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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Intellectuality”

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Ca. April, 1936


Disadvantages of Teaching Evolution in Schools

  1. Upsets students’ belief in the Bible
    1. Parts of Bible in opposition to theory of Evolution
      1. Story of creation of man
      2. Disputes Bible doctrine of reproduction according to kind.

B.  Students would consider Bible no longer meaningful or authentic.

    1.  If one part is wrong, all may be wrong.

    2.  Work and doctrines of Adam, Noah, and Abram would be discredited.

      C.  Evolution tends to upset belief in God.

    1.  Darwin disbelieved in God

        2.  Only a very small percent of evolutionists believe in the existence of God.

  1. Upsets students’ faith in humanity and Goodness
    1. Student feels that man no longer is divinely ordained.

    1.  Psychological reaction—student loses faith.

    2.  Will tend to revert to law of jungle and think basely of himself and others.

      B.  Upset his moral behavior

    1.  Will tend to behave less like man should

    2.  Case of Babe Leopold, believer in Evolution.

      C.  Evolution preaches survival of the fittest.

              1.  Therefore, medicine is a detriment.

    2.  And we should not care for sick, and afflicted.

  1. Diverts attention from more pressing problems into mere speculation.
    1. Shifts attention back countless ages.

    1.  Political special, and scientific problems of present are forgotten

    2.  Men get to trifling over minute details over past ages

B.  Tends to accept every new theory taught.

  1.  Will study it instead of problems of greater importance

  2.  Dangerous to preach theories instead of facts.

C.  Evolution—merely guesswork—leaves student in a quandary.

  1.  Student wonders if anything can be true.

  2.      ”        becomes all excited over the new theory and a radical change comes         over him and his actions

[LJAD, ca. April, 1936]

NOVEMBER 14–$1.05

Again, I transgressed the law and purchased a book.  What extravagance!  But the book was greatly worth the dollar.  It is, “Why We Behave Like Human Beings,” by Dorsey.  It is a thorough analysis of man, his physical makeup, mental makeup and moral makeup, and contains a study of the evolutionary process of man as well as animals, reptiles, birds, protozoans, etc.  I’m going to learn some real stuff by reading it, I am sure.

NOVEMBER 15–$8.40.

Paid my board bills.

This evening we spent about 3 hours bullfesting.  I learned more from this intelligent discussion than I did in a week of college.  It was generally upon whether legitimate articles on Sex should be published, whether or not, I should read them, & whether or not people would be more moral & happy as a result of reading such material.  I disagreed with all the other fellows but still possess an open mind.

NOVEMBER 16–$.05

Read the 1st chapter in my new book “Why We Behave Like Human Beings.”  Agreed with certain statements; but I felt that he went a little too far in others.

[LJAD, November 14-16,  1935]


Found out some more grades:  B in Botany; and 79 or C+ in Agronomy.  I hope to make an A in Agronomy, yet.

Sat up several hours to read the splendid book, “Why We Behave Like Human Beings.”  I think that it is very thorough & adequate for a book of that sort.  It goes into detail about the theory of “Why we are here.”  I have learned a lot of Chem. & Physics from it, as well as psychology and Zoology & a dozen other subjects.

NOVEMBER 20–$.05

Had no classes this P.M. so I stayed in my room and got some good material on my theme for English.  I am writing on Fascism.  I also read quite a bit more about Evolution, and Life in Dorsey’s book, “Why We Behave Like Human Beings.”  Prof. Michel’s lectured in Agronomy on our Inheritance, and life.  He made one significant statement, “I believe that God created the germ-plasm—the first spect of life, and that thru the ages man was evolved.  I believe in the religious viewpoint.”

[LJAD, November 19-20,  1935]


Had several big arguments.  Another one on evolution in which I formulated the theory of organic evolution among lower forms of life and man starting on a separate sphere, changing and evolving into what he is at present.  Argued for a protective tariff on oleomargarine.  I joined Mr. Tanner’s class in the evening and we discussed several problems that students have to meet at the University:  evolution, smoking, swearing, modernism, etc.

NOVEMBER 27–$.05

Spent the morning in classes and the afternoon working on N.Y.A.  Had very few arguments today—very extraordinary.  Spent the evening reading the Era, the ‘Am. Farm Youth,” the Conference Bulletin and some more on evolution by Widtsoe.  Awaiting with wondering expectancy the coming of the day of gratitude and Thanksgiving.  I wonder if I’ll have any sensation like I feel on Thanksgivings at home?

[LJAD, November 26-27,  1935]

NOVEMBER 30–$.15

Worked all day today, and it was pretty hard.  We built a road behind the Music Conservatories.  My fellow worker was a Soph named Hubbard.  He batched and had been a sheepherder for 5 years.  His high school credits had been gained by correspondence.  Philosophy is his major and we had several arguments & discussions on various aspects of philosophy.  I still don’t accept behaviorism & still have a strong testimony of the truth of the philosophy of Mormonism.


Forgot that this was fast Sunday and ate a hearty breakfast, but, of course, received no evening dinner.  Attended Sunday School.  Spent the afternoon monkeying and reading, & playing ping-pong.  Went to church in the evening & Rev. Purdy of the Methodist Church gave a splendid sermon on the earth and we as God’s creations.  During a moment of abstraction I found a terrible flaw in my solution to the problem of evolution, so I have to start all over again.  Had an argument with Bill abt. The existence of the devil, also abt. there being any future life.

[LJAD, November 30-December 1,  1935]


Planned to work 2½ hrs. in the afternoon on NYA, but decided that I had better secure more data for my English theme.  You see, I came to college to study, and become educated; and so, of course, that is the primary objective and “first things must come first.”  Mr. Tanner and I had quite a little chat about Evolution, and general Science and Religion.  He is very broadminded.

[LJAD, December 4,  1935]


Had the big Chem Lab Quiz today.  And it was a corker!  I think I got a pretty fair grade on it though.  Was up for a hacking again tonight for letting the phone ring 4 times.  Had a big “bullfest” in the evening, after which I started a letter to Uncle Earl.  I wrote & wrote & wrote, until when I looked at the clock, it was 12:30, and I had written 9 full pages.  I asked him abt. Evolution & behaviorism.  Rec’d a letter from my pal Verna.  See January 6 reply

DECEMBER 7–$1.05

Got my picture today.  Went to tower.  Worked this afternoon and became very tired and almost froze my fingers.  This evening, I was so tired that I found it too hard to study, so I read more abt. evolutions.  At 10 o’clock Pinky, Jep, Bill, & I joined hands and had a very enthusiastic bull fest.  Abt. 11:15 they left, & I worked on my Eng. thesis until abt. 1:30 (now) at which time I am exceedingly sleepy.


Arose early enough to make it to breakfast.  Spent most of my time preparing a term research paper for English.  My subject is “Fascism in Italy.”  Went to church, but must admit that I was greatly disappointed in it.  The program was given by Ridenbaugh Hall & the one & only speaker, Ralph Jensen, spoke to us on “National Parks.”  Think of it!  We go to church to hear about God, Christ, religion & Mormonism, not to hear the same old lectures we hear every day in school on such unimportant (so far as man’s destiny is concerned) subjects like “National Parks.”

[LJAD, December 6-December 8,  1935]

110 Montague St.

Brooklyn, N. Y.

Jan. 10, 1936

Dear Leonard—

We received your letter some time ago and neglected to answer soon but now Earl is in Brooklyn Hospital, following an acute attack of appendicitis, for which he was operated on last Saturday, Jan.4.  He is getting along quite well and expects to be home in another week.

Earl says to tell you your note reminded him of 20 years ago when he was taking a similar step in the University.  Don’t worry too much at present about the themes you are confronted with.  Your attitude is wholesome.  In the present learn all you can about all the themes and eventually you will have a body of knowledge by which you can criticize all them and either accept or reject the parts, which your knowledge and experience dictates.  If you make any sudden decision now, it would be on the basis of the knowledge and experience of others only, and might not be so satisfactory to you in the log run.  Earl says he finds it useful to adopt a multiple hypothesis in explaining life and nature, letting each theory explain as far as it will, and letting another begin where one fails.

There are theories that agree with your temperament and your wishes and you will eventually find them.  In the last analysis your personality and your temperament is to be considered if you are to have a wholesome outlook on life.  There are books especially written for college beginners to help orientate them in their points of view.  One such was written in the 1920’s (1926) at the University of Chicago with articles by all of the Professors, such as Shailor Matthiesson, Cole, Childs, Moulton, etc.  It is called something like, “The World and the Individual.”  (The Nature of World and of Man)  It summarizes much of the knowledge such as you speak of, by men in the different fields.  If you want other books, you might read William James, “The Will to Believe”, which concerns the freedom of the will.  If you want one on evolution, you might read Fred. J. Pack (U. of Utah) on “Science and Religion”; also John Dewey’s book, “How We Think,” a little book on psychology.  If you want to read a little book on the Mormon community as contrasted with Mormonism as a religion, you might read Prof. E. E. Ericksson’s book on “Psychological and Ethical Aspects of Mormon Group Life.”  You will be able to find other books that are suitable at this time.  You will be able to acquire them from the U. of Utah or U. of Chicago, by means of the University inter-library loans.

Do not trouble yourself too much about those themes at present.  After you build up a body of knowledge and experience at the university you will be able to assimilate what are beneficial and useful, and add to your present foundation.  If you accept them without any personal basis it might destroy your usefulness as well as your personality.

Leonard, Earl has been thinking aloud and I have been writing it down for  him.  I see him every evening here at the hospital, and sometimes come in at noon.  We are glad to hear about Woodrow.  Give our regards to him and his bride, and tell them we would like to hear from them occasionally.  Also remember us to the families where you may write.  And let us hear from you again.  We were happy to have your very fine letter.  We are glad you are enjoying life at the University, and think you will appreciate it more as you go along.

Love to you,


Uncle Earl and Auntie Genieveve

[LJAD, Letter from Mr. & Mrs. J. E. Arrington to Leonard Arrington, January 10,  1936]


Paper by LJA for English, February 1936

The typical scientist is abnormal.  He may know all about the different classes of abnormality and how to remedy them, but he himself is abnormal.  He is abnormal in that he is not like other people.  He does not have the same passions, make the same mistakes, nor do the same things in his spare time that the average Mr. American does.  The typical scientist is not a baseball fan, does not play golf, does not go to church, nor does he “hold his secretary on his lap.”  If we inquire into the reason for his abnormality we may get an insight into the scientist himself.

The reasons for the scientist’s abnormality are two.  First, he has unconsciously and gradually isolated himself from people while pursuing his work.  The scientist really begins his work in college.  There, he becomes so intent upon finding out the secrets of science and the methods of ascertaining them that he forgets the society in which he is living.  He would rather chase amoeba under a microscope, or measure the distance between the stars, than enjoy social life or group activity.  A second reason for his abnormality is that he does not want to be like other people.  He is so far above them in his reasoning ability, coupled with technical knowledge. That he has  no faith in the ability of others.  One who does not have faith in others naturally does not wish to associate with them or be like them.

A second characteristic of the typical scientist is his financial scrupulousness in experimentation.  He has to be that way.  Unless he is very exact, his work is all for naught.  I have worked with two scientists for four months, both of whom are abnormally meticulous.  If the scientist is testing 2000 c.c. of rats’ blood for sugar content, not so much as a drop dare be lost in the process.  If a drop is lost, another 2000 c.c. sample will have to be taken and the process started all over again.

The typical scientist has a passion for facts.  He does not care so much for ideas or theories; he craves facts.  He will keep working and experimenting until he finds out the facts.  While most scientists start with a hypothesis and then proceed to establish or destroy it, only after every available bit of information has been ascertained will he accept it as a theory.  In this respect he is the direct antithesis of a philosopher.  A philosopher is primarily a theorist and a dreamer, caring little for small details or technical knowledge.  The scientist’s technical knowledge is abundant in all respects.  And he dare not make the jump from being an agnostical scientist to being a superstitious believer.

If each of these characteristics should be put on the debit side of the scientist’s personality so far as adjusting himself to society is concerned, he has one characteristic, which must surely counterbalance all of them.  That is, the scientist is altruistic; he does not care for personal gain or monetary reward.  If he can make a contribution to scientific knowledge in his field which will make work easier for other scientist, or which will increase the knowledge which man has about nature, then he has succeeded, and he is happy.  This disregard for monetary consideration has caused hundreds of great scientists to die in poverty.  But it has made the world richer.  If any other group of people could say as much for themselves, they could indeed be proud.  If every person worked for the benefit of others more than for self, as does the typical scientist, we would have to forgive every other fault, which he possessed. 

[LJAD, Paper by LJA for English, February 1936]


LJA Paper for English, U of I, April 22, 1936

I am not the same Leonard Arrington I used to be.  I can now make that statement with fairness both to my former self and to my present self.  It would be well to compare these two selves at this stage of my college career—the Leonard Arrington that left his hopeful parents for college, and the Leonard Arrington that will go back home for the first time this June after almost a year of college influence and training.

Taking stock of these two different persons, I find that there are differences physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Physically, there is a difference, although this difference is not very great.  When I came to college I was quite thin from a hard summer’s work, but as my name indicates, I was “strong as a lion.”  I could do fourteen hours of hard physical work each day and feel no ill effects.  I was in excellent condition.  But today, I am far different.  I could not even lift a 150-pound sack of beans in spite of the fact that I have had twelve hours of work every week I have been here.  My shoulders have become less broad and stout.  My arms and legs are weak.  I am full and flabby.  Yes., there is considerable difference physically between the Arrington that came to college ;and the Arrington that is about to leave for home.

Mentally, there is much more difference.  Before I left for college I did not know how to read, study, or take notes.  I was not able to concentrate.  I was not able to complete more than one lesson each evening, and the examination required little or no preparation.  But I am much different today, I hope.  I have stayed up many nights studying until two or three o’clock.  I learned nine weeks of Zoology classification in six hours one evening.  (This is, of course, no credit of me, but it shows what can be done.)  I can read books in a much shorter time; and better still; I can find the important parts of books and articles easily and glean those parts, which would be for my benefit.  I can take notes quite well and study systematically.  Mentally, I have improved upon the person that came to college.

The greatest change has occurred in my spiritual attitude.  This change may have been for good or for bad—I don’t know.  Many comparisons can be made in the former and present attitude.  One is in toleration.  I used to hate people that smoked tobacco.  Today, some of my best friends smoke.  I used to hate people that drank liquor.  Today, I hate only liquor; I pity the people who drink it.  I used to think that every statement in the Bible was inspired and faultless.  Today, I recognize that certain statements were not even claimed to be true by the authors, that certain statements conflict with others, and that many were not by any means meant for us.  I used to think that all of the other churches were wrong and that only mine was right.  Having visited other churches, and having become acquainted with people of other denominations, I realize that there is good and bad in every religion but mostly good in all of them.  These are only a few of the many changes that have taken place bringing about more toleration.

The major change has come about through my acceptance of much of the teachings of science in preference to some of the doctrines of fundamentalists.  I now accept the main outlines of the theories of evolution and behaviorism, both of which I formerly violently opposed.

But in making comparisons between my present self and my former self, I must acknowledge that in one respect there has been very little change in my practices—that is in my morals.  I still do not smoke or chew tobacco, drink liquor, nor drink tea or coffee.  I have not committed immorality, or any major crime.  I still do not cheat in classes except in military instruction, which everybody else does; and I still pray for God to bless my parents and grandparents.

In this comparison, then, one can see that I have changed physically, mentally, and spiritually; but that I am the same morally.  May the change that has taken place be for the better!  May it help me to become a better citizen!

[LJAD Paper by LJA for English, U of I, April 22, 1936]


Paper by LJA, for English 4, U of I,

May 23, 1936

The other day I was speaking with Bill Arms, a high school senior, who lives in a small agricultural community in southern Idaho.  We were having what the college student terms a “bullfest.”  We discussed everything from soup to nuts—politics, religion, science—everything that thoughtful young Americans would discuss.  Bill was a deep thinker, well informed, and a good conversationalist.  As the discussion developed I noticed that there was a striking resemblance between his attitude on different subjects and the attitude, which I used to possess before I came to college.  Bill was extremely well informed for a high school senior, but he figured that he knew most of all there was to know.  This was the way I felt a year ago.  From the reading and studying that he had done, he had reached certain definite ideas, ideas, which he thought to be right regardless of what one could tell him.  For instance, a high tariff was the best, there was no question about it.  William Jennings Bryan was the greatest statesman yet produced in the 20th century; all the revelation from God had ceased when the twelve apostles died; and science is the instrument of the devil in leading America to hell.  Bill’s stubbornness in defend these “fundamental truths” reminded me of a certain Leonard Arrington that used to be–of a Senator Borah.  As the discussion continued, his stubbornness in sticking to his own ideas, and hating those who disagreed, reminded me of a bulldog which tenaciously held on to a man’s pants, even when a large beefsteak was offered to him.  Perhaps the bulldog was reared to dislike beefsteak and didn’t want to change now, even if he had to starve.  Similarly, perhaps Bill was brought up to favor certain opinions, rejecting the others even in the face of intellectual starvation.  If he has been brought up that way, Bill will soon be taught by a nobler master, for he is leaving for college in the fall.  I am sure that Bill will undergo a change very similar t mine.  And I believe that this change will be for the better.

College has not made a new man of me; that is impossible.  But it has helped me to become more broadminded, more critical, but more tolerant.  It has caused me to bring out my character, expose it to the light, and discover the weak spots.  College enabled me to develop a personality more like the ideal man I have always thought of.  College has done that to me if it has done nothing else.  I am glad that it has increased my measure of tolerance.  Tolerance is so absent in the world today.

A year at college will increase the student’s tolerance for new and different customs, people, and ideas.

Regarding the student’s increased tolerance for difference customs, I have seen students without a college education who thought that only a prig or an eccentric gentleman would wear a newly pressed suit of clothes to work.  My grandmother felt that short sleeves were “of the devil.”  Many rich men feel that one is “the scum of the earth” unless he wears a tuxedo to every banquet, while farmers feel that one who does has bought it with money he cheated out of poor farmers.  One often finds that one community will not allow a schoolteacher to wear lipstick or rouge, while another will look upon the teacher that does with much approval.  Among certain families, golden wedding rings are regarded almost as fetishes; while in others, even though they have the money with which to buy one, they see no use in buying a wedding ring.

Another difference lies in methods of utilizing spare time.  Certain people think that only sissies collect stamps, until they have collected them for themselves.  Some think it is a sin to catch up on lost sleep Sunday, while others feel that Sunday was made for just that purpose.  Certain people, as a result of their previous environment, will read books constantly; others feel it would be better to spend their spare time working with their hands.

So we find these vastly different customs being practiced among small or large groups of people.  One who has not come to college cannot appreciate what other communities do unless he has traveled extensively.  One who has been to college does not hate the man who practices different customs than his and has different habits.  Rather, he respects the customs and habits of others, realizing that there is good in each of them.  This is one way college increases our tolerance.

A second type of toleration that is increased at college is one’s toleration for different types of people.  By becoming intimately acquainted with so man different types of people as one finds at college, the student’s toleration will always undergo a tremendous rise.  In my own case, during this, my first year at college, a great many of my prejudices about people were wiped out.  Especially was this so with regard to whether or not a person was religious or irreligious.  The student who has lived in a religious environment all of his life naturally comes to disrespect those who are irreligious.  He disrespects irreligious people not because of any inherent aversion to them but because of an acquired one.  Such a person, in order to understand irreligious persons, has but to live with them, study with them, and discuss important questions with them.  College furnishes a wonderful opportunity to do this.

The same situation exists with regard to persons of different social standing.  College provides in this case a much-needed leveling-off process.  The rich discover that they do not get along any better at college than the poor.  They discover that they are not “big shots,” and that they cannot buy an education nor social adjustment.  I know of an instance in this regard.  A certain fellow who started to college this fall was in the highest social group in my hometown.  He had his own car, bought whatever books he wished, could buy as many drinks as the fellows wanted, and could just about have his own way with the girls.  As his father was one of the most influential political leaders of the state, this lad cultivated friendships with some of those who were always in the news.  All of this gave him a superiority complex.  Things changed when he came to college.  He soon discovered that one does not succeed socially or scholastically at college by reason of his father’s monetary supply.  True, one must have a certain amount of money with which to support himself at college; but beyond that point, one student is just as well off as another.  By reason of this, college acts as a great leveler.  It is not a melting pot, for that would suppress individuality; but it gives confidence to the under-confident, and lessens the confidence of the over-confident.  It takes away a certain amount of social prestige from those who have too much of it, and gives a certain amount of social prestige to those who have previously been so unfortunate as to have had none.  This leveling-off process is another way that college influence one to become more tolerant of others.

Some other types of persons that one comes in contact with at college are the so-called intellectuals or cultured, and the non-intellectuals or uncultured.  Especially has this association helped me to become more tolerant.  Previous to my college experience, my association with the cultured was very rare.  My father graduated from the seventh grade and became a farmer.  My mother went through all of the schooling provided in her pioneer town, which was the equivalent of the eleventh grade.  Neither of them had a chance to appreciate any culture except agriculture because they had never come into contact with any other.  Similarly, my only living grandmother did not even know how to read or write, and my only living grandfather managed to go to a country schoolhouse for almost three winters.  Thus, my early influence from arts and culture was almost nil.  Because I did not understand poetry, works of modern art, etc., I could not appreciate those who created them.  I was prejudiced against those who were cultured.  College, however, has changed that attitude to a great extent.  I have become intimately acquainted with poets, artists, and musical geniuses.  As I understand them, I appreciate them and I can vision the tremendous amount of good that they do and the beauty that they bring to America.  I have tolerance for those who are cultured or intellectual, as well as for those who are not.  Perhaps I would have received this same appreciation had I not come to college.  I might have, but the chances are against it.

Viewing people from the method of living, students at college become acquainted with both the free-living and the strict-living.  Among both types one will find those who may be counted as successful.  And among both types one will also find those who are not successful.  This proves the point, as an endeavor has been made to point out in this paper—that successes or failures among men depend not upon their particular way of living, but upon their own particular use of the method of living.  It is upon these different uses that the person’s character depends.  It is with these many different kinds of characters that the student at college becomes acquainted.  Associating with and becoming intimately acquainted with these different characters is the second general way that the student’s tolerance is increased by attending college.

One’s tolerance is increased not only for customs and different kinds of people, but also for new and different ideas.  I imagine that the greatest prejudices in the world today are against ideas.  Democrats do not hate Republicans because their character is inferior or their customs different.  They aren’t.  Democrats hate Republicans because of different ideas.  There is a fight between Catholics and Protestants because their religious ideas are different.  And again, there is a gulf between religion and science because of different ideas about life and living.  This difference in ideas has caused endless intolerance, bigotry, and persecution.  This is true because so many people do not understand the other person’s viewpoints, nor the influences motivating his reaction to certain proposals.  One can remedy this intolerance by learning first just what the idea is all about, then by learning the advantages or disadvantages in believing it.  College admirable accomplishes this task.

First, let us make sure that we understand tolerance for ideas to consist of two things:  first, positive convictions; second, sympathy and respect for those who possess other convictions and opinions.  If I have no convictions of my own to begin with, I have not tolerance; I am but as a ship on a story sea, tossed to and from.  But the greatest of tolerance is for me to possess positive convictions, and be able to give reasons to others why I believe these opinions to be true.  However, inwardly, I want the other fellow to remain true to his convictions, and I respect him for doing so as long as he is not ignorantly stubborn.

When I came to college I possessed positive convictions about science, politics, and religion, thus fulfilling the first requirement for tolerance.  But for the most part I did not fulfill the second requirement.  I did not sufficiently respect those whose opinions differed.  I was so prejudiced that I could not sympathize with those who held different ideas.  But one soon learns to respect and sympathize with those who hold different ideas once he come to college and keeps an open mind.  

The first class, science, presents problems to every student at the University.  His major change in attitude is bound to come in this field.  In my hometown we had no conception of what science was.  If we had known, we would not have had sufficient background to fully understand it.  In that way we were intolerant of scientists and science.  I remember especially my attitude.  “Religion and science,” we said in our church meetings, “agree entirely.  Religion accepts all truth.”  Yet, in our hearts we could not reconcile evolution with the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible, which we believed to be true.  Nor could we reconcile birth control with the Biblical admonition to “multiply and replenish the earth.”  Thus, in our hearts we knew that religion was right and science was wrong.  He who professed to believe in evolution was denounced behind his back as a “modernist”, which was the worst name that one could call a person.  “Modernists” were agnostics, and agnostics were to be hated and avoided of all people—as if religionists were afraid that they would find out that they were wrong!

College remedies that condition.  For instance, my ideas do not agree with those of my roommate.  He believes in Behaviorism.  I do not.  He is fatalistic; I believe in freedom of the will.  We argue.  He sets froth facts; I set forth facts.  We reason with each other.  After several evenings of discussing Behaviorism, and of living with a church member who believes in it, I come to tolerate Behaviorism as a doctrine of science.  I recognize that there are many good things to be derived from it.  I still do not believe in it, yet I tolerate it and respect those who believe in it.  Similarly, although the time of change was much longer, I now can say that I have tolerance for a philosophy of life which replaces God with nature as the controlling law of the Universe, or one which replaces evolution with spontaneous special creation, or a doctrine which replaces birth and crop control with overproduction of babies and piggies.  Thus, I can tolerate new and different ideas regarding science.

Most of us are Republicans because our fathers and grandfathers were Republicans, or Democrats because our great, great grandfather was a Democrat.  We have no particular reason for our political affiliation except that “I know the Republican Party must be right.”  And so we are prejudiced for political ideas.  Until we learn what the opposite party stands for, and why, we are not in a position to tolerate them.  Ignorance makes for prejudice and intolerance, just as intelligence makes for tolerance.  A university provides a very great opportunity to overcome that prejudice by practical experience.

Two persons at our house are Socialists, three are Republicans, four are Democrats, and the rest either do not know what they are, or have overcome sufficient prejudice so that they can say that they favor what their intelligence and conscience tells them to favor regardless of parties.  I like to pride myself today as being a member of this last group.  But I was not always that way.  Until I came to the university, I had never known a Socialist.  Socialists, to the folks back home, were like infidels—fanatics to be avoided at all costs.  Today I not only respect Socialists as well as the others, as a result of intimately associating with two of them, but I have also accepted as part of my political philosophy some of their humanitarian policies.  Whereas I was a dyed-in-the-wool-Republican, I can now class myself as a Liberal, for I favor certain policies of both major parties and the Socialists.  I favor the A.A.A., C.C.C., N.Y.A., and the monetary policy of the Democrats; and I share with Republicans a dislike for the relief policies of the Democrats, their unbalanced budget, and the N.R.A.  I also believe in socialized medicine, governmental cooperatives, and municipally owned power plants along with the Socialists.  My prejudice has decreased and at the same time my respect for the ideas and opinions of others has increased in the field of politics.

The last type of ideas and opinions which college has helped me to tolerate is that of religion.  I imagine that the greatest intolerances we have arise over religion.  I suppose that religious intolerance has caused more persecution than any other thing.  If faith and belief in a certain principle has caused people to lead straighter lives morally, it has also caused these same people to commit crimes and acts of violence upon those who disagree with them worthy only of Satan himself.  Surely, if college can do away with religious intolerance it has served a noble cause.

Religious ideas are ingrained right into the character and life of a person.  It is said that one’s life is his religion.  If this is so, all of his ideas are his religion.  I shall try to limit my examples to those ideas more generally classed under religion—ideas of God, immortality, my church, and its doctrines.

I believe in God; I have always believed in God.  But is it necessary to shoot a person that does not believe in God?  Is it even necessary to hate him:  Is it even necessary to hate him if he tries to convince others that he is right the same as I am trying to convince others that I am right by saying that God lives:  The logic is clear, but where does college come in?

My mother once told me that my uncle was an agnostic.  To her, he was the most despicable character that “ever trod shoe-leather.”  She was glad he lived back East where he could not associate with us children.  I grew up believing her and came to college.  I learned that my first roommate was to be an agnostic.  What a thought!  I was to room with one who would go to hell!  But when I saw him I found that he was built the same as I:  he did not even have horns or a forked tail!  I grew to like him—I liked an agnostic!  Today I possess the same ideas of God that I possessed when I came to college, but I no longer hate those who disagree.  I respect them.  I tolerate them.

This same thought may illustrate the change in my religious attitude with regard to immortality, my church, and its doctrines.  I still believe them, but I no longer hate those who disagree; I respect and tolerate those persons.  Most of all, I tolerate and respect the ideas and opinions which these people possess.  That is what counts.

Therefore, the tolerance of an intelligent student attending the university will be increased for different customs and habits, different types of people, and different ideas.

Perhaps one may gather from reading this paper that a student comes to respect the new and radical and has disrespect for the old-fashioned, the conservative, and the fundamental truths and institutions of society.  I hope this is not so.  This paper on tolerance will have been in vain if it has revealed a loss of tolerance for the folks and the home community.  That would be hypocrisy.  As a matter of fact, college has increased my respect and devotion for my mother and father and the “gold old folks back home.”  I can understand them now.  I can see that they have reared me the best possible way.  I can see that with the few years of schooling they had, they have succeeded much better than I could have done under the same circumstances, or indeed will be able to do even with the great opportunities which I have before me now.

[LJAD, paper by LJA for English 4, U of I, “THE INFLUENCE OF COLLEGE UPON TOLERANCE”, May 23, 1936]

You mentioned going to Mutual and the discussion about the Spirit of God & the Holy Spirit.  I remember we had similar discussions when I was there.  When you receive Evidences and Reconciliation by John A. Widtsoe, you will find he has a chapter on that very subject.  His is the official Church point of view.  It arises from a literal interpretation of the Bible.  Some passages refer to the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit as a separate entity in the Godhead.  God is one Person, Jesus His son, & the Holy Ghost or Comforter is a third and formless Personage.  This third Being is part of the Holy Trinity of most Protestant, as well as Catholic Churches.  The third Being has never come to Earth & so has no body, parts or passions.  Its purpose is to comfort, make known truth, provide inspiration, and solace—the believing who suffer from pain or doubt.

According to the same official Church view, God is an entirely different Person, tho He works in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.  God’s purpose and objectives and means are many.  He may influence people or events, in which case one can say, His spirit (the Spirit of God) has been manifest.  The Spirit of God can enter individuals, inspire them & influence them, just as the Spirit of Jesus or indeed, of Abraham Lincoln, can make itself felt for good.  

I don’t know whether that means anything but it is the official Church view and is supported, they think, by several Scriptural passages.

As you may presume, my point of view is not at one with the above.  I criticize the above for the following reasons:

(1)  A big mistake is always made when one attempts to interpret the Scriptures literally and build a theology on such air, interpretation.  The Scriptures are contradictory, and inconsistent & any theology based upon them cannot help but be inconsistent & illogical.  The only support for the Church’s point of view is Scripture.  If a person doesn’t happen to believe in the Bible literally (and nearly everybody doesn’t) the Church’s view seems unreasonable and peculiar.

It comes back to the fact that people must use their reason as well as their faith.  No faith is useful or lasting unless it is based upon the most mature thought of which an individual is capable.  Our reasonings would not lead us to believe in a Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit.  Personally I don’t believe in it, nor the Holy Trinity.  I believe in God, the Father and His Son, Jesus, and I believe they have a Spirit which works good among people, but that Spirit is not a separate being apart from the Father & Son.  

Did I help you or only confuse you more?

[LJAD, letter to Grace, Thursday, March 16, 1944]

March 21, 1944—Monday

My Darling Wife:

It is ten o’clock.  Sgt. Williams and I have just come from the movie, “Song of Bernadette.”  If you have seen it, you know how deeply it must have affected us.  If you have read the Omnibook condensation, which I sent to you, you can still sense some of the feeling that enters one’s heart.  The story of Bernadette is enough to bring unbelievers to doubt, and doubters to belief.  Just what the meaning of her life is, I don’t know.  It is the same with the life of many other men and women who have claimed having seen and received messages from Divine Personages.  Most of them turn out to be insane fanatics or deceivers.  Now and then, however a case appears in which the person is perfectly normal and intelligent, and yet the sincerity and honesty of the person and the effect on his or her life lead those around him or her to believe also.

There is first of all the case of Jesus, Himself.  Was He Divine, as He claimed to be?  Admitting that much of the New Testament was invented during and after his life, is there still not enough of the Divine, miraculous and wonderful about Him to believe He was truly the Son of God?  

There is the story of Paul and his conversion; of St. Francis; Joan of Arc; Abraham Lincoln; Joseph Smith—and many, many others.  I should think you would enjoy reading a novel of the life of Joan of Arc.  Perhaps you can find one.  She was a most heroic woman, and yet simple, sincere and unaffected.  

The problem arises from the necessity of deciding which are genuine and which are illusions and frauds.  This is not only a problem for a psychiatrist, but for a philosophic and understanding mind.  There are so many questions that can be answered only by the use of Reason.  Even faith contains a large element of Reason.  Our faith must not be blind; it must be guided by Reason.  That is why God endowed us with a mind as well as a will and a conscience.  So that the faith of a people will not become intolerant, bigoted and superstitious, it is necessary to develop and encourage reason, thought, and understanding.

Religion is a matter of sentiment and feeling.  But it is also a matter of thought and contemplation.  Finally it is a matter of activity—daily tasks, work, effort, and action.  For these three purposes God has given us a Heart, mind and body.

As I mentioned to you in a letter a few days ago, the problem of religion in the Army has disturbed and perplexed me.  I wish I could have been assigned as a Chaplain’s assistant for my heart would be in the work, and I might be able to contribute something.  Since it appears that economists are useless, perhaps my training fits me for some such capacity as a Chaplain’s Assistant.  Signs and posters all over America show Uncle Sam pointing his finger saying, “I need you,” and yet it appears he doesn’t.  Don’t think I’m cynical, darling, for I am not.  I know Uncle Sam will need both of us in the Post-war world, and it is to that I’m looking forward.  Whenever I feel impatient, I remember that we have so much to which to look forward.  I have so much to write and say in the next 30 years of my life—and so much love to give to you.  Our future means everything to me, as I know it does to you, and I want you to know and believe that I shall never knowingly do anything to jeopardize our future together.

[LJAD, letter to Grace, Monday, March 21, 1944]

One of the reasons I want us to settle down in Boise is that I feel we will be so much freer to do & say as we wish, with no external compulsion.  The atmosphere, weather & all would be better in Provo but I’m afraid the intellectual atmosphere there would be stifled by the dogmatists of the Church.  If the Church disapproves of certain portions of a book, we wouldn’t use to for a textbook, etc.  We would be criticized for not being true LDS, not having faith, etc.  In Boise, on the other hand, we are far enough removed from Salt Lake to be able to do and say as we please.  Our living will not be controlled by the Church.  The school will be small & eventually, perhaps, we shall be able to dictate the policies of the school.  Thus we shall be perfectly free.

There is one drawback that the students there are few, money for research is scarce, & the students aren’t of a high caliber.  If we find this to be true & feel our opportunities there aren’t great, we can leave after a year for Pocatello, Logan, or some other place.  However, I believe we can make the Boise school a good one, a larger one, & one suitable for furthering our aims.

I wish I could tell you in person about some of these aims, but maybe you can get an idea from what I write.  Here are some of the things I think the school at Boise could be built to do.  (The Boise College is a Junior College & in the past hasn’t done much but teach bookkeeping & typing).  Here is what I have in mind for it:

1.  Develop & maintain one of the best debating teams in the Northwest. 

2.  Develop & maintain a political group like the CPU at Chapel Hill to bring political speakers, sponsor an interest in political issues, & encourage correct thinking in political issues.

3.  Develop a Pan-Idaho or Pan Mountain movement to make citizens conscious of the resources, beauties, & history of the State in particular & the Northwest & Mountain Region in general.  Sort of an idea of Dr. Odum’s Southern Regional movement at Chapel Hill.  The idea here is to stimulate

a.  Writing of books by Idahoans about Idaho & the nearby States.

b.  Writing & production of plays by these people about their own life & surroundings.

c.  Interest in good music and art, especially that which will lead to creative work.

4.  In this same line, to further the above purposes, an Idaho State Magazine should be published, similar to The State in Carolina.  Maybe this has already been done.

5.  Ways will have to be found to make the college serve business men, farmers, housewives, high schools & other economic groups so as to build up a student body & get their financial support.  My own part would probably be to encourage LDS to go there instead of to Utah schools & to do something for the potato farmers in the Upper Snake River Valley.  Above all, I shall have to learn to give speeches and there is one of the ways you will help me.

[LJAD, letter to Grace, Saturday, 1 April 1944]

Well, since my mind seek primarily to bring order out of chaos, I had to try to harmonize all of the conflicting systems of thought, which presented themselves before me, into some kind of consistency.  Truth is measured (1) by inner logical consistency (2) by its consequences.  I had to get a philosophy of life, which could harmonize (1) my background, which was in a more or less primitive agricultural background where the prime virtues were industry, honesty, humility, sincerity.  You couldn’t say or do or think anything high-falutin!  Farming was a religion, for anyone who left the farm to go to a city was irreligious.  The city was a wicked place.  The farm was where God wanted us to stay.  The ideas and early impressions I got on the farm, no matter how far I might get from them, would always remain indelibly impressed upon my character and personality.  So if I was to formulate a philosophy of life which harmonized with my character and personality (and that would inevitably be necessary, else a disintegration would take place) then I would have to integrate it with my background.  And that is where pragmatism came in.  On a farm, a farmer has so many variables to work with that he always hunts for an absolute.  Invariably he will find that absolute—not about him (like the city atheist who looks to nature as his God—to the farmer, nature grows his crops but she is capricious—not benevolent, so she is not the absolute he is looking for), but in the heavens.  Joseph Smith’s religion was developed in a pioneering, rural area:  rural people were attracted to it; today the most successful missions are in rural areas and in agricultural countries and peoples—Hawaii, etc.  So the God was of that type.  But although his occupation causes him to seek for an absolute in the heavens, the variability of ways he can do things causes him to have—as far as secular matters go—a very pragmatic philosophy—a relative, earnest, truth-seeking attitude, but which is skeptical of any thing that is supposed to work all the time, or always be true.  So he is a pragmatist—not looking for an end, which is teleological, but for one which is just ahead.  Nor does he rely too much on authoritarianism, although he is skeptical of anything new.  Hr wants to be pretty certain before he abandons his trusted past methods.  Like the measuring worm, which didn’t let go of the rock till it, could get definitely established on the sapling.

Yes, my philosophy, had to be a Pragmatic one—one similar to William James.  I could not accept solipsism because (The Summing Up).  Nor could I accept Materialism—nor could I not work out any philosophy at all and just drift because my mind seeks order.  Nor Spinoza’s.  And so Pragmatism was the philosophy.  Now, what is to be, in accord with that, my religious philosophy? my political philosophy? my economic philosophy? my moral philosophy—conduct?  And how do these harmonize and how do they tie up with my past and my future?

It has seemed to me that religion should be primarily connected with conduct.  The highest religion should consist of living “The Good Life.”  The most religious person is he who seeks after truth and beauty and goodness.  Religious persons are not those who belong to this Church or that Church.  Nor should it be associated with professed beliefs—such as the five elements of Fundamentalism.  And yet simply to live a good life would not insure a truly religious person.  There is something more to religion than merely good conduct (whatever that is), one must admit it is a relative matter.  Religion means the addition of love of God to one’s experience.  That is, before one can be truly religious, he must have had one or a series of religious experiences.  The truly religious person does more than look at things.  He sees! —Jesus, Buddha, Joseph Smith etc.  Something great and good and fine comes into his life, which quiets his soul and gives him his life’s destiny or work.  Once this experience comes into a man’s life he never forgets it; it always stays with him.  Though he may act just as any other person—outwardly, yet when one begins to know his inner soul, there is something ennobling about it.  Something contenting.  Now this religious person may never go into a church.  But his conduct is that of a noble—an aristocrat of blood, not money.  But churches are a justifiable institution largely because they are made up for the most part of people who have had this experience and who desire to associate together.  Only those churches decay when it becomes an institutionalized and not a living organism:  where the minister preaches because that is an easy way of making a living; when the people attend to be seen—to show off their new clothes, to find a husband.  Those churches thrive best who attempt to duplicate each Sunday in each person, his religious experience:  to renew it and make it stronger.  They may do this on a purely esthetic level—Catholic—on a purely scientific way—humanists—or in a more primitive emotional manner such as Billy Sunday and the old missionary preachers.  A person should get his soul, his covenant renewed, and strengthened on Sunday so that he can project this religious self all week and not allow it to disintegrate or degenerate.  That is why all churches are right—whatever the creed.  And that is why some groups in every creed are wrong—because they are not legitimate.  They falsify hypocritically the true experience.  And that is why prayer is a necessary part of any religious creed, for it does every day what the Church tries to do each Sunday—it enables communion or contact with one’s God or idea at all times.  And since one has been in contact with that ideal before (the great religious experience) then there is no reason to suppose that that contact cannot be effected any more, though one recognizes that its importance is not nearly so great at this one big experience (because the effect on the person himself is not so startling—he is getting used to it, calloused to it, he tries to ritualize it, he does not come so naively and innocently as before—he comes knowingly—like a Xmas experience to one who knows there is not a Santa Claus and yet Xmas is an experience wherein  he tries to duplicate the tremendous joy he once got out of it.  He does so partly through his children; just as those who’ve had legitimate religious experiences early in their lives live largely to see their children receive the same happiness as they.  And if the child, thru willfulness or too much love by the parent, does not receive this experience, to the parent they might as well be in hell.  In fact they are in hell, for one who does not see the “light” the parent sees is in hell necessarily.

Now good conduct is an accompaniment of this true religion, but it is an incidental thing.  Rather, one should say, to the person, it is an automatic thing, for one does not have to deliberate what one should do in this case or the other.  That is a matter of principle which as necessarily been given at the time of the first legitimate religious experience.  One may have temporary doubts later (Lois in LA) but they do not affect one, and they are rationalized away in some way.  The conduct of truly religious persons may thus be very different.  Some, for instance, may have their conduct crystallized for them in a primitive rural area, (Mr. Annis), and others in city areas (Communists); others in intellectual life, etc.  So that conduct becomes a relative matter and each conduct is good in so far as the highest ideal or God of each truly religious person is different—some having a higher ideal than others.  Now it is indeed possible, I suppose, to step up the conduct of persons, but only unconsciously.  Actually I doubt if it is possible to change this fundamental religious philosophy (which necessarily underlies all conduct and action).  When people say, “he doesn’t have the right spirit,” “he isn’t a ‘good man’,” etc., they are thinking unconsciously of the fact that they recognize that he has not had a true religious experience.  But if an intellectual has had a religious experience—let us say thru art or music, then he will be respected and recognized by a very primitive fellow who also has “seen the light.”  Look about you among your friends.  You can detect quite easily the fakes and the real, true honest souls.

The only true atheist is he who hasn’t had this experience.  Now here are, it is true, conflicts—violent conflicts—between different groups of persons, both of whose constituents have true religion—mind you, not conflicts between individuals but between groups—like the crusades—like the Mormons.  The difficulty comes when one group feels that the other is treading upon sacred ground, is desolating sacred ground—is destroying that sacred inner strength which they hope for their children; it is a conflict of the different stages each has conceived his true religion—maturity, etc.  But the conflict will continue—the Mohamedan or Mormon will fight to the death rather than compromise, for one cannot compromise his inner vision—Christ had to be crucified because he dare not betray his soul, for Him it was as real as anything and the same with many whom we call religious fanatics.

Now it is primarily this explanation of my view of religion, which betrays that my philosophy of life cannot be a rationalistic one.  I do not believe that everything can be solved by thought, by reason.  There is a legitimate and necessary experience called feeling.  There are psychologists (Mechanists) who would maintain that one who is subjected to violent outbursts of feeling:  Wagner, Shelley, Byron, Beethoven etc., was a case for psychoanalysis.  That they are immature and the process of acquiring maturity is one of gradually putting reason over feeling or emotionalism.  But this to me does not seem to be quite true.  There is as much reason physiologically and logically and empirically, for one type of experience as the other.  One can get as good an understanding of Finland from listening to Finlandia as one can get from scores of dry technical treatises.  Similarly, one can learn as much about the sea from Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner” as technical treatises or actual experience.  A mountain is not just so many rocks and a certain weight, height, etc.  It is something more which one can feel and admire.  I have always loved music because it seemed to teach me so much about life.  I can learn as much about truth and beauty and goodness from poetry or music or painting or sculpture as I can from thinking, reading, or reasoning.  

This all ties in with my idea of religion as a experience, not rationally explainable or defensible but legitimate nevertheless, and certainly if one is to judge by and large the results it produces, it is certainly not a bad thing.  Religion is not a rational experience.  Scientists are correct.  If one takes reason as the final good, the goddess, the religion is unnecessary and a lot of “bosh.”  But I submit that reason cannot explain all experience.  Feeling does have a place, and a religious experience comes when for the first time one feels himself in contact with eternity, with eternal values, with the high values which are not within the realm of his every day experience by are only within the realization of his feeling or spirit or soul or conscience.  One illustration of how the Christian experience is had is from my letter from Nicodemus to Johannah.

[LJAD, Written by LJA, circa July 1944]

All of this fits in with a feeling I have had in recent years that the Church does not give adequate attention to the problems of the so-called intellectual.  We believe in education and some of our people become intellectuals in the best sense of the word.  The process sometimes involves lots of religious values, particularly when religious values are not presented and discussed on the same intellectual level as secular values.  Religion, our religion, theology, our theology, church history our church history—all of these can be given the highest possible intellectual status.  Of that I am convinced.  Our three faithful Institute staff members, together with the college faculty as a whole, have done an excellent job of giving intellectual stature to our religious traditions.  Lectures, book reviews, symposia, the presentation of research papers—all of these in a succession of Sunday afternoons, as I suggested, could help us to keep our brightest young men and women loyal to the Church and its best traditions.  In fact, I think, that our Logan Institute, as understaffed as it is, has done a better job than that which has been done at B.Y.U.

[LJAD, letter to Dr. Franklin L. West, Commissioner of Education, 26 February 1953]

6 March 1967

Dr. M. R. Merrill

Utah State University

Dear Milt,

Thank you very much for your friendly and informative letter.  We trust that everything turns out well so far as the budget and the legislature is concerned.

Our leave thus far has been a very pleasant one.  Our own knowledge of the West and its people have been broadened, and professionally it has been profitable for me to become acquainted with many other persons with similar interests.  The family has enjoyed many new places, new faces, and new experiences.  Grace, who loves the beach, expects to spend much time there during late spring and the summer.  The schools in Pacific Palisades are considered superior to Logan schools—excellent teachers and an excellent program—and this has been good for the children.  None of the three is a scholar; they’re essentially “B” and “C” grade students.  But they are learning a great deal that will be useful.  One advantage is that we live in a predominantly Jewish area of Los Angeles; and they insist upon good, thorough education, with bright teachers.  Even in the case of seminary, the teacher is a downtown lawyer (Stanford grad) who hasn’t been brought up in the church school system and therefore has a fresh and intellectual approach, with lots of lively discussion. I don’t know whether our kids will be able to stand the Logan seminary bunch next year!

[LJAD, letter written Milton R. Merrill, Utah State University, 6 March 1967]


12 November 1967

Experience in California confirmed that the creation of the University wards has contributed immensely to the happiness and spirituality of the University students.  L.D.S. Student Associations, being formed, seemed to be improving the relationships between the various LDS organizations involved in campus activities.  We had the opportunity of meeting often with both the UCLA and SC groups, but there are something like 100 other small units at various city and state colleges in southern California.

Would also like to testify to the importance and effectiveness of the L.D.S. Institutes in Southern California.  They are doing a fine job in helping the LDS and other students to relate religion to their studies and the campus life around them.

One interesting phenomenon was the rather considerable number of study groups, or discussion groups.  We had the opportunity to meet with perhaps 15 or twenty of these groups in the Los Angeles area.  They meet, usually once a month at somebody’s home, usually Sunday evening after Church, to discuss aspects of the Gospel in an informal way; in particular to discuss so-called controversial topics that are not covered in Sunday School or Priesthood and Relief Society lessons.  As far as I could ascertain they are not divisive; they help build faith and increase knowledge.  The new magazine Dialogue is very useful to some of these groups in relating their faith to the current problem of society.

[LJAD, talk given in Stake Conference, 25 September 1967]

Discussion, Robert Flanders, George Ellsworth, LJA Philadelphia, April 12, 1969

There are two churches—the formed church of Sacrament meeting, Sunday School, MIA, etc., and the Underground church.  The latter is the church of study groups, circles, discussion groups, family get-togethers, etc. where there is Christian fellowship with ideological similars, both within and without the Church.  Thru the mechanism of such underground fellowships, the fellowship may be closer with RLDS, other Protestants, other Catholics, Apostate LDS, than with those of a different persuasion within the Church.  That is, our fellowship with Bob Flanders, Mark McKiernan, some liberal Protestants, some liberal Catholics, may be more genuine and more satisfactory than with the iron rodders within our own faith.

Bob Flanders wondered if it is not true that faithful LDS have broken out of the strictly and exclusively Mormon circle of fellowship only within the past 20 years.  Governor Romney as an example, Stewart Udall, people in business, people in politics, people in the scientific and scholarly professions, etc. have bridged the gap between the Mormon community and the non-Mormon community only within the past generation.  Was this true?  Were there LDS who circulated among non-Mormons before?

Much had been made of the various ethnic groups in America.  The Mormons a sub-culture with many resemblances to an ethnic group.  The Mormons also were driven out by the WASPS.  They gathered, they developed their own culture.  The RLDS on the other hand, were an ungathered group, and did not develop a different cultural pattern.  Scattered, and still scattered.  More a Church in the sense of the Baptists, Methodists, etc.  Joseph Smith II never gathered them, so they were protestantized.  They had no group experience, except what they may have had before, when young, in Kirtland, Mo., and Ill.  Made a few attempts, but not much.  There was an RLDS rebellion against the Kingdom, which was carried to Utah and established there.  The RLDS kingdom is spiritual, not physical.  The Utah LDS always had an epicenter, a Zion, back in SLC.

The Church has survived despite its formal church life.  There has always been an underground.  The church could eliminate much of the organized life—SS, MIA, Priesthood groups, etc., and there would still be a church because the essence of the church is in the underground group life.  The typical life of the church is in the small branch, where everybody is active—there is a powerful spirit.  Their whole life is bound up in the Church.

Ethnocentrism among the LDS.  Develops in competition with another culture—a defense against a different way of life.  Ingroupness is consciousness of group life, implies the presence of another group.

Steven Crane on eating one’s heart.  Sidney Mead said the great difficulty in maintaining the future of the Church is within the church, not with other churches.  Not between the liberals of different churches, but between liberals and iron rodders within the faith.  The underground church a surrogate church.  Some have left the highly structured, organized church, but have not left the faith and are devoted to it in a spiritual sense.  As a matter of fact, can you really leave the church?  Is the church really essential?  The church may find its life by being in danger of losing it.  Like the Catholic Church today.  A person, as Jesus said, find his life by losing it in His cause.  Church the same.

Joseph Smith had elements of his Nauvoo character as described by Brodie, etc. early in his life as well.  He fluctuated throughout his life, perhaps, between the braggadocio, flare for language, big-time operator type, and the Puritan introspection of his 1st vision, Liberty Jail letters, etc.

B. H. Roberts has extracts from the Joseph Smith diary in Toronto—the mystic, spiritual union, ascetic absorption type.  We have never given attention to this side of his personality and character.  People wanted him to be a prophet, but not an ascetic or mystic.  To speak for God, but not speak to Him.  There was the Joseph of the peepstones, the early visions, the dictation of the Book of Mormon; there was the Joseph who was the later aggressive, cocksure leader of men.  Joseph Smith had prescience, had ESP.  But the two Josephs—the early and later Joseph—were one person.  The Joseph before the 1st Vision and after were one man.  Not one person before the vision and one after, but one.  Sure, there may have been changes in direction, but still retain many of the same characteristics and personality.  A continuity.

Richard Howard has a written analysis of the original manuscripts of the Book of Mormon used in the first and second editions.  To be published.  Very interesting.  Also the same for some of the commandments.  We need textual analyses of Joseph Smith’s writings—also analyses of the inspired version.  These will help to give insight into his theological perambulations.  Underground:  may sit in Sacrament meeting and read a book while the High Councilor speaks.  May get religious communication with a more stimulating religionist.

The underground church exists because one can’t raise meaningful questions or discuss them honestly and fully in SS, seminary, institute, MIA, Sacrament meeting, etc.  So congenial and kindred souls meet in dinner parties at homes, fireside groups, study groups, vacation groups, and at professional and trade conventions.  I have met with such groups in Utah, California, the Midwest, the Upper South, and the Northeast.  Such groups today discuss attitudes toward “the Negro problem,” toward economic policies, the John Birch society, intellectual freedom, conformity, the adjustment of the practices and theology of the Church to the changing world, family problems, political problems, etc.  It consists of right-wingers quite as much as left-wingers.  Indeed, in some areas, the number of such groups of right-wingers is greater than of the “liberals” or left-wingers.  In both cases, the group exists because of inability to express feelings candidly in the normal functioning of the organizations of the church.

The underground church has existed from the beginning of the Church.  Existed in Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, pioneer Utah, early 20th century, etc.  There were other preoccupations in earlier periods—the dictatorship of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, polygamy, materialistic conceptions, church politics, evolution and science, etc.  When it becomes too flagrant, and is introduced into church organizations, then they are cautioned, warned, and eventually may be disfellowshipped.  Results in such things as expelling professors from BYU, etc.

The underground church is healthy—a manner of dissipating dissent, letting off steam without explosions, prevents the concentration of dissent.  Underground circulation of letters and documents, like the Negro problem.  Today, of course, Dialogue.  In earlier times, the Woman’s Exponent, Contributor, Utah Magazine, etc.  Perform useful service, church usually does not attack them; then in a subsequent generation, embraces them.  All the members of the underground church feel deeply about the Gospel, but some don’t go to church—their only connection with the church is with the home teachers and with these underground study groups.  Gives them a chance to discuss the Gospel in meaningful way instead of serotypes and clichés.  One asks:  Why don’t we discuss these in SS?  Answer:  It might offend someone and they wouldn’t come back.  It might discourage an investigator.  The truth is, it offends more the people who are discouraged from raising these questions.  It offends the investigator to see no questions discussed that are meaningful.  Not interested.  Not live group.  Underground groups include bishops, member of stake presidencies, high councilors, as well as “lay” members. Some are mystic groups.

Very doubtful of the authorities of the church are aware of the generality and widespread nature of these groups, and probably a good thing that they don’t.  Should not alarm them, since a long-time thing, and a healthy thing, and probably wise that the church does not notice them officially.  Does not diminish the loyalty of the members.  Keeps them in communion.  A genuine communion, not the artificial one of the formal organization.  

Reminds one of Catholic groups and some protestant groups.  Also Jewish.  Different communions.  Some are people of money and some would give more to church if thought it would be used for causes they believe in.  The LDS underground is particularly important among young professional people, just out of college, who are starting out their professional life in small outlying branches where there are mostly new converts of different economic social and economic status and different intellectual interests, so not a satisfactory communion.  The rightist underground prevalent in So Calif, Boise Idaho and other places where LDS from the small Utah communities of a generation ago migrated to the big cities to make a living—during depression of 1930s.  And want a simplistic solution to the complex problems of life.  Blame them on the devil, on the Negro, on the wicked big city of sin, on politicians in Washington, on Communism, etc.

Joseph Smith developed ideas during his period of incubation between first vision of Moroni and writing of Book of Mormon.  These found in B of M—conceptual interpretation of B of M.  Followed a period of introspection, a revelatory experience, following the 4 years of preparation.

Many of those who later apostatized from the Church were people who were turned on by the mystical inner spiritual reality of the Church.  The founding experience oc of the church of this type.  Whitmer, Corrill, Stenhouse.  They didn’t like the physical kingdom.  Once a gathering took place, it required land and involved the prophet in political and economic policies and practices.  Even at an early date.  So the very early church was mystical primarily.  But then Joseph did something with it.  He attempted to transform it into reality from the visions.

Reasons for the New Orthodoxy in Mormonism:  Joseph Fielding Smith and McConkie influence; influence of the renewed study of the Book of Mormon; the retirement of Franklin L. West; the revival of fundamentalism in the churches generally as a result of disillusionment with the enlightened religion as the result of Hitler, Mussolini, World War II, etc.  A pretty general thing in Christendom.

An article on Joseph the introvert.  The introspective prophet.  The mystic.  Then he becomes a man of the world.  He buys and sells land, sets up banks, manages printing establishments.  But the mystic, the introspective prophet is still there, though suppressed or sublimated.  We get glimpses of that underneath prophet every so often.  Joseph the writer—the oral, articulation of the spiritual feeling, the sermonizing, the speculating.

It may be significant that we never read any bawdy or obscene stories written about the prophet by those who associated with him, no anecdotes that use obscene words or images—nothing like Luther’s anal preoccupations.  Joseph was an emancipated Puritan, but still a Puritan.

[LJAD, Discussion, Robert Flanders, George Ellsworth, LJA, Philadelphia, 18 April 1969]

Letter of Richards Durham, Institute teacher at Ogden, from Ogden, May 28, 1969 to William E. Berrett.

Speaks unfavorable of Sterling McMurrin, and then:

In case you haven’t heard (which is funny indeed), Sterling’s claque—including many of the old-timers—have joined together—that old campaigner Leonard Arrington being “voice” this time—and in the last issue of their journal DIALOGUE have invested him with the title of “greatest living Mormon intellectual” all of which is just about the most screamingly funny thing since Caligula had himself proclaimed “God”!  And if possible and even funnier—in about two days this same Leonard Arrington is going to be given the David O. McKay “Humanities Award”—by the Brigham Young University!


In this sense you can’t help but admire a few of your crowd who are beginning to come more and more explicitly into the open, for example, Leonard Arrington and Lowell Bennion who are not only willing but anxious to be listed as “Advisory Editors” of DIALOGUE magazine, and again, for example, Richard Poll (the pride and joy of the History department at the Brigham Young University), who after destroying—substantially as a “hider”—the faith of hundreds of youngsters who have come under his tutelage—courageously comes out into the open and establishes his own negative faith in a DIALOGUE piece dealing with the difference between “Liahonas” and “Iron Rods.”


At the moment, for example, good old Sterling (McMurrin) is being wheeled out (again) by this same group and is being identified as the “greatest living intellect in Mormonism”!  (See the Leonard Arrington comedy bit in the last issue of “DIALOGUE.”)

[LJAD, diary entry, 28 May 1969]


Tuesday, January 11, 1972

Sunday evening, January 9, at a social gathering, Ken Hill, Twain Tippetts, and Wade Andrews were telling me about occasions when three persons were fired or allowed to resign from the faculty of Brigham Young University.  They were:  Harvey Fletcher, H. Grant Ivins, and Harold Christensen.

Apparently, sometime in the 1920’s—perhaps even before—Harvey Fletcher was teaching physics at BYU.  He had apparently just come back from graduate school, and taught physics in a thoroughly professional manner.  Some students, apparently, saw heretical-doctrinal implications in his teaching of physics.  They complained; the matter was taken up with authorities in Salt Lake City.  The latter investigated, talked with Dr. Fletcher, and apparently found that the new concepts and theories of physics, which he was teaching, were, in some respects, opposed to received doctrines of the Mormon Church.  Whether Dr. Fletcher was fired, or allowed to resign, is not clear in the mind of Ken Hill, who heard this story many years ago from Dr. Fletcher himself.

In leaving BYU, Dr. Fletcher is reported to have told the administration of BYU that he was willing to let the future decide whether or not he was indeed heretical.  “Over the years,” he said, “we will know whether what I have taught is truth or not.”  He then went east to teach in eastern universities and to do research for the Bell Telephone System.  In the East he and his family remained active Mormons, and Dr. Fletcher became a bishop, and still later a member of the high council.  He was also during most of his years of “exile” in the east a Sunday School teacher.

In more recent times the recognition accorded to Dr. Fletcher has been perhaps greater than that accorded to any other Mormon educator except Henry Eyring, chemist, formerly at Princeton and now at the University of Utah.  Particularly because of that recognition, in recent years Dr. Fletcher was brought back to BYU as Dean of Sciences and Engineering, a lecture hall at BYU was named in his honor, and he received a distinguished service award from BYU.  Clearly, his insistence upon teaching the truth, as he understood it, and his insistence upon remaining active in the Church despite disapproval of some of his theories, has been vindicated by history and scholarship.

About 1940 H. Grant Ivins was teaching sociology at BYU.  In addition, as with most professors at BYU, he also taught a class in religious education.  Dr. Ivins was an intellectual and a liberal-thinking kind of person.  He was liberal not only on matters of theology and matters of Church practices; he was also a social, political, and economic liberal.  At a time when Church thought tended to be dominated by Elder J. Reuben Clark, Jr., a social and political conservative, H. Grant Ivins accepted the programs of the New Deal, the increased assumption of responsibility for social welfare on the part of the federal government, and greater concern for improving the welfare for minorities and the poor.  Those who disapproved of his liberal social leanings tended to discredit his liberal theology as well.  He was a marked man and conservatives were out to discredit him.

In a class in religious education two returned missionaries out to bait him, asked him this question:  “Brother Ivins, do you believe in a personal devil?”  Mr. Ivins paused, continued to pause.  The class was quiet, the spirit a little tense.  Finally, he replied:  “Whether or not I believe in a personal devil is not important; but I am certain that not all of the evils of society are attributable to the devil.”  This answer was apparently unsatisfactory to the two missionaries, who continued to attempt to pin him down.  The two, still unsatisfied, obtained an interview with President Heber J. Grant, who then called in Brother Ivins for a chat.  He also was dissatisfied with Professor Ivin’s theology and directed BYU to discontinue him as a teacher of religious education.  Twain Tippetts, who told most of this story, said that he was in the class in which the question about the personal devil was asked.

Another bright young sociologist teaching at BYU in the late 30’s or early 40’s was Harold Christensen.  A fine teacher and popular with his students, Harold Christensen was completing his Ph.D., perhaps at Minnesota.  As a part of his dissertation, he had done a study of Mormon marriages.  His study, the results of which he reported to his students and in some public lectures and in some publications, demonstrated that Mormon marriages were not all perfect.  For example, he made elaborate comparisons between marriages in the Temple and civil marriages.  He apparently found that while fewer marriages sealed in the Temple failed, there was a significant number which ended in civil divorce.  This statistic was not welcome or popular in official circles.  The Church naturally wished to encourage Temple marriages, and wished not to recognize the blemishes from these sealings.  Apparently some people began to confuse the controversial statistics with the controversial young professor.  Whether he was fired or allowed to resign was not clear to Wade Andrews, our principal informant and one of his students.  But at any rate Dr. Christensen went to Purdue where he has been most of these years.  He has since been invited back to BYU many times to lecture, to present public addresses, and to teach summer school and other classes.

Corrected 1/11/72 by L.J.A.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 11 January 1972]

Dick Bushman says there is no intellectual ferment in the Boston-Cambridge wards; that is, no students that seem to be perplexed with intellectual problems.  Reasons for this, he speculated at my queries:  (1) The counterculture has popularized spiritual experiences, so there is no conflict between religion and a rationalistic culture, as was true in the 1920s and 1930s.  (2) For some reason Dick can’t explain, the worry over intellectual conflicts declined when Boyd Packer came into the region about 1963.  After his coming, students were almost universally loyal and active, but without intellectual hang-ups.  Dick reports that there is still some division between “liberals” and “conservatives” at Madison and Princeton, and probably also at Stanford.  But none at Cambridge-Boston as used to be the case.  Bishop Bushman reports that he has almost no counseling requests on intellectual hang-ups.  His counseling is pretty well taken up with moral problems, courtships, academic, financial, marriage problems, etc.  I plan to ask Elder Packer if he was aware of what he had accomplished, and how he did it.  Previous to his New England appointment there was a division between so-called liberals and so-called conservatives.  But perhaps the disappearance of that division is due to national changes rather than local ones.  It is true that we are preparing our kids better for their sojourns in non-LDS universities.  It is also true that there is some such division at some other campuses.  Perhaps some of it has to do with the personnel of the local wards.  At any rate, all groups of persons in the Boston-Cambridge area, of whatever theological complexion, seemed to get along fine and didn’t seem to be fighting each other as in some university settings.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 21 May 1972]

Diary – LJA – May 30, 1972 – Tuesday

Today Bill Hartley went over to the Lion House Pantry to eat lunch and directly behind us in line was Boyd Packer.  We asked him if he could join us for lunch and he obliged.  He took us up to the patio to eat—a place we hadn’t been aware of.

I began by asking Elder Packer to explain how he had dealt with the intellectual divisions and hang-ups of the students attending Harvard, MIT, etc. during the period he was mission president of New England.  He said that when Truman Madsen was mission president he had taught a class at the Institute of Religion there, and that he (Elder Packer) was told by President McKay to continue the class.  The class met once a week, and there were about 70 or 80 students, nearly all of them graduate students from BYU and other western universities.

Elder Packer said that the main emphasis of the class was not on answers to questions, or the stand the Church takes on particular issues, but on the approach to the questions—the approach to a solution to the problems.  Not what is the Church’s stand of the Negro question, but how does one answer someone’s question about the Church’s stand.  Not the search for quotations to support this or that point of view but a reasonable and pleasant and inoffensive way of answering someone’s question about the Church’s point of view.  The Negro question was in the limelight at the time because Romney was running for President and there was a lot in the newspapers about it.  He did not say what his own view was, but merely that he spent a lot of time with the students talking about suitable responses to the constant queries about it.  You never persuade anyone, but you can inform them of the Church’s attitudes and the reason for the attitudes.  And you can be pleasant about it and confident and non-argumentative.  Try not to persuade; assume you will persuade no one; but that you have a duty to inform intelligently and pleasantly and not expect them to agree.

Another question at the time was the Church’s stand on the war and conscientious objection.  He said Church doctrine would not support conscientious objection, but that a person was free to opt for that and use whatever statements and doctrines he could to support his own action in doing so.  But that he should not expect official support of the church, because this was not the Church’s doctrine.  He was asked in a public meeting, by another minister, “Would Your Church Actually Counsel Young Men to Fight?”  His reply was “We think it would be wrong to expect all the rest of the people to do the fighting for us.”  In other words, when fighting has to be done, we want to do our part.

I also asked Elder Packer about his nephew, Lynn Packer—how he was getting along in the Church, etc.  Elder Packer said, “Curious you should ask that now, because something important has happened to Lynn just within the past two or three weeks.  He then told me the story of Lynn’s life.  He was a twin—had a twin sister.  And perhaps a little overly anxious to establish his own identity.  In his family, the father and mother haven’t corrected the children, so they have sort of drifted along without a standard against which they could establish their identities.  At any rate, he grew up as a person who always wanted to reform everything.  A born reformer, they might say.  Elder Packer was disappointed that Lynn should have published in his book about his mission experience the private letters, which he and President Valdo Benson and others had written to Lynn, without securing their prior approval.  He should have had the courtesy to ask them, or tell them he was going to do this.  But, as he reread the letters Elder Packer did not see any reason why he would have written anything different.  And it was not an important matter.

Anyway, recently Boyd’s wife had a baby, which became ill.  Developed pneumonia and other things.  Went into a coma over the weekend—a long weekend when people got off Monday as well.  Easter?  Mothers’ Day?  Anyway, the child went into a coma and was sinking rapidly and he couldn’t get his doctor, they wouldn’t give him his number, etc.  Spence Kinnard went to the Medical Assn and said they had to give him the Doc’s number, so he finally forced it out and got the Doc.  He was very angry, but he came anyway.  As soon as he saw the baby, he ordered a special children’s ambulance and they came and got the baby; it was about to die.  Anyway, Spence administered to the baby, and it recovered.  The doctors all thought it a miracle, and Lynn himself regarded it as such.  Elder Packer said when the child was given a name, he (Boyd) was there to participate and Lynn broke down and sobbed and sobbed.  It was the first time Boyd had seen Lynn so humble and grateful.  Anyway, his attitude is now softened and he is more responsive to the Church and less in the position of the Critic trying to reform the Church

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday 30 May 1972]


I want to say a few words about the “Holy Ghosters.”  A few people have mentioned to me this club of persons within the past week, and I am surprised that I had not heard it referred to until this week.

There is no formal organization called the Holy Ghosters or the Holy Ghost Club, but apparently there is a group of men of like minds who meet occasionally informally to discus the scriptures, experiences, and philosophies.  Perhaps analogous to what we used to refer to as the Swearing Elders group.

The Swearing Elders, of course, were persons of somewhat heretical philosophy and practice who enjoyed getting together to gossip, relate new stories, study aspects of Mormonism, and criticize church authorities.  When Sterling McMurrin and others organized the Mormon Seminar in the late 1940’s, members often referred to this group as the Swearing Elders.  I did not at the time think that an appropriate name since none of the smoked, or swore, or drank coffee.  But many of them were certainly unorthodox in their theology and very free in their criticisms of ecclesiastical authority.

I attended many meetings of this group, and I suppose would be regarded as a member of it.  Others who attended were:  Bill Mulder, Obert Tanner, Lowell Bennion, Heber Snell, T. Y. Booth, Golden Taylor, John Sorenson, Joseph Geddes, Waldemer Read, George Hansen, Hal Bentley, Charlie Dibble, and others that I do not now recall.

The leading feature of the Holy Ghosters is their emphasis upon obtaining the Holy Ghost as the most valuable, if not the exclusive source of truth.  They are anti-intellectual in the sense that they have no faith and confidence in the traditional ways of acquiring truth—reason, experimentation, etc.  Through prayer and meditation, collective and private, they achieve or seek to achieve a feeling of certitude about important matters.  Once they know a thing or idea to be true, by this means, they are firm in the face of logic, demonstration, and the more traditional sources of inquiry.

Persons mentioned to me as being Holy Ghosters include the following:  Hyrum Andrus, Chauncey Riddle, and perhaps others in the division of religion at BYU; Leland Gentry from the Institute of Religion in Logan, Max Parkin from the Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City (I personally doubt this), and perhaps others.  I have been told that some members of this group have gone so far as to rate persons according to their willingness to go by the influence of the Holy Ghost.  Chauncey Riddle is said to head the list.  This list has included a ranking of General Authorities.  I do not know who ranks highest or lowest among the General Authorities but have been told that some of the General Authorities rate high and others are way down the list.  President McKay, when alive, was said to occupy second place to Chauncey Riddle.  Joseph Fielding Smith, I think, ranked fifteenth and so on.  Hyrum Andrus fifth.

I do not know whether the name Holy Ghosters is something which they gave themselves or which someone else gave to them as a nickname—like the name Mormons or Mormonites in the early Church.  At any rate, I have been warned not to employ such persons in our department since they would not necessarily follow the canons of good historianship in the work we have to do.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday 15 June 1972]


Last night I was invited to attend a meeting of a Federal Heights study group at the home of Dr. and Sister Robert Vance. . . .

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

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday 10 July 1972]

Grace and I remarked on our way home how stimulating it was to be once again in an academic atmosphere.  It is the first academic study group that we have met with for several months.  There were none of the guarded remarks, carefully worded questions, tentative probing which one finds in the Salt Lake study groups consisting of professional and business people.  Everything is open.  Nobody is worrying about the effect of any question or response upon anybody’s testimony or feeling about the Church.  Openness, free wheeling criticism, playing with ideas, though obviously heretical, devastating commentary, and so on.  Deep analysis, deep concern, fundamental love of the gospel but courage in attacking the human problems met by the Church in seeking to extend and build the kingdom.

Grace and I were so stimulated by the evening that we asked the Campbells if we could have a standing invitation to attend and be informed of all of their meetings.  These are held the first and third Sundays of every month in the different homes.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 17 August 1972]

After the Institute session, Brother Howell and I walked back to the Park Plaza where the Mormon historians were having a talkfest.  Brother Howell explained some problems they were having among students at Princeton University.  Present also at the Institute gathering in Yale I learned was a Brother Hoffman who teaches Institute classes in New York and also at Princeton.  I had the opportunity later that evening to talk over the “Princeton situation” with Alfred Bush.  Alfred is not active in the branch but he is well aware of what is going on.  I feel sure that he is not an undesirable influence, and he responded readily when I told him of the concern of the Princeton students.  He said that they were not disloyal nor engaged in destructive criticism nor in danger of leaving the Church.  Essentially they simply wanted to work up their own class outlines and study material instead of doing what the Institute officials had proposed to them out of a standard program.  Most of them were graduate students and more advanced than those that the standard outline was intended for.

I talked with Brother Howell and Brother Hoffman to report this conversation, and Brother Howell seemed to be willing to allow the Princeton group to have more say in what they would study.  I suggested to him that he propose to the Princeton students that they work up a syllabus for a course in Mormon history and doctrine, which would be suitable for advanced students in Princeton and other universities, and he seemed to agree with this tactic.  I have the feeling that he is not very willing or very anxious to try a creative solution, but that he would be willing to do it upon my suggestion.  He is certainly anxious to keep the students active and in the Church.  He expressed a strong desire to me to meet with the Princeton students sometime.  I told him that we had no travel funds for this purpose, but if he could arrange for travel money or provide some other excuse for me to go there, I would be glad to do so.  It is true that I might be able to help these students, but I suspect they are more in need of someone like Brother Packer who can help them solve their doctrinal problems.  I suggested to Brother Howell the strong desirability to try and get Brother Packer there.

[LJAD, letter to Carl, Susan and James, 16 October 1972]

When I was in Richfield one of the persons at the reception, a local doctor I think, took the opportunity of telling about Sterling McMurrin’s experience teaching seminary in Richfield.  Sterling, as I recall his story, had received his masters, had gone into the seminary system, and had been assigned to teach in Richfield.  Precocious and just the least bit cynical, as usual, Sterling had advocated a very idealistic kind of Christianity—Mormonism and had not hesitated to shock some of the local brethren when he thought they needed it.  Having raised some eyebrows during the first year, a number of the more conservative and orthodox brethren were waiting for an opportunity to get rid of him.

He gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting on some aspect of LDS theology, I suppose, and then he gave the example of a young boy who had lost his pony, knelt down to pray, and when he finished his prayer there the pony was standing next to him.  He said he didn’t believe it—at least didn’t believe God had done it, because he thought God had more important things to do than look for ponies for little boys.  This outraged some of the local brethren and they saw to it that he was fired after his second year.

Sterling then was assigned to some town in Idaho or Wyoming perhaps, then went to work on his doctors, then back to Arizona Institute and ultimately went out of the system.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 28 March 1973]

This is a brief report of my trip to participate in the Education Week programs at Boise, Ontario, Oregon, Twin Falls, and Burley. Boise and Twin Falls have the atmosphere of boom-town communities. I have the impression that a considerable amount of California capital is being invested in land in these areas on a speculative basis for development projects. I also have the impression that some factories are coming into these communities and will provide the basis for future growth. I have the impression of prosperity and optimism.

This was my first participation in an Education Week and it gave me an opportunity to see how these programs are administered. At each place approximately 600 to 700 persons attended one or more of the classes. I have the impression that those who were asked to participate had established themselves as crowd pleasers in past performances in Education Week or “Know Your Religion” Series. Some of them had already established followings in some of the communities either through having delivered “Know Your Religion” lectures or through having participated in Education Weeks in prior years. I am placing in the diary a copy of the program for each of the communities. Essentially it is the same program at each. In each of the Boise Stake areas and in Ontario, each of us gave six lectures over a two-day period. In Burley and Twin Falls each of us gave nine lectures over a two-day period.

I think I was the only participant who gave straight lectures. Certainly my lectures were the only ones which were intended only to convey intellectual content. Each of the other lectures had handouts and posters and made use of films, slides, tapes, and so on. All of the lectures except mine were oriented toward personal problems–gaining a personal testimony, solving personal and family problems, and so on. All of my lectures were oriented towards subject matter rather than towards the listeners.

I have the feeling that my approach on this, based as it was on college classroom experience, is not what the people were expecting or desiring. The numbers attending my lectures were smaller and tended to diminish during the course of the education week at each location. I ended up at each place with a small and very loyal and enthusiastic following–but small. The most marked indication of this was at the last place–Burley, where one would have expected I would have given the most finished lectures since it was the last. I had perhaps a hundred attend my lectures on the prophets in the chapel. Perhaps not even a dozen attended the lectures on women and perhaps thirty or forty–mostly very young people attending the lectures on conflicts with the government. I had the strong impression that the young had come there just to get seats so they could be certain of attending the lecture which followed by Melinda Cameron–a very popular speaker and there was always a large crowd of people which couldn’t get in to hear her lecture, so I have the impression that nearly all of the crowd which attended my lectures were really there to hear her as soon as mine was finished. 

Stan Peterson and Bernie Jensen are very similar in many respects, even to the extent of looking quite a bit alike. Their talks are pretty much talks about the importance of getting the spirit–faith promoting stories about how the spirit affected their lives, the lives of people they knew, and the lives of other people that they had heard about. In essence their talks suggest that the proper approach to problems is not to investigate, study, think with your mind, but instead to be prayerful, to be in tune with the spirit and to get the response of the spirit. This is basically non-intellectual, if not anti-intellectual in approach to life’s problems. They told story after story in which difficult problems were solved–not by analysis, not be getting the experience of others, but by praying and getting the voice of the spirit. I suppose I react against this primarily because I feel much more confidence in the human mind and its analytical powers. To me the human mind is a gift of God that is in every respect equal to the gift of the spirit and should be used and developed and depended upon. When the resources of the mind are exhausted and one is still frustrated, he goes to the spirit but there is nothing unspiritual and unreligious about using the mind and depending upon it as far as its resources can go. I wonder, for example, whether these young men who give such strong emphasis to the spirit and depend so heavily upon it, will be depending upon it so heavily when they are in their 50s and 60s and have had more experience. My own experience is that one cannot completely trust ones dreams, hunches, and intuitions. They are not always promptings of the spirit. Some of one’s dreams are meaningless or coincidental and have no particular significance in one’s life and may be the result of one’s physical and mental condition rather that the result of promptings of a spiritual source. 

Joe Muren is a fine lecturer and thoughtful, but it seems to me not always wise in some of the matters he brings up. He is quite dogmatic and takes a very hard line on certain issues–tends to forget the human equation, birth control for example. He tends to take the view that there is never any justification for the practice of birth control. The same with abortion and other matters. He talks quite explicitly of masturbation and homosexuality as if they are unqualified sins and unforgivable. Aside from these occasional aberrations, he is an interesting and sound speaker. He is certain a friendly and personable brother. He is a convert from Catholicism and perhaps some of his dogmatic approach to these matters is the result of his Roman Catholic upbringing. 

My impression of Education Week is that the program seems more designed for “entertainment” and “inspiration” than for instruction. There seems to be no widespread interest in real history—just the use of history as a foundation for inspirational stories. I seem to have gotten a false impression from my experience in a university atmosphere where there is real interest in ideas.

[LJA Diary, 23 Jul., 1973]

In Saturday night’s newspaper, we saw the announcement of the death of Dr. Heber C. Snell. Since Dr. Snell has been a controversial figure, and since I was well aware of his problems at the time he was released from his Institute position, I should like to record my memories of this affair for those who may use this diary.

There is a common impression which has been supported by Sterling McMurrin and others that Dr. Snell was fired from the Institute system because of their unwillingness to allow dissent. This is to a certain extent true, but it would be more accurate to express my own feeling about the situation to say that the necessity to release him was primarily the result of his own lack of discretion and judgment.

Dr. Snell had taught in the Seminary System for several years and then had gone east to receive his Ph.D. He had excellent training in the Bible, and in fact, became an authority on the Bible. He was a great believer in the Judeo-Christian tradition–in the greatness of the Prophets and the scriptures. He was a sincerely religious person.

Some time in the course of his Ph.D. training, however, he had come to have some reservations about some aspects about Mormonism. After his graduation and his teaching in the Institutes, he came to measure Mormonism by his view of the Judeo-Christian ethic and Biblical scriptures. This caused him to believe that the Book of Mormon was neither a historic account nor an inspired scripture. Since he was assigned to teach Old Testament, New Testament, the ancient prophets and so on, this was not a problem for him. However, as he continued to teach Institute classes at Logan, he became more and more open in expressing his misgivings about the Book of Mormon. Students would raise questions in class about the relation of the Book of Mormon, and he would make statements like “Let’s not go into the Book of Mormon–it is not in the same category as the Bible anyway; let’s not talk about the Book of Mormon–I am not sure I believe it; let’s not talk about the Book of Mormon–it is not inspired scripture;” and so on.

A couple of students–returned missionaries–finally wrote to a General Authority in Salt Late City complaining that he lacked a testimony of the Book of Mormon. The General Authority asked Logan people for their comments about him. Dr. W. W. Richards, who was director of the Institute in Logan, defended Dr. Snell as being a great student of the Bible and a fine religious person. President Alma Sonne, a member of the Board of Trustees of the university, also defended Dr. Snell as being a fine teacher, a stimulating class leader, basically a believer, and an authority on the Bible. This took care of the problem for a temporary period, but Dr. Snell did not heed the advice of Dr. Richards to keep quiet about the Book of Mormon and some students continued to complain. Finally Brother Joseph Fielding Smith, either on his own initiative or as an assignment of the Twelve, undertook to test the orthodoxy of Dr. Snell. He had a conference with him and then drew up a long list of doctrinal beliefs and asked him to indicate in each case whether he believed this or not. The list which I saw only briefly included several pages. Dr. Snell filled it out honestly and indicated certain things he did not believe and certain things he did. He was then called in by Joseph Fielding Smith for an oral confirmation of these beliefs and Dr. Snell quite honestly indicated his lack of belief in the Book of Mormon as well as in other doctrines of the Church. 

On the basis of Elder Smith’s report, Dr. Snell, who had already reached retirement age was retired. Normally, if he had not muddied the waters by his indiscreet statements about the Book of Mormon, he would have been kept on at least part-time for perhaps four or five years. But he had embarrassed Brother Richards, who had stood by him and also President Sonne, and it was no longer tenable for them to defend him in his position. He was, therefore, released. He taught extension classes in the Bible for Utah State University and for the University of Utah. These classes were not very well attended and were not lucrative for him, but they did provide some funds.

Let me say that I knew Dr. Snell quite well–that I myself defended him as a person that was needed in the Institute System. Of all persons in the system, he knew most about the Bible. He was a Bible scholar of national reputation. His book Ancient Israel was well received by the professionals and it was used by many as a text in dozens of schools throughout the nation. One of the unfortunate results of the dismissal of Dr. Snell was that they made it very difficult for Institute teachers to use Ancient Israel as a text in Bible classes. This is unfortunate because the book was interesting, well written, accurate, and inspiring. By defending Dr. Snell in some public appearances with some rather strong criticisms of the Church, Sterling McMurrin also made it more difficult for those of us who defended Dr. Snell–those of us who believed in working within the system.

Dr. Snell was never excommunicated nor disfellowshipped and continued to attend more or less regularly meetings of the Fourth Ward in which he lived. I don’t know how often he attended, but I do know that he attended on occasion and was on good terms with members of the ward. So far as I am aware, there was never any intention on the part of the bishop or stake president or Church authorities to have a trial for his membership. This, I think, is to the credit of the Church.

[LJA Diary, 4 Feb., 1974]

We seem to be going through a period of anti-intellectualism. On the one hand, BYU, Ricks, USU and U of U, and other Mormon or semi-Mormon institutions are graduating bright young Mormon intellectuals in increasing numbers. On the other hand, they are finding it more and more difficult to merge their talent and ability with the Church and its programs. Lowell Bennion, Gene England despite his devotion to the Church and the gospel, his sincerity, and his desire to please, is not permitted to publish. Deseret Book will not handle his books, BYU Press will not publish his work, nor will Bookcraft. Just because he was a founding editor of Dialogue. And those who insist on his name on the blacklist are Elder Benson and Elder Petersen. Carol Lynn Pearson was put on the blacklist because she gave a talk four years ago which was mildly favorable to ERA. Thru prayers and tears she finally got Elder Packer to make an exception for her and she may now continue to publish in Church magazines. But for a period she was on the blacklist. Jim Allen is now on a blacklist because of his STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS, although he doesn’t know it yet, and it would break his heart if I told him. I am on a kind of blacklist. The Church News has been told not to review BUILDING THE CITY OF COD, and not to publish any of my books without specific clearance by the Quorum of the Twelve. Scott Kenney is on a blacklist because he is publishing SUNSTONE. Claudia Bushman is on a blacklist because of EXPONENT II. And so on. The Brethren (Elders Benson and Petersen insist on speaking for the others) do not want any independent thinking. And they are narrow in what they will approve, and basically ignorant of what the educated generation is thinking and willing to accept. It is now necessary for Mormon intellectuals to publish under pseudonyms. I will not reveal here the pseudonyms being used, but there are several who use them, and thus far they are “getting any with it.” It reminds one of the Susan Young Gates, Emmeline B. Wells, Orson F. Whitney and other personalities at the turn of the century who used them and “got away with it.” Thought suppression and the denial of publication for reasonable literature is not consistent with the Gospel–moreover, it will not succeed. 

[LJA Diary, 16 Jul., 1977]

We have given a Mormon History Trust Fund fellowship to Peggy Fletcher,

daughter of a Western Electric Co. lab director in New Jersey. She has been a stalwart on Sunstone. Very bright. Her mother is a daughter of Wallace and Frances Bennett, the senator. I had a long conversation yesterday with her and she was telling about her uncle Robert Bennett, who was often mentioned as Deep Throat of Watergate fame or infamy. She says she had seen all of his papers on the Deep Throat business and she has become disenchanted somewhat with American Journalism. In this sense, that it is obvious to her and to all those who have seen, and heard his evidence that he is not Deep Throat. And he has demonstrated this pretty conclusively to all the key reporters for the big newspapers and magazines, and yet they go ahead and publish the allegations and the speculations just because it will sell, just because it will keep the issue alive, just because people may believe it, just because it makes good copy. Do newspapers and magazines really want the truth? Or just a story? Worth thinking about. My own experience with journalists here and with television interviewers isn’t particularly supportive of journalistic ethics. Can you trust ’em or not? I find myself having to be excessively careful with these fellows. If you let down your guard just once they can ruin you. I hate to have to be that way. I like to be honest and frank and candid; I hate to withhold, to be cautious, to say no. But I just don’t have enough confidence in then to feel free to level with then. The stakes in my job are pretty high, and I can’t take a chance. Well, I just thought of that as the result of the conversation with Peggy. As I say, she’s a very bright girl. Not more than early 20s, I think. And we’re looking forward to some good essays from her. She’s working on the wives, mother and stepmothers, daughters, etc. of Heber J. Grant. She wants to do an honest job, and I don’t know whether that is publishable or not. We’ll see. From her comments and critiques so far, she’ll try to keep us honest. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. I can get too political for the good of history. And I can convince myself that my watered down versions are THE REAL TRUTH. So maybe these young Turks will help keep us honest and credible. It’s a tough dilemma. What should you sacrifice for the sake of image? What should you sacrifice for the protection of a family’s good name? What should you sacrifice to assure that your own operation is supported and is continuing? The gospel is true, Joseph was a great prophet (as were his successors), Spencer Kimball is a great and good prophet, and the church is the Lord’s. But how often can we illustrate human imperfection? We must bring it in occasionally to illustrate the humanness, to keep things honest, to help people identify with problems, to keep the story credible. But how often, and in what instances? Tough. 

[LJA to Children, 12 Aug., 1977]

One other thought. I have wished to help and encourage out Latter-day Saint young people who are trying to study the scriptures in a religious and theological context. I do not see anyone in the school of religion at BYU who is studying the Bible in the context of Higher Criticism. And how can one obtain the real meaning of the gospels without Higher Criticism? I feel so encouraged that a number of your bright young intellectuals, primarily those influenced by Jack Adamson, I suspect, who have gone to Harvard Divinity School; Kathryn Hansen Shirts, Rich Sherlock, Melody Moench, and who was the woman who came in to see me the other day? Now lives in Indiana. Also Scott Kenney at Pacific. Anyway, I wish I could provide fellowships for them all to study Mormon intellectual history. We need to have at least one of this type at BYU. At least one. Just one, please God! Nothing has upset me as much as Elder Durham’s pronouncement that we should give no more fellowships. That we should let all the creative, interpretive scholarship come under private auspices and not with our encouragement or help. I think I will consider seriously giving some of my private resources to support the Mormon History Trust Fund in giving such fellowships. 

[LJA Diary, 18 Feb., 1978]

Kathy Stephens, in indexing my diary, has come across “Swearing Elders” and asked me what it is, so I give this dictation for the benefit of others who may have occasion to read in the diary in the future.

Sometime in the late 1940s, possibly about 1949, Sterling McMurrin and some friends at the University of Utah began meeting once a month at lunchtime to talk about the Church. Since the Church does not have an avenue for intellectual discussion about the gospel in Sunday School or priesthood or sacrament meetings, they simply got together to discuss their research and writing and thought about theology, history, practice, and other aspects of Mormonism. Above all, they wished to provide an opportunity for people writing master’s and doctor’s theses and books and articles to present these, or summarize these, before a group of interested peers.

Early members of the group included Sterling McMurrin, Obert Tanner, Heber Snell, William Mulder, Angus Woodbury, A.C. Lambert, Charles Dibble, Lowell Bennion, Joseph Geddes, and perhaps others.

Because I was doing research on Mormon economic history and began to publish on the subject in 1950, I was invited to join this group. Obviously it wasn’t easy for me to travel from Logan to Salt Lake once a month for a luncheon meeting, but I did go occasionally. I think I was at first invited to present some of my research, and then invited to attend as often as possible. Because others were in a similar position–not being able to take off an hour in the middle of the day–they began holding the meeting at 4:00 in the afternoon, most of them lasting until about 6:00.

It will be noticed that there were a few people from BYU and USU as well as from U of U, and of course some from the Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City. Others that I recall being present at some of the meetings were T.Y. Booth and J. Golden Taylor, both of whom later left the Church; John Sorenson, T. Edgar Lyon, and perhaps others. Some of these persons were in the process of leaving the Church and were perhaps seeking for some intellectual justification for doing so. These included Golden Taylor and T.Y. Booth. Others were having problems in their wards. Usually intellectuals end up being called to be teachers and some of them, such as McMurrin and Obert Tanner, were apparently too liberal for their bishops and were replaced as teachers by more “orthodox” brethren. Nevertheless, I did not see this group as anti-Mormon or anti-gospel or anti-religion in any sense. To me, the discussions provided intellectual support for our traditional beliefs and practices. To say this another way–and it may sound incredible–my own testimony was bolstered as the result of attending these sessions. I found there was an intellectual side to Mormonism and took pleasure in learning about it. I learned much from these brethren. Basically these discussions were an early example of what Dialogue was to do later, to provide a forum for Mormon intellectuals and to help intellectuals with gospel questions and problems. I did not at any time see this as a subversive group or as a destructive influence.

One member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Adam S. Bennion, knew of the group and was sympathetic with it, and I remember one glorious evening when he agreed to meet with us and give us a talk. He chose to build bridges between some members of our group and some of the more critical “orthodox” Brethren.

As to the name “Swearing Elders,” I think that was simply a joke. The notices of meetings which I received used the term “Mormon Seminar.” Some people referred to it as McMurrin’s Seminar, since he was either the original organizer or a leading member. I think the term “Swearing Elders” was probably a take-off on an expression which had been used in Mormon folklore for a long time, “Smoking Deacons.” That was the term used to refer to inactives who became inactives primarily because they started smoking when they were 14 or 15 and felt out of place in church, and so they had become Senior Aaronics. I think the term Swearing Elders was simply a humorous take-off on that. Certainly there was nothing to the word swearing, and I am sure all of these brethren held the Melchizedek Priesthood.

As the years passed by, the major concern of these people seemed to be the problems which arose out of the denial of priesthood to blacks. This certainly was a preoccupation of McMurrin and Lowell Bennion. This, as I recall, was in the late 50s. At any rate, I do not know that the group continued into the 60s. It served its purpose at the end of World War II, and as the years went by some dropped out of the Church, some moved away, some came to hold administrative offices and couldn’t spare the time; then of course Dialogue was founded and provided a forum without these meetings. Similarly the Mormon History Association was organized. I do not know of any meetings of this group after, say, 1965. Some record of this group must be among the papers of Sterling McMurrin, which were donated to the U of U library; perhaps some record of it was in the papers of Heber Snell, which also went to the U of U library.

[“Swearing Elders” Reminiscences; LJA Diary, 18 Aug., 1978]

Dean and I went to the Sunstone Theological Symposium Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. Some excellent papers and dialogues. No doubt the series will come out in a few months, and I’ll send you each a copy. Or maybe a special edition of SUNSTONE with some of the immediately available papers. It was a triumph for SUNSTONE-about 300 or 400 persons from all over the country, including some very important persons and papers. Very stimulating and encouraging. I keep thinking that the bright young people are pushing ahead while old timers like myself are being left behind. Very encouraging.

[LJA to Children, 31 Aug., 1979]

First thought for the day comes From Elihu’ s statement in Job 32 8: “There is a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” I have checked other translations of the same scriptures; the essence is that insight and illumination come as the result of interaction between human intelligence and divine revelation. This suggests a reconciliation, an indissoluble mixture, between the secular and the religious, between the human and the divine.

According to this theory, scientists, searchers for truth in every field, should receive many of their insights by intuition, a fact which is clearly evident in the intimate biographies of our greatest scientists and philosophers. Indeed, articles have been published in the Scientific American and other journals testifying to this “curious” phenomenon. It is also evident that this intuition, this inspiration, this revelation comes to persons who have immersed themselves in a given discipline by study and thought and experimentation–persons who are prepared by training and thought to understand the new intelligence and to understand the significance of it.

One of the greatest of the economists used to emphasize that nature never makes a leap–there is always a continuum. But there are leaps in intellect, such as Darwin’s conception of the law of evolution and Adam Smith’s concept of the equilibrium of the market system. It is equally true of less important concepts or theories or hypotheses; I have had a few such “leaps” myself. They come through a process not explicable by science–they come by intuition, as the scientist calls it, or inspiration or revelation. Obviously much truth is just there–natural, to be discovered. But the understanding of truth often comes in flashing insights that emanate from God. 

[Thoughts for the day; LJA Diary, 13 Feb., 1980]

I have been surprised, this week, to be visited by two persons who wanted to “set me straight” on some issues. It was important to set me straight, they inferred, because I was a leader of the Mormon intellectual community. I have never regarded myself in that light. I have been a student of Mormon intellectual history; I have been interested in the issues that interest Mormon intellectuals; and I have been concerned with most issues which concern our best intellectuals. But I have never regarded myself as an intellectual leader. Intellectual leaders are deep thinkers; I have never regarded myself as a deep thinker. Intellectual leaders take themselves seriously; I have never taken myself and my own thoughts very seriously. I have reported on the thoughts of others, but have sought to keep my own thoughts (if any) to a minimum. I have never written or verbalized anything very profound. If I were to list those who are intellectual leaders in the Mormon community, I would mention Sterling McMurrin, Lowell Bennion, Henry Eyring, Lowry Nelson, Homer Durham, Claudia Bushman, Adele McCollum, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Hugh Nibley. If anybody should regard me in that company I would be honored. I suppose some people may have mistaken my readiness in writing for readiness in thinking. I see myself as primarily a conveyor of ideas, not an originator of ideas. To use historical analogy, I am more like James E. Talmage than B. H. Roberts; more like Parley P. Pratt than Orson Pratt. Nevertheless, even if undeserved, it is pleasant to be considered “in the group” of LDS intellectuals. 

[LJA Diary, 20 Feb., 1980]

Mama worked all day yesterday on her photographs and seemed to enjoy it. In the evening she and I went to the first meeting of the B. H. Roberts Society, a new group which will sponsor a lecture and discussion once each quarter. Truman Madsen gave the lecture on B. H. Roberts and Davis Bitton and Anne Osborne gave responses. Held in the new Social Hall in the Pioneer State Park. An enormous crowd which overflowed the building. Perhaps four or five hundred people. The cream of Salt Lake’s intellectual community. The purpose of the B. H. Roberts group, organized more or less by Grethe Peterson, is to provide intellectual evenings for Mormon intellectuals, all positively oriented, of course, but stimulating and thoughtful rather than doctrinaire. Young Mormon intellectuals need this. 

[LJA to Children, 22 Aug., 1980]

Thursday night Grace and I attended the first Lecture sponsored by the B. H. Roberts Society. This was held in the Social Hall near the This Is the Place monument at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. I would suppose that the Social Hall would hold 200-300 people, and there was such a crowd that there must have been at least 100 standing in the halls. I would suppose maybe 400 persons present. A large proportion of them were young married people. The people that I recognized were among the intellectual elite of Mormon Salt Lake. All very interested and enthusiastic. It was extremely hot and stifling, but this did not dampen any spirits.

Conducting the meeting was Allan Roberts of Sunstone, which is a co-sponsor. Truman Madsen gave the principal address, and comments were made by Davis Bitton and Anne Osborn. The following are my notes from Truman’s talk, and from Anne Osborn’s response. I assume that Davis will give me the paper which he gave as his response. It was a splendid paper and in the opinion of many of us, just as important and thoughtful as Truman Madsen’s longer presentation. 

[LJA Diary, 25 Aug., 1980]

The scriptures, of course, say, “The glory of God is intelligence;” “A man cannot be saved in ignorance;” “The truth shall make you free;” and so on. But certain theologians–Joseph Fielding Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Bruce McConkie–have pointed out that this is not referring to the truths of physics, chemistry, economics, and sociology, but to the saving truths of the Gospel. Surely, a person can inherit eternal glory without understanding secular truths—academic truths. Only religious truth is essential to salvation.

Our religion cannot avoid coming to grips with historical truth, because it is based on historical truth claims–the visit of Moroni, the First Vision, the delivery of the Book of Mormon plates, the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood, and so on. A predominant school of thought–Bruce McConkie–holds that religious truth rests on testimony and prayer, not research. But if we depend, as we must so heavily, on historical truth to validate our claims to being the one, true Church, how can we avoid depending on research as well?

There is inevitably a certain tension between our historical claims and historical events in time. We cannot be immune to scholarly exploration because of the nature of our claims.

One can hardly understand the Latter-day Saints without having an understanding of the historical drama which established their group life. We are like the Jews in that our sense of history is a distinctive feature. History gives us our sense of identity as a people. This is our distinction; Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Seven Day Adventists–none of these depend for their identity on history as much as the Latter-day Saints.

From a secular standpoint, our history is simply that of any group which struggles to maintain its identity as it copes with political, economic, and religious forces which seek to destroy or limit its uniqueness. Herein lies the tension, for our history is not simply a secular history; it is a sacred history of our relationship to God. Our history discloses our Covenant relationship, tells of God’s intervention on our behalf, of his role in the events that affected us. Our history is a witness to our encounter with God. Our religion is not a set of abstract values and ideas, but a demonstration of God in history–His revelations to Joseph, His approval of Brigham, His inspiration to Spencer Kimball, and so on. A discussion of Latter-day Saint doctrine misses something unless the history is included, for the history gives power and significance to the doctrine, to our claims, to our lives. Our history must somehow reflect or reveal the historical character of our faith. 

[LJA Diary, 11 Nov., 1980]

For some reason, perhaps the heavy dinner at the Historical Department Christmas Party, I did some dreaming and/or meditating last night in bed. There are two schools of LDS theology or philosophy, I was thinking. One of them begins with Joseph Smith’s statements of his later years, particularly the King Follett discourse, proceeds through Brigham Young to B.B. Roberts, and best expressed in our day by Sterling McMurrin and Lowell L. Bennion. This school emphasizes man’s potential, the law of eternal progression, the importance of learning and knowledge, tolerance of different points of view, and so on. This is the view I was brought up on–it was commonly expressed by LDS intellectuals and teachers during the 1930s and 1940s. We may call it the progressive or liberal school of thought.

The other school derives from the Book of Mormon, early revelations, and early statements of Joseph Smith, proceeds through some statements of Brigham Young to Orson Pratt, Joseph Fielding Smith, and best expressed today by Bruce R. McConkie. This school emphasizes the dependent and depraved status of man, the absolute power and perfection of God, the importance of “works,” such as temple work, ordinances, following church regulations, discipline, obedience, “narrow is the way,” and so on. This philosophy is emphasized in the New Orthodoxy which emerged at BYU in the 1950s and has continued among some people; there, particularly in the College of Religion. A sort of Mormon Fundamentalism like Protestant Fundamentalism. Emphasizes Biblical literalism, rejects the Higher Criticism, the law of evolution, the New History, cultural approaches to an understanding of Mormonism.

I have been all along, and continue to be, in the first school, but find the going very hard, considering the implacable opposition of Elder Benson, Elder Petersen, Elder Packer, Elder McConkie, and perhaps others who agree with them.

Although I have been satisfied with my life, I have a feeling that I should have made the heroic effort necessary to put myself through law school at the University at Idaho and gone back to Twin Falls as a lawyer. I would have been a good lawyer. The course would have been less difficult than economics and I would have had a good mind for legal analysis. The mechanics would have been agreeable and the challenges of writing briefs for clients would have been exciting. My writing, in many respects, would have been easier in the law than in history. I would have earned an income that would have enabled me to support Grace in a manner she would have enjoyed, and I would have had income to support some philanthropy. I would have been drawn into politics and would have done well, I think. I have a talent for political manipulation that is distasteful in my work with the Church, but would have been satisfying in the secular world. I would have felt free to criticize public policies and officials in a way that I cannot do in the Church. While I do not have a sense of failure or regret, I do feel that I am somewhat misplaced. I would have been more appreciated as a lawyer and public official. I think. 

[LJA Diary, 13 Dec., 1980]

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

[LJA Diary, 29 Dec., 1980]

The generation which was writing and teaching when I grew up were engaged in the task of broadening and extending the horizons of Latter-day Saints. Well-educated persons whose learning was accompanied by sacrifice and selfless giving had loyally remained within the LDS culture to help other youths like myself with their social and intellectual problems so that the LDS community might perpetuate sound and enlightened values. I think of W. H. Chamberlain, W. W. Henderson, Russel Swensons, John A. Widtsoe, Joseph A. Geddes, George Tanner, Franklin West, William Wanlass, and others. They represented reason, enlightenment, superior values, and they felt a desire to develop good institutions. As a student, I admired them for this, thought they were doing the right thing by working within the culture to improve it, and thought it my responsibility eventually to do the same thing.

I had only contempt for those who, having become “enlightened,” left the culture, and held it up to ridicule and shame: Vardis Fisher, Bernard De Voto, and various individuals in universities around the country who had disaffiliated with the Church, felt no responsibility toward its members, and concluded that there was no chance it would allow itself to be improved.

I have always had the strongest feeling toward working within the culture, doing my part toward making it better, nurturing good values, and seeking to weed out bad values. I have tried to do this in my talks, accenting desirable thoughts and attitudes and values, leaving unmentioned the ones I hoped would decline or pass away. In my historical writings I have tried to emphasize things I wanted people to know, and de-emphasize things I did not want then to remember. All of this within the framework of loyal support and faithful devotion.

It has not been easy to do this. The creation of historical literature requires a certain single-minded devotion, a self-discipline, that is constantly at odds with the expectation that one must attend Priesthood meetings, Sunday School, Sacrament meeting, and a host of other affairs: firesides, dedications, dinners, socials, plays, conferences, home teaching visits, and visits to the hospital, to aged folks, to athletic events, and to church-sponsored pageants. The writing of history, especially of lasting history, requires hours stolen from the expected pattern of activity. One is always walking a tightrope between obligation to personal mission and obligation to “church work.” 

[LJA Diary, 11 Apr., 1981]

As I look back on my reading about religion, which was particularly important when I was at the University of North Carolina in 1939-41, and at North Carolina State College, 1941-1942, perhaps the key reading was in Santayana’s REASON IN RELIGION, which I had purchased at the University of Idaho in 1938-39, and which I had read in at that time, and continued to read or re-read in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. I was struck with the notion that religious truth may be symbolic, like poetry; that religious truth may be like myth, representing an epic which explains matters which are otherwise unexplainable. Santayana offered the possibility of a functional interpretation of truth. Not to be preoccupied with what happened in a historical sense, but to have an explanation which is true like poetry is true, like Shakespeare is true, like great fiction is truth. Moral truth, epic truth, universal truth. We have a Christian epic which is “true,” beautiful, praiseworthy, important to believe and accept. In that same sense we have a Mormon epic, which is “true,” beautiful, praiseworthy, important, and which we can in good conscience accept and believe. 

[Recollections of Religious Reading; LJA Diary, 26 Apr., 1981]

Notes on the address of Elder Boyd K. Packer, August 22, 1981, at the concluding session of the 1981 Church Education System Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. The address was delivered in the DeJong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, on the campus of Brigham Young University.

(Note: The setting for this address was the fact that the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History is the topic that will be dealt with during the 1981-82 school year in the Seminary program of the Church, arid this was the general topic of the symposium being held. A specific title was not announced for the talk, but it centered around the theme: “The Mantle is Greater than the Intellect: Some Cautions on the Writing and Teaching of Church History.”


Elder Packer began the talk by indicating that he knew the sensitive nature of it, and that he had prayed very hard over the subject.

There is a tendency for those with academic training to judge the Church, past and present, by the principles of their own profession. But it should be the other way around. We should judge the professions of men by the revealed word of the Lord. 

Many people have lost their testimonies because of the learning of the world, in many academic disciplines.

Elder Packer told the story of an LDS teacher who went away to a major Eastern university to get a Ph.D. degree in Counseling and Guidance. He wrote a dissertation dealing with the role of the Mormon bishop as counselor. Elder Packer helped him obtain permission to get interviews with Mormon bishops on the subject, which were necessary to his research. When he wrote the dissertation, he included in it the spiritual aspects (i.e., the role of inspiration and revelation). The committee, however, denied him the dissertation because the spiritual aspects were there and this did not square with the professional standards. The teacher came to Elder Packer for advice, and Elder Packer advised him to change the wording so that it simply read “Mormons believe…” with reference to inspiration and revelation. He did this but was still not passed. He was told, however, that if he left the spiritual references out entirely he would pass. In addition, he was told he would probably get the dissertation published, and that he had the ability and intellect that would eventually make him one of the well recognized experts in the field. He did take out the references to revelation, and was awarded his degree. It was not as scholarly as it could have been,  however, if he had left revelation in (for as it stood it did not tell the whole story). That teacher is still in the Church Education System. He is not prominent and famous in his academic discipline, for he has chosen not to go that direction. But he brings spirituality into what he does, and he is better off for it. (Elder Packer was speaking in tones of genuine approval of what the teacher has done by sacrificing fame for the spirit.)

“The mantle is greater than the intellect.”

There are many LDS scholars who leave out the spiritual in what they teach and write.

Teaching Church History this year is an unparalleled opportunity to build faith–to show students that the Lord has watched over the Church. 

Four cautions to teachers and writers of Church History:

1. There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church that ignores the spirit.

One cannot, for example, write a biography of Mendelssohn without mentioning music. Music and the inspiration that came from it was such a basic part of Mendelssohn’s life that it cannot be ignored by anyone writing about him. (By analogy, the spirit is so basic to the Church that to ignore it is to not tell the true story.)

Most of us are not immune from the danger. We are actually more vulnerable than other disciplines. If not properly written or taught, Church history may be faith destroying. If we write on the pretext that the world will not understand the spiritual side, then our writing will not be scholarly. If we write without the spirit, it will not be spiritual. (I.e., he was making the point that genuine “scholarship” or “objectivity” must take into account the spiritual, must be spiritual, and that anything less than this with regard to Church history is therefore not scholarly.)

Do not put scholarship first and faith second. Do not let our professional training prevent us from seeing with the eyes of faith.

If someone writes without the spirit, no matter how well trained, anyone who reads it can tell that he does not have the spirit. 

Unfortunately, we have had some sad experiences with that kind of history over the past few years.

2. There is a temptation for writers to want to tell everything, whether it is faith promoting or not.

If you have an exaggerated loyalty to the idea that “everything must be told,” you will distort.

One historian gave a talk on Brigham Young in which he seemed to delight in pointing out weaknesses and failings. One who did not really know Brigham Young would come away from such a talk doubting. (i.e., doubting his prophetic calling.)

The scriptures teach that we must give milk before meat. There are some things that must be taught “selectively.”

Some historians write and speak as if the only people listening are other professional historians, but thee will destroy faith. It may be unintentionally, but it will nevertheless be wrongly.

The historian who talked of Brigham Young the way this one did has destroyed faith. He had devised a way to find weaknesses, and in the process he has destroyed faith.

(Elder Packer concentrated, at some length, on historians who want to find weaknesses. Those who dwell on these things destroy faith, and those who destroy faith stand in eternal jeopardy.)

He told of a conversation with Elder Henry D. Moyle regarding a teacher who was hurting faith. Pres. Moyle said that this teacher was not a member of the Church. When someone in the group observed that he had not heard that any action had ever been taken to excommunicate the teacher, Elder Mole replied that the man had cut himself off. 

One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession regardless of what it does to members of the Church is in jeopardy. He does not realize that they are not ready for “advanced history.”

We will be judged for our intent as well as for our effect (i.e., if the effect is to destroy faith, we will be held accountable.) 

Some historians try to bring great Church leaders down to their own level for self-justification.

It destroys faith to point out faults and weaknesses of Church leaders. (But some historians follow the tenets of their profession instead of the tenets of the faith.)

3. In an effort to be objective, writers of history may tend to give equal time to the adversary.

Some historians are careful to include criticism in their writing, because they want the praise of their professional colleagues. They seem to feel ashamed of their commitment to the gospel.

By analogy, Elder Packer referred to 1 Nephi 8: the vision of the tree of life. He quoted, in particular, verse 28: “And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” The important word here is “after.” He likened this to some historians who have tasted of the gospel, but after that became ashamed because of the scoffing of their profession.

There is no such thing as impartial history. You cannot be detached (impartial) and defend the kingdom.

We are at war with the adversary. We have the special obligation to build the faith. The patience of the Lord and of the brethren is short with those who are under covenant to defend the kingdom and do not.

Those who have purged their work of faith should expect no help from the Church in their research.

He used the example of a lawyer who is defending a corporation against the onslaught of a rival corporation. What would we say of the lawyer who, once he has been given access to the secrets and files of that corporation, gives the information to the other? He has violated a trust, and would not again be trusted by the corporation. (This was, by analogy, directed to those who provide information in their writings that help the cause of the adversary.) 

He warned that those who steal documents from the Church for selfish purposes are in trouble, and he warned those who use such material.

We should not join any organization or contribute to any publication whose spirit and intent is faith destroying.

As an example, he told of a group of men who invited him to a luncheon at Harvard Business School. They wanted him to join a certain organization, but he declined. One man said words to the effect that “we are all good, faithful members of the Church, however…” It was that word “however” that bothered Elder Packer, and this was the reason he did not join the group. If the man had said “we are faithful members of the Church, ‘therefore,’” then he would have joined them.

We cannot walk both sides of the street. 

There was a seminary class in which a debate was held on the subject: “Resolved: Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.” Unfortunately, the “negative” side won, because the students assigned to that side were the sharpest, most clever debaters. But what did this do to the class, since, regardless of the outcome, Joseph Smith was still a prophet of God? All the argument in the world did not make Joseph Smith not a prophet. But the seeds sown in a class like that were dangerous.

How do you find out about a person–from his friends or from his enemies?

Too few of us are in the business of defending the faith.

4. There is a fallacy in the idea that so long as something is in print, or in some other source, and available, then there is no harm in reproducing it. 

Students may not be ready for “advanced history.” 

He warned against getting items from our detractors, and cited Ezra Taft Benson’s address to this group of several years ago. Here, Elder Benson warned against buying or subsidizing the work of apostates, even if it is only to get the information you think you need. Using such information can plant seeds of apostasy in the minds of youth.

For example, he told the story of a young missionary who went to the MTC and then confessed to committing a very terrible sin. It was the type of sin that was so grievous in nature that the young man could hardly have thought about doing it without some prompting. Elder Packer asked him where he got the idea, and, to his great surprise and shock, the young man answered that he got it from his bishop during his missionary interview. The bishop had asked the young man, as part of the interview, “have you ever done so and so…?” and then proceeded to describe the sin in detail. The young man had never done it, but the idea so worked on him that, in a final moment of weakness before his mission, he committed the sin.

Elder Packer emphasized the idea that even unknowingly you can put a dangerous idea in someone’s mind.

Cited Moroni, chapter 7 (verses 16 and 17?). 

(At one point in the talk Elder Packer was emphasizing the importance of teaching and writing by the spirit, and told an illustrative story of an experience he had in California. He was going to the coast on an assignment, and the President of the Church called him and asked him to go a day or so early in order to investigate a matter that could require some Church disciplinary action. He went early, held the appropriate interviews in order to get the facts, then went to a park and sat there for two hours thinking about the situation. He finally used a pay telephone to call the President of the Church and report the facts to him. The President asked Elder Packer what he thought should be done. Elder Packer replied with words such as “I do not think we should act now, but if you tell me to, I will act.” He will never forget, he said (with obvious deep emotion in his voice), the words of the President as they thundered back over the telephone: “Don’t you ever go against the spirit!” As a result, Elder Packer did not act. The implication for teaching and writing history, of course, was that it should be directed by the spirit.)

There are several indispensable qualifications needed for one to teach the history of the Church.

1. Do you believe that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith? (That is, an actual appearance, as real beings.)

2. Do you know that Joseph Smith’s testimony is true, because you have experienced the same kind of testimony of the spirit?

3. Do you believe that this Church, restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, is the only true and living Church on the face of the whole earth? (See D&C 1:30)

4. Do you know by the spirit that the present day prophets receive revelation?

He noted, especially, that academic qualifications were not among the qualifications listed as essential to those who would teach Church history.

(Miscellaneous closing comments:)

What about the historian who defames early or present Presidents of the Church? You can find in the story of Alma the younger one who did worse than that. (But, the implication of this statement was, Alma the younger repented.)

He told the story of a prayer he heard a recent president of the Church offer concerning one historian who had defamed an early prophet. The prayer condemned the teachings of that historian in the strongest terms, and asked that his fame would diminish and that the “stinking odor” of his work would follow him into his grave where the earth would swallow it up.

Elder Packer said that he sometimes moans in agony at all the research that has been done in the archives of the Church, when so much of the secular comes out yet all the spiritual material that is there does not emerge in what is written.

He read from a letter of Joseph Smith to W. W. Phelps,

22 July 1840 (See Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4: 162-64). Phelps had turned against Joseph Smith and then come back and was received into full fellowship again. Included in the portion quoted were these words: “Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall he happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.”

Oh, Elder Packer commented, what we would have lost if Phelps had not come back, and he stressed Phelps’ contributions to the Church, particularly in the area of music.

(These comments seemed designed to suggest that anyone who had offended could still come back. He told of a young man who had been excommunicated from the Church. Elder Packer happened to see President Kimball one day just as the President was getting into his car on the way to the airport. When the President learned that Elder Packer had been dealing with that particular situation, he had him get in the car and talk. Elder Packer said something to the effect that it would be a long time before that young man’s blessings were restored, whereupon Pres. Kimball patted him on the knee and said, “maybe not so long.”)

Elder Packer commented on the weaknesses of the brethren, saying “you do not know our weaknesses,” but indicating that the brethren then and now were men, with the weaknesses of men. Joseph Smith, for example, could not even spell correctly, so how he must have been grateful for the help of scribes who could help him prepare his documents in the proper manner. He also told the story of going into President Kimball’s office one day, shortly after he became President, and finding him crying. When Elder Packer asked why, President Kimball replied: “I am such a small man for such a big job.” All this is an indication of how much help the brethren need in their work.

You who are the scholars and the intellects, we need your help. We do not have time to research and write about the history of the Church–we are called to organize and administer the Church, for we have the keys to the ordinances and power of the priesthood. You are needed to help us.

It may be that you will lay your scholar acclaim and the praise of the world at the alter, and sacrifice it for the sake of the Church. But note that Abraham found out that it was not necessary for him to sacrifice Isaac-only to be willing to do so.

Teach for faith, teach for testimony.

Quoted from Joseph Fielding Smith and Stephen L. Richards on the role historians should play in building the faith. Their purpose should be to use the history of the Church to build faith.

Ended by leaving his apostolic blessing with the teachers. 

[Notes on Elder Packer address; LJA Diary, 22 Aug., 1981]

Elder Boyd K. Packer

Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-day Saints 

47 East South Temple 

Salt Lake City, Utah 84105

Dear Elder Packer:

I have just read your address entitled, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect,” which you recently delivered to institute and seminary instructors at B.Y.U. Since I am an historian by profession and have occasionally written in the field of Mormon history, and since I am also an active member of the Church and an instructor in my High Priest’s Quorum, I found your address especially interesting, provocative, and relevant to a wider audience than only those who had the opportunity to hear you.

Having attended an eastern, secular graduate school I can personally identify with many of the issues you so thoughtfully raise. To cite just one example, the week I arrived on campus I was introduced to a well-known political scientist who had recently won a Pulitzer Prize. He asked, “Where are you from?” I replied, “Utah.” Then he said, with considerable sarcasm, “Well, then you must believe that God has hair on his back,” and walked away.

Because I share your religious concerns, admire your frankness, and agree with many of your insights, I hope that you will be willing to consider some observations about some of the major points you make in your interesting address. These observations are offered in a spirit of friendship and commitment. Because your “cautions” to those of us who teach history are weighty ones, and since you invite your readers to come forward and help in the cause, I have taken you at your word and offer the following thoughts for your further reflection.


The young man’s statement that “the mantle is far, far greater than the intellect” is an attempt, I think, to rank things that cannot fairly be ranked. The mantle, as I understand it, is the authority that emanates from the spirit of God and is rooted in revelation. The intellect is understanding based on reason and empirical evidence. The spirit and intellect have fundamentally different roles. To say that the mantle (spirit) is greater than the intellect is like saying the heart is greater than the mind or the hand is greater than the foot. Allow me to explain why this comparison can be misleading. 

The intellect is paramount in the material world where problems are most easily approached by critical, empirical analysis, where data or tested theory are at hand, and where replication is possible. The essence of this approach is inductive, relative, and tentative. The intellect deals more in questions than answers, and helps us to be tolerant of diversity and discord–both of which are important aspects of all human life. As Bacon said, the intellect “hangs us with weights” to keep us from “leaping and flying about” excessively. The intellect is our contact with the material and the secular.

The intellect assists us in moving beyond the simplistic and sterile categories of hero vs. villain, defense vs. attack, and member vs. nonmember so prominent in the writing of Mormon history in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It allows us considerably greater freedom and accuracy in dealing with the more secular aspects of our past. It encourages a healthy corporate introspection. The great achievement of the intellect is a massive body of reliable knowledge commanding near universal agreement in the scientific and secular world which is largely responsible for our rising standard of living.

The spirit, as you know better than I, serves us equally well but in a radically different way. If the intellect supplies us with weights, the spirit gives us wings to soar above our mundane selves, to extend our reach, to inspire. It helps to establish ultimate values, political unity, and discourages narcissism and anomie. It is our crucial contact with God and the sacred.

The spirit gives us a meaningful place in the universe, roots us in a power larger than self, and makes possible the full development of the human personality. It ties us with both past and future generations. Without the spirit we are, as T. S. Eliot so well said, “hollow” men living in a “waste land.” 

Clearly, both the spirit and the intellect serve very different but equally useful purposes. The spirit gives us certainty, but it cannot be examined empirically. The intellect reminds us to question even that which seems certain. The intellect and the spirit are our two eyes. Either used alone is lacking in depth perception. But like the placement of our eyes on our faces, the spirit and the intellect function best side-by-side, not one over the other.


Your call for a better balance between the intellect and the spirit among those of us who teach Church history is well placed, I believe, but when you quote those who suggest that we should see “in every hour and in every moment” the hand of God, you ask of history something that vehicle is unable to carry. Let me explain. Any serious attempt to see God’s hand in every single act, policy, or pronouncement of every Church prophet contradicts, it seems to me, Joseph Smith’s statement that a prophet is not always a prophet, and requires us to defend things that need not and cannot be defended. Mistakes have been made by our leaders and are freely admitted as such. Joseph admitted he was wrong to try to sell the copyright for the Book of Mormon in Canada. John Taylor, when he became president, thought Brigham Young’s united order an unwise “experiment.” David O. McKay and Joseph Fielding Smith disagreed on evolution. Brigham Young and others modified Joseph Smith’s history, and so on. To require our teachers to say all this was inspired, to try to make consistent that which is inconsistent, is to create rather than diminish doubt. A good person does not have to be completely perfect to be acceptable to God. Should an organization be any different?

Many things in our history are exceedingly difficult to explain. Exactly who was to succeed Joseph Smith as Church president is surely unclear no matter how hard we try to understand it. Some changes in doctrine are influenced by governmental action, as for example the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the practice of polygamy. Surely that tribunal had some influence on President Woodruff’s decision to end the practice of polygamy. To say that the Manifesto was not influenced by governmental action is simply to raise other, harder questions. Such as, why did God wait until 1890 to cease the practice? Why not 1879 when the Reynolds decision was handed down? Or, if the timing was just right, why then did a majority of the Twelve take additional wives after the Manifesto?

Many statements by Church leaders were made in the heat of battle and some prophesies were demonstrably wrong, e.g., Brigham Young “prophesied” a week before Appomattox that the Civil War would last another year. Life is complex and so is history. Natural forces, like gravity, play their role, too. And why not? Once we recognize no one is infallible, that there is a secular as well as a sacred side to our history, we don’t have to defend everything. Less certitude now may produce greater certainty in the long run.

You suggest that apostles are human. Certainly professors are. We should allow the same latitude to our collective efforts we call church history. By trying to make our history, our policies, and our leaders too perfect we set up our students for potential disaster. All the opposition has to do is to show, by our own documents, a few of our warts to cause doubt. Some have had a field day demonstrating, from our historical records, inconsistencies, changes and so forth. Their impact has been substantial because many of our members have been taught that our leaders never make mistakes and that our doctrines never change. Consequently, many expect too much and hence their faith is easily shaken.

The statement that God directs everything in every moment implies that everything is of equal importance. It equates every minor eccentricity with the divine will, every church policy with ultimate, enduring truth. It implies that the Church leadership is infallible and that any criticism of policy is heresy. It makes it nearly impossible to learn from our mistakes and makes needed changes hard and slow. By promising less will we not accomplish more? 


On page six you state that “there is a war going on,” that we should be “belligerents,” and hence we must be “one-sided” in teaching our history. This approach could alienate many of those who have gained respect for the Church and come to our defense in recent years. In my experience, non-Mormon scholars are far more sympathetic to the Church today than at any time in our history. Your call to do battle with them may offend them as the one-sided attack on Mormons in the nineteenth century offended us. Historians cannot be divided into those who fight for God and those who battle for the Devil. All of us, both inside and outside the Church, are limited in our ability to reconstruct the past, each seeks understanding according to his own abilities, and none has a corner on the truth. Being deliberately “one-sided” could destroy our credibility with our non-Mormon friends, tarnish our good name, invite counter attacks, and diminish the possibility of fruitful dialogue with other Christians facing similar problems.

Taking a “one-sided” approach to our history could also undermine the credibility of our teachers with our own members. Our students will soon recognize that they are being spoon-fed and discount our lessons accordingly. Many will see this approach as a form of censorship to present the spread of ideas thought to be dangerous and will resist it openly. Others will turn to non- and anti-Mormon sources to “get the real story.” In essence this approach treats our members as if they were children, unprepared to face the realities of life and too immature to be trusted with the family car. 

Taking a one-sided, faith-promoting approach to our history is basically as limiting as taking a one-sided, faith-destroying approach to our history. It tells only the “good” side, only that which promotes faith according to the teacher’s or writer’s point of view of what is good for us to know. Many of us find our faith enlarged by having the whole picture and not just the “smiling aspects of life” set before us. Let me again illustrate. I know of no one who has lost his faith because he read carefully Juanita Brook’s, The Mountain Meadows Massacre. When the whole story is told, in all its pathos and tragedy, understanding and sympathy for both sides usually is the result. Nor do I know anyone whose testimony was strengthened through ignorance-at least in the long run.

Your second “caution” that history teachers should not “tell everything,” your third that they should not give “equal time to the adversary,” and your fourth that they should avoid discussing some things already “in print,” convey a strong impression to this reader that you seem to be afraid of our past, that you think there must be a lot of disturbing things in the archives, and that many of us could be spiritually contaminated if we get too close to these records. My impression is buttressed by your further comments that we should not purchase or read anything from apostates, that their work is like a “disease.” By implication, one should not, I suppose, read non-Mormon authors who are critical of some of our doctrines. Is this really how you feel? Or have I misread your speech? 

I think your apparent fear of our past and our historians who try to be objective and fair is unjustified and overly sensitive. Most of the historians I know who have delved most thoroughly into our past are still faithful and active. Certainly our forebears who created the history you seem to fear were faithful. Nor did our early leaders only tell the Saints what was uplifting. That is what makes them so interesting.

I do know many, as I am sure you do, who have lost their faith by having had a naive, saccharine understanding of our history and then who have been exposed to our actual historical documents, some of which are less than faith promoting, without being able to turn to a knowledgeable and understanding teacher for assistance. By instructing our institute and seminary teachers to be “one-sided” and informed only about the “good” side of religion, you are, it seems to me, denying thousands of members the opportunity to turn to knowledgeable people within the institution who can help them with their spiritual difficulties.

You seem to be arguing that ignorance is the best defense against the challenge of secularism. This impression is based on your comment that “some things are to be taught selectively” and only to those “who are worthy,” that historians know things that others should not hear, that we cannot “safely” be neutral, and so on. It seems to me that such an approach is like building a house without a roof to protect us against bad weather. The rain will fall whether we like it or not. Our job is to be prepared when it does. We need to strengthen the ability of the Church membership to face contradictions, controversy, and the underside of the Church like they face the underside of life generally. The great historians in our Church have always done this, particularly B. H. Roberts. We cannot escape the challenge by our past by ignoring it, postponing it, or dealing with it selectively. Why not face it early on, head on, and all out like Roberts did? Knowledge was his defense, and it was a very noble one. Can ours be any less noble?

A “belligerent” and “one-sided” approach to history is by its very nature placing the study and writing of history in the same category as hard-sell salesmanship and publicity-it promises much and delivers little. We the teachers are being told to become publicity agents of the faith rather than objective and scholarly advocates of the truth. This approach places penalties on expressed doubt; gospel messages tend to be “packaged” in pleasing colors and sometimes deceptive containers; image is everything! “Selling” the gospel in this fashion downgrades our most cherished values to the same level as toothpaste, soap powders, and deodorants. It turns our missionaries and scholars into corporate sales-reps. Its emphasis, so far as potential converts are concerned, is on credulity rather than faith, and certitude more than certainty.

Your suggestion that there is “a war going on” and that we should be “belligerent” and “one-sided” in defense of the Church encourages a siege mentality with little room for any middle ground. It encourages denunciations of those who respect objectivity and discourages scholarship generally. 

By saying that teachers who do not always “build faith” are “a traitor to the cause” (p. 8), you place all the blame on the messenger and put no responsibility on the recipient of the message. Does not the membership have some obligation to prepare themselves to receive all truth as scripture suggests? Should the messenger always carry the full blame for the “bad” news he sometimes brings? After all, historians did not create the past, they are merely trying to understand it. 


The alleged conflict between the intellect and the spirit is usually most intense on university campuses, at least that has been my experience. There are a lot of deeply committed, tough-minded Latter-day Saints on our campuses, people who are well informed and faithful too. They have been toughened by exposure to disturbing facts and conflicting points of view. They have been broadened by contact with the world. Most important of all, their faith has been deepened because it has been tested, which after all is why we are here.

People, like Gods other creations, are made stronger by exposure to the elements. Hot-house plants may be more beautiful than plants in their natural setting, but they are also more fragile. Membership in the Kingdom is for the long haul and for those who can endure. Can we endure without being tested? Of course some will fail the test, but is that not better than having a congregation of hot-house Mormons, Mormons ignorant of their own traditions, Mormons cowering in their chapels and afraid to go to the library because they might read something disturbing?

What some find threatening others find stimulating. Our job as teachers should be to assist our students in going the whole way, not in halting their spiritual growth before the challenge even begins because we, their teachers, assume they are unequal to the task.

Finally, allow me to raise for your consideration a point I think is often overlooked. An effective way to survive the “shocks” of learning the underside of our history is to examine the underside of secularism as well. Once the weaknesses of the secular approach are well-perceived and digested, the choice between informed commitment and inactivity or apostasy is not all that troublesome. Once the limitations of the intellect are fully understood, the limitations of faith do not loom so large. Once the “culture of narcissism” is as fully appreciated for its weaknesses, the value of religion looms larger.


Both spirituality and intellectuality have suffered immeasurably when one or the other has been raised to a position of predominance. When one pits the eternal and the temporal, spirit and matter, passion and reason, mind and heart against each other, each comes away the loser. Indeed, to attack one set of values in the name of the other is to threaten both. What we need is not a rejection of one or the other but an integration of both, a reaffirmation of their joint dependency and usefulness. Placing faith and reason at odds with each other puts us at war with ourselves; placed in harmony together we are in both intellectual and spiritual repose.

You have “cautioned” historians on the need for greater spiritual insights–and rightfully so. All of us in the profession need to be required to rethink and at times modify our assumptions, methods, and goals. My modest effort here is to the same purpose: to raise some cautions for you to consider. If I have spoken frankly it is out of respect for your office and a desire not to patronize. If my ideas are offensive in any way, please be assured that they are directed at your ideas, not at you. If even one of these considerations causes you to reflect further and positively on this most important subject I shall be grateful.

Respectfully your brother,

James L. Clayton 

cc: President Gordon B. Hinckley

[James L. Clayton to Elder Boyd K. Packer; 19 Nov., 1981]

Elder Packer gave a speech a couple of weeks ago about history and historians. Without naming anybody in particular he says we have not built faith enough. Various historians are reacting to that and we’ve had papers by Larry Foster, Mike Quinn, Jim Clayton, and others. Frankly, it didn’t bother me and I do not think it will have any effect on us. We’re sailing right along doing what we’ve always done and what we expect to continue to do. Elder Packer’s admonitions, in my judgment, should not cause any alteration in our work. If they embarrass anybody, they embarrass him.

[LJA to Children, 25 Nov., 1981]

Elder Boyd K. Packer 

Council of the Twelve 

47 East So. Temple 

Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Dear Elder Packer:

I have read and reread the entire printed text of your recent address “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect” and noted with great interest and satisfaction your eloquent and welcome call, even plea for help. “We need your help” were your exact words.

May I respond to both your address and your plea? First a little background: I guess you could say I have been studying Church history most all my life. I started publishing in the field over thirty years ago in the Millennial Star. This great love of and interest in Church never left me and even though my Ph. D. from Columbia is in East European history, I have studied and published in Church history throughout my professional career. I also belong to all the appropriate professional associations and for over twenty-five years I have known well almost all the important professional and non-professional students of Church history.

What I am trying to suggest, Brother Packer, is that my background may lend some weight to what I am about to state. And that is simply this–I know of no other group of men or women in the Church who collectively have stronger testimonies of the Restoration or who more willingly wish to lay their gifts upon the “altar of sacrifice” to build and better the Kingdom than professional Church historians.

One of the sources of our strong testimonies is Church history itself. That is why we diligently research and publish as we do. We are far more interested in helping others gain stronger testimonies through a deeper and more thorough knowledge of Church history than the “Scholarly reputation and the acclaim of your [our] colleagues in the world…” (your words once more.).

And yet I do not know personally of a single instance in which faithful Mormon historians have ever suffered professionally for their living and working in accordance with their testimonies. Most of us are honored and do very well in our profession.

Never have I had to alter a word in any lecture, book, or article for any committee or editor or done anything professionally which would have required me to compromise my faith or understanding of Church history. 

I have advised my share of M.A. and Ph.D. candidates, some of whom have worked in Mormon history. None of them has ever suffered by holding to the faith. I can well understand your great concern over the doctoral candidate who came to you for advice and felt he suffered professionally for his beliefs. He did, however, have one other option. He could have written the dissertation to satisfy his committee and then have rewritten it to satisfy himself and searched around for a publisher. All dissertations have to be rewritten for publication anyway, for dissertations are a peculiar art form unto themselves. It might very well have been possible for this young man to have had the mantle AND the intellect. Elder Packer, the very idea that the mantle and the intellect are mutually exclusive is disturbing. I personally claim to have it and believe that most of my colleagues in the Church do too. It is a very easy thing when one falls short of ones professional aspirations to decide that “holding to the iron rod” was the cause of such failure; this is a most comforting rationalization.

I too have “walked that road of scholarly research and study and know something of the dangers” to use your words again; in fact, I suppose I live on that road, or at least by its side. I can state categorically, however, that it is the collective experience of professional Mormon historians that an in-depth study of Church history is faith promoting, even uplifting, not hurtful to testimonies. 

What kind of testimonies are we building in the Church, protecting in the Church, if the fact that some of the sons of Brigham Young smoked is so shocking? Rather weak testimonies I would judge. Our unusual concern over the truth regarding the evolution of the Word of Wisdom does not strengthen the youth of Zion, rather, it leaves them vulnerable to anti-Mormons who delight in pointing out these unadmitted truths. I wrestled with this for years while writing the life of Heber C. Kimball who certainly did not worry much over the Word of Wisdom. I am happy to say, however, that my responsible (and prayerful) treatment of his full life has won for me the love and respect of the great Kimball Family Association.

If such relative trifles are of such import, what are we to do with holy scripture. I take great comfort for the fact that the authors of the Old and New Testament and the Book of Mormon were not censored. In a responsible manner they presented balanced pictures of our religious heroes, and only One was unflawed. Scripture does not offer us two-dimensional cardboard cutouts for our heroes. I believe millions have taken courage from the Bible and Book of Mormon and concluded that perhaps there was hope for them too, if even those annointed sometimes struggled under the burden of perfection.

In my biography of Heber C Kimball I quote what George Q. Cannon noted that President Lorenzo Snow said, “I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet do things which I did not approve of; and yet…I thanked God that he would put upon a man who had these imperfections the power and authority which he placed upon him…for I knew myself I had weaknesses and I thought there was a chance for me. These same weaknesses…I knew were in Heber C. Kimball, but my knowing this did not impair him in my estimation. I thanked God I saw these imperfections.” 

Over the ten years I worked on the life of my great-great grandfather and grandfather to the current president of the Church, I spent much time on my knees praying for guidance which I verily received. Important, though not always pleasant, truths can be told responsibly.

I perceive of three levels of understanding of Church history. First the simple, standard, Sunday School version. Second, a level where some problems appear to contradict the first level. It is at this level that critics of the Church operate. It is this level which so disturbs the Saints at large–for they are not prepared to cope with it when critics of the Church draw it to their attention. (As a professor of history of over twenty years and an Institute instructor for over eight years, I have counseled with such disturbed Saints and, with one exception concerning the Book of Abraham papyri, not only helped them quiet their fears, but emerge from the experience with even stronger testimonies.

The method is simple. All I did was take them carefully to level three, the bedrock of Church history. At that level the problems of the second level are answered and the simple presentation at level one is fully confirmed.

Now you may ask, if going to bedrock merely confirms level one, why bother? That would be permissible if…if only anti-Mormons would do the same thing. But they do not. Their stock in trade are the problems of level two and they are too successful for we have not properly prepared the Saints to understand what anti-Mormon literature is all about. Trying to prepare the Saints to meet these challenges is one thing professional Church historians strive to do and believe to be part of their “calling.”

As an experienced institute instructor, I would recommend a new course titled “An Introduction to Anti-Mormon Literature.” In this course, I would take my students through all three levels of understanding of selected events in Church history. I would try to follow the admonition of the Savior to help them become as harmless as doves and as wise as serpents. There is no way one can be as wise as a serpent and not thoroughly understand Church history.

Let me tell you of one case in particular. Some years ago, a member of our library staff, a BYU graduate, return missionary, and married in the temple had just come across an anti-Mormon book and read it out of curiosity; ashen-faced he later came to me because he felt his testimony slipping. I asked him to bring me the book and arranged to have lunch with him a week later. At that time, taking the book chapter by chapter, I showed him how each problem disappeared at level three. Slowly I showed him that all anti-Mormon literature is a two edged sword. Anti-Mormons use certain arguments to cut against the Church; persons with an in-depth understanding of Church history can skillfully turn the sword back on such detractors of our faith.

Let me quote you my concluding paragraph to an article on the Anthon Transcript which I published in the Spring, 1970 issue of B.Y.U. Studies. 

“For a variety of reasons most institutions, especially religious ones, ultimately face the necessity of preparing a detailed history of their own origins. While the early generations are so close to the beginning that their personal knowledge is adequate and their faith strong, succeeding generations have to acquire their knowledge second-hand and therefore require written accounts, not only to buttress their own faith, but to answer the ever present critics and doubters. This generation must now utilize fully the art and science of history to recapture the past and properly narrate and interpret its own origins; we must search out more fully the sources of the Restoration…”

I was especially arrested by your “Second Caution,” concerning “the exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told.” What “theory” is this? It certainly never formed part of my extremely rigorous training at Columbia University during the years 1955-59. Only rank amateurs tell everything. My colleagues are not such. Whatever this theory is, it is not held by professional Church historians.

In all the arts what one leaves out is as important as what one puts in. Telling everything is not only unprofessional, it is unreadable; in fact, it is not even history, chronicling perhaps.

Elder Packer, I could continue, but perhaps this will suffice. Permit me to close with a plea to you, in the same spirit in which you made your eloquent plea to us. I am confident there are those in the Church who needed your dressing down and your office carries great weight. I hope those who need to hear, hearken. I fear, however, if your address as it now stands is issued as a separate pamphlet, appears in the Ensign and in BYU Studies it will do serious harm to those of us who do not write the kind of history you deplore. We have always been a history keeping and minded people and, for the most part, have trusted and appreciated our historians. Some have even been called and sustained by several Prophets. In spite of such callings even now the Historical Department of the Church has been seriously down-graded. Your address is another most serious blow to some of the most faithful and dedicated men and women in the Church.

We affirm that the glory of our God is intelligence, intellect, and strive to place what little intellect and mantel we might have in His Service.

If the position of professional Church historians and those of us that write Church history is further undercut, if the Saints are caused to lose faith in us, how will Church historians be able to effectively defend the church against calumny, distortion, incrimination, slander, libel, anti-Mormon propaganda, and such acts? Professional Church historians, or professional historians of Church history, form the Church’s first line of defense concerning our past. Certainly, is not your intention to weaken this line of defense.

It is a very sobering experience to read the original history of the

Church as published in the Times and Season, the Millennial Star and the Deseret

News. Those Church historians, personally acquainted with Joseph Smith and other early leaders, were far less inhibited in their writing of Church history than contemporary professional historians in the Church.

Could you not clarify your position, making it clear that you are addressing those in the Church who do violate the cannon of good historical writing and not give the impression of tarring with the same brush many of us so anxious to lay our gifts on the altar, trying to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause?”

Since you and Elder Gordon B. Hinckley were at one time advisors to the former Historical Department of the Church, I feel it might be appropriate to share these thoughts with him.


Stanley B. Kimball


cc: Elder Gordon B. Hinckley

P.S. Elder Packer when some of the prophecies of Heber C. Kimball come to pass, the Church will need all the faithful professional historians it has and the saints will need to have faith in them. After prayerful consideration, I have decided that perhaps I should send a copy of this letter to President Kimball. 

cc: President Spencer W. Kimball 

[Stanley B. Kimball to Elder Boyd K. Packer; 1 Dec., 1981]

One might wonder how the primary aim of not disturbing the testimonies of students can be promoted along with the aim of raising the level of their critical thinking. Doesn’t intellectual and spiritual growth require some dissonance, tension, and struggle before it matures? To avoid the struggle by making sure that faculty do not disturb testimonies is to deny a basic element of human growth and development–as my weight-lifting teenage son’s T-shirt proclaims, “No Pain–No Gain.” Leonard Arrington has referred to this necessary tension as “creative tension,” but admirable as this might be, it is well to remember that creativity also has risks. As John Dewey expressed it:

Let us admit the case of the conservative: if we once start thinking no one can guarantee where we shall come out, except that many objects, ends and institutions are doomed. Every thinker puts some portion of an apparently stale world in peril and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place. 

(Intelligence in the Modern World–John Dewey’s Philosophy. Edited, and with an introduction by Joseph Ratner)

There is then genuine risk involved in exposing young Mormon minds to secular learning. Perhaps liberals in the church do not grasp the implications of “free” thought as clearly as Dewey (and the conservatives) do for the future of institutions such as Brigham Young University. If stability and institutional efficiency are the desired outcomes of a system of education, of course it would be hard to fault those who want to promote a no-risk party line for B.Y.U. On the other hand, as I understand Mormon theology, “risk” seems to be what this mortal existence is all about. To paraphrase a Mormon aphorism–“for it must needs be that there be risk in all things.”

The tensions on the tightrope at the Brigham Young University can be creative and fulfilling as Arrington suggests, if they are produced by the open clash of ideas in the academic market place where the antidote for poor reasoning is better reasoning, not suppression of “false” ideas. However, if the tensions are produced by the “tug-of-war” over academic freedom they are less likely to be creative in their effect on student and faculty and more likely to stifle and deaden what democratic civilization has prized as one of its most cherished possessions–freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression. Such freedom is also the essence of any institution of higher education–religious or secular. 

A response to “Walking a Tightrope: The Duality of Mormon Educational Philosophy” (A paper presented at the Sunstone Theological Symposium, August 26, 1983, by Gary James Bergera).

Frederick S. Buchanan

Department of Educational Studies

Graduate School of Education

University of Utah

August 22, 1983

[The Ebb and Flow of Academic Freedom at Brigham Young University; LJA Diary, 26 Aug., 1983]

We got to BYU in time to hear the video replay of Tuesday’s opening session of the University Conference. Hal Eyring was eloquent, most effective and impressive in his presentation. But we had really gone to hear Jeff Holland discuss his report of his stewardship and views of the university. Very emotional. Very important.

Background: the word is that upon reading the program for the Sunstone Symposium (held last week at Hotel Utah) they were very upset to see a long list of BYU people involved. Increasingly some of the apostles have come to see Sunstone and Dialogue as “the enemy” and to feel that all who support them and contribute to them are working at cross purposes with the Church. Jeff was, it is said, called in, soundly thrashed, and told to get his house in order.

Whether that happened just that way or not, it is clear that Jeff’s discussion of faith and scholarship this week had for him more than passing importance. He talked at some length and then shifted gears. To the press, “if you are here,” this is off the record, he said, “and I have not yet decided whether this will be published or not. This is for internal use only.”

Spoke about these being difficult times and that each of us must consider what it means to defend the Kingdom. (Quoted a passage from Luther that Gene England had used about the church as a city surrounded by death, that each of us have a certain post on the walls which no other can fill “but nothing prevents us from calling out encouragement to one another.”) The Brethren, he said, do not intend to tell us how to carry out our stewardships, but they have a right to look to us as allies and to see strength and assistance when they view us–certainly not that our guns are trained on them. Reviewed at length President Hinckley’s spring remarks at the Hawaii campus, stressing that as we continue our search for truth, we are to look for strength and goodness rather than weakness and foibles.

There is only one string attached to our $100 million appropriations per year, stressed President Holland, and that is to know that we are their allies in the battle to save souls. “Of course we have different opinions, different perspectives, with each other and with the Brethren; I have had differences with them. But I have not written a book about it or gone on television to proclaim it.” He has gambled everything in his administration on the premise that we can be academically great and still be unequivocally loyal to the gospel and to the Church, he says. To the new faculty he stresses that we will be great not at the expense of our faith but because of it. “Any one feeling compelled to embarrass the Brethren over matters of history or government or doctrine should not plan to do it here.” Too much has been given by far too many to allow even one or two to foul the BYU mast and flag.

Choices have to be made here. What is at stake is the very idea of a transcendent university, a work that has barely begun. We want to know all the world knows but other things as well. We all share responsibility for this university’s future.

It is hard to quarrel with the vision of the University that Pres. Holland presented; I don’t know anyone who wishes to. But as a practical matter it is not so easy. It is too bad the Brethren are presently so sensitive about these things and so distrustful of scholarship. Most of what went on at the Sunstone Symposium, for example, was not negative or critical of the Church; from reports I hear several sessions could only be described as uplifting, even faith promoting. The same can be said for much of the content of the two publications presently in disrepute. But there repeatedly are enough bad examples to reinforce the Brethren’s distrust of the whole endeavor and to cause them to see all involved in it as “the enemy.” That is unfortunate and, if there were advocates and better communication, unnecessary. In the meantime we do the best we can in this environment and do what we can to contribute to more trust and better dialogue. (Not that all that parades under the guise of scholarship and intellectual inquiry should be defended; but the process seems under a cloud and that must be remedied.) 

[Jeff Holland Address (Ronald K. Esplin notes); LJA Diary, 31 Aug., 1983]

Ron Walker telephoned this morning to report on an aside in Jeff Holland’s talk to the BYU Faculty last Thursday. Near the end of his talk, Holland said, “I want to make an off-the-record statement [this to 2,000 people and another 10,000 potential viewers on radio and television]. The church is in a period of difficulty; many of the brethren have been ill and incapacitated, and [by implication] the church is in a leadership vacuum. Some of you are writing things critical of The Brethren. I want you to quit it. Those who write things critical of The Brethren will not last long at BYU.”

Ron understands that this is probably a reaction to a meeting held a couple of days earlier in which The Brethren called Holland to account for the considerable number of BYU people that participated in the Sunstone Symposium. One would suppose that the age-old enemies of historians—Roy Doxey, Tom Truitt, Calvin Rudd, Bill Nelson—went through the Symposium program, jotted down the names of BYU professors participating, and called this to the attention of Elders Benson and Petersen and Packer. These then dressed down Jeff Holland in a very forceful way. Ron understands that he was lashed so heavily that he was ill the next day.

I go thru the program myself and find the following BYU people on the Symposium program:

Eugene England, Gary Gillum, Joyce Woodbury, Arthur Bassett, Michael Graves, Steven C. Walker, Tom Alexander, John Tvedtnes, Marilyn Arnold, Maureen Beecher, Leonard Arrington, Stan Albrecht, Howard Bahr, D. Michael Quinn, Ed Kimball, Bruce Jorgensen, Georganne Ballif Arrington, Marvin Hill, Tom Rogers, Ann Edwards-Cannon, Stephen Ricks, Alan Swanson, J. Bonner Ritchie, David Whittaker, Todd Britsch, Reba Keele, and perhaps others whose affiliation is not mentioned. 

These are 26 names; I heard from a friend there were 37 from BYU. Of all those, I personally do not know of a single one who was “critical of the Brethren” or who has other than a deep attachment to the Church and its leaders. 

Ron says that he is not going to let this pass. He will try, during the coming week, to see a vice president or President Holland himself to proclaim the loyalty of the historians and others who write about the Church. I told him I had no objection if he did so.

[LJA Diary, 3 Sept., 1983]

Leonard J. Arrington

Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History

Brigham Young University

Provo, Utah 84602

Dear Leonard:

I’m writing in follow-up to our conversation about the entry in what is apparently in the diaries of a relative of Ed Hart. You will recall that I’ve been trying to track down the quotation and citation relating to the anecdote you used in an MHA talk several years ago. In it, a pioneer Mormon had a problem with a tooth which didn’t respond to treatment, or to administration with oil—until he remembered that faith without works was dead and reached in and pulled out the offending tooth. His final comment, as I recall your talk, was, “Praise be to God, it hasn’t hurt since.” I would like to get the original story if it would not be too inconvenient for you. I couldn’t find it in the published diary.

I hope things are well with you. One has the impression that modern scholarly studies of LDS history are about to come under a rather profound cloud—at least as they relate to doctrine. Perhaps I am overreading, but the use of the term “settled” doctrine seems a clear indication of where the lines are being drawn. If the current folks think that McConkie settled it, they don’t want further analysis. I hope I’m wrong.

Best wishes,

Lester Bush

755 Tiffany Drive

Gaithersburg, MD 20878

[Lester Bush to LJA; LJA Diary, 8 Oct., 1985]

It has been a disappointment to me to realize that not all LDS educators, particularly a few in the College of Religion at BYU and in the seminary system, were brought up, as I was, to believe that there is a close relationship between religion and intellect. My generation benefited from conference addresses by such apostles as James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, B. H. Roberts, Orson F. Whitney, and Joseph F. Merrill, each of whom, in their different ways, told us that the glory of God is intelligence, that men and women cannot be saved in ignorance, and that we should study out of the best books words of wisdom. We were also influenced by the Sunday School and MIA manuals by scholars like Lowell Bennion, T. Edgar Lyon, Obert Tanner, Russel Swensen, Waldemer P. Read, and others, which taught us that the Lord wanted us to search for truths in the scriptures, in the lives of holy men and women, and in the studies of well-intentioned scholars, whatever their profession or religious preferences. Faith, we were taught, was consistent with thought, learning, and the use of the intellect. This is still primary in my belief and in the belief of my friends and associates, but I have seen a retraction from it among various younger educators who give greater emphasis to Scriptural literalism. Listen to your heart, not your head; to your ecclesiastical superiors, not to your own mind; to Church publications rather than works of “outside” scholarship. I regret this tendency. 

[LJA to Children, 21 Oct., 1987]

When I was in high school, as the result of a suggestion in an MIA Manual or a chance encounter at the Public Library, I checked out The Book Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton, which is about the Bible, and The Man Nobody Knows, also by Bruce Barton, which is about Jesus. Both were best sellers, and intended for the general public. I was very much stimulated by them–they provided new insights. Above all, they prepared me to be receptive to the instruction I received from George Tanner at the LDS Institute in Moscow, when I was at the University of Idaho. George (it was always Brother Tanner in those days) had spent two years at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and he oriented us on “the Higher Orientation.” This had been around for about 100 years, but was new to me, as it was to most LDS students. This is the literary-historical study of the Bible, seeking to determine such factors as authorship, date, place of origin, circumstances of composition, purpose of author, and historical credibility of each of the writings, together with the meaning intended by their authors. Professors at the Univ. of Chicago had been leaders in this scholarship, had written several books, and George assigned some of these books to us to read. It was perhaps the most satisfying intellectual experience of my life–to be able to reconcile my religious beliefs with the very finest scholarship. It was satisfying for me permanently because I have derived enormous pleasure through the years reading the Bible as books, as writings, as spiritual narratives, as history, as poetry. I try to keep up with the scholarship also. Yesterday I started and finished Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard E. Friedman, with the very recent scholarly findings. I found the book very informative, stimulating, persuasive, even inspiring. 

[LJA to Children, 24 Nov., 1987]

As I get older I recognize more clearly the limitations of the human intellect in its attempts to unravel the mystery of God’s action in the world. Writing good history requires brains, courage, access to archival sources, and appropriate intellectual training and formation. But it also depends on intuition, the daily inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and the inspiration that comes from Sacrament services and individual and collective devotional life. I have not yet come to feel the necessity of frequent attendance at the temple. I think I get as much inspiration watching birds, or looking at the mountains and the wilderness, as participating in the rituals there. The one regret I have is the failure of the Church authorities to recognize that by restricting the use of the archives they are concealing vast riches of inspiration and revelation. 

[LJA to Children, 18 Sept., 1989]

When I grew up there was no talk of dinosaurs. I do not recall ever hearing of them until I was a student in zoology at the University of Idaho, and even then it was simply a mention of fossil discoveries found in the modern remnants of primordial swamps. No big deal. The principal intellectual puzzle of my freshman year there was the idea of evolution. Somehow, that didn’t seem to square with what Joseph Fielding Smith had been teaching and putting into books and church manuals. I went to George Tanner, our LDS Institute teacher and head of our LDS dorm, who assured me that there should be no conflict between religion and science—that truth was truth, whether it came from religion or science, and that the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other church leaders would not require us to believe anything that was untrue. He spent an hour or two telling me how one could reconcile Biblical accounts with evolution. He satisfied me, and I have never had any problems since with evolution. I have never had the feeling that the facts of prehistory would reduce our souls or diminish our humanness or, for that matter, downgrade the role of God in history. I have always been a believer—in evolution, and in Mormonism. 

If my generation was nagged with doubts about evolution, your generation was not. To be sure, Bruce McConkie tried to preserve the Joseph Fielding Smith (his father-in-law) interpretation that the earth was 6,000 years old, that the Biblical account of creation was literal, and that evolution was, in his words, “false as hell.” But this didn’t seep into your minds. Young people, in and out of the church, you included, were consistent fans of dinosaurs and had no anxiety. There was no feeling that the existence of dinosaurs threatened their (your) faith. Or at least I thought so.

When we were in Southern California we went once or twice to the LeBrea Tar Pits, right near the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. I bought you some books and pamphlets, and read to you from them. Dinosaurs were pictured at the time as sluggish misfits (they are now seen as remarkably adaptive) and I wondered if you identified with them so quickly and easily because you often saw yourselves as misfits in an adult world. There was a certain kinship. Above all, I hope those discussions helped you, as it helped me, to realize that the world was not always as it is. The world, and that includes us, as always changing, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly. We see and experience many exciting things on our journey through life. This is the way God intends; this is our destiny and pleasure.

[LJA to Children, 7 Oct., 1989]

I’ve just been reading the life of Rudger Clawson, an apostle when I grew up–in fact, the senior apostle from 1921 until his death in 1943. I remember him very well—an intelligent man but a very dry speaker. He spoke in a monotone. The biography was by two of his grandsons, both non-Mormons but first-rate writers. They had his journals and letters, but did not use anything in the Church Archives, which denied them use of the key diaries and would have restricted use of some other material–restrictions they were not willing to accept. Anyway, next to the last page of the book are some comments on Mormonism. Here is one: “Mormonism as a belief system does not foster the questioning mind. In most of the world’s religions, there is a realm of mysticism or avenues of thought where religious beliefs can be adapted to individual needs. Mormonism has few if any such avenues.” This has not been my experience. I would say that my spirit of questioning arose from my Mormonism. Questions in Sunday School, in MIA, in Priesthood quorums. Far more questioning than in school, where we were supposed to accept what the teacher said. And I have possessed a questioning spirit all my life and have never found it to conflict with my Mormonism. On the contrary, it led to my writing books and articles that, if they did not betray a questioning spirit, at least were the result of the pursuit of facts and meaning.

The very first book I read on Mormon history, when I was 15, was Joseph

Smith, An American Prophet by John Henry Evans, which was given to me as a birthday present by Bertha Mae Thurgood Hansen, a neighbor. The book portrays Joseph Smith as a person with an open mind, a questioning mind, a person in pursuit of education and knowledge. I accepted this as representing the spirit of Mormonism, and still hold to it. This is the way I have always looked at Joseph Smith in a favorable light and still do.

The authors of the biography of Clawson then go on to quote J. Reuben

Clark that religious faith cannot be rationalized. Well, I have come to the entirely opposite conclusion. Not only can religious faith be rationalized, but it ought to be; every attempt should be made to rationalize it. It can be, without damage to the faith, and it ought to be to keep one’s faith from degenerating into fanaticism, mental unbalance, incoherence, and unsoundness. Well, that’s my testimony for the day. I react against those who see Mormonism as discouraging thought, reason, and intellectuality. I don’t see it that way, although there are certainly some Mormons–those of little faith from my point of view–who join in that. Most of them, I think, are in the College of Religious Studies at BYU, though even most of them are not in the anti-intellectual camp. 

[LJA to Children, 11 Feb., 1990]

Dear Children:

Two or three events which have happened in the last three days prompt this letter. We watched General Conference both sessions on Saturday and on Sunday. The talks were fine and I’m glad I listened. In my judgment the two outstanding talks were by Howard Hunter, who talked on the gospel as a global faith with an all-embracing message not limited to any race, nationality, or culture. Latter-day Saints must have a positive and inclusive approach toward others who are not of our faith. They are our brothers and sisters; we are all sons and daughters of the same Heavenly Father. The other outstanding talk was by Aileen Clyde, counselor in the Relief Society Presidency, who discussed the charitable, compassionate service of the Relief Society. We must bear one another’s burdens. The Gospel will comfort us as we extend ourselves in help and love to those who need us. But, it is not charity or kindness to endure any type of abuse or unrighteousness that may be inflicted by others.

The one talk that marred the tone of the conference for me was Elder Packer’s talk asserting that studying doctrine without the spirit is dangerous. Intellectual study of Mormon doctrine without the spiritual component is wrong, he said, thus indirectly criticizing symposiums and study groups which, he said, concentrate on doctrine and ordinances and measure them by the intellect alone. This statement is false, in my experience, since no symposium, especially Sunstone Symposium, studies by the intellect alone to the exclusion of personal testimony and “the spirit.” My talks alone are proof of that.

[LJA to Children, 8 Oct., 1991]

I learned this week that the FBI people hired by the Church have maintained a file on people that might be potential enemies, and that this includes files on people connected with Sunstone and Dialogue. The files contain only potentially harmful material, not positive reports. That is, clippings from articles and books and newspaper reports with damaging views or information. The two sources for this information on file, are Ross Peterson and Linda Sillitoe. In both cases, they were called in by their stake presidents, sent to area representatives, and confronted with the material in their “file,” demanding an explanation, apology, and threatening excommunication.

The creation of these files—and of course we don’t know how many have been assembled or where they are located—I believe to be a result of the employment of several former FBI executives who were trained in this sort of thing and during the scares of the 1970s and ‘80s sold the concept to church authorities. That the files contain only negative information, and in some cases unsubstantiated information, is especially regrettable. That the files still existed in 1991 is attested by both Ross and Linda. Almost certainly they have one on me, although there has never been an occasion when they have confronted me with it. I am certain my file was started by Tom Truitt, a John Bircher employee of the Historical Department.

Leonard Arrington

[LJA Diary, 6 Feb., 1992]

I’ve noticed something about myself that I have never acknowledged before and is worth mentioning. I like the ordinary things of life to go on and on as they are, even though my intellectual life may be changing all the time. I don’t appreciate surprises in the progress of living. I would go on eating the foods I am accustomed to for years; I would wear the same clothes; I would drive the same car; I would watch the same television shows; would go to bed at the same time; would not vary my lifestyle. I like the furniture to be where it has been. I’m very conservative in my tastes and surroundings. I want things to go on just as they have been.

Yet in my intellectual life I move about easily. It was no great problem to move from chicken-raising to college life, from agriculture to economics, from economics to history, from economic history to social history, from history to biography, from biographies of men to biographies of women. I have conceived of new approaches and new fields and have been (I think) a creative scholar.

Harriet is almost the opposite. She wants to rearrange the furniture, put up new drapes, throws away clothes—not because they’re worn out but because she is tired of them. She’s always trying some new food to cook, some new thing to do. Is always urging me to get a new suit, a new shirt, a new tie, a new pair of shoes. I resist. I want things to go on as they are.

A mother and father quail with nine tiny quail have been spending most of their time in our backyard the past few days. Makes us wonder if the nest was also in the backyard. Perhaps. We found a nest for an earlier group that is now half-way grown was in our south flower patch near the side door of the house. I enjoy watching them, carefully concealed behind a curtain, of course. Nine little ones!

[LJA to Children, 18 Jun., 1992]

I was not able to be at Sunstone the last two years on account of the Idaho history, but was glad I could attend this one. The most surprising event was the allegation, in a question period, by Eugene England that the church keeps secret files on intellectuals, a fact which we have known but has not been publicly acknowledged. Now it is out in the open and I am glad. Maybe the LDS FBI will cut down on its nefarious influence.

[LJA to Children, 10 Aug., 1992]

There’ve been articles in the paper on the First Presidency committee on strengthening the members of the church that keeps files on us intellectuals and occasionally asks stake presidents to call us in to check on our loyalty. I’m glad it’s out in the open. The church’s activity in this regard has been indefensible, and I hope this public outcry will cause them to be more circumspect in their intimidation of historians and other writers.

[LJA to Children, 15 Aug., 1992]

We deeply regret the church’s efforts to squelch two of our favorite historians, Laurel Ulrich and Michael Quinn. Someone at church headquarters doesn’t have any sense. Why cut down intellectuals who are honest and splendid writers? I am doing what I can to help the cause of good scholarship, and sometimes we make progress. This week was a setback. Why don’t they devote more time and energy to the wife-beaters and crooks? 

[LJA to Children, 15 Feb., 1993]

First Draft, Not Sent

Dear Susan:

I appreciate very much your letter of 4 August. I agree with virtually everything you wrote. Let me add the following thoughts for clarification.

1. My fellow historians and I were outraged by the refusal of the Board of Education to approve Laurel Ulrich for speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference. I have known her since 1972, and can testify that she is as fine a Latter-day Saint as you can find. She has always been active, has led an exemplary life, has always supported the Church in its many policies, and is one of the finest women speakers and writers. Because of my nomination she has been invited to join the Society of American Historians, a group of 200 select historians in the nation. The Alternative Women’s Conference was scheduled as a protest to that decision, and I agreed that some protest ought to be made. 

2. I had a chance to examine the Relief Society manual a couple of years ago, and felt it was an insult to the educated members of the Relief Society. Whether it is better now I can’t say. The Relief Society Presidency are quite aware of its inadequacy to serve the needs of many members, but they do not write the manual, do not commission it, and no one pays any attention to their recommendations. I can speak very knowingly of our Priesthood manuals. We are studying this year precisely the same manual we had four years ago. And that was precisely the same as the one we used eight years ago. To go over the same lessons every year that we used four years before is an insult. The least they could do is to have a new manual every year and let the Stake President or bishop decide which they should use in their stake or ward. There is a different teacher than four years ago, but the bishop tells them to teach from the manual. In our Relief Society the teacher actually reads most of the lesson to the class. Is that supposed to be stimulating, inspiring, or educational? The lesson book I examined two or three years ago was not very much above the level of the Primary lesson book. We have dozens of splendid writers, why can’t we use them? It is true that they need something basic for new converts in Africa, the Philippines, and Brazil. But why can’t they provide an alternative for the wards of old-time members in Provo, Logan, and Salt Lake City? The gospel is wonderful, the glory of God is intelligence, to study and learn is good, so why can’t we give some evidence of that in our manuals?

3. Much of the problem lies in the expansion of the Church to the Midwest, Eastern, and Southern United States and to Mexico, Brazil, and countries in Europe, Africa, and the Far East. Back in pioneer days we were all in little farm villages, and we developed a superior culture of neighborliness, mutual help, cooperation, and community pride. There is still much of that in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona. Women of the neighborhood gather, as you do in Hyde Park, to do homemaking, console each other, rejoice with each other, and enjoy your associations together. This was true for Edna, Grace, you, Harriet, Lisa, and for Cleone, Virgie, Velma and Valene, and hundreds of others. This is not possible in places like Atlanta, Philadelphia, Mexico City, Berlin, and Sao Paulo where members are scattered, do not know each other except in a church setting, and who cannot have the same neighborly and community life we used to have in Logan or that they have in Sugar City, Idaho. You go to Church Sunday to the Relief Society class or High Priest Group, Sunday School class, Sacrament meeting, then head for home. Very little chance to visit, to get acquainted, to nourish each other as in a neighborhood setting. Where there is good personal acquaintance there can also be justice and mercy in all relationships. Where there is only a casual relationship, church leaders go by the book rather than by the person’s needs. Or at least that is a possibility. This helps to explain some of the stories women are telling—stories that come out of experiences in the Midwest and East.

You are an outstanding teacher, and if you were in our ward women would be coming out in droves to hear you. Our teachers go by the manual, and, I’m told, the average attendance is 18 percent. I for one feel great about the gospel and the potential it provides, but I feel free to make suggestions that might improve the potential. I too do not believe in contention, but I see nothing wrong with helpful, constructive suggestions. People are dropping out for the very reasons that contentions arise. Let’s make the program as good as we can and there will be a minimum of contention.

4. You sent me a copy of your talk on the power of the Priesthood and the way it helps women. It was a great talk and would have been a splendid one to have delivered to the Alternative Conference. You are the Chieko Okazaki of Logan! And let me add that the lessons in Grace’s day were positively wonderful!

Love to you,


[LJA to Susan, not sent; LJA Diary, 10 May, 1993]

I appreciate very much your letter of August 4. I agree with virtually everything you wrote. Let me add the following thoughts for clarification.

My fellow historians and I were outraged by the refusal of the Board of Education to approve Laurel Thatcher Ulrich for speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference. I have known her since 1972, and can testify that she is a fine Latter-day Saint, fully worthy. She has always been active, has led an exemplary life, has supported the Church in its many policies, and is one of the finest women speakers and writers in the Church. I tried to think of some way we could protest their turn-down, and was delighted when the women scheduled the Alternative Women’s Conference as a protest.

Back in pioneer days, when most of the Saints lived in farm villages, they developed a superior culture of neighborliness, mutual help, cooperation, and community pride. There is still much of that in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona. Women of the neighborhood gather, as you do in Hyde Park, to do homemaking, console each other, rejoice with each other, and enjoy your associations together. As the Church has spread outside these cultural oases into the Midwest, East, South, and Europe, Africa, and the Far East, the members are scattered, and their associations are largely centered on the three-hour block of classes on Sunday. They cannot have the same neighborly and community life they are still able to have in Hyde Park, Twin Falls, Provo, and St. George. Their acquaintanceships are more casual, more superficial, more restricted. Most of the stories of women mistreatment that I have heard, arise out of situations in the Midwest, East, and other areas where there is not a solid basis of community understanding.

The expansion of the Church has meant more dependence on the handbook and on manuals, which means going by the letter rather than by the spirit of the Gospel. Or at least that seems to be a tendency. Going by the handbook means less attention to the individual and his or her needs. The manuals used in Sunday School, Relief Society, Priesthood quorums emphasize the basics: What is needed in The Philippines, in Sao Paolo, in Stuttgart, in Manchester, in Mexico City. In the process they are not building the faith of many of us who have been members of the Church all our lives. Would you believe it that our High Priest Lesson Manual is precisely the same as it was four years ago, just as the one last year was precisely the same as the one four years before. And those lesson manuals were precisely the same as those four years before. This is insulting. The teachers may be new, but when the bishop instructs that all teachers must teach the manual, we do not get inspiration, stimulation, or something exciting to consider. There are dozens of splendid writers in the Church. Why can they not be used to produce new manuals–if not for converts, then for the rest of us? The Gospel is wonderful, the glory of God is intelligence, to study and learn is good. The least we could do is allow teachers to make use of material in some of the wonderful books that have been and are being published. The Sunday School lessons used to be great; the Relief Society lessons used to be great. You, no doubt, have wonderful material to present, but that is not true of many teachers. Certainly not true in many wards.

I am not in favor of contention, but I see nothing wrong with making constructive suggestions for improvement, and counseling with church authorities about possible cases of mistreatment. (I don’t know of any in our ward.)

If none of this makes sense, toss it! But remember I love you! 


[LJA to Susan; LJA Diary, 13 May, 1993]

Lavina Fielding Anderson

1519 Roberta Street

Salt Lake City, UT 84115

27 June 1993

Dear Friend:

You may be aware that the most recent development in the ongoing academic freedom controversy at Brigham Young University is the firing of David Knowlton in the Anthropology Department and Cecilia Konchar Farr in the English Department, effective with the termination of their teaching contracts in the spring of 1994.

This is an open letter to express my concern about the situation, to provide some information about the decision, and to invite you to express your feelings to Rex E. Lee,

President, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602. Your interest may be that of an academician, as a friend of Mormon intellectuals, or as someone who has ties with BYU of a personal, professional, or family nature. In any case, I appreciate your willingness to consider the information herein.

Out of fifty faculty members undergoing third-year reviews this spring, five were denied continuing faculty status. The other three have not come forward; presumably they do not consider the decisions in their case to be unfair. A sixth, Gail Houston, also in the English Department, was given provisional status.

David, Cecilia, and Gail are all appealing their decisions. They feel strongly that the decisions are politically motivated because they have been outspoken professionally in ways that impact the Church.

In David’s case, he has spoken at Sunstone symposia and published in Sunstone and Dialogue on Mormon studies. In 1991, he pointed out that the obvious American-ness of LDS missionaries in Latin America set them up for terrorist murders and targeted chapels for bombs, while the Church’s denial of political interests was simply impossible for Latin Americans to understand in terms of their own culture. Since that time, he has been repeatedly called in by his stake president, threatened with disciplinary action for “embarrassing” the Church, and instructed not to speak to the press. He considers this to be the political basis for his firing, and his letter from the Faculty Council acknowledges that “some members” of the committee found his Mormon studies publications offensive.

The reasons given by the Faculty Council for the firing are inadequate scholarship.

David’s appeal is based on miscounting of his publications (Sunstone and Dialogue

publications were excluded, although they have been counted for other faculty members and contradictory reasons have been given for their exclusion), his international publications have been omitted (he is a Latin American specialist), and chapters in edited books have been omitted. He has taught new classes every semester, including the department’s major theoretical graduate seminars; and his citizenship and teaching ratings are, even according to the Faculty Council, exceptional. His department review committee unanimously recommended that he be given continuing status. He is a returned missionary, a believing, active Latter-day Saint.

In Cecilia’s case, she was explicitly hired as a feminist scholar and teacher to bolster a weak area in the range of faculty expertise. She has been active with the campus feminist group and took a public stand as a pro-choice, anti-abortion LDS woman and BYU faculty member. Neither her stake president nor her bishop has expressed dismay or concern–though they have expressed personal sympathy with her beleaguered situation–but BYU administrators have warned her three times that her political activism has been offensive to the General Authorities.

However, her letter from the Faculty Council did not mention any political concerns. Instead it gave as grounds for her dismissal poor teaching (her teaching evaluations have been consistently excellent to exceptional), sloppy and inadequate scholarship (she published three papers in referred journals compared to 1.1 for humanities faculty who were given continuing status at their third year reviews between 1991-93, delivered 17 papers at conferences compared to 2.8 for her “peers,” and also published three other papers or chapters in edited books; she also is revising a book for the University of Tennessee Press), and poor “citizenship.” (She served on three university committees, coordinates the Rocky Mountain MLA Women’s Caucus, and is a member of five other professional organizations.) Her department has been much polarized along age and gender lines; but even so, her department committee recommended that she be continued in a split vote in which two members voted for provisional status. She is a convert to the church and married in the temple. She gave birth to her second child six months ago while continuing to teach a full load.

In Gail’s case, the discrimination seems equally blatant. She, like Cecilia, was hired as a feminist scholar. The Faculty Council acknowledged that her teaching was in the top 20%, her citizenship “laudatory” and her scholarship “excellent,” but she was given provisional status for “politicizing” her classroom. She is mystified, given these ratings, by the basis for such a judgment, especially since in February, her department chairman assured her that he had received a complaint from only one student to that point and it had already been dealt with. Like David and Cecilia, Gail is an active, believing Latter-day Saint.

All three people are personal friends. I know their commitment to Mormonism and have a sense for the quality of their professional work. I feel that BYU has a right to say, “This is a bad match. You’re just not who we want.” But I am angered by pseudo-reasons that defame their professionalism and impact their future careers. These smoke screens prevent discussion of the real situation, which is the degree to which academic freedom can be an honored reality at BYU. As a BYU alumna, I also resent the clumsiness of these attempts to manipulate the truth. To claim that no political considerations are operating is an insult to any observer’s intelligence; even the students at BYU, not known for aggressiveness, nonconformity, or any level of mistrust in their leaders, feel they are being lied to. The students recognize the misrepresentation and resent it, in other words, even though they do not necessarily believe that David and Cecilia should be retained.

Although the administration has persistently denied any interference by the Board of Trustees, I am less willing to take such statements at face value than I was before the administration claimed, in flat contravention of the facts, that it, not the Board of Trustees, had denied Laurel Thatcher Ulrich clearance to speak on campus. In short, the pattern of misrepresentation and manipulation is, in itself, irrespective of the issues and personalities, damaging to the ideal of a university.

I feel that Cecilia and David, in particular, have already undergone an excruciating ordeal for the past two years that has intensified month by month. I am anxious to encourage a prompt and happier resolution; and I feel that one way to do this is to make it clear to the administration that this is not a minor issue that will simply disappear if they ignore it for a couple of weeks.

Please feel free to share this letter with others. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely, Lavina 

[Lavina Fielding Anderson to multiple; LJA Diary, 27 Jun., 1993]

Lavina Fielding Anderson

1519 Roberta Street

Salt Lake City 84115

(801) 467-1617

For FAX copies, please call (801) 531-1483 or FAX (801) 531-1488.

13 September 1993

Dear Friend:

I’m writing to document a disturbing series of summer 1993 events in the Salt Lake area.

These events should probably be viewed in the context of:

1. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s rejection as the keynote speaker for the BYU/Relief Society women’s conference in April and the subsequent “reassignment” to an unspecified position of the planning committee’s chair, moderate Carol Lee Hawkins.

2. The successful Counterpoint (alternative) conference in April

3. Elder Boyd K. Packer’s address to the All-Church Coordinating Council in May identifying gays/lesbians, feminists, and “so-called scholars or intellectuals” as “dangers” to the Church

4. The firing of anthropologist David C. Knowlton and the literary critic Cecilia Konchar Farr from BYU in June. Both cases are currently under appeal.

5. The excommunications of, or disciplinary councils scheduled for, twenty-seven people in the Manti area for their conservative theological views by late June.

June 15, 1993. Margaret Toscano, addressing a VOICE meeting at BYU, commented, “It is dangerous to speak of Heavenly Mother lately.” On 22 June, the Daily Universe ran an “Apology” from its managing director, a faculty member: “We deeply regret and apologize for the implication that this newspaper, this university or the Church and its leadership in any way concur with the perspective of our Mother in Heaven as presented in the article.”

In late June or early July, moderate Carol Lee Hawkins, chair of the BYU/RS women’s conference planning committee, was informed that she was being “reassigned.” To my knowledge, no reassignment has been made or and no replacement has been named.

July 1993. President Gordon B. Hinckley, in the First Presidency message in the Ensign said: “Discipline imposed for the sake of discipline is repressive. It is not in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is usually enforced by fear, and its results are negative.”

11 July 1993. Margaret Toscano’s stake president instructed her to stop speaking, writing, and/or making media appearances on subjects involving Church theology and/or policy. A series of meetings held over the summer involving Paul Toscano and their bishop.

11-14 August 1993. Sunstone’s annual Salt Lake symposium drew over 1500 participants, its greatest number to date, with selected sessions being broadcast over a local radio station. Many speakers expressed concern with Elder Packer’s May statements.

14 August 1993. A rally in Provo supported academic freedom and greater tolerance for the expression of independent views.

29 August 1993. Interviewed on KTVX, Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, president of Mormon Women’s Forum and past chair of the Sunstone Symposium, was asked, “Are you demanding change?” She responded, “We’re asking. I mean, what can we demand? We don’t have any power at this point, but we can say, ‘Listen to us. We have something to say that you need to hear.’”

31 August 1993. Lynne Kanavel Whitesides received a letter announcing a bishop’s council for “apostasy,” scheduled for 2 September. It was rescheduled at her request on 14 September.

8 September 1993. Avraham Gileadi told friends that he had received notice of a stake disciplinary council, scheduled for 15 September, for “apostasy.” Avraham had considered himself to be in full compliance with earlier instructions to limit his speaking and writing. He wished no public expressions of support.

10 September 1993. Interviewed for Channel 2 news in support of Lynne, Margaret Toscano described the “climate of fear” produced by such action. Lavina Fielding Anderson described the attempts at silencing as out of sync with the “expansive, inclusive” theology of Mormonism. A Church spokesman “emphatically denied that there is a purge.”

11 September 1993. “Concerned and saddened by the increasing climate of confrontation,” Paul L. Anderson and David Allred invited those similarly concerned to join them in fasting and praying “that the spirit of charity…may be more abundantly present in all of our dealings as brothers and sisters.”

11 September 1993. Maxine Hanks, editor of Women and Authority, receives a letter scheduling a stake disciplinary council for “apostasy” on 19 September. The action climaxes a series of encounters and discussions with her stake president, including a meeting with Elder Loren Dunn (area president) beginning three years earlier.

12 September 1993. An hour after the end of stake conference, in which I, my husband, and my son sang in the choir, I received a letter announcing a stake disciplinary council for “conduct unbecoming a member” on 23 September. I had had a series of conversations/ letters with my stake president since April about the “shame” my Dialogue article on spiritual/ecclesiastical abuse had brought upon the Church. Elder Loren Dunn (area president) had asked President Marlin H. Miller to hold the first meeting but had refused to meet with me. I will not appear at the council.

12 September 1993. Paul Toscano received a letter announcing a stake disciplinary council for “apostasy” for 19 September.

In short, five disciplinary councils to consider the membership of independent Mormon scholars and feminists, both liberal and conservative, have been scheduled within the same nine-day period. General Authority “consultation” has been reported in all five, yet the Church “emphatically denies” a “purge.” Perhaps coincidentally, the decisions on the Knowlton and Farr appeals are tentatively scheduled for the same period–right before general conference on October 2-3. 

[Lavina Fielding Anderson to multiple; LJA Diary, 13 Sept., 1993]

We learned yesterday that Lavina Fielding Anderson had received a notice from her stake president to report for a trial of her membership, “for conduct unbecoming a Latter-day Saint” for her collection and publication of spiritual abuses by church authorities toward individual members. I do not know of anything we can do to show our support for her and to express our abhorrence of this action. After all, she is a believer but simply wants people to stop this spiritual abuse, which the revelations warn against anyway.

[LJA to Children, 13 Sept., 1993]

Lynn Whitesides attended a bishop’s court hearing on Tuesday and was disfellowshipped. Others with hearings during the next two weeks include Mike Quinn, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Paul and Margaret Toscano. Avraham Gileadi attended a court the past week. Officially, he’s not telling anybody how it turned out; unofficially, we’ve heard he was excommunicated. Looks like a pattern of purging militant feminists and vocal intellectuals. Very silly and wrongheaded, I think. It will only harm the church’s image and lessen the loyalty of the many active intellectuals.

[LJA to Children, 18 Sept., 1993]

What wonderful flowers! I’ve never seen roses and lilies like these and (how did you know) the touch of wildness may be the most appealing thing of all. They’re exactly the sort of kindness and generosity that I associate with you, and it warmed my heart in this chilly time.

As you can imagine, yesterday was a very hard day and so I doubly cherish the gift. There was a weight on my heart all day long, even though I’ve known since Sunday that the decision would be excommunication and have been so grateful for the time to prepare. 

[Lavina Fielding Anderson to Leonard and Harriet Arrington; LJA Diary, 25 Sept., 1993]

Dear Children:

Yesterday was one of the saddest days in my life. Lavina Fielding Anderson, one of our closest friends since 1972, was notified that she had been excommunicated for apostasy. Here is a person that we know personally to be one of the most devout, believing Mormons, who was excommunicated because she is compiling a list of incidents in which Mormons, especially women, were badly treated by bishops, stake presidents, regional representatives, and/or general authorities. And publishing the list without names. We feel especially strongly of this mistreatment because in my own memoirs I record some instances of my own run-ins with church authorities, and if I should publish it they will probably excommunicate me. If they can do it to Lavina, they can do it to me. Mike Quinn will probably be excommunicated this coming week. Our information is that Elder Packer is behind this purge. Why don’t the older Brethren speak out to halt this business. It is shameful. Fortunately, historians always have the last word.

When we learned of Lavina’s excommunication, Harriet sent some beautiful flowers to her with the note, “Our Sustaining Love.” I also sent her a personal message. Harriet talked with her today and she expressed appreciation for the flowers. Harriet invited her and Paul to dinner, and she said they’d like to take a rain check—tonight would be impossible. She said she was told last Sunday about the excommunication—five days in advance. This demonstrates that the trial was just going through the motions. The decision had already been made—it came from above.

[LJA to Children, 25 Sept., 1993]

Now Dad, I would appreciate it if you would share some of your feelings, some profounder one’s as well, about these excommunications going on. Not only about the people we know, which I am also interested in, but also some kind of historical perspective. Has this ever happened before? If it did or didn’t, what does that mean? If we ignore our history are we doomed to relive it? Or is this an entirely new phenomenon. If that is the case then what does it mean for the Church as a whole?

I talked with Paul Toscano, we’ve been friends for about 20 years now and he had an interesting point of view. Referring to the “spiritual tyranny” he sees going on he said, “Why else do you think we have a prophet who has been struck dumb!?” Hmmmmmmmmm…

Anyway, I would be so grateful for your insight. And I may say, without trying to be too emphatic, there might be a lot of people out there like me who’d like to know what the %#*@ is going on. A thoughtful look into the past (if there is any precedent) might be extremely useful. Not as ammunition, mind you, but as context and perspective. 

[James to LJA; LJA Diary, 27 Sept., 1993]

Received a nice letter from James this week; he also called and we had an extended conversation. He has worked hard on “The Misanthrope,” a play they planned for him to be in. Lots of memorizing. He is very upset about the excommunication of Paul Toscano and Lavina Anderson. So are we. Here is one insight. We do not really have a president of the church now; he cannot function physically or mentally. Historically, we have had years when the president was physically and mentally incapacitated. The last years of Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Spencer W. Kimball, and now President Benson. During those years the counselors run things. J. Reuben Clark, Jr. was dominant during the last Grant years; Claire Middlemiss during the final McKay years; Harold B. Lee and Eldon Tanner during the Joseph Fielding Smith years, Gordon Hinckley during the last Kimball years. Right now the most outspoken apostle seems to be Boyd Packer, who seems to want to purge the church of outspoken feminists and intellectuals. My own view is that they have gone over the line and the Church will tarnish its image of being compassionate, encouraging scholarship, and living with diversity. We do know some general authorities who were devastated by the actions against Paul and Lavina, but they were only Seventies and not in a position to do anything. When we’ve had a president that was fully functioning, he has taken a balanced and kind-hearted approach. President McKay, for example, preventing a trial for the membership of Sterling McMurrin. President Kimball, for example, supporting our historians, as did Harold B. Lee. Those who support the intellectuals seem not to find the energy to counter Bill Nelson, Boyd Packer, and Loren Dunn.

Of course, these things are temporary–they pass. I just hope we will pass the vindictive stage when I submit my memoir for publication–sometime next year. May the lord have mercy on those stalwart members who are committed but still searching, who wish the Church well and are still growing in understanding and commitment. Faith is not an anchor to hold us back in safe harbors, but the sail of the ship that catches the breath of the Spirit and moves us out into broader seas. Commitment does not destroy our commitment to honesty. Church discipline should not extinguish our passion for justice, love, and understanding. 

[LJA to Children, 1 Oct., 1993]

Harriet and I watched general conference on Saturday and Sunday morning. The talk I most appreciated was Russell Ballard who admonished bishops, stake presidents, etc. to listen to women leaders of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. I thought the tone of the conference was a turning inward, not expansive, broadening, ecumenical. And basically anti-intellectual. The approach most desired by Elder Packer. We missed Howard Hunter, who was not there from illness and Marvin Ashton, the same. Elder Faust made the worst assault on those who have been excommunicated. A very different atmosphere than that we experienced when David O. McKay, Hugh Brown, and Eldon Tanner were leaders. I would have wished more than one woman speaker. I would also have wished for more emphasis on compassion, love, and understanding. 

[LJA to Children, 5 Oct., 1993]

Cartoonist Says Oaks Lied to Protect Fellow Apostle

SLTribune 12 Oct 1993

By Vern Anderson

The Associated Press

The grandson of Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson contends that a church apostle lied in order to cover up a more senior apostle’s role in the excommunication of a Mormon dissident. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson said Monday his decision last week to resign from the church was based in part on Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ statements to a reporter about Elder Boyd K. Packer.

Elder Oaks admitted late Monday he “could not defend the truthfulness of one of the statements” about Packer, who is considered by many to be behind the church’s recent crackdown on dissidents.

Last month five prominent Mormon intellectuals were excommunicated, and another was disfellowshipped.

Oaks told Arizona Republic reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers on Oct. 1 that he had “no knowledge” of whether Packer had met with Kerry Heinz, the local ecclesiastical leader for Salt Lake lawyer Paul Toscano, before Heinz excommunicated Toscano on Sept. 19. Toscano was cited by Heinz, his stake president, for criticizing church leaders and acting contrary to the rule and order of the church. 

However, in a “personal and confidential” letter to Oaks on Oct. 6, Benson reminded the apostle that in a private meeting Sept. 24, Oaks had told Benson he was “distressed and astonished” that Packer had met with Heinz.

He quoted Oaks as saying of Packer, “You can’t stage manage a grizzly bear,” and added that “it was a mistake for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting.”

Benson also wrote that Oaks “further acknowledged that you later talked directly to Elder Packer and told him that you felt it was wrong and violated church disciplinary procedure for Elder Packer to have been in contact with President Heinz.”

Benson said he was making his letter to Oaks public because he was fed up with church leaders shading the truth. Last summer, he criticized the faith’s hierarchy for claiming his enfeebled 94-year-old grandfather was still involved in important church decisions.

In an interview Monday evening, Oaks declined to confirm or deny most of Benson’s assertions about a pair of private interviews the church prophet’s grandson had in September with Oaks and Elder Neal A. Maxwell, another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a body that advises the church’s presidency.

However, Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, acknowledged that his single statement to reporter Brinkley-Rogers about having no knowledge of the Packer-Heinz meeting was one “I could not defend.

“It was not a truthful statement,” Oaks said.

Benson’s letter to Oaks had warned the apostle that unless he set the record straight, Benson would feel under no obligation to honor the promise of confidentiality he had earlier given Oaks and Maxwell.

Oaks called The Republic’s reporter that night and retracted the “I have no knowledge of whether he [Packer] did” statement. The Republic’s story, minus the statement, appeared Sunday. It quoted Packer as admitting he had met with Heinz about Toscano’s case, but he denied having pressured the stake president to excommunicate Toscano.

Oaks did not retract other statements in the interview with Brinkley-Rogers that Benson had alleged – and Oaks denies – were false or deliberately misleading. Nevertheless, Benson faxed Oaks another letter Oct. 7 thanking him for having called Brinkley-Rogers to “clarify your earlier statements.”

Oaks said he had assumed by Benson’s second letter that he was satisfied. He stressed that Benson at least three times had assured him and Maxwell that their meetings – initiated by a kindly letter to Benson from Maxwell – were confidential and would never by publicly discussed.

“I think that Steve Benson is just going to have to carry the responsibility for whatever he relates about a confidential meeting,” Oaks said.

Benson said he felt acutely the moral dilemma of having promised confidentiality, but then having seen deliberate efforts to mislead the public about Packer’s role in the Toscano affair.

“I had to decide to be a party to the cover-up or be faithful to my own convictions,” Benson said. “I had to let Elder Oaks walk a plank of his own making.”

Toscano, who is appealing his excommunication, said he loves the church, but doesn’t confuse it with “individual leaders who are kind of running amok in a vacuum.”

He said that if Ezra Taft Benson were capable of managing the church today, his eldest grandson’s plea would not have gone unheeded.

Added by LJA:

Let me here record that I was told by an “insider” that Elder Packer, some time ago, had told Jon Huntsman, president of Monument Park Stake, that he must excommunicate a certain person. President Huntsman said he would not like to do it. They argued a little. Finally, insistent on having his way, Elder Packer told him, “Excommunicate that person or I will excommunicate you.” President Huntsman held the trial and excommunicated him.

[Cartoonist Says Oaks Lied to Protect Fellow Apostle; SLTribune, 12 Oct., 1993]

Saturday morning Barnard Silver came by to talk about the trials for the so-called dissidents. He was present for the trials of two of them. He gave me a challenge to write-up this purge period and said he’d give me some materials. But I haven’t received them yet. I do have a tape of the vigil held for Paul Toscano.

We had Mike Quinn for dinner at our house last evening and were assured that he will continue to work on his two books and on articles dealing with Mormon history. He did not seem to be upset particularly; he seemed to think it was inevitable. These excommunications are the worst examples of blaming the messenger for the message. What a perversion of apostasy, to regard as apostates individuals who are as loyal and believing as Mike, Lavina, Paul, and Gileadi. (I don’t know Whitesides or Maxine Hanks enough to know what their beliefs are.) I feel like singing, “Oh Say What is Truth?”

[LJA to Children, 15 Oct., 1993]

Dear Dr. Arrington,

This is probably a presumptuous letter that I write, because I am a stranger to you, but I feel a need to ask some questions of a man that I deeply respect. I have no personal connection with any “Mormon intellectuals” other than that I majored in history at Brigham Young University a decade ago. I have read as much of the “New Mormon History” as I could, and it has become an integral part of my testimony of the gospel. I especially enjoyed the classes at BYU that I took from Michael Quinn. It was always my impression that freedom of thought and expression was an important part of the gospel plan, and God expected us to use our brains in this life. I thought that, as a church, our highest allegiance was to the truth, since the gospel consisted of all truth independent in the sphere in which God has placed it. This continues to be my faith. I am still active in the church. I presently serve as the elders quorum instructor in my ward.

The events of the last few weeks and months have been genuinely painful for me. It appears that some senior members of the church leadership have tried to severely curtail the independent pursuit some church members as a kind of LDS McCarthyism. It does not feel like the same church as the one that existed in the late seventies, when I discovered Dialogue as a young missionary in Canada. These days, it seems like many church leaders would just as soon see Sunstone, Dialogue, the Journal of Mormon History, and every other like publication disappear, and church members get only information that has passed correlation review. How am I supposed to reconcile this narrowness of mind with the expansive views of men like Hugh B. Brown, B. H. Roberts, and David O. McKay? I realize that there has always been a tension between “liberals” and “conservatives” in the church, but it looks like open season has been declared on people who only want the church to be honest about its history. The “New Mormon History” has been under attack in church publications for a decade now. How can the church simply bury all the good work that was accomplished under your leadership? I love the church; I cannot imagine what my life would have been without it. But how can I merely shrug off the deeply hurtful atmosphere that has been created around the intellectual sphere of the Church?


R. W. Rasband

[R. W. Rasband to LJA; LJA Diary, 18 Oct., 1993]

Thank you for your well-written letter of October 18. Your puzzlement is the same as mine. I do not know how to explain the actions of the past few weeks. My wife and I continue to pray for the Church and its leaders, and for those who have been disciplined. We continue to make positive contributions toward the writing of good Church history, and we continue to give talks that will help to remind us of our wonderful heritage of truth-seeking and professional excellence. As I say, we pray for enlightenment and greater understanding.

[LJA to R. W. Rasband; LJA Diary, 20 Oct., 1993]

We continue to feel somewhat depressed about the excommunication of Mike Quinn and Lavina Anderson. As I mentioned in last week’s letter, we had Mike Quinn to dinner last Thursday, and Lavina, Paul, and Christian last night. We had lunch with Barnard Silver and Mike Quinn at Barnard’s place last Saturday. And last night, Thursday, we took Lavina, Paul, and Christian out to dinner at Rino’s. I see I just said that; in the meantime I was interrupted by a phone call.

We have been saddened by the excommunications. We simply cannot regard Lavina and Mike as apostates. Both are splendid, honest writers and historians, both have been active believers. We cannot see the justice of excommunicating someone who writes honest, sincere, history. We were counseled by Presidents Tanner, Lee, and Kimball to write honest history, and now two of us are excommunicated for doing what the Prophets have counseled us to do. I keep thinking that Bill Nelson will pull out my file and send it to my stake president one of these days.

I am beginning to feel old. I don’t have as much energy as I used to have. I am not as enthusiastic as I used to be. I get depressed every time I read the newspaper—so much conflict, so much cruelty, so much evil. Maybe that’s why I like Matlock—he always finds the culprit and wins. Or opera, where depth of emotion is expressed in music in a way that creates catharsis and healing.

[LJA to Children, 22 Oct., 1993]

Ron Walker, who was at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion in 1976, said Bill Nelson orchestrated the movement to ban Story of the Latter-day Saints. He looked for people who would write what he wanted them to write. 

Gary Bennett, not trained in history. Why not Ron Walker? “Because he wouldn’t write what I want him to write.” 

Elder Mark Petersen sought a reviewer who was not too well trained or read in history.

Bill Nelson orchestrated the whole business. He didn’t like liberals.

When Gene England learned of the Committee to Control Members he went to Nelson. “Why?” “I want to get rid of every liberal in the Church!” He, Nelson, persuaded Elder Packer to vote against Tom Alex as Redd professor because of his article on the reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine. Maxwell and Oaks later talked Packer into withdrawing his objection and Tom got the post.

[LJA Diary, 10 Dec., 1993]

When we were at the lunch for historians at Laie, the department chairman, a non-Mormon, asked me to give the first in a series of yearly lectures on “Faith and Intellect.” Four lectures, to be given in one week, perhaps as early as March 1994 if I can get them prepared by that time. I have been working on them since returning and am now beginning the writing. BYU-Hawaii will expect to publish them as a book. In 1995 the lectures will be given by the famous Protestant historian, Martin Marty; in 1996 by Andrew Greeley, the famous Catholic historian. So I am traveling in fast company. They will give me an honorarium, and put up Harriet and me in a hotel for the week. I am honored and am excited. Privately, I wonder if they have cleared my name with Elder Packer. If not, what will happen when he finds out I am giving it? I plan to talk about the tensions of faith and intellect in four periods of church history: Joseph Smith period, pioneer Utah period, “transition” period from 1890 to 1930, and modern period. I plan to include a discussion of important thinkers in each period, and will go out of my way to include some women. Women are usually not mentioned in intellectual histories of the Mormons, and I plan to demonstrate that they deserve to be mentioned along with the men who are always quoted on matters of doctrine and practice.

[LJA to Children, 26 Dec., 1993]

A Last Testament: What Dick Poll Might Have Said

Two Tests:

“Thy time shall be given to writing and to learning.”

Doctrine and Covenants 25:8

“All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.”

Joseph Smith, April 7, 1844,

King Follett Sermon, History of the Church 6:311

There are many challenges in writing religious history. On the one hand we must convey the facts of history in an honest and straightforward manner. We must strive against the conscious or unconscious distortion of events to fit the demands of current fashions; we must renounce wishful thinking. On the other hand, we wish to bear testimony of the reality of spiritual experience. 

Some tension between our professional training and our religious commitments seems inevitable. Our testimonies tell us that the Lord is in this work, and for this we see abundant supporting evidence. But our historical training warns us that the accurate perception of spiritual phenomena is elusive—not subject to unquestionable verification. We are tempted to wonder if our religious beliefs are intruding beyond their proper limits. Our faith tells us that there is moral meaning and spiritual significance in historical events. But we cannot be completely confident that any particular judgment or meaning or significance is unambiguously clear. If God’s will cannot be wholly divorced from the actual course of history, neither can it be positively identified with it. Although we see evidence that God’s love and power have frequently broken in upon the ordinary course of human affairs in a direct and self-evident way, our caution in declaring this is reinforced by our justifiable disapproval of chroniclers who take the easy way out and use divine miracles as a short circuit of a causal explanation that is obviously, or at least defensibly, naturalistic. We must not use history as a storehouse from which deceptively simple moral lessons may be drawn at random.

I hope that we will all be known for the sense of reverence and responsibility with which we approach our research. We should cultivate a certain fidelity toward and respect for the documents and a certain feeling for human tragedy and triumph. Our history is the history of people in their worship and prayer, in their mutual relationships, in their conflict and contacts, in their social dealings and in their solitude and estrangement, in their high aspirations, and in their fumbling weaknesses and failures. We must be responsive to the whole amplitude of human concerns—to human life in all its rich variety and diversity, in all its misery and grandeur, in all its ambiguity and contradictions. For Latter-day Saints of all persuasions religion is not a mere department of life; it is the whole of life.

We will not do our subject justice, will not adequately understand the people we are writing about, if we leave out the power of testimony as a motivating factor in their lives. In his “Second Century Address” at Brigham Young University in 1976, President Spencer Kimball gave wise counsel. “As LDS scholars,” he said, “you must speak with authority and excellence to your professional colleagues in the language of scholarship, and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things.” Our histories must reflect both the rigor of competent scholarship and the sensitivity to recognize, as the New Testament records, that “the wind bloweth where it listeth.” We must have deep within us a faith counted for us as righteousness. That others support us in our work, even while criticizing some products of our labors, is suggested by the remark of President Harold B. Lee to me before his sudden death. “Our history is our history, Brother Arrington, and we don’t need to tamper it with it or be ashamed of it.” Paraphrasing a remark of Pope John XXIII, Elder Bruce McConkie said: “The best defense of the church is the true and impartial account of our history.”

I pray that we may lengthen our stride as we strive to develop capacities that will enable us to write histories worthy of the marvelous work and a wonder that is our heritage.

[Eulogy to Dr. Richard Poll; LJA Diary, 22 May, 1994]

Dear Children:

I was thinking, while watching President Benson’s funeral, of the four great ideas or movements of the last 150 years:

1. Marxism. By this idea I have hardly been touched. I have never had a Marxist teacher or friend, or even acquaintance. I read Marxist literature in connection with my economics classes: biographies of Marx and Lenin, Das Kapital, the Communist Manifesto, various collections of Marxist essays and excerpts. But I did not see any relevance; the theory was faulty, the prescription unthinkable, the assumptions quite wrong. 

2. Darwinism. I was early exposed to Darwin’s theory of evolution in my zoology class as a freshman at the U of I. It all sounded reasonable and proven. George Tanner helped me to reconcile my faith to it, and I have never had a faith problem with evolution. I believe in the ancient age of the earth, in the existence of dinosaurs, in the existence of pre-Adamites (as they are called), and that all of this is consistent with Mormonism, faith, and good doctrine. 

3. Freudianism. Freud’s explanations of the workings of the human psyche have become part of our vocabulary: ego, inferiority complex, passive-aggressive, dream psychology. I never took a course in psychology, but I read several Freudian books, many articles, and listened to some lectures. I finally found an interpreter, influenced by Freud, with whom I could relate: Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who introduced introvert and extrovert, a system of psychoanalysis consistent with religion, and a theory of the unconscious that seemed reasonable.

4. Historical-critical understanding of the Bible. You have probably heard the least about this because, though popular among Bible students and scholars, it has not reached a wider audience. I was introduced to this by George Tanner in 1936, but I have followed it to some extent in the years since. I regret that there is little of it in Mormon literature. The word critical, by the way, does not mean negative but, rather, free of presuppositions or, as in my case, self-conscious about one’s presuppositions. It means understanding the Bible as a collection of writings by many authors over more than a thousand years; they contain different points of view, sometimes contradictory understandings and formulations of the nature of God and our relationship with Him and other human beings. The Bible may be the word of God, but, as we have it, it is the words of Amos and Isaiah, Luke and Paul, and so on.

Nor is the usual credit to various ancient figures historically accurate. Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible, David did not write most of the Psalms, Solomon did not write the Song of Solomon, Paul did not write the letters to Timothy or Titus, and scholars doubt that Peter had anything to do with the books of Peter.

Although the vast majority acknowledge the Bible, much of it is simply ignored. Most put aside Joshua, with its horrifying narratives of extermination, and Judges with its accounts of patriarchy and sexual assault, and Song of Solomon, which doesn’t mention God and has erotic references, and Ecclesiastes with its apparent hedonism. For many, the Bible is little more than an anthology of quotations to be drawn upon as argument or occasion requires. It is a series of proof texts.

From the point of view of the historically-critical method the Bible can be viewed as a historically conditioned anthology—not a complete and infallible guide to the details of human conduct. A series of signposts pointing the way to a goal that its writers, like us, had not yet reached but were moving toward. Their experience of the divine may have been superior to ours, but they were nevertheless human experiences.

Love you,


[LJA to Children, 4 Jun., 1994]

We also watched today programs on Howard Hunter, new president of the church. I have always liked him and wish he were in better health so he could last a significant period. He is kind, Christ-like, conciliatory, and non-dogmatic. I suspect he’ll put a stop to the witch-hunting of intellectuals and will welcome them back into the fold. I hope so. He did not go on a mission, he was not baptized until age 12, he played the saxophone in an orchestra he formed that toured the Pacific. He was our stake president when we lived in Altadena and Pasadena in 1956-57, and we’ve always liked him. He gave me support when I was Church Historian. Above all, he is from Idaho—born in Boise.

[LJA to Children, 6 Jun., 1994]

1 September 1994

Dear Friends:

We’re writing to express concern about the situation of Janice Merrill Allred (221 W. 3700 N., Provo, UT 84604) who is facing a possible disciplinary council for “apostasy.” 

This disciplinary council has not yet been scheduled, probably because David’s and Janice’s oldest son, Nephi, just returned from his mission and their second son, Joel, is just leaving on his. David and Janice are the parents of nine children, the youngest just over two. They have lived in numerous wards in six states and Mexico. Both have a profound faith in the gospel and a deep love for the Church. Neither has ever refused a church calling or assignment. Janice is soft-spoken, even shy. Their behavior in their ward and their family life is that of love, devotion, and commitment.

Here is the background on Janice’s situation. She gave a paper at the August 1992 Sunstone symposium in Salt Lake City, “Toward a Theology of God the Mother.” Edgemont Stake President Carl Bacon, acting on instructions from Elder Malcolm Jeppsen, then area president, called Janice, transmitted the displeasure of “two” unnamed General Authorities, and tried to persuade her not to speak or publish about Heavenly Mother. He had not read the paper. These meetings continued from October through January. Janice agreed only that she had no plans then to speak about Mother in Heaven or publish the paper and said she would let him know if that situation changed. He obviously interpreted her statement as a promise that she would not publish the paper.

Janice decided to publish this paper in the summer 1994 issue of Dialogue, a special women’s issue. By the time she informed President Bacon of her decision, he had been made aware of it from another source, which he refused to disclose. He called their bishop (now their former bishop) in March 1994 and instructed him to have Janice withdraw the article from publication. Three wards were then being formed from two existing wards; busy with the reorganization, complete in early April, the bishop did not contact Janice as instructed. In the reorganization, the Allreds were assigned to the newly created Edgewood Ward with a newly called, young bishop, Robert Hammond. Few members of their previous ward, Edgemont 20th, are in this ward. Janice was called as assistant nursery leader; but Bishop Hammond, without telling David, decided not to give him a calling.

On Sunday, July 24, 1994, Bishop Hammond called Janice in (David joined the meeting when it was in progress). He and President Bacon had conferred about the article and Bishop Hammond, though obviously reluctant, felt that “I have no choice.” When David and Janice asked to meet with President Bacon, Bishop Hammond arranged the meeting (for August 21) and passed on President Bacon’s message: “I’ll meet with them, but they shouldn’t think it will make any difference.”

On 19 August, an Associated Press story by Vern Anderson appeared on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune, headlined, “LDS Mom Catches Hell for Writing about a Mother in Heaven.” It summarized Janice’s 1992 paper, the 1993-94 interviews, and described her poignant family situation. For example, neither David nor Janice would be allowed to speak at the combined homecoming-for-Nephi-farewell-for-Joel sacrament meeting scheduled for August 28.

On 19 August, Janice gave a paper at the Sunstone Symposium called “Him

Shall Ye Bear: Prophets and People in the Church of Jesus Christ,” in which she explored the scriptural foundations for the popular belief that the prophet would never lead the Church astray. She found that, popular belief to the contrary, the scriptures make only conditional assurances and that following Christ, not a human being, is the essential condition.

On 21 August, Nephi reported his mission to the high council at 7:00 a.m. Then the stake presidency and Bishop Hammond met with Janice for two and a half hours rebuking her for the newspaper article (she pointed out that it was the threat of punishment, not the content of her paper, that was newsworthy), urging her to ask their forgiveness and promise not to speak or publish again (she said she didn’t feel she could make such a promise in good conscience), and chastising her for “disobeying” the stake president. When she pointed out that what he remembered differed from what she remembered, he dismissed the differences as inconsequential. David underwent a separate two-hour meeting. 

On Sunday, August 28, while the family was busily preparing for Joel’s missionary openhouse, Bishop Hammond called David and Janice into a meeting at 12:30 p.m. and said he wanted to make the day a “special one” for the family so he would ask them to bear their testimonies and talk about their children in sacrament meeting. David and Janice, though upset at not having time to prepare, agreed but stipulated that they would not sit on the stand nor be listed in the program as though they were speaking like the parents of most departing missionaries. The bishop did not call on them to speak. David gave the opening prayer, their temple-married daughter gave the closing prayer, and the talks were given by thirteen-year-old Miriam (freedom is worth the pain that it brings), Joel (despair and the grace of Christ), and Nephi (the gospel is the answer to the dilemma of being a human being). 

The same day, President Hinckley, addressing a Tri-Stake Regional conference in Rexburg, Idaho, stated, “She can present her paper until doomsday,” insisted that God will see to it that the church will not be led astray, and reviewed the procedure of selecting new prophets as evidence that God’s will is being done. 

We are contacting you as Janice’s friends but without her involvement. We know that she feels strongly (1) that members of the Church have the right and the duty to examine principles of the gospel for themselves and seek personal revelation, (2) that freedom of inquiry, including open discussion, presentation, publication, evaluation, and critique, are important aspects of the process by which people come to the truth, and (3) that self-censorship is as damaging to the life of the community as official censorship. The most hurtful thing her priesthood leaders have said to her is the accusation that she is a disobedient woman. She has never refused a calling, been unworthy of a temple recommend, or had even a mildly deviant lifestyle. 

It seems incredible to us that such an action could be taken within weeks of President Hunter’s powerful and loving invitation to members of the Church:

I pray that we might treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness. We do have high expectations of one another, and all can improve. Our world cries out for more disciplined living of the commandments of God. But the way we are to encourage that, as the Lord told the Prophet Joseph in the wintry depths of Liberty Jail, is “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;…without hypocrisy, and without guile.” 

As two women who were disciplined last year, we know the courage that it takes to stand for a principle and the inevitable pain that comes to an individual and her husband and children when her church marginalizes and/or discards her. Janice simply does not merit this treatment, and the issue of free inquiry is crucial to the spiritual health of our community. 

[Lavina Anderson and Lynne Whitesides to “Friends”; LJA Diary, 1 Sept., 1994]

I’ve been reading A Time to Weep, A Time to Sing: Faith Journeys of Women Scholars of Religion. This as background for biographies of Madelyn Stewart Silver and Alice Merrill Horne. Which reminds me that early Mormon women had the intense religious experience of speaking in tongues, something that accompanies genuine, deeply-felt religious experience. I have observed it twice—once in our Twin Falls Ward the French-born wife of one of our ardent members was bearing her testimony and in a moment of enthusiasm spoke in tongues. I thought it was French, but was later told by a former French missionary that it bore no relationship to French. The other was in the Logan temple, when a person got carried away by the spirit and spoke in tongues. Several women in the early church who became prominent spoke in tongues—Eliza R. Snow, Elizabeth Whitney, Zina D. H. Young, and others. Shows the intensity of feeling, the passion, the blessings of the Spirit. My own worshipping is more relaxed, more intellectual, perhaps. Speaking in tongues must be something on the religious side like my emotional encounter with opera—deep feeling and appreciation and a feeling out of myself.

My first experience with intellectualizing my faith came in the summer of 1935 when we had an MIA class that studied Lowell Bennion’s MIA text, Why We Believe. A perfectly wonderful book, still great, and it came at precisely the right time in my life to appreciate and incorporate. Later on he made a book out of it, Introduction to the Gospel, that was used several years in seminaries and Institutes of Religion.

[LJA to Children, 13 Sept., 1994]

Of all the conference speakers we enjoyed most President Hunter, Jeff Holland, and the two women. None of them, however, excelled the Relief Society presidency the previous week. The women outshine the men most every time! We did not like the Sunday morning session in which many speakers emphasized the theme, Quit Thinking; listen to the Brethren; do what they say; be obedient and submissive. We thought this violated President Hunter’s theme of Saturday morning. The glory of God is intelligence; use it!

[LJA to Children, 6 Oct., 1994]

What’s happening to Janice Allred is terrible. Mother of nine, a life-long active member and temple-goer, she faced a disciplinary council Wednesday night. Her daughter was married in the temple, she has one returned missionary son and a second in the MTC. She is far more orthodox than half the men in our High Priests Group. Yet because she published an article expressing some speculations the Brethren didn’t like, she is called on the carpet. She thinks the Holy Ghost might be a woman. Terrible thought! Kill her! Anyway, they put her on probation for two weeks, told her not to talk to anybody about anything, told her not to take the Sacrament, etc. etc. I don’t know what we can do to help her; we are indignant, even angry, we express our sympathy, but what else can we do? The search for truth is going down the cracks. Express an opinion that one apostle doesn’t like and you are out; that is, if you publish it.

[LJA to Children, 14 Oct., 1994]

I was reading God and the Philosophers the other day and ran across this marvelous quotation from Alvin Plantinga: “Serious intellectual work and religious allegiance are inevitably intertwined. There is no such thing as religiously neutral intellectual endeavor—or rather there is no such thing as serious, substantial, and relatively complete intellectual endeavor that is religiously neutral.” That’s my testimony for the day.

[LJA to Children, 6 Feb., 1995]

During the last few days I’ve been reading God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason by different Christian philosophers. Reading it inspired me to write a little autobiographical piece on “Learning, By Study and By Faith,” which Harriet is going to type and which I’ll send off to you for you LJA file. There may be others inspired by other chapters, as I read them. Obviously, I compare my own experience with that of others, as I read, and so am induced to set down my own thoughts and experiences.

[LJA to Children, 12 Feb., 1995]


by Leonard J. Arrington

Born into a devout Mormon home, I grew up in an agricultural “valley” that was predominantly Midwestern Protestant–Mormons were a tiny minority. We were educated in schools that were secular; there were no Mormon teachers. The first class that we attended each morning began with the reading of a passage from the King James Bible and a salute to the flag. We were farmers living several miles from town, so we were unable to attend the LDS Primary each week, and were seldom able to attend Sunday Evening Sacrament meeting. Our one trip to church on Sunday, during the early years in a buggy and later in a Model T Ford, was for the morning Sunday School. I was active in our ward’s Boy Scout troop, one that was organized in 1930, about the time I was thirteen. I attended the weekly M Men and Gleaner Girl class for the first time in the summer of 1935, at which time we studied Lowell Bennion’s manual on Why I Believe. Along with my reading for school classes, I also read some books about religion, including Bowie’s The Master; John Henry Evans’ Joseph Smith, An American Prophet. The Bible and Book of Mormon; and James E. Talmage’s The Articles of Faith. Hungry for some well-written commentaries, I also read Bruce Barton’s The Man Nobody Knows and He Upset the World, about the Apostle Paul.

I went to the University of Idaho at Moscow, where, in addition to my university classes, I also took classes in religion from the teacher at the LDS Institute, George Tanner, who taught classes in Christian history, New and Old Testaments, and Comparative Religions. The most important to me was my introduction to modern translations of the Bible, and I have used the Goodspeed and Smith Complete Bible: An American Translation ever since. (My copy is almost worn out from regular use over fifty-five years!) I have derived much pleasure from that book, but now use The Revised English Bible.

While at the University of Idaho I also read a number of books on philosophy: Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy; Guide to Philosophy by C. E. M. Joad; History of Philosophy by Wilhelm Windelband; Plato’s Republic; an Aristotle anthology; George Santayana, Reason in Religion; William James, Pragmatism and The Varieties of Religious Experience; Spinoza’s Ethics, and perhaps others. None of these created any great intellectual problems for me. I had read some of Lowell Bennion’s manuals, In Search of Truth by John A. Widtsoe, The Vitality of Mormonism by James E. Talmage, and Evan’s biography of Joseph Smith, all of which demonstrated that intellectual pursuits were perfectly compatible with LDS tradition and thought. As I understand it, one ought to combine LDS belief and practice with worldly wisdom and broad exposure to secular culture.

I went to graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In addition to my reading for my graduate classes, I also read books on religion–a biography of Pascal, works by John Henry Newman, Augustine’s Confessions, and some of Thomas Aquinas. There being no LDS church in Chapel Hill, I attended a worship service of the Presbyterian Church and sometimes was able to get a ride to Durham to attend the LDS Branch there. When I was employed to teach classes in economics at N.C. State College in Raleigh, I had more time to read works on religion, and not long after I moved there, an LDS Sunday School group met Sundays in the IOOF Hall. Two families of converts and I were the original attendees. Within several months, additional LDS students came from BYU to attend graduate school at North Carolina State and by 1942 we had a branch.

There was a pleasing continuity between my religious and professional life. The gospel included all truth and encouraged the energetic search for truth. At no time did I experience any great tension between my Mormon upbringing and my exposure to other cultures and ways of life. There was no youthful rebellion, no wrenching intellectual conflict. I had always thought that secular studies were of value, could be harmonized with and incorporated into Mormonism, and I was confident that any problems could be reconciled without difficulty. My mother and father and my friends and teachers led me to emphasize study over personal revelation, and fellowship over individuality. I found no disharmony between my professional study and activities and my religious beliefs and practices.

It was satisfying that many of our LDS leaders were well educated and gave thoughtful sermons. I had listened to and read the works of B. H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, Orson F. Whitney, Joseph F. Merrill, David O. McKay, Richard R. Lyman, Lowell Bennion, and Henry Eyring–scientists, historians, scholars, and poets, all of them people of faith and devoted to the Church. They demonstrated that one could be a believing, practicing Latter-day Saint in a secular world, and that the gospel could be expressed with eloquence and power. They were sources of inspiration.

Alfred North Whitehead, in Science and the Modern World, I think, declared that science bifurcates the universe; that is, draws a line between what it regards as important and what it does not pretend to investigate. Thus, it ignores the creative activity of the artist, the transcendental experiences of religious mystics, and the aesthetics of nature. How can one separate mind and body, spirit and nature? Although the achievements of science in the past three centuries have been made possible ” by dividing the seamless coat of the universe,” aesthetics, morality, and individual creativity, and the exercise of free agency are of unquestionable importance. So is divine revelation. Whitehead, a leading mind of the past century, was satisfied that there is no need for bifurcation, and I’m sure he was right. Certain that in the last analysis all is reconcilable, harmonious, and consistent, I have confidently integrated my religious philosophy with my secular professional reading. We have minds and should exercise them; we also have hearts, emotions, instincts, and habits. Our friends and associates have a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. We don’t rationally determine all our actions and presuppositions, nor do we internalize everything we discuss with colleagues or hear in lectures. Some intellectual discussions are no more than mind games.

I had met a few months with the Raleigh Branch, and then during World War II, I was drafted into the United States Army and served in North Africa and Italy for almost three years. During that time, I learned of a Mormon meeting only once. I did much reading, but mostly it was of the secular variety: Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, Somerset Maugham, Walter Lippmann, Gibbbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Breasted’s Ancient Times, and much else. I also did regular reading in my Goodspeed and J. Powis Smith Bible.

After meeting a few months with the expanded Raleigh Branch after my discharge in January 1946, I took a position as assistant professor of economics at Utah State University in Logan. Shortly after our arrival in Logan, my wife Grace and I learned of a stake conference to be held in the LDS Tabernacle, and we attended the morning and afternoon sessions. This was the first meeting I had ever attended where there was a large congregation of Latter-day Saints. Our Twin Falls ward was small, the Moscow branch was small, the Durham and Raleigh N.C. branches were small, and, as I mentioned, there were no LDS meetings in North Africa and only one in Italy that I knew of. The sense of community with these Logan Saints penetrated my heart; I broke out crying when they sang “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” “These are my people,” I thought, “This is where I belong–where I feel at home. I hope I remain with them the rest of my life.”

Religion is more than a set of beliefs and practices. It is also a matter of friendly association. Having spent all of my childhood and most of my adolescence working in the out-of-doors on our farm, and having had a father who enjoyed the woods, birds, and animals in the “south hills,” I always had a feeling, expressed so well by Wordsworth, that there are many places where one feels that he is in the presence of God. In the “hills” of southcentral Idaho, the Sawtooth Mountains where our Boy Scout camp was located, the Great Smoky Mountains where our Arrington ancestors lived, and the Wasatch Mountains where we have spent much of our family life, we have felt God’s presence. (I confess that it is more difficult to see God’s handiwork in a world where so much of the natural landscape has been transformed by modern technology.)

In the stake conference in Logan, I had experienced the divine in music, in becoming part of the community of Saints, in adopting the way of life of Mormon culture. The Spirit was present in this community of faith. Being a Latter-day Saint was not just the acceptance of a body of doctrine, it was being part of a community that studied the scriptures, listened to the sermons of sustained leaders, engaged in prayer and contemplation, received the holy sacrament, and joined with fellow Saints in the worship of God. It meant belonging to a community that helped each other and tried to do good. Mormonism, as I have learned, has provided intellectual excitement, inspiration, the opportunity of helping others, and the deep feeling that my writing and speaking have helped to record the building of the Kingdom in these latter days.

Salt Lake City

13 February, 1995

[Learning by Study and by Faith; LJA Diary, 13 Feb., 1995]

Steve Crum talked to me by telephone for 20 minutes or so, and he wrote the story which I enclose. I was surprised at the headline. During the questioning he asked if President Hinckley would probably maintain the open arms policy toward LDS dissidents. I said, “Yeah, I guess.” That is the basis for the headline which is his wording. What could I say? That Prest Hinckley would be meaner? Or more lenient? Anyway, here it is.

[LJA to Children, 10 Mar., 1995]

We listened to general conference Saturday and Sunday. Thought it was a good conference. Two women speakers who gave excellent talks: Clyde and Parkin. (She was Bonnie Dansie at USU when I was there—maybe one of you knew her). I liked several talks: Joe Christensen on marriages—full of good humor. Tom Perry, who said that everybody was saying good things about President Hinckley, so he’d like to say good things about Marjorie Hinckley, and it was a great talk. Hinckley and Faust came very close to saying, “We encourage you to think.” We’ll see if others get penalized for thinking, as has happened with 8 in the past two years.

[LJA to Children, 3 Apr., 1995]

I was reading a review of the new book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. The author of the book called Darwin’s idea “a dangerous idea.” I came to grips with this during the first year I was at the University of Idaho and took zoology. The professor spent much of the semester talking about the theory of evolution, giving the reasons for it, and so on. I went to George Tanner of our Institute of Religion to ask if it could fit into our faith. He said Yes. I could see that it undermined biblical creationism, but I could see that it did not decrease one’s respect for the animal kingdom or for human beings. It did not change the content of one’s moral outlook. It did not seem any more dangerous than the notion of Copernicus that the earth revolved around the sun instead of vice versa. It seemed to be a profound and true empirical theory, abundantly confirmed, although with problems still unresolved. I decided to “live with it” and have done so ever since. I cannot see that I am any less religious because of this accommodation. And I do not think that McConkie was warranted in saying that anybody who believed in the theory of evolution was an apostate, or heretic–I think he used both words. 

[LJA to Children, 9 Mar., 1996]