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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Church Historian: 1980-1982”

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

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

Elder Durham asked about the Wilford Woodruff diaries. Our policy up to now has been to give copies of the diaries to any direct descendent, and he said there is now a new policy. We’re not going to give copies of diaries to anybody. I said that seems to me foolish, because the anti-Mormon crowd already have copies of these and they are apt to publish them in the anti-Mormon context; and to deny them to the families is to omit the possibility of their being published in a favorable context. He said to go ahead with the Wilford Woodruff project but not try to rush it, just simply cooperation with the family to the minimum extent necessary.

He asked me to have a meeting with each researcher on the History Division staff to emphasize the importance of completing the projects they are working on, and not getting delayed and preoccupied with secondary or peripheral projects–projects not assigned. I told him I would do so. He asked me to emphasize the importance of focus on the assignments approved by the Presidency.

[LJA Diary, 27 Mar., 1980]

Elder Durham had me review the task papers procedures and practices and policies. He declared that the task paper series would end–no new task papers should be reproduced. I argued with him at some length about this, and he finally agreed to a slight modification of that absolute rule, which was that if a task paper is completed and I feel very strongly that copies should be duplicated and made available to scholars at BYU, U of U, etc., I might submit the manuscript to him. He would then submit it to Elders Packer and Hinckley, and if they approved, then we might do the task paper. But he wants to be sure that the task paper will fit in with the guidelines of projects approved by the First Presidency in 1978.

On the handling of the task papers, he suggested that orders for the entire set be given to Don, and that one of his staff–Annette or someone else–would see that copies are made and distributed to the persons who then would make checks out directly to the Corporation of the President. I told Brother Durham at least twice that Kathy has the ribbons of each and also that Kathy has made up copies of most of those which are still “in print.” He said that Kathy could simply give those to Annette or whoever Don designates to send to the people. I told him I did not want the ribbon copies turned over to Don permanently, and he did not object to that. We can simply lend them. I also told him I don’t want to give up all the extra copies that we had already made, and he didn’t object to that. I also stated that when we sell just an item now and then for $2 or $3 that we put the money into the Mormon History Trust Fund. He didn’t object to that either. But where there is a substantial sale–let’s say $10 or more for several copies–that should be made out to the Corporation of the President. I did not raise the question with him whether if somebody comes to Kathy for a copy, we may sell it. I’ll assume for the present that that practice may be continued. 

[LJA Diary, 10 Apr., 1980]

You’re old Pap is feeling fine, though I must confess that I feel less adequate in my position than I once did. At the meetings of the Mormon History Assn in New York I realized that there are dozens of young historians who are more “with it” in terms of historical research and insights, and I feel a little left behind. I am not able to read as much of the literature, I am less aware of what is going on in the profession, than I ought to. Maybe Dallin Oak’s replacement at BYU helped stimulate the thought that one ought to occupy these offices only so long and then a younger, more vigorous, more aware person ought to take over. If I had confidence that the right kind of person would be appointed, I’d try to get them to let me step down from the administrative position and simply do research and writing for my last years. Unfortunately, I do not have that confidence in our status right now. I’m afraid they might just eliminate the job, and then where’d we be?

[LJA to Children, 16 May, 1980]

It’s so strange that I should have read this last night because I had just finished the text of a radio talk which I am to record next Wednesday and will be aired Sunday morning over KLUB at 6:30 and 7:30. This is a ten minute talk in a series of religious messages, half by Mormons, half by non-Mormons. To give one of these, the Latter-day Saints must be approved by the Council of the Twelve. That I should have been invited to give one shows that I am no longer (If I ever was) on anybody’s black list. And, strangely enough, I talked on the second baptism, the baptism by fire, in which the person receives of the Spirit a knowledge of God and the eternal things.

And then a related experience yesterday. I was invited to give a devotional address at BYU in July on “Our Pioneer Heritage”, or some aspect of Church History. That means I am no longer (as I believe I was for a while) on Bob Thomas’ black list. I think maybe the series in the Church News helped people to understand that we are believers, just as others are, and that we are capable of writing faithful history. Which of course we have been all along. 

[LJA to Children, 23 May, 1980]

It looks like I’m off the BYU black list. They haven’t had me speak there since the BYU centennial in 1975, but now they’ve invited me to give a devotional in July. So I’m glad to know that caution has been thrown to the winds and that once more a historian is welcome. Indeed, they have already had two historians this year–Donald Cannon and Marvin Hill. Shows that Bob Thomas has become less fearful, or less cautious, or less worried or less ambitious, or more relaxed or less interfering, or something. Anyway, glad to know it’s over. Hope Jeff Holland replaces him with someone more courageous in behalf of academic freedom and enlightenment, as I believe he (Holland) will. The same day as the BYU talk (July 22) I have to talk to Rotary in Salt Lake. Hope I don’t get sore throat on that day!

Love all of you.

[LJA to Children, 30 May, 1980]

Elder G. Homer Durham 

Historical Department 

Managing Director 

50 East North Temple, East Wing 

Salt Lake City, UT 84150

Dear Elder Durham:

This is about the time of year when Earl does the preliminary planning for next year’s budget. I hope it will be proper for me at this time to suggest reasons why I very strongly recommend that we keep Sister Carol Madsen as a more or less permanent, though presently part-time, member of our staff.

The first consideration, of course, is that the “new charter” from the First Presidency, dated April 5, 1978, specifically states that if personnel adjustments in the division are necessary, “they may be accommodated through normal retirements, voluntary transfers, or other arrangements acceptable to those concerned.” Under this charter, Dean May voluntarily resigned to accept employment with the University of Utah; James B. Allen voluntarily transferred full-time to Brigham Young University; Bruce B. Blumell voluntarily resigned to attend law school at the University of Alberta in Calgary; and Jill Mulvay Derr voluntarily withdrew to devote herself more fully to her home and to the research and writing involved in the Relief Society history. None of these was replaced and we have accommodated to these reductions in our staff.

We are now dealing with a completely different phenomenon. Carol Madsen devoutly wishes to continue working with us and we devoutly wish to keep her. This is no “retirement, voluntary transfer, or other arrangement acceptable to those concerned.” And I’m sure you appreciate the impact this will have on the morale of our division and of Mormon scholars generally–that a person of her distinction and standing, particularly a woman, would be involuntarily “terminated.”

When Jill Derr, who had been full time with us for three years, married and decided to go on half-time basis in 1977, we obtained permission to employ Carol half-time to fill the rest of that position. At the time Carol had a fine position with the Women’s Resource Center of the University of Utah, and also taught classes in the Department of English. At our persuading, she left those positions to join our staff. There was absolutely no indication to her or to me at that time that her employment would be other than permanent. With this assurance, she joined the History Division and has done excellent work in the three years she has been employed with us. Her work has always been of high quality and has been done with promptness and good judgment.

There are other weighty considerations. There is no historian at BYU whose first interest, or even serious concern, could be said to be the history of women in the Church. In Carol’s absence there would be left on our staff just one person (Maureen) to represent to the Church the history of its women. And with her editing responsibilities, Maureen would have little time to devote to that most important facet of our history.

For some time Carol has been involved with the Brigham Young project

and has recently been assigned to research the lives of the women of the family. At present she is working on the Young daughters. Her research on this project, as with the primary history and her other assignments, has naturally broadened her knowledge of the history of the church organizations, programs, and events in which women were involved, besides increasing her understanding of their individual lives and concerns.

This reservoir of information has particular pertinence now in view of the continuing interest in women’s studies. Because our Archives are included in many national listings of repositories of women’s documents, we are often contacted by scholars wishing to consult with our historians who are familiar with them. Carol knows our sources and is sensitive to their varying quality and appropriateness in terms of non-LDS uses. Moreover, it seems important to have someone with this historical background “officially” available at a time when the concerns of our LDS women have come to include so intensive a curiosity about their past.

This is, therefore, not an appropriate time in our history to drop our concern with the woman in the Church-several books in the past two years, written by non-Mormons, have considered aspects of the history of Mormon women. In many cases they have written for advice to our office, and we have been able to draw on the files of our women researchers for substantive answers to their questions. In one recent study, published nationally, the chapter dealing with Mormon women on the western frontier was heavily impacted by the author’s discussions with one of our women historians, with the result that what would have been an unsympathetic view, critical of Church authority, became a healthy, understanding assessment of pioneer women and their faithful adherence to beliefs.

Our ability to answer the needs of the Church for historical material depends on our having available experts with files at their fingertips. Our ability to meet the Relief Society’s request a few months ago depended on our being able to draw on the files and expertise of our three women historians. It could not have been done by a scholar, however competent, coming cold to the question. And the present Relief Society history, to which Jill Derr will make the major contribution, would have been impossible had she not, over the time of her employment here, compiled significant files and, more important, developed her own understanding of the history of that organization. 

It we slow down that process now, we will leave ourselves in the position of being caught in the future with no answers to some of the most serious questions which will be posed. Carol Madsen, with the background in history which she brought to us, and with her diligence in studying the materials provided here, has arrived at a level of competence we cannot afford to lose.

There is one other dimension I must mention. Besides her officially assigned projects, Carol, under my direction, also fulfills informal requests from other Church agencies for historical information. For example, she is presently doing some work for the Church Almanac and has assisted in the preparation of Church News articles on women, besides doing her share of the historical vignettes. She has also been requested to prepare some pieces for the Ensign and New Era. She was also recently asked to assist a board member of the Relief Society in researching that organization’s involvement in medical training for women throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Since December she has worked with the Young Women’s board in preparing and writing various historical pieces on the Young Women’s organization for the Sesquicentennial. At Sister Elaine Cannon’s request she wrote a historical vignette, “The Voice of Gladness,” which was presented in word and music at the Young Women’s Fireside in March.

In summary, Sister Madsen is uniquely qualified. A trained historian, a specialist in the history of LDS women, able to communicate with our own concerned women as well as outside scholars interested in the history of Mormon women, she sees her employment here as the answer to prayer. It would be very sad, a great loss, to reject these qualifications that fit so admirably one of the areas where we can be of real service. I’m sure you recognize how her dismissal would be interpreted by the alert, interested group of LDS women who have been very encouraged by the existence of a small nucleus of sympathetic yet scholarly women’s study in our division. I strongly recommend that every effort be made to retain her on our staff.



Leonard J. Arrington

Director of History Division 

[LJA to G. Homer Durham; LJA Diary, 2 Jun., 1980]

In my meeting this morning with Elder Durham, he said that my letter about Carol Madsen had been fully persuasive and that he had instructed Earl to include Carol in the budget for 1981.

[LJA Diary, 5 Jun., 1980]

Feel free to interrupt at any point.

A. Future of the Division.

1. Elder Durham says he will not abolish our Division unless ordered to do so. The chances of that being done are probably about 20 percent. If the elimination of our division is ordered, this would be accomplished either by transferring us to BYU or transferring us to Library-Archives, or both. Nobody would be fired unless for cause. (Carol’s position is not as permanent as the rest because she is the most recent and only half-time.)

2. Elder Durham says he wants everyone to understand that it is a part of his responsibility to be alert to alternative employment opportunities, and if one develops that he thinks he would enjoy, he should take it. He did not mention any names, but suppose he had in mind Carol, perhaps Bill Hartley transferring eventually to Arts and Sites, and maybe someone being offered a professorship or a position with Seminaries and Institutes. Elder Durham did tell me he expects me to stay here as long as I want.

3. Elder Durham is pleased with the work of each of you, but can’t understand why you can’t progress faster on your assigned work. He expects you to move faster. As of now, he will not allow us to submit proposals for new assignments, but of course might be willing to do so when anyone of you completes your present assignment.

4. Elder Durham is becoming increasingly strict with the Archives–about allowing the use of materials to reputable scholars and even to us. The spirit of freedom is not quite as prevalent as it once was. I have been able to do some things on my own authority and at my own risk, but it is becoming progressively more difficult for me to do so. Researchers are now prohibited from making Xerox copies of items in the papers of presidents of the Church. Tithing records are now closed, even beyond 110 years. And exceptions to rules are now not considered except in very rare instances. He will not usually forward requests to the First Presidency.

5. As to the sesquicentennial volumes, we are not sure whether the news is good or bad. On the one hand, the authors whose books we have approved (Bushman, Backman, and Britsch) have received their payment. The others are promised theirs when their volumes are completed and approved. On the other hand, we have heard no word that the volumes have “gone to press.” But we have been assured that the volumes will be published. It seems to be a question of when.

B. If all of these seem negative or alarming, let me mention some positive things. There are some.

1. Out in the Church–away from our department–the encouragement, inspiration, help we have provided. Through our talks, our articles in Church magazines, and professional journals, our books. The level of many Sunday School classes improved, priesthood classes. Relief Society classes, sacrament meeting talks, etc.

2. The improvement of family histories, biographies, other books and articles for Church and professional magazines.

3. The general treatment of our history in professional journals, general books, encyclopedias. Not universally improved (Wise, Harper’s, Rocky Mountains, Mountainwest, etc.) but in general better, and more informed.

4. The testimonies of many of our bright young people who have been influenced by Dialogue, Sunstone, Exponent II, and BYU Studies, instruction in class, Church magazines, and by our talks and articles and letters. A good feeling about the Church. Read from Ian Barber article.

5. And we are well paid. I am paid well, Davis is paid well. And the rest of you are well paid in comparison with what you would be getting at colleges and universities. Our division, I am told, is the best-paid division in the Church. While I shall use every opportunity to continue to raise you, you do compare favorably with other Church employment and with college and university employment. We shouldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves.

C. My own conclusion is that the Lord wants us to do what we are doing, and we must forge ahead, confidently but prudently. Let me be very honest in telling you how all this has been affecting me. To some extent I still am under the glow of the first four years, 1972 to 1976–the Elder Dyer, Elder Anderson years. That helps me to keep a sense of perspective. It doesn’t have to be the way it is–our problems are due to a particular set of circumstances. Things will get better, I say to myself, and I do believe they will get better.

Second, as for my personal situation, let me be honest in saying that I have been offered possible full-time or-part-time employment at two other universities besides BYU, and I’ll have to take a look at things after I reach retirement age. Depending on the circumstances, I might retire at 65 or 66, or sometime, or wait until 70. I am committed to here until 1982, or as long as the managing director will have me. It all depends on the situation in 1982 what I’ll do. If I had my preference I would like to turn over the administration of the Division to Davis or someone else. But I’m afraid that any overt action on my part might prompt Elder Durham to abolish the Division–shift us over to Arts and Sites or Library-Archives. This is the way I read it, but if at any point any of you feel that by me stepping down it would help the division, I would be glad to do so. And I really mean that. I spent most of my professional life avoiding administrative responsibilities, and managed to do so until this one. And I hold onto this one simply because I feel that if I’d step down from it, the consequences might not be in the best interest of the History Division. 

D. The way we carry on our work. Professionalism vs. Prudence. Read from Ron Walker’s letter. Ought not to be overly concerned with our future as a Division, or our status in the bureaucracy, nor even by whether this person or that approves of what we are doing. Ought to be concerned, as long as we are employed, with doing good research, writing interesting articles and books, coming up with new facts and interpretations–doing what we know we’ll be blessed by readers now and in the future for doing. Continue at our tasks, industriously and conscientiously. Let’s do like Brigham: do the best we can and leave the outcome in the hands of the Lord.

Suggestions by you.

[LJA at History Division Retreat; LJA Diary, 19 Jun., 1980]

Throughout the five-year period, Leonard J. Arrington was director of the History Division. Davis Bitton served as assistant director of the division during all of the period, and James B. Allen served as assistant director from the beginning of the period to August 31, 1979. In accordance with the mandate given to this division by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in March 1972 and as reaffirmed by the First Presidency and President Spencer W. Kimball in 1974, the History Division, under the general direction of the managing director of the Historical Department and the advisors to the Quorum of the Twelve, conducted in-depth research and writing for Church magazines, professional historical journals, scholarly books, and “in-house” reports for Church administrators.

At the beginning of the period the staff consisted of the following persons: Leonard J. Arrington, director; James B. Allen and Davis Bitton, assistant directors; Dean Jessee, Glen M. Leonard, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Bruce Blumell, and Gene A. Sessions, senior historical associates; Richard L. Jensen, Ronald K. Esplin, Jill Mulvay Derr, William C. Hartley, historical associates; Gordon Irving, director of the oral history program; Christine Croft Waters, secretary to the director; Valerie Searle, secretary to the assistant directors; Debbie Lilenquist, receptionist and staff secretary; and Kathleen Davidson Johnson, secretary of the director of oral history. Edyth Romney served as special manuscript typist.

Gene Sessions was replaced in 1976 by Ronald W. Walker. Jill Derr was replaced by Carol Cornwall Madsen. James Allen and Bruce Blumell left in 1979 and were not replaced. Glen Leonard was transferred to the Curators (Arts and Sites) Division in 1978. Chris Waters was replaced in 1976 by Nedra Yeates Pace, who in turn was replaced in 1978 by Kathy Gailey Stephens. Valerie Searle was replaced by Debbie Bradshaw, who in turn left employment and was not replaced. Kathy Johnson was replaced as secretary of oral history by Cindy Mark in 1979. The following members of the History Division were transferred in 1980 to constitute the newly established Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at Brigham Young University: Leonard Arrington, Maureen Beecher, Ron Walker, Ron Esplin, Richard Jensen, Carol Madsen, Bill Hartley, and Kathy Stephens. The remainder of the staff–Davis Bitton, Dean Jessee, Gordon Irving, Debbie Lilenquist, and Cindy Mark–were transferred to the Administrative Division of the Historical Department and the History Division was discontinued.

The following programs were carried out during the five-year period:

1. Oral History program under the direction of Gordon Irving, which involved taped interviews by trained interviewers of General Authorities, Church administrators, returned mission presidents, old-timers, and others. These were typed, bound, and placed in the Church Archives. A supplement to this program was provided by a grant of $100,000 from the James Moyle Historical and Genealogical Fund, the annual interest of which was expended to expand the oral history program.

2. Mormon Heritage Series, in which important collections of previously unpublished documents were submitted for publication to Deseret Book Company. No publications were issued during the five-year period but work was done on several which hopefully will be published in future years. 

3. One biography was published during the years 1976-1980: From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley by Leonard J. Arrington. Other biographies on which extensive work was done are those of Eliza R. Snow, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and Heber J. Grant.

4. Under authorization from the President of the Church, two members of the History Division, James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, wrote and published in 1976 The Story of the Latter-day Saints, a well-received narrative history of the Church. A one-volume history of the Church written with the educated nonmember in mind was prepared by Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton, and published in 1979 by Alfred A. Knopf under the title The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. This book has also been well received by both members of the Church and nonmembers. Other book-length studies published during the period were: Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation Among the Mormons, by Leonard Arrington, Feramorz Fox, and Dean May; and The Mormons in Nevada, by Leonard Arrington.

5. Administrative histories. A history of the Primary Association was published in 1980 by Carol Cornwall Madsen and Susan Oman under the title Sisters and Little Saints. A history of the Welfare Program by Bruce Blumell was completed in first draft and at the end of 1980 was being revised by the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History for distribution in 1981. A history of the Genealogical Department was assigned to James Allen and this task will be completed in 1981 under the supervision of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History. 

6. Sesquicentennial history. Under the direction of Leonard Arrington, general editor, sixteen persons, fourteen of whom were not employees of the Historical Department, were approved, each to do a volume for a sixteen-volume History of the Latter-day Saints. Substantial work was done on this project and three of the manuscripts were approved by the managing director of the Historical Department by the end of 1980. Other manuscripts were completed and in process of revision by the end of the year. With the discontinuance of the History Division, this now becomes a matter of negotiation between the individual authors and Deseret Book Company, which issued the original contracts.

7. Task Paper series. A total of thirty-two task papers on a variety of Church history topics were completed by the end of 1980. These were duplicated and placed in the archives.

In addition to the above projects, many papers, lectures, and chapters in books were completed by staff members and placed in the Church Archives. Division staff members have also devoted considerable time to responding to inquiries from Church members and Church officials throughout the world. In particular, the staff have made important contributions to our understanding of Church government in the past, LDS immigration, the role of LDS women, and the role of priesthood offices and quorums. Division members have also been invited to contribute to encyclopedias, news magazines, newspapers, and to appear on radio and television talk shows, thus presenting an accurate and favorable image of LDS history in the media. Several staff historians have also been among the leaders of the Mormon History Association, thus assuring that that organization will promote an accurate and favorable image of the Church through their historical research, writing, and publishing. 

[Five-Year Report of the History Division, 1976-1980; LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1981]

At the beginning of 1976 the Historical Department consisted of five divisions-Administration, Curator’s, History, Meetinghouse Library, and Library-Archives. The department was housed on the four floors of the East Wing (excluding the auditorium on the first floor) of the Church Office Building, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City; the F Vault at Granite Mountain Vault (books, newspapers, Records of Members, Ordinance and Action Records, microfilm negatives and other records), and artifacts storage areas on the 2nd lower level and three other areas.

April 29, 1977, Elder Joseph Anderson was released as Managing Director of the Historical Department. He was succeeded by Elder G. Homer Durham of the First Quorum of the Seventy. May 2 a reception was held for these two brethren, their wives, and their secretaries, after which Elder Anderson and his secretary moved to the 19th floor, and Elder Durham and his secretary, Beth Rasmussen, moved in.

February 8, 1978, Elders Delbert L. Stapley and Howard H. Hunter were released as advisors to the department, and Elders Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer were appointed as the department liaison with the First Presidency. The Historical Department functions under the direction of the First Presidency and is not part of either the Ecclesiastical or Temporal functions at Church headquarters. Elders Hinckley and Packer held regular monthly meetings with the managing director and assistant managing director, at which policies and procedures of the department were reviewed and counsel given on future action. Matters requiring further consideration by the Twelve or First Presidency were presented to those brethren by Elders Hinckley and Packer and decisions resulting therefrom were relayed to the managing director.

One of the charges given to Elder Durham when he assumed his new position was to establish better control over the various functions of the department. In this connection, and after due consultation, the First Presidency directed a change in the assignment of the History Division February 24, 1978, so that all research and writing must be specifically approved by the managing director. Research projects previously initiated in the division were subjected to review and selection as to which might be authorized for continuation by the First Presidency.

A similar directive from the First Presidency also changed titles of key positions in the department in order to establish uniformity with other departments at Church headquarters. Leonard J. Arrington’s title was changed from Church Historian to Director, History Division; Florence S. Jacobsen from Church Curator to Director, Arts and Sites Division; Donald T. Schmidt from Church Librarian-Archivist to Director, Library-Archives Division; the two Assistant Church Historians to Assistant Directors; the two Assistant Church Curators and the two Assistant Librarian-Archivists to Managers. These changes were announced to the staff March 15, 1978, at which time it was also explained that the responsibilities of the former Church Historians and Recorders as heads of the Office of the Church Historian had been transferred to the Managing Director of the Historical Department in 1972.

In 1980 the First Presidency and the Twelve, acting as the Church Board of Education, decided that a Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History would be organized at Brigham Young University. Leonard J. Arrington was named as Director, and the decision reached that the History Division, with some exceptions, would be transferred to Brigham Young University. Notification of this decision was given to Elder Durham June 26, 1980; the transfer of administration to the university was effected July 1, and the budget for the group was transferred September 1, 1980. The eight staff members transferred could continue to occupy the present space until August 31, 1982, or move sooner as facilities become available at the university. Five remaining staff members of the former History Division (Davis Bitton, Gordon Irving, Dean Jessee, Debbie Lilenquist and Cindy Lou Mark) were transferred to the Administration Division effective July 1, 1980.

In 1977 some anti-Mormons again raised the claim that Solomon Spaulding wrote the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. They arranged for three handwriting specialists to study the Spaulding Manuscript in Oberlin College, and we then gave permission for them to examine the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. This they did on June 29, 1977. After their examination one said it was the handwriting of Spaulding; one said it was not; and one refused to be quoted. Historical Department personnel and others who have examined both manuscripts maintain these were not written by the same person and certainly not Spaulding who died about 1816.

In keeping with the general trend to eliminate the use of legal size paper, the Ordinance and Action Record forms (Form E) were changed to letter size in 1977. Patriarchal Blessings had previously been changed. All incoming records will now be on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper.

In April 1978 Earl Olson met with Bishop Brown and others, where the majority of those present decided to recommend that the Records Management Program be transferred from the Historical Department to the Presiding Bishopric’s Office. The records evaluation part of this program was transferred shortly afterwards, and on December 23, 1978, the Records Center, with Dennis Wilde and Tom Miller, was transferred to the jurisdiction of the PBO.

In 1978 the First Presidency ruled that minutes of general and confidential meetings will no longer be forwarded to the archives for filing. The minutes are to be used locally on a temporary basis for administrative purposes and for writing the Historical Record, and may be destroyed after three years. All minutes on hand will be microfilmed as directed by the First Presidency in 1973. As of the end of 1980 there were still many records to be filmed.

In accordance with directions from the First Presidency to simplify and reduce, and to eliminate committees where possible, the Church Library Coordinating Committee and the Meetinghouse Library Committee were released December 21, 1978. Members of these committees and their partners were honored at a farewell dinner on February 7. The functions of these committees will be absorbed by personnel in the Historical Department.

A devotional has customarily been held for staff members each Wednesday morning, where announcements are made of policies, procedures and activities, and a brief enrichment program presented. In order to enhance the devotional a historical pump organ was renovated and placed in the conference room on May 30, 1979, where it was used to accompany the singing of the hymns.

The compilation of Journal History was under the direction of Leonard J. Arrington beginning in 1972 in his capacity as Director of the History Division. In 1979 it was felt best to make a change in this assignment, and Ronald O. Barney, a cataloger in the Technical Services Section, was transferred to the jurisdiction of Brother Schmidt, assigned as a Field Acquisitions Specialist, and given the additional responsibility of compiling Journal History, effective November 1, 1979. 

April 25, 1980, the Historical Department received on loan from Mark W. Hofmann an original document which was identified as the one prepared by the Prophet Joseph Smith for Martin Harris to take to Professor Anthon, and which became known as the Anthon Transcript. This had been preserved in an old family Bible which came into Brother Hofmann’s possession. This is the oldest known document in existence pertaining to the Church. It was written in the prophet’s own hand in 1828. Donald T. Schmidt entered into negotiations with Brother Hofmann, and on October 13, 1980, was successful in finalizing a permanent transfer of the document to the Historical Department. 

At the opening session of the World Conference on Records August 12, 1980, sponsored by the Genealogical Society, President Spencer W. Kimball announced that a new Genealogical Library building and a Museum of Church History and Art were planned for construction. Confirmation of this decision was also given in the afternoon when President Kimball visited the Historical Department and made the announcement to the staff. Glen Leonard was announced as Director of the new museum. Planning for this project had been underway between Elder Durham, Emil B. Fetzer-Church Architect, Earl E. Olson, Glen M. Leonard, Paul Anderson, and Richard G. Oman in weekly meetings for much of the preceding year.

The authorized staff of the Historical Department as of December 31, 1980, was 83. This number, with the addition of Elder G. Homer Durham, Managing Director, and Florence S. Jacobsen, who gives Church service in her position as Director of the Arts and Sites Division, gave the department a total of 85 persons.

Oral History

In January 1976 the Oral History Program was part of the History Division and was directed by William G. Hartley. In October 1976 the name of the program was changed to the James Moyle Oral History Program, as approved by the Historical Department leadership and in accordance with the stipulations of a $100,000 grant received from the James H. Moyle Family. The Moyle Family donated the money to the Church so that clerical and other services could be provided beyond what could be funded out of the departmental budget, thus furthering the program objective of documenting the growth and development of the Church in the twentieth century through interviews with participants in that history. In November 1976, Gordon Irving was appointed to head the James Moyle Oral History Program. He continued as supervisor at the end of 1980. July 1, 1980, with the discontinuation of the History Division, the oral history program was transferred to the Administration Division.

On January 1, 1976 the Oral History Program consisted of 800 interviews with approximately 400 individuals, of which 245 interviews had been completely processed. A backlog of 55 interviews required further processing–that is, transcription, checking, editing, review by the person interviewed, retyping, and proofreading. The emphasis of the program under Brother Irving has been to conduct interviews at a much slower pace and to work to eliminate the backlog of interviews not yet in final form. In the last five years 730 interviews were conducted with some 350 individuals. By December 31, 1980, 1198 interviews had been completely processed, leaving a backlog of 332 interviews. The rate of growth of the program, previously 227 interviews, was reduced to 134 interviews per year.

Since January 1976, the interviews have related to almost all aspects of contemporary Church history, including many with General Authorities, regional representatives, and stake and mission leaders who can provide authoritative information regarding their areas of service. Special projects have been conducted relating to the history of the Genealogical Society, Relief Society, LDS Social Services, Welfare Services, including Welfare Services missionaries; the LOS response to the 1976 Teton Flood, the Young Women, and numerous other aspects of the Church. The department provided partial funding for Brother Irving to do some interviewing in Mexico in 1976 and Chile in 1977, and the James Moyle Oral History Trust Fund, under the care of the Financial Department and supervised by the leadership of the Historical Department, has funded some interviewing, as well as much clerical and editorial work. 


Throughout the five-year period, Leonard J. Arrington was director of the History Division He was also half-time as Director of the Redd Center and Professor of History at BYU. Davis Bitton served as assistant director of the division during all the period (3/4 time), and James B. Allen served (1/2 time) as assistant director from the beginning of the period to August 31, 1979 when he returned to BYU full-time. The staff also consisted of 5 senior historical associates, 5 historical associates, and 4 secretaries.

In accordance with the understanding conveyed to this division by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in March 1972, and as reaffirmed by the First Presidency and President Spencer W. Kimball in 1974, the History Division, under the general direction of the managing director of the Historical Department and the advisors to the Quorum of the Twelve, conducted in-depth research and writing for Church magazines, professional historical journals, scholarly books, and “in-house” reports for Church administrators.

The following members of the History Division were transferred in 1980 to constitute the newly established Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History at Brigham Young University: Leonard J. Arrington, Maureen Beecher, Ron Walker, Ron Esplin, Richard Jensen, Carol Madsen, Bill Hartley, and Kathy Stephens. The remainder of the staff–Davis Bitton, Dean Jessee, Gordon Irving, Debbie Lilenquist, and Cindy Mark– were transferred to the Administrative Division of the Historical Department and the History Division was discontinued.

The following programs were carried out during the five-year period:

1. Oral History program under the direction of Gordon Irving.

2. A Mormon Heritage Series of previously unpublished collections of documents. No publications were issued during the five-year period, but work was done on several which may be published in future years.

3. One biography was published during the years 1976-1980: From Quaker to

Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley, by Leonard J. Arrington. Other biographies on which extensive work was done are those of Eliza R. Snow, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and Heber J. Grant.

4. James B. Allen and Glen N. Leonard wrote and published in 1976 The Story of the Latter-day Saints, a one-volume narrative history of the Church.

5. A one-volume history of the Church written with the educated non-member in mind was prepared by Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, and published in 1979 by Alfred A. Knopt under the title The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. This book has also received excellent reviews from both members of the Church and non-members.

6. Other book-length studies published during the period were: Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation Among the Mormons, by Leonard J. Arrington, Feramorz Fox, and Dean May; and The Mormons in Nevada, by Leonard J. Arrington.

7. Administrative histories. A history of the Primary Association was published in 1980 by Carol Cornwall Madsen and Susan Oman under the title Sisters and Little Saints. A history of the Welfare Program by Bruce Blumell was completed in first draft and at the end of 1980 was being revised by the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History for possible distribution in 1981. A history of the Genealogical Department was assigned to James Allen and this task will be completed under the supervision of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History.

8. Sesquicentennial history. Under the direction of Leonard J. Arrington, general editor, sixteen persons, fourteen of whom were not employees of the Historical Department, were approved, each to do a volume for a sixteen-volume history of the Latter-day Saints. Substantial work was done on this project and three of the manuscripts were approved by the managing director of the Historical Department by the end of 1980. Other manuscripts were completed and in process of revision by the end of the year. With the discontinuance of the History Division, this now becomes a matter of negotiation between the individual authors and Deseret Book Company, which issued the original contracts.

9. Task paper series. A total of thirty-two task papers on a variety of Church history topics were completed by the end of 1980. These were duplicated and placed in the archives.

In addition to the above projects, many papers, lectures, and chapters in books were completed by staff members and placed in the Church Archives. Division staff members have also devoted considerable time to responding to inquiries from Church members and Church leaders throughout the world. In particular, the staff have made important contributions to our understanding of Church government in the past, LDS immigration, the role of LDS women, and the role of priesthood offices and quorums. Division members have also been invited to contribute to encyclopedias, news magazines, newspapers, and to appear on radio and television talk shows, thus presenting an accurate and favorable image of LDS history in the media. Several staff historians have also been among the leaders of the Mormon History Association, thus assuring that that organization will promote an accurate and favorable image of the Church through their historical research, writing, and publishing. 

[Report of the Historical Department, 1976-1980; LJA Diary, 1 Jan., 1981]

Leonard J. Arrington, Director

Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History

Church Office Building

Dear Leonard:

I have your letter of 9 March.

I, of course, have no access to the vault of the First Presidency. Only the Presidency have such access.

I intend to raise a question with the Presidency concerning an examination of this material, but President Kimball is away and will not be back until after this week.

Thank you for your interest.

Sincerely your brother,

Gordon B. Hinckley 

[Gordon Hinckley to LJA; LJA Diary, 12 Mar., 1981]

I was informed this afternoon that Lavina Fielding Anderson has been fired by the Ensign. Apparently relations between her and Jay Todd, the editor, have not been particularly good since she went back after having her baby. It may be that he has been looking for an excuse to “get rid of her.” At any rate, she put together a manuscript of Elder Rector’s talk together with the printed version–and the two were considerably different–and she sent that to Randy Dixon, one of our cataloguers. It happens that Randy Dixon is also, on his own time, a staff member of Sunstone. At any rate somebody in the Ensign had opened her mail and discovered this. It was taken to Jay Todd and Jay Todd came in and told her she had done something that she knew was improper and he was therefore firing her. He told her this at 10:30 this morning and told her she had to leave today. Representatives of personnel stood in her office while she packed to make sure she did not destroy anything or take anything with her that was Ensign property. Apparently Lavina is checking over the policy book to see if a department director or supervisor can fire somebody without a reprimand, an appeal and so on. Can all of this be done in a day? 

Lavina will surely be able to make a living free lance. She is a splendid writer, researcher, and editor. She has done many favors for many writers and many people will be very sad and disturbed at her removal from the Ensign staff. 

[LJA Diary, 18 Jun., 1981]

A little more information on the Lavina firing episode. After the appearance of the “leak” in Sunstone in regards to the succession of Joseph III document, they suspected Lavina of being the source. Somebody called that suspicion to the attention of Elder Ballard who called in Church security. Church security began opening her mail and, Lavina thinks, they tapped her phone. That is how they found the material in the letter addressed to Randy Dixon.

Peggy Fletcher of Sunstone had noted that there was a difference between Elder Rector’s talk in April conference and the version of his talk that was published in the Ensign. She asked if she could see a copy of his talk to compare it with the published version. This would save her copying from a tape of the conference proceedings. In all innocence (!) Lavina sent to Randy the wrong draft of Elder Rector’s talk. It appears that Elder Rector, well in advance of the conference, had prepared a talk which had gone to Correlation and which had not been cleared by them, so the talk was considerably altered by the time he gave it in conference. Then there was a further alteration of the revised conference talk after it was delivered. Instead of sending the revised draft given in conference Lavina sent the very first draft which was of course an improper thing for her to do.

Randy Dixon was involved in all this quite innocently. He did not know a letter was coming from Lavina when Lavina phoned him a day or two later and asked him “did you get my letter?” He replied, “what letter?” I suppose Lavina sent it to him in order not to be sending anything directly to Sunstone.

After Lavina was “caught” and fired Church security called in Randy Dixon and grilled him for some time but of course he didn’t know anything about it. Randy was almost fired from Church employment but I suppose they did not do so because they were persuaded he was indeed quite innocent. Elder Durham then called Randy in and told him that he would have to cease his connection with Sunstone. He has now resigned from the staff. Bill Slaughter was called in and told the same. He has also resigned. Peggy Fletcher had to run down to the press to take both their names off the masthead before the issue came out. Richard Oman was called in by Elder Durham and strong hints were made to him that his wife Susan ought to resign from Sunstone but of course they could not order this and she does not expect to do so. Richard assured Elder Durham that his wife was not subversive.

[LJA Diary, 23 Jun., 1981]

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

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

With respect to the second question Elder Pinnock said Leonard Arrington is my friend and I am afraid I do not know the answer, but I will find out and let you know. Next day Elder Pinnock called Peggy over to his office and said he had contacted a reliable source (presumably Elder Durham) and had the answer. Leonard Arrington was removed from Church Historian to preserve his reputation. He had made some errors in judgment and rather than fire him they simply transferred him and his staff to BYU. Peggy asked him what errors in judgment. He said he didn’t know, he wasn’t informed. My own feeling is that the biggest error in judgment was our decision to write history instead of propaganda. 

I have also learned recently that our division has been subjected to Church security supervision of which we have known all along, since 1972, that Tom Truitt, who thought he ought to be Church Historian, has been picking out everything we have written or said that might be questionable or controversial and forwarding that on to Elder Benson and/or Elder Petersen. In addition to that now it appears that there is additional surveillance of our division. What is most disturbing is the apparent feeling on the part of some that we are letting some historical cats out of the bag. What they ought to realize is that the cats have been out of the bag long before we came in, in 1972 and that our efforts have been to try to minimize the historical impact of those unfavorable facts and to put the lid on other facts that can be found by intense study of Archival material that would damage the Church and all its officers. We certainly have refrained from publishing all the things we have learned i.e., Elder Benson’s grandfather Apostle E. T. Benson was at one time threatened with disfellowshipment by President Brigham Young and in fact came within a hairs breadth of being disfellowshipped. This was well along in his apostleship. This is only one example of it, there are many other facts and interpretations that we have been careful to keep quiet about. I am of course finding many things about Brigham Young that would be better left unsaid and I am trying to be responsible about my assignment to do his biography. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Jul., 1981]

I have heard little more with respect to the Lavina Anderson firing. Jay Todd was very strong on her during the first year or two she worked there. Jay, who is not particularly smart, then began to see that she was a threat to him–she is very ambitious. He began looking for some reason to get rid of her. Finally he decided to look through the drawers in her desk. He found a number of incriminating things–close association with Sunstone. Thinking that she might be passing on some confidential material to Sunstone he had her mail monitored and that is how he found the letter for which he summarily fired her. When someone raised the question with him about her being given a hearing his immediate reply was simply, “That is not the way the Church does things.” (Presumably, I am thinking, the way the Church does things is to monitor one’s mail!) 

[LJA Diary, 27 Jul., 1981]

Re My Experience as Church Historian, 1972-1980

From the very beginning of Elder Durham’s appointment, it was clear that he would be a very different kind of managing director. Elder Dyer regarded his task as being a General Authority expediter. “My job,” he said, “is to provide the wheels so the Historical Department can run.” His job, in other words, was to make the contacts with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, secure their approval for a program, and then encourage us to go “full steam ahead.” He did not ask to see the things we had written, though out of courtesy we sent him copies of articles we submitted. He did not tell us what programs to follow–he left that up to us. He held regular meetings of the executives (Earl, Don, and myself) to see what help we might need. He saw that we got the funds we needed, helped us get the staff we needed, arranged for clearances with the authorities on everything. He took us with him to meetings with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve so they would be familiar with us, would be able to give us counsel directly, would be informed of our activities.

After Elder Dyer’s stroke, there were several months when we went our own way. Elder Dyer continued as titular managing director, but did only minor directing. Earl, Don, and myself continued to meet with the advisors from the Twelve (Elder Hunter and McConkie) to receive counsel.

When Elder Anderson was appointed, it was clear that he also regarded himself primarily as a coordinator, as a facilitator, as a counselor. He continued to hold regular meetings with the executives, insisted that careful minutes be kept so that decisions would be recorded and serve as precedents, and took us with him to meetings with the advisors and with the First Presidency. He left the professional work completely up to us–the projects we worked on, the articles we wrote, the books we worked on, etc. He did not wish to see any of the things we wrote, did not wish to put himself in the position of approving or disapproving of anything we had done. 

Elder Durham seemed to have a compelling need to be Church Historian and Recorder in the Joseph Fielding Smith sense. He did not have any meetings with the executives, but simply met, usually once a week, individually, with each executive. No minutes were kept and his decisions were ad hoc. He did not regard himself as bound by any previous counsel or decisions but, indeed, seemed to take delight in reversing previous counsel or decisions. Rather than taking us with him to meetings with the advisors from the Twelve, as the previous Managing Directors had done, he went alone, or with Earl, who he appointed Assistant Managing Director. He did not arrange for meetings with the First Presidency but went alone. His principal advisor was Elder Hinckley, with whom he had been a missionary in Great Britain.

That Elder Durham saw himself as occupying a position similar to that of Joseph Fielding Smith is indicated by several actions.

1. He did not form a council of executives to discuss policies and procedures.

2. He wished to see and approve, in advance, all articles, research, reports, book manuscripts, and went over them, as a graduate professor went over term papers, theses, dissertations

3. He insisted that we not engage in any research not approved by him.

4. He began to take steps to remove all the creative scholars from the department. Originally, this meant not hiring replacements for those who left–Glen Leonard, Bruce Blumell, James Allen, Jill Derr. Indeed, he served as a midwife to get some of them transferred–Glen to Arts & Sites, Jim Allen to BYU, and so on.

5. In 1978 he (and Earl) made his position clear by putting up a series of photos of Church Historians over the years. Mine was excluded, and his own was included.

When reminded that certain things were done or decided by Elder Anderson, he would say, “A sweet old man, but not aware of what was going on.” (My own reaction is that Elder Anderson, because he listened, was far more aware of what was going on than Elder Durham.)

Elder Durham claimed that he came under very different instructions: “Keep an eye out for what those historians are doing, and clean it up.” But we know that the principal actions he took were on his own initiative. The First Presidency no doubt approved, based on information from him alone, but he himself wrote the basic memoranda, the basic policy letters. In short, we blame him for the following developments:

1. The rule that only the First Presidency could approve research projects, and nobody was going to work on any project not approved by them.

2. The rule that all written material be approved by him.

3. The reduction in staff.

4. The transfer of the History Division to BYU.

5. The insistence that we “get out” of historical Department quarters earlier than designated in the First Presidency letter (which he wrote).

6. The insistence that we teach classes at BYU.

In short, he was basically arranging that research be reduced, writing be cut, publishing be diminished. And this was accompanied by the rule that much of the material in the Church Archives was not available to researchers. Shades of Joseph Fielding Smith! A step backward! 

Our own reaction to all this is simply that our file leader is Jesus, our goal is to build the Kingdom, and we must persevere in our efforts to do what President Tanner called us to do. And we know we are supported in this by our beloved Prophet, President Kimball, and by thousands of loyal Latter-day Saints, and a majority of the Quorum of the Twelve. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Aug., 1981]

I met Jim Allen when he was a senior in history at Utah State University in about 1948. We were in the same senior and graduate seminar on historical sources and methods taught by George Ellsworth. I was trying to learn history to help me with my Ph.D. dissertation and Jim was getting ready to do a graduate degree in history at BYU. There were about 10 in the class and we all became personally acquainted, shared papers, and insights. Jim then went on to earn his Masters at BYU and then went on to earn the Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. We were friends and kept in touch. During the summer of 1956 I taught classes at BYU and rode back and forth with Jim who was also taking classes and still maintained his home in Logan. Jim eventually married Ray Jones who had served for a period as one of my secretaries. The seminar paper he wrote for Ellsworth’s seminar was later published in the Utah Historical Quarterly I believe. After he received his Ph.D. he taught regularly in the History Department at BYU and contributed a number of professional articles on Utah and Mormon History all of which I was well acquainted. During the time he was working on his Ph.D. he taught at the Institute of Religion at BYU. He was a member of the small group of Mormon historians that organized the Mormon History Association in 1965. He was also one of those consulted by Elder Howard Hunter when he was appointed Church Historian in 1970. Jim and I had collaborated on at least one article published in BYU Studies in 1969. I believe on Mormon origin in New York. We had also exchanged some drafts of articles intended for publication to be critiqued.

I first met Davis Bitton in 1956 when he was a graduating senior  at Brigham Young University when I was invited to speak at the spring meeting of Phi Alpha Theta. I met him again in 1963 after he had received his Ph.D. from Princeton and was teaching at the University of Texas in Austin. I had been invited by Walter Prescott Webb to give two lectures on the Mormons for his Ford Foundation Television Series on the History of American Civilization. I had to spend two or three days there. Davis invited me to stay at his and Peggy’s home. When he went to the University of California at Santa Barbara in the early 1960s I saw him again. He and Peggy were members of a study group to which I spoke when Grace and I were in Southern California in 1966-67. We continued contact especially after he came to the University of Utah in the late 1960s. He and I also exchanged manuscripts of articles we intended to publish and made critiques of them. He was also a member of our small group which organized the Mormon History Association in 1965. Davis had stayed in our home in Logan two or three times when he went to Logan to work through the Mormon diaries in the USU library.

In selecting persons to be Assistant Church Historians several things were important to me.

1. Both persons should be fully converted to the gospel.

2. Both persons should have made substantial contributions to professional journals in the field of Mormon history.

3. Both persons should be well respected in the profession and have Ph.D.’s.

4. Both persons should be young and vigorous (both Davis and Jim were 42 at the time).

5. Since I was from USU it would be helpful I thought to have one from BYU (Jim) and one from the U of U (Davis).

6. Both persons should have some experience in Church Administration— Jim had been a Bishop and High Councilor; Davis had been an Elders Quorum President, Financial Clerk and Sunday School and Priesthood teacher. 

7. It was helpful that Jim had been an administrator and teacher in the Church Educational System–head of an Institute and also of a Seminary.

8. It would also be helpful, I thought, that one tended to approach Mormon history very positively (Jim) and the other more critically (Davis). I hasten to add that Davis was not adversely critical but simply professionally analytical.

My recollection is that I phoned both Jim and Davis the weekend after my “call” by President Tanner and told them what I had in mind and asked if they would serve. Both replied affirmatively and so l knew who my assistants were to be even before my appointment was announced a week later. We functioned like a stake presidency with the three of us meeting together often on policy matters. Anything important that came up I brought the two of them in the office and we talked it through before we made a decision. When Davis and Jim had received their official call from Elder Dyer the three of us went into my office and had a solemn prayer of gratitude and supplication. It was a tender moment for the three of us. The eight years we spent together were “great” years. I am sure each of us feels that way.

After Jim, Davis and I had worked out our program by March of 1972 we agreed that we ought to have an editor to go over the manuscripts we would write and the manuscripts for publication of which we were sponsoring, especially the Sesquicentennial Series. I asked around for several days about a suitable person. Finally Jeff Johnson who was working as an archivist for the Historical Department suggested Maureen Ursenbach. I inquired about her, heard good things. I was especially interested that she had served as an associate editor of the Western Humanities Review in which I had a special interest because I had contributed several articles to it in the 50s and 60s. I was able to employ somebody because there was a vacancy for a secretary for me and I had not filled the vacancy. So I phoned up Maureen and she agreed to come down for an interview. She proved to be charming, intelligent, well-trained, and well experienced. She had been on a mission, and was a mission secretary. She had qualifications that enabled me to put her on the payroll as a secretary to begin with. She was working on a Ph.D. in comparative literature and agreed to work for me for only part of each day–I think perhaps 4-6 hours per day, perhaps three days a week. Something like that. She actually did some secretary work for me binding the approval of my request to have a full-time secretary. I did not attempt to dictate to her–she did not know shorthand–and she was not the best typist. I simply found letters that she could answer better than I and turned them over to her to do for my signature. By April as I recall I was able to hire Chris Croft as my full-time secretary and Maureen then became our editor. Later on, of course, she married and became Maureen Beecher. On all matters effecting publication she met with Davis, Jim and I and her counsel was important and much valued.

Maureen was lovely, gracious, friendly, outgoing, a natural leader and anyone who knows her will understand why I was delighted to have her join our staff. I have never once had any doubts about it.

[Appointment of Jim Allen, Davis Bitton, and Maureen Beecher and Progress of Sesquicentennial History; LJA Diary, 11 Aug., 1981]




1. Who was the secretary for the executive committee minutes? (1972-1973)

Helen Bird, Earl Olson’s Adm. asst.

2. There’s a mention of at least two orientation seminars for the writers of the 16 volume history. What was discussed, why were seminars needed, and was everyone able to come? What was the format for the seminar?

3. Richard Cracroft, in thanking you for participation in the BYU Festival of Arts, refers to an embarrassing situation used by a secretary which you handled graciously. Do you remember what it was? (illegible handwriting)

4. The Genealogical Society agreed to help acquire historical records (I presume, microfilm them) in Missouri and Illinois according to executive committee minutes. What ever happened on that project?

5. You began giving Know Your Religion lectures toward the end of 1972 and were involved apparently at least once a month. How did the invitation come? Why did you decide to do it? Was the money a consideration? After a while, you stop mentioning what you talked about, although you mention the people that you met and good stories that you collect. What were your normal subjects—or was it always the same? 

Recollections of our work, 1972-1973 Prepared for Lavina F. A.

1. Secretary for the executive committee minutes, 1972-1973 was Helen Bird, Earl Olson’s Administrative Assistant.

2. We gathered the writers of the 16-volume history together to discuss the project with them. As far as I recall, all sixteen were present except Richard Bushman, who was in the East, and we talked with him by telephone. We discussed a wide variety of matters. How handle maps? How handle the editing of quotations from original sources? How combine faith and scholarship in the writing? Who was the proper audience to write for, fellow historians or “ordinary” LDS readers? At what stage should they submit their manuscript? We simply sat around a table and talked about these problems and reached an understanding. But the “understanding” is too diffuse to put down in black and white. Just record that we did have sessions to discuss these matters, in a democratic way.

3. The Richard Cracroft letter referred to a situation where I was assigned to present my paper in a certain nice large room. But when I went there, a class was assembling. The professor was Stephen Covey; it was a religion class. Thinking it might be part of my audience, and Steve not being there, I got up in front of the group to ask if they had come to hear a lecture for the Festival of Arts. Various ones said no, this was a religion class. Directly, Steve Covey came. I explained that I had been assigned to give my lecture in that room. He said, “Well, I’ll ask the class if they want to give it up.” So he asked the class, how many want to give up the class for a lecture for the Festival of Arts series. None. “How many want me to go ahead with my class.” Great enthusiasm and stomping of feet. So I hunted around for a room that was empty, found one. A small group followed me around. Perhaps ten persons. So I gave my lecture to them. The talk was subsequently published in BYU Studies, Winter 1974 issue.

4. The Gene did microfilm some historical records, along with lists of names, and these are in their archives. Not much help to us though. We subsequently, in 1973-4, were able to get Max Parkin and others who used their materials for the sesquicentennial histories, to Xerox extra copies of key manuscripts, and thus we received several thousand Xeroxes that were very useful. We provided fellowship money to the authors to pay for these Xerox costs.

5. I did Know Your Religion lectures in 1972-3 with a variety of topics. The most common talk was “Delights of Church History”–a general talk about our LDS history and our Historical Dept. work. In several localities I gave talks at the LDS Institute as well on a variety of topics, depending on what they wanted. I also prepared some talks on local history–History of Boise Stake, History of Twin Falls Stake, History of the Church in the Pacific Northwest, History of the Church in California, etc. 

[Recollections of our work, 1972-1973; LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1981]

Any appraisal of my service as Church Historian must conclude that it had both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, I did gather together a group of fine historians who did produce and are continuing to produce fine historical articles, monographs, and books on aspects of church history. We have given countless talks in Sacrament meetings, firesides, and study groups which have educated and inspired the members of the Church. By our example, we have stimulated others, both Mormon and non-Mormon to do more accurate, objective history of the Mormons. We have contributed a great deal toward the history of women, the history of the Church in the period after Brigham Young’s death, Priesthood history, and biography. We initiated programs which have added substantially to LDS historiography–the sesquicentennial series, other sponsored volumes: The Expanding Church, Heber C. Kimball biography, J. M. Grant biography, Building the City of God, Brigham Young biography, Heber J. Grant biography, etc.

On the other hand, however, the archives, fully opened for several years, are now being closed up, or restricted, once more. We are no longer an integral part of the Church, but were transferred to BYU. And there is every likelihood that we shall cease to exist as a group as members of our Institute die off or resign or obtain better opportunities.

What did us in? There are perhaps three things. First, the Tanners, Marquart, et al, and Fred Collier et al, “borrowed” things from the archives, duplicated them, and used some of the material against the Church. Although this had nothing to do with our unit, with our mismanagement or activities, we were blamed for it. Somehow, our image was tarnished by the stealings and sensationalizing of the anti-Mormons. Second, we suffered from the jealousy and diligence of our John Bircher “spy,” Tom Truitt, who picked up everything he could find that would incriminate us and reported it regularly to Elder Petersen and Benson. Third, I depended on Elder Durham to arrange  what was best for us, when I should have run to President Tanner and complained and defended our interests. I should have been more pushy. Finally, I should have insisted on some means of educating the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve about our Church history. I should have written them a regular newsletter or some other device of keeping them up-to-date on our work and our findings. I was too preoccupied with keeping the profession behind me.

I will not hide the fact that I feel a certain sense of failure. We are being moved out of Church offices, away from the archives, and will have only restricted access to the material we need to work with. We are having to publish in non-Church journals and publishing houses. And we are being gradually converted into a teaching staff. Moreover, the sesquicentennial series, as a series, was discontinued.

Despite the disappoints, I feel a sense of pride in things we have accomplished. What we have done has added immeasurably to Mormon historiography, and I have no doubt about the quality as well as the quantity. A future generation will credit us with having done much. 

[Recollection: Appraisal of My Service as Church Historian; LJA Diary, 4 Sept., 1981]


6 September 1981

1. How did you meet Gary Shumway and how did he get the summer appointment as oral historian in 1972? Was he a student at the time?

2. You raised Fred Collier’s name in an executive committee on 13 March 1973 because he had been denied access to some materials. Did he come see you about it? Someone at the meeting (the minutes do not say who) knew that he was in trouble and that his stake president was trying to excommunicate him. Can you fill me in on the background?

3. On April 13, 1973, you have a diary note about a problem with a Sister Hydex, apparently the subject of an oral interview, and Vic Jorgensen, who had interviewed her, apparently had had some family letters in his possession, and was writing a thesis. You had given him instructions not to use the letters in writing. Could you read over that entry and explain who they were and what the problem was?

4. What became of your proposal to get an administrative assistant? You suggested Del Oswald in April 1973.

5. Why was Don Moorman not allowed to have copies of the Council of the Fifty minutes?

6. Do you remember what the problem was with the patriarchal blessing books of Alfred Pagaza Guzman?

7. April 23, 1973. Jack Adamson telephones to say he will be stopping by for summer orientation and dipping into sources, then plans to begin work on a Brigham Young biography in January 1974. What is the background to this? Did you invite him to author such a book with Ron Esplin’s help? 

1. As far as I recall, I did not meet Gary Shumway, until he came to start our Oral History project in the summer of 1972. We decided an Oral History program was absolutely indispensable, and we were able to squeeze enough money to pay him for a month or two in the summer to establish the program and train our staff. We inquired widely who was the best oral history person in the West, hopeful that one of the best would be a member of the Church. We asked people at BYU, at the Utah State Historical Society, at the U of U, at USU, and friends in the profession. All recommended Gary as the most qualified in the West. He was at California State College at Fullerton. A BYU graduate, he was a member of the High Council there. He accepted our invitation to help Davis plan the program. We asked Bill Hartley to take over the reins after the summer, and Bill proved to be an outstanding director of the program, serving for about three years, after which we asked Gordon Irving to take it over. As a professor at Fullerton, Gary had established a model program there and thus had the experience to guide us along the right lines. Much of the credit for our excellent program goes to Gary. He and Bill Hartley followed up the summer by writing and publishing a guide to oral history programs which has had wide use and excellent reviews.

2. Fred Collier was a carpenter in the Ogden area who became interested in Church history and began to give it intensive study in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By 1972 or 1973 he had decided that the Church had veered from its historic past by dropping polygamy, by turning against the Adam-God theory, and by failure to practice the law of consecration in the form of the United Order. By 1973 his bishop, Richard Sadler, a historian at Weber State, was “laboring” with him. But he would not be labored with.

He was adamant, and was finally excommunicated about 1974. Nevertheless, he was “sincere” and “honest” and “dedicated.” It was brought to my attention that he had been using the unpublished sermons of Brigham Young, I learned about his apostate tendencies near the end of 1972, and observed he was still using our richest and most intimate research materials, so I was raising the question about denying him the use of these, since I felt sure he was active in on of the apostate groups. They did deny him use. He employed a person, however, to look up things for him. We have since learned that he has used unscrupulous means to obtain material. Specifically, he has had an unrecognized assistant check out a microfilm, substitute another in the machine, run off to a duplicator outside the building, and then come back and place the original back in the machine. In sense, Collier has “stolen” copies of many documents. This had made it possible for him to publish the underground items which he has distributed. I suppose it would be libelous to assert that he was a thief, but we can infer that he broke library rules and that we were completely justified in refusing him access to the Library-Archives.

3. Vic Jorgensen was working on a Master’s Thesis at Fullerton under Carmon Hardy, a former professor at BYU who had disassociated himself from the Church after several run-ins with Wilkinson. The thesis dealt with polygamy after the Manifesto. Although the thesis was never completed, Vic and Carmon did that article on the subject for the Utah Historical Quarterly a year or so ago. As a part of the research, Vic interviewed Sister Hyde, a sister of Antone H. Ivins, and a daughter of Anthony W. Ivins. Vic apparently told Sister Hyde that he was working with Leonard  Arrington and the Church Historian’s Office, and thus secured her confidence. She revealed confidential things to him. Actually, he was not working for us, or with us, but expected to furnish us a copy of the taped interview, which he did and it is now in our collection. Her daughter, a wierdo if I ever heard one, telephoned me all concerned about what her crazy mother was telling this Vic Jorgensen. On her repeated requests, I agreed to censor from the interview the most confidential items, and I still have them in my “secret” file. Sister Hyde, who was almost ninety at the time of the interviews, has since died. Anyway, I have been pleased at the sensitivity of Carmon Hardy and Vic, who have respected my wishes about keeping her confidential testimony confidential. The letters which she turned over to Vic I returned to her daughter, who brought some of them back to be placed in the archives. We have a nice Anthony W. Ivins collection, partly because of this episode. I think the family are pleased with the way things turned out.

4. Nothing ever came of my proposal to get an administrative assistant. On every occasion when we had funds, we hired a historian to do research, and I have gone along trying to do the administrative work without a specialized assistant. However, I have appointed a staff member to handle administrative tasks. Originally, Ron Esplin, who served for a couple of years. More recently, Ron Walker.

5. No one was allowed to have the Council of Fifty minutes. The fact that the organization was secret (if an organization with fifty men could be secret!) and that most of our General authorities have had no knowledge of it, has suggested that there night be something sinister there. But there was nothing sinister. I’ve read most of what is here; they talked about colonization, diplomatic missions, cattle drives, rationing, choosing candidates for office, and other mundane matters. But the minutes are still regarded as restricted. I think I’m the only person that has had unlimited access. Don Moorman, a non-Mormon and with a history of being an anti-Mormon, would not be the first to be given access!

6. When a group of Mexican Latter-day Saints left the Church to form The Third Convention, the Mexican patriarch, Alfred Pagaza Guzman, went with them and kept his patriarchal blessing books. We learned that they still exist in the family, and have attempted to get them. I understand the Library-Archives now has them.

7. We talked with Jack Adamson about doing a biography of Brigham, and he was interested. We were pleased and excited. But he decided to work on the Chief Joseph work instead, intending to do Brigham when he finished. We were prepared to cooperate with him, either on a collaborative basis, or whatever. But he died before he got to it. So now the project was given to me. 

[Recollections of 1972-1973; LJA Diary, 13 Oct., 1981]

1. Your diary entries during the first part of this 1973 year are very sparse, sometimes fewer than one a week. And those are usually a record of an event such as an invitation to speak than commentary on office procedures. Was there a reason why there was such a change from the full commentaries of the first year?

2. You also mention (May 12, 1973) what a handicap it is to have a sense of humor when giving official speeches. Had some incident occurred where humor had backfired? And did you decide during this period to have less humor in your speeches for any reason?

3. Dale Beecher is mentioned for the first time in History Division staff meeting minutes, 14 May 1973. These are also the first minutes that have been included in your diary. What was Dale doing then? Under what capacity did he join the department?

4. Those minutes also mention, apparently for the first time, the two one-volume histories. What is the background on them? (Wendell Ashton had suggested a one-volume history for non-members in 1972; Tom Truitt had been working on revisions for Essentials of Church History.) Were there other factors? 

5. I gather from the occasional mention of Dean Jessee’s work for the Melchezidek Priesthood committee that you didn’t like your staff members involved in such projects. Can you tell me a little about the research task committee, what it was supposed to do, and how it worked out? 

6. On 1 June 1913, the study areas were separated with the library being the reading room or printed materials and the archives being the reading room for the manuscripts. What system had they used before?

7. There’s a gap in information. Early in 1973, you make a proposal for the biography series. At the budget meeting in August you list it among the “assignments from the First Presidency” for your department. At what point had it been approved and what were the dimensions of the project?

8. In June 1973, you, Davis, and Jim were very concerned about the possible consequences of Michael Quinn’s thesis, if it became available in September how he planned to finish it. What was the topic? And what did he decide to do about it? (If it couldn’t be restricted to be seen with permission only, you felt that there had to be a way to persuade him not to publish it.)

9. A couple of the summer fellows reportedly worked with Lauritz Peterson. Was he a general supervisor? Were they helping him on a given project?

10. There was also a problem with a Michael Marquardt. Even though no action was taken against his membership, a report from his stake president led Brother Anderson to conclude that he should not see archival material of any kind. Do you remember any of the details? 

11. Can you give me a little insight into the work, history, and functions of the Utah Fellows and the board you were elected president of? What were they supposed to do? What did they in fact do?

12. In the summer of 1973, Don Schmidt set up a branch library for General Authorities on the third floor of the Administration Building. The proposal apparently grew out of a 1972 concern that the General Authorities were (?) or (might?) check out archival materials and take them to their offices. Is that the background? And what eventually happened? 

1. Don’t know of any reason why my diary entries should have been sparse in the first part of 1973. Maybe I was very busy. I note that I gave a number of talks, some of which involved research and careful writing because they were destined for publication. The two talks in Arizona in January on Pioneer Women in Arizona (later published in New Era) and LDS Traditions in the Cultural Arts (later published by Ron Walker and Mike Quinn in the Ensign). Also several talks prepared for Know Your Religion Series talks in Southern California. Talks in Sacrament meetings on Joseph Smith. Work on the David Eccles biography (published in 1974). Talk at Stanford on Significance of the Mormons in American History. Talk at BYU “Last Lecture Series” on Mormon Humor. Looking over the diary now, I’m surprised there is as much as there is.

2. No specific incident. Just trying to analyze why church officials include so little humor in their talks. No doubt stimulated by my paper at BYU on humor. I did not decide to have less humor in my talks. If anything more, in order to counteract the solemn image of the General Authorities. I could get away with it while they could not.

3. We gave Dale Beecher a fellowship to do a study of bishops throughout LDS history. We gave him, as I recall, two fellowships, which meant two months work. Shortly after that, as I recall, he and Maureen were married. Then about 1974 he went with the Arts and Sites Division as an employee. In the meantime, he was working on his Ph. D. at the U of U.

4. We decided in 1972, as I recall, to do two one-volume histories. Further planning on this early in 1973 when we decided that one would be a narrative history to replace Essentials in Church History, and the other a topical history for a national audience. Originally, Jim and Reed Durham were to do the narrative history, and Davis and I the topical. Later, Reed was replaced by Glen Leonard, who became a full-time employee in the fall of 1973 as I recall. The narrative history, of course, was published as The Story of the Latter-day Saints, while the topical history for non-Mormons became The Mormon Experience.

5. We didn’t object to Dean Jessee’s work with the Melchizedek Priesthood Committee. We were just fearful that it would be a waste of time because they didn’t really want histories of what happened, but historical justifications for what they wanted to do. There’s a difference. They worked for a year or two, did some valuable work which helped in some of the articles we later published. They included the Task Paper on bishops, article on Deacons, article on Seventies, article on Aaronic Priesthood, and others still planned on Church Administration. They were dissolved when Brother Covey was called to be a mission president.

6. My memory is that the downstairs library was always just that; the second floor reading room for manuscripts. Maybe that was just a codification of what we were already doing.

7. We got a letter of approval from the First Presidency for a biography series about the spring of 1973 together with a budgetary increase to make possible some fellowships for that purpose. This was to support such projects as Brigham Young, Eliza Snow, Joseph Smith and to approve staff time to help with the Woolley and other biographies. We had others in mind, but the fellowship money was not renewed. But it was helpful. That is the beginning of the Brigham Young project. 

8. We went over Mjke Quinn’s thesis and suggested some changes in phrasing, all of which Mike agreed to, and felt better about it. Mike’s thesis was a prosopography of LDS leaders. It was a daring and important thesis, and we thought it might cause some problems, and our little friend downstairs (Tom Truitt) of course, marked it and sent a report to Elder Petersen and possibly Elder Benson. But we heard nothing about any reaction. I suppose they felt, what else could you expect from those historians?

9. Lauritz Petersen was supervisor of the manuscript reading room for the first couple of years, and so he had to work with our fellows. But after a year or two he was transferred and Ron Watt, a Ph. D. in history, was put in charge and thus had more expertise in working with people doing heavy research.

10. Michael Marquardt has worked in tandem with Jerald and Sandra Tanner. He could not be trusted. He took microfilms from our reading room and duplicated them. He published material without permission. We denied him the use of the reading room, and should have done so earlier. He is trying to damage the Church, and has no interest in historical truth.

11. I was elected to the Board of Fellows of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, and appointed chairman of the Group about 1973-1974. We were supposed to be a group of “senior scholars,” “respected by the profession,” and hopefully could suggest policies for the Academy to help with membership and other problems. Help them raise money. Suggest good policies to the Governor of Utah, etc.

12. You have the correct story. The library existed for a while, but after a year or two it was discovered that no general authorities used it. I think it still exists, but does not have much use. 

[Recollections; LJA Diary, 14 Oct., 1981]




1. In the early part of 1974, you displayed a great deal of interest about the Mormons in the South and became a member of the Southern History Association. What sparked the interest? And what projects emerged from it?

2. There are a couple of references to a fifth volume of the Biographical Encyclopedia. It obviously wasn’t your idea to do a new volume, but whose? And why did you decide not to?

3. Looking back on the unfortunate experience of Reed Durham after he gave his Mormonism and Masonry presidential address, can you fill in a few blanks: any idea why he chose that particular line of research? Did anyone try to discourage him? Can you give a brief summary of what he said? (The minutes refer to responses but not to the content.) I had heard, although it’s not in the record, that he was encouraged to write a letter of apology to those attending MHA bearing his testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Is this so? What were your feelings about the episode?

4. Could you fill me in on Richard Daines? Your association with him began at USU and he had periodic fellowships in the department. Was he always assigned to work on current projects? What were some of his contributions and what did he eventually do professionally?

5. At one point, you discussed with Mary Bradford the possibility that she might edit “the volume on women done by the Boston Women’s Group.” I assume that this is Mormon sisters. Any memory of why that project didn’t develop?

6. A persistent theme of 1974’s summer was drafting a “mission statement” for the Historical Dept. I assume this is one of Personnel’s pet projects. What became of it? You don’t include a copy. Was there one finally prepared? Who was assigned to do it? 

7. Richard Anderson proposed collaborating with Dean Jessee on a definitive edition of the Lucy Mack Smith biography of Joseph Smith. Do you know why he wanted a collaboration instead of doing it himself? And why did he never publish the finished manuscript?

8. There’s nothing in your diary about the documents exchange with the RLDS Church and the minutes aren’t very precise. Would you like to give me your impressions and memories about the whole episode, (it was initially broached to President Lee, reviving a 1968 request) and approved by President Kimball (you do record the details of that meeting). But at what point did it become Earl’s responsibility? How did he seem to feel about it? Did you feel comfortable with that or did you feel that someone else might have worked more effectively with Richard Howard? What was the significances of the exchange? What points seemed to be sticky and how were they gotten over? (The actual exchange would not take place until late 1974.)

9. During 1973 and 1974 when the library was weeding its collection, employees had first chance at the duplicate books and it seemed to work very well, but the minutes then say that Don mentions “an incident…which may result in destroying such duplicates in the future rather than giving them to the employees.” Do you have any recollection at all of what this incident was?

10. Will you dictate some material about Florence and her department–how the whole thing began, what your first impressions to Florence were, how she seemed to feel about the transfer to your department, how the other executives felt, her effect as the only woman in what had been an all-male preserve (except for Helen) up to that point, and the arrangements for staffing, museum location, etc.? 

11. You made a note to yourself to get a talk Melvin J. Ballard had given on Mormonism and Masonry that Brother Anderson mentioned. Did you find one? What did it say?

12. In the fall of 1974, you were asked to report on “the results and accomplishments derived from previous fellowships.” Who wanted it, do you remember? And do you have a copy of the list somewhere? 

13. There were some vague mentions of a First Presidency assignment to find out about the “criteria and procedures” of temple-building that Don was in charge of putting together and that Bill Hartley ended up writing a historical report from, apparently to beat the material into comprehensible shape. What was that project? What was it about? for? And what became of it? And what was Rick Huechal’s role in it? (Francis Gibbons suggested that he be consulted) 

1. I joined the Southern History Association only for two years. I felt that Mormon history had a contribution to make to Southern history. I gave a paper to the American Historical Association meeting in Atlanta on Mormon history in the South and also gave some lectures in Tallahassee, Florida at Florida State University. Gene Sessions did a paper on Murder of Mormon Missionaries, which was published in the South Atlantic Quarterly and in the Mississippi Historical Quarterly.

2. We thought seriously of doing a fifth volume of the Biographical Encyclopedia certainly one is needed. The idea has not died. We are now talking seriously about doing a follow-up volume through the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute. Hopefully we will get one or two volumes out before I “take off.”

3. I think Reed Durham gave that presidential address because we were meeting in Nauvoo and he had done a good deal of research on the topic. We didn’t know what he was going to discuss, when we heard the talk we were disappointed that he did not consult us in advance. For one thing he was incorrect on some key matters that we could have set him straight on, for another thing we could have helped him word certain materials in a way that would have been more discreet and helpful. He showed great courage but also a lack of good judgment. We found it impossible to defend him very strongly because we could not defend what he said. It simply was incomplete and misleading. He was required by his superior to write a letter of apology to those attending MHA bearing his testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He did write such a letter. All of us regarded it as unnecessary and rather silly. In fact, he bore his testimony at the MHA meeting in Nauvoo the very text morning and in my judgment that took care of it. Reed has never been an effective Church history researcher since that date.

4. Richard Daines was a very bright Logan School graduate who I employed to do research during two summers after he returned from his mission to Bolivia. He worked on a variety of projects including the First Security History, the Rich Biography, the Eccles Biography, and The Mormon Experience. Upon graduation from Utah State University he went to Cornell School of Medicine in New York City and now is a medical doctor in New York City.

5. The original text of Mormon Sisters was submitted to us for recommendations and we recommended that certain chapters be dropped and that certain other chapters be expanded and certain others modified. Claudia did not think that she could edit the volume because of her personal relationships with all of the girls. To put it another way she could not say to one of them “we cannot use your piece.” We suggested two or three people as editors including Mary Bradford. Finally, however, Claudia was able to obtain the permission of the various Boston contributors to do the editing herself. She took our suggestions into account and we believe that it was a worthy and substantive contribution.

6. I can furnish you with a copy of the mission statement of the Historical Department. Davis and Jim Allen and I collaborated in preparing it.

7. By having Dean Jessee as a collaborator Richard Anderson got an edited text and all he had to do was provide footnote explanations and an introduction. At our urging he was given a year off at BYU to do that. As it turned out he did not spend ten minutes during that year and it is still on the shelf. It is his fault and we hold it against him. Theoretically the book could he submitted within three weeks if we could get him to work that long.

8. Back in 1968 Earl Olson worked out a deal with the RLDS Church history department about an exchange of documents. Under the urging of Elder Dyer and Earl and myself the First Presidency, finally, under President Lee, approved the exchange. Since Earl had already had conferences with the RLDS people he was the one appointed to do it. He handled it very well and all of us were delighted with the exchange. It has worked very well.

9. I do not recall what the incident was that was mentioned by Don. All I know is that the duplicate books did not amount to very much and I think most of them ended up at BYU Library which used them for exchange purposes. I do not recall any duplicates being destroyed.

10. Shortly after my appointment Elder Dyer worked out an arrangement with Elder Petersen that Earl and myself be members of the Historical Sites Committee. Florence had been a member of that for some time. She and I had a number of conversations privately on the way to and from meetings. She felt it was proper to put historical sites in the Historical Department and so did Earl and myself. She more or less worked out the transfer herself and we, of course, gave our enthusiastic approval. Everybody had a feeling that Florence would make an important and unique contribution to our operation. We were delighted and continue to be delighted with what she has done. In my respects her division has been the most successful politically in the department and that is because she is an old time friend of all the powers that be, “thank the Lord for Florence!” 

11. I do not recall getting a Melvin J. Ballard talk on Mormonism and Masonry.

12. I think our advisors from the Twelve wanted the results and accomplishments from previous fellowships and I did such a report. I will see if I can find a copy somewhere.

13. I really don’t remember the project you ask about. It couldn’t have been very important. 

[Questions from Lavina and Answers from LJA about 1974; LJA Diary, 7 Dec., 1981]

President Gordon B. Hinckley 

47 East South Temple 

Salt Lake City, UT 84150

Dear President Hinckley:

At the time of my call as Church Historian in 1972, President Tanner told me that he would always be open to any request for help. Over the years I have not felt the need to go to him. But I now address you inasmuch as you have been the senior advisor to the First Presidency and Twelve on the Historical Department for the past few years, and thus directly in touch with the things we are doing.

I have two concerns.

First, there is a question about my status. At the time of my “call,” as Church Historian, President Tanner advised me that it was partly a Church call (and for the first two or three years my name was presented for a sustaining vote by the general conference), and partly a position in the Church group of headquarters employees, thus accompanied by a salary. I now feel that I should ask for a clarification. Have I been released from my Church call as Church Historian? If so, when? The letters I have received from the First Presidency regarding organizational changes at the Historical Department have not contained any specific mention of my release–just a change in my organizational title. Many persons continue to refer to me as Church Historian, since there has been no public announcement of any release. Indeed, President Kimball only a few months before his recent operation introduced me to a friend of his by saying, “This is Brother Arrington; he is our Church Historian.” On the other hand, other persons are referring to me as “the former Church Historian.”

President Hinckley, I am pleased to serve in any way the Lord wants me, and titles are not important. Yet because of the ambiguity of my position, I an afraid that I might be exercising a role which the brethren may now feel to be inappropriate. I still receive invitations to speak in Sacrament meeting and firesides almost every Sunday, and to study groups, civic clubs, and Sons of Pioneer and other organizations two or three times a week. I continue to receive a substantial body of mail and telephone calls from mission presidents, regional representatives, stake presidents, and others asking me to clarify issues of Church history that bother members and missionaries. I continue to answer these, partly because there is no longer any trained historian in the Historical Department and partly because some of the letters contain earnest pleas for help because, as they say, they have written to other Church officials who have not been able to give them satisfying answers. In some cases this is crucial to their testimonies; they have been bombarded by material from the Tanners and others and are grasping for the kind of understanding which only an experienced historian with a testimony based on historical knowledge can give them. I am glad to do all of this if you wish me to do so, regardless of title.

There is an additional item which probably should be drawn to your attention. Elder Packer’s recent BYU address concerning Church history has produced some results that perhaps were not intended. The effect has been to isolate intellectually some of our fine LDS people from their Church leaders. The possibilities of creating a negative and difficult-to-manage image for the church are rather serious. Some of those consequences can be minimized or avoided, and if I can assist in this I would be pleased to do so.

In addition to these two specific concerns, I must admit that I also feel another, more general one. Things have occurred in the last few years that have had an important impact on the writing and publishing of Church history and on our role as Latter-day Saint historians. This may not be a matter in which you wish to be involved. I have tried to do my duty, as it has been explained to me, but misunderstandings seem to continue. I would be delighted if there is any way you think I could be helpful in improving communication and achieving harmony in our mutual endeavor to further the work of the Lord.

Assuring you of my desires to be supportive, I remain


Leonard J. Arrington

[LJA to Gordon B. Hinckley; LJA Diary, 21 Dec., 1981]



RE: 1975 questions

1. An early and ambitious project was helping Golden Buchanan with his oral history and the idea that it would become a book; you requested additional funds for personnel and equipment from President Kimball. What happened to the project?

2. I sense some resistance from Truman Madsen about the Grant biography. Apparently he thought he was the only one working on one? And then you divided it up? He would do family history and you would do administrative history? But then he “asked questions about your authorization to do a biography” in the first place? What was all that about?

3. During the time that you read and made revision suggestions on the BYU History by Wilkinson, you consistently refer to it in terms of the time it consumed, how happy you’ll be when it’s over, etc. Your diary notes who asked you and who else was involved as the reading committee, but not why you agreed to do it, why you thought it was important, what happened in those Friday meetings with Roy Bird, Wilkinson, etc. What’s the background?

4. You also began your own biography this year with Becky Cornwall. What was the motivation behind beginning such a project at this particular point in your life? How did the project evolve? How do you feel about the final results?

5. There are only scattered references to the problem about Maureen’s continuing employment associated with Daniel’s birth. Do you want to dictate your memory of the policy and your approach to getting an exception made for Maureen? 

1. We did not receive additional funds for personnel and equipment from President Kimball, though he encouraged the project. We ended up doing something like 60 interviews with him. Essentially writing a book. But I doubt we’ll make a book of it for publication. Very informative and worthwhile. A big investment on our part, but worth it.

2. Truman Madsen had been working with the “Grant Greats”—the great grandchildren of Heber J. Grant. He had collected much information—letters, documents, diaries, reminiscences, etc. He had in mind eventually doing a biography of Heber J. He was a little upset when we moved in to assign Gene Sessions to do it. He dragged his feet, did not cooperate with us. For one thing, he did not warm up to Gene. As time went on, Elder Anderson encouraged us to do it, gave full cooperation (except telling much about President Grant). When Gene went to Weber and Ron Walker took his place, Truman thawed out somewhat. It has become obvious to everyone that only a full-time person working for years could get through the material. I think Truman is now not only resigned to it but glad of it.

3. I am glad I worked on the BYU History project with Ernest Wilkinson. It is a far better work than it might have been, and I feel proud for my cooperation. I also learned a lot from Ernest and his documents. It’s a fine university history.

4. We wanted to do a family history to get straight the history o the Arrington and Corn families from which we are descended. Becky and I co-authored Tar Heels, Hoosiers, and Idahoans in 1976 and we distributed copies not only to our children, but also to my brothers and sisters and all their children. It was a good piece of work, if I do say so. The last chapter was adapted from my article for BYU Studies on “Historian as Entrepreneur,” which was written earlier but not published until 1977. Actually, it was a part of the same project.

When we finished the family history, the next task was to do my own history. I felt it desirable to have someone else go through my early diaries, letters, and documents and reminiscences, and so Becky did that for the period up to 1972 in From Chicken Farm to History which we finally completed and duplicated in 1978. I gave copies to our children, and to Davis and Dean Jessee, but that is all. The children have read it and learned from it.

The third project was for Becky to help Grace with her history. Actually that was finished and distributed to the children in 1977. Becky did a series of taped interviews with Grace. These were transcribed, I edited them, then I read it back to Grace, made additions and corrections, retyped it, read it to Grace again. It is a splendid personal story. Grace is proud of it, and so am I and Becky. “I’m Glad My House Burned Down,” is the title Grace gave it.

The fourth project in the series is the one you are doing now.

5. On Maureen I think you got that cleared up. 

[Lavina Questions and LJA Answers; LJA Diary, 22 Dec., 1981]

Leonard J. Arrington, Director 

Joseph Fielding Smith Institute

for Church History 

BYU-50 East North Temple, Room 205E 

Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Dear Brother Arrington:

We have considered your letter dated December 21, 1981 to President Gordon B. Hinckley in which you asked for clarification about your status as it relates to the Historical Department, and in which you mentioned certain concerns you have about Church history and Church historians.

We are informed that on February 24, 1978, you were orally advised by Elder G. Homer Durham of the change in your title and status from Church Historian to Director of the History Division. That change was intended to constitute a release from your duties as the Church Historian. However, since you have asked for clarification, it is appropriate now formally to extend to you a release as Church Historian effective as of February 24, 1978. Also, in view of your transfer to the Brigham Young University to assume your full duties there, we also hereby extend to you an honorable release as the Director of the History Division.

In extending these releases to you, we express sincere appreciation for the service you have rendered in these positions. The work you have performed will have a lasting effect, and we trust the satisfactions you doubtless have received from this service will be a continuing blessing to you as you reflect upon it in retrospect. Because of your training and your knowledge of historical matters, we expect that you will make significant literary contributions in the future.

As to the concerns you expressed in your letter, we suggest that you discuss them with Elder G. Homer Durham when his health will permit and that you follow his counsel. As to any questions which may arise in the future as to these or related matters, we hope you will continue to counsel with Elder Durham.

We extend to you and your dear wife our love and best wishes and wish you well in your new endeavors.

Sincerely yours,

Spencer W. Kimball

N. Eldon Tanner

Marion G. Romney

Gordon B. Hinckley

The First Presidency 

[First Presidency to LJA; LJA Diary, 25 Jan., 1982]

On this date, according to an entry in the Journal History of the Church kept by Ron Barney of the Historical Department, Elder G. Homer Durham was set apart by the First Presidency as Church Historian and Recorder. Presumably his name will be presented in that capacity in the April Conference of the Church.

[LJA Diary, 2 Feb., 1982]

When Joseph Fielding Smith became president of the Church, he asked Elder Howard Hunter, one of the Twelve Apostles, to serve as Church Historian. Not being a trained historian, yet being a thoroughly professional person, Elder Hunter invited a group of half a dozen historians to consult with him on a regular basis. Jim was one of this small group which provided help. One of the tasks assigned to this group was to write a series of historical articles for the Improvement Era. One of the earliest of these written by Jim proved to be a milestone in Mormon historiography. Dealing with the eight different accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision written during the life of the Prophet, it marked the first time that most of the Saints were informed about these accounts and about their significance for Mormon history and doctrine. It was an intelligent and well-contrived piece. When people come to LDS historians with problems in this regard, and there continue to be many who do, we still refer them to this early and perceptive article.

After he had served as Church Historian for a year and a half, Elder Hunter persuaded President Joseph Fielding Smith to create a formal Church History Department, and to appoint professional historians to head it up. Jim was appointed as one of the two Assistant Church Historians. At the same time, he retained his status as a Professor of History at BYU. Jim was now in the same tradition as other distinguished LDS writers who had been Assistant Church Historians–Wilford Woodruff, Franklin D. Richards, Charles W. Penrose, Andrew Jenson, Orson F. Whitney, B.H. Roberts, and Joseph Fielding Smith himself. 

[Tribute to Jim Allen, Banquet before his Distinguished Lecture; LJA Diary, 8 Feb., 1984]

That noon I also talked on the writing of the Brigham Young biography to the Andrew Jenson Club at the Church Office Building. Must have been fifty there, nearly all employees of the Historical Department. Nor did I see our old spy there, so maybe he is out of circulation.

[LJA to Children, 25 Apr., 1985]

News from the Church Historical Department, Tuesday, January 14, 1986

This morning Elders Packer and Oaks introduced Earl Olson’s replacement, Richard Eyring Turley, Jr. He is a 29-year-old lawyer. Turley served a mission to Japan and later worked there for a couple of years before joining a law firm. His grandfather was from the Mexican colonies and became a stake president in El Paso, possibly the first stake president there. His father recently returned from service as a mission president in Mexico, and is apparently a university professor in engineering. His only previous contact with the Historical Department was research he did on family history. He is reported to be a pleasant young person.

Elder Packer says the historical fire is burning, almost out of control, but the Lord will see to it that all turns out to the good in the end. The Historical Department must be shipshape, must be strengthened and professionalized, much as Elder Packer distrusts that term. Some employees may have to give up some of their prejudices…I’m not sure just what this point focused on. Elder Packer said archives throughout the world don’t just let people in off the street without some kind of screening process.

The Historical Department meeting at which this business was transacted was apparently quite brief.

Other word: Ron Barney has recently been moved out of acquisitions, and occupies a desk outside Grant Anderson’s office, in the Archives Search Room. Apparently that is part of an upgrading process for the Search Room. At this point there is no word on the plans for acquisitions.

Some had anticipated that Glen Leonard would be named director of the Arts and

Sites division replacing Florence Jacobsen, who recently resigned. Nothing was said about that this morning.

[Ron Esplin?; LJA Diary, 14 Jan., 1986]

Two other LDS persons were at the RLDS meetings, and we were all surprised to see them: Steve Sorenson and Ron Barney of the LDS Historical Department. They are friendly to me, are trying to open up the Archives a little more, and see better days for researchers at the Church Archives. They were really quite encouraging about the opening up of material. We had some nice chats.

[LJA to Children, 25 Sept., 1989]

Dear Jan:

The August 9 entry of my diary, 1972, is the first time President Lee mentioned about not clearing with Correlation, but I see that on August 9, 1973, exactly a year later, he said the same thing. So he had confidence in what we were doing, and that continued until his death in Dec. 1973.

I re-read my account of the meeting of 21 Sept. 1976 where we discussed the Story of the Latter-day Saints. More persons were at the meeting than I could remember yesterday. One new name cropped up–William L. Nelson, then secretary of President Benson, and I indicated that he had apparently written the first letter about the book to Apostle (then) Benson. Also, the discussion was about two books which appeared at about the same time–STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS and BUILDING THE CITY OF GOD. The complaints about the two books were the same–that we didn’t give God enough credit, and that they bordered on secular history. I also learned that Elder Stapley was a third person who was disturbed by our historical writing. We had based too much on Juanita Brooks and not enough on Joseph Fielding Smith.

But reading other entries, I learn that Elder Hunter, Elder Haight, President Kimball, and President Tanner were very much pleased with our Story of the Latter-day Saints. It is true that certain of the Elders (Benson, Petersen, Stapley) were uncomfortable with our history; others were not only comfortable but praised us for what we did.

I am also sending a diary statement of 9 August 1972 that reflects my feelings after the conference with President Lee on August 8 where I went over our entire program, which he approved, and where I was set apart and blessed as Church Historian by President Lee.


[LJA to Jan Shipps; LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1990]

2. Personal meeting with First Presidency about our writing projects.Feel very encouraged, in spite of some rumors. We have known all along thatsome of the Brethren don’t favor the kind of history we write. But we haveothers in high places who are strong supporters. Response to books prettymuch as expected. We have not been brought under correlation and LJA doesn’tthink it will happen. We should be more careful than we have been and shouldconsult more often with our advisors. Do not expect to be forced to compromiseour basic integrity as historians. We’re talking about questions of wording.Brother Hunter’s way of operating is to give advice and not make decisions.Neither advisor will be able to help us very much as far as wording. We’renot in a unique position–Wendell Ashton and Public Communications have todo the same thing. We’ve had to be careful all along, but maybe haven’t takensituation seriously enough. Situation not merely result of The Story of theLatter-day Saints. Includes Moyle memoirs, Quinn dissertation, articles onadoption, priesthood reform, etc., book on United Order. There has been noofficial history for fifty years and the general readership hasn’t been awareof historiographical trends. Don’t feel we did anything wrong as far as one-volume history. Feel good about Woolley biography, even though it’s an honestbiography. Some of the Brethren, apparently sensing we’d heard rumors, wereparticularly cordial in last few days. President Kimball particularly has beenvery cordial and supportive.

There followed some discussion of misconception that Department booksare or should be approved by the First Presidency. LJA: These are thefirst scholarly books published by Deseret Book. Will take a generation toeducate the Church to historical trends. It’s new to the Church community.We should be patient. That we have not even been cautioned suggests basicapproval. Public silence of those who support us simply means we have to takethe responsibility. Can’t see anything to be alarmed about. Really believe thatthe Lord’s on our side.

In terms of how to respond to queries about our position we can say thatin general the Brethren are supportive and that we’re trying to serve the bestway we can. Only thing I wouldn’t press that we’ve asked for in the part isserious study of plural marriage. Problem arises in all publications aboutinstitutions. You can’t always say what you want. Even in academe you can’tsay everything you believe, in spite of the fact that scholars claim to believein academic freedom.

There were comments by several as to the issues raised here. Somewere optimistic, feeling that problems can be avoided through careful wording.Others felt that if we have to worry overly much about form that we’ll eitherbe frustrated personally in the job or leave the Department.

LJA: would not be afraid to have advisors review manuscripts.

[Church History Division, Minutes of Staff Meeting; LJA Diary, 5 Oct., 1976]


East Wing

50 East North Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah 84 150

Phone (801) 531-2745

October 20, 1976

Elders Delbert L. Stapley andHoward W. Hunter

Dear Brethren;


Access and restriction policies of the Church Library-Archives areformulated both to protect the rights of authors, donors, Church departments, and individuals, and to provide access by scholars. The ChurchLibrary contains books on open stacks which may also be readily availablein other libraries. All archival material, both printed and manuscript,is restricted to the extent that only researchers who have been interviewed and approved to do research are permitted access to the material.Anyone doing research to discredit the Church, as shown in previouswritings or by interview, is refused permission to use either the libraryor archives. Access to certain material is limited further, either bygeneral or by specific restrictions:

General restrictions apply to certain classes of material, as determined by Historical Department policy with the approval of the advisors,or by the direction of the First Presidency or Council of the Twelve.General restrictions apply to material which relates to sacred subjects,moral transgressions and Church court cases, financial matters, and othersimilar subjects.

Specific restrictions apply to specific collections, record series, or items, and are specified by the donor or by the Church department whichcreated the records.

In either case the restrictions designate how long the restrictionsapply, and who has the authority to grant exceptions.


We understand that the access policy at Brigham Young University issimilar to that of the Historical Department. They allow material to beused by qualified scholars, faculty members and qualified graduate students.Any restrictions placed on material by the donor are carefully observed.


The History Division of the Historical Department has always understoodand continues to understand that its primary obligation is to write factualand faith-promoting history for members of the Church. We do this by writing articles for the Church News, The Ensign, The New Era, and Brigham Young University Studies, and by preparing studies desired by the First Presidency,theCounci1of the Twelve, the First Council of the Seventy, the Churchauxiliaries, and the various Church departments. We also prepare books, asrequested or approved by those in authority over us. In this research our employed historians have the same access to historical sources in the ChurchArchives that other scholars have, except where our Managing Director, JosephAnderson, has given specific approval for the use of additional restrictedmaterials. Everything prepared for publication by any of our historiansmust be personally read and approved by the Church historian and the twoassistant Church historians. The Church historian will also have certainitems read by other knowledgeable persons when this is warranted by thenature of subject matter treated. The Church historian and those associatedwith him have always expressed their willingness and eagerness to have counseland advice from the managing director, advisors to the twelve, and the FirstPresidency.

Here are the answers to specific questions that you raised with us.Since his appointment in 1972, the only books which the Church historian hasofficially authorized for publication are:

Letters of Brigham to His Sons, by Brother Dean Jessee, which presentsabout 100 letters written by our second prophet to his sons; 

Latter-day Patriots by Brother Gene A. Sessions, a former employee,written as our contribution toward the bicentennial year; and

The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Brother James B. Allen andBrother Glen M. Leonard, which was designed to serve as a one-volumehistory of the Saints, primarily for the use of members of the Church.This was written at the request of Deseret Book Company, and with thespecific approval of the First Presidency.

In addition to the above, there have been some books which were neither

approved nor disapproved by the Church historian in his official capacitybecause they were not official projects. These include: biographies ofCharles C. Rich, David Eccles, and Edwin B. Woolley, and Building the City ofGod, all of which were initiated and largely done by Brother Arrington whilehe was at Utah State University; Mormonism and American Culture by MarvinHill and James Allen, which was done by these BYU brethren before the organization of the Historical Department; Wit and Wisdom in Mormon History byDavis Bitton, which was written by Brother Bitton while he was at the University of Utah; The Memoirs of James H Moyle which was prepared by BrotherGene Sessions before his employment by the Historical Department with thesupport of the James H. Moyle descendants; and An Oral History Primer andPreparing a Personal History by William G. Hartley, which was a private project done by Bother Hartley on his own time and own expense, but withoutobjection from us. In the prefaces or introductions to these books, whereappropriate, we have made clear that they were not projects of the HistoricalDepartment. 


Joseph Anderson

Managing Director

[Letter to Elders Stapley and Hunter from Joseph Anderson, 20 Oct., 1976]

Because of other commitments I have not been able to record in somedetail events which have transpired in the last two or three weeks. Let merecord first the meeting of September 21 with the First Presidency, ElderBenson, Elder Petersen, Elder Hunter, and Elder McConkie, reference to whichis made earlier in this diary. Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie were called”cold” into the meeting, as I was. That is, none of us knew what was going tobe discussed or who would be there. Elders Benson and Petersen, however,did know and quite possibly were responsible for having the meeting called.After we were through with shaking hands President Kimball who conducted themeeting kindly but firmly and gravely suggested President Benson state theproblem. President Benson took perhaps 10 or 15 minutes to say that he wasvery much concerned with the two books which had been published by DeseretBook with the imprimatur of the Church Historian. They were The Story of theLatter-day Saints by Allen and Leonard and Building the City of God byArrington, Fox, and May. He said that he had not read very much of Buildingthe City of God although he had dipped into it a little–enough to be very concernedwith the tone which he said was secular and not faith-promoting. He had readfar more in Story of the Latter-day Saints and was equally concerned with itstone which he said to be secular, even negative, and not faith-building. Hesaid that he had had an opportunity to discuss this recently with the seminaryand institute teachers and after his recent Saturday talk with them one of thenhad come to him and said that he too had been concerned with the negativetone of Story of the Latter-day Saints. President Benson suggested that hewrite up his impressions and thoughts of the book; he had done so and PresidentBenson then read his letter about it. The letter was two to three pages,single spaced, and was particularly concerned with a criticism of the general philosophy and approach and tone which underlay Story of the Latter-day Saints.

It also had some specific examples. The letter was concerned not only withStory of the Latter-.day Saints in particular but with the “new history” ingeneral. That is, the histories which are now being written and supported bythe Historical Department. This would include nearly all of the books and articleswhich had been produced by historians employed in the Historical Department.It also included fears with respect to the tone and subject matter of the16-volume history of the Latter-day Saints which is under contract. It was aneloquent letter. I have no idea who wrote it but clearly he was a good writerand thinker. As one illustration of his critique he said that the most importantevent in the history of modern civilization was the Restoration of the Gospelwhich he regarded as equivalent to the founding of the Church April 6, 1830.He found only a paragraph on that without even naming the six people involved.On the other hand he found two or three pages, maybe even three or four, on thefounding of ZCMI. There was very little on the most glorious vision in modemtimes–Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. He, and President Bensonagreed, was fearful that the tone of Story of the Latter-day Saints would diminish the faith of Latter-day Saint young people. President Benson spokevery strongly and forcefully as well as critically of our work.

When President Benson had finished his statement President Kimball then called on Elder Petersen who was even more critical in his tone and more vigorous and dogmatic in his assertions. He said he had read more inBuilding the City of God than President Benson and he proceeded then toread from a page in the second chapter wherein we discuss the contemporaryintellectual and social origins of the Law of Consecration and Stewardship.He said that this approach denies the revealed nature of the program–suggeststhat Joseph Smith pulled it out of the milieu of contemporary society and did notget it from the Lord. Then he went into Story of the Latter-day Saints–said he had read much of it. My own impression is that neither he nor Brother Benson had personally read more than three or four chapters of Story of the Latter-day Saints and not more than one chapter, “The Law of Consecration and Stewardship” in Building the City of God. Apparently they relied upon what other persons they trusted had told them about both books. My own impression is thatBrothers Lauritz Petersen and Tom Truitt of the Historical Department had sentthem a memo about both books, as they had sent memos earlier about some ofour other books. This had prompted Elders Benson and Petersen to assign one of their own staffmembers, William Nelson, a special assistant of Elder Benson, to read intoboth books. They were relying primarily upon his critique (My guess is theyalso contacted someone in the Seminary and Institute system to give them astatement and that was quite possibly Glen Rudd of the Salt Lake Institute or George Pace of the Religion Department, BYU.). Elder Petersen talked also for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes.

At the end of Elder Petersen’s remarks, strongly and forcefully made,there was a momentary pause. President Kimball looked at me and I asked ifthis would be an appropriate time for me to make a response. President Kimballnodded in the affirmative. I then took perhaps five minutes to explain howBuilding the City of God was written and also how Story of the Latter-day Saintshad been written and indicated that our goal in both of them was to presenthistory which was at once faith-building for Latter-day Saints and designed tocreate favorable impressions of the Latter-day Saints and the history amongprofessional historians and students.

After my statement President Benson responded again very warmly as didElder Petersen. With President Kimball’s permission I responded again to theirstatements. This exchange dealt with whether the history we write is faith-promoting. I attempted to defend the idea that it was. They did not agree.During all of this time there were no statements by Elders Hunter and McConkienot by the First Presidency. After my response Elders Benson and Petersen spoke again and I made a brief response after which President Kimball asked me a number of questions. One of these was to give him my understanding ofhow the sesqui-centennial history would be screened and approved. I gave myunderstanding of that. President Kimball then read from some minutes of anearlier meeting which indicated I had approved am arrangement to have eachof these manuscripts after they were read by me to be made available for thereading of our advisors or some other General Authority that might be appointed.I said I agreed perfectly with this and expected to follow this plan and wouldeven welcome it under the assumption that the reading could be done in goodtime so the project would not be held up. President Kimball thought thiscould be done. He said Elder Monson was a fast reader as was Elder McConkie. Others could be found perhaps who were also fast readers. There were someother questions from Presidents Tanner and Romney, all of which were bothkindly and somewhat supportive.

President Kimball suggested that in writing our history we should paymore attention to the Church audience and less attention to the audience ofprofessional historians and non-LDS scholars and students. This was a cueto Elders Benson and Petersen to make remarks that we never gain anythingby accommodating to the enemy–to Babylon–to the world of secular scholars,philosophers and historians. Brother McConkie at this point said he toothought our principal audience should be Latter-day Saints, particularly theyouth, and that we should not very much concern ourselves with what scholarsor professors would think. It should not be our primary goal to influencethen to think favorably. The discussion went on for almost two hours. Wewere together from 8:30 until about 10:15 a.m. In ending the meeting, PresidentKimball looked at me and smiled and said, “Brother Arrington, I think thishas been a very wholesome exchange of thoughts on this important matter.We are very much impressed with your attitude and feel to commend you on it. We trust you are in full agreement that in the future for the sesqui-centennialhistory and other major works you will submit each manuscript to Brother Hunterwho will arrange through me to have one of the General Authorities approve themanuscript.” I asked President Kimball if we might agree that this arrangementwas not to be made public. If it were known generally that all of our materialis first read and approved by a General Authority there will arise the cry ofcensorship and people, including our own members, will not have credencein the history we write. They will think it has been doctored and censored.I said I would prefer that I submit the manuscript privately and that whateversuggestions were made by the General Authority come back to me and I will makethen as my own suggestions so that any censoring that is done will appear tobe made in my name by me as a professional historian so that people will havemore confidence than otherwise in what we write and nobody will raise the cryof tampering with history for faith-promoting purposes. President Kimballagreed that he would do this. (I have since learned that word went to DeseretBook that all of the manuscripts we submit to them were to be read and approvedby a General Authority and that they have been telling this to many peopleso that it is now fairly wide knowledge of the procedure to be followed in thefuture. I have told no one–not even Jim Allen and Davis Bitten and MaureenBeecher, and if any persons raise this point with me in the future I shall tellthem as I have restated several times in the last few weeks, that the FirstPresidency established a screening committee consisting of myself, the twoassistant church historians, and the editor of the Historical Department,and that the First Presidency have reasserted their support of this arrangementand that if any clearance beyond this is to be done it will be done by DeseretBook Company.) 

I must say that in contemplating this meeting I was very much shaken. I thought Elders Benson and Petersen were not being fair and that they were being very narrow. I continue to feel certain of the importance of what we aredoing and trying to do. The meeting did reaffirm the basic support we have andhave had from the First Presidency and some other of the brethren. I was delightedthat Elder Hunter did not join in the criticisms of our books although a littledisappointed that he did not support me vocally in my responses to the criticismsby Elders Benson and Petersen. I lost some sleep in the nights that followedthis matter. My mind was in a turmoil. Do I really have a function? If wewere to go as far as to write primarily for young people in a faith-promotingmanner there are dozens of persons who would be a far better Church Historianthan I. I began to doubt whether I was the right person to have this assignmentand I began to consider seriously whether to offer my resignation and whetherto consider seriously other employment. A new position in Western Historywill open up at the University of Utah in the next few months as they attemptto replace Dave Miller who is retiring. I thought this might be a logicalplace for me to go and that it was quite possible that I might be able to getthe appointment. As the days went on I began to feel more confidence inwe were doing and what we had done and of my own goals as Church Historian.We continued to get good comments about Story of the Latter-day Saints andBuilding the City of God. We also discovered that there were not a largenumber of persons who had heard of the criticisms of Elder Benson and ElderPetersen and Deseret Book continued to sell the book at a rapid rate. Wenoted that the advertising copy which Deseret Book had prepared was stillbeing used with the permission of Elder Marvin Ashton; however, Deseret Bookwas told not to prepare new advertising copy for the future for Story of theLatter-day Saints. In other words, the book is advertised in the Christmas brochure and continued to he advertised over the radio and TV at conference time, but presumably that ends their advertising. We were also told that a review of Story of the Latter-day Saints by Scott Kenney which had been commissioned by BYU Today had been stopped at the direction of Dallin Oaks who had heardof the criticisms of Elders Benson and Petersen and was fearful of going againsttheir counsel. We understand that BYU Studies has asked George Ellsworth toreview Story of the Latter-day Saints and he is doing his usual comprehensive job of preparing areview, and that BYU Studies expects to run the review. We understand fromDeseret Book that Building the City of God is not under the same interdiction.We understand also from them that Story of the Latter-day Saints has sold morethan 15,000 copies. We feel confident that Story of the Latter-day Saints willhave a firm place in LDS historiography and feel confident that it is a goodjob. We are telling this publicly and privately.

At 2 p.m. on Tuesday. October 19, Elder Stapley invited Earl Olson, ElderAnderson, and myself to a meeting in his office, subject matter not indicated.I discovered later that Elder Stapley had wanted to hold this meeting theprevious week but could not because I was in Denver. When we got to ElderStapley’s office we discovered Elder Hunter was there as well. Elder Stapleyconducted the meeting and said that the meeting would deal with the books our office was publishing and especially Story of the Latter-day Saints. Inmy diary entries for October 19-20 I have told something about this meeting andsome of the questions that were raised and how we responded to them by letter.But there are two things I want to add. One is that Elder Stapley said infairly strong terms that our primary goal must be to write for members of theChurch, especially young people. The other is that after the meeting ended, Elder Hunter took me aside enough that we were sufficiently apart from the rest for him to tell me something privately. Although he was in a hurry to get away to a meeting he must have talked with me for at least five minutes, maybe even ten. He spoke with some strength and emotion. He said, “Leonard,I want you to understand-that while it is difficult for me to be at odds withcertain of my brethren I am in complete agreement with your point of view andwith your policies. I want you to know this so you will not feel you arealone in standing up against the views of some of the brethren. I agreecompletely that you must keep in mind the audience of professional historiansand scholars. You are doing a great work there in influencing their treatmentof the Church and its leaders. I also agree completely that you must give abalanced view of our history. In the law it is not only unethical and immoralto misstate a fact; it is equally unethical and immoral to leave out apertinent fact. We must surely be honest in our own history and we havenothing to fear from being honest and candid and pointing out some of theweaknesses and problems of some of the brethren. We must do it if our treatmentis to be believed. I think you also ought to know that there are other brethrenwho agree with this.” I felt like crying. This seemed to relieve all of myanxiety and to settle the matter of the legitimacy of my call and my work.I once more felt completely confident of what I am doing and the role I amplaying and also completely satisfied about what we have done in the past.During our meeting with Elder Stapley he had said in response to a statement ofnine reviewing the directions of President Lee about writing our history, “Youknow, Brother Arrington, there is now a new Joseph,” meaning President Kimball isnow our prophet and he may feel differently about these matters. I replied Irealized that and supported President Kimball completely. I also noted thatI thought we were in complete compliance with President Kimball’s wishes asstated to us earlier. President Stapley did not dwell on the matter further, butan obvious thought crosses the mind. Suppose Elder Benson should become President of the church, as seems not only possible but probable. My own feeling is thatPresident Benson is not vindictive and would not go so far as to release allof us, although he might interfere more directly with the publication of ourbooks. For the present I feel confident and justified and expect to continuewith pretty much the same policies as we have followed earlier.

Elder Hunter said that he thinks that Elder McConkie was invited to theSeptember 21 meeting because either the First Presidency or their secretaryor Elders Benson and Petersen who may have had an influence in calling themeeting had thought that Elder McConkie was still one of our advisers.Elder McConkie and Elder Hunter, of course, had been our advisers for a coupleof years and so Elder McConkie was apparently invited to the meeting on theassumption that he was still an adviser and Elder Stapley was not invited to themeeting because someone had forgotten or not been aware that he was now one ofour advisers–and the senior one at that. Brother Hunter had filled BrotherStapley in on the September 21 meeting so he would not feel that he had beendeliberately left out.

I have just learned from Jim Allen that in addition to William Nelson,the assistant of Elder Benson, a close friend of Brother Nelson, George Pace was oneof the few in the BYU Religion Department who was strongly opposed to myappointment as Church Historian. Apparently Brother Pace is in regular communication with Brother Nelson and is spreading rumors on the BYU campus about thedisciplining of Arrington and Allen, and about the strong disapproval of”the brethren” in Story of the Latter-day Saints. He may have been the authorof that letter that I mentioned above. A friend who is acquainted with BrotherPace says he is a “Holy Ghoster,” meaning a person who is moved more by authoritative direction than by thought, one who is disgusted by attempts to intellectualizethe gospel and our history, and one who, in teaching, attempts to motivatestudents by tears rather than by logic or evidence. 

One unfortunate result of the affair was our losing confidence in the fairnessand wisdom of Elders Benson and Petersen. We are fearful of going to them to gettheir opinion of this project or that, this manuscript or that, for we believe itcertain they would not approve anything we would write. We had designed Storyof the Latter-day Saints as a faith-promoting work; it went as far as a historiancould go in writing a “work of history” which emphasized the positive, thefavorable, the faith-building. And even that was regarded as too negative in tone; too secular. What would they think your Knopf history, which is intended to be secular! Havinglost confidence in their judgment on what is good for theChurch, we now feel we must go to greater extremes in skirting around those twobrethren and those who support them.

There is another matter to record. We were told that Elder Benson and Elder Petersen had inquired, in a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, about thedisposition of the papers of President Hugh B. Brown. They wished to know if wehad them in Church Archives; if not, we should attempt to acquire them from thefamily. They did not want them to be available to independent researchers atBYU, U of U, or elsewhere. This demonstrates their concern with the antipathybetween Elder Brown and Elder Benson, and their feeling that there are probablyitems in the Brown papers that might reflect on Elder Benson.

One other thing I will add. I learned today that the review of BRIGHAMYOUNG UNIVERSITY: A SCHOOL OF DESTINY-the history by Ernest Wilkinson and W.Cleon Skousen–which is in the third number of SUNSTONE was by pseudononymouswriters, Oscar Davis and R. Gene Olsen. Actually, the review was written byOrson Scott Card, who had done some of the copyediting on the book while itwas going thru BYU Press. President Oaks, at least, thought that this wasunethical; he had been privy to private thoughts and communications about the history and passed on some of those in his review. Frankly, as I reread the review I didn’t see any evidence that he had made statements about the bookwhich were over and above any he could have picked up by reading it.

[LJA Diary, 22 Oct., 1976]

As the 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 JosephFielding 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 therespect of professional historians–what I write must be craftsmanlike, credible,and of good quality. This means that I stand on two legs–the leg of faithand the leg of reason. Church architects, medical doctors, engineers, computerprogrammers, and other professional consultants and employees should be, fromthe technical standpoint, the very best the world can produce in their professions. So must the Church Historian. On the other hand, their work must dovetailinto and contribute toward the building of the Kingdom. From my first interviews I have been assured that I should both work to improve the qualityof history writing within the church and continue to do work of such professionalquality that it will win and deserve the respect of professional historians.This is difficult for the historian because, while his contribution towardbuilding 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 theimportance of capturing the fleeting impressions of the Spirit and of embodyingthose impressions in the policies we follow and the words we write. Theseimpressions are fleeting–they are not there as a bank deposit available for usto draw from as we will. We may solicit then 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 professionalcraftsmanship 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 thatare, perhaps, not understood by the faithful, just as they might counsel us tobe careful about upsetting the faith of members who are marginal. May the Lordgive me discernment! May He bless me to be honest and frank and fearlesswhen I must be honest, frank, and fearless; and may He bless me to be diplomaticand understanding and sympathetic when those qualities are required!

[LJA Diary, 9 Aug., 1972]

The past year has been a watershed year. We have published the first of our works whose goal was to bring LDS history up-to-date; namely, STORY OFTHE LATTER-DAY SAINTS. We recognized that such a work might raise a feweyebrows among the traditionalists, and might occasion a few complaints aboutour treatment of some aspects of our history. Aware of these possibilities,we read the manuscript to try to weed out all controversial paragraphs andsentences. When the manuscript had been gone over by Maureen, Davis, and myself,we felt (or at least I felt) completely confident that it had the right tone,handled the difficult problems of our history intelligently and discreetly, and would be hailed as a landmark of LDS history.

I was shaken by the vigorous and public objection to the book by Elder Benson and ElderPetersen. I know privately that they were “put up” to do this to a certainextent by some of our traditionalists who had never been in favor of myappointment as Church Historian. But I was shaken by the way in which these brethren had their way; by the failure of anyone to defend the book,to speak up for it, to explain why we felt it was a good book. The entireepisode convinced me that there are some Brethren, including the two personsnext in line to be president of the Church and president of the Quorum ofTwelve, who would not approve of any of our work–not just this book but our

methods, our goals, our approach and attitude toward the Church and its history.We have to reckon with the distinct possibility that, upon President Kimball’s death,these brethren, if they are still alive, will probably replace us and greatlydiminish and alter the work of studying and writing about church history.I shall not resign unless forced to do so, but I have to keep in mind thepossibility that we shall be cut off from our work at any moment, and I mayhave to find an alternative type of employment. Alternatives which occur tome are: (1) BYU. But if I am not free to write as Church Historian, how couldI write and publish with freedom as a staff member at BYU? The Universityis overly-solicitous of Church direction. (2) U or U. But Western history is on the decline, and it is doubtful that they would have a vacancy for a person of my skills and training, and if they did have a vacancy it is doubtful they would fill it with a person my age andeven more doubtful that they would fill it with a loyal Mormon. (3) USU. Thereis a real possibility that I could go back there if there were some kind ofvacancy; and so I shall try in every way to keep in their good graces, and keepclose to them. (4) Finally, go back to the farm in Idaho. Grace would notlike this, but it may be our only alternative, at least until I am 65. Thefamily would have to take me back; they would have no alternative. So, ifworst comes to worst, I shall end up there.

In addition to STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS we also published BUILDING THE CITY OF GOD. This book received exactly the same reaction as STORY OF THELATTER-DAY SAINTS on the part of the brethren mentioned above. And yet Mormonhistorians and social scientists are acclaiming it as the most important contribution to Mormon studies since GREAT BASIN KINGDOM. It is going to getsome good reviews, I feel confident, but the brethren mentioned above will notlet it be mentioned or reviewed in the CHURCH NEWS or in any of the Churchmagazines. I also published FROM QUAKER TO LATTER-DAY SAINT, but I think noone has read it yet, so I have no reports. Maybe no one will read it. Mypersonal opinion, that it is the best biography of a Latter-day-Saint everpublished, may be an opinion shared only by me, myself, and I.

The reactions to these three books suggests that we ought to alterconsiderably our draft of our one-volume history for Knopf. If they wouldn’taccept STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS, which we regarded as definitely pro-Church, definitely testimony-building, definitely showing our testimonies, howthen could they possibly accept and permit a volume of “objective,” “impartial,”straight-from-the-shoulder history? Davis and I are now in the process of thinking this through. 

What are my plans? My thought now is to take more time for vacation, for sick leave, to do more reading. Perhaps ideas on how to cope with our “opponents” will come to meduring these days of “vacation time.” We have the Knopf volume to re-think.I also have to do some re-thinking on the Brigham Young biography which I haveannounced I will do. I am continuing my talks, although my invitations seemto come more and more for professional talks. Word is getting around that Iam not entirely sound or dependable on church history and doctrine. I am somewhat of a controversial person. I shall continue to manage and direct ourHistory Division pretty much as before, except I think I shall seek to interrupt less the various staff members with tasks to do this or that. This willenable them to do more things in their own name and build their own careersand publishing records.

I feel a great deal of pride in our staff members-all of them haw made and are making important contributions. Jim and Davis are marvelous; the Churchhas never had in its history two persons as assistant historians who are socompetent, so dedicated, and so helpful in the task of presenting the historyof the Church in a manner that is both professionally acceptable and religiouslyacceptable. The same goes for all the others: Dean Jessee, Maureen Beecher,Glen Leonard, Ron Walker, Dean May, Bruce Blumell, Jill Mulvay, Ron Esplin,Richard Jensen, Bill Hartley, and Gordon Irving. I hope none leaves.And I don’t diminish the role of Sister Romney, who types all our old documents,and the secretaries. And of course the special persons we have been able toget to help us, by means of fellowships and grants: Mike Quinn, Becky Cornwall,Susan Oman, Marlena Ahanin, and others.

I feel a strong need for us to complete some monographs on Churchinstitutions. We must complete within the next few months the history ofthe Genealogical Society which Jim Allen is dong. We must complete duringthis year a history of the Welfare Program, which Bruce Blumell is doing. We must complete within the year a history of the Primary, which Jill Mulvayis working on with Sister Parmeley. And we must do more of this kind ofhistory. We must do the Relief Society, the priesthood quorums, the administrative structure of the church over time. And we must publish more collectionsof documents. Important diaries, etc. Really, there is a lot we can do. Andif people are “afraid” to publish them, so be it. We can at least preparemanuscripts which will be available for the use of interested persons andscholars. As we complete histories of this type persons will unavoidablyunderstand that our history is more complex than our histories publishedbefore 1972 have supposed.

This is the Lord’s work; of that I am sure. But our problems of publishingintelligent, competent, honest history are, to some extent, like those undera political dictatorship. May the Lord give me patience, and tolerance,and understanding so that I can work within the system harmoniously enough tosatisfy our administrators, and intelligently enough to retain the good will of historians, both Mormon and non-Mormon. 

[LJA; An Early Report on My Work as Church Historian, 1 Jan., 1977]

The year 1976 might be called the “Year we Weathered the Storm.”This year the first major history to be prepared fully under the auspicesof the Historical Department since its organization in 1972 appeared.The Story of the Latter-day Saints written by James Allen and Glen Leonardcame off the press in July. We wrote it because of the great need to havea fresh, up-dated history of the Church that would take into account all therecent scholarship as well as cover the here-to-for almost neglected twentieth century. We also tried to write in a manner that would stimulate boththe faith and the understanding of Church members. This could best be done,we believed, by writing in a tone of faith and at the same time recognizingand dealing forthrightly with the various problem areas, rather than ignoringthem. This way, we were and still are convinced, the faithful member wouldnot only have his faith enhanced, but would also have a solid framework ofknowledge that would help him meet the challenges bound to come his way ifhe studied history further, without losing his faith in the process.

The response to the book was about what we all expected, except that a few discomforting things occurred. The initial response was warm andenthusiastic. Then certain General Authorities judged it quickly, apparentlynot having read the book completely and relying, rather, on the criticismsof certain other people. They considered the book too “scholarly,” andwere critical of a few of the contextual treatments of important happeningsin Church history. Rumors flew that the book would be withdrawn, shredded and banned. Adding to the confusion was the fact that the Seminaries andInstitutes withdrew it from their reading lists, partly because theydiscovered we had not sent it through Correlation (which we had neverintended to do in the first place), but also, it seems to me, as an unfortunateover-reaction to the criticism and rumors.

All the furor naturally put the authors (and the Church Historian, too,I am sure) through weeks–even months–of mental anguish. On the other hand,the overwhelmingly opposite response from other members of the Church wastremendous and heartwarming. Deseret Book Company liked the book and defendedit. Almost immediately after its publication we began receiving what I thinkwas an unusual amount of mail and personal comments in which prominent people,students and other Church members generally sang praises to the book. Weheard such things as “inspiring,” “informative,” “well balanced,” “Itstimulated my faith,” “readable,” etc. over and over again, and in spite ofthe rumors (or maybe, in some cases, because of them) the book sold well. Bythe end of the year nearly half the first printing of 35,000 copies hadbeen sold: truly unusual for Deseret Book Company.

In the meantime, the rumors began to die away. Even though we knewthat certain Church officials were still concerned with the historical approach, we had good evidence that others liked the book very much andwere great supporters of the work of the Historical Department’s HistoryDivision. By the end of the year we felt that, under Leonard Arrington’swise and optimistic response to all this, we had weathered the storm. The bookwas being advertised widely (contrary to rumors that Deseret Book was requiredto stop advertising it), it was selling well, and the warm responses fromChurch members were continuing to flow in. We did not consider this licenseto rush pell mell into further controversy, but we did feel it was evidencethat many Church members, including General Authorities, felt deeply the needfor the sensitive historical approach to our heritage. We felt assured thatbooks such as this can continue to come from our office and that they willhave a continuing and positive effect upon the saints and their understanding of our history.

This, of course, was not the only 1976 publication. The year alsosaw the culmination of Leonard Arrington’s many years of effort to publishthe story of the Mormon cooperatives in Utah. Building the City of God, whichhe published as co-author with Dean May and the late Feramorz Fox, isperhaps Leonard’s second most important book to date (the first being GreatBasin Kingdom). It, too, cam under some scrutiny and criticism, along withThe Story of the Latter-day Saints but by the end of the year it seemed tohave weathered the storm and was selling well. In addition, Leonard Arringtonpublished From Quaker to Latter-day Saints, which I consider to be a finebiography.

If our most important task, as a division, is to publish responsibleChurch history, then 1976 was a good year. In addition to the books, thedivision continued to produce significant articles for both Church andprofessional publications, task papers, and monographs. Every member of thestaff has important current projects to work on, and all indications are thatthe stream of fine production will continue to grow as the years go by.

A number of important projects were begun in 1976. The tragic TetonDam disaster in Idaho led to Bruce Blumell being assigned to study the LDSresponse to the flood. His interviews and task papers will provide importantsources for other students of the subject. The history of the GenealogicalSociety got off the ground, and by the end of the year about 3/4 of theresearch had been completed. In addition, we encouraged Gene England tocomplete his biographical study of Brigham young, which we will publishthrough the BYU series, and we obtained authorization for Ron Walker to beginan important study on the life of Heber J. Grant. These and other projectswill be the basis for some important future publications. We also encouragedBen Bennion and Merrill Ridd in their efforts to prepare a Mormon Historyatlas, and authorized them specifically to contact the sesquicentennialauthors about preparing maps for their respective volumes.

The oral history program is also doing well, and I am particularly pleased with the efforts of Gordon Irving since he was made director ofthe program. He is fully involved in it, keeps things well organized andmoving, and has a sense of direction that is commendable. In addition,the program received a most important stimulus when the Moyle familygranted $100,000 to the Mormon History Trust fund, earmarked specificallyfor oral history.

The forthcoming movie on Brigham Young received considerable helpfrom our division this year. Ron Esplin, in particular, worked with theproducer and writers and has apparently made a commendable contributionto them. We have also assisted Gene England, who wrote several essays forbackground studies for the moviemakers, and these will eventually be publishedas his biography of Brigham Young (in modified form, of course).

We should also feel good about our personnel. We have been strengthened immensely by the addition of Ron Walker to the staff, beginning in the fall of1976. At the same time, if there has been any internal problem this year ithas been in the area of personnel relations. Early in the year there weresigns of discontent, particularly with regard to salary, status recognition,and the role of the staff in policy discussions and decisions. This came toa head in April, when several staff members “griped” individually to Arrington,Allen and Bitten, and then a delegation of four held a special meeting withthe three of us to air their views. The result was a very healthy generalstaff meeting in which many things were freely discussed. It revealed manyunfulfilled expectations, but also demonstrated that there were many positivefeelings. In spite of certain problems, staff members felt pleased withtheir particular assignments, were happy to be writing for Church audiences,and said they did feel free to approach Leonard with their problems andconcerns. Their main concern was whether the communication within thedivision was really as effective as it could be, and whether they shouldhave a greater role in suggesting the projects to be worked on. From myperspective, I thought some of their concerns were needless, for it seemedto me that everyone had a fairly free hand when it came to choosing topics andassignments. Finally, in June a “retreat” was held in Ron Esplin’s cabin, and the free discussion there was most healthy.

Out of all this came several proposals, not all of which were implemented,but the most important result, I think, was a more open atmosphere ofdiscussion which seemed to prevail throughout the rest of the year. Therewas a renewed commitment made to hold quarterly or semi-annual interviewswith each staff member. We also instituted a monthly “professional exchangemeeting,” which has been held regularly and has been very helpful. Thediscussions have considered various problems dealing with research, writing,attitudes toward historical problems, and general professional competence.In addition, the staff instituted a study group which would hold a seriesof bi-monthly firesides. This has turned out well.

In general, then, there have been some natural personnel problems inthe division, but they have not been serious and the feeling at the end ofthe year is still one of cooperative good will, satisfaction and optimism.The year 1976 has consisted of both success and frustration in several areas,but it has all contributed, in my mind, to a growing appreciation for theleadership of Leonard Arrington, as well as a continuing personal appreciation,on my own part, for the opportunity to work with him. We get nothing butgood feelings about the department and its work as we give talks to thesaints in various places, and we seem to have every evidence that theHistorical Department is becoming better known and appreciated throughout the Church.

[James B. Allen; Reflections on the Year 1976]

Dear Leonard,

It doesn’t seem possible that five years have passed since thatwinter day in 1972 when you were appointed Church Historian. It was about11:15 a.m. on January 14, when Earl Olson came back to the Manuscript Sectionwhere I was working in the Church Office building at 47 East and announcedthat an important meeting would be held in the Assembly Room at 11:30 and thatall of the employees of the Historian’s office should be there. I will neverforget my feelings of anticipation as we saw President Tanner, Howard Hunter,Alvin Dyer, Earl Olson and Leonard Arrington come into the room and gatheraround the almost lifeless form of Clio who lay near death before us. Andconsidering how she had suffered in previous years, some of us had begun todoubt whether there was any remedy strong enough to counteract the virulenceof her ailment. But when President Tanner arose and announced that LeonardArrington would be the new Church Historian, he administered a potion sopowerful that the near lifeless form began to stir almost immediately.Particularly significant to me on that occasion was President Tanner’s statementthat the Presidency had seen the need to appoint competent people to helprelieve some of the heavy burden that was resting upon the General Authorities.The wisdom of that decision has been borne out in the succeeding years.

Leonard, I have been amazed at your tireless devotion to the cause ofMormon history. Your contributions have been magnificent! I admire yourdecision to train yourself so thoroughly and then cast your lot so totallywith the Church. Your effort vindicates the decision of the Church to use thetalents of professionally trained people and shows that inspiration and learningare not strangers. It substantiates the statement of Richard L. Evans at astake conference shortly before his death, when he told us that “it’s niceto be inspired, but it’s better to be inspired and competent.” Your abilityto draw the respect and admiration of people from all walks of life is amonument to your congenial personality and your professional expertise. Ourchildren fondly regard you as a friend because of your warm recognition of themwhenever they see you; and I know that you command the respect of historiansacross a wide spectrum of ideology. Your ability to retain the loyalty anddraw the best efforts from strong personalities with diverse viewpoints, and tomeet the challenge of big problems and yet be concerned with the smallest detail,underlines the wisdom of President Tanner’s action five years ago.

Personally, I am grateful for the trust and confidence you have had inme and the interest you have taken in my work. You were a guiding light inthe days before your appointment as Church Historian, when you offered encouragement and expert criticism to my feeble efforts to write a few things inthe old Historian’s Office. Since then, my only regret has been that I haven’tbeen more productive here; but I feel that I have been able to lay a goodfoundation for the future.

As I consider the accomplishments of the History Division during thepast year, I have been particularly impressed by the completion of Jim andGlen’s Story of the Latter-day Saints and your work on the City of God andEdwin D. Woolley. I have received much favorable comment about these works.I notice also that people on the White City bus are now reading the Story ofthe Latter-day Saints which is proof that it communicates to the bourgeois,and not just the nobility and clergy.

My efforts during the past year have been concentrated mainly upon thearticles on the reliability of Joseph Smith’s History and the Joseph Knightmanuscript and the volumes on Parley P. Pratt’s writings and those of JosephSmith. I hope to complete the work on Joseph Smith during the coming year,and go a long way toward the completion of Parley P. Pratt.

I pray that the Lord will continue to bless and prosper you in health and wisdom,

Your colleague and admirer,

Dean Jessee

[Letter from Dean Jessee to Leonard Arrington, 27 Jan., 1977]

The History Division’s patterns were worked out during the first year,back in 1972, and essentially continue without much change. We write andpublish and give talks. We meet periodically to keep each other up to dateon projects that are underway. To me we have achieved a rather nice balance,Working conditions are good on the whole, and the general atmosphere is optimistic.There should be little reason for changing combinations that have proved themselves effective.

Two developments of the past year deserve special mention, however, asI reflect on the significance of our experience. The first of these is thedissatisfaction of the “junior” staff–those, or some of those, below the levelof Assistant Church Historian. There had been a good deal of grumbling forsome time. It was hard to know exactly what the problems were, how much of thiswas worth serious consideration and how much was simply the natural expressionof some negative personalities. My own reaction was (and still is in part)one of mild irritation. If someone doesn’t like it here, let him go elsewhere.They don’t know a good working situation when they have it. With no basis forcomparison they idealize the academic life and tend to look longingly at thatgrass on the other side of the fence. This was my instinctive reaction.

Fortunately, however, it was decided to let them express their views.In all of this I personally see Glen Leonard and Jill Mulvay as playing highlyconstructive and helpful roles. They were close enough to the younger historiansto be in on the discussions, but they both had enough maturity to see what mighthelp. (Others probably deserve credit here too, but these are the two whoselow-key, reasoned approach I most appreciated.) A questionnaire was worked out and distributed, trying to find out what complaints were widely felt and whichwere based on individual idiosyncrasies. At the same time they were able to findout what in our way of doing things was appreciated. A retreat was held.Findings were presented and discussed. And some changes were introduced:our new “professional development” meeting each month and our division firesidesfor informal association outside the office.

I don’t know that all of these problems are behind us, but I am encouragedthat we were able to deal with these grievances in a calm way and satisfythose that seemed most pressing. Some of the intangibles–as, for example,the feeling of some that they are “unappreciated”–may not be so readily satisfied.Without seeming to dismiss natural and human desires, I find myself feelingslightly inpatient about any continuing frustrations that may exist. If we dothe best we possibly can for them salary-wise and if we try to allow fairlywide latitude to individual interests and desires, what more do they want?By and large, I think we are in pretty good shape, and I think (and hope)that our morale is basically high.

The second new development this year which causes reflection is thepublication of The Story of the Latter-day Saints by James Allen and GlenLeonard. It is an attractive book of which we can be proud, and these twomen have done about as well as anyone could, I think, given the difficult taskthey had before them. In the months since the publication of the book there havebeen both positive and negative reactions–and then reactions to those reactions!It has been interesting as an example of our institutional paranoia, and it maytell us in the History Division more than we want to know about prospects forthe future. Still, thanks to the Church Historian’s steady optimism, we have “kept our: cool.” None of us, I think, is unduly disturbed by the fact that ourway of doing history doesn’t appeal to everyone. Like many other matters in the Church (music, art, dance, etc.), it is not the narrow taste of the rightwing that bothers me; jet them like what they want, and let us make sure that weinclude the kind of books, articles, music, and art that will appeal to them.It is the authoritarian Caesar-complex that I find frightening–the idea that ifI dislike a certain kind of thing, it must be bad for everyone, leading me totry to exclude it from the possible range of choice within the Church. I know that there are limits to my general feeling, for I know that pornography andsadism and a few other such things must he regarded as outside the pale ofacceptability. But generally I say, with no claim to originality, “Let ahundred flowers bloom.” Let us have the kind of music, art, literature,and history that will appeal to the great mass of our Church population. Thisis not all bad; some of it is quite acceptable to anyone, and in any case it responds to needs and desires and is consistent with the gospel. But by thesame token let us provide a range of choice, works that will meet the needsof others, perhaps a minority within the Church but a very important minority who have legitimate interests and needs.

Now The Story of the Latter-day Saints is in fact rather tame but ithas shocked some. I am encouraged by the fact that the responses to it,including responses from General Authorities, have not been entirely negative.Many have liked it. In the long run this should be encouraging. Some of theolder style, faith-promoting histories will continue to appear and may wellfill a need. But it is good to have the Church sponsoring works that haveprofessional quality and integrity. We will know more about where we standas we continue to bring out works–the Knopf volume, the sesquicentennial volumes, and others. 

My own feeling is not that all is well in Zion. In the long run I am optimistic, but we would be naive to ignore the likelihood of some turbulencealong the way. It might not be a bad idea to have a “contingency plan.”I am thinking in terms of a temporary retrenchment that we might find expedientif we do not have friends at the top. Not that we could suddenly alter ourwhole professional personalities and become lesson-manual writers. But there areperfectly good projects we could work on that would arouse little opposition:in-house task papers; major editing projects; biographical series; specializedinstitutional studies; and others.

It has been a good year in our division. I have not attempted to listall of our activities or accomplishments. But in these two respects–the effortsto solve some of the problems felt by our staff and the response to the publication of The Story of the Latter-day Saints–the year has had special interest.It has been gratifying to be part of it all.

[Davis Bitton; Looking Back on 1976]