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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Storm Clouds”

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This morning I had an interview with Elder Boyd Packer—an interview that lasted about 45 minutes.  Specifically, he had said something in our meeting a month or so ago which showed that he raised questions about our proposal for an Advisory Council to the Church Historian.  I had the feeling that he was opposed to one or two of the names we proposed, and I asked him afterwards which ones.  He said, “Come and talk to me, and I’ll tell you a story or two.”  It has not been possible for me to see him until today.

I discovered that he was not particularly opposed to any of the names; or, at least, he never did single out any names that he thought would be inappropriate.  He did specifically say positive things about Truman Madsen, Ken Godfrey, and, less enthusiastically, LaMar Berrett.  He said Reed Durham was great except for one hang-up that he had problems on; namely, the Negro question.  He pointed to George Ellsworth, I thought (it could have been Richard Bushman) and said he did not know the man well, but thought he might be more a historian than a church member.  That is all he said specifically of the list which included the following names:  LaMar Berrett, Thomas Alexander, Richard Anderson, Truman Madsen, Reed Durham, Kenneth Godfrey, Everett Cooley, George Ellsworth, Richard Bushman, Melvin Smith, and Stan Kimball.  He said he would approve all the names; would sustain them; would not oppose any, but he wanted to give me some counsel.

He then told me a number of incidents, which were designed to help me see that people tend to give counsel in terms of their professional training and leave out the Spirit, which is the basic core of our work.  First story was about counseling.  How professionally trained counselors, trained in Rogers’ non-directive counseling, cannot bring themselves to say a given action or potential action is wrong.  How our own LDS people, in doing counseling education at Columbia and elsewhere, even when they suggest that the point of view of the Church is different, are hooted down or told that was wrong, or told they must drop that idea, and so on.  He suggested how lay bishops and teachers really may make better counselors just using good judgment, plus the inspiration of the Spirit.

Another illustration was Dr. William F. Edwards, who came from his position as Vice President of BYU to be a financial advisor to the Church.  He stayed one year and then accepted another position.  Do you know why he left, Elder Packer asked.  I said “No.”  He left, he said, because he couldn’t understand why the Church would want to hold on to Church Welfare properties that were losing money.  His training and experience had led him to think that every enterprise must make money, and why the church would buy it if it was clearly a losing proposition, or hold on to it if it couldn’t be made to make money.  There were reasons why the church might want property, even if it was losing money, he said.  Like a family buying a horse, which was a losing proposition, but which night be good for the kids.  Investing in the kids, not in a horse.  The return is from the children and their happy lives.  Brother Edwards was uncomfortable around President Moyle and others who had faith that certain actions would be for the good of the church and its members, even if a losing proposition.  And they were uncomfortable with him.  So after a year he takes the job with First Security as their Vice President and as Finance Professor at the Univ. of Utah.

Another illustration from his mission to New England.  Trouble with Vermont.  People wouldn’t come out on Saturday to the meetings before conference.  He finally decided it was because Brother Owen Stevens, a fine man, was too convinced that their habits and customs were such that we didn’t dare ask them to change then.  So he finally released Owen Stevens, and put in Brother Hugh West as stake president, and things went better.  He was inspired to do this, he said.  And reason and logic and experience suggested that he should not release Brother Stevens.

Another illustration.  In the mission field there is a tendency for a mission president to bring in elders who don’t like to do proselyting work, or who have physical problems or emotional problems, to have them around him.  Or missionaries who don’t know they have a testimony.  They would be secretary of the mission, or office help, or commissarian, or something like that.  This seemed logical but he said it was the very opposite of the thing that should be done because this meant that the headquarters staff was made up of people the president couldn’t trust.  While he was gone, one might run off with the petty cash, or take the car somewhere or do something else that might be embarrassing.  Problem using people who don’t have firm testimonies and solidly grounded in the spiritual aspects of the Gospel.

Told me in confidence that when Neal Maxwell first came in as Church Commissioner of Education, he wanted an Advisory Council.  Persons of different ages, experiences, backgrounds, points of view.  One of them he suggested for the Council (and I immediately decided it was Sterling McMurrin) was a person “who needed it.”  A well-known person, intelligent, wise, fine experience, but an apostate.  After Brother Packer saw the list of people, he worried and worried about approving that name, and just couldn’t do it.  We should not appoint persons because it will help them with their testimony, or to give us different points of view.  The advice of the good faithful but humble church member worth far more.  (Presumably, Neal dropped the Advisory Board idea.) 

Told of a manual prepared by “a bunch of doctors” for the Family Home Evening Manual.  All were Ph.D.s, and he suggested there ought to be some women, so they wanted women with Ph.D.s.  Finally, he brought in a housewife with a large number of children and she was worth more than any of the rest, he said, even though she was only a high school graduate.  (Elder Packer seemed to be saying that perhaps we should have some as advisors who were not PhD’s in history but he did not press it by making it explicit.)

He said that some historians would say things to their seminary students just because they were true, whether or not it was wise.  Like Brigham Young chewing tobacco.  Told the story of a session in Logan (possibly Salt Lake instead of Logan.).  Elder Packer had just been made a seminary supervisor for northern Utah.  Here were people like Lowell Bennion, Ed Lyon, and others who had the Ph.D.  He didn’t have the Ph.D. and I gather he was sensitive on that point.  On this occasion a Ph.D. was giving a talk on the myths of church history, and he was taking them up one by one; how we repeat them and continue to teach things that are not so.  (Could it be Ed Lyon? Or Reed Durham?)  It was entertaining and all no doubt true, but it didn’t sit well with Elder Packer.  He knew they would call on him at the conclusion of the talk to say a few words, and he was trying to think of what to say—praying, hoping.  As he walked up, there suddenly flashed before his mind a photo he had seen in a book used in the 4th or 5th grade.  It was the sculpture of Venus (?), without a head or arms in the Louvre.  A great and inspired work, even without head or arms.  So he built his talk around that, pointing out that despite the weaknesses and shortcomings, the defects, the headless and armless condition, the church was still a great, divine, institution, created through divine auspices.  “Winged Victory of Samothrace.”  Samothrace a Greek island in the Aegean Sea.  Sculpture unknown.  Done about end of 4th century BC.  Elder Packer had a replica of this statue in his office, about a foot high, and pointed to it, and showed that despite its defects, what a marvelous creation it was.  Great illustration!

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 27 April 1972]


I will not deny that I have been shaken by the telephone calls of Elder Hunter yesterday.  They took away some of my self-confidence, my enthusiasm, my ebullience.  I now question my ability to survive in the uncertainties of church policy and practice.  Why is every experienced bureaucrat so afraid of President Lee?  It was such an unlikely action for the Twelve to criticize the formation of a Friends of Church History group.  What does that portend with respect to more sensitive matters—the publication of diaries, of objective history, of realistic biography?  I wonder how long it will be before I am sent off to be a mission president or some other assignment that will take me away from this sensitive position?  And who would they place in charge of it?


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 1 December 1972]

The Story of the Latter-day Saints

Prior to the commencement of the meeting, James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard presented to each of the executives an inscribed copy of their book which is just off the press, entitled The Story of the Latter-day Saints.  This book is a one-volume history of the Church and replaces Essentials in Church History.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 13 Jul., 1976; LJA Diary]

A friend told me today that he was told that one or two members of the Quorum of the Twelve had perused The Story of the Latter-day Saints and did not like it. They particularly noted the absence of inspiration–descriptions of occurrences in Church history without attributing their cause to God or to his direction and inspiration. The one person or two persons apparently were sufficiently concerned that they went to Elder Benson. Elder Benson then had a critique prepared by some person or persons and this resulted in a nine-page single-spaced critique. Again, the principal criticism was the lack of divinity in each episode of Church history described. To give one example, Allen and Leonard mention the coming of the seagulls to swallow the crickets without saying the Lord caused the seagulls to come and eat the crickets. I have a feeling based on absolutely no evidence except hunch that the critique was prepared by Lauritz Petersen and Tom Truitt of our Library-Archives staff.

Apparently the book will be discussed in the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency in their meeting in the Temple tomorrow. I feel confident that the book will have more advocates than detractors and that no attempt will be made to halt its sale or to interrupt the processes which are slowly placing it on required reading lists for seminaries, institutes, and classes at BYU. Some 10,000 copies have already been distributed or sold. However, it is conceivable that sufficient concern will be expressed that we may be required to run all of our manuscripts through Church correlation. Even that tactic will probably not secure the approval of the First  Presidency and the entire quorum. If it should, we will be in real trouble with our History of the Latter-day Saints, the 16-volume history being prepared in connection with the sesquicentennial. As for myself, I feel very confident about The Story of the Latter-day Saints–that it will weather the criticisms that some persons are apt to make of it and that it will come to be a standard and well accepted one-volume history of the Latter-day Saints.

[LJA Diary, 18 Aug., 1976]

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

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

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

[LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1976]

We understand Public Communications has ordered 5,000 copies of Story of the Latter-day Saints to place one in every library in the United States.  On the other hand, there are a few people that think it is too secular—not spiritual enough.  Well, we knew we’d have criticism from both sides.  It’s a tightrope we’re walking, not doing our best to stay on top of it.

[LJA to Children, 28 Aug., 1976; LJA Diary]

Report on Programs and Books

Leonard Arrington reported that about a month ago a new book came from the press under the sponsorship of the Historical Department, entitled Story of the Latter- day Saints. This is a one-volume history of the Church which will replace Essentials In Church History. He reported the book has been well received and that many favorable comments have been made by those who have read the book. Elder Stapley reported that he had heard some criticism of the book in that some of the facts given in the book were inaccurate. Brother Arrington indicated that if we could obtain further information as to which statements were inaccurate, they would be happy to make corrections in the next edition. Brother Arrington also reported that another book will be off the press in the next few days entitled Building the City of God, a book on the United Order. He explained that this book was not published under the sponsorship of the Historical Department but was one on which he had been working for a number of years and which should also be credited to two other authors. 

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 1 Sep., 1976; LJA Diary]

In the meantime, has appeared Building the City of God, which I haven’t been able to enjoy because (1) the pressure to get out From Quaker to Latter-day Saint; (2) Some flak about Story of the Latter-day Saints.  Some John Bircher has complained to President Benson about some things in the latter.  He has ordered it read and has scheduled a debate in the Twelve on whether we should have someone read all our stuff before it goes to the publisher.  Come to think of it, you better keep this confidential.  Anyway, I’ve had worries.  Feel tired, emotionally drained, ready to sleep the weekend.  Hope Mamma doesn’t have a lot planned for me to do.  Fortunately, I have no appointment Sunday.  I’ve mailed each of you a copy of Building the City of God.  Of course it’s too early to have any reactions, but I feel good about it.  I was invited to talk about it to the district managers of Deseret Book.  They will schedule an autograph party for it and for the Woolley book in Logan in October…

I guess I shouldn’t close without saying that I feel very confident that we will come out all right in the discussion of the Twelve. We’ve had many expressions of approval of our work, and think this will continue. Even President Benson has been very friendly and complimentary to me personally. And of course the entire First Presidency. I saw the Prophet on Monday and he gave me a very warm handshake and patted me on the back and told me how much he appreciated what we are doing.

[LJA to Children, 4 Sep., 1976; LJA Diary]

More than a week ago a friend told me that a critique of Allen & Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints had been prepared, that it was unfavorable, that it was in the hands of President Ezra Taft Benson, who looked dimly upon the history, and that it was to be taken to the Twelve. A few days ago, a friend read to me the complete critique, which consisted of eight single-spaced typewritten pages. The critique had apparently been prepared by William L. Nelson, personal secretary or assistant of President Benson; and it is clear that he had the assistance of some other person, most probably Tom Truitt, who probably made his own critique to begin with and thus called to the attention of President Benson what he regarded as problems of the book. Basically, the critique did the following:

1. Said that Joseph Fielding Smith, ESSENTIALS IN CHURCH HISTORY, should be continued in print.

2. Criticized the bibliography as containing mention of works that were anti-Church: Brodie, NO MAN KNOWS MY HISTORY; articles in Dialogue, particularly by Poll, Jeffries.

3. Criticized the story of the crickets and seagulls as not bringing God into the picture.

4. Criticized the account of Zion’s Camp which implies that it was a failure.

5. Criticized the account of BYU firing the evolutionists as not being sufficiently anti-evolution.

6. Said the book failed to mention the doctrinal contributions of Joseph Fielding Smith. (Didn’t say what they were.)

7. Said the book was basically a secular history; did not have enough of the spiritual in this account of our history.

8. Said all of our history publications should be routed through Correlation in order to insure that they were doctrinally and historically accurate, and had the right tone and impact.

My friend said this critique was distributed to the Twelve at their meeting on Thursday, September 2, and that they were to come prepared to discuss it and the book on a special Sunday meeting in the temple, September 5. I have not heard the results of that discussion.

I have been hurt by this episode. Although apparently several members of the Twelve have been aware of the existence of the critique, and of President Benson’s support of it (and apparently the support also of Elder Mark Petersen), not a person has called me up or written me, or made other contact to ask me (or Allen or Leonard) how I would defend the book, and our history writing in general.  Elder Howard Hunter told me, as he walked out of our advisors meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 1 that he wanted to talk with me sometime on the subject of running all our works thru correlation, but he has made to attempt to discuss this with me.

It is clear that President Benson will not stand for our “real” history. And since he is next in line, and president of the Twelve, we are in a powerless position, and no one wishes to consider our own rationale. We have certain members of the Twelve who will speak up for us, if they are permitted to do so: Elder Ashton, Elder Hunter, Elder Haight. Perhaps others. There are others (e.g., Elder Packer) whose speeches in the past two or three years suggest that he would agree with the critique. The question with me is, Shall I retain the job (assuming they don’t release me) and try to write history which will be approved by Correlation. Or shall I resign and continue to write “real history”. And what would this do to my associates. I am not clear in my own mind as to the best course to pursue, but feel discouraged, sad, shook. It has been a tough few days for me since I do not dare mention all this to a soul. I recall that Andrew Jenson went through several such episodes, and stuck to it, for the good of the Church. But can I retain my integrity and my reputation, whatever it’s worth, with the “intelligentsia” of the Church and remain on the job under conditions that will almost certainly be imposed upon me? 

[LJA Diary, 6 Sep., 1976]

Elder Stapley called me to his office this afternoon at 2 p.m. and talked to me very earnestly for about half an hour. He said that the nature of my responsibilities and activities in general and The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Allen and Leonard in particular had been discussed at some length in the Sunday temple meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve. Apparently he had been delegated to talk with me about the matter. He asked me if at the time I was appointed Church Historian I was given a letter of appointment which outlined my duties. I told him no, that the call had been made by the First Presidency in January 1972 as the result of a personal interview and that subsequently my name was sustained in the April 1972 meeting of the general conference. As for my duties, these had been worked out under the direction of Brother Alvin Dyer during the four months he was our managing director until he had his stroke. Brother Dyer had arranged for Brother Earl Olson, Church Archivist, and myself and himself to meet with the Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency in a meeting in the temple. At that time Brother Dyer described our organizational procedure and also an outline of what we expected to do. It was at this time that the First Presidency and the Twelve approved the creation of the Historical Department, approved Brother Allen and Brother Bitton as assistant church historians, and approved also the basic program we expected to follow. This included the sesquicentennial history, the Mormon Heritage series, the biography of Brigham Young, and other similar projects. After President Smith’s death, Brother Hunter arranged for a meeting of our Historical Department Executives with the new First Presidency. We then reviewed our organization and our program with the new First Presidency and they approved of the basic program. This inc1uded the one-volume history project. We held two or three additional meetings with the First Presidency on Historical Department items. Shortly after President Kimball’s appointment as President, a meeting was arranged by Elder Hunter at which we reviewed our program with him and his counselors. They approved this program and gave us some counsel in regard to it. Brother Stapley wanted to know specifically whether we had been counseled about having somebody read our manuscripts before they are published. I told him that President Lee and counselors at a meeting held with them had specifically approved a screening committee for all of our publications of myself as Church Historian, the two assistant church historians, and the editor of the Historical Department. It told him the reasons for that decision.

Brother Stapley asked if I would agree to an arrangement to have one or more members of the Twelve review our manuscripts before they are published. I told him that we are at the service of the brethren and would not object to their wishes but that before such an arrangement was made I would like the opportunity of giving in some detail the reasons why the other screening committee seemed to be preferable. Brother Stapley’s response suggested that he had been directed by the Quorum of the Twelve to set up such a Quorum of the Twelve screening committee. So that matter was apparently decided on Sunday. Elder Stapley even went so far as to suggest the names of five of the Twelve who might serve on this committee. They included Elder McConkie Elder Petersen, Elder Hunter, Elder Monson, and Eider Packer. All of these, he said, had a certain knowledge of Church history and ought to be qualified to pass on our material.

Elder Stapley said that some members of the Quorum of the Twelve felt very strongly that we should not put anything in any of our histories that reflects badly on the Church. He did not give any specifics. I tried to lead him to give me some examples. I mentioned, for example, that we had no alternative but to mention the Mountain Meadows Massacre which was the darkest episode in Church history. I also said that we had no alternative but to mention some instances in which Latter-day Saints misused their power and position in Missouri. He did not seem to argue with that although he digressed some minutes to talk about Juanita Brooks, who President McKay had advised not to put in her revised history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre that John D. Lee’s blessings had since been restored. She had refused to take that advice. Elder Stapley did say that one of the brethren had expressed the feeling that we should not mention that Brigham Young used tobacco. I pointed out that we had not done so in this one-volume history but that if we were writing a biography of Brigham Young we didn’t see any alternative since it was an important aspect of his life and character, and the story of his giving up the habit is a great promoter of faith. Elder Stapley reiterated the necessity of keeping bad things out of our history. I replied that if our picture is entirely rosy nobody, even members of the Church will have confidence in what we write because members of the Church know that there are warts and blemishes and unless we acknowledge some of these they will not have confidence that we are writing the whole truth and nothing but the truth. His reply was again, we must leave the bad things out of our history.

Elder Stapley added he was going to talk further with some other persons this afternoon and would probably call me this afternoon to come up and discuss this matter further with him. I have the impression that he will be calling Brother Hunter and Brother Gibbons, the latter to confirm the approval we had from the First Presidency and the former to agree upon a screening committee from the Twelve. I am now faced with the necessity of considering seriously whether a professionally trained historian ought to be Church Historian since he will be called to submit the things he writes and approves to a committee of people who are not trained historians. In particular our manuscripts will now be subjected to the scrutiny of persons who want everything to come out pleasantly even when the facts of history suggest that they did not always come out that way.

At 4:45 pm Elder Stapley telephoned me to ask two questions.. The first was whether there was royalty paid on our books. I asked him what books. He replied, the most recent one. I said there was no royalty on THE STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS. He asked if royalty was being paid on the Brigham Young book. I said that book is not finished; it is at least a year away. He asked if royalty would be paid. I said I didn’t know; that hadn’t been worked out yet. If it had, I didn’t remember it. I wasn’t sure. He asked if royalty would be paid on the 16-volume sesquicentennial history. I said there would be no royalty, but there would be a payment in lieu of royalty to each of the authors as soon as their manuscripts were approved.

The, second question was whether we would be willing to submit our manuscripts to correlation. I then explained that the First Presidency had decided against this move on the ground that the screening committee ought to consist of persons who knew history, and that is why they set up the committee consisting of the Church Historian, the two Assistant Church Historians, and the editor of the Historical Department. He then asked whether we would be willing to have a member of the Twelve go over our manuscripts. I said I did not think we could object to that.

Elder Stapley then thanked me and said he would be in touch later.

Problems that occur: (1) Meeting our publication deadlines; getting the general Authority to read it promptly; (2) Avoiding the tendency for the General Authority to have his assistant do the reading for him; (3) must the General Authority read everything we write? (4) can we keep this quiet, not let our enemies know that our work is censored.

[LJA Diary, 7 Sep., 1976]

When I went to Rotary at noon I met Lowell Durham, who said that his own response to the critique of The Story of the Latter-day Saints—two-page typewritten response—was read to the Quorum of the Twelve at their meeting in the Temple on Sunday.  He had inferred in the response that the critique had been written by an overly zealous person somewhat hipped on certain subjects.  The Quorum of the Twelve were informed in the meeting that the person who wrote the critique was Elder Mark Petersen.

[LJA Diary, 21 Sep., 1976]

Late yesterday afternoon I received a telephone call from Elder Frank Gibbons, Secretary of the First Presidency, inviting me to a meeting with them this morning at 8:30 a.m. I asked him if he would care o tell me what the meeting was about or whether there were any materials I should bring or prepare myself on. He said, “No, just come to the meeting tomorrow morning.” For obvious reasons I worried very much during the evening and last night, apprehensive of what they might be wanting to tell me.

I reported to the First Presidency Conference Room a little before 8:30 and was soon ushered in along with Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Mark E. Petersen, Howard W. Hunter, and Bruce R. McConkie. The complete First Presidency were there: President Kimball, President Tanner, and President Romney. Brother Gibbons, the secretary, was also present. President Kimball smiled warmly as he shook my hand and throughout the deliberations. He actively conducted the meeting.

President Kimball said that serious questions had been raised about two books we had recently published, The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Allen and Leonard, and Buildlng the City of God by myself and two others. He asked Brother Benson to explain his concern. Brother Benson said that he had not read all of either book but that he had read some portions of The Story of the Latter-day Saints. He said that one member of the Quorum of the Twelve had read The Story of the Latter-day Saints all the way through and others had read portions of it. He mentioned the meeting Sunday when he spoke to all the seminary and institute teachers and leaders. He made some criticisms of both books, not naming them I believe, and after the meeting one of the old-time persons in whom he had great respect talked to him candidly about his own concerns with The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Brother Benson then read through his letter of approximately two pages, single spaced, typed, comment and criticism of the book. The comment was general, not specific. The book would cause young people to lose faith; it tended to degrade or demean Joseph Smith; it did not give enough emphasis to important events such as the founding of the Church (only 16 lines and the names of the six persons not given); it had raised questions. It was a rather eloquent letter protesting against the “new history.” Brother Benson made other statements about the book and the problems and dangers and risks and indicated that he felt very strongly that it was a mistake to have published it and that it would do great damage. When he had completed his remarks, which must have taken five or ten minutes, I then asked President Kimball if it were appropriate for me to make a response, which I did. Brother Petersen then expressed his concerns and expressed them very strongly and candidly, and this he did for some five to ten minutes. I then asked if I might respond and did so for a few minutes. Elder Petersen then made additional remarks as did Elder Benson, and I responded to those as well. In general, I was saying (1) we have gotten a number of very enthusiastic and favorable responses, both in writing and by telephone calls and personal visits; (2) we have felt it necessary to keep in mind that this book would be read by non-Mormons as well as by Latter-day Saints, by historians as well as amateurs, by serious students as well as the casually interested, and so we tried to be careful in our statements, provide evidence, and so on; and (3) to their criticism that the discussion of the intellectual and social currents of the time took away the idea of revelation, I responded that we merely were attempting  to show that the Lord was preparing the people to receive the restored Gospel; (4) it was necessary to mention certain things because they were already well known and they had to be put in their proper light–Mountain Meadows Massacre, different versions of the First Vision, negro and the Priesthood problem, the underground, and so on.

President Kimball then asked me to review my understanding of how the sixteen-volume sesquicentennial history was to be screened and approved. I reviewed that for him. He read from some minutes of meetings at which I was present which gave his own understanding of the matter and asked me if this was my understanding. I replied affirmatively. In essence this suggested that beyond myself and assistant historians as screening committee that the manuscripts, chapter by chapter or book by book, were to be read also by a person assigned by President Kimball from the Quorum of the Twelve and the book was not to be published until approved at that level. I told him this was welcomed by me but I thought it very wise not to make this a matter of public knowledge, that so far as the world was concerned mine was the final approval and that whatever suggestions or changes were made by them would be suggested by me in my own name; this for the purpose of not diminishing our credibility as historians and raising the cry of censorship of our works. President Kimball and all present seemed to agree to that arrangement. President Kimball instructed me for all manuscripts which are officially sponsored by our department (I assume he meant book manuscripts) were to be submitted to Brother Howard Hunter who would then submit them to President Kimball for assignment of a reader to convey their reactions to me.

President Kimball also raised the question of the audience. He thought we should be concerned more with writing for a church audience than for the scholars, the professors, the students, the outside world. I bore my testimony as to my belief that a person could write for both audiences successfully, and he and specifically President Tanner expressed agreement with this and suggested that I continue under this assumption. There are other comments by other person present.

The meeting adjourned at about 10:15. I felt very good about the meeting: (a) in having the opportunity of responding personally to the criticisms that had been made of our publications; (b) that they did not require us to clear our things through Church Correlation; (c) that president Kimball seemed to be supportive and friendly as were his counselors. All were cordial and genial as we disbanded. I think I managed to quiet some of the criticism or at least match some of the criticism with some favorable responses. 

[LJA Diary, 21 Sep., 1976]

Report to Jim and Davis on my meeting yesterday with the First Presidency, and Elders Petersen, Benson, Hunter, and McConkie. We were together almost two hours, talking frankly about our book projects, past and future. Here are some observations.

1. Very much the Prophet, Elder Kimball presided and conducted. Slow, deliberate, quiet, warm and friendly, his manner induced calmness and brotherliness. He never interrupted, everyone spoke his piece undisturbed. I admire him.

2. Elders Benson and Petersen will never accept books written by us, given our understanding of history. They want the glorious stories of the Restoration, unsullied by discussion of practical problems and controversial evidence. They want Prophets without warts, revelation direct from on High in pure vessels. They want faith-promoting stories and moral homilies. They feel strongly and will vigorously oppose all our books, written as we understand history. We must therefore write books which will be appreciated and defended by the other Brethren.

3. We shall not have to clear our books and articles through Correlation. We shall have to work more closely with our advisors. We shall have to go to them more often for counsel and clearance on problems, and they may take some of these to the quorum. This is the minimum alternative to Correlation Committee clearance.

4. We shall continue to have, I believe, the support of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve that we have had in the past. But we shall have to be more careful in what we write and say and publish, and be more careful to consult, ask advice, and get suggestions.

5. We shall have to write more directly to the Church membership audience in all books published with Deseret Book. That is, less to the scholar, less to non-Mormons, more to he general membership. And perhaps concentrate more on our unique history and message and not so much on the ecumenical aspect of “putting us in perspective.”

6. I shall have to take full responsibility for all that we do, and I shall have to be more careful, more cautious.  I shall be watched like a hawk. I’m still, ebullient, still optimistic, still determined to do what we must do. But we shall have to give on some little things to preserve our status as screeners of our own materials. Some of the younger historians will think I’m losing some integrity, but that’s part of the price we shall have to pay, and I hope you brethren, at least, can continue to be as supportive and helpful as you have been. The Lord is with us yet!

[LJA Diary, 21 Sep., 1976]

A characteristic of my position as Church Historian, particularly in the past year, has been the frequency with which close friends come into my office and say that a close friend of theirs told them that a certain General Authority declared that “The Brethren” were not happy with things in the Historian’s Office and that they are considering the possibility of replacing him. This is said to come from Apostles Benson and Petersen, and also from younger persons like Elder Hinckley, Elder Monson, and Elder Packer. All have been friendly in a personal way to me, but there is supposed to be evidence that they feel increasingly that I “do not take counsel”, am “deliberately going against the wishes of the Brethren,” etc.

All of this gives me a sinking feeling, a feeling of anxiety, a feeling of insecurity. I keep thinking of the alternatives, and I do not like them. One alternative would be to grovel, to become an automatron conveying the “wishes of the Brethren” to my subordinates and to respond to every whim or expression of these Brethren who do not hesitate to speak up and complain. Another alternative would be to keep doing what inspiration tells me is the right thing regardless. (Indeed, this is what I am doing now.) Another alternative is to go back to BYU and my Western History Chair. Still another alternative is to look for an opening in an “outside” university and eliminate the anxiety. But I cannot “run away.” The anxiety would go with me; I would keep wondering if I had done the right thing. The anxiety is inescapable. And all those I work with would think I had “let down” the Cause and them.

I have the distinct feeling that Elder Durham has been appointed to keep rein on me, and I’m glad to have him do it. He’ll then share some of the responsibility with me. I think it is well within the realm of possibility that they might decide to give him the added title of Church Historian, and convert me into an Assistant Church Historian. I would welcome that. Then I could continue writing and researching, and the leadership in the cause of Church History would pass into the capable and worthy hands of Elder Durham. Such a change might very well remove the anxiety that afflicts me, and enable me to work more productively. Much of my emotional and intellectual energy is now devoted to trying to conquer and overcome the anxiety, trying to devise means of persuading the Brethren that what we are doing is beneficial while at the same time continuing to do what we know is in the best long-run interests of the Church and Kingdom. For I do feel certain that the chart we are following is in the best long-run interests of the Church. The only defensible stand for the Church is to rest its case on truth, but telling that truth in the manner best calculated to produce goodwill for the Church. 

[LJA Diary, 7 May, 1977]

I received a telephone call from Spencer Palmer on Tuesday. Brother Palmer had been called in by Elder Packer a week or two ago to discuss the manuscript of his book on the world-wide Church. Elder Packer was very cool to him, and Brother Palmer had the impression that he was “being called on the carpet.” Brother Packer had been assigned by President Kimball to read the manuscript. In a somewhat unfriendly manner Elder Packer had told him that he was very unhappy about the leadership of Brother Arrington and the work of the History Division, that he thought we were disobeying counsel, that we were guided more by professional motives than religious motives, and that we were more anxious to please our peers in the history profession than our superiors in the Church.  He told Brother Palmer that he thought the whole first section of the book by David Kennedy would cause problems for the Church and how could he expect to publish all of that intimate detail about our relationship with foreign powers. There were things in there that he himself as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve did not know. Brother Palmer explained to him in some detail how he was assigned to write the book, how the approval to do so had come from the First Presidency, and how at every stage in the writing of the book he had received the encouragement of me and through me of our advisors and of the First Presidency. He explained that the idea of having a section by Brother Kennedy had been suggested by me, and that I had mentioned it to Brother Kennedy, and that Brother Kennedy had checked with President Kimball, and President Kimball had urged him to write it. After a number of weeks passed with nothing being done, Brother Palmer then made contact with Brother Kennedy and asked him if we might expedite the project by having him dictate the story on tape to Brother Palmer who would then transcribe it, edit it, and bring it back for his approval. Brother Kennedy checked this matter again with President Kimball; President Kimball encouraged him to do it. He then granted the tape interview and it went through Brother Palmer’s editorial hand. Brother Palmer submitted the manuscript to Brother Kennedy, who corrected and amplified it and then submitted the manuscript to President Kimball. President Kimball read it, made suggestions, approved it, and gave it back to Brother Kennedy, who forwarded it Brother Palmer.

Elder Packer then said that that might be all well and good, but the manuscript contained quotations from other, and who hadn’t he cleared with other people on those? For example, he said, you have a quotation from Bruce McConkie. Brother Palmer then explained that he had received the permission of Elder McConkie to include his statement. This surprised Elder Packer. He then raised the question of the quotation from Elder Bangerter. Brother Palmer explained also that he had clearance from Brother Bangerter to use his statement. This also surprised Elder Packer. Elder Packer told Brother Palmer that he had already written a memo to the First Presidency and gave the implication that he had recommended that the book be printed but that all of the Kennedy material which makes up about a third of the book be omitted. After further conversations with Brother Palmer, Elder Packer then said that he would write another memo to the First Presidency. He seemed to be very surprised that Brother Palmer had written this as a commission from us and that we had secured approval all the way along for the project. Also that we had gone over the manuscript carefully several times before the manuscript had finally been submitted to the First Presidency. Apparently my covering letter in submitting the manuscript to Elder Hunter had never been forwarded to Brother Packer. It is surprising to me that Elder Packer would not have called me in and discussed the matter with me before he sent the memo to the First Presidency and before he called in Brother Palmer. I am sure he had the impression that this was simply a book which Brother Palmer had decided to do on his own to make some money.

Brother Palmer told me on Tuesday that he had just received another call from Elder Packer. This time Elder Packer was not suspicious as previously, not skeptical as previously, not negative as previously. He was pleasant, affable, and encouraging. He told Brother Palmer that he had discussed the manuscript again with President Kimball and that he was recommending that Brother Palmer make a few changes in the manuscript and that when those had been made he would be pleased to submit the manuscript. He thought the changes made could be made within a week. Basically he recommended that the reports from the various countries be summarized in the introduction and that they be omitted in the text. He thought Brother Palmer could do this rather easily. When Brother Palmer resubmits it to film he will then take it to the First Presidency and the First Presidency will expect to send it on to Deseret Book with their full endorsement and plea that Deseret Book publish it.

Brother Packer in concluding the telephone conversation added that he was very pleased to be associated in getting this book out, that he thought it would he a tremendous contribution to the Church and its missionary work, and that Brother Palmer was to be congratulated for preparing such a useful and exciting book. Brother Packer also said to Brother Palmer that he should get in touch with me, LJA, and be sure that I am in agreement with these modifications and procedures and that he, Brother Palmer, should “tell Brother Arrington that we love him and that we are in full support in these things which he is doing to benefit the Church.” Brother Palmer was very pleased with this completely different attitude–as were all of us. Why should General Authorities attack such assignments with such suspicion? I suppose that there is a natural suspicion of Ph.D.’s—and perhaps even more of honorary doctors! 

[LJA Diary, 26 May, 1977]

Homer Durham tells us that when he was appointed as Managing Director of the Historical Department, he learned that the Twelve were sufficiently concerned with the department that a sub-committee had been appointed to “look into the affairs of the Historical Department.” And by that he meant only the History Division of the department. This sub-committee consisted of Elder Petersen, Elder Hinckley,

and Elder Packer. At least one meeting had been held by the committee with Elder

Stapley, of our advisors. Since Elder Durham’s appointment, he had been in meeting with the sub-committee at least two different times. They have made known to him their various complaints, most of which he regards as misapprehensions. It is a peculiar thing that there would be such a sub-committee to look into the affairs of our division and that they would not talk to anyone in the division. They have not talked to me, they have not talked to any of the assistant historians, they have not talked to anyone else in the division. And as far as I am aware, they have not talked to Earl Olson. They have talked to Elder Anderson, presumably, and Elder Durham. Most peculiar. It’s almost as it they are afraid of talking to us. And Elder Durham gives the impression that they don’t want me to know that they are investigating us because they don’t want me publicizing around that we are under a cloud. As if I would do so! And I view Homer’s appointment as being the response of the First Presidency, specifically Elder Tanner, to that cloud. Elder Durham will get on top of things and put them in order, they would reason. 

[LJA Diary, 11 Aug., 1977]

This afternoon Elder Durham called me and Earl Olson into his office. He wanted to tell me three things. First, that our division was very suspect, had very little standing with “the Brethren,” and he was trying to “save” us by keeping a tight rein on us. Our free wheeling style of operation, without strict control from above, would have to be curbed. We did not fit snugly enough into the church program. He implied that we must cut down on our writing, that he wanted to approve in advance every research project, every assignment to every staff member, every article. In short, he wants to be the Church Historian. I am to be a supervisor of the history division.

Second, he wants a detailed report on what each staff member is working on, and he wants a note on every change in assignment or new assignment. Except for the vignettes.

Third, he started by telling me that he wanted the Mormon History Trust Fund to be controlled by Earl, the controller of the department. He wanted the bookkeeping done there, he wanted it administered by me ordering this or that and check written from there and so on. He wanted to know of every transaction. I objected to this so strongly that he drew back a little. I told him this was a private matter, that I intended it should stay there, that it was not his business. I told him I did not object to informing him in general of what we were doing, but I did not expect to put him in the position of having to approve or disapprove every action, or of being responsible in any way. I told him I would give him a copy of the annual report. And at his insistence I told him I would get an annual audit of our books by a CPA, and give him a copy of the report of the auditor. I then asked him if he would be satisfied with that. He asked a hundred questions. Then he said-yes, he would be satisfied with that for the time being, giving me to believe he expected to “take over” later. He kept insisting that he would be held responsible. I kept telling him he couldn’t be held responsible for something that he didn’t control, something completely outside the department.

My present intention is to gradually close out the operations of the MHTF, except for the oral history activities. It’s sure the church will take over, and I will not be a party to turning this fund over to the church. Church administrators are too arbitrary. We have plenty of examples of the arbitrary policies of Earl and Helen. They interpose all kind of bureaucratic rules. Assuming that Elder Durham will be very fair and judicious in his direction of the Fund, what happens when he is replaced by Earl, or by someone who might have no appreciation for our professional work, or sympathy with our professional integrity and standing. I shall, over time, become more liberal in allowing staff members to retain royalties, thus lessing their contributions to the Fund, and we shall get it spent. I’ll ask Jim to withdraw what he owes those who contributed to the George Boyd book and put it in a separate account. And if we keep spending the money, there’ll be little left except the oral history portion. Then let him take it!

I suppose I am most hurt by Elder Durham displaying a complete lack of confidence in my handling of this and other matters. Where is the brotherly encouragement? Where is the appreciation? Why the suspicion, the distrust? 

The final matter Elder Durham brought up was the suspicion and displeasure with us because we are “opening up the archives”. He wanted us to cut down on our references to primary materials in the archives. I told him we did not use material that was not available to other scholars as well, that if the material was in the U of U or BYU or elsewhere, we always gave those as the sources. But that I thought we could not avoid citing our archives as the source of much material. He wanted to know why we couldn’t mention letter of Brigham Young to someone, certain date, and not mention where the letter is. That from a former University president! I guess it was left that I am to cut down on citing archival sources as much as possible. In sum, the entire interview was a vote of no confidence. 

[LJA Diary, 8 Dec., 1977]

Elder Durham said that he hoped the measures taken would help to quiet the controversy that was stimulated by the Marshall honors thesis at the University of Utah on “The New Mormon History.” Also perhaps an anticipated response that might have occurred or may occur on the Tanner pamphlet.

[LJA Diary, 24 Feb., 1978]

We are filing this under April 5 because it is intended to accompany the filing of the attached letter from the First Presidency. However, I am dictating this on April 25. This letter was not received by Elder Durham until after Grace and I had gone to New York for the OAH meetings and other chores.

What I would like to say is that I firmly believe that this letter was written by Elder Durham and presented first to Elders Hinckley and Packer and with their approval submitted to the First Presidency for them to sign as a letter of instruction to him from them. It is my belief that he did this with the hope that he could change the image which our division has in the minds of a few brethren of the Twelve. By giving the impression that he is changing our mission and program he is giving the impression that we are now following what the Brethren would like us to do. Actually I do not see the letter as requiring us to do anything substantially different than what we have been doing all along. The letter represents a mere cosmeticizing–a change on paper which will satisfy the Brethren but not change in substance. I did not object to this tactic, but to be honest it seems rather foolish. It also gives the impression that we have not been doing all along what the change specifies. It does provide our liaison advisors with the opportunity of approving specifically each of our programs, but I have every confidence that they will do this. What we have been doing is not anything that anybody has objected to or would object to. The objection to our activities is an objection based on misinformation, and once they understand our situation they will be supportive of our efforts.

We continue to be bombarded with rumors about what is going to happen to us, and some of the members of the staff, having heard these rumors from a variety of sources are “running scared.” These rumors circulate because the brethren are capable of arbitrary decisions based on lack of information. And it is this very arbitrariness of decision-making which scares subordinates. If there was more to process within the administrative structure–if there was more government by regulations instead of by off-hand judgments–people would have more confidence in what is being done at the decision-making level. 

[LJA Diary, 5 Apr., 1978]

Elder G. Homer Durham 

Managing Director 

Historical Department

Dear Brother Durham:

Early in 1972 the First Presidency directed a reorganization of what was then known as the Church Historian’s Office. In September 1972, the Presidency advised Brother Leonard J. Arrington, director of the history division, that approval had been given to a program of historical research, writing, and publication which he had proposed earlier.

During the past six years the dedicated effort by Brother Arrington and his associates has resulted in a number of substantial projects dealing with the history of the Church.

Without intending to diminish the benefits that might be derived from a continuation of these efforts, we now feel that the need for this might be satisfied through the efforts of a growing number of LDS scholars throughout the Church, as well as by others. With some changes in the organization of various departments at Church headquarters, and with some shifts in emphasis in various programs, we have felt that the Historical Department should likewise move in a somewhat altered direction. We have previously discussed this with you, and you have advised that you have discussed it with Brother Arrington.

In furtherance of this change of emphasis, we feel the time has now come for the work of the history division to be focused on: (1) careful maintenance and refinement of the Journal History; (2) maintenance of the growing archives and the ever-increasing resources of historical data pertaining to the Church; (3) providing assistance to the First Presidency, General Authorities, and Church agencies as directed; and (4) undertaking such research and publication projects as may be directed or specifically authorized from time to time by the First Presidency.

By means of a confidential copy of this letter, we are advising Brother Arrington of this change of emphasis. We commend him and his associates on their faithful service. We recognize that these changes may eventually involve the Department in budgetary and personnel adjustments. However, we recognize the commitments that have been made and are hopeful that if changes may be deemed necessary they may be accommodated through normal retirements, voluntary transfers, or other arrangements acceptable to those concerned. 

Will you and your assistant managing director please meet with Brother Arrington to develop a list of the ongoing projects of the division which you feel should be continued. Kindly discuss these with and report your recommendations through Elders Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer.

We repeat our appreciation for the devoted service given by Brother Arrington and his faithful and capable associates, and hope that all concerned will accord with the requests herein made.

Sincerely your brethren,




[The First Presidency to G. Homer Durham, 5 Apr., 1978]

Howard Searle came in today and said that his dissertation had been accepted by UCLA. He had a certificate that he had completed the requirements and they now refer to him as Dr. Searle. He had to turn over two more copies to their archives and his wife is now typing them.

I talked to him about the possible publication of the dissertation and encouraged him to submit it to BYU Press. He is to deliver to me one copy of his dissertation for me personally and one which I am to deliver to Howard Christy of BYU Press, and submit foe possible publication.

Howard said that he was working now for the curriculum department of the Church and he is quite disturbed at the trend of things, which seem to be anti-history. He told about a 3 1/2-hr. talk which Elder Packer gave to the institute of religion faculty at the U of U in which he cautioned them not to teach this and that–very restrictive, very confined. He doesn’t feel that that is necessarily the right approach, and so he’s naturally very cautious. 

[LJA Diary, 15 Oct., 1979]

Ernest Wilkinson telephoned me this morning to say that yesterday afternoon he had presented the first copy of Volume 3 of the BYU history to Ezra TaftBenson. He mentioned specifically that I was the co-editor of the volume with himand that I had been of great assistance with the project. He also mentionedthat he thought I and those on my staff were highly competent and very cooperative.Elder Benson, he said, then took occasion to remark that he was disappointedwith the new one-volume history of the Church, The Story of the Latter-day Saintsby Allen and Leonard. Said that it moved our history somewhat over into thesecular vein and it might be helpful to scholars and historians but might bedestructive of the testimonies of our general readership. To give an example,the most important single event in world history since the resurrection of theSavior was the restoration of the Gospel in 1830. To this we had devoted onlya few pages whereas we had devoted much more space to the organization of ZCMI. President Wilkinson told President Benson he would like to convey that informationto me and asked if he had permission to do so. President Benson said, “Yes,of course.”

Bill Smart in a telephone call this morning also told me that they had had a big argument in High Priests’ meeting about the Allen and Leonard book.It was brought up in connection with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.Some person had read what the book says, namely, that Joseph Smith had receivedthe vision or inspiration from the Lord, had mulled it over in his own mind,and had come out with his own words. This tended to argue against the idea thatthe words themselves were revealed to the Prophet. On the latter assumption theArab Sammy Hanna had said that the style, though awkward in English,was good Arabic or Semitic, and he was so convinced this was the word of theLord that he had become converted. Bill said he himself had some hesitancyabout accepting the possibility that the book to some extent is in the wordsof Joseph Smith.

[LJA Diary, 23 Sep., 1976]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[LJA Diary, 22 Oct., 1976]

I learned today that one or more of the General Authorities had seen and/or been told about Huebener which is playing at BYU and objected to it. They weretold to discontinue production but they had already announced a hold-over forthis week and they were permitted to do so. They had discussed with PromisedValley having the play for a week or two there and had made tentative agreementsto do so. That was cancelled. The Promised Valley appearance is off. SinceElder Peterson is their adviser we assume that Elder Peterson and/or ElderBenson was/were the person or persons that decreed the death of the show.It has been hailed as the best play ever written and produced in Utah. Towhat did the General Authorities object? According to a report which has cometo us they object to two things: (a) Reviving an issue which is controversialand better forgotten. (b) Some fear that the Germans themselves would ratherkeep the whole issue quiet because it was divisive. The Church included bothloyal fanatical Nazis and anti-Nazis. Reviving that painful period would bedivisive and painful for the German members. This sort of thing certainlydampens the creative spirit among our people. Tom Rogers who wrote the playis surely one of the most loyal yet creative members of the Church He headsup the honors program at BYU. He is also am expert on Russian literature.The people who are objecting and reasons for their objections are very similarto those involved in putting the clamps on Story of the Latter-day Saints.

[LJA Diary, 28 Oct., 1976]

I was informed earlier this week by a staff member of the Church News

that the News had received instruction that there was to be no review ormention of Building the City of God in the Church News. Presumably thisinstruction came from Elder Benson or Elder Peterson or from them throughElder Hinckley. What it means is that this is the first publication of DeseretBook in recent years which will not be given brief mention or review in theChurch News.

We also learned that the review of The Story of the Latter-day Saints by Scott Kenney which had been commissioned by BYU Today and which had beenscheduled for the October issue was withheld at the request of President Oaksfor the reason that it was a controversial book and running the review mightcreate some problems. Apparently those fears have been assuaged somewhatand the review is now scheduled to be run in the December issue of BYU Today.

[LJA Diary, 4 Nov., 1976]

Wendell Ashton says today is one of the most important days in the historyof the Church. This is the date that the General Authorities previewed the TVproduction on the family which will be shown in Utah and many other places throughout the nation beginning Tuesday, November 23. That week has beendesignated as Family Unity Week by the President of the United States and manygovernors, and so the Church financed and directed a one-hour movie and paid the networks to have this presented during prime time over all the major stationsin the nation.

When the film was previewed by General Authorities Elder Thomas Monson,Chairman of the Church Missionary Committee, declared that this was the singlemost important missionary effort in the Church in modern times. He predictedit would have far-reaching consequences–would bring in swarms of converts.As the result of this convert baptisms will rise rapidly. Above all, it willprovide a list of referrals and prepare the minds of people to receive the missionariesand the Gospel.

I am writing what follows after having seen the TV show. Within our ownfamily there was considerable difference of opinion. Grace said she wasinsulted by the program and embarrassed and she thought it was beneath thedignity of our Church and might make us a laughing stock in certain quarters.James, on the other hand, thought it was fine–thought it might appeal to youngpeople and young marrieds who are not members of the Church–thought theentertainment that went along with it was necessary to keep people looking atthe show; thought it had some good serious points that could have been followedup better, but aside from that was a worthwhile production. One of theprominent members of our High Priest Quorum and his wife who sat by us in Churchthe Sunday night afterwards complained at some length about it; did not likeit at all and were glad that they had not invited guests to view it. There isabsolutely no question about this man’s loyalty and intelligence and he didnot think the program did the Church any credit. As for myself, I found itdifficult to reconcile the fact that Elder Monson could be so enthusiasticabout this program and its missionary potential and at the same time havemisgivings about Story of the Latter-day Saints. To my way of thinkingStory of the Latter-day Saints must be at least ten times more positive,more faith-promoting, more spiritual than that TV show. And yet the TV show,if my information is correct cost us $8 million while Story of the Latter-daySaints couldn’t have cost us more than $25,000.

[LJA Diary, 17 Nov., 1976]

A friend telephoned me this evening to say that Deseret Book Companyheld its Board meeting today. Among other things, they had presented to theBoard some of the letters they had received congratulating them on the publication of STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS and praising the book. They askedthat the decision that they may not advertise it be reconsidered. They weresomewhat surprised and absolutely delighted to hear Elder Ashton, presidentof the Board, respond that they might indeed resume advertising, quietly andgradually. They therefore asked a further question, as to whether theymight assume that a reprinting was permissible after the sale of the first35,000 copies. They were then told that such a decision was premature now,but that they quite possibly would be permitted a reprinting, with somesmall modifications here and there.

After the meeting, Deseret book were told privately that PresidentKimball had just completed reading the book for himself, that he liked thebook very much, that he couldn’t understand those who objected to it, andthat he thought it was a fine piece of work. It was no doubt because of thisthat Elder Ashton had felt free to authorize the resumption of advertising.This suggests that we were right, after all, in our judgment about the toneand contents of the book, and that the only mistake we had made was tactical–authorizing it under an introduction mentioning the approval of the FirstPresidency. President Kimball’s approval of the book augurs well for theothers we have planned, including the sixteen-volume sesquicentennial history.Our confidence in the book lasting well, over time, is not misplaced.


[LJA Diary, 24 Nov., 1976]

We learn that President Kimball likes STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS, so we are very pleased. I told you last week, I think, that SisterKimball likes FROM QUAKER TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS. And everybody seems tobe impressed with BUILDING THE CITY OF GOD. So we are very pleased withthe receptions we have of these books. Gives us confidence that we areon the right wave length, giving the proper tone, to our publications.Isn’t it remarkable also that President K would take the time and give the energy to reading the book? Truly a remarkable prophet.

[Letter to Carl & Chris, Thanksgiving Day, 25 Nov., 1976]

In the past few days I have learned two or three things related toStory of the Latter-day Saints and its reception by the General Authorities.First, I learned that the original critique of Story of the Latter-day Saintswhich was given to Brother Benson and Brother Peterson was prepared by Bill Nelson, Elder Benson’s special assistant, and by Cal Rudd of the Institute ofReligion at the University of Utah. I have no doubt that some of the “short-comings” of the book were called to the attention of Elder Benson or BrotherNelson or Elder Peterson by Tom Truitt and/or Lauritz Petersen of our office,but the critique itself was written by Rudd and Nelson.

Second, Brother Howard Hunter was especially displeased with the handlingof Story of the Latter-day Saints in the Quorum of the Twelve because he thoughtthey should have honored his stewardship, which was the Historical Department,by leaving the matter in his hands. He thought it was unfair and not accordingto proper procedure and practice in Church government for Elder Benson andElder Peterson to bring the matter to the attention of the Twelve and theFirst Presidency without consulting him. After all, the Historical Departmentand their activities were not the stewardship of Elders Benson and Peterson.Elder Hunter was particularly “insulted” when Elders Benson and Petersonscheduled a meeting with the First Presidency and me with regard to the bookand invited Elder Hunter without telling him in advance what the meeting wasabout. Thus, he went into the meeting completely “cold” and did not know thatI would be there, or that the meeting would deal with The Story of the Latter-daySaints

Third, I learned that Elders Thomas Monson and Boyd Packer both did not like Story of the Latter-day Saints. Both felt that it was too “secular”–that the history was not flavored or balanced with spiritual experiences andfaith-promoting stories. They recognize that the book did have spiritualor faith-promoting passages but they were not plentiful enough to make itsufficiently well balanced for Latter-day Saints. In connection with ElderPacker I learned that the single best seller of Deseret Book during the pastyear was his book, Seek Ye Diligently. They sold $250,000 worth of his bookwithin a period of four months after publication. Obviously Deseret Bookdoes not wish to alienate Elder Packer.

Fourth, I learned that Deseret Book definitely wants us to proceed withthe kind of history we have been writing and they feel more confident that theywill be able to handle them as the result of knowing that President Kimballapproves of and likes Story of the Latter-day Saints. I learned that 13,000of the latter have been sold to date but that sales are proceeding far slowerthan they anticipated because of the lack of advertising. They will now, ofcourse, begin to advertise it but not as a separate unique item. It will beadvertised only in connection with other appropriate books. This they thinkwill help step up the sales of it.

[LJA Diary, 30 Nov., 1976]

One thing about the controversy over The Story of the Latter-day Saints which was demonstrated is that the prophet is not always a determiningforce in Church government. What we really have is a form of collectiveleadership consisting of the three members of the First Presidency and thetwelve members of the quorum of the Twelve. This collective leadershipmust be essentially unanimous. If any particular person expresses a strongfeeling about a particular matter, his views will normally prevail throughthe courtesy of the others. Thus, although President Kimball indicatedhe likes very much The Story of the Latter-day Saints and would approveit for the wide-spread distribution among and use by the Saints, strongnegative feelings had already been expressed by Elders Benson and Petersonand President Kimball did not wish to embarrass them or to go against their wishes with the result that their wishes prevailed. If they had waiteduntil the prophet had expressed his own view then that would have prevailed,of course.

I was talking on the telephone yesterday with Cal Rudd and he expressedto me his own strong misgivings about Story of the Latter-day Saints andpractically admitted without saying so directly that he was indeed theprincipal author of the critique of Story of the Latter-day Saints which wasread by President Benson in our meeting with the First Presidency and whichwas read in the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve. He also said thatBrothers Peterson and Benson were very angry with me for my approval andintroduction to The Story of the Latter-day Saints. He said this two orthree times in very strong language as if they were very angry and irritatedwith me. He probably wonders why I am so complacent, why it does notupset me to know that they were angry with me.

[LJA Diary, 3 Dec., 1976]