to assist us in achieving this altered direction for the History Division. 

Professional Staff

1. Leonard J. Arrington, Director (1/2 salary).

Approved Major Project: Biography of President Brigham Young. Completion date 1982, assisted by Davis Bitton and Ronald Esplin.

Continue as Lemuel H. Redd Professor of History and Director of the Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University (1/2 salary), continue as Director of the History Division, referring administrative details and inquiries relating to the Department to Earl E. Olson, Assistant Managing Director of the Department, or to Glen M. Leonard or Ronald Walker (see p.3#7) with respect to internal division matters, representative functions at meetings (e.g. Arts and Sites Committee), conserving the Director’s time for the major projects authorized.

2. James B Allen, Assistant Director (1/2 salary).

Approved Major Project: History of Genealogical Society. Completion date 1978.

Continue as Professor of History, Brigham Young University (1/2 salary) 1978-79. Thereafter accept full time salary at B.Y.U. 1979-80 academic year, with access to archival material in the Historical Department as worked out with the Managing Director.

3. Davis Bitton, Assistant Director (3/4’s salary).

Approved Major Projects: (1) Selected unpublished sermons of President Brigham Young (completion date 1978); (2) Assisting L. J. Arrington in the biography (completion date 1982).

Continue as Professor History (1/4 salary) , University of Utah. Explore possible affiliation there full time by 1982-83? 

4. Maureen U. Beecher, Senior Historical Associate Part-time (hourly basis).

Approved Major Project: Biography of Eliza R. Snow (completion date 1979).

Continue on present basis until Eliza R. Snow biography is completed in 1979, editorial review of 16 volumes under contract with Deseret Book. Thereafter, arrange career placement elsewhere?

5. Bruce Blumell, Senior Historical Associate.

Approved Major Project: History of Church Welfare Plan (completion date l979)

Continue on current basis pending transfer to Library as Senior Reference Specialist to replace Kathy Lojka; otherwise, exploration by Managing Director with other General Authority department heads for possible satisfactory transfer, possibly as Institute Faculty, curriculum development, etc.

6. Dean Jessee, Senior Historical Associate.

Approved Major Projects: (1) Holograph Writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (completion date 1979); (2) Papers of Parley P. Pratt (completion date 1979, with Steven Pratt)

“Summary” Retain in Historical Department (see p.6).

7. Glen M Leonard, Senior Historical Associate.

Approved Major Projects: Brief History of the Church for International Magazine (completion date, 1978); support for Arts and Sites Division and aid in administration. Due to death of T. Edgar Lyon will be assigned Nauvoo Period volume completion (Lyon and Leonard). 

8. Ronald W Walker, Senior Historical Associate.

Approved Major Project: Administration of President Heber J. Grant (completion date, 1980).

Retain in Historical Department. Phase in as Assistant Director of Division (vice Allen) with oversight of report and record evaluation, Journal History, etc.

9. Jill M Derr, Historical Associate Part-time (hourly basis).

Approved Major Project: History of the Primary Association

(completed). Listed as co-author with Carol Madsen on list submitted to the First Presidency June 27, 1978. However, final manuscript listed Susan S. Oman instead.

Future plan: Eliminate position as opportunity presents.

10. Ronald K Esplin, Historical Associate.

Approved Major Projects: 1) Papers of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith (completion date 1979); (2) assisting Director Arrington in completing President Young’s biography (1982).

Retain in Historical Department unless another promising career path opens (see p.7).

11. Wm. G. Hartley, Historical Associate.

Approved Major Projects: None.

Retain in Historical Department, relate to Ronald Walker’s future activities, or possible transfer to Arts and Sites as museum comes on stream. Other promising career paths may open (see p.8).

12. Richard Jensen, Historical Associate.

Approved Projects: None.

Retain in Historical Department as Research Assistant to L. J. Arrington until or unless a promising career path opens (see p.8).

13. Carol Madsen, Historical Associate Part-time (hourly basis).

Approved Major Project: History of the Primary (ms. completed; awaiting disposition by the First Presidency)

Arrange transfer or other opportunity at early available time. Should Relief Society history project be approved, consider that assignment, even risk royalty basis?

14. Gordon Irving, Oral History.

Approved Major Project: Oral history was not listed in recommendation June 27, 1978 to First Presidency, under assumption that this program, financed partially through the James Moyle endowment, could so continue and further, possibly be justified in connection with its relation to archival material.

Retain in Historical Department unless directed otherwise at sometime by the First Presidency. If another career path opens, review the matter before considering any replacement from outside the existing staff.

Secretarial Staff: All to be retained, with the understanding that should any vacancies occur, no recruiting for any replacement will occur until the matter has been presented by Director Arrington to the Assistant Managing Director and Managing Director.

l5. Kathleen G. Stephens, Secretary to Brother Arrington.

16. Kathleen Johnson, Secretary to Assistant Directors.

17. Deborah Lilenquist, Secretary to Senior Historical Associates.

18. Julie B. Bitter, Clerk Typist 2.  

Mormon History Trust Fund Clerk Typists:

As vacancies occur, these will be subject to the same review, before any recruiting begins, by the Division Director, Assistant Managing and Managing Directors of the Department–as with the other clerical positions so designated.

1. Edyth Romney (see action of Personnel Department, terminating position April 15, 1979, retirement pay) . Explore part-time service as Church service volunteer?

2. Aria Marie Coburn (no longer reports for office duty).

3. Karen Pyper (no longer reports for office duty).


This plan has been drafted to implement the directive of the First Presidency’s April 5, 1978 letter, with the additional interpretation given by the Presidency Thursday, October 5, 1978, reviewed with Elders Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer, liaison with the First Presidency, Wednesday, October 11, 1978. The plan represents effort to conform to “budgetary and personnel changes” mentioned April 5, 1978, harmonious with the “projects to be continued” approved August 11, 1978, and concern for the families and individuals involved.

The following facts are apparent:

1. The Presidency still hope that necessary changes “may be accomplished through normal retirements, voluntary transfers or other arrangements acceptable to these concerned.” 

2. While additional future projects, (beyond the list submitted June 27, 1978 plus the 16 volumes contracted with Deseret Book under other arrangements), could be directed by the Presidency to be produced by salaried employees, the present indication is that any such would be highly selective, and not to be anticipated by the Department. 

3. Some accommodations within the Department, reassignments, transfers and staff reductions are expected, one by one in the next several years, or sooner, whenever possible.

4. The current work of the History Division may be summarized as follows:

a. Completion of the approved major projects, the last by 1982.

b. “Maintenance and refinement of The Journal History.” The Director of the Division was requested by the Managing Director on Monday, October 9 to prepare a confidential recommendation on this matter.

c. Assigned work as authorized and related details.

5. With clerical support assumed, profile of those to be retained at this time would appear to be as follows, in preparing the 1980 budget during 1979:

(1) Director, L. J. Arrington (1/2) – – – (continuing the

(2) Assistant, Davis Bitton (3/4) – – – Brigham Young project)

(3) Historical Assoc., Ronald Esplin – 

(4) Dean Jesse – (Journal History and related activities connected with

(5) Win G. Hartley (see below) recording the History of the Church as it was and will

(6) Ronald W. Walker—- unfold)

(7) Carol Madsen? (p-t)

(8) Glen M. Leonard – – – – (Arts – Sites – Museum developments, brochures, etc.)

(9) Wm G. Hartley

(10) Gordon Irvin ———-  Oral History

6. Personnel to be assisted into other acceptable opportunities and positions closed:

1-Maureen Beecher (after 1979) 

Bruce Blumell 

Jill M. Derr (hourly) 

Richard Jensen? 

Carol Madsen?

7. Personnel positions are to be reviewed after any resignation, (1) to examine internal transfers, (2) to provide adequate support for approved operations, (3) to realign, suspend, or withhold action in the light of developments, all secretarial and clerical staff, with the exception (to 1982) of the Director’s secretary. 

[Future Plans of the History Division; Memorandum to LJA, 17 Oct., 1978]

This morning in my meeting with Elder Durham he mentioned three or four things that should be recorded here.

First, he said Florence Jacobsen is going to have an operation in January and she will be three or four months recuperating from it, probably in Palm Springs. This is a critical period in planning for the museum; and she, Elder Durham, and Earl all feel that she needs to be replaced temporarily in this position. He and Earl have discussed the matter at some length and have decided to ask Glen Leonard to be associate director of the Arts & Sites Division, with the possibility that if she should wish to phase out as director in the months to come, he would be appointed director in her she place and she would then serve as a consultant. He said they would adjust Glen’s salary upward and that he would be the titular head of the division, in charge of Richard Oman and Paul Anderson and the others. He would remain in his own office as long as Florence remains as director of the division. He would not be asked to give up his Nauvoo book, nor the international magazine series and other projects he is doing with us. But he would be shifted out of our division and would report directly to Elder Durham and Earl. He would no longer be a member of the History Division. After explaining all this, he asked my response, and I said, I an glad for it if he is willing, and I protest it if he doesn’t want to. I suggested Glen be called in and given the opportunity of a new assignment in my presence. Glen was then called in and the matter was fully explained to him and his own questions answered. Glen’s tentative feeling is to say yes. He will not give a final answer, however, until next Tuesday. This gives him time to confer with Karen and with anybody else he wishes. The new assignment would take effect January 1 and would be regarded as a permanent transfer out of the History Division. Elder Durham did say that he had consulted over the telephone with Elders Hinckley and Packer, and they both approved. This is one way Elder Durham has of gradually reducing the history Division staff.

Second, Elder Durham, in a reflective mood, explained the origin of Bookcraft. Ken Orton was employed with the Improvement Era and Dr. Widtsoe told him, “Ken, you are too talented a person to be working for the Era and for the Church. You ought to get out where you can make yourself a better living.” So he quit. This was about 1940 or 1941. He got an apartment house and other businesses, and did well. He was a large, heavy person-“fat.” After a few months Dr. Widtsoe was coming out with In the Gospel Net, privately published by him and printed by Zion’s Press in Independence. This was to be distributed to family and friends as a Christmas gift. Ken Orton said, I have had experience in the Era in publishing; would you allow me to publish this for the Church trade if I formed a publishing firm to do it? Dr. Widtsoe said yes. So he formed Bookcraft, and it consisted of himself and Bry Badger, who also had worked for the Era. They did well, and shortly Homer had finished with The Family Kingdom, the sermons of John Taylor. They published that as the second book, and it did well. Homer said he got a check for $600, which was the first down payment on his house. This was 1941 or ’42. They went on, of course, and published many books, and now have a big spread–Publishers Press, the Intermountain Bindery, and other enterprises. Ken later went to Arizona and died there at age 53. When Bry Badger went into the service in the 1940s, they brought in Mary Wallin. Marv stayed with them and of course he has made a great deal of money.

Elder Durham said he wanted to discuss two trial balloons. The first one, he is thinking of asking me to assign Carol Madsen to assemble or compile documents relating to the role of women in the Church from the days of President Joseph Smith to the days of President Kimball. I told him that would be fine, and would fit in fine with what she is doing now. The other balloon is that he feels the desire and need to compile the sermons of President Kimball for publication, and he wanted to know if I could assign somebody to help him with that project. I said yes. He said at the first opportunity he will bring it up with President Kimball and see if any members of the Kimball family is doing it, and if President Kimball himself would approve. I told him we have several people that would be glad to help him.

Brother Durham also asked if I could assign someone to help him with the Widtsoe papers. I told him we’d be glad to. He said that he was afraid he would never get a Widtsoe biography written. I told him that Bill Hartley would be an excellent person for him to work with. He said he would think further about it.

He said that the first one of these compilations of speeches was made by Dr. Widtsoe of the sermons of Joseph F. Smith. It was simply an attempt to get his thinking or instructions on different subjects. Dr. Widtsoe completed it and put the whole thing in front of President Smith. President Smith was somewhat abashed–“What? Me write a book? What would B. H. Roberts think?” He approved, and so Gospel Doctrine was published and then it was used as a text in classes. There followed a number of others–the Brigham Young Discourses, the John Taylor–all of which were used as texts. Harold B. Lee especially was responsible for getting the Gospel Kingdom book used as a text. Doyle Green started a collection of Harold B. Lee sermons and then he developed cancer, and of course President Lee died, and so Elder Durham doesn’t know the status of that. (Kathy says the Seminary & Institute editing dept. has a large collection of Harold B. Lee sermons. Perhaps they have the one that was started by Brother Green.) Homer did the David O. McKay Gospel Ideals and then Luellan McKay did a volume, and then Claire Middlemiss, so there are three of his.

[LJA Diary, 21 Nov., 1978]

In our Tuesday morning meeting, four things worthy of report:

1. Elder Durham said he had just returned from a meeting with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and a historical decision was made which will be announced sometime later by the First Presidency. He was not able to tell us the decision, but said it would mark December 19 as a historical day in the Church. My guess is that they agreed to the construction of a museum in a specific place and that is the announcement that will later be made.

2. I asked him if there were some way to maintain our association with Jim Allen on a semi-official basis after September 1 of next year. He and Earl agreed they could appoint Brother Allen as consultant of the History Division. They would see that he had a parking permit and they would discuss later–nearer to the time–the possibility of providing an office, desk, and/or typewriter for him. Obviously he would feel free to give us counsel and we would feel free to ask him for counsel. He will expect to be here one day a week, and he would certainly be our liaison with BYU History Department.

3. I presented our proposal for an expansion of the Journal History activities. Both he and Earl seemed very pleased but Elder Durham said, We’ll sleep it and come up with a finished statement sometime later.

4. Elder Durham wanted to know if I would be taking out each Wednesday as BYU day next quarter. I said yes. He asked me who would represent me in the Wednesday morning meetings. I suggested Dean Jessee. He said that would be quite acceptable to him. After the meeting I asked Dean to do this, beginning next January.

Our next meeting will be January 2. 

[LJA Diary, 19 Dec., 1978]

2. I resolve not to be defensive about THE MORMON EXPERIENCE, even though there will surely be people who will think it too impartial, too cold, too analytical to have been written by a Church historian who has a testimony.

5. I resolve not to be discouraged professionally, about the History Division, despite Elder Durham’s attempts to gradually liquidate the division and “put the writing of history on a risk/royalty basis.” I firmly believe that the interests of the Church are best served by having a staff of persons who work full-time with the documents and have a comprehensive view of the history of the Church and the problems of writing it.

6. I resolve to make the best books professionally out of the manuscripts turned in for the sesquicentennial history, and not to be swayed by “expediency,” or by Elder Benson and Petersen points of view which in the short run might serve our interests but would not serve the long-run interests of scholarship or the Church. I resolve that I will do my best to see that they represent impeccable scholarship and are, at the same time, exciting to read.

[LJA Resolutions for 1 Jan., 1979]


Without going back to examine what I have said at the end of previous years, I now (Dec. 2, 78) make comments about 1978. This was a year, in my opinion, when Elder Durham became determined to become the Church Historian; i.e., to take active charge of our division and replace me as its administrator. He sought to get me on to a program of research and writing, and to “take over” to himself the determination of what other members of the staff would do. His purpose in doing this was to replace our judgment with his own, cut down our staff and work, and gradually phase out the division. He gave a variety of reasons for doing this, none of which, in my judgment, hold water. He said that the Church needed to cut down on departmental budgets. But other departments, generally speaking, are not reducing staff. And, anyway, he is not forcing a reduction in Library-Archives nor in Arts and Sites divisions. So it is clearly aimed at us for other than budgetary reasons. He said that the authorities of the Church were displeased with our work, distrusted what we are doing, and wished to liquidate our division. This is not the tenor of letters we have received from the First Presidency or other General Authorities, and we firmly believe that the letter from the First Presidency that contains a hint of this was written by Elder Durham himself and given to them by him for their signatures. Only Elder Benson and Elder Petersen are distrustful of us, and they have been outvoted by the Quorum of the Twelve on two separate occasions that we know of. The truth is that Elder Durham himself wants to see our work liquidated and done, instead, by professors at BYU, U of U, USU, and the Institute of Religion staff, or dropped entirely. If he wished to defend us in our work, he could easily do so. He chooses not to do so. He has said a number of times that he hates to preside over the liquidation of the division, paraphrasing Churchill. I do not find this funny.

I am determined not to let him liquidate the division. I am not defying him publicly at least. But I am insisting upon holding actions which will keep the liquidation to a minimum–in the hope that he will some day change his mind  or that he will be replaced. I firmly believe in what we are doing, that what we are doing is beneficial to the Church, and that future generations will call us blessed for doing what we are doing. Believing this firmly, I am determined not to “let the Church down” by giving in to Elder Durham’s whims.

Elder Durham has refused to replace Dean May (Casualty 1), has arranged for Jim Allen to go back to BYU full-time (Casualty 2), and has arranged for Glen Leonard to be appointed Associate Director of the Arts & Sites Division (Casualty 3). He threatens to have Bruce Blumell transferred to Institutes & Seminaries, and to force Jill Derr to resign when she has her baby. Well, we’ll see. In any case, all the rest of us keep working. What a loss to see these valuable members, with the experience they have in research and writing, transferred to less useful (in the long run) posts.

Nevertheless, I feel very good about our past and our future. Accomplishments during the past year:

1. The final revisions and acceptance of THE MORMON EXPERIENCE.

2. Near completion of a history of the genealogical program by Jim Allen

3. Near completion of a history of the welfare program by B. Blumell

4. The completion of the first of the sesquicentennial volume manuscripts by Tom Alexander.

5. The publication of the Spencer Palmer manuscript on the world church

6. Completion of the Primary history and its acceptance for publication

7. Near completion of the ten-part history of the Church series for the international magazines.

8. The publication of many articles, in Church magazines and professional magazine.

9. The continuation of the oral history program.

10. Many talks before Church and professional groups by our staff.

I feel confident that our contributions in 1979 will continue to be as significant and that their importance will be increasingly appreciated by Church authorities, if not by Brother Durham. And he, by the way, does not allow us to “defend ourselves” before the Advisors to the Twelve. He and Earl Olson meet with them without our presence. So he is our sole link with “approval.” 

[LJA Reflections on History Division During 1978, 1 Jan., 1979]

TO: Leonard J. Arrington 

FROM: Davis Bitton 

RE: 1978

In accordance with your request to make an appraisal of the History Division during the year 1978, I find myself in an unusual stance of pessimism. It has not been a good year for the History Division. I think this needs to be recognized and said (if not to everyone) if these annual appraisals are to mean anything. On the other hand it is not yet the end of the world, and I will conclude my remarks with some qualified expressions of hope for the future.

To put the whole year and its developments in some kind of context, I should say that I have never considered our Division’s activities to be beyond criticism. Who could? And some of our expansion has been fortuitous, so that contraction might have been expected sooner or later. But the people employed have been generally of high quality, and the projects they have been assigned to have been good and worthy projects, approved by our leaders. My sense of justice forces me to think that the response to superior performance should be praise and commendation and, where possible, salary increases. The feeling should be one of satisfaction for a good job well done.

Against this backdrop, what to our wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh and Elder G. Homer Durham! This has been the year during which we have first really felt the impact of his leadership as Managing Director of the Historical Department. The result has been devastating both in simple numerical terms of our staff and in terms of morale. And this from behind a jovial smile and assurances that he did not intend to preside over the dismantling of the History Division. 

I shall never forget the meetings of May 5, 1978. First Elder Durham asked you, Jim Allen, and me to come into his office for a meeting. Earl Olson was there, smiling. At that meeting, according to my diary and recollections, Elder Durham started by saying in effect that things could be worse, recalling how his father had lost employment with the Church many years ago. The History Division, he explained, would now take “a somewhat altered direction.” He read a letter from the First Presidency which “without intending to diminish” the present and past projects of the History Division, went on to say that the need for scholarly production could now be satisfied by a number of LDS scholars throughout the Church. The History Division should thus change its emphasis to (a) Journal History, (b) archival work, which may have included the preparation of manuscripts, and (c) assistance to General Authorities and church Agencies as directed. Since this letter raised the possibility of a reduction of our staff, I listened very carefully as the letter said that no sudden disruption was envisioned; rather the shrinking of our staff could take place gradually through normal retirements, voluntary transfers and “other arrangements.”

After our small meeting, the same information was passed on about the same way to the entire History Division, which met in the conference room. After the meeting, according to a report from one of the secretaries, Elder Durham walked back into his office, ashen-faced and unsmiling.

Both before and after this day Elder Durham had in different conversations  referred to the History Division as a “think tank” and, in a terrible phrase, a “self-breeding mother.” He had also, perhaps in humor, said that Ph.D. degrees were now a dime a dozen. It could not help but add up to a feeling of hostility and jealousy.

During the individual interviews which followed the May 5 meeting, extending over two or three weeks, most of our people received a better feeling. Ron Walker was told specifically that he should not look for another job. Carol Madsen was treated rather curtly, as if a mother had no business being a historian. “Brother Durham, this position is an answer to prayer,” she told him. (It might be interesting to get everyone or at least several people to write up their own account of their individual meeting with him.) When I met with him, I tried not to be unfriendly, but at the same time I told him in no uncertain terms that my sense of justice was deeply affronted. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”–this is what we should be hearing. Instead, we were hearing, in effect: “We are ashamed of you. Don’t let anyone know who you are. Don’t publish anything that can be identified with the History Division. You are going to have to stop doing what you are doing.” If we are following proper procedures, getting approval of our projects and doing a creditable job, then our leaders should be our advocates and defenders. I also save it as my firm opinion that there were many things that would by no means be done by other LDS historians. Specifically, there were many projects having to do with the Church in various parts of the world that we cold take over if we had more manpower.

It is hard to know just how to interpret a development of this kind. My instincts tell me that the letter from the First Presidency is just a pretext, that the new philosophy originated with Elder Durham and Earl Olson, who then solicited the letter. Either that or the letter came as a result of private conferences. We do know that Elder Durham told Brig Madsen on graduation day at the University of Utah that he, Elder Durham, thought the History Division should not write history but should provide source material for others to write it.

Be that as it may, the letter then becomes the platform from which actions have been taken. Interpretation of intent is all important in situations of this kind. Personally I do not discern any desire to soften the impact on us by making full use of the statement in the letter that retirement and attrition can be the means, along with “other arrangements.” Instead, all in a few months, our Division has lost Dean May (prior to all of this but under the Durham administration), Glen Leonard, Jim Allen. “On deck,” ready to go next, appear to be Bruce Blummell, Jill Derr, Maureen Beecher, Carol Madsen, and Kathy Johnson. At least this seemed to be the way things were moving; we may be able to stave off some of the onslaught.

There is no way that all of these developments can be hidden or interpreted as endorsement. A dull gloom has often hung over our Division. People quietly go about their work, but the old enthusiasm is gone.

Now the above account, accurate enough from my point of view, does not include some qualifying considerations. If we knew and admitted that sooner or later we might have to be reduced somewhat from our maximum strength, then the question becomes when and how will that be accomplished. In a sense, although I cannot approve of the general way this has been handled, the results thus far – could have been worse. Glen Leonard’s move was, for him, a kind of promotion, and he will still have a great deal to do with our Division. One might even say that we historians are moving out to influence other areas. Jim Allen’s move, still unofficial and unannounced, is timed so as to allow him to finish existing projects, and it may represent new administrative opportunities for him at BYU. So perhaps we shouldn’t complain too much about what has happened thus far. I can even envision the possibility that one or two of our people might be happier and equally productive if given archival assignments. But I shudder at the prospects of losing any of our women with the possible exception of Jill’s voluntary retirement when her baby arrives. If the heat is now taken off for a few years, perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky.

It seems absolutely mandatory that Leonard and I stay on to see the sesquicentennial project through, which will extend over several years. And we need Maureen. For the Brigham Young project others are needed. And if the Journal History is redefined as we are now recommending, there should be an ample number of approved projects to keep us all going. As long as I can publish what I want to by using my University of Utah affiliation, I do not feel particularly suppressed (and recognizing that some discretion needs to be exercised). Our book, The Mormon Experience, is coming out soon, and although we know it will stimulate criticism (from both sides), we have been careful in having it read at early stages.

My own desires for the future include: getting out my sesquicentennial volume; finishing the sermons of Brigham Young (selected); helping with the  sesquicentennial volumes, which is very time consuming; continuing to supervise the vignettes; helping with the Brigham Young volume if it seems appropriate; and (a fond desire) editing with a small team of others the Wilford Woodruff journal. There are other projects I want to finish, but these I see as things to be done on my own time.

One little problem I would like to mention in our Division has to do with work requirements. Our staff some time ago (when Gene Sessions was here) tried to assert the notion that they were equivalent to university professors and should have similar prerogatives. One of these was the right to come and go as they wished. I have no desire to install a time clock, but I wonder if some individuals are not abusing a privilege. Some seem to be here less than I am even though I am not full-time. And I don’t think they are necessarily working diligently at home; to judge from what they manage to complete. Others–Dean Jessee, Richard Jensen–are here faithfully and regularly, unquestionably doing more than their fair share. Again, some time on the job seems to go for private projects. I wonder if it could not be stated in a general way at one of our meetings that there has been some criticism, that people are expected to put in forty-hour weeks here, not at home unless special permission is obtained, and that every effort should be exerted to cut out private activities on Church time, recognizing that there will be occasional exceptions.

So this year has been a bad one in many respects. But we still exist as a Division; many of our projects are still on track; and we have exciting projects ahead of us. Thank you for not allowing a mood of despair to emanate from you. Unless we experience further spoiling in 1979, we should be able to continue  to perform valuable functions even if we do have to be somewhat quiet and low-key about it. Incidentally it is good to have a clear conscience, to know for a fact that we have not indulged in conspiracy against the Church but instead have tried wherever possible to build faith. And it is good to be constantly reminded that we have many staunch friends and supporters.

–Davis Bitton

[Appraisal of the History Division during 1978, Davis Bitton, 1 Jan., 1979]

Brother Durham was in the office this morning and gave me permission to put the Richard Jensen paper in the task paper series. He wants us to date all of these papers. He also wants the Historical Department to buy fifteen copies of THE MORMON EXPERIENCE when it comes out and present copies to the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve. He said Brother Packer is worried about our frank acknowledge of the different versions of the accounts of the First Vision.

[LJA Diary, 11 Jan., 1979]

Yesterday in the meeting for the Utah Endowment for the Humanities, Sterling McMurrin was present and during the intermission in the morning took me aside and said, “Leonard, I want to ask you two very confidential and very serious questions. The first is, I understand they have changed your title. You are no longer Church Historian.” I replied that I had never been released as Church Historian, but on my own request they have given me another title, Director of the History Division of the Church. This gives me a title that’s better understood and more secular. It also implies that I don’t have to be a spokesman for the Church in the same sense as the title “Church Historian” implies. I told him I was pleased with the title and welcomed it, but that I still may be called Church Historian by people who remember that historic title.

He seemed satisfied with that answer but wanted to ask, secondly, “I understand that there is a line-up of pictures in the Historical Department and it does not include your picture but instead has the photo of Homer Durham.” I said this was true and it didn’t worry me in the least and I hoped it didn’t worry him. I pointed out that the functions exercised by Joseph Fielding Smith and Howard Hunter and others had been divided up among several of us and that the managing director of the department might be seen as the heir to the Church Historian’s position in a more accurate sense than myself as Church Historian or Director of the History Division. Sterling did not accept this. He said he thought it was reprehensible and wrong. He said, “Who ordered this, Homer?” I said I did not think so; I thought it was the idea of Earl Olson. But I said the pictures are just outside the offices of Earl and Brother Durham. Sterling said he did not like it one bit; but I tried to laugh it off by saying it was not at all important and don’t fuss over it. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Feb., 1979]

Tuesday I went to Rotary and did home teaching in the evening. Had my weekly conference with Elder Durham who tries to discourage me, but I don’t get discouraged. Anybody who persists under him deserves a medal!

[LJA to Children, 4 May, 1979]

Two or three weeks ago in my Tuesday meeting with Elder Durham, he started out by telling me that I had some special friend. He didn’t know who the friend was, but it was a sister. The sister had written a letter to the First Presidency complaining that my picture was not with those of other Church Historians of the past. After Elder Hunter there is a picture of Elder Dyer, and then Elder Anderson and then Elder Durham. The First Presidency had replied to this sister that they would investigate the matter. The First Presidency then wrote a letter to Elder Durham which verified that I had been selected as a Church historian, that I was a proper occupant of that office, and suggested to Brother Durham that either my picture ought to be put up or they would like a letter of explanation of why it shouldn’t be. Elder Durham read the letter to me. He then said that it was the feeling that they should not put up my photo with the others but simply provide an explanation next to the exhibit which would explain that in 1972 when the Historical Department was organized, that the managing director– a general authority–was regarded as the proper successor to Howard Hunter as Church Historian and Recorder. He asked me if I had any objections to that. I assured him that I had none, that the least of my thoughts was having my picture on the wall, and that it didn’t matter a bit to me and never would, and I thought what he planned to do was just fine. He said he would then write a letter to the First Presidency explaining what they had done and justify it and tell them that of course I agreed with this.

I learned today, from her, that the person who had written the letter was Julie Harris of our book acquisition and cataloging staff. She seemed rather proud of having done so, and said she still believes that my picture should be there. 

[LJA Diary, 22 May, 1979]


Prepared by LJA for the History Division Retreat

June 29, 1979


I do not think our situation warrants a feeling of pessimism.

Because it will be necessary for me to allude to some of our problems, I want to be sure that they are presented within a context of a generally forward-looking, contented outlook.

As to criticism of our work, we have always known we would get some, from both sides. To be honest, we are getting less than I expected. Thank goodness we have a clear conscience: we are all believers, we want to do what the Lord wishes, we want to do what the First Presidency wishes, we have engaged in no conspiracy. We are doing positive things for the Church, and should have absolutely no guilt about anything we have done. We are forming valuable functions; we have a large body of supporters; we have tried to build faith, and we are building faith, according to reports. We get this at conventions, like the MHA, in occasional letters, in reports that come second-hand, in receptions in wards, stakes, study groups, firesides. 

[State of the History Division; LJA Diary, 29 June, 1979]

Elder Durham was more explicit with me this morning about the questionable future of our division. He said Elder Hinckley, though sympathetic with what we are doing, feels strongly that we ought to turn over the research and writing of Church history to independent scholars not in the employ of the Historical Department. After 1982, he thinks, the History Division will be merged with the Library-Archives Division. There is a sure future for Ron Walker, Dean Jessee, and probably others, like Richard Jensen. He expressed again his apprehension about Davis Bitton, that they’ll want to release him from the Historical Department, and he is fearful the History Department at the university will not take him back full time. He wants me to think of some project that we might give to him that would last for the next 10-15 years. I mentioned the need to do a documentary history of the Church for the Brigham Young period and said Davis would be ideal for that, but he said it was questionable whether the Brethren would okay that. He doesn’t see a future in the department for Carol Madsen or Bruce Blumell or Maureen Beecher; thinks Bill will go fulltime with Arts and Sites.

He said that President Kimball’s health is still not back to normal. He gets dizzy spells and has not gone back to his office. This raises the possibility that Elder Benson, who will be 80 this week but physically is only 60, will become president of the Church. He thinks it is doubtful that Brother Benson would be very sympathetic with the work of the History Division and might even cut the division before 1982. He said he doubts that if Brother Benson were to become president soon, that he would keep the same two counselors. He thinks he would release Brothers Tanner and Romney and have as his counselors Brother Petersen and either Brother Hunter or Brother Hinckley as the counselor in charge of the Church’s financial interests. We already have one indication of his feelings with him overruling President Oaks and the administration of BYU and insisting on the appointment of Richard Vetterly, a John Bircher, as political science professor at BYU.

Brother Durham says he views himself as someone who is protecting my best interests. He said that shortly after his appointment he asked Brother Joseph Anderson, “What are the land mines that we have to watch out for?” Brother Anderson assured him there were none, that things were going along very well with the department and with the manner in which the department was being received by others. A few days later Brother Durham was called in by a group of 6 apostles who expressed grave concern about the Historical Department in general and the History Division in particular. So he knew from that time that there were plenty of land mines to watch out for.

After his appointment I had mentioned the forthcoming appearance of my autobiographical essay in BYU Studies, “Historian as Entrepreneur.” After that was published, a certain member of the Twelve send him a marked copy of that article with the comment, “Thought you ought to be informed about this.” He was glad I had informed him in advance. He said he would not tell me who the Brother was that sent it to him. My own guess is Elder Petersen. Anyway, I asked Elder Durham, “What did he object to in the article?” He did not reply, so I do not know what the complaint was. Earl had told him about my devoting two days to BYU work. I confirmed that and said I was planning to take Wednesdays and Fridays. He wanted to know when it began and it has already begun. He wanted to know who at BYU had given me an assignment. I started to hem and haw, and he said, “Your supervisor is Martin Hickman, isn’t it?” I replied yes. He said, “We have got to keep you working on the Brigham Young fully. I would be quite willing to phone Dean Hickman and ask him to relieve you of that assignment.” I told him I would give first emphasis to Brigham Young, and if I got into any trouble I would talk to him about it later. He asked me very specifically what I was doing as the BYU assignment. I told him I was working on western agricultural history. He said, “That is a morass which can engulf you if you don’t watch out.” I told him that my record in the past showed that I could keep going on several fronts. That satisfied him in a way. With Earl there present, I didn’t dare tell him that I really expected to spend most of the extra BYU day working on Brigham Young at home. But paradoxically that is the only way I’ll get the BY project done on time. He wanted to know who was helping me on the agricultural project at BYU. I told him my chief assistant there was Tom Alexander.

In another connection, Elder Durham said that the General Authorities receive only a subsistence and not a salary, and this subsistence is approximately half what the bureaucratic employees are paid. (This I suspect means less than $20,000 per year.) And he said this has not been paid out of tithing revenues since 1939. It was about that time that President Grant came in to the Quorum to say that the Church business investments and profits were now enough to take care of all of the allowances of the General Authorities, all of their travel and all of their administrative expenses.

I reported to Brother Durham further about the reception of The Mormon

Experience and he said everything he had heard about the book was good. I reported the second printing and the forthcoming British edition. I also reported the willingness of Knopf to publish the Brigham Young biography, and that I had employed with private resources Linda Wilcox to help me with the project. He seemed to be pleased. He wanted a report on the retreat, and I told him we had spent half a day talking about the BY biography and another half day talking about 20th century Church history and had a testimony meeting in the evening. He seemed to be satisfied with that report.

I also reported on our appearance on Civic Dialogue. He said he’d already heard about it and read the article in the Deseret News and talked with Earl about the preliminary conversation that I’d had with Earl before accepting it. He seemed to be satisfied with that, and did not suggest that we had done anything unwise. He was glad to hear we had some good reports from the interview. He called Rod Decker the Jack Anderson of Utah. He said, “To use a vulgar phrase, if you reported to him that you had gone to the bathroom, he would ask you how many sheets of toilet paper you had used. I reported to him also the meeting with the Baptist ministers and told him about the fine talk which Brother Maxwell had given. He asked some questions about the group and seemed to be satisfied with that report. I told him about the necessity of doing the Hickman paper and left a copy for his comment and suggestions. I explained to him why I wanted to put it in the task paper series. He said he would read it and would consider it seriously.

I told him that we had received four manuscripts in the sesquicentennial series: those of Milt Backman, Richard Cowan, Richard Bushman, and Tom Alexander. I asked him about the progress of the Milt Backman manuscript. He said they have assigned two Quorum members to read it and that it might be some time before we’d get the approval to go ahead and publish. He would ask Brother Packer about it at their next meeting, which would be next Tuesday or Wednesday, a week from now. He gave the impression that there may be interminable delays on some of the sesquicentennial histories; didn’t sound like he had any interest in speeding up the processes, either.

[LJA Diary, 31 July, 1979]

This morning Elder Durham called me to talk about the Bill Hickman task paper. He liked the article fine–thought it was a strong piece–and thought it would be helpful to the Church, Bill Hickman, and to me. He approved publication in the task paper series. He made some suggestions, the principal one being that I take some of the material in the footnotes and put it in the text to make it stronger. He also recommended a new title and recommended an introduction consisting of pointing out to the readers the importance of the study as it reflects on the confessions and the work of J.H. Beadle.

As we were about to leave, I told Elder Durham that I had been told by a friend that the Utah Historical Society will publish in the winter 1980 issue an article by Carmon Hardon and Vic Jorensen on the developments after the Manifesto–polygamous marriages, etc. I told him that while we might wish that this matter be kept quiet, it is an obvious subject for someone to treat and on the basis of a hurried reading I could report to him five things: a. The article is responsibly written and therefore written with as little anti-Mormon stance as possible. b. The article is better from a Church standpoint than almost any other person would have written it. c. While the article does use some material from the Church Archives, virtually all of it could have been written from other archives. d. By and large, their evidence comes from materials in the Utah State Historical Society and University of Utah collections. e. There is no explicit mention of thanks for the assistance of persons in the Historical Department–no mention of my name or of Davis’s name or of the Historical Department in general. In other words, they have no painted us with the brush of sensationalism in making this material available to them. 

Elder Durham seemed to be reassured to this extent; said he recognized that there would be some of the Brethren who would not welcome it, but that the main thing was that it did not involve us or give implication that we had endorsed it.

[LJA Diary, 2 Aug., 1979]

In my meeting this morning with Elder Durham, I asked him about leaving Jim Allen in his office until December 1, and also about securing a special appointment for him so he could have the same privileges he has had as a staff member. Elder Durham thought this could be achieved without any formal appointment or arrangements. He said he wanted Jim to come in and talk with him when he comes back from his Mississippi River excursion, and Bro. Durham would be kind to him and try to arrange things to his advantage. This would include allowing him to remain in the office a little while and also to have the same privileges he has had while here.

Elder Durham has received a letter from the presidency of the Relief Society, asking us to do a study of the role of women in the Church during the 19th century and early 20th century. They want a fully documented study and want it completed by the end of August. There are only 12 working days left in August. Elder Durham said it is an unreasonable request and impossible to fulfill, but for me to ask Carol, Jill, and Maureen to have something put together in three or four days, and give it to him. He is not expecting more than a few pages on the subject. He said Sister Smith has a tendency to push a little hard on certain things.

[LJA Diary, 14 Aug., 1979]

Had the opportunity of talking briefly with Glen Taggart, who has been living in Arlington, Virginia, and working in Washington, D.C., in connection with international aid programs of the Department of Agriculture. He asked me how the General Authorities looked upon some of our history writing endeavors, and then made some comments about Elder Benson. He had been an employee of the Department of Agriculture during all of the years that Elder Benson was Secretary of Agriculture. He had also been an employee before. So he is very familiar with what Elder Benson did as agriculture secretary. When I reported to him that Elder Benson took a dim view of our analytical history, believing history ought to help sell the cause of Mormonism, President Taggart said that that was consistent with his management of the Department of Agriculture. Under his administration they cut down on the research in the Department of Agriculture quite drastically. They not only cut down the research by the staff but also cut down the appropriations for research for the agricultural experiment stations around the country. Some of these stations have maintained the same level of research, which has necessitated higher appropriations from the universities and from the states because the federal appropriation is less than before. That’s the case with the USU Experiment Station. He said Elder Benson wanted the research activities of the Department to concentrate on “selling agriculture” and “selling agricultural products,” both in this country but especially overseas. In other words, he cut down on analytical “honest” research and analysis and concentrated on public relations-oriented research and writing. So apparently that’s his view of historical research as well so far as it pertains to the Church.

[LJA Diary, 17 Dec., 1979]

The responses were as follows:


Said he enjoyed most writing and being with the family. He most fears the future of the sesquicentennial volumes and the potential of being alone. He has not had any great disappointment. Peps disappointment that Elder Durham who of all General Authorities ought to support the program of research and writing does not do so. Leonard has never had a great embarrassing moment, but has had recurring dreams of being in front of a group and not being able to say anything. (James said this is a classic performer’s dream.)

[Family Meeting held the night of Dec. 25, 1979; LJA Diary, filed 1 Jan., 1980]


This is the occasion when I make an annual personal appraisal of the work of the History Division during the past year. I have usually asked three other persons to do the same: Davis Bitten, James Allen, and Dean Jessee. I shall ask them to do so again this year, and shall include their evaluation here if they provide it. If I do not get one from James Allen this year, I shall ask Maureen Beecher to provide one. In fact, I may ask her anyway. I usually do this without reading the evaluations of past years in order to assure that this is fresh, as it occurs to me at this moment. For that reason, it may very well be repetitious.

I begin by expressing sorrow that we have lost two valiant persons in the division, Bruce Blumell, who left September 1 to go to law school in Canada, and James Allen, who left September 1 to return full-time to the History Department in BYU. Both left of their own volition, but both would have stayed if they had thought the future of the History Division was bright. In a way, they both were encouraged to go by pessimistic comments about our future made by Elder G. Homer Durham, managing director of the Historical Department. In addition to these two departures, Glen Leonard was transferred from our division to the Arts and Sites Division to be associate director and Jill Derr will, leave the division December 31 to devote more time to her family and to work with the Relief Society and Deseret Book Co. on a history of LDS women. Both of those departures were (are) voluntary, but once again they would have stayed with us if they had thought their future with us was bright. Neither was (will be) replaced. So we are gradually losing strength. Elder Durham has also told me privately that he does not expect to renew the employment of Carol Madsen, who works for us half time, in the 1981 budget. He expects to “cut her off” at the end of 1980. His reason for that is that we do not have pressing need for her and the Church is wanting him and other administrators to cut budgets for the departments, especially for personnel. As far as I can determine, Elder Durham will renew the contracts of the remainder of our division staff through 1981. The staff for 1980 will consist of: 

Leonard Arrington, Director

Davis Bitton, Assistant Director

Dean Jessee, working on the Joseph Smith Papers

Maureen Beecher, working on the sesquicentennial volumes and on the history of LDS women

Ronald Walker, working on the Heber J. Grant Papers

Richard Jensen, working as research assistant to LJA and on European LDS history

Ronald Esplin, working on Brigham Young Papers

William Hartley, working on Priesthood history

Gordon Irving, supervising the oral history program

Carol Madsen, half-time, working on LDS women history

Kathy Stephens, working as my secretary

Debbie Lilenquist, working as secretary to the historical associates

Debbie Bradshaw, working as secretary to Davis and Maureen

Cindy Mark, working as secretary to the oral history program

Edyth Romney, not employed by the Church but by our private donations, typing original manuscripts

Those we have lost and have not been permitted to replace are: James Allen, Dean May, Bruce Blumell, Jill Derr.

As to developments during the past year, there are some which are heartening, others which are disappointing or discouraging. In the former category are the publication of THE MORMON EXPERIENCE, which to some extent was a staff project, and the approaching publication of LITTLE SAINTS: A HISTORY OF THE PRIMARY ASSOCIATION, which, to some extent, was also a staff project. In addition there were many articles published during this year in The Ensign, the weekly series of vignettes in the Church News, and a number of articles in BYU Studies, Journal of Mormon History, and other professional periodicals. There have been several Task Papers, and some papers presented at professional conventions on their way to publication. We are doing our job, and can be justly proud of our work.

Other manuscripts we have commissioned are on their way to publication: Milton Backman’s sesquicentennial history of Kirtland and Lanier Britch’s history of the Church in the Far East have passed our review and are awaiting the approval of the First Presidency; Lanier Britch’s history of the Church in the South Pacific; Richard Cowan’s history of the Church 1930 to 1950; and Tom Alexander’s history of the Church 1900 to 1930 are awaiting our approval. Richard Bushman’s history of the Church in the New York period is finished except for the introduction and conclusion. Other volumes are due in 1980.

There are some internal papers also finished or nearly finished. Bruce Blumell’s history of Church Welfare awaits the suggestions of Elder Durham and some revision by us before it becomes a Task Paper. James Allen’s history of genealogical work is about finished and we expect a manuscript within a few weeks. Dean Jessee’s editing of the Joseph Smith holographs is awaited early in 1980. Ron Esplin’s study of Brigham Young from 1844 to 1847 should also be finished early in 1980. All staff members have articles for the Ensign and for BYU Studies submitted or nearly ready to submit. I feel good about the production of the division. We have been productive and the quality of our work is recognized to be of a high order. Our work is appreciated by mainstream Latter-day Saints as well as by the scholars. Our division enjoys respect, admiration, and envy.

Nevertheless, there are problems. Elder Durham seems determined to reduce the work of our division down to the barest minimum. I resist this, of course, assured that future generations will grateful for all that we do. Elder Durham keeps threatening to move us to BYU, as a special center sponsored by them. For some reason he thinks our work is “academic” and ought to be under university auspices. But the academic freedom at BYU is less than here, I’m sorry to say; Bob Thomas, academic vice president, has no backbone, nor does Ernest Olsen, director of BYU Press. Lodging us with BYU would ruin us. Elder Durham keeps saying “The Brethren want this history writing to be done on a venture basis by the private sector; they don’t want the Church supporting scholars to do it.” That may be what he hears from Elders Hinckley and Packer, our advisors. But it is not what we hear from General Authorities who talk with us. They appreciate what we do, they are glad we are doing it, and they think it is right and proper that the Church should be employing us for this purpose. We know that most of the things we are doing cannot be done, will not be done, by persons working privately on a venture basis.

Persons tell us that Elders Benson and Petersen do not like what we are doing and that if and when President Benson becomes president of the Church we might all be relieved of our positions. It’s almost as if the decisions of the bureaucrats were being made, not on the basis of what the Prophet wants, but on the basis of what the next Prophet wants. I refuse to believe that Elder Benson would fire us; I am convinced that we are doing what the Lord wants and that the Lord will not permit such a violent end to our work. I refuse to act on the basis of what might happen if Elder Benson became president.

Let me now come to a more pleasant thought and express here, privately, my personal pleasure of working with our division staff and with the staffs of the Arts and Sites and Library-Archives staffs. Except for the “put downs” we occasionally get from Elder Durham, the work has been completely pleasurable. Our personal associations are delightful. So far as I am aware, only one employee of the entire Historical Department (Tom Truitt) bears me ill will—all the rest offer full cooperation and the best of good will. And all of the staff of the History Division are loyal, intelligent, industrious, and devoted both to their Church and to the cause of well-written, well-researched history. I am particularly grateful for the loyalty and dedication and competency of my secretaries; for the loyalty, sound advice, and professional competency of Davis; and, indeed for the loyalty, industry, and competency of all the staff. They are, as I truly believe, doing what the Lord wants them to do.

Finally, I cannot help reflecting about the anomalous circumstances of my employment. I am the official Church Historian, yet I am not a member of the Church’s rather large planning committee on the sesquicentennial. I am acknowledged leader of Mormon history studies, yet I am not a member of the Religious Studies Center at BYU (LaMar Berrett represents Church history). I am the approved editor of the sesquicentennial volumes, yet the First Presidency and Twelve seem to have no interest in getting my recommendation; they want only those of Elder Durham, Elder Hinckley and Packer, and some other member of the Twelve. My appointment as Historian is so disregarded that the First Presidency do not refer letters to me that deal with historical matters. I am not asked to read any manuscripts for historical accuracy, no talks on history are cleared through me. THE MORMON EXPERIENCE, the preparation and publication of which was approved by the First Presidency, could not be mentioned or reviewed in The Ensign or Church News. Nor could Building the City of God. Building the City of God, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, and The Mormon Experience, among others, may not be cited as references in articles in Church manuals and The Ensign. Not a single general authority (except Elder Durham) has written to express appreciation for any of my articles or books, nor has any called me, nor has any called me into his office to discuss historical matters which have come up. But though I have reason to feel rejected, I feel completely confident that my work is approved by the Lord and that within ten years of my death I will be regarded as one of the “greats” in the field of Church history-by general Authorities as well as by others. 

[LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1980]

Report on 1979

by Davis Bitton

Another year has slipped away. “And our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream” (said Jacob, that great historian). On this little globule called earth in a remote corner of North America a small group of historians continued to “do their thing” under the illusion that they were doing something significant. But they were not the only ones in 1979 who had illusions, and perhaps what they did had more significance than many flashy events in the news.

The cloud on the horizon, at first no bigger than a man’s hand, became larger and seemed to become permanent. It still casts its shadow. Seldom experiencing the exuberance of our initial period of expansion, we all realize that contraction is the by-word. We have watched the departure of Bruce Blumell, Jim Allen, and Jill Derr. The word is about in the land that the historians have come upon hard times. Knowing glances and the shaking of heads greet us on all sides. Morale fluctuates between pessimism and resignation.

Yet the cloud has not filled the whole sky. Sunshine breaks through from time to time. While production of scholarly works may have declined slightly (I have not counted up the publications to make sure), we are still getting things out. The most important publication of 1979 was The Mormon Experience, the reception of which has been a happy, even exhilarating surprise. Through it and the resulting reviews, talks, and interviews we have made an improved brand of history, straightforward yet positive, available to readers who thirsted for such a work.

Another large clientele was well served through the series of articles on Mormons in Nevada, appearing also as a book. Exposure of our division continued to occur through the “vignettes” in the Church News. The Ensign carried several articles by our people during the course of the year, as did professional journals. If very sound projects (a biographical encyclopedia) were turned down, the Brigham Young project was approved and gave promise of sustenance for another year or two.

We are making contributions to understanding the Church’s administrative history. With the publication of Sisters and Little Saints (January 1980), the imminent completion of the genealogy history, and the surprisingly positive reception of the study of Brigham Young and the Twelve, the future is auspicious for works of this kind. I am not sanguine about pushing unwelcome information and think we should not be self-appointed educators of “the Brethren.” But if a climate of receptivity can be fostered, the possibilities are good.

Our “retreat” served its purpose of providing therapy as well as producing some good laughs and deepening our personal relationships. Proven traditions–Christmas party–continued.

Repeating remarks I seem to remember making last year or the year before, we probably need to brace ourselves for further diminishing. If it has to happen, I would hope it is by transfers to other divisions (and the fewer the better), leaving a nucleus in the History Division. If there is any kind of willingness to use dedicated talent well, even allowing much of the kind of work our people already do, the changes could be made with a minimum of pain. We do have friends that might help in such a delicate readjustment: Glen Leonard and Ron Watt. It all depends on a spirit of good will.

What we really need is a friend in court, a champion. In the Lord’s due time, perhaps such a one will appear on the horizon. In the meantime, in this winter of our discontent the sun shines intermittently.

I hope I have made a record that gives the following statement credibility. Flattery is not, I think, one of my vices. Leonard, you have done everything humanly possible to keep momentum, to function within the guidelines while taking advantage of every element of flexibility. You have not allowed your public persona to become filled with doom and gloom. You have provided protection and assurance. You told me that on one occasion you said to the managing director, “If Davis goes, I go.” And, “They’re not going to take Davis from me.” You have given me the assurances that enable me, perhaps the most fragile of your flock, to function and produce, even to speak out in public with an optimistic voice. Words fail in expressing my deep gratitude. 

[Report on 1979 by Davis Bitton, file 1 Jan., 1980]